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Preparing Bottles for Daycare

When getting your little one ready for daycare, you want to make sure they have all the comforts of home. You’ll want to try to keep them on the same routine while they are away from you, including what they eat. And while there are plenty of things to pack for daycare, preparing bottles can be a bit time consuming. We’re sure your mornings are crazy as is, so the thought of getting the bottles ready is probably daunting. We have compiled some tips to make preparing bottles for daycare a breeze.

Find Out Your Daycare’s Policies

The first thing you’re going to want to do is check with your daycare and their system. See if they have any restrictions about how they want you to prepare the bottles for daycare. Some daycares want you to bring everything mixed and ready to go in a bottle already, while others may say it’s okay to just bring in the formula or milk and empty bottles. Others might even be okay with mixing the formula and milk for you. Each situation will require you to prepare bottles for daycare a little differently.

Also check to see how your daycare will be storing the bottles. Will they have a refrigerator and freezer? Or will you have to pack the bottles in a freezer bag with an ice pack to keep them cold?

If you are still breastfeeding, check with your daycare about sending it in with your little one. Do they prefer it frozen or thawed? This will make it easier to prepare and store the bottles ahead of time.

Prepare the Night Before

If your mornings were hectic before your baby arrived, they might get even crazier now that you’ve added another person to get ready. To save some time, prepare the bottles for daycare at night. Make it part of your evening routine, perhaps after you put the baby down.

If you are breastfeeding, pump the night before and get it into bottles. If you’re using formula, pre-measure it out in the bottles so the daycare can add milk or water to them the next day. And if you need to prepare water and milk too, measure those out as well.

Once the bottles are actually prepared, put them in the fridge so you can easily grab them in the morning. Bonus points if your bag or cooler fits in the fridge too, so you can just pull it out and go!

Buy Enough Bottles for a Few Days

Since preparing bottles for daycare is time-consuming, you might want to buy more bottles to last you a few days. This way, you’re not constantly bringing home the bottles, cleaning and sterilizing them and refilling them all in the same night. You should also check with your daycare about their procedures on letting you keep frozen milk in their freezer for a few days. If this is an option, then you can just bring in the bottles each day.

Prepping Baby Bottles

Label Everything

Just as when you pack other items for daycare, you’ll want to label the bottles and milk or formula. Either a label maker or tape will suffice with your child’s name on it. You may also want to think about adding another label with the times your baby will eat. This makes it easier for the daycare to remember when your baby needs to eat.

Check in With Your Daycare

Once you’ve established a good routine with preparing bottles for daycare, it’s a good idea to check in with them. Ask if you’ve been providing enough formula or milk. See if your baby is eating either more or less than what you prepare, and then adjust accordingly.The key with preparing bottles for daycare is to allow yourself a set time to get them ready and don’t leave anything for the last minute. Communication with your daycare is also important. And once you have a set routine down each day, getting your baby ready for daycare will be a piece of cake.

Estate Planning for New Parents

You’ve created your baby registry, set up a beautiful nursery, and packed your bag for the hospital. But one of the most important things you need to do doesn’t involve any adorable booties or sweet crib mobiles. It’s estate planning. Estate planning is often the item that is left off the checklist because it’s not the first thing that comes into parents’ minds but it’s actually an essential part of preparing for a new baby. It ensures that you have everything in place in case something happens to you, your partner, or your child. Without proper estate planning your child is at risk of not receiving your assets or having a legal guardian in place. Here is a short primer on what new parents should be thinking about when it comes to estate planning.

What is the first step?

One of the first steps of estate planning is putting together a will. A will is a legal document that contains your exact wishes for the distribution of your property, management of your accounts, and the custody of any dependents (aka children). You may already have a will in place from before you were expecting but it probably needs to change when you have a child. Start by putting together a list of all of your assets such as property, insurance policies, vehicles, bank accounts, jewelry, etc. Then determine who you will receive these items if you were to pass away. The other big decision in a will is who will become the guardian for your child/children.

What should I think about regarding guardianship?

Choosing a guardian is an incredibly important and personal decision. When evaluating options consider factors like a child’s age, geographic location, religion, and willingness to accept the position. Have a discussion with your potential choice of guardian to make sure they are willing to accept the position and that you are both on the same page in terms of your wants on how you want your child to be raised. Also, make sure to identify a backup option just in case and have that option listed in your will as well.

Estate Planning for New Parents

Do I need a trust?

