Category: Tips + Tricks

Is my child gifted? Helpful advice and online resources from an educational expert.

I still remember when my son’s then first-grade teacher asked if they could test him for the gifted program in our school district. I looked at her and asked, “Are you sure?” I just thought my sweet, curious boy asked a lot of questions. Like, a whooooole lot. But gifted? Even after he was identified as qualifying for our program, navigating next steps was extremely challenging. I had to understand my rights with the GIEP (Gifted Individualized Education Plan); find him educational support outside of school; and then figure out how it would impact his siblings and whether they should be tested too....

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Go forth and reinvent! 10 terrific resources for women ready for a career change or entrepreneurship.

We know a little something about reinvention after motherhood and women entrepreneurs. Hey, Kristen did an entire TedX talk about it! And I’ve made a few career switches myself — finally landing on this sweet gig that Kristen and I created for ourselves. The best part is, Cool Mom Picks has allowed us to support so many other entrepreneurial women who have found themselves in similar situations, wanting to embark on a new business venture that will enable them to wake up every day feeling excited. Just like we do. So we’re always down to share any companies, organizations, or resources that for women entrepreneurs — and not just...

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5 really important automotive safety checks you should do yourself before getting on the road

Yes there are like so many holidays and official months, it can be hard to keep track. But one that makes a lot of sense to set a calendar alert for is National Car Care Month, which happens to be right now. You know how we all remember to change the batteries in our smoke alarms at the same time we change the clocks twice a year? Well, April is the perfect month each year to make sure your car is in safe running order before the summer travel season begins. That’s why we’re really glad to have a chance to talk...

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6 smart tricks to save you money at the grocery store every time

We are always on the lookout for tips and tricks to help us save money when we’re at the supermarket. Because really, who wouldn’t love to save a few bucks (or uh, a lot of bucks) on groceries? We all know about coupons and price comparing. But there are plenty of budget-conscious choices you can make while you’re shopping that you may not know. In fact, that’s something our sponsor ShopKick is all about. The free, super popular shopping rewards app just launched a brand new grocery feature that can help you earn free gift cards just for shopping at your local grocery store for the items...

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Coloring your child’s hair at home: Tips to make it hella easy.

I was so proud of myself, the first time my daughter wanted to color her hair at home and asked for a pink stripe in her hair. I did all the research (what’s easiest, safest, least messy ) and finally settled on dyeing it with…Kool-Aid. Good gravy, what a mistake! It burned, believe it or not, and just as bad, it hardly left behind any color. Then, I discovered one simple way to dye my kid’s hair at home, turning her into her version of a 21st century punk without the tears: Dye the ends of the hair only. Here’s why. Before you...

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Thinking about adopting? Here’s how to get started, from a parent who’s been through the journey.

If your family has been thinking about adopting, I’m here as a BTDT mom to help. This year, my family grew by one more child when my husband and I adopted our daughter, a spunky 2-year-old from South Korea. It feels like we’re experts on adoption at this point, having waited a full three years to get her home, but it doesn’t feel that long ago that we were totally clueless about where to start. I’m not going to lie, the process is long and bumpy. And it can be exhausting, both emotionally and physically. But without hesitation I’d highly recommend it to anyone who feels...

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The panicky mom’s guide to removing ticks from kids — yikes!

You may be wondering just how to remove ticks from your kids, should the need arise. And we don’t blame you one bit. With the warmer weather comes longer days spent outdoors and kids running barefoot in the yard. Also, increased warning about ticks and Lyme disease thanks to a booming tick population this spring. Eek! So to put anxious minds at ease — including our own — we’ve done the research for you and put together this handy guide to removing ticks from kids. Just know we’re not trying to set off any alarm bells here; please know that some experts put your children’s risk of getting...

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Huge EpiPen recall, parents: Check those expiration dates!

If you have a child or family member with food allergies (like I do) , you need to check those EpiPens. Like, right now! Mylan, the company that makes EpiPen, has issued a voluntary EpiPen recall of 13 lots of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr Auto-Injectors distributed in the U.S. The recall was actually expanded to the U.S. after a recall was issued outside the country because of two reported incidents where the device failed to activate. Related: The silver lining of the Mylan EpiPen price hike news, from a mom of a child with food allergies At the moment, the EpiPen recall is for...

