Category Archives: The Parenting Squad

How to Get Out of the House on Time (Without All the Yelling)

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Photo: timsamoff

This is serious stuff. Getting out of the house on time and without drama is a challenge with children. Between lunch boxes, backpacks, science projects, and whatever else you need to have with you when you head out the door, your morning routine can become a chaotic mess quickly. Make sure you have a plan.

1. Start on Sunday evening

Make a lunch and snack menu for the week so you always know what you’re preparing for the kids. This will save you that time you often waste standing at the pantry or refrigerator and staring at all the food. You can also spend Sunday evening looking over the schedule for the week to make sure you are aware of and ready for any appointments, after school activities, or field trips that are scheduled. Make sure the ingredients for a healthy breakfast (protein, whole grains, and fruits) are ready for the morning rush.

2. Pack the night before

Make lunch and have book bags packed and by the front door before anyone goes to bed. Each child should make sure he has everything he needs, including sneakers for gym, signed permission slips, homework, and library books to return. If it’s winter, make sure all boots, mittens, scarves, and hats are accounted for and ready to be put on as you run out the door. Pack the bag for your work, too.

3. Wake up at the right Time

Waking up too early can sometimes have the same effect of waking up late. Your mind is tricked into believing you have an endless amount of time to get ready, and that means you end up wasting time. Plan to wake up at a certain time depending on how long it takes to accomplish each morning task. And stick to that morning schedule. Set the timer for breakfast if you have to so that you and your children are aware when time is up for eating and you all must get dressed and brush teeth. If you wake up before the sun rises, consider purchasing an alarm clock that wake you up with light to help your body to recognize that it’s morning.

4. Go to bed

Getting the right amount of sleep will help you wake up on time. But in the winter months, waking up before the sun can be difficult. Our bodies simply aren’t ready. So go to bed early based on the recommended times for your children’s ages.

5. Build a few extra minutes into the schedule

There’s no accounting for freak meltdowns, bathroom mishaps, or traffic. Give yourself extra time to get where you need to go. Otherwise, your car trip will turn into a stress-fest and you’ll all be worked up before you get anywhere.

6. Don’t yell

Whatever you do, don’t yell. You shouldn’t need to with your new system in place, but even if you’re frustrated, remain calm. When you yell, your kids get upset and stressed and therefore make you more upset. Try giving instructions one at a time such as, “Put your shoes on.” Giving too many instructions at once, or instructions that are too vague, creates confusion. If you tell them what’s going on clearly and concisely, they are more likely to actually hear you since there’s only a few words to take in.

Create a morning routine and stick to it. There will always be days when things don’t go as planned, but when everyone knows what is expected of them and what the rules are, your mornings will go more smoothly.

Finding Your Happy Place: A Resource Roundup for Moms and Dads


Every mom and dad needs tools for refreshment and encouragement: sometimes, fun, sometimes relaxing — but always the simple life pleasures that help keep us in a good spirit, set an example for our children, and energize us to be better moms and dads.

Stressed? Worn out? Just need an idea or two? We have gathered some awesome “Happy Parent” tips from resources just for you.

Come On, Get Happy

Get the inside scoop with Secrets to Being a Happy Mom or Dad from Babble. It’s a look at what 7 parents revealed about staying happy in the midst of raising kids. You might be surprised at what they had to say.

Take some refreshing reminders with 8 Ways to Be a Happier Mom, from Woman’s Day magazine. Moments of solitude, a “break” day from regular work, and getting friends back on calendar are all important steps for moms and dads.

Don’t discount those endorphins. The Best Healthy Living Dad Advice from FitSugar concentrates on the healthy living aspects that contribute to both happiness and health.

Catch up on psychology and happy secrets with How to Be a Happier Mom from

Happier with Kids: What’s that you say? Check out Parents — Especially Dads — Are Happier Than Their Childless Pals from Time: Health & Family. The author concedes that other studies produce different conclusions, but compares the studies and what they reveal about parenting and happiness. She also discusses the intriguing concept of the “parenthood paradox.”