A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. With a trust, you can be very specific about who, when, and how you want someone to receive your assets. You may be able to make similar specifications in a will but a will has to go through probate court which is an expensive and time-intensive process. Typically a trust is appropriate for someone that has greater than $160k in assets and has a specific vision of how they want those assets to be distributed. There are many different types of trusts that are based on things like who the beneficiary is or what the assets are. Historically trusts have been associated with the extremely rich because they often can be costly to create and manage but they can actually be a useful tool for anyone that has more specific needs than a will.

Is there anything else I need to look into?

Separate from a will you will need to make sure you designate the beneficiaries on any insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial accounts. You want to make sure that who you have listed as a beneficiary on the account matches whomever you have listed in your will. However, if by chance, this ends up not being the case the beneficiaries listed on the actual account will supersede the who is listed on the will.

How much does estate planning cost?

The cost of putting together a will depends on how much you do on your own and how complicated your assets and accounts are. At the low end of the range, it can cost a few hundred dollars and can go up to thousands of dollars. Other factors that can impact the cost are the state of residence, the size of your assets, whether or not you are utilizing a lawyer, and how many beneficiaries you have. Trusts are often more expensive than wills because they are more complicated and are much more customized to the individual. In addition to the initial fees, you will want to revisit and review your plan every few years to make sure that it still matches your needs. Any updates will incur additional costs.

Who can help me with estate planning?

While it can seem like the cheapest option is to write your own will and do all of your estate planning on your own, it can become costly in the long run if there are mistakes made. However, many new parents are not equipped to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to help with estate planning. One affordable option is to use a service like Trust and Will where you can create a customized plan in less than 15 minutes. They have plans starting at $39 and are backed by a team of experts to make sure your plan has everything you need. You can start by just answering a few questions and have Trust and Will help you figure out what type of plan is best suited for your needs.  

Once you have established an estate plan, keep several copies in a safe place. Remember as you grow your assets to make additions to your will so it is accurate and up-to-date. Having an estate plan will ensure that your children are taken care of and protect your assets should anything happen to you. It should be part of every new parent’s to-do list.

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How to Communicate with Your Childcare Provider

Dropping your child off at a daycare can be an anxiety-ridden experience. Your childcare provider will be spending just as much time as you do with your child. So, it is natural to have a lot of questions. But how do you effectively speak with your childcare provider without coming off pushy or demanding? We have some tips on how to communicate with your childcare provider that may help.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Childcare providers want to speak with you just as much as you want to speak with them. They are caring for and teaching your child daily, in most cases, and they want to keep you in the loop about their progress or any issues that may arise.

Be available for any meetings your provider wants to schedule. Providers like to show you what your child is doing on a daily basis. They don’t want to keep you in the dark, as they understand how important your child is. This is even more important now with COVID-19 as many daycares are not allowing parents to enter the building so keeping contact will require more effort than before. Some daycare providers will text or email parents daily or weekly. If this is something you would like, inquire before you choose a daycare facility. This way you will know before your child’s first day that those lines of communication are open.

Respect Their Time

Just like you, your childcare provider is very busy, as they are caring for a lot of children. If you are interested in speaking with them about your child, schedule a meeting. You don’t want to start an important conversation during drop-off or pickup, when things can be hectic.

By scheduling a meeting to communicate with your childcare provider, you are showing them you respect their time and, in turn, they will respect yours.

Daycare Provider

Treat Them Like Professionals

When communicating with your childcare provider, no matter how close you are with them, remember that they are professionals and should be treated that way. With technology, such as texting or emailing, it can be easy to fire off a message with ‘I would like to meet with you.’ But try to be specific. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, let them know ahead of time so they can be prepared. If you would just like to discuss your child’s progress, let them know this too.

Remember, just because you are friendly with them doesn’t mean you can take advantage when issues arise. Treat them with the same respect you would anyone you are doing business with.

Be Prepared to Listen

As parents, we may jump to conclusions when we don’t like something our child says. For example, if your child comes home from daycare and claims their caregiver was mean, don’t immediately place the blame on your provider. Take the time to explain to your provider what your child said, and listen to their response. Perhaps your child was misbehaving and his or her provider needed to discipline them. If this is something you are OK with, then speak with your child and explain that they need to respect the rules while at daycare and listen to their provider. If you are not OK with how the provider handled a situation, calmly explain your feelings and try to come up with a solution you can both agree on in future situations.

