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Posts Tagged ‘Tips’

15 Easy School Lunches You Can Prep in an Instant Pot

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Getting our kids out the door in the morning is tough enough. But then you expect us to pack lunch, too? Enter these meal prep lunches, which keep in the fridge for up to three days and actually save a bunch of time—thanks to our favorite appliance, the Instant Pot.

The Cookie Rookie

Instant Pot Potato Salad with Dill Pickles

Pair with baby carrots.

Get the recipe

A Pinch of Healthy

Instant Pot Chicken Breasts

No reheating necessary.

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Foody Schmoody

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs in the Instant Pot

Be sure to pack extra napkins.

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My Crazy Good Life

Instant Pot Mini Frittatas

Presenting, the portable version of scrambled eggs.

Get the recipe

Tornadough

Instant Pot Taco Pasta

Serve it cold and it counts as pasta salad.

Get the recipe

5 Dollar Dinners

Instant Pot Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Rice

Bento box-ready.

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Sweet and Savory Meals

Instant Pot Tomato Soup

This calls for a Thermos.

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Pressure Cooker Recipes

Instant Pot Applesauce

Brilliant.

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The Foodie Eats

Instant Pot Ranch Chicken Salad

Tip: bagels don’t get soggy.

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Meal Plan Addict

Instant Pot DIY Sandwich Meat

No more waiting in line at the deli counter.

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Damn Delicious

Instant Pot Chicken Burrito Bowls

Wrap it up in a tortilla if you see fit.

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Crunchy Creamy Sweet

Instant Pot Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Pair with your kid’s favorite dipping sauce.

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Recipes to Nourish

Instant Pot Paleo Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

It’s so easy.

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365 Days of Crockpot

Instant Pot Broccoli Chicken Mac and Cheese

Pretty darn good eaten straight from the fridge, too.

Get the recipe

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

9 First-Aid Items Every Parent Should Have in the House

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No matter how closely parents watch their children, accidents and unexpected medical curveballs are unavoidable. From scratches to splinters to allergic reactions, we want to be prepared for any situation — and that’s why it’s so important to have first-aid items in the house. 

Putting together the most thorough first-aid kit can be a daunting task, but don’t despair if you’re not sure where to start — we’ve got you covered. 

1. Triple-antibiotic ointment

Cuts and scrapes are a normal part of childhood, so it’s always handy to have some triple-antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin) around.

“Kids will always find a way to injure their skin, which happens to be the body’s largest organ and our first line of defense against infection,” Dr. Ashanti Woods, attending pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center, tells SheKnows. Although the majority of these cuts heal without complications, there’s always the possibility of infection — and some children are at greater risk for bacterial infections. 

“To prevent these infections, Neosporin or any triple-antibiotic ointment should be applied to the skin following a moderate to severe skin injury,” Woods advises. 

 

2. Antihistamine

Allergic reactions in children can potentially be life-threatening, so Woods says that an antihistamine that’s safe for children (like Benadryl and it’s generic versions) is definitely an essential item to have on hand at all times. 

“In the event a parent suspects their child (or a visiting child) is having an allergic reaction to something, the first step should be to give a healthy dose of Benadryl,” he advises. If an allergic reaction is severe, parents should call 911 and an epinephrine injection should be administered. 

3. Adhesive bandages

If you think of items essential for any first-aid kit, adhesive bandages are probably first on the list. Dr. Rachel Dawkins, a board certified pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, tells SheKnows that it’s important to stick with the basics. “Band-Aids are great for minor cuts and scrapes,” Dawkins says. “Also, kids love putting Band-Aids on — even when their injury is small or nonexistent.” 

Because children go through adhesive bandages quickly, Dawkins recommends buying in bulk or getting the novelty ones at a dollar store. “You could also consider putting gauze, nonstick bandages and an elastic [ACE] bandage in your kit,” she adds. 

4. Thermometer

As a pediatrician, Dawkins says she thinks having a working thermometer is the most important tool to have in your first-aid kit, noting that it’s common for children to feel like they have a fever when they don’t.

“The most accurate temperature is a rectal temperature and is the preferred way to take an infant’s temperature,” Dawkins explains. “Temporal artery or ear thermometers are fine options for older babies and children.” 

5. Tweezers

If you’re lucky enough to be sprouting chin hair, you probably already have a pair of tweezers sitting around, but it’s probably a good idea to get a pair specifically for your first-aid kit.

Tweezers are an essential tool for removing splinters and stingers,” Woods says. Once the splinter or stinger is removed from a child’s skin, the symptoms almost always resolve quickly, and typically no medicines are necessary, she adds. 