Click through 25 Secrets of Happy Moms at for fun, fabulous, totally doable tips.

Happy Family Tips From Our Squad

The day-to-day ways our writers try and encourage joy in our own families – whether it’s a breather for us, or making sure we’re on our best behavior for our kids.

“Every night, I check on my sleeping kids before going to bed. Ever notice how innocent they look when they’re sleeping, even after a frustrating day? I remind myself that they’re excited about what tomorrow is going to bring, so I am, too!” — Kelli Robinson

“I schedule time for me. Without it, I eventually lose my mind!” — Nancy Flanders

“Stand up for what’s right around your kids. You’re setting a great example that will come in handy when they face their own bullies.” — Maggie Wells

“I consciously set aside time or something special for myself each week. It could be a stroll around the mall or a hot bath, even the smallest thing can help to renew my spirit. I also tell my kids I love them, and give them a hug every day.” — Mary Davis

“I try to stay in the moment, especially when I’m stressed. Also, when everyone is upset, I remind myself that, most likely, things will be better in 15 minutes.” — Sarah Winfrey

“Get goofy. When the stress-level is too high, and one of my kids has lost their temper, and I’m about to (or already have), sometimes I can cross my eyes, or say something extra silly that throws them off a bad track, and back on the happy train. — Rhonda Franz

“When I’m having a rough day with my kids, I like to end the day writing in my gratitude journal to remind myself of the day’s little blessings. Sometimes I find it hard to come up with concrete exampls from the day, but I can always spy the glimmers of goodness that got buried in the chaos of the day” — Christa Melnyk Hines

“Lots of hugs and kisses, especially when the kids are misbehaving and on your last nerve!” — David James

“Remember the big picture. So many of the challenges we face as parents are also amazing learning opportunities. If we can just manage to shift our perspective and see them that way. And to help lighten up, and not take it all so seriously – wine. Always wine.” Alyssa Chirco

By: Rhonda Franz is the managing editor of, and a food & cooking columnist for Peekaboo parenting magazine. A city girl at heart, she is now raising three boys in the Arkansas woods with her husband. She has a graduate degree in education, and spent ten years teaching and working with other people’s children before raising her own. Her work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, MSNBC’s Today Show mom blog, and in parenting magazines around the country. She writes on a variety of things at

How to Include Children With Disabilities in Your Family Exercise Routine


Photo: Honza Soukup

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month, the perfect excuse to get your family off the couch and moving. But if one of your children has a disability, you may think it’s impossible to find something the whole family can participate in.

Well, not only is it not impossible, it’s extremely important. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, the obesity rate in children with disabilities is an astounding 38% higher than in children without disabilities. Exercise can help reduce the chance of your child developing chronic and secondary conditions, and it also provides the added benefits of increased self-esteem and greater socialization. But even if your child can’t be physically involved, she can participate. It’s easier than you think.

Plan it Out

You know your child’s abilities better than anyone. Get creative and come up with some ides together. If your child is unable to walk, swimming may be a great option.


Change the way you view exercise. If your child doesn’t weigh too much for you to carry her, get a special backpack to include her in your walks or hikes. Purchase a adaptive bike for your child to use or ride in with you.

Seek Opportunity

Your local parks and recreation department may have inclusive recreation programs available including baseball teams, dance classes, martial arts classes, and gym memberships. All you have to do is ask.

Do It for Charity

Sign your family up for a charity walk-a-thon or 5k. Your child will love having the wind in her hair as you guide her and her chair to the finish line.

Take Lessons

Lessons such as horseback riding work double-time as therapy for children with disabilities from cerebral palsy to vision impairments. Horseback riding in particular has been shown to improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, motor development, and self-esteem according to Kids Rein.

Pick a Sport

Most sports can be adapted for children with disabilities including golf, soccer, archery, biking, baseball, skiing, and water sports.

Check It Out

There are more opportunities and ideas available at I Can Do It, You Can Do It.