The last thing you want to be with your childcare provider is confrontational. Remember, your daycare provider works for you and wants what is best for your child. If something isn’t working, talk it through together. Childcare providers want both you and your child to be happy.

Offer Praise

Something you also want to remember when figuring out how to communicate with your childcare provider is letting them know positive things about your child. Perhaps you only communicate with your childcare provider when there is an issue or concern. Try to remember to reach out and offer praise every once in a while. If your child has a particularly great day at daycare, shoot your provider a thank you email or mention it during drop-off the next day.

The key is letting them know they are doing a good job, and that they are valued.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to build a relationship and how you want to communicate with your childcare provider. Be involved and remember that your childcare provider wants to offer the best experience for your child. And only you can help make that happen since you know your child best!

The Big Debate: Disposable versus Cloth Diapers

Disposable versus cloth diapers? New parents have many decisions to make and the debate over what diapers to use is, like many parenting decisions, a tough one. Mainly because it can be a very polarizing choice for parents. Costs, convenience, and the environmental impact each play a factor in the discussion. As a new parent, the disposable versus cloth diapers debate can be confusing but we try to break down each of these factors to help you make the best choice for you and your child.

Health

Early supporters of cloth diapers claimed that some of the chemicals and components of disposable diapers can cause an increase in diaper rashes. Cloth diapers, on the other hand, are all-natural. However, times have changed and most disposable diapers have eliminated many of those irritants. In addition, disposable diapers have become incredibly absorbent which is the key to preventing diaper rashes. In the case of health, the choice between disposable versus cloth is a toss-up. Both can keep your baby’s skin safe and soft as long as your child doesn’t have a specific allergy.

Convenience

Disposable diapers were made to be the ultimate in convenience. Just use and toss. But cloth diapers are no longer the complicated contraptions with pins that people remember from long ago. New versions of cloth diapers such as the pocket diaper or the all-in-one cloth diaper have made it much easier. There are also laundry services available specifically for cloth diapers so you don’t have to worry about extra loads of laundry. That being said disposable diapers still win out. There’s no folding or washing or planning. Disposable diapers are available everywhere and are especially easier when you are traveling.

Baby Diaper Change

Environmental Impact

Disposable diapers are meant to be tossed and billions end up in landfills every year. They are also not completely biodegradable so the impact is massive. However, disposable diapers have become lighter over time, meaning they are leaving less behind. While cloth diapers don’t get dumped into landfills they do utilize an immense amount of water which can have an impact on the environment in a different way. Cloth diapers are made of cotton which requires a lot more water than needed to make a disposable diaper. In addition, cloth diapers need to be washed and this can equate to cloth diapers using “twice as much water as disposable diapers do.” However, with compostable liners and more efficient washing machines, cloth diapers can be more the more environmentally-friendly choice.

Cost

One of the biggest factors in the disposable versus cloth diapers debate is cost. Babies are expensive and parents are always looking for ways to save money. Diapers are a major expense and finding a way to cut costs can have a significant impact on a family’s budget. In the first year alone, a family can go through 2,500 disposable diapers! If the average cost of a disposable diaper is $.20 that can add up to $500/year.

The cost of cloth diapers depends on the type of cloth diaper used. While a pre-fold diaper can cost less than $4/diaper, fancier and more convenient diapers like the pocket diaper or the all-in-one diaper can cost upwards of $35/diaper! You can save money buying used or by using the same set with multiple children. Laundry services for cloth diapers have an additional cost of $18 – $24/week depending on the number of diapers, frequency of washing, and where you live. Washing them yourselves is another way to save money. According to one mom’s analysis the overall savings with cloth diapers came out to only about $200 over two years and that didn’t include using a laundry service. Again these savings can be increased if you are able to use the cloth diapers over multiple children or buy a cloth diaper secondhand. 

At the end of the day, after looking at all these factors, the decision to choose disposable or cloth comes down to what you feel is best for your child and family. And it does not mean that you have to pick only one. Some families do a combination of disposable and cloth diapers such as using cloth diapers at home but disposable diapers when they are out of the house. There is no wrong answer and you can always try both and see what works best. With so many options available in both categories you will find the perfect fit.

Types of Preschool Programs for Your Child

How do you pick the right preschool program for your child? After taking into consideration location and budget, the next factor to evaluate is the actual type of preschool program. Choosing a preschool program is an important decision because it lays the foundation for your child’s education. You are also trying to find an environment that meets both academic and social needs. But when your child is so young it can be hard to determine which type of program is the best fit and there are so many to choose from. Some preschools use a combination of styles each preschool may follow a curriculum or philosophy with varying degrees of strictness. We give you an overview of each type of preschool program to help you identify the best option for your child. 

