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How to Prepare to Travel With a Toddler

So, you want to travel with a toddler?

Let me first commend you on being brave! Why? Taking a toddler anywhere is a feat of its own, but keeping them entertained, rested, and well fed when you’re not at home for several days, well that’s courage!

Now, I can only speak from experience and my experience has only been with my 2 1/2-year-old daughter, so do not take this as expert advice, but rather as a friend, telling you how I’ve prepared for our trips, and managed to enjoy our vacations.

Before the trip:

Make an Itinerary

  1. Start by writing down the places YOU want to see. Be selfish! You’re the one paying for this vacation anyway.
  2. Next, write down the places you want to take your children to experience. If they’re two like mine, and do not really care or know much about where they’re going, think about playgrounds, parks, aquariums, or other things they might find enjoyable.
  3. Be careful about planning a packed itinerary with only adult interests. While there are great museums in the world, not many two-year olds are interested in seeing paintings, even if it’s the Mona Lisa.
  4. Always add about 30-45 min more to each activity than what you think it might take you. You’re with children, they’re hungry at odd times, and need a diaper change when you’ve just entered an exhibition. In our visit to a museum it took us about 1 hour from the time we arrived, to the time we actually started seeing the exhibits. We arrived, made a line to go to the restroom, had a snack because we knew we were not going to be able to eat once inside, checked our backpacks and coats, and when we finished the snacks, she pooped her diaper, so here we go again to get our checked bags, make another line at the restrooms, and rechecked our bags.
  5. If you’re like me, you’re planning for this trip way before the weather forecast is available, and that is ok, because you can look at the climate history for the place you will be visiting to get a range of temperatures. Use this information to help you decide what activities/events might be feasible.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have a type A personality. I need a plan, and the more specific the better; however, being a mom taught me that I can never be a stickler about sticking to a plan. I have to remember my child has only been on this planet for a few years. She knows nothing about agendas, or even the concept of time. Be flexible! Put your children first. If they’re tired, let them rest, if they’re hungry before you thought they were going to eat, feed them.

So, your itinerary is done. You’ve added points of interests for both adults and children. You allotted for more time in those points of interests than you think you’ll need, and you promise to be flexible, if the itinerary doesn’t pan out. You’re ready to begin thinking about what you’ll need to pack.

Packing for the trip

Since your itinerary is complete and you know what type of places you will be visiting, choosing what to pack is hopefully a little easier.

  1. Start by making a checklist of the items you and your children will need.
  2. Buy and/or order items you’ll need such as rain covers for strollers, rain/snow boots, etc.
  3. Begin packing a few days early, and the way to do this is by packing your ideal luggage, pack the ideal number of items you want to take, and begin removing until you get the desired weight and space you want your luggage to have.
  4. If you have a weight limit consider packing laundry detergent travel packets and wash a versatile piece of clothing such as jeans, or a solid colored shirt you can use twice on the trip. Do the same for the kids. You’ll always find space to hang the wet clothes somewhere in your hotel room. I’ve tried the packets on the link above, and it did a good job of taking off chocolate stains from my daughter’s sweater.
  5. Buy a luggage scale! We bought ours at Marshall’s for $7. It is practical, because it does not weigh much, and has saved us money in overages.

Preparing for the time on the airplane

You have your itinerary and you’re packed!

Now it’s time to think about the time you will spend sitting on the airplane with your child. Below I’ll tell you how to prepare for this scary time for parents.

An airplane is a scary place for me because I will be in a closed space with 100+ people that want to read and sleep for several hours. I don’t mind them, but I’m afraid to bother them. I do want to point out that if your child has a rough flight, you must not feel bad or guilty. After all, your baby is not behaving or acting in a certain manner out of malice. They’re just being their age.

That being said, I do believe there are some precautions you may take to delay/prevent such behaviors.

  1. Think about the time of day you’ll be flying. What does your child normally do during that time? Is it bedtime, nap time, lunch time, snack time? Pack for their needs.

What about that idle time when they’re awake? What do they do? What do I do?