6. A small flashlight

Dawkins recommends keeping a small flashlight on hand for those times when you need to remove something small from your child’s skin and need better lighting. She also notes that you could use the flashlight on your phone. 

7. ACE Wrap

Because children are so active, it is not uncommon for them to get a bump, bruise, sprain or strain in their daily activities, Woods says. “These injuries involve an overstretching of muscles and ligaments near the big joints, [which] cause quite a bit of pain,” she explains. 

The most common way to treat a sprain or a strain is RICE: rest, ice, compression (that’s where the ACE wrap comes in) and elevation, she adds. With this type of treatment, Woods says you can typically count on your child being back to running around after three to seven days. 

8. Ice packs

Dawkins recommends keeping some form of ice pack in the freezer just in case. If you don’t have one, she suggests using a bag of frozen vegetables or a wet sponge that has been frozen in a freezer bag. “Alternatively, wrap ice in a paper towel or put it in a freezer bag,” she says. 

“The usual rule of thumb when using ice on an injury is 20 minutes on then 20 minutes off,” Dawkins continues. “I also recommend putting something between the ice pack and your child’s skin to prevent injury to the skin from the cold.”  

9. Medications & creams

Your home first-aid kit should contain a couple of medications and creams, Dawkins explains, and suggests the following (in addition to the ones mentioned above):

In addition to these first-aid items, Dawkins suggests that parents keep emergency numbers handy and in an easily accessible location. These numbers include their pediatrician’s office, poison control (1-800-222-1222) and a couple of emergency contacts. 

Chances are you probably have a lot of these items already in your house — you might as well take the next step and assemble them in an easy-to-reach kit to make treating your kids’ minor injuries and pain easier the next time they occur.

 

This article was written by Caitlin Flynn from SheKnows and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

8 Ways to Boost Your Immune System When the Kids Go Back to School

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It’s back-to-school time. While this means getting back to learning and reconnecting with friends, parents everywhere know that kids are basically walking garbage cans, and schools are where they gather close together and spend hours of time sharing their space — and their germs.

Of course, they then come home and happily share their germs with the rest of the family, including their parents. So, how can parents boost their immune systems and prevent themselves from getting sick when the kids go back to school? Here are some top tips for boosting your immunity.

Wash your hands

When it doubt, wash your hands.

“Wash your hands as often as possible for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap,” Dr. Kristine Arthur, an internist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SheKnows. 

While washing hands is mostly about keeping germs out of your body, it’s still a super-important habit to get into as fall and winter roll around, and if you can keep those germs away, you’ll be way better off when your kids start bringing viruses home, she says. 

Change your work habits

Moving around more while you work (especially if your job is sedentary) can help your overall general health and can keep your immune system in tip-top shape, Arthur says. She suggests squeezing in a walk as often as you can, parking farther away from your building and taking the stairs. 

“If you are able to stand up while typing, try to do it as much as possible, as studies show that prolonged sitting every day can be as bad for you as smoking,” she explains. 

Eat more zinc-containing foods

Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, a surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates, suggests adding a few vital nutrients to get your immune system at its best. 

“Oysters are very high in zinc, which is utilized extensively by your body to produce all the biochemicals needed to fight infection,” he tells SheKnows. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent snack food that is high in zinc and in antioxidants — and taste great toasted and salted, he adds.

Exercise — but not too much

Physical activity can help boost your immune system, but excessive or repeated strenuous exercise can dampen your immune system, as shown in a study published in the European Journal of Sport Science in 2018.  

Garlic up your dinner

If you love garlic, your immune system is in luck. “Garlic influences your immune system to fight infection aggressively as well as reduce inflammation,” Hollingsworth explains. 

Add more citrus to your shopping cart

Ah yes, that good old vitamin C. Turns out it’s not only in some of your favorite foods, but it’s excellent for your immune system.

“Vitamin C has long been associated with improved resistance to infection,” says Hollingsworth. “The cells that gobble up bacteria in your body need vitamin C to function properly.”

Keep your hands away from your face

Even just reading this will probably make you want to touch your face. But don’t.

Emergency physician Dr. Chirag Shah tells SheKnows that we shouldn’t touch our eyes or face throughout the day or at least wait until we have freshly washed hands and should teach our kids to do the same. 

“One good way to increase the risk of getting sick is touching something dripping with infectious droplets and then sticking the droplets right into your eyes or nose,” he explains. Ick!

Decontaminate your kids

You don’t really have to subject your kids to a decon shower, but Arthur suggests having your kids wash their hands immediately after coming home from school, and you might even consider having them change into clean clothes once they walk through the door. 

It seems inevitable that once your little germ magnets go back to school, they’ll eventually bring home some germs to share with you and the rest of your family. While it’s a good idea to keep the above tips in mind, frequent handwashing is so vital — especially before you sit down and eat food. 

