Category Archives: Parenting Tips and Secrets
I was talking about stilts with a friend the other day, and remembered the old coffee can stilts that were popular when I was a kid. For Jack and Tess, I thought the tall coffee cans would make me a little too nervous, so I used some pieces of 2×4 wood instead. They were a huge hit. It was so funny to watch them in action. And when they get really good at it, I can make them a little taller.
To make them, I just drilled a hole through the wood and tied on some rope. Simple!
By Joel Henriques
The last part of my mini series on travelling with toddlers is all about keeping your toddler entertained on those long haul flights. So we had 12 + 10.5 hours to get through in one go … which is probably about the most extreme flying experience with a toddler you can have on planet earth. So I feel well qualified to sharing some tips and tricks.
Our little man is now 2 years old, which in our case means he is too young to fully appreciate the in-flight entertainment (which Korean Air doesn’t even offer on all routes @#&*^@*&^#!!! so on some flights you are stuck with 2 inappropriate films which are shown on a big screen right in front of the bulk-head seats where you will most likely be sitting). But he’s also old enough to want to be entertained non-stop.
So – here’s the long-haul survival list (in order of keeping you sane)
#1 The overall winner and best toy purchase ever made is the Doodle Pad. It’s the most versatile, unmessy, imaginative and CHEAP toy you’ll ever buy (I got ours for $12). It’s a true life saver as you can draw stuff, erase it and draw some more for quite a while (it typically kept our man entertained for up to 1h at a time).
#2 Sticker booklets – almost as versatile as the Doodle Pad, slightly more messy but still pretty imaginative and cheap. You can get them with different themes (animals, cartoons, sports, etc). To Korean Air’s credit – they actually handed some out during the flight. It’s definitely worth investing a few bucks to get a handful of them though.
#3 Model airplanes in all shapes and sizes – you can get some really simple “assemble in less than 1 minute” sets or cuddly toy planes for next to nothing. Toy planes are great fun when you are actually on a plane as you can re-enact take-offs and landings on your tray table (and your neighbour’s tables). It’s also great fun to watch your fellow passengers when you cover off the “unlikely” scenarios of mid-air crash, landing on water, air-pockets, loss of cabin-pressure, fire on board, lightning strikes or snakes on a plane (especially if you do this during turbulence). For the latter scenario you can sing “the wheels on the bus” with more suitable lyrics “the snakes on the plane go tsss tss tsss, zsss zszz zsss, tsss zss ttss …”
So I’m very proud to say that after reviewing two travel accessories we didn’t have on our latest trip, we had all of the above. YAY.
The second time I realized I’m definitely not the coolest traveling dad was when I came across the “Air-O-Swiss Travel Ultrasonic Humidifier” (you gotta love the name). It’s the latest must-have gadget for “keeping it fresh” while traveling. The Air-O-Swiss Travel Humidifier is a small device that humidifies a room (surprise) … BUT here’s the cool feature: You can use just about any water bottle as a water tank. It also comes with a range of different plugs and adapters for most countries (you’d ever want to travel to). Finally with a slick and clean design it really is the iPhone of Humidifiers – perfect for creating a healthy micro-climate in your office when you’re not traveling (it’s also a great conversation starter or distractor for all those awkward HR conversations).
Now why would you want to want a travel humidifier in the first place? Since most hotel room windows cannot be opened anymore these days a humidifier is your only hope to create a room climate with higher humidity than normal (or you could just leave the shower on for the whole night … not very water wise though). As all clever dads know, a humidifier is probably one of the very few things that can help your child (or you) to settle a cough without any medicine-related side effects. In many countries the use of cough relief drugs for children under the age of 5 is not recommended. So natural remedies like honey / herbal infusions and a well humidified room are your best bets to get some relief from constant coughing.
The Air-O-Swiss Travel Humidifier uses high-frequency vibrations to generate a micro-fine cool (important!) mist that is blown into the room. It looks very cool when it does that … they should include a humidifying feature in mobile phones! Anyway, the Air-O-Swiss thing will set you back about $60 so check it out as a possible gadget for your next trip – I haven’t managed to convince the wife yet (just waiting for an opportune day in her cycle …).
ps.: DIYFather.ocm has not received any gifts, compensation or other incentives to write this article
During a recent family trip I realized that, unfortunately I’m just not “with it” when it comes to travel gadgetry for young children. As much as I hate to admit it but there were actually other parents with way cooler travel accessories.
The first gadget to shatter my daddy cool confidence was the “Trunki” ride-on suitcase which I spotted at Seoul Airport. If you’ve ever had to transfer between flights and had your stroller taken off you just before you got on the first plane you will REALLY appreciate this one. Because what happens when you don’t have a stroller while transferring is that you’ve got about 27 bags with all the toys, food, gear to change your little one and your own bag … PLUS your over-tired, grumpy or hyper-active child who wants to check out the airport.
