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Get Family Organized for the New School Year and All Year

Life will be so much easier this school year of distant learning and continued remote working if families get and dremain organized. I co-sign all of these tips from guest blogger Marty Basher, design expert with Modular Closets,https://www.modularclosets.com who explains how to get the entire family involved.

There’s nothing that promotes family unity more than both parents and kids sharing in household responsibilities. While it depends on the age and stage of the kids, here are a few tips that can help children learn to be more independent in their everyday lives while contributing to daily tasks.

Set expectations.

  • Even small children can learn to follow routines and do their ‘chores’. If anything, most kids thrive on a little routine. Figure out what they can manage in terms of household tasks, for their age, and set up a chart so they have a visual reminder. You can apply a rewards system for the reluctant helper, but ultimately, the goal is to get kids to understand that being part of a family means contributing to its well being.

Establish routines.

  • Getting kids to start to do the things you need them to do everyday is largely a matter of habit. If they get into the habit of hanging up their bookbags and coats when they walk in the door, rather than dumping them on the floor, over time you will have to remind them less and less until one day, they’re doing it all on their own! The key to that is adding some organization to the madness, which is addressed in the next point!
  • Some other routines that make a difference include: picking out clothes, making lunches and packing school bags the night before; putting all soiled clothes in a hamper; emptying out lunch bags in the kitchen and placing dirty cutlery or containers in the sink; putting all school related materials that you are meant to see in a designated ‘inbox’. By having designated spaces for items—hooks for hats and baskets for mittens in the entryway, for example—you can establish routines for ensuring that items get put away properly, rather than tossed willy nilly all over the house.

laundry detergent

Get organized.

  • In order to establish routines, it helps to be a little more organized so that everything that comes into the house has a home, and everyone in the house knows where to put things. An example that plagues many families: sports gear. If you have a designated storage space for each child—hooks, shelves, or even bins—to put sports bags and a laundry basket for soiled gear, all cleaned items can be returned to the appropriate storage area, so that they are always at the ready to be packed for practice. This all depends on how much space you have to work with, but a full closet isn’t always necessary: you could carve out a section of space in a mud room to accomplish the same thing. The key is that there is a designated spot for these items and everyone knows where that space is.

Establish a family center.

  • If you don’t want your kids asking what’s for lunch, or can you buy XYZ, or what’s for dinner, all the time, it’s a good idea to establish a family center. This is a spot, in the kitchen for example, where there is a board that shows everyone what’s going on in the family. I can include chore charts, a schedule of activities and appointments (monthly), a menu plan, a shopping list, as well as baskets for individuals to place important information, like school forms (see the point above on the ‘inbox’)! This way everyone has access to the information about who is where, who is doing what and what’s for dinner!
  • Speaking of organizing, playrooms and kids bedrooms can be a minefield, but you can make it easier for them to stay a little bit more organized, in age appropriate ways:
    • For small children, plastic bins with photos of what goes into each taped to the front makes it a lot easier for them to help with tidying the playroom. One for LEGO, one for dolls, one for trains… you get the “picture”!
    • Make sure that their closets are useful for their age. For example, having some hooks and baskets at a low level for a small child enables them to hang up their hat and put away their stuffies, while you put away items on hangers or in drawers. As they get older and taller, they can take over more and more of these tasks, getting into a solid habit of putting things away, rather than leaving them on the floor.

laundry detergent

    • A hammock in the corner makes a great stuffie holder and is easy for kids to see their ‘friends’ but keep them tidy. Another option is a hanging sweater organizer in the closet: for all the extras! Clear plastic shoe organizers that hang on the back of the door make use of a little used space, but are perfect for older kids and their collectibles, card collections, or even their supply of nail polish.

laundry detergent

    • Older children need aworkspace for schoolwork, as well as the supplies that go with that, so whether that’s in their bedroom, or in a den with a desk, make sure that each child has a way to store their materials, marked papers and so on. A shelf in a closet with a basket of their own makes perfect sense for this. Another great option is a rolling file folder / drawer unit, which they can move out of the way when it’s not in use.

      [COPY THESE HOMEWORK STATIONS]

    • Get into the habit of doing a seasonal switch, where out of season clothes are sorted (piles for those that need to be cleaned, repaired, handed down or tossed out) and the ones that are being kept or handed down get moved to a storage area—a closet in the basement or garage works well for this—so that only the items that are immediately useful are occupying space in the kid’s closet. It’s much easier to put things away if there is space to do so!
    • Finding furniture that serves double duty is a good way to maximize your storage.

laundry detergent

For example, a bench to sit on that also is a storage unit under the lid is perfect for toys that get less use, extra blankets or other things that you want to keep handy. Having these in other parts of the house also makes it easier for kids to get used to putting their things away in communal spaces. That way, the family living room doesn’t look like a toy store blew up in it at all times!

Good luck, parents!

Do Pandemic Mental Health Checks With Your Teens in These 8 Ways

A new study says the COVID pandemic is taking a toll on our collective mental health.

Per NPR:

Nearly a quarter of people in the United States are experiencing symptoms of depression, according to a study published Wednesday. That’s nearly three times the number before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

And those with a lower income, smaller savings and people severely affected by the pandemic — either through a job loss, for example, or by the death of a loved one — are more likely to be bearing the burden of these symptoms.

When a population experiences something traumatic, such as a pandemic or a natural disaster, researchers usually expect a rise in mental illnesses in the weeks and months following the event.

But the mental health toll of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be far greater than previous mass traumas, says Catherine Ettman, a doctoral student in public health at Brown University and an author of the study, which was published in the current issue of the American Medical Association journal JAMA Network Open.

The impact for teens can be devastating.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens, but experts are fearing the worst as young adults prepare to face unknown challenges that the return of school may bring – from coping with varying curricula, stressing over grades, and continued social isolation from friends and trusted teachers.