So wash up, parents! And keep your kids on a steady diet of handwashing too. Hopefully, you’ll keep those back-to-school germs far away. 

 

This article was written by Monica Beyer from SheKnows and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Find a Sport True to Your Child’s Nature

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Before signing your kid up for ALL the activities, take a look at these recommended sports based on your child’s personality.

When you think of your child and sports, do you feel a little bit of dread? Weekday practices or long game days on the weekend are a commitment when you don’t know if your kid will even enjoy the sport you choose. Plus, it takes time to research which classes or leagues in the area to even sign up for. You might just pick the sport that seems easiest or that you’re most familiar with—or hesitate to sign up your child at all.

But what if you could find the perfect sport for your youngster, without having to invest a lot of extra energy? You can.

Although every kid is unique, there are four energy types among children—and a good sports match for each that fits their needs and personality. Your child’s type, which is the general way they move through the world, affects everything they do: playing, talking, eating, sleeping, and even playing sports!

By reading the types below, you can find which sports are most supportive to your kid.

The Type 1 Fun-Loving Child

This kid needs to keep things light and interesting. They may prefer a wide variety of sports. If the sporting experience gets too serious, the coach is too serious, or the parents are too serious about it, this pressure causes them to be in a heavy, stressful state. They will resist wanting to participate. My Type 1 son loved all sports, excelled at team sports like baseball and football, and enjoyed the social aspect and cheering on his teammates.

Sports a Type 1 child would excel in more naturally: baseball, soccer, gymnastics, short-distance running, cheerleading

The Type 2 Sensitive Child

This youngster needs to keep things comfortable. If the sporting experience or coach is too intense, or the parents are too intense, a Type 2 child will shut down, and his or her ability to perform successfully will be affected. My Type 2 daughter would have benefited the most from me knowing her energy type when she was in grade school. I made the mistake of putting her in girl’s softball. She felt so much pressure when she was at bat that she couldn’t even swing. She would have performed much better in dance classes.

Sports a Type 2 child would excel in more naturally: dance, swimming, martial arts, road cycling, basketball, climbing, table tennis, equestrian

The Type 3 Determined Child

This kind of kiddo needs to feel like they can win! If the sport has too much of a learning curve and they are not seeing results consistently, if the coach does not acknowledge their progress with enthusiasm, or if the parents are not interested or not making a big deal about their Type 3 child’s sporting accomplishments, it will hinder this child’s experience. The lack of enthusiasm for the results a Type 3 child is achieving will cause them to be disinterested and bored with the sport. I did not raise a Type 3 kid, but reflecting on my own childhood, I would have loved participating in sports. I now give that to myself as an adult with competitive tennis.

Sports a Type 3 child would excel in more naturally: football, basketball, baseball, snowboarding, downhill skiing, cheerleading

The Type 4 More Serious Child

This child needs to feel they can be their own authority and have support for perfecting their sporting performance. They may prefer to focus on only one or two sports that they can hone. If they are feeling like they don’t have a say, that they are being told what to do by a coach or a parent, or if they cannot see their improvement in their performance, this type of kid will lose interest. They may even rebel by not wanting to be a part of the sporting experience. My Type 4 son loves the outdoors and sports that require technical skills and fine-tuning! He currently competes in mountain-bike racing.

Sports a Type 4 child would excel in more naturally: long-distance running, mountain biking, road cycling, tennis, martial arts

3 Tips for Supporting Your Child’s Sports Experience:

1. Let your son or daughter show you which sport is best for them.

In the world of professional sports, I see all types of people succeeding in all types of sports. There are some tendencies for certain types to be drawn to certain sports, since they match their true nature, and they can use their natural gifts in their sport to create successful outcomes.

For example, in the world of pro tennis, there are more Type 4 pro tennis players than any other type. It’s not a constant though, as there have been successful pro tennis players of all types.

So rather than letting your child’s type determine the sports they might succeed in, let your kid teach you what sports are interesting to them. Just make sure to support them in creating the experience to be true to their nature from these tips.

2. Realize not all children will want to play sports.

That’s OK! Not all boys and girls will want to pursue music either; every child is different. Remind yourself that the goal of a kid in sports is to support the healthy development of their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self. It’s not to prepare them to be a collegiate athlete or professional athlete.

When we remember this, we can show up to help them create a positive experience that is perfect for that child, and it won’t look the same as the next kid.

3. Get behind your child’s desire to pursue a sport and see what they do with it.

I recently had a young man—about the age of 13—come to our home selling discount coupons to a local restaurant. For every coupon he sold, he kept a portion of it to devote to his junior car-racing pursuits. He had a beautifully printed postcard with a picture of him and his car, and an explanation of what he was raising the money for.