This is where the $50 (or so) you’ve paid for your Trunki suitcase really pay off. Trunkis are small enough to take on board as cabin baggage and they solve your two essential problems: carrying lots of stuff and having something you can put your child in (or on) to haul them around endless airport corridors. You can put a decent amount of toys and food inside your Trunki (if you are lucky you might even fit the changing gear in there as well) and your toddler will almost certainly enjoy riding on top of it. The suitcase comes with a pull-along cord so you can easily carry your own stuff in a shoulder bag or backpack.
Trunkis are recommended for children aged 3-6 years but I’ve seen parents with 2-year olds use it and it worked a treat. I’d recommend doing a few practice runs with your toddler before you travel so they get used to the experience and know where to hold on to. All in all it should be a real stress-buster for traveling with young kids.
Ps: DIYFather has not received any compensation, gifts or other incentives for writing this article.
If you feel like a real superdad moment or you want to impress your (young) kids – we’ve got something for you. Show them how you can turn ordinary cream into butter! It’s magic and it’s real simple (but kids up to a certain age don’t know that yet so you still get the WOW effect). Well – join the league of blokes who make butter!
Here’s what you do:
- buy some cream (ideally double cream as it speeds up the process)
- pour it in a bowl and start whipping (using a whisk or egg beater). NOTE: use an electric whisk or mixer if you are not on a biceps training program
- keep whisking until the cream gets stiff and turns into whipped cream
- here comes the magic touch: KEEP whisking when you got to the whipped cream stage. After a while the whipped cream will turn funny and you’ll see it separating into solids and water.
- keep whisking until the solids turn yellow and start sticking together
- eventually you will end up with several large pieces of butter and water
- drain the water (e.g. using a colander) and put the butter piece in a fresh and very clean kitchen towel (cloth)
- wring out the water from your freshly made butter
Done – now savor the moment as your kids look at you in sheer admiration! You are Super Dad … you can do anything … you can even turn cream into butter!
Being a dad of a 4 and (bad sleeper) 3 year old, and with both parents working, sleep is always at a premium. The words “it’s your turn” at 2am is not what you want to hear, and are usually followed by “no, I think it’s definitely yours”. Both parents end up awake and grumpy. So here’s a little tip from a friend in the same boat:
- have a standing agreement that if the child wakes between 12-5am it is Mum, otherwise it is Dad (or the other way round). Simple. No arguments.
- use the “odds and even hours” rule. 1:xx am is Mum, 2:xx am is Dad. Same principle.
- agree on alternate days for night duty.
The most important thing is to have a standing agreement, not leave the decision to a middle of the night negotiation.
Here’s our list of handy hints and tips for selecting a daycare or childcare center for your child. We split our list of essentials into two parts – firstly things you should consider when selecting the center, secondly things the daycare staff should tell you about. Here it goes …
1) What to look for in a childcare / daycare center:
- Safe location – is it in a safe neighborhood / near a busy street?
- Safe building – is it clean and child-safe (by regulation, it has to be)? Or is it old and rundown?
- What are the play areas and toys like (new, old, dirty, clean)?
- Is there a pleasant outdoor area available, with appropriate shelter from sun and rain?
- Can the dropping off and picking up of your child be organized safely and with relative ease?
- What is the teaching and childcare philosophy? What are their policies and procedures e.g., about noise, behavior, TV watching, sleeps, and so on?
- Staff ratio – are there enough people to take care of the children at ALL TIMES?
- Staff abilities – are they trained and qualified? There are strict regulations in place for operating a daycare; don’t be afraid to ask about staff qualifications.
- How many children attend in total? How many under two year-olds and how many pre-schoolers.
- What food and beverages are served?
- What is the incident history, and how long has the center been registered with an official authority?
- What is the decoration like – does it look like a happy place with lots of photos, children’s paintings and other artwork on display?
2) Things the childcare / daycare center staff should show you / tell you (ideally without prompting them):
- Access to the building and how this is regulated / organized (e.g. keys, access card)
- Access register (who dropped off / who picked up)
- Play areas (for over 2s and under 2s)
- Sleep areas and sleep routines
- Activity log (recording sleep times, feeding, nappy changes, incidents, etc)
- Food preparation, diets and how special dietary requirements are catered for
- Outdoors play areas
- Safety procedures
- Qualification of all staff
- Child / teacher ratio
- Teaching philosophy of the center
- Examples of recent activities with children / stimulation (games, songs, etc)
Make sure you get a tour by a member of staff before you make a decision. Pay particular attention to how you are greeted and how the person showing you round treats you – there is a good chance that your children will get a similar treatment. The topics in the second list should all be covered by the person doing the tour. If they don’t explain key points to a satisfactory detail it’s a warning sign.
It’s a pretty tough and difficult decision to leave your child (or children) in the care of others. If you have decided to go with a childcare / daycare center (there are other options of course) make sure you do the importance of this decision justice by finding out as much as you can about the place you have in mind for your child. Definitely check with other parents whose children are using the daycare already and if available check government / council websites for ratings or references.