In Raising Global Teens, Dr. Anisha Abraham analyzes key subjects facing today’s teens, in the context of our modern, mobile world. Dr. Abraham shares some real-world examples with practical solutions, drawing on her latest research and personal experiences to help teens thrive in school despite COVID-19 and the eradication of their daily lives.

Some  points from the book include:

1.  Stop Comparing – Remind your teens that no one is perfect. Everyone is “uneven”, meaning they excel in some areas, but not others, and that is OK.

2. Time Management – Encourage your teen to set goals, prioritize tasks, break large assignments into smaller steps, work for designated time periods and take  breaks, and use a reminder system for deadlines.

3. Unwinding – Make sure your teen is taking time to fill their “anti-stress toolbox” with healthy ways to unwind. This could be as simple as talking to trusted friends or watching a funny show.

4. Mind & Body Care – Ensure your teen is getting adequate sleep, eating well, and exercising to regulate mood and energy levels.

5.Resilience – Support your teen during these times of uncertainty and  help them to build resilience and get “bounce”

6. Conversations – Have important conversations with teens about challenging topics such as pubertal changes, sexting, vaping, planning for the future and more

7. Signs of Depression & Suicide Risk – Understand warning signs which include: mood swings, withdrawal, poor sleeping or appetite, trouble with memory and concentration, talking or writing about suicide, and giving away belongings.

8. Get Help and Support. Know when and where to get professional support  if you believe your teen is depressed or suicidal. Each city, county, state and community have resources, some free, some paid that are available. Don’t wait too long. Do some research online and get help sooner than later. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Mental health is a serious thing to consider especially in this pandemic era. Consider these tips and purchasing Dr. Abraham’s book at Amazon here!

We are all in this together.

Back to School: How to Help Your Child Manage Bullying

Kids dread returning to school for a number of reasons.

Some kids worry about returning to school out of fear for facing their bullies, not being included in activities or social groups, or both. But what can parents do to help kids build mental strength, reduce anxiety, and avoid bullies and social distress?

Best-selling author, family therapist, TEDx speaker and Psychotherapist Jodi Aman, LCSW, has a few tips on how to help their kids navigate these onerous social experiences to mitigate their negative impact.

Here’s Jodi’s top tips to help parents prepare for their children returning to school when faced with anxiety and bullying:

  1. Go over some bullying scenarios with your kids and make them come up with ways to respond to each one. This brainstorming will open their problem-solving mind so when they are in a situation they will trust themselves and be able to think their way out, rather than freezing or doing something unsafe. Remind them where to go for help at school and that they can always talk to you when they get home.

 

  1. Let them know why kids bully. Just saying that “they are jealous” isn’t enough to understand why someone might be jealous. Explain that miserable people are mean because they don’t like themselves. Go over examples from TV or movies so they understand this concept. This will help them not take the mean comments into their hearts.

 

  1. Some friend groups have cultures of drama and this may not be the best place for your child’s tender heart. If your kid is being excluded have them use their noticing skills to find the nice kids. They are always there and may be just the friend group your child is looking for.
  1. Ask your kids about helping their friends when they are bullied. Do they stand up to them? Do they check in with them? Make sure you go over these options for how not to be a bystander.

The bottom line is to be active! Good luck, parents!

Tips for Balancing Remote Work and Full-Time Parenting During COVID-19

balancing parenting and working

By: Sheyla Scaffo, People Experience Associate & Executive Business Administrator at Bunny Studio

Many parents are currently navigating an entirely new normal: Working from home while taking care of their kids full-time. As school picks back up and many kids remain at home for remote learning, figuring out how to balance their schedule and a full-time job sometimes feels totally unmanageable.

Most parents have had experience working remotely in one-off, unplanned situations. However, working at home day in and day out for the foreseeable future while also caring for (and in some cases, teaching) kids at home proves to be a major struggle without careful planning where needed and flexibility when possible.

Read on to learn how to create better routines and habits that can help parents maintain a healthy work-life integration:

1. When possible, keep things flexible

This is often easier said than done. However, when you do have the ability, consider getting creative with your work schedule to base your hours around your kids’ schedules. Giving yourself the flexibility to work differently during this time is crucial to maintaining work-life balance.

This can work in a variety of ways. For example, if you’re an early morning person or a night owl, or you are used to commuting a long way, consider working on projects during these times when kids are usually sleeping. Of course, there will always be vital tasks and meetings that require collaboration with your colleagues during regular work hours, but finding ways to give yourself time for small breaks during the day will help you and your kids stay on track.

2. Establish a kid-free zone

There will be times when you need to hunker down and complete work items free from distractions, which is why it is important to establish an area of the house where you can separate yourself from your family.

Not only is it important for this space to be free from other people, but it also needs to be free from other distractions such as dirty laundry and other messes. Keeping the area clean and organized will keep you from wanting to disengage from work to complete other tasks.

3. Clearly communicate with your family

If you have a partner who is also working from home and sharing kid duties with you, it is crucial to communicate the times you can and cannot help out during the day. Setting these expectations will allow for a much smoother daily routine.

It is also important to communicate with your children if they are old enough. Set expectations for when there will be breaks in your day that you can check-in, whether it be a quick snack break, lunch, or even hourly check-ins.

4. Utilize special toys and screen time during work hours

Set aside designated toys and other gadgets, as well as movies or TV shows, to be used when you need to focus-in during the day. This will give your kids something to look forward to and will allow for some distraction-free work time.

 

5. Don’t overwork

During this time, it can be easy to feel like we need to push ourselves to work extra hours, but the reality is that taking the time to unplug and reset each day is critical to success as a parent and an employee.

