3 Great Apps for Toddlers

photoThere are plenty of parenting articles out there discussing the issue of screen time and toddlers. As with most parenting controversies, we have concluded that what’s right for our family is somewhere in the middle between unlimited daily screen time and strict rules about usage. As you know, we’ve let JP play around with the i-pad.

A few apps have helped JP learn his letters, numbers, colors, shapes and more.

Here are three apps I recommend:

1. Shapes

2. ABC Phonics

3. Endless Alphabet

Child’s Play NY

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a ‘PLAYdate’ led by Jocelyn Greene of Child’s Play IMG_5131NY. She has amazing energy and did a great job interacting with my toddler and his friends.

If you are looking for a great interactive activity for your child’s birthday party or are interested in a Child’s Play NY class or summer camp, please check out their website. I recommend them!

IMG_5133

Recharge

fatladiesbeach

Although February can be a harsh month weather wise, its always been a favorite month for me since it’s my birth month! I always think of clean white snow, chocolate and celebrating my birthday. Otherwise this short month is pretty dreary.

About twelve years ago a few good girlfriends and I started having a getaway weekend every February. We are friends from high school and since we are living in different cities we meet once a year to get together, catch-up and relax. Usually this involves a ton of chocolate, carbs, wine and a professional massage.

Now that many of us have children the weekend getaway has become even more special. This year we all met in sunny Florida. Aside from being with old friends and swapping tales of toddler misery, it’s an amazing opportunity to spend time focused on ourselves. The weekend was so freeing when we didn’t have to plan our day around nap schedules or make sure we had snacks and sippy cups in our bags at all times. Instead we spent time in the pool, at the beach, exercising and kayaking. And of course we had a few nights of uninterrupted sleep. Sounds like a perfect getaway, right?

I highly recommend doing something like this if you have a supportive partner who will stay home with the kids. It helps if you allow your partner his or her own getaway weekend too. Once a year is pretty often in our fast-paced lives and a getaway weekend is the perfect way to relax and recharge.

Preschool Drama

photo  As promised, a post about getting your Brooklyn kid into preschool. If you’re an organized rule follower like myself, it’s fairly easy to apply for preschools.

You can search my preschool listings and apply for most schools in the fall before you want your child to attend. For most schools that would be when your child is 2, but some schools do a 2′s program so you would apply when your child is 1 (if you want your kid in a 2′s program). I know, now it sounds stressful because you are thinking that your newborn baby will be 1 before you know it, true. Stay calm.

To apply you simply fill out a form with your name and kid’s name and age. Some schools ask why you want to go there and require you to tour the school before you apply. But this is the extent of applying for preschool. There are no interviews. At least not for the preschools I have listed.

Most schools accept kids on a first come first serve basis, that’s why it’s best to be on top of your game and calendar in all the school tours and deadlines.

Ok, so you apply for a few schools (and pay an application fee which should be about $50 although more expensive schools charge more) and then wait for the spring to hear where you got in. Remember since there are no interviews, if your kid didn’t get in, it’s NOT personal. They don’t even know you!

So my plan didn’t exactly work out last spring. JP was 1 1/2 and in a great daycare part-time. I figured I was ahead by applying to 3 preschools and figuring if he didn’t get in he could stay at daycare and I’d try again the following year for a 3′s program. JP got into one preschool but for 2 days per week and I wanted 3 days per week. I didn’t take that spot because I was holding out for 3 days at our neighborhood cooperative school. That didn’t pan out either as there is no known system to getting into that school (most are first come) and I didn’t want to participate in any kind of aggressive kissing-up to get JP a spot. And the preschool admission dates don’t line up so you could hear from one school and need to accept a spot before hearing from another school. Then JP’s daycare terminated their part-time program so I decided to quit my job and take the summer off hoping a preschool would pan out for the fall (and then a new job). I continued to look for preschools and set my sites on a new Montessori program.

The fall turned into winter and finally this month JP started at a new preschool 1.5 miles from our house. We love it!

My experience in the preschool process shows that even the best laid plans don’t always work out but there is no point in getting all crazed and stressed about finding a preschool. As our neighborhood continues to grow with young families, there are more and more good preschool options. In the end it will work out as things usually do, and your kid will be in a great school.

 

We’re all waiting for the subway

My husband Ray and I often discuss how we will teach our children to be thoughtful and hard working citizens. We have encountered enough 20 somethings who think the world owes them something or they shouldn’t have to work hard at their job. In other words, we don’t want our children to act entitled.

Ray often encounters young professional women sitting on a subway seat with their legs crossed so that no one can stand and hold the pole in front of them.

So I started thinking, how could I make sure JP is self aware enough to notice others around him who have needs too. Even though JP is only 2, I don’t think it’s too early to start teaching him about this. JP waits impatiently for the subway to come. He calls over and over again for the G train. Whenever we are waiting for the subway to arrive, I point out to him all of the people who are also waiting for the subway to arrive. So when he says “G train,” I say, “Yes, everyone here is waiting for the G train.” Hopefully this is a start….

photo

Neglect at the library

MB kid books

Our local library branch is closed for renovations. I didn’t take JP there very often anyway because it’s not very nice. In fact, the ONE thing the suburbs have over the city are modern and cozy libraries. I know about this since I spend every Friday in Westchester when I pick Inez up from school. But I’ll leave the pros of city living for another post. Back to the local library – I needed a book and had some time to kill as we await JP’s preschool to begin. So I decided to bring JP on the G train for a ride to the Park Slope library.

