Category: Tips + Tricks

5 simple tips to help parents prevent and deal with bullying. We get it. We’ve been there. And it sucks.

Bullying is nothing new. Unfortunately. And I still have the emotional scars from 7th grade to prove it. But for our 21st century kids, bullying is only amplified with the lively presence of social media in all our kids’ lives, meaning now bullying that once happened mostly in school can follow a child home 24/7. The first time my daughter came home crying because another girl made fun of her T-shirt, I felt deflated. Not just as a mother feeling helpless, but because the feelings of hurt I experienced in my own childhood came flooding back to me. I’m sure a lot of you can relate....

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8 fun, not over-the-top, pregnancy announcement ideas beyond waving the stick in the air

Yes, we know — announcing a pregnancy used to mean making a phone call to your parents, or maybe having a dinner if you wanted to go big. But now, so many couples are looking for creative ways to announce a pregnancy and, I get it. Especially as someone who’s now expecting for the first time. (Whoo!) I know how hard it was keeping the big secret under wraps for those long, long first 12 weeks — partly due to my own excitement, and partly due to the fact that I’ve never been known to turn down wine at a dinner party. (Dead giveaway.)...

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5 tested tips for handling separation anxiety, from parents who have been there too

I know a little something about dealing with separation anxiety when it comes to young kids and school. Back when my kids were in preschool, this was my routine: drop them off at the classroom, peel around the corner and press my back against the wall, then wait — sometimes two minutes, sometimes ten minutes — until they stopped crying.  Sometimes I cried too. Separation anxiety is exhausting and heartbreaking and, yes, even sometimes a bit frustrating. If you’re in the middle of it right now, know you’re not alone. We’ve been there — some of us still are there — and...

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How to talk about safety with kids: Why we talk about tricky people and not stranger danger.

In an increasingly connected world, we parents can feel overwhelmed about making sure our kids are protected and knowing how to talk to kids about safety, strangers, and all that other stuff that we wish we didn’t have to. We know it can be tough. While keeping our kids safe is a huge priority for all parents, we also want them to experience the beautiful freedom of childhood, and the ability to run and play and make friends without fear. So how do we all balance those two? We’re here to help. Related: Letting your kids play outside alone or walk to school: Is it bad for...

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Breastfeeding at work: 7 tips to help nursing moms make the transition

When I returned to work while breastfeeding my first daughter, I found myself sorely unprepared for everything it entailed. I can’t even begin to convey the frustration I experienced — though I’m sure a lot of you know just what I’d been through. Add that to sleep deprivation and it was a very difficult time for me. Cue crying behind my closed office door. Looking back, I realize there’s more I could have done prior to going back to work, to make the transition a whole lot easier. (Ah, hindsight, right?) Plus, now that there are so many more workplaces doing more for working...

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7 fun handwriting practice printables for kids, from pre-k to teen. It’s not just worksheets!

We’ve always made it our mission to encourage kids to keep the art of handwriting alive, and to help parents looking to do the same. So we’ve put together some really terrific handwriting practice printables for kids of all ages. Yes, even teens. (We can tear them away from those keyboards sometimes, you know.) Essentially, it’s all about finding ways to get kids to write, whether it’s basic worksheets for preschoolers, or opportunities to write stories, comics, even create a typeface of their own. And we’re so happy to bring you this post on behalf of our partner BIC, who’s been our fantastic...

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7 tricks to help kids pack their own school lunches. As in, them, not you!

We’re all for making those crazy school mornings as un-crazy as possible, which is why we’re big fans of having our kids pack their own lunches the night before. Yes, even our little ones! It can be done, promise. Not only does having kids pack their own lunches give you one less thing to do yourself (whoo!), but it’s a smart way to ensure they’ll actually eat what’s in their lunch box. And if they don’t, well, there’s no blaming you for that too-ripe banana or the strawberry yogurt they devoured yesterday, but claim they don’t like today.   We’re thrilled to get to bring you our top...