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10 tips to help you finally write that book, from a published author who did it…while nursing a baby.

I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that you can totally write a book. You don’t need otherworldly talent (though you do need some talent); you don’t need an MFA you promised yourself you’d get but never did; you don’t even need somebody else’s permission. The bad news? Writing a book is really hard. But, if you think you’ve got one in you, I can help. I’m now a traditionally published author, but back in 2009, I was just a harried mom of two who needed a hobby just for me. My husband (bless him) suggested I try...

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30+ fantastic open-ended questions to ask your kids, so you don’t get a yes or no answer.

If you’re not getting much more than a “yeah,” “nope,” or “fine” when you ask about your kid’s day at school, it might be time for some new conversations starters. (Trust us, we’re right there with you.) So we set out to collect dozens of smart, easy, open-ended questions to ask your kids, so you don’t just get a yes or no answer. We’ve thrown these out around our own dinner tables, and have been surprised by how much these 30+ questions really got our kids talking. So, here’s to engaging dinner conversations…with the whole family. Top photo by Jon Flobrant via Unsplash   Open-ended questions about feelings We...

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The one word that made me a better parent. Hint: It’s from Bob’s Burgers.

My kids are 8 and 10 now, and I tend to think of them as tiny adults. They can mostly keep themselves alive without any assistance from me. But they’re still careless when it comes to noise, mess, and responsibility. In other words, they still act like, well, kids. Which means that I get pretty annoyed with them. Easily and often. The kids left a mess in the kitchen. The kids didn’t feed the cats. The kids piled Transformer parts and clean clothes in their dirty laundry baskets. At the end of a long day, it’s easy to lose my cool when the kids...

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3 simple ways to find more one-on-one time with your kids, no babysitter required.

As a single mom of four kids, you can probably imagine how tough it is to give my kids individual time, at least without hiring a babysitter and spending even more money on dinner or a movie. Turns out, you don’t have to spend money — or even need a second adult in the house — to give your kids the one-on-one time they love and need, where they’re getting your absolute, undivided attention. In addition to Stacie’s terrific post on how she turned after-school snack time with her kids into meaningful together time, check out my own 3 simple ways I’ve learned to...

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Are you paying your babysitter enough? 9 surprising stats about childcare.

One of the questions parents are always asking each other is, “how much should I be spending on my babysitter or nanny?” The answer is so tough. The last thing I want to do is underpay someone with the important job of taking care of my kids, but I know that rates depends on the experience of the sitter, whether it’s a part-time high school student or an experience, trained full-time nanny, and of course, where we live. Related: 21 inspired ideas when you’ve only got a two-hour date night So I talked to the folks at UrbanSitter who recently conducted a national...

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6 surprising things you should never throw away, because they make great toy storage solutions

I’m convinced my kids’ toys are spontaneously spawning in the playroom at night while we sleep. Surely I’m not the only parent who can’t figure out where all my kids’ toys have come from. As a result, I’m constantly in need of new storage options. My playroom is lined wall-to-wall with cabinets and storage bins to keep stuff organized, but over the years, I’ve found there are a few surprising household items that I never throw away, because they make great toy storage solutions. Here’s to free stuff that makes your life simpler and more organized. Because, we’re all for that. And...

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Beyond Tarot cards: Even skeptics find guidance and clarity with these 4 methods of divination.

I confess that when I’m struggling with an issue or looking for guidance, wisdom or just calm, I have always been a fan of various oracles and methods of divination. And I don’t mean the fortune teller at a street fair years ago, who looked at my palm and told me I would have nine children. I know, this topic may sound a little nutty to some of you. But take it from a science-loving skeptic: when life feels overwhelming, these are the tools that have helped me focus, find clarity, stay mindful and often feel more empowered and in control of my...