With schools and offices closed, parents are likely finding themselves faced with a to-do list that has only grown. Although many of us have now had a few months to settle into fully-remote work, that does not mean keeping up with distance-learning while figuring out the best way to accomplish your work has gotten any easier. Designing a schedule that fits your needs is easier said than done, but following the above tips should help ensure you are on the right track.

Should you find yourself out of work during this time, consider that there are other work options out there, such as freelance and contract work, that may help you meet your scheduling and finance needs. Freelancing is also a great source of supplemental income for people while they look for new full-time employment. Just make sure you choose the right platform to help you get the right kind of projects, such as Bunny Studio.

Back to School, Homeschol and Distance Learning Organization Guide

It’s the start of a new school year in my home and I’m determined to make sure we have a smooth, clutter-free and positive school year.

As an avid believer in  and the positive impact of having a decluttered and organized home, I believe having an organization system and clutter and junk free home are essential for ensuring positive energy flow and clear thought.

I highly recommend that parents use the beginning of a school year as another excuse to get organized, not just for the school routine, but the family home in general.  So even if you did Spring or New Year cleaning, use the late summer/early fall to re-organize your life and priorities as well.

Even if your kids have already gone back, you can still get started. Here are some declutter and home organization tips that I’ve put together that I hope can help get you through the year.

Clean and DeClutter

Clean and Declutter the Kids Play, Work Rooms and Nursery.  Limit the number of toys and books in the kids room. Get rid of old broken toys. Give away old books and toys to the Salvation Army, Good Will or another family member with children younger than yours. Keep only a few of the favorite story books and the toys your child or children play with regularly. Don’t let them know you’re getting rid of the stuff they don’t even play with. They likely won’t even know it and you don’t need the headache of having them plea for you to keep it.

Infuse Calming Scents in the Home.  I’m a also a big believer in aromatheraphy and that scents guide the mood. Buy Glade or some other brand’s plugins to keep the air fresh and clean smelling. You can burn candles when you’re home or if you’re an incense type of person, those work too.  Consider using those with essential oils or scents such as chamomile, rose, vanilla and lavender. They are calming scents.

Thoroughly Clean the Room. Wash and Wipe down the walls, baseboards, windows and floors — with natural cleaners. Repair wall holes, cracks, squeaky windows, peeling paint. A clean home is great for fostering clear thoughts and just clarity, in general.

Set up Calendar and Chore Lists. Even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, you shouldn’t be doing all of the cleaning and upkeep. Set up a chore sheet for the refrigerator for after school chores. Also, start a new family calendar for keeping up with back to school nights, upcoming field trips, sports activities and other events so everyone knows what’s going on. If you’re the family manager as mom, you shouldn’t be the only one aware of what days are soccer practice.  Sitters, your spouse and house guests should too. Also, a chore list is great for keeping up the principles of feng shui which are all about clean spaces.

Keep Toys Dedicated to ONE area of the home (or maybe two) Avoid the chaotic mind that comes when you have toys and other things sprinkled in every nook and cranny of the home. Toys should be kept only to the play room, the kids room or one area of the apartment that is quartered off and situated with a toy chest, storage bin or some place where you can quickly toss all the toys hanging out all over the house. The tough part may be to stick to this one simple rule.

When the kids are not playing with a toy, there is really no need for it to be taking up space on the kitchen table or creating a tripping hazard for you or a guest. Either you, your partner or trained kids if they are old enough should make a concerted effort to gather all errant toys and keep them in the designated area.

It seems pretty intuitive, huh?

Over time, it will become a habit or second nature and you will find toys are not strewn about as much anymore. I do this with other areas of my home and life.  All papers, books, newspapers, invoices, magazines are usually put away in our home office.  All clothes go in a hamper, closet or bedroom.  Dishes, cups and silverware discovered anywhere in the house are picked up and taken in the kitchen

Think of this mantra:  “There is a place for Everything and Everything in its place.”

Organize the Paper Trails. Each year, families accumulate reports, information from school, permission slips and the such. It will get mixed in with bills, receipts, warranties and other paper that come into your life.

This Home Organization plan will make it easy for you:  Get a binder or two and dividers or one of those mega accordion file folders with tabs and divide them in the following categories:

School Category

  • Car maintenance schedule/Receipts
  • School schedules and holiday list
  • Lunch menus
  • School information page
  • School reading lists
  • Summer Camp and programs information
  • Medical information sheet for each family member
  • Emergency directory
  • House-sitter information sheet
  • PTA newsletters and rosters

Health Categories

  • Prescription drug record
  • Health insurance information

Home Vacation

  • Travel packing checklist
  • Before-we-leave checklist
  • Vacation idea list

Home Renovation

  • Home renovation contractor lists
  • Contracts and Bids
  • Warranty information
  • Utilities/services directory
  • Home decorating ideas

Home Business

  • Business records
  • Tax Documents for Business
  • Consultants and Independent Contractor records
  • Liability Insurance
  • Business & Office Equipment registry

Financial

  • Tax Documents for Personal
  • Big Ticket Items receipts
  • Life insurance information
  • Budget/spending record
  • Bills to pay

Hope these Declutter and Home Organization Tips are helpful to you as you get yourself and your family organized for the season! Good luck!

 

10 Baby Names Inspired by Summer

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

New parents get inspired to name their babies from lots of things including seasons! And because it is Summer, it is fun to think about what names are selected that reminds parents of Summer.

Before the company went out of business, genealogy analysts at MooseRoots, a Graphiq  collected data from the Social Security Administration to come up with hottest five Summer baby names for boys and girls and while names like aqua and August seem easily identifiable with the Summer season, other names may surprise you.

Here are the names on the list:

#10. Lucia

 Female

The feminine form of Lucius, Lucia has Italian origins and is likely the derivative of the Latin word meaning “light.”