It wasn’t a restaurant I would probably go to but I just had to support this young man. I applaud his parents, who did not shut down this boy’s dream to pursue a sport, and allowed him to find a way to finance it.

It’s important to be attuned to the sports and activities your kid may enjoy and find ways to support your child’s energy type as they pursue their interests, sports or otherwise.


Carol Tuttle is the CEO of Live Your Truth, LLC, and author of the best-selling parenting book, The Child Whisperer: the Ultimate Handbook for Raising Happy, Successful, Cooperative Children, which has sold over 75,000 copies worldwide. She also hosts an immensely popular parenting podcast that hits weekly on important parenting issues commonly experienced by families of all backgrounds. For more information, please visit, thechildwhisperer.com.

 

This article was written by Carol Tuttle from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Keep Your Kids From Getting Sick Once School Starts

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If you’re a parent (or even if you’re not), ideally, you’ve had a break from colds, flu and stomach viruses this summer. But as back-to-school time approaches, parents may start to get concerned about what that means for their kids and their health. 

We wish we had a secret formula to shield our kids from all the germs and to keep them healthy, but when a bunch of children are together for hours a day, sicknesses spread like wildfire. What we do have, though, is access to health experts who told us all about ways you can help keep your kids from getting sick this school year.

Allergies

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reminds us that children in pre-K through fourth grade need their parents to advocate for them and talk to the teacher each year about allergies. Let them know what kind(s) of allergies they have and make sure a health plan is in place. As they get older, they become better at speaking for themselves, but it is always important to remind them and encourage them to do so as well as make sure they know how to use medications in an emergency.

Sleep

Sleep is a big way to keep your child’s immunity strong — teens should get about nine hours of sleep each night, and younger kids need about 10 hours per night, Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SheKnows. To get your kids settled and ready for bed on time, Posner suggests having them “avoid screen time about an hour before bedtime,” as it helps them fall asleep faster.

Diet

Kids should have a well-balanced diet that includes lots of veggies, some fruits, proteins and a lot of water, Posner says, adding that they should avoid junk food — including sodas, juices, fast foods and candy.

Kids should also be eating yogurt, as it contains probiotics, which are “healthy bacteria your body needs to keep your immune system strong,” Sara Siskind, a certified nutritional health counselor, tells SheKnows.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in shellfish, salmon, mackerel and herring can “help white blood cells produce a protein which helps clear flu viruses out of the body,” she explains.

Stress

For our older kids and teens, Dr. Shayla Sullivant, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, stresses how important it is that we check in with our kids on their mental health. One way to do this is by asking them how they are doing and letting them know you are worried about them if you see drastic changes in behavior, she explains.

Similarly, Dr. Mildred F. Carson, a board-certified pediatrician with over 15 years of experience, tells SheKnows that the right amount of sleep and a proper diet will also help your child cope with the stress a new school year can bring.

Regular exercise

Regular exercise is important “to keep your immune system strong so that the body is more able to fight off infections,” Carson says, adding that even 15 minutes a day can be beneficial. 

Other helpful reminders

Even though it sounds basic, Posner says washing hands is the biggest deterrent when it comes to getting sick. Kids should wash their hands before they eat, after they play on the playground, and after they use the restroom, she says. It’s important to make sure they are using warm water and soap and washing for at least 20 seconds in order for the handwashing to be effective.

Sneezing into their elbow (per instructions from President Barack Obama) will help contain germs, and not sharing drinks or food are all things our kids need to be reminded of constantly. 

There’s no doubt that kids are natural germ-spreaders. It takes a bit of extra work to follow the guidelines to protect you and your family, but it’s worth it to make it through the school year with fewer sick days.

 

This article was written by Katie Smith from SheKnows and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

10 Quick & Easy Playroom Organization Tips

 

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Is your playroom the one room in the house you skip when giving your friends “the tour”? Do you have a closet you haven’t opened in literal years for fear of the inevitable avalanche of headless Barbies and puzzles with one piece missing? Are you used to finding infant teething toys in your 6-year-old’s playroom? Have you accidentally taught your kids some curse words because you stepped on yet another pile of Legos barefoot? Fear not! It is possible to have a clean, organized playroom that you *gasp* actually enjoy spending time in with your kids. Wait, does that mean the kids will play happily while you… get an actual break? I think it does. We’ve got 10 quick and easy tips for creating an inviting, creative and tidy playroom that will guarantee it becomes the favorite room in the house. Now, if only this worked for the bathroom…

1. Keep it off the floor

Playrooms are a space for playing, learning and creating — none of which can be accomplished if there’s only a little bit of floor space available. Instead of subtracting space by covering the floor with bins and bookshelves, try wall-mounted storage, like these shelves with bins from Ikea.