Play-Based

What is play-based learning?

Play-based learning focuses on using exploratory activities as the platform for learning. Essentially children are naturally inclined to play and play-based learning capitalizes on this quality to encourage learning. Play can be in the form of child-led or free play or teacher-guided. Your child is able to gain both academic and social-emotional skills through different activities that they are often excited to participate in without necessarily realizing that they are learning. For example, the simple act of building with blocks can be an opportunity for a child to practice counting, creating patterns, and testing scientific principles. If another child is also involved it allows both children to practice communication skills and taking turns. Play-based preschools often avoid things like worksheets and formal structured lessons at desks and instead allow children to learn with their whole bodies. 
Nowadays play-based learning is a component of almost every preschool. According to NAEYC, “Play helps children make sense of their world and gives them an opportunity to learn how to get along, think, communicate, make decisions, delay gratification, solve problems, and build confidence.” All children love to play making play-based programs a popular choice for parents. Luckily most preschool programs incorporate some form of play within their curriculum.

What to look for in a play-based preschool program:

  • A variety of activities or a classroom set-up with different sections with varying play-related materials
  • A large focus on social and emotional skills as well as academic skills
  • Teachers utilizing observation rather than worksheets or tests to assess a child’s skills

Montessori

What is a Montessori program?

A Montessori program is based on Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician. One of the biggest qualities that attract parents to Montessori education is the focus on self-driven learning. In a Montessori environment, children are given free choice over what they work on, making it a very individualized learning experience.  The role of the teacher is to observe and offer guidance when needed. The classroom is set-up to give children as much independence as possible by keeping easy access to materials and furniture and tools that allow children to do things for themselves, strengthening their “practical life” skills. For example, you might see a sink at a low height so a child can wash their own dishes or a small-sized broom so a child can easily sweep the floor. Because of the focus on self-directed learning and independence, children grow up to love learning and parents see that as a huge benefit. 

What to look for in a Montessori preschool program:

  • Focus on practical life skills like sewing, cooking, and cleaning
  • Mixed-age classrooms
  • Teachers working with one child or a small group of children rather than teaching an entire class at once

Reggio Emilia

What is Reggio Emilia?

Similar to Montessori, Reggio Emilia preschool programs are focused on the child and child-led. Children learn through long-term projects where they are encouraged to observe and refine their approach. This type of preschool program places emphasis on deep comprehension rather than memorization. Projects often cover a multitude of topics which allows children to learn about how two subjects such as art and math can be intertwined. Reggio Emilia also emphasizes collaborative learning and gives every child the opportunity to have their voice heard. This allows children to learn from each other and continue to refine their ideas and work. 

What to look for in a Reggio Emilia preschool program:

  • Easy access to materials such as paper, clay, and other art supplies
  • Documentation of a child’s work over time to show refinement and progress
  • Strong parental involvement
Child at Forest Preschool

Waldorf

What is a Waldorf preschool program?

Waldorf education focuses on three main areas: thinking, feeling, and doing. The reason for this is to have children understand and recognize the world around them. Waldorf education incorporates a lot of music and art into the curriculum along with the outdoors. Children often spend time on activities such as playing musical instruments and knitting. Writing is taught before reading and often reading isn’t formally taught until six or seven. Waldorf preschool programs create a very warm and nurturing environment where children are able to explore the environment and not feel pressure to formally learn early on and to instead focus on creativity and imagination.

What to look for in a Waldorf preschool program:

  • Classrooms feel more like a home with wooden furniture and little to no technology
  • Art and music incorporated into the architecture and decor of the classroom
  • Teachers performing real-life activities such as gardening or knitting, allowing children to imitate these behaviors

Forest

What is a forest preschool program?

Forest preschools, also known as nature preschools, incorporate nature as a channel to teach children. According to the Natural Start Alliance “Nature preschools have all the same child development goals that more traditional schools have, but they also are committed to accomplishing those goals through experiences in and with nature and have an added goal of helping children begin to develop care and concern for the natural world.” School typically takes place outside in a forest or similar outdoor environment rather than an actual classroom. The outdoors play an important role in educating children by allowing them to explore and learn with all of their senses and they typically occur rain or shine. While playing outside has been a hallmark of childhood from the beginning of time, formal forest preschool programs have really grown in only the past few years. Forest preschool programs are very hands-on and child-led.