#9. Summer

Female

If summer is your favorite season, why not name your child after it? Summer is a common female name in the U.S. but it saw its highest popularity ever in 1977, when it was the 119th most common female baby name.

#8. Isla

 Female

Pronounced ‘eye-la,’ Isla comes from the word Islay, an island off the western coast of Scotland.

#7. Mary

Female

Mary, a name that has withstood the test of time. The New Testament form of Miriam derives from elements meaning “drop of the sea.”

#6. Julia

 Female

Julia is the feminine form of the name Julius, the Roman term once used for the month of July.

#5. Kai

Male

Kai, a common male name derived from the Hawaiian word meaning “the sea,” has seen a steady increase in popularity in the U.S.

#4. Parker

 Male

Parker has become increasingly more common since 1974, and has experienced its highest level of popularity in the last few years.

#3. Julian

 Male

Julian is another derivative of the Latin name Julius.

#2. Isaac

Male

The Hebrew name Isaac dates back to biblical times and means “to laugh.” The name has been ascending in popularity, and had the highest state-specific ranking at No. 10 in Nebraska.

#1. Dylan

Male

Dylan is of Welsh origins and is connected to the Celtic word meaning “sea.”

 

 

College Dorm Essentials and Quarantine ‘Go Bag’ Packing List

Update: According to the New York Times, “coronavirus is already spreading through colleges and universities at a frightening pace — and some of the biggest clusters have been at sororities, fraternities and off-campus parties.” As of September 6, 2020, the paper has linked “at least 251 cases of the virus to fraternities and sororities across the country, including in Washington, North CarolinaBerkeley, Calif., and Oxford, Miss.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, sending a child off to college and shopping for dorm essentials is a little different this year for parents of first time freshmen and upperclassen too.

Although a lot of universities have decided to be “online only” this fall semester, many institutions are still having in-person and hybrid online and in person classes. My son’s school in upstate New York is one.

His college, along with others that have decided to welcome students to campus this year are telling parents and students to pack light and to bring just enough stuff to stay for 2-3 weeks in case there is an outbreak and they have to shut it all down right after classes start.

As a recent New York Times article noted, “[p]arents are discovering that, regardless of what guidelines are posted, policies are changing with new data and little notice almost daily.”

Yikes!

It’s not just about packing lighter than normal, it’s also changing the landscape of the college experience.

Schools are converting triples and quads into double and single occupancy rooms to decrease the density and crowding of dormitories. The move-in process is also changing. At my son’s school, they are only allowing one person to accompany a student at move in day. This decision means the entire extended family that planned to accompany us to send him off to college will have to simply wait in the car.

He had to take a COVID-19 test and quarantine for 14 days in advance of arriving on campus, subject himself to New York state contact tracers and conduct daily health check ins with his school’s app! Oy vey!!

These big changes also mean we parents now have to update, edit and toss aside those 200+ item college dorm shopping checklists we all researched, pinned and downloaded.

Likewise, readers of this blog can go ahead and ignore my tips for creating a lavish dorm room. You won’t be needing all that this year. You can go to Dormify if  you insist on making it super cozy and on getting accent elements but don’t get carried away with the matching window treatments, room accents, plush pillows, throw rugs and string lights.

So as far as the packing list goes, it’s safe to keep the usual must-have items on there: casual clothes, an interview, job fair or class presentation outfit, workout gear, PJs, fall and winter outerwear wear along with an umbrella.

However, there is no need to purchase and schlep along school supplies like binders, printer paper, pens and clip boards when your  kid can get that stuff at the local Walmart or Target after she moves in. I’d say skip the bed risers to make room under the bed to store supplies needed for an entire school year. Just get plastic collapsible storage bags and be done with it.

Also, I think to save space and time, there is no need to purchase a mini vacuum cleaner, broom and a bunch of cleaning supplies, and I say this not because your kid won’t clean, but this year, you can expect the college will have extra cleaning supplies on hand and will have a housekeeping staff there to do a thorough sweep through more regularly than before.

A bottle of disinfectant and paper towels or a reusable rag for dusting will do…oh and snacks. You can never send too much snacks!

This year, you have other things to focus on such as COVID-specific essentials like Vitamins,  disposable disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and UV light air purifier.

There is evidence that copper and silver reduce the life span of viruses and while most copper-infused gloves are not touch screen compatible, the GliderGloves Copper Infused Touch Screen Gloves are and are only $14.99 a pair! It can’t hurt and you never know!

Personally, to prepare to pack the car, I edited and adjusted the old college dorm checklists I’ve downloaded from Facebook parenting groups to just include the bare essentials and a Covid-19 quarantine essentials “Go” bag.

That’s the bag that has all a kid would need to be holed up in a hotel, a friend or family’s house for up to 14 days in case the college student tests positive for the coronavirus and needs to go to the hospital and later quarantine somewhere on campus or nearby, in case they are exposed to a roomate, suite mate, floormate or lab partner who contracts the disease and need to do a 14 day quarantine because of that exposure.

The other scenario is that the school decides to shut down altogether and you cannot collect your child in time and need to arrange for him to stay at a hotel or some other transition housing until you can make arrangements to bring them home.

Here is an abbreviated list of what should be on  this year’s Covid era dorm packing list:

LAPTOP

In lieu of a full desktop that some kids haul to campus, consider investing in a laptop which is more portable solution like this renewed Apple Macbook  Air with 128 gigs of ram at Amazon. My son is a computer science major and insists on taking the two monitor system he built in the 11th grade so we are traveling with that, but most people will not need to go that route.

 

ANTIMICROBIAL DESK PAD

Because we are in a season of trying to mininize germs and knowing that computer keyboards and mouse controllers are a common source for accumulating germs, an antimicrobial desk pad like this Artistic Rhinolin II Self-healing desk pad, available at Amazon may be a good thing to have.  I also found a less expensive one at Walmart.