Trofast wall shelves

Trofast shelves, $51.99 at Ikea

2. Bookshelves are pointless

Most playrooms have a traditional bookshelf with all the books crammed onto the shelf. But in that, all the child can see is the spine of the book, which unsurprisingly doesn’t inspire them to read. In a survey conducted by Scholastic, 91 percent of children say their favorite books are the ones they’ve picked out themselves, and 90 percent say they are more likely to finish reading a book they have picked out themselves. 

So use cheap picture ledges like these to display books on. Voilà! A library wall where you can actually see the books covers, therefore making it more likely your child will actually want to read them.

Picture ledge

White book ledge, $25 at Crate & Barrel

3. Create a designated spacer for each activity

Instead of having your playroom be a room where organization comes to die, try to create a specific designated space for each activity that together make a cohesive play area. Paint a wall with chalkboard paint for an art corner. Keep a stack of comfy pillows or beanbags by a wall-mounted bookshelf for a fun reading nook. By designating areas for each activity, it also makes it easier for your child to recognize each area, so when you say, “Let’s clean up the art corner!” you won’t get a blank stare as they try to figure out if the sticker covered couch or the jar of lidless markers under the stairs is the “art corner.”

4. Rotate toys

At the beginning of every month, or every couple of months, look around the playroom and see what toys just haven’t been played with very much recently. Take a bin, put those toys in it, and put it away. At the end of the month, bring those toys out again and put the un-played-with toys from that month in the bin. Repeat. You’ll be shocked at how excited your kids get when you pull out their old toys they haven’t seen in a while — it’s like they’re brand-new toys! If you bring them out of storage and your kids aren’t that excited, it’s time for those toys to be donated. This might seem a little tricky (who can remember to take a vitamin every day, let alone swap out bins of toys), but have no fear — set an alarm on your phone to remind you.

5. Double duty

Nothing in a playroom should serve only one function. There are countless ways to double up on an item’s functionality. Use storage boxes that double as seating, use a hanging pocket organizer to house both art supplies and small items that would get lost in bigger bins. Lastly, use picture-hanging wire and some clothespins to display your child’s handiwork (which conveniently doubles as a means of drying their painted works of art without taking up table space or floor space with a drying rack.)

6. Keep it open

It’s tempting to keep everything in bins out of sight, but “out of sight, out of mind” is a saying for a reason. If you keep everything hidden away, it’s not very inviting for your child, and isn’t the point of a playroom to, well, play? On storing all those markers, crayons and pencils, interior design guru Emily Henderson tells SheKnows, “…the original packaging tends to get damaged pretty quickly and can make it tricky for little fingers to pull out pencils and crayons. Storing art supplies out in the open can create a more inviting creative space, but the containers will help keep the space organized yet fun.” 

7. Stick ’em up

Is your child one of those kids who leaves toys strewn all over the floor for weeks because they’re “not through playing with them?” Well, now your carpet won’t be covered in cars. Make a part of one playroom wall magnetic with a magnetic board like this one from Amazon. It doubles as a dry-erase board, so you can draw roads, maps, etc., on it for your child’s cars to traverse. And if they insist you don’t move a thing, the cars will stick to the board for the maximum play with minimum cleanup.

Steelmaster magnetic board with dry-erase pad, pen and magnets, $29.19 at Amazon

8. Give everything a place

This is a simple enough tip that you (more so than your child) will find hard to follow. Take everything off a shelf. See how much stuff you’ve shoved into such a small storage space? Things stacked on top of each other, bins on top of bins — each shelf is most likely packed. Put three things back, and only three. By limiting the number of items on each shelf, you’re allowing each item to have its own space with plenty of space between each toy, which allows your child to really focus on what’s available. 

9. Get down

The thing about a playroom is that it’s meant for tiny people. You might not realize it, but we’re willing to bet there are a few bins you’ve unknowingly placed out of your child’s reach. Or a chair that’s just a little too daunting for your little one to climb up in comfortably. Sit down on the floor and look around the playroom from your child’s perspective. Make sure things are accessible to them and they are comfortable in the space. Foster independence — if they don’t like getting messy, keep a container of baby wipes next to the paints so they can clean themselves up without your help. If they insist on reading the books on the shelf that is just out of their reach, keep a stool nearby. Get down on their level and see what changes you can make.