What to look for in a forest preschool program:

  • A location near woods or a large outdoor area
  • An emphasis on physical activity
  • Activities such as hiking, arts and crafts incorporating natural materials found in the woods, or building

Do you have questions about child tax credits in 2021? We break it down for you.

On Wednesday, March 10th Congress passed a landmark $1.9 trillion stimulus package. This package has immediate implications for parents, specifically around child tax credits. For many households, child care is the second-largest expense. Therefore any sort of reduction would be a major relief for families. Understanding the true cost of childcare is challenging and then having to understand the tax implications can be overwhelming for any parent. We try and break down the major points to keep in mind as we get closer to April 15th, the last day to file taxes in 2021.

What is the Child Tax Credit?

According to the Tax Policy Center “The child tax credit provides a credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17. If the credit exceeds taxes owed, families may receive up to $1,400 per child as a refund. Other dependents—including children ages 17–18 and full-time college students ages 19–24—can receive a nonrefundable credit of up to $500 each.”

It’s important to note that a tax credit differs from a tax deduction. Tax credits directly reduce the amount of tax you owe. Tax deductions reduce how much of your income is subject to taxes.

How has the Stimulus Package Affected Child Tax Credits?

The stimulus package impacts child tax credits in a few ways. 

  • Income Eligibility: Previously, parents had to be employed and earn an income of at least $2,500 to be eligible. Now the income requirement has been waived. 
  • Age Expansion: Previously the credit was capped at age 17. With the new stimulus package, it has been increased to 18. 
  • Higher Amount: The amount of money parents get for the credit has increased from $2,000 to $3,000 per child under 17 and $3,600 per child under 6.
  • Advanced Payments: Under the new plan, parents could receive up to 50% of the credit in advance. Periodic payments would be sent starting in July 2021
  • Fully Refundable: Previously only $1,400 per child could be received as a refund. Under the new plan, the credit is fully refundable meaning $3,000 per child under 17 and $3,600 per child under 6 would be eligible for a refund. 
Parent doing taxes

What is the Child Care and Dependent Tax Credit?

If you pay for some form of child care you may be eligible for the Child Care and Dependent Tax Credit. As explained by “The Balance,” “The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) child and dependent care tax credit provides a tax credit of up to 35% of the expenses you pay someone to take care of your children or adult dependents.” Children must be under the age of 13 to be eligible. The expenses can’t be payments to a spouse or a dependent (like an older sibling). These are expenses such as the payments you make to a daycare center or nanny. Also, both parents have to show some form of income unless a parent cannot take care of the child on their own. The percentage of expenses you can claim is dependent on income. These expenses are not just limited to daycares or nannies. Other things like before and after school care and summer camps may also be eligible.

What has changed about the Child Care and Dependent Tax Credit?

  • Percentage of Expenses: The percentage that you use to determine the amount of credit has increased from 35% to 50%.
  • Maximum Amount: Previously the maximum amount that could be expensed was capped at $2100 for two or more children. Now the cap has increased to $8,000 for two or more children.
  • Income Eligibility: The percentage of expenses decreases as your income increases. Previously the decline started at a household income of $15,000 but in 2021 households with an income of less than $125,000 will be eligible for the full percentage.
  • High-Income Households: For households with an income over $400,000 the percentage of expenses that can be claimed will decrease to below 20%.

What is the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account?

According to the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program, a Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA) is a pre-tax benefit account used to pay for eligible dependent care services, such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare. This is not a credit but an account where you add pre-tax dollars, effectively reducing your overall tax burden. These accounts are set-up through your employer. Therefore they are only available to employees of companies that offer a DCFSA as a benefit. Money from your paycheck is automatically added to your account. In order to use the money, you have to pay out-of-pocket first and then apply to be reimbursed. The maximum amount you can add is $5,000. However, for 2021 the maximum amount has increased to $10,500. This change has to be approved by your employer. A few things to consider with a DCFSA:

  • You typically have to opt-in with your employer prior to the beginning of the year so you have to plan ahead of time 
  • You need to still pay for the expenses out-of-pocket and then apply for reimbursement. This can be challenging if you are already stretching your paycheck to contribute to the account in the first place. 
  • It’s a use or lose it account so you need to add only how much you think you will actually spend. If there’s anything leftover by the end of the year (or March 15th of the following year if your employer offers a grace period) then you lose that money. If you are a new parent you can estimate the cost by looking up the price of childcare near you on Upfront . You can also use our Daycare Calculator to see the average cost of daycares in your neighborhood. This can help you plan ahead and understand how much you should set aside in the DCFSA. 