 

PORTABLE AIR PURIFIER WITH UV LIGHT

There is some evidence that UVC light kills viruses, there is a thinking out there among some moms that it cannot hurt to invest in an air purifier that kills germs with UVC light  and  has that capability. I found a pluggable portable one that sanitizes, purifies and cleanses germs from the air for $39.99 made by Germ Guardian which has GREAT REVIEWS from asthmatics and others who’ve used this product! That’s a good size and price for a small room!

[SEE MY POST AND VIDEO REVIEWING THIS PORTABLE AIR PURIFIER]

BLUETOOH SPEAKER

A mini pill sound box is not just good for listening to music but also for connecting a phone or mobile device to it while listening or watching a class. Your student can multitask and get dressed for the morning, do some light cleaning or fold laundry without having to be at the desk watching. The Beats mini portable speaker is $126 on Amazon.

A much less expensive bluetooth speaker is the DOSS for just $27.99 which produces top quality sound and gets decent reviews.

 COFFEE MAKER

My kid doesn’t drink coffee but I heard great things about the Keurig K mini coffee machine which can be enivronmentally friendly if you opt to used the reusable filter and purchase coffee grounds! It’s a good price at $78 and comes with great reviews. Alternatively, for a cheaper and definitely eco friendly option, you can get a mini Mr. Coffee for just a little over $25!

 

POWER STRIP

 

You can never have too many power outlets so a power strip which is also a surge protector is a must have. We got a double pack at a steal for just $4.99 at Ikea!  Also, because of COVID , he may spend more time in his room than the computer lab.

 

Although the students in my kid’s school say they did not use the printer they took to college in previous years, this year may be different with reduced hours or with students wanting to limit their time spent in buildings and spaces that are not their rooms. Therefore, it may be worth it to invest in a small printer to print out paper assignments, or project elements.

I have a printer graveyard but the one that has been the best to us is the Canon PIXMA MG-2522. The ink cartridge replacement is significantly cheaper than for HP and other brands.

It’s a little loud but you get tons of ink jobs before it runs out and I predict your child will not need to replace ink all semester but if she does, you can sign up for the cartridge replacement plan which itself is really reasonable.

CLIP ON FAN

 

If your college student will be rooming with another person, it is inevitable that there will be some disagreements on the room temperature. If ever your kid gets too hot, having his/her own portable mini fan like this one is a good bet.

 

CLIP ON DESK LAMP

Similar to a small fan, a small light is needed for those nights when the roomate is napping or sleeping but your college kid still has an exam to study for. I got my son a clippable desk lamp that can be easily moved from his desk to a post on the bed. It was at Target for just $7!

FLOOR LAMP

Although I would think a floor lamp would be overkill, I like lots of light. Heavy illumination brightens my mood, gets me in the mindset to work and keeps me alert.

And I believe there is research to back up the fact that plenty of light energizes in addition to makes it easier to see what’s on a computer screen or inside a text book when working on a desk with a desk lamp.

Here is a chart with some data to back me up:

I plan to pick up this one above from Walmart.

UNDER BED STORAGE UNITS

In lieu of hard collapsible storage container that take up room, this year, opt instead for plastic underbed storage containers that are pliable and are maneuverable in a crowded mini van or SUV and takes up less space. Also, this year, skip the bed risers and stuff thse plastic and cloth storage container under the bed. The Onlyeasy foldable storage container comes in packs of 2. Fold and Carry the winter clothes in there and have your kid replace them with the August and early September clothes for the warmer months.

SHEETS SET

Send two sets of sheets: one that can be used while the other is in the laundry bag. I went with recommendations from blogger Sophia Lee and purchased the Mellani Bed Sheets  on Amazon.com.

MATTRESS TOPPER
Mattress topper dorm essentials list

My son’s school needs a specific kind of protectors that meets a very high California consumer board anti-flammable standard. One brand that works is sold at Target but is always sold out there so we lucked out and got one from Walmart.

COMFORTER

A plush and cozy comforter is a must have for having a full rest before class. I lucked out and got a steal on a nice comfy reversible grey Brookside Downs comforer at Overstock.com.

BLANKET

Blanket College Dorm Essential Packing List

For studying in the student lounge at the desk on chilly evenings, a blanket or throw is in order. This is also a good cover option for warmer months when a comforter may be too much coverage. We got a very soft one at Ikea this past weekend. They have other styles and materials and this one in other colors like pink and other feminine colors.

PILLOWS
Back Pillow College Dorm Essentials Packing

Any standard pillow would do but in addition, a back rest pillow is a must to lean up against those concrete dorm walls or while in the study lounge propped up against a wall or sofa.

We picked up the Therapedic back rest at Bed Bath and Beyond which is a bit pricey considering there are a lot of much much cheaper ones out there, but if you get it online after signing up for their newsletter, you can get it 20% off!

COMMAND STRIPS

For hanging up photos, white boards, mirrors and other heavy vanity items, the Command strips are a plus. A lot of dorms forbid hammering in nails so if you get a 7 pack of the command strips, you should be good to go! They’re about $5 at my local Target or if you don’t want to go into a store, order this pack of 7.

HANGERS

Hangers College Dorm Essentials Packing List

I got two sets of wooden hangers for at  Ikea  in packs of 8 and plan to pick up a couple packs of plastic ones at the Dollar Tree or Target.

DORM ROOM SLIPPERS

My son has always wanted a more manly pair of slippers so it was wonderful to see these Dockers slippers on sale at our local Sears for only $20.99.  I saw Joe Boxer brand had some for young women at $19.99 too while I was in there!



 

laundry detergent

This year, college kids may be in a position of having to be hospitalized, God forbid, and have a medical directive, also, some may need a passport or social security card for getting an on or off campus job to satisfy employer verification process.