There are plenty of opportunities to include your child with disabilities in your family exercise routine. It will benefit your entire family to make sure each member is included in the fun. Chat with your child’s doctors before hand to make sure any activity you pick is appropriate and safe for your child’s needs.

Tagged: children with disabilities, family exercise, including children with disabilities in family exercise routine, inclusive recreation, sports for disabled children, therapeutic lessons

How to Get Your Family Exercising This Year

It’s a new year. Did you make a resolution to be healthier and lose those extra pounds? Why not get the entire family in on it? According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, less than 20% of adults, and only one in three children get their recommended amount of physical activity each day. Obesity has doubled among adults since the 1970s.

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month. The best time to start any new healthy habit is right now.

Exercise is probably one of the toughest habits to start, but also tough to break once you’re in the groove. Plus, exercise has amazing benefits. It keeps you healthy from your heart to your bones, reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. It also boosts your mood, gives you energy, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves your self-esteem because you will be looking better and feeling better. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to spend time with your family.

Plan It With Their Interests in Mind

Schedule one morning or evening a week to a family activity such as bike riding, walking, hiking, or something your children love like skateboarding. Taking an interest in their activity will help build a strong connection between you.

Sign Up

Take a class together. Local parks and recreation departments and fitness centers offer everything from yoga and dance to Tae Kwon Do and swimming.

Think Variety

Pick a new activity for each weekend such as ice skating this week, mini-golf next week, and snowshoeing the following week. All you have to do is a web search on local activities, or pick up your local parenting publication to find some great ideas.

Take Advantage

There are opportunities in each day to get a little more exercise into your routine and promote healthier habits for your entire family. Skip the elevator and take the stairs. Park the car farther away from the store, and walk anywhere you can such as through your local downtown.

Form a Daily Habit

Each night after dinner, take a walk together through your neighborhood rather than watch television. It may help you all wind down and sleep better.

If You Build It…

…they will play. Turn your yard into anything you can imagine: an ice skating rink, a baseball field, a Frisbee disc course, a soccer field, or an obstacle course. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even permanent, just something that works and gets your children (and you) outside.

Do It for Charity

Sign up for a bike-a-thon, walk-a-thon, 5k, or fun run for a great charity. Not only will you be raising money for a worthwhile cause, you’ll be motivated to train and practice for the big event.

Seasonal Outings

Each season brings with it new fun activities. Apple picking and pumpkin picking in the fall, snowshoeing and skiing in the winter, hiking and yard sale shopping in the spring, swimming and boating in the summer. Check your local newspaper for events happening in your area.

Get a Dog

Your kids have been begging for one anyway, right? Having a dog is the perfect excuse to get outside. He needs to be walked. He’ll want to play fetch. He might jump in the lake. Maybe it’s time to break down get that new best friend for your family.

Join the Gym

Joining a gym doesn’t have to be expensive. Planet Fitness memberships start as low as $10 a month per person (They were just featured on The Balancing Act!) and the local Y has family memberships for under $100 a month.

Even one change in your routine will lead to more changes and before you know it, you won’t know how you ever lived without exercise. It can be tough to stay motivated sometimes. But if your family supports each other, and acts as one another’s cheerleader, it will help. You may also want to consider starting fitness diaries to keep track of your goals. Don’t forget that you are your child’s biggest role model; be an inspiration.

Please remember to consult with your family doctors before beginning any exercise routines, especially if you or your children have any pre-existing conditions.

25 Holiday Book Recommendations for Children and Adults

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‘Tis the season to enjoy the December holidays, and whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or simply the Winter Solstice, there’s nothing like a good book to get you in the holiday spirit. From timeless favorites to recent releases destined to become instant classics, there’s a book for every reader on this list of 25 holiday books for children and adults of all ages.

Holiday Favorites for Audiences of All Ages

1. The Night Before Christmas. Clement C. Moore’s classic tale is a Christmas Eve tradition.

2. The Christmas Story. If you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, then this beautifully illustrated story of Christ’s birth (excerpted from the King James Bible) should be at the top of your holiday reading list.