Of course JP was more than pleased with this idea as riding the subway is his number one favorite thing to talk about and do. Once I convinced JP that we’d take the G train again when we were done reading books at the library, he was happy to sit on my lap while I read through a pile of books.

The Park Slope library is nothing special. The small children’s section has a few kid chairs and tables and two bigger adult chairs, all on linoleum floor. There were a few nannies there with their charges and a few parents. While I was reading to JP I noticed a few young kids (under age 5) wandering around with no one reading to them or watching them. Some of the kids started hanging by me to listen to the book I was reading JP. Then a young boy around age 4 started pushing the big chair around. He came towards me and I asked him to be careful. Then he pushed the chair right into JP. JP was not hurt at all but was irritated. Rightfully so, I was irritated too. Why wasn’t anyone watching this kid and telling him to stop? I looked around and no one seemed to be in charge of this kid. I told him the chair was not a toy and he needed to stop playing with it. I noticed two nannies looking at me with a nod of agreement. Later I asked the same young boy to put back some of the books he had thrown on the floor. Then I noticed he went to a nanny who was sitting with her back facing the children’s area and was on the phone. About 20 minutes later a mother intervened when a young girl about one year old was hitting a computer mouse against the table while her nanny was on the phone.  I hope this is not a common occurrence at this library or anywhere for that matter. I would think the parents of these children are paying their nannies a lot of money to not only watch their children but engage with them too.

Of course it’s easy for me to say this as I haven’t had the need for a nanny. JP was in daycare and will soon begin preschool. I’m sure the nannies I saw in the library are in the minority, but it’s something to consider when you are hiring someone to look after your child. It’s comforting for me to know that JP will be in a play based setting all day with many adults who will engage with him and who will be held accountable.

 

Skip the Birthday Party

MB toddler b-day

Kid birthday parties for one and two-year-olds include the parents, so weekends can quickly become consumed with attending birthday parties in between coveted nap time.

Recently a friend who lives in Chicago and I were discussing the toddler birthday parties we had attended with our boys. We talked about which parties we dragged our husbands to and which ones we decided to skip all together.

Then my friend and I realized, there really is no reason to have a big party for your toddler. Yeah it might be fun to celebrate with friends in a big play-space with cake, ice cream, live music and the dreaded goodie bag usually filled with little plastic crap. But is the toddler appreciating that kind of party or is he totally overwhelmed with it all? Why not save the money and time for when your kid is old enough to really enjoy his party. In the toddler years it’s all about the toddler. So a birthday seems like any other “toddler focused me day.” When your kid’s old enough to understand that it’s a special day to celebrate him, then go all out and plan something fun. But please skip the goodie bags.

The Possible Power of Local Honey

MB Local honey

I’ve actively been a part of the local food movement here in NYC for several years. Back in 2008 I started a CSA in the Vinegar Hill/DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. I ran the CSA for two years before moving on to a new project, the renovation of our townhouse in Clinton Hill in 2010. I guess the next project was our son JP who was born in 2011. Even though I wasn’t running the DUMBO/Vinegar Hill CSA anymore when I had JP, I was still and continue to be a CSA member. I love our farmer Fred from Sang Lee Farms in the North Fork of Long Island and I always try to buy locally produced food in my neighborhood.

Both my husband and step-daughter have seasonal allergies. I read about the power of local honey to help ease pollen allergies and also to keep the immune system healthy in general. Turns out there is no conclusive study that says eating local honey will help either of these. Regardless, the idea of eating honey from a neighbor’s rooftop sounded exciting to me. I found honey made right in my neighborhood at a local store, Green in Brooklyn.

When JP turned one and was old enough to eat honey, I gave him about 1/4 teaspoon. He loved it and was quickly addicted. It’s sugar after all. I quickly realized I had to keep to a maximum of one 1/4 teaspoon dose a day. I never gave JP honey if he didn’t ask. But most days he would say “hh, honey peease.”

At some point last spring, as JP’s one year at daycare was coming to a close, I realized he hadn’t really been sick yet. He only missed one day of daycare in that year due to illness. Maybe it was luck, immunity due to exclusively nursing for 18 months, or maybe it just was the power of local honey. Luckily for JP, I’m a believer and he will continue to receive his 1/4 teaspoon of local honey every day that he asks.

 

Denial

Dining room centerpiece  It’s October. That means it’s my fifth month as a SAHM. I’ve been in denial about this. While I’m keeping up with my naptime cooking, I’m not able to accomplish much else during those two hours (that’s why my blog posts have been few and far between).

Canned applesI stayed home with JP for the first 10 months of his life. Those months were filled with the thrill of being a new mom, not going to work and many new beginnings. Now that JP is two, I’m finding life as a SAHM more difficult. I didn’t plan it this way. I only wanted to take the summer off and then go back to work in September when JP started preschool. My plans didn’t exactly work out and now I’m looking for a part-time job while anxiously awaiting JP’s new school to open (I’ll be posting soon on the preschool drama). So now that I’m coming to terms with my SAHM status, I’ve decided to step it up and do some homemaker activities.

Last Monday I took JP to Ft. Greene Park and had him collect leaves and pinecones in a wooden box. The wooden box became our dining room table seasonal centerpiece. Yep, I’ll be updating the centerpiece each season while I’m still a SAHM. Yesterday I canned all of the remaining apples we picked on our weekend outing to an apple farm. Today in addition to the dinner I made during naptime, I also made chocolate chip cookies. I’m taking this SAHM thing pretty damn seriously.

Chocolate chip cookies