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19 random acts of kindness you can have fun doing with your kids

There have been a lot of hard things in the news this year, and I think we can all agree we need a little more happy in our lives. So when a friend told me that her kids found $5 and a note to buy some candy “on us” tucked into her movie rental (yes, some people still rent DVDs!), I got inspired. What simple, random acts of kindness could I do with my kids to help other people have a happier day too? We’ve collected some of our favorite ideas here — from nice things you can do for strangers to...

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5 benefits of breastfeeding for moms, that we should be talking about more

Like many moms who choose to breastfeed, I was fairly aware of the benefits of breastfeeding my first baby well before I started. But I actually didn’t know how many benefits there would be for me too, at least until I was pretty far along into nursing my first baby. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much it would have helped me to focus on those upsides during those early days and months when, admittedly, I was struggling a bit. And that goes for my second, third and fourth babies. (That’s me with number two up in the photo above. So cute!)   Our newest...

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10 cool nighttime activities for kids that let you be the fun parent

With the kids out of school and the days so much longer, I’ve been trying to make summer extra fun for them, which means extending bedtimes way past their normal time and heading out for nighttime adventures. Seriously, there are so many fun things to do with kids when it’s dark (even though admittedly, I find them sleeping soundly in their beds very fun. Ha). As a glasses wearer, this has all been made so much easier for me thanks to our newest sponsor, ZEISS DriveSafe, which can actually give you better vision at night. I’m not sure if it’s my age (cough 40 cough) or...

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7 expert tips for decluttering kids rooms when all else has failed

Let’s be real: kids’ room clutter is the gift that keeps on giving. And it’s not just kids’ bedrooms that are problems — we always find the need to declutter our entryways, the kitchen, the bathroom, the garage, the area around the TV, every corner of every room…you get it. And if you live in a smaller space (hello, city living), the clutter can seem ten-fold. So we’ve been looking for some easy ways to declutter kids’ rooms, which makes for a perfect summer project, as you get a respite from all the classwork and art projects coming home each day. We spoke with Emma Gordon,...

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Common mistakes parents make when applying sunscreen on kids and how to fix them.

With four outdoor-loving kids and lots of pool and beach time on our calendar this summer, you can bet I am always stocking up on sunscreen. I’m pretty careful about when and how I slather it on, too, which is why I was surprised to see that I was making a few very common mistakes when it comes to applying sunscreen to kids. Ack. If you’re going to be applying sunscreen to kids — and hopefully yourself — this summer, you’ll want to check these common mistakes parents make and what to do about them. No need to feel guilty; just...

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5 free summer reading challenges for kids. Prizes included!

Even though I’ve got a couple of avid readers in my house, I’m always looking for ways to continue to encourage them to pick up a book. Thankfully, there are no shortage of summer reading challenges that offer kids a little incentive for their participation. Whether you’re trying to give your reluctant reader a little motivation summer, or just want something to reward your voracious book lover, here are 5 free summer reading challenges for kids that you’ll want to check out, all of which offer participants prizes. Related: 3 simple tips from LeVar Burton to get your kids...

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26 of the best car games and activities to keep kids happy without screens.

I was one of those parents who insisted that I’d raise the kind of kids who would play fun, screen-free car games on our family road trips, or perhaps watching the world whiz by while asking intelligent questions about all the sites and sounds around them. Sound familiar? Yeah. Well after one particularly long road trip, I quickly learned that sometimes screens are really, really useful for making an endless drive feel… not so endless. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve totally surrendered to the lure of electronics. There are times when all the screens need to go off so we can discover other ways to...

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A new company dedicated to products that addresses the problems all parents have.

We love tips and hacks to help parents manage that not always fun job of parenting. And now there’s a mom-and-dad run company so committed to it, they’re creating products that bring to life those age-old parental tricks with modern design. The Doin’ Time Family Clock is the one of the three products from N+B that seems most useful to me. It provides magnetic tabs to help kids not only learn time the old-fashioned analog way, but to show them just when they should be doing what to get out of the house or to bed on time. I know I’ve tried many variations...

