Lego Science Experiments: Sink or Swim

If your kids are anything like mine, your house is covered in Legos. My son has been obsessed with Legos since he was a toddler and I’ve got the “agh! was that a Lego buried in the carpet?!” bruises on my feet to prove it. As much as he enjoys following the instructions on sets, he also loves going rogue and building his own Lego creations. One of his favorite things to create is Lego boats – and then test their ability to float in the sink.

So naturally, when our friends at the Legoland Discovery Center sent me this infographic about using LEGO® bricks to create float or sink experiments, I had to share it. It’s a fun, hands-on approach to get kids involved in the scientific process of trial and error using a toy they already love to play with. Brilliant.

LDC float or sink experiments infographic

5 Reasons Why You Should Join a Babysitting Coop (Instead of Hiring a Babysitter)

It’s a dilemma every parent is familiar with: how to find a good babysitter? Most parents search for babysitters online or through town bulletin boards, hoping to find a sitter they like. But that’s just one part of the problem. Even when you have a go-to sitter, there is the issue of scheduling. And, as all parents know, there are no guarantees that your sitter will be around on any given night.

What most parents don’t know is that there is an alternative to hiring a babysitter: joining a babysitting coop. For a large number of families, babysitting coops solve the childcare problem in ways regular sitters cannot. Because of this, coops are sweeping the country! Is a coop right for you? Read some of the benefits below to find out!

1. Save lots of money. In a babysitting coop, you trade free childcare with other parents. Aside from your membership fee (usually around $25 per year), you never pay a dime for using the coop. Whether you go out once a week or once a year, your babysitting is essentially free.

2. Have a sitter available when needed. If you’re in a babysitting coop with 15 other families, you have 15 potential babysitters. Imagine you need a sitter on a Saturday afternoon. What are the odds someone is available? All but guaranteed. And because your one sit request goes to everyone in your coop, there’s no need to worry about calling or emailing around. Simple.

3. Get higher quality care. Who knows how to look after kids better than another parent? Babysitters can be great, but usually those babysitters are teenagers or twenty-something’s with limited experience – doesn’t compare to someone who already does the job 24 hours a day.

4. Create fun for your kids. My son used to call our coop the “Friends Come Over and Play Club” and with good reason. Whenever we were sitting for another coop family, he treated it like a play date. And when I told him he was having a coop sitter (aka another mom or dad), he clapped with excitement because it meant he got to go to another child’s house to play.

5. Build community. A babysitting coop is an amazing way to get plugged in. You get to know the other families in your coop quite well and in essence, create an extended support network. As new families join your coop, this network continues to grow, providing support and friendship beyond babysitting.

Think a coop is right for you? Browse our SittingAround Coop Directory to find out if there’s a coop in your neighborhood. Or, grab a few friends and start your own!

 

7 Ways to Stay Fit During the Holidays

The holidays are a time for many wonderful things: time with friends and family, roaring fires and twinkling lights, and celebrations galore. Unfortunately, one thing the holidays are not is a time associated with healthy habits – especially when it comes to food and exercise. With everything going on, trips to the gym fall down on the priority list. And who wants a salad when there’s wine and cookies everywhere you look? But celebrating in December doesn’t have to mean guilt in January. That’s why we’ve rounded up a set of stay-healthy holiday tips that take little effort but net big results:

1112-tis-the-season

  • Drink water before a party. Before that office event or family gathering, drink a big glass of water (two, if you can!). Many of us think we’re hungry when in fact what we’re feeling is thirst, and we overeat as a result. Keep dehydration at bay by consuming water before you’re tempted by food. The more hydrated you are, the better you’ll be able to make conscious choices over what you eat. Helpful when you’re inundated by trays of hors d’oeuvres.
  • Eat before a party. Don’t starve yourself before a big party where you know there’ll be lots of rich food. People have a tendency to eat very little before an event thinking they will “save” the calories for later. But this tactic almost always backfires. The hungrier you are when the food arrives, the more likely you are to ravenously overeat. Instead, make sure you eat fiber and protein rich foods throughout the day so your hunger stays in check.
  • Drink water during a party. I’m not going to tell you to skip the wine (what fun is that?). What I am going to tell you to do is alternate glasses of wine with glasses of water. Not only will it slow your alcohol consumption – alcohol triggers overeating – but it will also fill your stomach so you’ll feel fuller on fewer calories.
  • Eat the good stuff – but not too much. Don’t try to deny yourself at an event filled with delicious food. Instead, allow yourself a small taste of everything you want. Research has shown that the first bite of something is the most enjoyable. That’s because anticipation plays a huge part in our cravings for food. So instead of eating that entire piece of chocolate cake, have a bite or two. Chances are, you’ll enjoy it just as much.
  • Play outside. Too snowy to get to the gym? Turn your backyard into your own personal fitness arena. There are lots of fun things you can do (with your kids!) to stay active. Did you know that building a snow man burns 349 calories an hour? Sledding burns 407 – that’s almost as much as running! Chances are, when you’re out there having fun, you’re not even thinking about how much exercise you’re getting.
  • Dance! There will be plenty of opportunities this season. Dancing is a great calorie buster (450 an hour) and overall toner (getting low works those quads!). Plus, if you work out at the party, you don’t need to work out before the party.
  • Boost your mood. Even if you don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, chances are the shorter days are bringing you down. And negative moods lead to lethargy and emotional eating. Take advantage of sunny days and go for a walk to maximize Vitamin D consumption. Can’t get outdoors? Buy an electronic blue light – it mimics the sun’s mood-boosting effects. Another quick (and even easier) mood brightener? Smile. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, the act itself has been shown to actually make people happier.

 

How to Predict Baby’s Eye Color

Okay, so I am a tiny bit interested in (read: fascinated by) genetics. I love how knowing just a little bit about mom and dad can, with startling accuracy, predict what baby will look like even before baby is born. One of the easier traits to predict is eye color. “What color eyes will my baby have?” is a question that can be answered just by knowing what eye color the parents have.

Want to know what eye color your baby might have? I created the simple chart below to help.

eyecolorpredictNote that this chart only takes into account parents’ eye colors. If you know grandparents’ eye colors, too, you can tell with even more accuracy what color eyes your kids will have. To factor grandparents’ eye colors into the equation, checkout TheTech’s baby eye color predictor here.

 

Babysitting Coops: Night Sits

One of the topics I get asked about most frequently is how to handle nighttime sits. Night sits seem like a tricky situation at first glance (whose house do they happen at? do you bring your own kids along, too?) but with a little planning, night sits can be just as easy and convenient as day sits.

We put together this handy chart to help you navigate night sits in your coop:

SittingAround Guide to Night Sits.

Do you agree with our recommendations? What has worked well for your coop?

Support for Working Moms — It’s Time

Lately, I’ve found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of support our society provides working moms. People ask me all the time how I do it — work, kids, home, etc. and I will tell you: I am the exception, not the rule. I happen to have an incredibly flexible schedule, a mellow-tempered kid, and the ability to work wherever I choose. And, even with all that, it’s not easy per se. It’s just possible.

My recent bout of frustration was triggered by a Bostinno piece which posited the question “Do parents have more right to work-life balance than non-parents?” Admittedly, I was upset before I even started reading. What kind of question is that? It’s not about whose rights trump whose; it’s about giving all people the opportunity to have both career and life (and not lose their minds in the process). The article lamented the plight of the childless, forced to occassionally pick up extra hours to cover for parents who needed to leave the office to be with their kids.

Look, I don’t think being childless means you shouldn’t enjoy work-life balance, too. However, the article, written by a childless 20-something, misses the opportunity to tackle the bigger and more important issue: why this tension even exists in the first place.