Further, even though a lot of us use digital form of currency, in an emergency, having actual cash may be necessary. A small safe like this one disguised as a book is the best to store cash and valuable and high security documents.

TOWEL SET

BATHROOM TOWELS COLLEGE DORM ESSENTIALS PACKING LIST

We have not yet gotten our towels but I think I will get the set I saw at Sears when I was there picking up casual clothing for the kids. These are the softest around.

BATHROOM CADDY

My son has indicated that he would prefer not to use a shower caddy so, we got hin the Kusoofa Shower Caddy tote which doesn’t look like a traditional and more femine tote at Amazon.com because it got great reviews from travelers, gym goers and others.

SHOWER SHOES/FLIP FLOPS

shower shoes college dorm essentials packinglist

shower slippers college dorm essentials packing list

 An old pair of rubber flip flops or beach slipper syour kid already has will probably be enough to use for shower shoes. These are shoes you wear when using a community shower as they have in dormatories. If your child will be in a suite or apartment with a dedicated bath for just the unit habitants, this may not be necessessary.

Walmart sells a good low cost pair that gets great reviews for just $7.49! 

 

WATER PURIFIER

WATER PURIFIER COLLEGE DORM ESSENTIALS PACKING LIST

Save money on purchasing bottle water by getting a water purifier jug so your coed can just filler up out of the tap and put this in this in the fridge. A BPA-Free Brita Water filter goes for $34.99 on Amazon but you can find other brands for less at other big box retail stores.

PLASTIC DINNER SET

plastic plates cultery

A set of hard plastic bowls, plates, cups and cutlery is in order considering that your kid may be spending more time in his or her room consuming food than inside the dining halls especially if your child is immunodeficient and is being extra cautious about being inside enclosed places where it is easier to contract the novel coronavirus.

These are pretty cheap and in fact, Target has each piece for $.78 cents right now. If you want to get an entire matching set, 12 piece Cambridge dinner set sells on Amazon and is a Prime recommended product!

PRESCRIPTIONS
PILL BOX COLLEGE ESSENTIALS PACKING LIST
PILL BOX college dorm essentials packing list

Whether your child has prescriptions or just takes over the counter allergy medicines, vitamins and other pills for common ailments, get these all pre-ordered and enough for the year with insurance to save the hassle of transfering orders to a local pharmacy at your child’s college.

I make my kid fill up his in  Sunday-Saturday pill box us older folks use to keep track of all of our medicines. It’s not too embarrasing because it can stay in the dorm and they only get to be embarrassed by their roomate. This tool is great for travel and to be added to the quaranting Go bag!

I purchased the Apex twice a day pill box from Walmart! 

 

LAUNDRY BAG

laundry bag college dorm essentials packing list

Again, Ikea to the rescue! I considered getting a collapsible laundry bag or basket and then saw mention of a laundry backpack in a parenting book.

I saw one promoted on Amazon for $15 but then at Ikea spotted a backpack that is 8 gallons and would work!

 

LAUNDRY SHEETS OR PODS
laundry detergent sheets college dorm essentials packing list
laundry detergent


Instead of heavy bottles, the wisdom from current college students is to go with the detergent pods or detergent sheets.

A popular brand is Breezeo and 48 sheets sell for under $9 on Amazon. They are light and easier to carry and store. Your kid just pops a sheet on top of a  load and can go and they are less likely to destroy clothes the way pods can for kids who never ever do their own laundry and might not know what the heck to do!

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS PACKING LIST HERE!

It’s a different world out there and this year, a pre-packed bag is needed that can be picked up in a hurry in case a kid tests positive and cannot return to the dorm. He or she can simply tell his or her roomate to grab the grey Nike bag in the closet, for example.

This bag is a headache saver. No need to have them run around the room gathering stuff and rummaging through private stuff trying to fill up what’s needed.

Here is what needs to go in that bag:

DUFFEL BAG or BACK PACK

Start with a large duffel bag or backpack that is big enough to hold a few bulky items like clothes, a towel and a toiletries kit. I purchased an extra IKEA backpack that I got for him to use as  laundry bag but in another color for the go bag to avoid confustion.

FIRST AID KIT

A lot of parents say these kits are rarely if ever used but just like at home, they are a great thing to have and add a feeling of security knowing one is in the room. You don’t have to get a large one like this one at Amazon  because you can probably get a smaller kit at a brick and mortar store like Target or Walmart for less.

I would suggest taking out the excess first aid items and replacing small bottle of cold, cough and flu medicine, fever reducer, elderberry throat longezes and cough drops, Vick’s vapor rub,  a small thermometer.

PULSE OXIMETER

pulse ox

Sadly, if your kid does get the novel coronavirus, she may need to take her blood oxygen level and so a portable pulse oximeter is a good purchase to put in the bag for safety and security sake. The Zacurate Pro has the most positive user reviews on Amazon compared to other brands on the market so I will be putting my trust in other consumers here and hope for the best.

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

waterproof clasp envelope

Important documents (e.g., driver’s license or government ID, health insurance card or copy, social security card) – Keep these in a platic waterproof envelope or plastic envelope with a clasp like this one that you can get on Amazon for $8.70 for a pack of 3.

Face masks – 7-10 face masks, a mix of cloth and paper ones will do. We just ordered a set of  N95 replicas for $16.95 in a pack of 5 from Amazon and a pack of 50 masks we picked up from our local Target but which is also available on Amazon for $18.99.

Portable charger – Portable charge bank like this one at Amazon for $12.99

2 pill boxes -For prescriptions, pre-fill two weeks worth of medicine, vitamins and OTC drugs. See Above.