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15 simple, possibly unexpected ways parents can connect with their tween or teen

We all heard that raising tweens and teens are hard, but now, here we are ourselves with a few on our hands, and doing our best to navigate the challenges of parenting them. Whether you’re in the throes of it yourself, are approaching it rapidly, or just want to get a head start, we’re hoping you’ll appreciate this week’s Spawned with Kristen and Liz, in which we tackle this tough topic — with as much of a sense of humor as we can. And uh, quite a few words you may or may not feel comfortable using around the kids. Listen now, maybe after...

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Budget family travel tips: 5 smart do’s and don’ts to save you a ton on your next family vacation

A few months ago, I decided I wanted to celebrate my 40th birthday with a big trip, but whoa, family vacations are certainly not cheap! Especially when you’re traveling with kids — or in my case, four of them. Even though I’d been saving for a while, I was determined to keep my spending down as much as I could. After scoring a great deal on plane tickets (hooray for off-season vacations), I did some research to figure out how I could stick within my vacation budget while still having a great time. And, it worked! So I’ve put together 5 simple do’s...

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6 clever ways to get your reluctant reader to love reading

Not too long ago, I realized my 8-year-old son was a reluctant reader. He’s a perfectly good reader, but would rather do just about anything but read. And that’s a particular sore spot for me, because there are few things I’d rather do more than sit down with a good book. In fact, I often lament how little time I do have to read. My son is fortunate enough to have an incredibly intuitive teacher who noticed, like I had, that he was a very capable reader, just not an interested one. So when she called me one day to...

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6 smart tips to help prevent distracted driving and make car rides safer for families

With the busy travel season upon us and so many families planning spring and summer road trips, keeping our kids safe while we’re driving and preventing distracted driving is a huge concern of ours. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to be on a long haul to to the beach or the mountains to be easily distracted; most of us are still getting phone calls, text messages, and those non-digital requests for snacks from the backseat, even when we’re just playing chauffeur to and from after-school activities. That’s why we’re pleased to help spread the word about the new #TravelSafe campaign from...

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21 inspired ideas for a two-hour date night

If we hear one more relationship expert tell us that busy parents need to make time for date night we’re going to…listen. It’s true. We know it. Whether you’re working on keeping your relationship fresh or starting a new one, making time for dates is important. Relationships are so much stronger when we have even a little time away from the craziness of the household, connecting over something besides the kids’ homework and household chores. But we also recognize that sometimes we don’t really plan dates like we should, because we hear the word DATE and it’s like OMG I HAVE TO PLAN...

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10 super simple tips for modeling healthier behavior for your kids.

We admit it, we’re not always the perfect models of healthy behavior. And we know our kids take in eeeeverything. But old habits die hard, whether it’s making a few questionable food choices in front of our kids (ahem), or driving two blocks to the store when we totally could have walked. (Come on, suburban parents, admit it — who’s done it?) That’s why we’re happy to team up with the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. It’s providing health and wellness solutions to schools across America, and working to increase school breakfast awareness and participation, so that more kids can start their day with the fuel they need to...

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Stand up straight! 5 simple ways to improve your posture

I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m tall or because I sit hunched over a computer all day long, but I have terrible posture. This isn’t necessarily a new discovery, but what is new to me is how much bad posture can actually affect your stress levels — something I learned as part of our sponsor Aetna’s Month of Mindfulness #Mindful30 challenge. Yikes! Like it’s not bad enough that I realize I look bad slouching in pictures, now it’s contributing to stress? So for my 3rd challenge, they asked me to focus on “perfecting my posture,” and boy, did I need...

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Decluttering tips from 5 top organization experts: Which is best for you? | Spawned Episode 29

I fully admit that home organization is the bane of my existence. If you’re a hard-core reader of this site or a listener of the Spawned podcast then you know that while Kristen is an avid purger, I’m what I like to think of, fondly, as a Nostalgic Hoarder. It’s like not you’re going to find me one day, buried under 25-year old newspaper clippings, old coffee cans and pounds of cat hair. But I do have trouble getting rid of my kids’ early doodles (they’re so sweet!); birthday cards from every relative ever (maybe my kids will want...