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Yes, there’s a movie (or two), but the original Dr. Seuss book is full of not-to-be-missed holiday fun.

4. Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. The perfect book if you need to remind your children — or yourself — to believe in the magic of the holiday season.

5. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Barbara Robinson’s chapter book is geared toward readers in grades 3-6, but readers of all ages will enjoy the horrible (and hilarious) antics of the Herdman kids.

6. The Nutcracker. It isn’t just a ballet — there are multiple literary adaptations of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original story. The version illustrated by Maurice Sendak is by far one of the best.

7. The Polar Express. This 1986 Caldecott Medal Winner has become a children’s classic, and is also the inspiration behind the beloved holiday movie of the same name.

8. The Elf on the Shelf. Parents seem to have a love-hate relationship with this fairly recent addition to the holiday bookshelf. Only time will tell if this new tradition is here to stay.

9. Llama Llama Holiday Drama. The Llama Llama books are a favorite among the toddler set, and since Christmas is never specifically mentioned in this holiday addition to the series, it is appropriate for families of any belief.

10. Christmas in the Big Woods. This picture book, which tells the simple story of a Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas, is the perfect introduction to the magic of the Little House series for young readers.

11. A Hanukkah Present. Award-winning author Mark Binder’s collection of short stories is a wonderful choice to read aloud as a family, and will help readers of all ages remember the true meaning of Hanukkah.

12. Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book. Learn how one family celebrates the eight nights of Hanukkah. Young children especially will love the playful rhymes.

13. Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins. Eric A. Kimmel’s story offers a unique twist on the traditional Hannukah tale, and is sure to be a favorite among children of all ages.

14. A Hanukkah Treasury. This illustrated treasury (also by Eric A. Kimmel) contains all the recipes, stories, songs, poems, and legends you need to celebrate the holiday.

15. The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story. Despite the title, this is not a Christmas story. It’s a satirical (and spot-on) story from Lemony Snicket that reminds readers that Hanukkah is not the “Jewish Christmas.”

16. The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice. Want to steer clear of religious holidays entirely? Use this book to help explain and celebrate the Winter Solstice.

17. My First Kwanzaa Book. Children will easily relate to this story, since it is told from the point-of-view of a little boy celebrating Kwanzaa for the first time.

18. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story. This traditional folktale will help children understand the Seven Principles that are celebrated during the Kwanzaa holiday.

Holiday Reading for Adults

19. The Gift of the Magi. Although its plot revolves around Christmas, O’Henry’s short story about the true meaning of love and selfless generosity should be required holiday reading for all.

20. Chrismakkuh: Everything You Need to Know to Celebrate the Hybrid Holiday. This humorous book for interfaith families is filled with clever tips for combining Christmas and Hannukah into the perfect “hybrid holiday.”

21. A Christmas Carol. Dickens’ classic tale has been adapted into countless books and movies, but have you ever read the original? It’s a quintessential holiday read.

22. Skipping Christmas. John Grisham proves he can write more than just thrillers in his novel about a couple who decide to ignore the holidays. The Tim Allen film Christmas with the Kranks was based on Grisham’s work — though as usual, the book is better.

23. Being Santa Claus. The recently released collection of stories from real-life Santa Claus Sal Lizard will warm your heart.

24. Miracle on 34th Street. Yes, it’s a classic holiday movie times two, but the original book by Valentine Davies is, of course, better than either film.

25. Holidays on Ice. Don’t miss this smart collection full of dark holiday satire from humorist David Sedaris. Because at some point, we all need a break from the holiday cheer.

Parenting Squad Holiday Guide 2012: Jolly Party Foods Children Can Help Make (and Will Love to Eat)


Photo: avlzyz

Got kids coming to your Christmas party? Enlist help of your own, and put together a table of festive treats that will keep the party jolly. Here are five ideas to get you started!