Hand sanitizers – A couple travel size containers and/or a large pump

Disinfectant Wipes – Inside a resealable package that is soft and pliable and can easily fit in a bag

Reusable Water Bottle – A water bottle with a filter would be plum. A Hydro Cell is $23.99

2 weeks worth of clothes – Think casual clothes, tee shirts, sweatshirt and shirt pants, maybe 3 outfits that can be recylced and don’t forget undergarments

Towels – A full set in case the one your kid has used in the morning is still hanging up to dry and they need a fresh one just for the go bag

TOILETRIES KIT

These travel kits can be purchased in drug stores, on Amazon pre-packaged or  you can create your own kit. This men’s bag is just $17.99 and includes everything in it. a A women’s version is a dollar less. 

Umbrella – a smaller portable umbrella is good to be put in the go bag.

Headphones – A separate less expensive back up pair of headphones your son or daughter may already ave at home or on hand can go in the bag as a back up.

Non Eletronic Entertainment – Coloring book, Soduku, magazine, novel or some other non electronic thing to distract or pass time.

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS PACKING LIST HERE!

Don’t overpack.

What not to bring tips curated from Winds of Change:

• Decide about the “nice to haves” once you’ve lived there a while. Maybe you’ll realize it would good to have an area rug, a full-length mirror, or a closet organizer. But you don’t have to know everything ahead of time. Get settled in first.

• Avoid bringing hard-sided suitcases. They can be difficult to store and create clutter. Instead, opt for duffel bags or collapsible storage bags (and don’t forget under-the-bed storage).

• You don’t need a year’s worth of toiletries — they take up space too. Pack enough for a couple of weeks, then restock.

• Know how you’ll get stuff you don’t pack. Research nearby stores. Consider ordering items online and having them delivered. (Back-to-school merchandise often goes on sale after September). Budget to make a few purchases once you have your bearings.

• Have secure, clean, and cashless ways to pay for things. This means at least two options, whether credit or debit cards (which can be pre-paid), wallet apps, gift cards, or vouchers.

That’s it! Good luck and God speed to all of our children as we are indeed all in this together! Stay safe!





JJ Ghatt

20+ Swimming Season Spirit Gear and Gifts

Photo by Etienne Girardet

I am a Swim mom but this year, because of COVID, my family decided to skip joining the Summer recreational league swim team.

I am certainly going to miss it. love it even though it’s a tough job. Being a swim mom (or dad) involves getting up at the crack of dawn to load the car, pick up your team snack bar contributions, and schlep the family to the pool in time for warm-ups, then spending upwards to 4-5 hours standing up volunteering as a timer, runner or scorekeeper.

To make up for losing a year, I decided to treat myself with a swim mom-related t-shirt or other souvenirs to wear, cherish, and show off. Here is what I have my eye on, mainly from Etsy.

[Note; If you swim parents out there decide to beat me to it to purchase any of these items, I earn a small commission as an Etsy affiliate.]

I love this “I can Fly” tee shirt which is a take off of the Butterfly stroke.  ($24)

In this COVID-19 era, people are wearing masks that reflect their personalities, likes and passions so this Swimming Face Mask is perfect. ($19.99)

This Tears of my Swimmers wine cup is great for a mom or a coach or a mom who is also a coach. ($25)

Add this Swim mom pendant to your toggle bracelet ($13.95)

Your swimmer will heartily appreciate this personalized swim print ($10.95)

Get this wooden display plaque to hang all your swimmers’ swimming medals ($36.99)

You can never go wrong with personal swim bag tags ($12.99)

Your swimmer will appreciate being able to send greetings and personal notes with these personalized swim note cars ($2)

For the mom who has a daughter or daughters on the swim team, get this personalized matching mom-daughter tumbler set ($33)

I’m a cap girl so I found this cap with a swimmer inside a heart so adorable! Swim cap- $19.89

Be chic  and rep your kid’s sport with these cute assorted “Swim Mom” graphic t-shirts (starting at $10)

Parents: 4 Tips For Setting Screen Time Limits Pandemic

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

With a summer overshadowed by COVID-19, parents are taking a hard look at how to make the right decisions regarding their kids’ increased reliance on screens— which are helping to maintain a sense of normalcy during this socially-distanced time— while also finding the right balance with other important activities.

TV, streaming platforms, and app downloads have all seen notable in their use since the pandemic started, and children’s television viewing has also skyrocketed as parents across the world are increasingly turning to screens and technology to entertain and engage their kids.

To get further insights into kids’ screen time habits and behaviors during the pandemic, Brainly the world’s largest online learning community for students, parents, and teachers— surveyed 5,000 U.S. students (grades 6th-12th, ages 11-18) on its platform.

Some shocking insights were discovered. Consider this: About 25% of kids spend more than 9 hours every day looking at a screen. That screen time has led to just over 50% of students reporting headaches, soreness, and dry or irritated eyes. Since the pandemic began, students said they are spending at least 50% more time in front of screens daily.

Given the unprecedented situation we are facing which has brought on copious new challenges, the traditional boundaries and limits for screen time need to be reassessed.

So, how can parents handle screen time during the pandemic? Eric Oldfield, Chief Business Officer of Brainly and father of two school-age daughters, has a few tips for parents to consider when deciding the best course of action.

  • Not all screen time is created equal. It’s important for parents to assess how their child is spending their screen time with this in mind. Consuming content to gain information and get creative, as well as collaborating or socializing with their peers, is a great way for kids to maintain connections and continue learning during this unique time. However, time spent playing non-educational video games and watching mindless TV should be more closely monitored. 



  • Designate specific times the entire family unplugs. To avoid battles, it’s best to establish and communicate boundaries before your children start using devices, and sticking to those limits as much as possible. Children, especially younger ones, often crave structure, especially during unpredictable times. It’s still good, for instance, for everyone to eliminate screen use for at least one hour or two before bedtime to avoid impacting sleep cycles. 