Finally – once you have made a decision and your child is in daycare, check the logs and observe your child closely to make sure all is well. If you are not happy with something you read in the log or notice behaviour / practices you are not happy with – talk to a staff member straight away. It may also help to speak to the center manager if you are unhappy about something especially if it doesn’t get resolved.
There are lots of really good childcare and daycare centers out there (and perhaps a few not so good ones) – so hopefully the points we mention here are useful to help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
Reading to kids from a very young age (like right after birth) is an important activity to stimulate brain development as well as help the bonding process with your child. You can never really read too much to your kids and as they get older you can encourage them to read for themselves. Here’s a few ideas for encouraging your kids to read:
- Be a role model and read to them frequently – when you read picture books point to objects as you say the corresponding words
- Ask your kids what they are interested in or what they want to know and show them the process of finding out about something from the internet – read the web page content to them
- Take your kids to the library frequently and if you have an old/historic library close by go and visit it and have a look at some really old books with your children
- With older kids – get them to read every day items to you – news, instruction manuals, ingredient lists of food – a great activity you can do while having breakfast for example
- Incorporate book titles and stories into other games – like Charades
And of course be a good role model by reading books yourself. Let your children observe that you are into books yourself.
One of the greatest thing you can do for your kids is to make them feel loved and appreciated. Here’s a list of ideas (adapted with kind permission from Mark at allprodad.com)
Your son’s room is a complete mess. Your daughter just got her 3rd speeding ticket and she is still 16. One brought home a poor grade in science. One snuck out of the house and didn’t get home until 2 am. Safe to say, all these things are going to make for interesting parenting. Through it all, never let your child feel as if your love for them has limits. These are the moments you let it shine the brightest. Unconditional love is the greatest gift in life.
Quantity time – not quality time
Time slips away so fast doesn’t it? One minute you are teaching your daughter to ride a bike. The next minute she’s backing down the driveway in your car. Were you there enough for all the time in between? Your child wants your attention more than any other thing you can provide them. Make it a top priority to spend as much time with your children as you can.
Don’t shy away from the crucial moments. The hard times. The big decisions. This is when your love is tested the most. A parent has to do the right thing. The responsible thing. Not the popular thing. The love you show now will be reflected back when they are adults. You’ll be rocking your grandchild in your arms one day and your son will tap you on the shoulder and simply say “thank you Dad.
Hard to believe, but some men have a real hard time with this one. Some dads just aren’t keen on hugging and kissing. We are raised to be tough and strong. That’s a good thing. However, your child needs your affection in the most vital of ways. Frequent demonstration of genuine affection provides children with a sense of security and harmony. And of course you could probably use a big ol’ hug yourself anyway. So knock down those walls and extend those big arms. You’ll be addicted in no time.
Always celebrate the big moments in their lives. Birthdays. Recitals. First day of school. Graduation. Everything. Make a big deal out of each and every one. These are the days they feel special. The moments that honor life. Who do they want to notice more than anybody else? Dad.
Believe In Them
This is a hard one. We want to shelter them. Protect them from any and all harm at all times. However this will not do any good in the real world. They have to learn to stand on their own two feet. Teach them well. Give them the skills and values that are required for success. Then let them fly. Trust them. Believe in your child. It will mean the world to them. Also – and especially believe in them if they show interest or a liking in something that you don’t like. That’s when it really counts to support them anyway – if you hate ballet and your daughter wants to be a ballerina – be her biggest fan!
Inspired by AllProDad
We’ve all been there – our offspring has managed to drive us up the wall. Amazingly this can happen at all ages … and we just feel like lashing out and giving them a good old smack, right? It’s a natural reaction but it’s not that great for our children – there is endless research on the negative effects (short term / long term) of using physical force to discipline children. So what else can you do instead? Here’s a list of alternatives to smacking – just handy to know there ARE alternatives and we don’t have to use the same method of disciplining that perhaps our parents have used on us. (created by Barnardos and published with kind permission here).
1. Take a deep breath and gather your thoughts
2. Show them what they can do instead of what they cant
3. Taking them outside for a run around
4. Saying lots of positive things when they are good
5. Walking away, thinking about what you are going to do, but keeping them in your sight
6. Thinking about whether they are tired and or hungry
7. Keeping your expectations and rules simple
8. Accpeting mistakes and showing them how they can fix them
9. Clapping once to get their attention, then giving them a simple explanation
10. Explaining consequences (ge if they throw a toy it might break)
11. Putting them in a quiet safe place so they can calm down
12. Getting down to their height to avoid being threatening
13. Putting precious things out of reach
14. Singing some loud songs together
15. Ringing a friend or neighbour
16. Sharing stories with other parents
17. Turning tasks into a game
18. Speaking softly
19. Being firm, fair and friendly
20. Ignoring tantrums
21. Acting as you want your child to act.