We tend to look at the issues facing working parents as impacting only those who are working parents. But, as the Bostinno piece indirectly points out, the problems go far beyond the individuals and, parent or not, impact us all. And until we solve the root cause of the problem (i.e. the lack of support for working parents), we will all continue to suffer the resulting pain.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve been shocked and frustrated with how difficult it is to have both a career and a kid. And it’s not because women aren’t working hard enough. Women are working harder than ever. It’s because we, as a nation, have not changed to support them. I think it’s long-overdue that we remedy the situation. Here are a few ways we could do that:

  1. Extend the school day to align with the work day. I know this takes money (and a lot of it). But we should view it as an investment in our future. We’re falling behind the rest of the world and experts have recommended increasing the number of hours children spend in school as a way to give children – especially those from lower income families – a leg up. An added bonus? Fewer harried moms ducking out of work early to get their kids or scrambling to coordinate schedules.
  2. Provide federally-funded paid parental leave. It’s well-known that the US is the only developed nation in the world without paid maternity leave. The impact of this being that many mothers, unable to subsist without an income, are forced back to work far earlier than they are ready. These women are tired, recuperating from giving birth, and not very productive workers. Babies suffer, women suffer, and the business world suffers when we don’t give new moms the parental leave they need.
  3. Shut up about breastfeeding. No, really. We should not even cede the premise that breastfeeding could be inappropriate. If a mom needs to feed her baby (yes, needs – not wants; it’s not some pleasurable exhibitionist fantasy she is living out), she should feed her baby, regardless of where she is at the moment her baby needs to eat. And we should applaud her for making the best health and financial decision for her family. Breasts can be both sexual and maternal and our society needs to laud both purposes. Or, at least stop denigrating them.

I do not deny that there will always be some tension between work and home responsibilities, nor do I think we have clear answers to the problems. But I strongly believe it is time to stop simply talking about the issues and start working seriously to address them. We need to pay more than just lip-service to the challenges working parents, especially working moms, face. Because, by doing so, we all stand to benefit.

 

5 Ways Parents Can Stay Balanced

Balance. It’s a word we hear a lot about these days. But with everything we do — work, family, errands, school — is it really possible to stay balanced? How do you accomplish what you need to and still keep your sanity? Here are our top five tips on how to keep your head clear while you take control:

  1. Write it down. Lists are a parent’s best friend. Seriously. Think about all the to-do’s you’re constantly managing. When you write it down on paper, you no longer have the stress of keeping it in your head. Pro tip: Divide your to-do list into categories (e.g. work, kids, financial, personal, etc.) and review/revise it first thing each morning.
  2. Purge your space. As the saying goes, a cluttered desk (or office, or house, or car) creates a cluttered mind. Fall is a great time to take stock of what you have and throw away (or donate) what you don’t need. Then, to keep clutter at bay going forward, organize the things that remain.
  3. Make extra when you cook. To save your sanity during busy weeknights, plan ahead when you cook and make a double batch of each meal. One batch is served that night; the other goes straight into the freezer. This method is a lifesaver and a major stress reducer for those extra-crazy evenings when you simply don’t have time or energy to cook.
  4. Bang out those pesky maintenance tasks. Getting the car serviced, renewing your insurance policy, taking the kids to the dentist. You know, the things you need to do but often put off? Do them now. Not only will you get them off your to-do list, you’ll also position yourself for less stress down the road. Preventive care and maintenance leads to fewer spontaneous problems over the long term (and fewer headaches for you).
  5. Take care of you. Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. And that’s just for starters. How can you be at your best if you aren’t giving your body the fuel it needs? Just like your car, your body needs to be maintained in order to perform at its best. Also think about your mental health, too. What makes you feel calm and happy? Carve out time for those activities. An investment in yourself is an investment in everything else you do.

How do you stay balanced? Leave your tips in the comments and let us know!

Back-to-School Babysitting

School is starting up again all across the country. As schedules resume and we fall back into our school year routines, access to childcare becomes very important.

Thankfully, the start of school is a great time to reevaluate your babysitting needs and create a solution that works for your family. If you have been toying with the idea of starting a babysitting coop, there is no better time to do it. Get to know the other families in your child’s class by swapping free babysitting with them. It’ll be fun for the kids (who want play dates with their friends anyway) and it’s a great way for you to get to know the other parents. Not sure if a coop already exists near you? Search our coop directory to find out.

Looking for a paid sitter instead? We’ve got you covered. Fall is when college students return to campus. Many college students look to babysitting as a way to earn extra money during the semester. Chances are, if there’s a college near you, there are lots of great SittingAround babysitters, too. Search for a babysitter with confidence. We provide access to background checks, identity verification, ratings, and more.

Will you be hiring a new sitter this fall or participating in a babysitting coop?