10. Don’t expect perfection 

It’s not going to happen. The caps aren’t going back on the right color marker every time, there will be days that, despite your best efforts, it looks like an artistic, tower-building hurricane ripped through the playroom. You have too much going on in your life to stress out about one room in your house. These tips may be helpful, but might also seem overwhelming. Don’t panic. Choose what works for you and your family. Start small. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

 

This article was written by Lilian Burns from SheKnows and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

9 Investment Tips for Parents Who Are Setting Up a College Fund

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We’d all love to remain in denial where our kids are concerned. We have so much time left. They’ll be my baby forever. They’ll never move away. The hard reality, though, is that we’ve got 18 years from the moment they enter this world until they are technically considered adults themselves. So we wouldn’t find it one bit surprising if you were already looking into setting up a college fund for your progeny’s future education. In fact, we’d say it’s a smart move. 

When your child is born, you are flooded with so many feel-good endorphins that the only things on your brain are cute little baby toes and that sweet squishy baby nose. Then you wake up one morning and that tiny bundle is waddling into kindergarten with an oversize backpack, and it hits you: college. Before you know it, your child will be trading times tables for an undergraduate course load. And then it hits you that a college education doesn’t usually come cheap. 

If the mere thought of your baby decorating their dorm and pledging a sorority or fraternity makes you want to break out in hives, just breathe. To help lighten your load, we tapped three investment experts to weigh in on tips for parents who are ready to set up a college fund. Here’s what they had to say. 

1. Start a 529 college savings plan ASAP

“A 529 college savings plan is the best way of saving for college because 529 plans provide tax and financial aid advantages over other college savings options,” Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and VP of research at Savingforcollege.com, tells SheKnows. Kantrowitz recommends investing after-tax dollars into a 529 plan, noting that earnings accumulated on a tax-deferred basis are totally tax-free if used to pay for qualified education expenses, and the money in a 529 plan is treated favorably by financial aid formulas. 

Plus, there may be additional tax perks. “Almost three dozen states offer income tax deductions for contributions to the state’s 529 plan. So, you should consider your state’s 529 plan(s). You should also consider the 529 plans of states with low fees — under 1 percent — since minimizing costs is the key to maximizing net returns,” says Kantrowitz.

2. Think incrementally

College Aid Planners‘ Joe Orsolini likens college savings to a marathon. “You can’t go out and think you are going to complete 26.2 miles without a little practice. You have to build up, run around the block, do a 5K, etc.,” he tells SheKnows, suggesting that parents should start saving in small amounts and increase the amount over time when feasible. 

“Saving for college is a lot easier in smaller pieces,” Orsolini advises. “Ultimately, you are going to write checks. Do you want to write a lot of small ones along the way or a big one when college starts? Slow and steady wins the race when saving for college.” 

3. There’s no such thing as too soon

We’ve already established that college is expensive, right? And that if you don’t save a little along the way, you’ll wind up staring down a possibly prohibitive lump sum. For these reasons, Student Debt Warriors founder and editor Tim Stobierski stresses that there’s no time like the present to start saving. 

“Start as early as possible, ideally from the day of your child’s birth. Even if you don’t currently have a child, you could open a plan in your own name if you plan to have a child in the future, make contributions and allow the money to grow. Then, once your child is born, you can move the plan to their name and Social Security number,” Stobierski tells SheKnows. 

4. Shoot for saving at least one-third of tuition

So, how much are we talking here? Well, per Kantrowitz, college costs triple over any 17-year period from birth to college enrollment. Therefore, you should shoot for saving about a third of future college costs. 

More: 7 Little Things You Can Do to Send Your Kid to School With Confidence

“Like any major life-cycle expense, the costs will be spread out over time, with a third coming from past income (savings), a third from current income and financial aid and a third from future income (loans),” Kantrowitz explains. “Combine the two rules, and your savings goal should be the full cost of a college education the year the child was born. That’s the equivalent of $250 per month for a child born this year who will be enrolling in an in-state public four-year college, $400 per month for an out-of-state public four-year college and $500 per month for a private four-year college.”

5. Get loved ones involved

Stobierski says a great way to get your college fund to add up even more over time is to think outside the box — or rather boxes, as in gifts. Getting family and friends to pitch in provides a practical opportunity to grow those savings.

“One easy way to do this, especially when the kids are younger: forgo expensive parties and gifts (especially for infants and toddlers) and instead funnel the extra funds to their 529 plan. Though parties are fun, your child most likely won’t remember them; and I’m willing to bet they’d be happier in the future without student loans than they would be now with another toy,” said Stobierski.

6. Make it automatic

As with many things in life, establishing a routine leads to results that are more consistent. In that regard, Orsolini recommends making savings contributions a habit. And the easiest way to do so is by having it done for you. 

“Sign up for a monthly auto-payment plan,” he suggests. Thanks to today’s automated technology, it’s easier than ever to set up monthly transfers from your bank account to go straight into your savings account or 529 plan. 