  1. A few days before the trip, I head out to Dollar Tree, you know, that store where everything is $1. I buy a few items/toys that will entertain her. The number of items depend on the length of the flight. I buy some for the way there, and some for the way back. Why is that important? You see, it’s novelty! If your child has never seen a toy, they’re more likely to keep engaged for longer. I open up the packages and place them into Ziploc bags that weigh less and take up less space. I would say that on average, one toy will kill about 30 minutes time. Then, if those toys no longer fit in our luggage, I do not mind leaving them behind because they’ve cost $1.
  2. Optimize” the iPad/tablet- I know, I know, some of you might be against screen time, but you’re on vacation. If you want to enjoy a book, let them enjoy some movies, games, videos, or whatever they like to do on a tablet/iPad. Keep your children content during this time. They’ll enjoy to appreciate traveling, and the atypical things they get to do while on vacation. My husband and I call the iPad, plan B. This is what we take out when toys and coloring are no longer serving us for entertainment. Download some movies or shows from Netflix that your children like. Look for some educational apps that they can use without internet. Think about it this way, if the flight is 2 hours long, and they’re entertained for 1 hour with technology. You’ve kept people around you happy, your toddler entertained, and yourself sane. Now you just have one more hour to go.
  3. Candy/Chocolate-This was not an issue when my daughter was younger, but now that she is 2 1/2, she cannot sit still, and does not yet understand why she needs to wear a seatbelt for 15-20 minutes during takeoff, and another 15-20 minutes for landing. Because I do not expect her to understand, I keep my best tool for these moments. My secret is either a small chocolate bar, or lollipop. When it is time to stay sitting down with their seatbelt on, I ask her, “Do you want a lollipop?” She’ll say yes, and I’ll say, “if you want a lollipop you need to be sitting down with your seatbelt on.” Guess what she does? She sits down! By the time we’ve landed, she’s finishing her lollipop. Try it with your children and let me know how it goes.

You’ve arrived!

I have different tips for being on vacation with young children depending on the type of place that you’re visiting. Visit the rest of this section to see tips on traveling to an all-inclusive beach resort, Europe, Walt Disney World, and to a ski resort.

A good advice that I can leave you with is:

Vacations and family time are great, and we get to create beautiful memories. Understand that not all of the time in our destination is going to be a smooth sail, and that there might be bumps along the road. It is easier to get irritated at our children, partner, or family members when we have not been home in a few days, we are tired from sightseeing, or something did not pan out like you envisioned. Remember that they might be feeling the same way, especially our kids. This can be easier said than done but be patient with them. Children feel safe when there is consistency, and a vacation takes them out of their element. Take it slow! Make time for play and rest. Stop and enjoy the new place you’ve waiting to visit.

I wish that you get an ideal weather for you vacation, and that beautiful memories are made.

With Love,

Irma

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Test day motivation letter

test day final exam motivation

One way to reassure your child before a big exam.

The end of the school year is approaching, and with that comes the big and dreaded end of school year exams. The best we can do for them is assist our child’s preparedness in all areas: academically, physically, and most importantly emotionally.

As parents, we are not aware how much the topic of the final exam was discussed in their classroom. For all we know, the teacher and/or campus has stressed it so much, that in their young age they feel a great pressure to perform well on that one day. The feeling of dread and/or stress multiplies when the child believes he/she does not have what it takes to be successful.

To assist with what to write, we have included some phrases you can use.

  1. I believe in you! – This statement is particularly powerful for the students who experience self-doubt. These students do not believe in themselves. Ask your child to remember this statement during the test. Say something like,”When you think you cannot handle a question, remember that I believe in you.” I know you can do it! Give that question a second attempt.
  2. Trust in yourself!-Kids usually know much more than they think they do. They just have to believe they are prepared and be ready to retrieve the knowledge accumulated throughout the year.
  3. I am proud of you regardless of the result!– Our children love to please us and some revolve their actions around making their parents proud. This feeling of having their parents’ acceptance can become overwhelming enough that will produce a great deal of anxiety in your child and shut them down. Remind them that this one test is not going to change how YOU perceive them.
  4. Remember to show and use all the strategies you have learned. Ask them to think back when the teacher taught a certain concept. What did he/she do? What activity/project did they do to help them learn something? These questions can give students a hook that can help them fish a stored lesson in their memory.
  5. You are smart enough! Some children believe that the only reason they do not understand something is because they are not intelligent. This is the biggest lie that children can believe about themselves. It is our duty as parents to teach them that hard-work, and dedication is what brings success, not just intelligence alone.
  6. It is OK to take a mental break, but stay focused. We have all been there. We’re working on something, and after a while, that thing we are working on begins to look like more of a blur. Reassure them it is fine to look away from the test, place their heads down for a while, or stretch in their chair. Do remind them however, that as soon as he/she feels a little bit refreshed it is time to get back to the test. When we get distracted, it takes a while to get back to complete focus. We want to avoid too many rests because some of these tests are timed.