  • Make sure screentime consumption is done healthily. Parents may want to consider having their children use blue screen glasses or switching their computer display screen settings to make sure their eyes are protected from harmful blue light. It’s also a good idea to ensure kids don’t sit too close to the screen, get up for a break at least once an hour, and sit with good posture while on the computer for hours on end doing schoolwork. 



  • Come up with a plan that makes sense for your children. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else and are therefore the best person to decide what and how much media use is the right amount. Remember that screens are no longer the enemies of social interaction, learning, and productivity. Rather, they are enabling people around the world to work and learn and communicate with others during this uncertain time.

    The real enemies of healthy development in children are the same as adults: a sedentary lifestyle, social isolation, and distractions from schoolwork and learning. Using screens too much can contribute to all of these problems – but they can also counter them.  

  • The COVID-19 pandemic could last for a long time, so as families create new routines, it’s always best to focus on habits that are practical and sustainable. Above all else, don’t feel guilty about turning to screens more than you used to.

    Copy These Back to School Homeschool Workstation Set Ups

    Back to steal workstation idea 1

    Every year, I share a post on how to set up a homework station where work will get done.[ Read that post here].

    This year, now that more and more school systems across America and the globe have decided to continue distance learning, I think it is time we all step it up a notch and start being more deliberate, intentional and strategic about setting up a home school set up that works.

    I mean no more allowing your grown rug rats to study in the basement or in their rooms where there is a TV and video games there to distract them and keep them unfocused on the daily assignments.

    Also, no more leaving it up to them to schedule their work and break times.

    In real school, their teachers alot for scheduled breaks from instruction and you should too. So, I scoured the Internets and my Pinterest feed and came up with a few  workstations that you can copy and try to replicate this month before school officially launches next month.

    Check them out with affiliate links to sources where you can buy some of the items you’ll see in these dreamy set ups!

     

    If you have a small nook in your home that you can comfortably squeeze in a table and desk, do so because it’s ideal for removing distractions by having your child confined to the equivalent of a pod space so they can focus. I like the idea of a large chalkboard stationed above them that can be used to jot down drills, motivational words like in the above poster or their schedule.

    The rustic cannisters affixed to the wall in this set up are great for housing supplies like pens, pencils, sharpeners, rulers, etc so your child or children have no excuse to leave this space during instructional or homework time.  The closest thing I could find similar to achieve this similar set up were bathroom storage containers on Amazon for like $29.98 otherwise make do with pieces you already have at home.  If you’re handy, hammer a storage bin or affix one to the wall  using 3M command strips.

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    Buy this Rustic Framed magnetic chalk board, 18″ x 22″ ($38.18)

    For people who live in small spaces and do not have a dedicated space away from distractions, you might want to set up your child’s work station in your dining room or eating area. Why is this a good idea? Because this space is usually an open area so you can keep an eye on them to make sure they are doing their work or watching their zoom or Google classroom instructions.

    Ideally, you have to use a wireless router or have a wired connection if you need to set up a computer, tablet or desktop in this space. But for the most part, sacrificing a corner of your dining room could be a great option.

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    AmazonBasics Kids Solid Wood Table and 2 Chair Set ($79.99)

     

    It can be tempting to store items away to keep things looking neat but keeping supplies like art supplies- crayons, markers, paints, chalk, etc. in glass jars are great for making sure they are in mind and available to use as an option during instructional breaks in lieu of watching TV or gaming. That was the idea that blogger Tiffany of Raising Lemons had when she arranged her supplies on a shelf in her kitchen like this in this photo from her website. I love it!

    1 Gallon Anchor Hocking Glass Storage Heritage Hill Jar ($14.99)

     

    Ordinarily I would think that you need to be at a desk and in a chair to concentrate but when reading a book or scrolling a device doing research, it might just be better if your child is  in a comfortable seat and that’s where a big old bean bag chair may come in handy. We used to have a papasan and it was wonderful space for reading a good book. If you have unconventional seating somewhere in your home, drag it out into the work space or grab one online.

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    Source

    Memory Foam Bean Bag Chair ($72.51)

    Now if you have the space and room for more furnishings, you might want to consider investing in a new multifunctional shelving unit that can accommodate baskets for holding binders, notebooks and other large items and a farm table with a bench. The larger table can allow your young scholar to spread out and situate various supplies, papers, and pens and more across a larger space. Some kids are messy and others just like to see their options sprawled out all over the place. A large farm style table will accomplish this.

    source

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    Farmhouse table and bench ($199.99)

    TRYING TO CONCEIVE THIS YEAR? DOWNLOAD MY FREE FERTILITY 100 EBOOK

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    source

    Collapsible Storage Bins ($19.99)

    IKEA Billy Bookshelf ($158)

     

    I think everything on any homeschool or distance learning station needs proper lighting. A nice standing lamp or a good desk lamp that varies in degree of illumination will be perfect. Whether your kid prefers to work in the early morning or the wee hours of the night like my kids do, they will need to be able to read their text and good lighting is part of that.

    Children’s Author’s 10 Tips For Managing Quarantine Life with Kids

     

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

    LED Desk Lamp ($43.99)

    6 Self Care Tips While Working From Home

    In addition to a comfy lounge chair for reading, I think every child should be seated in a comfy office chair if possible that is good for their back.

    You don’t have to get a brand new chair either. I purchased most of our office chairs for our work spaces for five people from second hand online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace. If it is within your budget, you should invest in a good quality chair with solid ergonomics. They’ll be occupying a lot of space at home working so they should be set up properly.

    The 3 Step Guide for Setting Up Your Quarantine Homeschool

    RECREATE THIS SPACE

     

    Ikea Swivel Chair ($149)

    No matter what you do, study your child’s habits from Spring semester and adjust the workstation to suit your child’s learning needs and habits. It can really make a difference as to whether you will have a successful fall semester or not.

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