1. Cheesy bread

Peeta’s Stuffed Cheese Buns at Yammie’s Noshery, complete with buttery glaze, herbs, and your choice of cheeses, are the perfect party food. And bonus — these treats make a tasty addition to any lunch box, as an after-school snack, or even for breakfast with a side of eggs. Children can help with everything from the bread-making process to filling the dough balls with cheese and sprinkling on herbs. Yummy, yummy to everyone’s tummy.

2. Fruit

A platter full of fresh fruit may not be your first choice for party fare, but your body might thank you after filling up on sausage balls and cheese dip. It’s also a good example for children to see that festive food can be healthy. Choose an assortment of favorite fruits, and have children help wash, prepare, and lay out in an attractive pattern.

3. Anything on a cracker

Better Homes and Gardens has 10 cracker toppings to try, most of which are ideal for children to help prepare. Let children lay out crackers before the party, and see what toppings they can come up with.

4. Mini sandwiches

Veggie sandwiches, mini club sandwiches, egg salad, and grilled cheese are easy to assemble and cut into small triangles or squares. Don’t forget to include little peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your party’s youngest guests — this isn’t the day to fight the picky eating battle.

5. Festive foods

Check out these 15 Christmas Party Food Ideas from Six Sisters’ Stuff. All of the recipes have a job children could help with — especially when it comes to decoration and presentation. Create away!

Party Tips When Children Are Invited

  • Have a few games or activities for children to entertain themselves and each other. Set out building blocks, coloring books, and puzzles and board games challenging enough for older children who are coming.
  • Plan a game or activity that requires teams. Charades, a white elephant gift game, or board games requiring teams help make the party entertaining for everyone. Let family members mix with other guests.
  • Communicate boundaries. Make sure children know the areas and rooms where they are allowed to play.
  • Don’t overdo the structure. Parties are fun enough when everyone gets together, eats, and stays merry. Don’t require everyone to play games, and give all guests plenty of time to just hang out.

By Rhonda Franz

Rhonda Franz is the managing editor of, and a food & cooking columnist for Peekaboo parenting magazine. A city girl at heart, she is now raising three boys in the Arkansas woods with her husband. She has a graduate degree in education, and spent ten years teaching and working with other people’s children before raising her own. Her work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul, MSNBC’s Today Show mom blog, and in parenting magazines around the country. She writes on a variety of things at

Finding Balance: Is There an App for That?

Juggling the demands of kids, work, and a household continues to be one of the greatest struggles that parents face. The “How do I get it all done?”  battle cry spans generations. We get things done faster, and more efficiently…so that we can add more to our plates. That’s why we’re seeing parents relying on their smartphones as a much-needed virtual assistant. Will the smartphone help us find that elusive life-work balance? Read on for 5 tips for making the most of your smartphone:

Manage Your To-Do List on Your Phone

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to keep track of post-it notes, scraps of paper, and memo pads. Use a notes or to-do list app to keep your tasks at your fingertips. Wunderlist, Teux Deux, and Remember the Milk all offer easy task managment and list creation.

Use the Calendar and Reminder Functions

No more storing birthday party dates, school functions, and family obligation in your head — or even on the fridge. Use the calendar on your phone to schedule appointments and to set reminders. It’s smart to schedule appointments for self-care — go ahead and enter “go to the gym” or “get a pedicure” — and then keep that date!

Keep Your Phone Handy

To make the most of what your phone can do, keep it at arm’s reach! The Wedge by Toddy can help. Rhonda Franz, Managing Editor of Parenting Squad, tried out The Wedge.

“My phone rests on The Wedge in my kitchen, where my kids and I listen to tunes while preparing breakfast in the morning, and can grab it when I think of something to add to the grocery list — the most efficient way to make sure I have the list in hand when I walk out the door. The Wedge keeps my phone off of damp counters, allows me to easily see the screen, and sends music and news in my direction from the phone’s speaker. It also saves me time. No more scanning the room for the flat surface that is camouflaging my phone — it’s right there, propped up in plain sight.”