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17 fun rainy day indoor activities to keep kids happy and parents sane

It’s been a pretty mild winter for everyone this year, but the season isn’t over yet folks. In the words of the late, great Prince, “Sometimes it snows in April.” Plus, March comes in like a lion, and all that, so it will still be a bit longer before we’re in full on outdoor play mode. Whether it’s the cold, snow, or rain that has your kids stuck inside over the next couple of months, we’ve got your back with tons of fun rainy day indoor activities that can get you and the kids through the long hours. And still smiling at...

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An unexpected way to turn snack time into together time — even with older kids.

My kids are wiped when they get home from school. They always seem to need a snack to recharge and a bit of time to zone out before gearing up for the rest of their day, whether it be for basketball practice, homework, or just running around for some free play time. But because they are school-aged, that zone out time quickly turns into screen time. And you know what screen time for them means for me, right? (Hint: It involves screen time.) Suddenly, I found that in those first moments after school, we were all snacking and staring...

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6 celeb-worthy, creative birth announcement ideas for twins + multiples. We’ve got you covered, Beyoncé!

First Beyoncé and Jay Z, now the Clooneys and Madonna? In case you haven’t heard, twins are seriously hot right now. So I’ve rounded up some super creative birth announcement ideas for twins with a little extra oomph — for those of you lucky enough to be in on the doubles game. I had so much fun finding these adorable birth announcement photo ideas for twins and multiples making their red carpet debut, but hey…if you’re expecting just one baby this year (like me!), we’ve got you covered too. CMP is an rstyle affiliate At top: custom birth announcements by Todd Borka Related: 15 creative birth announcement ideas way...

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A complaint and compliment box: How this simple change could make your family life so much happier

I recently finished reading How to Win as a Step-Family (great book for blended families, by the way), and one of the suggestions they made to help family morale was a complaint and compliment box where everyone can air their grievances and share encouraging words in a safe way. And so, I decided to give it a whirl with our new family of six, though you certainly do not need to be a blended family to try it out. In fact, I totally suggest you do, no matter your family size or structure. CMP is an rstyle affiliate Related: A simple way to...

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Dr. Harvey Karp answers parents’ biggest sleep questions. Yes! | Spawned ep 68

On this week’s episode of the Spawned podcast, we are excited to welcome Dr. Harvey Karp, of Happiest Baby on the Block fame, though he virtually needs no introduction. We’re so excited he joined us to answer some of parents most difficult questions about sleep, whether they’ve got newborns or, uh…tweens. We appreciate his common sense, non-judgmental approach to sleep, not to mention some of the tips that saved our own lives when we were new parents. (If you know his genius 5 S’s, you know just what we mean.)   Listen now! And don’t forget to subscribe to Spawned with Kristen...

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We’ve got 24 cheap and easy ideas for date night at home. Because shockingly, parents can’t always get out.

We’re all about trying to find enjoyable, cheap and easy ideas for date night at home, especially for those of us with kids who’d like a little extra help rekindling that proverbial spark when we’re stuck sans sitter. Even if it’s just a few hours off from actually being parental, it can make a big difference. But of course, when you’re a busy parent, Valentine’s Day (especially on a Tuesday night) won’t generally involve Dom Perignon, dry-aged steak, and the penthouse suite of the Mandarin-Oriental, am I right? So check out these ideas instead that you can actually pull off without a whole lot...

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How children can write letters to the president: An American tradition

Children writing to our president and the First Family has always been a wonderful and important tradition. And with the inauguration of a new White House resident today, this is a great time to get kids thinking about their own hopes, their concerns, the issues that are on their minds, and letting them write to the president about them. In our weekly link roundup post this week, we linked to an NPR article about the number of letters from children that President Obama will continue to answer, even after today. Some favorite letters I’ve seen: The girl who wanted advice about getting a nose...

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This supermarket shopping tip could save you a lot of money

We’ve featured lots of supermarket shopping tips here because who doesn’t love to say a little money? But here’s a tip for one our favorite grocery stores that you might not know about, and it just so happens to be at one of our favorite grocery stores, Trader Joe’s. Now, you might be thinking it’s their generous return policy, which yes, is so, so awesome, but nope, that’s not it! This little-known trick would will actually save you time and money, before you even leave the store. And if you don’t shop at Trader Joe’s, keep your eye out on...