Can I use both the Childcare and Dependent Tax Credit and Dependent Care FSA?

The short answer is yes. However, you cannot use both of them for the same expense. If you have two or more children you could use the DCFSA for the first $5,000. You could then claim credit of $1,000 for expenses above that. Typically if your employer offers a DCFSA it makes more sense to take advantage of that. It really does depend on your income level and amount of expenses. It’s best to discuss this with a tax expert to make sure you are maximizing the benefits in the best way possible. 

Raising a child comes with large expenses. Different tax programs work to reduce the burden on parents. Do your research to determine the best programs to take advantage of and the best way to set-up expenses to help reduce costs as much as possible. 

7 Tips for Dealing with Being on the Daycare Waitlist

You’ve done all the tours. You’ve read all the reviews. You’ve finally chosen the perfect daycare. Only one problem . . . there are no spots available and they’ve put your child on a daycare waitlist. It’s an incredibly frustrating and disappointing experience to find a daycare that checks all the boxes on your list only to find out that there isn’t room. Here are seven tips for dealing with the situation.

1. Check-In Regularly

While many daycares boast of multiple year-long waitlists people’s situations change all the time. A family might have to relocate for a job or they change their minds and go with a nanny instead. Putting your name down leaves the possibility of you getting a spot when one becomes available. Make sure to check-in with the daycare every 1-2 months to see if anything has changed and to show that you are still interested.

2. Choose a Different Location

Some daycares have several locations. Consider taking a spot at another location while you are on the daycare waitlist. If the location isn’t too inconvenient it might work as a temporary solution until your child can transfer to your desired location. 

3. Re-evaluate Your Second and Third Options

Think about what you really loved about your first choice and give your other options a second look to see if they can offer the things that matter to you most. Also, consider reaching out and asking if they are willing to accommodate certain requests. They may be flexible and willing to make adjustments if they have a spot to fill.

Children at Daycare

4. Wait it Out

Consider a temporary solution such as a nanny. While having a nanny may not have been your original plan it can be a way to cover childcare while you wait for a spot to become available.

5. Adjust Your Schedule

Daycares often give priority to children that can fill their schedule. For daycare directors, it’s almost like playing a game of Tetris! So if you were only looking for three half-days see if a daycare will move you up the list if you are willing to do 3 full days.

6. Offer to Start in the Summer

From June – August daycares see a lot of shuffles in their enrollment. Some kids are graduating to kindergarten or pre-k and some infants are moving up to the next room. Also, some families just decide to leave daycare during the summer because one of the parents is off. Starting daycare in the early summer may be the way to a spot.

7. Seek Out New Options

Try visiting a few centers that you may have overlooked in your initial research. Upfront makes the research process much faster by allowing you to view daycares by zip code and price and we’re always working to add new daycares to our site to give you the most comprehensive childcare information. 

Finding the right daycare for your child can make you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster with all the ups and downs. A daycare waitlist can seem like an insurmountable obstacle when you are a new parent who is returning to work. By taking some of the tips above you may be able to snag a spot sooner than expected. If not know that many parents have been in your position and eventually do find a solution that works for them, sometimes even better than they thought possible.

Tips to Teach Mindfulness to Toddlers

Toddler emotions can range from intense calm fascination to extreme frustration all in the span of a minute. When your toddler is in the middle of a tantrum it can seem like you can do nothing right and you’re at a loss as to how to help them. Teaching your toddler about mindfulness is a tool that can help both of you get back on track. Think mindfulness is just for adults? Actually, mindfulness can be helpful at any age, and here are some tips to teach mindfulness to toddlers.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present where you are completely aware of what is going on in the moment and you are allowing yourself to experience things as they currently are. At first, you may think that mindfulness and being a toddler are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. But the truth is that toddlers are naturally great at being mindful. Ever go on a walk with your little one and they decide to watch a caterpillar cross their path? That is a toddler’s way of being present in their environment, observing things as they happen.

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve memory, increase focus and enhance your overall well-being. Specifically, for children, mindfulness can help teach them how to manage their emotions and increase empathy. Toddlers, especially, are realizing many new experiences and often lack the communication skills to convey their frustrations. Teaching your toddler about mindfulness can help them manage their reactions even when they are unable to verbally express how they feel.