These are just some reassuring things that we can write to our child. You decide if you would rather have this conversation in person, and what additional statements you will add. You are the expert in your child. I am confident you will know just the right things to say to relief some of their stress.

Best of luck to all of our children taking an important exam this spring!

-Irma G. Castro

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Ninja Precision Processor and Auto Spiralizer Review with Video demonstration

Honestly, I purchased this Ninja food processor a few months ago, but I had not used it because I was not familiar with how to use it. Also, I did not give myself time to go through their instructional manual.

With summer right around the corner, I knew I wanted to get back on the “healthy lifestyle” wagon. You know how that goes, “I will start eating healthy this coming Monday!” I am very guilty of that. I am guilty of going through “healthy” phases in which I really watch what I eat, and exercise more.

In addition, one of my struggles if making healthy meals that my daughter would also want to eat.

So when I jumped back into the eating healthy lifestyle, I started looking for recipes for that were healthy, easy, quick, and likely to be liked by my daughter. Was I crazy for wanting a recipe that encompassed all of that? Maybe, I am a little crazy, but that’s the kind of recipe mothers in this modern fast paced world need!!

After a few minutes of googling, I came across a zucchini pasta. Pasta looking veggies, meatballs, and a healthy tomato sauce was the combination I was looking for. Not even remembering that I had that machine in my pantry, I purchased a bag of zucchini noodles from my local grocery store.

It wasn’t until my sweet, yet tight on money husband, questioned me. He asked why I purchased a small expensive bag of zucchini noodles when I had a machine that could do the same thing, and produce double the amount of those noodles at half the price.

Anyway, to why you’re here. The review:

Benefits:

  1. chops vegetables fairly fine in a few pulses.
  2. most vegetables are similar in size, so end product looks evenly cut.
  3. saves you time.
  4. spiralizing your own vegetables is more cost effective than buying the pre-cut noodles.
  5. because you’re saving time, and cutting or spiralizing your vegetables is done quickly you’re more likely to eat healthy.

Drawbacks:

  1. initial investment of $119.
  2. whole product comes with 10 pieces that you would have to store in your cabinets.

Overall, I would buy it again. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Do not let the number of parts overwhelm you. It is actually simple to use once you have done it a few time. You can currently find the Ninja Precision Processor and Spiralizer in Amazon

Using the Ninja Spiralizer:

Using the Ninja Food Processor demonstration:

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7 reasons to buy the Let’s Learn the Spanish Alphabet Book

learn spanish

learn spanish
A book with 108 activities to help keep practice the Spanish alphabet and Spanish words

Why do you want your child to learn Spanish?

Do you want to give them an edge by helping them become bilingual/multilingual?

Do you just want to give them the ability to communicate with the 461 million native Spanish speakers?

Do you want them to gain/keep your own parents’ native language?

We all have our own reasons, but we have the same goal, for our children to learn Spanish.

Let’s Learn the Spanish Alphabet is the perfect introduction to the Spanish language. This is what this book will do for your child:

  1. Teach them the direction in which each letter is written. 

This book comes with jumbo letters meant for our younger learners. They will be able to trace each letter with their fingers since their handwriting skills might not be developed. The older kids can practice tracing these letters with their writing utensil of choice.

*You can find the pronunciation of each letter in the video below.*

       2. Provide additional tracing practice for each letter. 

The second page offered for each letter, is additional writing practice, and/or coloring for our young learners. As your child works on this page, ask them to name the letter in Spanish.

*You can find the pronunciation of each letter in the video below.*

      3. Learn Spanish words that begin with each of the letters of the Alphabet. 

The third page provides five easy to remember words written with their proper definite articles, or gender (la/el) with pictures for each of the letters of the alphabet. The purpose of this page is to have your child associate each of the Spanish letter sounds with the initial sounds in each of the provided words.

*You can find the pronunciation of each of the words in the video below.*

      4. Recognize and differentiate a target letter from the rest. 

In these pages, children are asked to find a specific letter and color it. When working on these pages, ask your child to find the letter by using its Spanish pronunciation.

5. The parent freebies: 

Besides the 108 coloring and learning activities that your child receives in this book, we provided:

  1. A tracking page for you to shade in each letter that your child is able to recognize and sound out.
  2. A linking chart used to help your child link a letter to the initial sound in a word. For example, in English you would say something like: a-a-apple, b-b-bear, c-c-car.