7. Keep an eye on the market

Of course, what you don’t want to do is play it fast and loose with all the money you’ve saved for your child’s college education — and end up taking a major financial hit when the market dips. 

Cautions Stobierski, “Remember that investing always involves risk. As your child ages and gets closer and closer to graduating from high school, make sure that your 529 plan becomes more conservative to offset the risk of a market decline. It would be really counterproductive to have saved money all of your child’s life just for it to be wiped away right when they need it most.”

8. Plan super-strategically

If you’re just starting to grow your family and you’re a type A when it comes to planning, you might want to consider this particularly interesting tidbit from Kantrowitz: college can actually be more affordable if your children are close in age. 

 

Here’s why. “Financial aid application formulas, such as the one used by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, divide the parent contribution portion of the expected family contribution by the number of children in college at the same time. So, going from one child in college at a time to two children in college at a time is like dividing the parent income in half,” Kantrowitz elaborates.

9. Realize that your college fund may not be necessary

At least not how you thought it would be, that is. “It’s important for parents to realize college isn’t right for every child, and while parents should encourage education, they should not pressure their child to earn a degree,” Stobierski says, adding this could ultimately lead to a child not graduating and yet still being saddled with expensive debt throughout their life. 

This doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t prepare by saving and investing, says Stobierski. If your child decides college isn’t a good fit for them, 529 college savings plan funds can be diverted toward trade or professional school and even transferred to a grandchild or other relative. 

 

This article was written by Julie Sprankles from SheKnows and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

This Trick for Getting Kids to Do Their Chores Just Blew Our Mind

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Some parents pay kids to do chores. Some wouldn’t dream of paying them. After all, helping out around the house is as non-negotiable as brushing their teeth—and no one gets paid for that. Some families weave table clearing and toy pickup into the fabric of daily routines. Others prioritize homework and getting to bed early, so they choose to just live with Magna-Tiles strewn across the living room rug. But no matter what your stance on chores, everyone can agree that kids suck at them—at least when they’re little.

This, it turns out, is something we must get over ASAP, if we want to raise competent, capable adults. Here’s why:

“Sure, toddlers may want to help, but let’s face reality here,” writes NPR’s Michaeleen Doucleff. “They can be clumsy, destructive and even enraging. Their involvement in chores often slows things down or makes a mess. For this reason, many parents…rebuff a toddler’s offer to help.” Some of us have even been known to stick kids in front of a screen so we can do dishes or a load of laundry. This is the mother lode of missed opportunity. Even if kids pour half a bottle of detergent into the dishwasher, even they drench you while watering the garden, even if you have to scream into a terribly folded towel, you need to let them help.

The moms who understand this see the momentary frustration “as an investment,” writes Doucleff. “Encourage the messy, incompetent toddler who really wants to do the dishes now, and over time, he’ll turn into the competent seven-year-old who still wants to help.” She quotes University of New Hampshire education professor Andrew Coppens, who says: “Early opportunities to collaborate with parents likely sets off a developmental trajectory that leads to children voluntarily helping and pitching in at home.”

Stick them in front of Netflix so you can wash glitter glue off the dog and you’ll be de-glittering things on your own for the next decade. Warns Doucleff: “If you tell a child enough times, ‘No, you’re not involved in this chore,’ eventually they will believe you.”

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

17 Genius Shortcuts to Help You Save Time While Cooking

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Real Simple readers reveal how they make mealtime less of a chore each day.

I live by the words “It’s never too early to start prepping dinner.” Whenever I have a few minutes during the day or on the weekend, I do something for dinner ahead of time, whether it’s chopping an onion, throwing together a quick salad, or making pasta or quinoa. —Emily Smith, Greenville, South Carolina

I use what I have in the kitchen and create meals that are loosely based on a recipe, or no recipe at all. —?@paulajsheldon

Make sure the tools, pots, and food items you use the most are the most accessible items on every surface and in every cabinet and drawer. While you’re at it, put everything you haven’t used in a year up high. —?Liora Seltzer, New York City

Keep your staple ingredients on hand at all times. Fresh herbs, good olive oil, lemon, Parmesan, capers—if the pantry is stocked with versatile and quality ingredients, you are guaranteed a good meal every night of the week. —Tig Filson, Cumberland, Maine

While I’m cooking, I keep a “garbage bowl” on the counter (for veggie scraps, wrappers, egg shells, etc.) to cut down on trips to the trash can. I put everything in something that’s already dirty, like an empty spinach container or gently used Tupperware, so I’m not adding to the dirty-dish pile. —Ariana Lake, Stephentown, New York