Practice Labeling Emotions

Though your toddler may not be able to verbally communicate what they are feeling they can still understand when you use words to express emotions. Try modeling how to verbalize emotions in specific situations. For example, if they are angry at you for not taking them to the playground you could state that you understand that they may be yelling because they are mad that you said no. Then make some suggestions for how they can deal with that anger. Could both of you make a plan for when you can go to the playground? Could you have your toddler leave their shoes and coat by the door so when it is time to go you are able to leave faster? When toddlers hear you verbalizing emotions regularly they will better understand how to identify their own emotions.

Mindfulness Through Play

Toddlers learn best through play. Play is naturally hands-on and fun and is both an enticing and effective tool to teach toddlers. For example, practicing breathing exercises is great for calming ourselves and bringing down our blood pressure when we are upset. But explaining that to a toddler can be difficult. Instead, let them practice blowing bubbles. Have them blow both gently and with all their force so they see the different ways to breathe. When they are upset you can remind them to practice their breathing by imagining they are blowing bubbles. 

Another great activity for toddlers is sensory bins. Sensory bins allow toddlers to explore and play while utilizing multiple senses. Simple materials like dried beans or rice mixed with a few scoops and cups are all you need (although there are many more elaborate options on Pinterest). By allowing your toddler to explore through senses like touch and vision you will find they are much more likely to be engaged in play for a longer period of time. This will build their focus and attention as they spend time observing all the things they can do. For toddlers filling and emptying a container over and over again is their way of learning through doing. Concentrating on one activity for a long period of time (which for a toddler may just be 5-10 minutes) improves their ability to focus overall.

Toddler exploring nature as a way to increase mindfulness

Incorporate Nature

Mindfulness is about observing and living in your present environment. Nature provides a great environment for toddlers to observe because it involves all your senses. There are different sounds and smells and things to touch like grass, leaves, and dirt. Being in nature has the added benefit of incorporating gross motor movement which toddlers need a lot. Help your toddler focus by asking them to point out five things. You can even go further by asking them to find things in specific colors. With older toddlers, you can create a visual checklist to help them keep track of what to look for.

Read about Mindfulness

Stories are an easy way to help your toddler visualize mindfulness techniques. Just like how seeing a favorite character wear a mask or brush their teeth seeing a character deal with challenges and react to diffuse situations can help a toddler recognize ways they can self-regulate. A few books that could be helpful for your toddler are “Puppy Mind”, “My Magic Breath: Finding Calm Through Mindful Breathing,” and “The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions.” As you read to your toddler talk about what the characters are experiencing. Ask your toddler if they can act out the same emotions or if they can identify different feelings by looking at the facial expressions. When your toddler has a big reaction to a situation remind them of the story or keep a book handy to remind them of the techniques the characters used.

Toddlers’ brains are growing rapidly as they try to soak up every bit of each experience in this world. This can be incredibly overwhelming, especially to a child that isn’t able to always express how they feel. Using the tips above to encourage your child to slow-down and recognize their emotions can help both of you work through even the worst tantrum. The truth is that mindfulness can provide the foundation for balancing emotions and keeping focus, which will be beneficial for their whole lives.

How To Get Your Baby to Nap at Daycare

One of the most common questions parents have before sending their infant to daycare is “How is my baby going to nap at daycare?” This is especially true for parents that have finally established a routine and nap schedule for their infant. A daycare is a whole new environment for infants and parents are rightfully worried that it might ruin the work they’ve put into establishing a solid nap routine for their child. Xan Coffman from MyBaby Sleepology is here to ease those worries with a few tips to help your baby have solid naps at daycare and maintain the routine you have in place at home.

Improve the Environment at Daycare

Often daycares are willing to adjust certain things to help provide an environment for babies to nap at daycare as well as they do at home. Here are few topics that you should discuss with your daycare ahead of time:

  • Noise: Do they use a sound machine during nap times? If not, are they willing to attach a portable sound machine to your child’s crib (to replicate a similar environment as home and drown out the surrounding noises)?
  • Movement: Ask them to NOT rock your baby/toddler to sleep or allow him to fall asleep in a swing
  • Light: How bright is the nap room? See if your little one’s crib/cot can be moved to a back corner where it might be darker and quieter.
  • Schedule: Do they offer naps “on demand” or on a set schedule?  If they can be flexible/on-demand, that would be ideal!
  • Transitions: When do they transition toddlers to 1 nap? For many daycares it is at 12 months, which is pretty early. The earliest toddlers typically transition is 14 months, and on average it is 17 months.
  • Comfort Items: Ask if you can send a breathable lovey (if 12 months +) or sleep sack to comfort your child. Make sure you have duplicates in case it gets lost or dirty while at daycare!
  • Cribs: Request that they put your little one in the crib for naps only, not for any playtime.
Toddler Sleeping at Daycare