6. The child freebie:

Digraphs, or two letters that make a single sound are a big part of the Spanish language. Some of these were even the alphabet until 2010. As a thank you for your purchase, we will send you the “Let’s Learn the Spanish Digraphs!” digital download.

7. The pronunciation video:

This video follows the book, and guides your child through the pronunciation of each of the letters and words they will be working with.

 

You can purchase the digital version of this book by clicking here for $2.99, or the print version for $5.99 through Amazon by clicking here.

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4 ways to help your child recognize their name

Can your child name the letters in his/her name and place them in the correct order?

  1. Letter magnets.

Place them on the refrigerator or in a baking sheet. Remove all letters that are not in their name. Allow them to rearrange and manipulate the letters as they wish.

2. Paper cutouts

3. Play-dough

Spend some time rolling out the letters in your child’s name. Capital letters are easier to roll and should be the first introduced.

4. Paper plates

Order 8 prints of your child’s picture.
Glue the 8 pictures onto the 8 different paper plates.
Write your child’s name under each picture.
Use painter’s tape and tape them around the house at your kid’s eyesight level.

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6 Questions to help you start your family’s holiday tradition

Christmas is around the corner! By now most families know where they’ll spend this holiday, with whom, and what they’ll do when they’re there.

My husband and I have spent 6 Christmases together, and every year we’ve alternated between his family and mine.

Even in alternating years, we don’t always go to the same family member’s home. One year it can be with my in-laws, and the next time it’s my husband’s family’s turn, it might be at his brother’s.

Now, with an 18 month old daughter, I’m thinking we do not have a Christmas tradition of our own.

I have a co-worker who wanted stability for their daughter. She has dinner with her husband’s family on Christmas Eve and always drives home. While at home, they set everything up for Santa and even drops reindeer food in her backyard!

I can say that our Christmas tradition growing up was having tamales with the same salsas and deserts every year for dinner on Christmas Eve. Then, we would play Loteria, and sing karaoke until midnight when we would open presents given by family members. We would then wake up to presents left by Santa in the morning.

Here are some questions for you and your significant other to ask each other when starting your own family tradition:

1. What story do we want our kids to stay when they’re asked about their Christmas Eve/morning?

2. What do we value? Family time? Time at church?

3. Which of your old family traditions are you willing to give up? Which have to stay?

4. How can we mesh both of our families’ traditions?

5. Where will we spend this holiday?

6. What meal/side/desert is a must?

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6 Questions to ask your child’s teacher at the beginning of the school year

Little Passports
A new school year means new teacher, new rules, routines, and possibly a new school.

The best way to assist your child in this new adventure is to be informed. 

Some teachers are great at providing this information on their own, but in case you do not get it, here are some questions you can ask your child’s teacher to be best informed about your child’s day to day.

1. What is your classroom management plan?

This will let you know the rewards and consequences your child will receive at each stage of their behavior. You’re looking for a teacher who has a plan in place, but at the same time will allow students to regulate their own behavior, for example, kids choosing their own consequence, writing a reflection, and giving them the opportunity for redemption. 

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2. What is your homework policy? 

You want to ensure your child is finishing school assignments. Ask what days you should expect homework from school and the type of homework your child will be receiving. Will these be in the form of handouts, projects, or both? What is your policy for late/not turned in homework?

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3. How can I contact you?

E-mail is possibly the best way to communicate considering that they are busy with their class during work hours. 


Ask for their conference period. What time is it? This is the time allotted for things such as parent conferences. Some teachers prefer to meet a parent during this time versus after school when they want to go home. 

Lastly, ask if your child’s classroom has a direct line. This will be best used in case you want to leave voice messages. In some schools, calls to classrooms go directly to voicemail during class hours. 

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4. Are water bottles and snacks allowed?

If the answer is yes, do they prefer a certain type of water bottle and a certain type of snack? Is there a specific snack time, or can they eat as “needed?” 

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5. How will school supplies be distributed?

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Teachers have different policies for school supplies. Some gather things like scissors, glue, pencils and even markers to be for communal use. In other instances, kids get to keep all of them. This one is really a personal preference whether you prefer your child to keep them or turn them in to their teacher, but at least you ought to know what happened to your money.

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6. How can I help?

Does your teacher have a project in mind that he or she needs supplies for? Is there a need in the classroom such as flexible seating? Offer to volunteer. Provide your availability or the ways you can help. The teacher you’re asking these questions to has more than likely spent money out of their own pocket to make your child’s classroom look welcoming. In the end, your kids will receive the benefit too.