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Meditation for parents: 5 easy ways to make it work for you

If you’re following along with me this month, you know I’m trying to make some positive changes in my life related to stress, something I’ve been struggling with both emotionally and physically for quite a while now. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been participating in Aetna’s Month of Mindfulness challenge, and wow, it’s definitely giving me the extra push I’ve been needing to reflect on what’s really going on in my life and what I can do to fix it. Hopefully I’m not alone in this and you’ve decided to join me. My first challenge was  5 tips and...

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11 fun things to learn to do that will make you coolest parent, aunt, uncle or grandparent ever.

As your kids get older, you realize you don’t have to ply them with gifts or offer extra ice cream at dessert just to be The Cool Parent. (And despite what you may have learned from Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, you don’t have to serve them cocktails with umbrellas, either.) Sometimes it’s just the little things you do, or those tricks you pull out of your hat on a rainy day that give you one more parenting win, just when you really need it. So while yes, parents prioritize those important skills like CPR and knowing how to cut the...

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Becoming more mindful: 5 things you can do right now.

Last week, I wrote pretty candidly about the stress in my life and how it’s been affecting me both emotionally and physically, so it’s probably no surprise that one of my New Year’s resolutions (yes, I really do make them!) is to do something about stress in 2016. It’s one thing to know you have stress and to be able to identify your symptoms, but it’s another thing to really make necessary changes to your lifestyle. So I’m grateful for our partner Aetna’s A Month of Mindfulness 30-day challenge, which is giving me the push that I need to reflect on what’s been going on in my...

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The top 10 Cool Mom Picks posts of 2015: From kitchen shortcuts to cool gifts to parenting tips of all kinds.

We admittedly get a little nostalgic looking back through our entire calendar year worth of posts each December to see which ones most resonated with our readers. All we can say is, looking at the top ten posts of the year? You all have great taste! Now we do have super popular posts from our archives that include the best gifts for 8 year old boys, the best gifts for a 4 year old, Minecraft birthday party ideas, funny, creative DIY Halloween costumes for babies (those still make us laugh), and lots of rainbow loom patterns.  Plus we’re so happy to see that...

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Stress and Parenting: A Confession

Hi, I’m Kristen and I’m stressed out. Why is it hard to admit that? As if I’m somehow not as competent or together as I’m supposed to be, whatever that means. Yes, I’m a single mom with four kids and my own business, so you might say, well duh, but I think it’s something we all face, whatever our work, living, or parenting situations. And it’s all okay — you don’t have to feel guilty about your own parent-related stress, even if you think someone else “has it harder” or is going through something more intense. It’s a relative thing...

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Fun holiday party ideas that we put to use at our our own Cool Mom Picks shindigs this season.

We had the best time over the past month, partnering with Amazon Free Time to throw a couple of fun press and blogger holiday cocktail parties in Philly and Atlanta. Our aim was to give parents a little more me time (Get it? Free Time for me time?) in a completely adults-only environment. Remember that? Of course the great company and the chance to meet some of our favorite publishers and editors from around the country was the absolute highlight. But we thought we’d share some other fun things we did that could inspire some fun holiday party ideas for your own gatherings this season....

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The ultimate guide to last-minute Thanksgiving Day help: Tasty recipes, drinks, printables, decor ideas, family activities, helpful apps, and more!

If you need some last-minute Thanksgiving Day help, we’re here for you! Because whoa, how did it get to be Thanksgiving week already? To make your Thanksgiving Day prep a little more manageable, we compiled some of the best Thanksgiving Day ideas from cool printables and crafts for the kids, decor ideas for the kids’ table, tons and tons (and tons) of recipes, even apps that could save your turkey — or just your sanity. We hope these ideas help you on your way to an incredible, stress-free Thanksgiving filled with laughter, love, and full bellies. We’d just suggest that if you’re cooking, start...

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