Daycare Naps’ Impact on your Home Sleep Schedule

If naps at daycare are short it will not impact night sleep as long as you can adjust bedtime earlier when naps do not meet their goal (1 hour minimum when on a 2-3 nap schedule and 90 minutes minimum if on 1 nap). For the first several weeks, be prepared for a quick pick-up and head straight home for dinner and early bedtime. This will be temporary until your baby is sleeping better at daycare. Remember babies are smart!  They understand that different rules apply at home vs. daycare.  So when your little one is home on weekends, be sure to apply the “crib hour” rule to naps one and two if your baby still takes 2-3 naps and the “90 minute rule” if your baby is on a one nap schedule.

“What about the Drive Home from Daycare? My Baby Always Falls Asleep!”

Do what you can to keep your baby/toddler awake on the ride home from daycare (try opening a window, play music or give them a toy).  If he or she falls asleep, don’t stress!  While it isn’t ideal, simply bump bedtime out just a smidge (15/20 minutes) if he or she caught a quick cat nap on the ride home.

Sleep training in two different environments may take a little longer for things to come together, but as long as you are consistent at home and daycare adjusts a few things, it will work and eventually your child will be on his way to better naps and night sleep! If you have further questions you can click here to schedule a complimentary 15 minute sleep consultation with MyBaby Sleepology.

How to See Santa at Home in 2020

It’s that time of year again. Time to untangle the lights, take out the reindeer shaped cookie cutter, and coordinate the perfect holiday-themed outfits for a picture with Santa. Or maybe not on that last item. Families are adjusting their special traditions this year due to the continued surge of COVID-19 throughout the country. One of the biggest traditions that is being missed is seeing Santa in person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to bring some of that Santa magic into your home. Zoom sessions, special apps, and elf-filled websites are becoming a popular option for families that are choosing to stay home for the holidays. We found a few options for families looking to make sure their children get to see Santa this year and are sharing them with you below. Each of these options offers different types of experiences and covers a range of budgets but all of them find ways to infuse some extra joy into the 2020 holiday season. 

Macy’s Santaland at Home

Macy’s has been hosting Santa visits since 1861 but this year they have transformed the experience “into an interactive, virtual experience” called Macy’s Santaland. Kids not only get to see Santa but also meet his elves and tour his workshop. The customized experience ends with a virtual visit with Santa. Best of all it’s completely free!

https://www.macys.com/social/santa-land/

Santa the Experience

For a more engaging experience try a live video chat with Santa the Experience. The chat with Santa is approximately five minutes but before that, you’ll be guided through a tour of the North Pole including the toy factory and the reindeer stables. You’ll even get to see Mrs. Claus! When you book you can provide information about your child like his or her name, age, wish list, and even a specific memory you would like Santa to bring up during the conversation. Packages start around $45 and can go up depending on the time slot and add-ons.

https://santatheexperience.com/

Santa’s Club

Another live video option is Santa’s Club. This site allows you to choose between a live video with Santa or a personalized recorded video message. They also offer an upgraded version that includes a personalized mailed letter that arrives before your session. The live video sessions last around five minutes and packages start around $35. 

Santa’s Club

Portable North Pole

Do you need a more involved Santa to help encourage your kids to stay on the nice list? Portable North Pole offers options for recorded personalized videos from Santa throughout the year. Santa can wish your child a happy birthday, remind them to behave, or congratulate a new accomplishment (anyone trying to potty-train their child right now?). You can also order a call from Santa about being kind or trying hard in school. You can create a simple video for free and a “Magic Pass” which allows you to create multiple videos starts at $10.99. 

https://www.portablenorthpole.com/

iCaughtSanta

If you get to Christmas Eve and don’t have time to schedule a call with Santa a great option is just to superimpose Santa to a photo and offer your kids “proof” of his visit. The iCaughtSanta App is perfect for this. You can just upload a photo of your living room or Christmas tree and the app will allow you to add a Santa sticker. They have several Santas to choose from. Your kids will see Santa leaving presents under your tree. The same app can be used again to add the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. The app is available for iOS and Android and is free to download. 

https://icaughtsanta.com/