Rotisserie chicken. I take it home and repackage it: It’s ready when I need to make quiche, chicken soup, chicken salad, you name it. It saves so much time and is easy and economical! —?Amy Tooley Radachi, Dayton, Ohio

I have my two teenagers each cook one night a week. They have to include a vegetable, and dinner can’t be takeout. During the school year, it’s typically some variation of pasta or tacos. But it doesn’t matter—I get to come home to a fully cooked meal. —Janet Kinard, Atlanta

Meal delivery services. It’s the new date night! —Katherine Mooney, Sedona, Arizona

I always fill the sink with hot soapy water for cleaning as I go. I can wash and reuse utensils, and when I’m done, the kitchen doesn’t have to be cleaned. —Helen Bouslaugh, Woodland, California

While prepping meals, we chop extra onions, garlic, or tomatoes and store them in small, lidded containers. For the next few days, we can use them for omelets and garnishes without having to prep again. —Tina Hom Chen, Redding, Connecticut

I married a man who loves to cook. —Megan Waite, Fredericksburg, Virginia

I use two Instant Pots: one for the main or meat dish and the other for the side or dessert. They cook quickly, and clean- up is a snap. —Chris Stephens, Luttrell, Tennessee

I’ve accepted that I’m in a season of life when I need to spend a little bit more money to buy the prechopped produce. My prep work is minimal, and I can spend time with my son and husband instead! —Kristin Jones, Turner, Montana

I’ve learned to turn leftovers into something completely different. Meatloaf becomes taco meat; chili becomes tamale pie. The trick is to add fresh elements and stay within the same flavor family. —?Mary Pielenz Hampton, Bozeman, Montana

Whoever gets off work first has to cook dinner. The kids clean up afterward. This works well for our family because my husband and I work various shifts throughout the week. —Brandy Biswell, Puyallup, Washington

I do the shopping and the prep, and my spouse executes the meal! —Caitlin Zinsser, Oak Park, Illinois

I order groceries online and pick them up at my local store. —Nancy Harris, Mansfield, Texas

 

This article was written by Real Simple Staff from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The Life-Changing Magic of Organizing Your Organizational Supplies

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Raid the Container Store again? Us too. Here, humor writer Julie Vick imagines the absurd ways she would repurpose the boxes, bins, and everything else she buys.

Did you visit the Container Store and accidentally buy one of everything? Do you have an organizing project you’ve been meaning to get to for 10 years? Us too! That’s why we put together these transcendent ideas for repurposing your mountain of organizational supplies.

Mason Jars

You’ve probably got a supply of these for projects like baking unicorn cakes or creating jewelry storage jars by dipping them in 24-karat gold. To organize your collection, first sort them by size and color. Then procure an enormous mason jar and arrange the smaller jars inside to construct a stylish statue—perhaps of a robin’s nest or Marie Kondo.

Plastic Bins

Haven’t had time to organize your children’s craft supplies into bins of items like “glitter that will be in your carpet forever”? No problem! Just use the bins to build your kids a play area shaped like the Colosseum. The first kid to knock it over has to sort the Lego pile.

Pegboard

That pegboard will someday be a wonderful way to organize all the pots and pans. Until then, turn it into a game of Plinko. The bottom “prize” slots could be fun activities, like scrubbing the bathroom grout or finally converting the Plinko board into the Julia Child–style pots-and-pans organizer you have always visualized.

Cute Tiny Boxes

Did you buy several boxes thinking they would be perfect to hold some things, but you didn’t know what those things would be yet? Just arrange them on a shelf in your bathroom. Your guests won’t know they’re empty, and they’ll be impressed with your organizational skills, which is the whole point of organizing anyway.

Cereal Boxes

What should you do with the empty cereal boxes you’ve held on to in hopes of one day giving them new lives as beautiful drawer organizers? Set them up in a pyramid to make a knock- down game. You’ll be surprised by how invigorating it can be to throw something.

Still-in-the-Box Shelving

If you haven’t had the chance to put together the bookcase you bought to achieve the #shelfies of your dreams on Instagram, don’t fret! Paint the box the same color as your living room wall, sketch a seascape on it, and store it directly on the wall.

Hooks

Those extra hooks that are supposed to be for designing vertical organizational systems throughout your home can, in fact, help you save money on a gym membership. Simply attach the hooks to your ceiling for a unique, upside-down rock-climbing space.

Canvas Storage Bins

Do you have a stockpile of canvas totes you picked up when they were on sale last year, figuring you would use them somewhere? Now you can! Stuff them with other tote bags and the scarves you have been stress-knitting, then set up a nap area on a closet floor. You’ll probably need to rest after all this organizing.

 

This article was written by Julie Vick from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.