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Retail is for suckers! Save money shopping online with these expert tips and resources | Spawned Ep 60

After ten years of browsing retailers for a living, putting together shopping guides of all kinds (like Holiday Gift Guides, ahem) and getting to know the ins and outs of online shopping, we thought it would be helpful to devote an entire episode of Spawned to all of our favorite smart money-saving tips and tricks, apps and websites that we’ve discovered work best for us. You’ll hear lots of expert tips we’ve shared over the years with national newspapers, magazines, and on programs like The TODAY Show — plus brand new ones that you may never have considered. Listen right now (this very second!) through the link...

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10 simple ways to find more time in a busy day. No magic required.

We would probably all love an extra hour in the day. Or two. Or six. Especially with the busy holiday season upon us right now. But since we’re not magicians and we don’t own a time machine (yet), the only way we’ll be able to find extra time is if we take a good look at how we’re spending the 24 hours we already have. And no, losing more sleep is not a reasonable option. That’s why I’m so pleased to present our newest sponsor Allstate and their new, free QuickTrip app, which is designed to maximize your time by organizing your to-do...

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The last-minute Thanksgiving help: Everything you need including recipe help, drinks, decor, printables + crafts for the kids. No go forth and be thankful!

If you’re like me and Thanksgiving totally snuck up on you this year (seriously, today?), fear not! The CMP team has been hard at work for weeks now, sharing the most helpful resources and great advice to help you master the big day. From the most foolproof turkey roasting tutorials (and who to call when…uh, if they go wrong), pie recipes to live for, and the most fun printables to keep kids busy and entertained, we’ve got it all right here. And hey, if you’re desperate for just some Thanksgiving relative survival tips (for humans, not turkeys), we’ve got you covered with that in the...

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Beyond thank you and please: 7 manners all kids should learn for holiday entertaining (and that we’re not all teaching)

Please and thank you — important stuff, right? I’ve always believe that courteous kids grow into nice adults and we all need more nice in the world these day. But that’s not where etiquette begins and ends. So with the holidays here, and lots of entertaining and mingling coming up on our calendars, we’ve started talking in our home about some of the manners that we want our kids to know, so they can be fantastic guests and hosts. I’m sharing them here with the hope that maybe our ideas will help some of you too. Top: Please and Thank You poster at TanyaGDesign on Etsy I know...

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10 fun ideas for holiday traditions you can start with your family right now

One of our most favorite parts of the holidays (no, not presents, though we like those too) are the family traditions we celebrate year after year. There’s just something so special about looking forward to our annual holiday rituals, whether they started spontaneously one year and just kept going, or they’ve been passed down through the generations. If you’re like us, one of the best ever holiday traditions for families is to snuggle up and watch your favorite seasonal movies and television shows, which is something our newest sponsor Amazon Studios knows a whole lot about. Their two newest holiday specials, If You Give...

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10 essential kitchen safety rules to set, that keep little cooks safe in the kitchen.

We’re big fans of pulling kids into the kitchen early and often. But that also means setting kitchen safety rules for kids — and for you. Not just because it keeps them safe (though that’s obviously the most important thing), but because it’s the essential foundation of learning vital cooking skills that they can use for a lifetime. And hey, it also lets them help us out around the kitchen too. The way we see it, there’s no reason why kids as young as 5 years old can’t help make their own school lunch or even help cook breakfast on busy weekday mornings....

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What to do with leftover Halloween candy: 10 creative ideas besides you know, just eating it.

We’re always happy to offer up parents lots of ideas for what to do with all that leftover Halloween candy you’ll surely end up with. Well, at least after the small gorge-fest that your trick-or-treaters may be entitled to after all their hard work. So I’ve put together some crafts, causes, recipes, and even experiments you can do with leftover Halloween candy that are just as much satisfying as eating it all. Well, kind of. Top Photo: Sam Howzit on Flickr via Compfight cc 1. Donate Halloween Candy to a Good Cause One of our favorite ways to get candy out of the house is to send...

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