Toddy also offers the Smart Cloth — in invaluable resource for removing little kid fingerprints from the screen, or handling smudges left behind after eating lunch at one’s desk!

Explore All That Your Phone Has to Offer

The Balancing Act has partnered with Verizon to help women discover all of the ways that digital technology can enhance their life. Learn how to adjust your phone’s settings to ensure that it meets your needs. You likely have alarm, ringtone, and reminder options that will help you to “code” various alerts.

Add the Best Apps

Ask your friends which apps they rely on, or pose the question on your favorite social networking site. Here at Parenting Squad, we’ve researched Meal Planning Apps, Homework Apps, and Pregnancy Apps — all aimed at helping you manage your busy life. We’d love to hear from you, too! Leave a comment telling us what apps you can’t live without.

by Katrina Simeck

Katrina Simeck is a mom, wife, friend, business woman, poor housekeeper, decent cook, photographer, and writer. By day, she works as a project manager in a cosmetics manufacturing company. By night, she purses a quest for balance, simplicity, mindfulness, and good wine. Her writing and scrapbook work has been published in Memory Makers Magazine, Creating Keepsakes, and Scrapbook Trends. If you’re longing for more, you can find her at

When (and How) to Get Help for Your Struggling Student

No matter how many hours they spend in the classroom, there will always be students who need extra help with their homework. Sometimes these are kids who have learning disabilities, but academically advanced students can struggle with certain subjects too. Concerned about your child? The following information can help you decide when (and how) to seek outside help.

Signs Your Student Is Struggling

A poor report card or consistently low test scores are obvious indications of a struggling student, but sometimes the signs are harder to see. Other, more subtle behavior indicators to look for include:

  • Spending longer than indicated on assignments.
  • Not completing homework.
  • Getting easily frustrated or distracted.
  • Skipping school.
  • Poor conduct in the classroom.
  • Becoming anxious at the mention of school.
  • Making careless errors.
  • Not working at grade level.

How to Help Your Struggling Student

While difficulty in school can be frustrating for both children and parents, there are steps you can take to ensure that your struggling student gets the help he or she deserves.

Find the problem areas.

Students struggle in school for a variety of reasons — an undiagnosed reading delay, the need for stronger study skills, or a poor understanding of basic math concepts, just to name a few. Consider diagnostic testing if you aren’t sure where your child truly needs help.

Look for underlying issues.

Bullying, disappointments, undiagnosed illnesses, or recent changes in family dynamics like births, deaths, or divorce can all affect school performance. If this is the case, academic intervention won’t fix the problem — and you may need to seek help from the appropriate professionals.

Talk to the teacher.

Teachers are a wealth of information. They can offer insight into your child’s behavior and performance at school, as well as valuable recommendations of educational books and websites that can provide extra guidance for you and extra practice for your child.

Get more involved.

Parental involvement in education is a key predictor of academic success. If you aren’t sure how to get more involved, you may benefit from a Parent Coach, an individual who has been specifically trained to help parents capitalize on learning opportunities in everyday life.

Hire a tutor.

One-on-one instruction makes a tremendous difference for a student who can’t keep up in a class of 20 or 30 other kids. You may be able to find a competent classmate or older student willing to help, but if your student is really struggling, a professional tutor may be worth the expense.

Compare online tutors, large companies like Sylvan, and locally-owned tutoring companies in your area to determine who can best empower your child to succeed.

Take advantage of community programs.

Many community organizations host educational camps, classes, and after-school programs, which can be a great opportunity for kids to participate in fun, learning-based activities outside of the classroom.

Enroll your student in a class or camp in a subject where he struggles, or choose one where you know he will excel. The former will provide extra practice and instruction, but the latter will boost self-esteem — and serve as a positive reminder of how much fun learning can actually be.

by Alyssa Chirco

Alyssa Chirco is a freelance writer, parenting blogger, and mother of two from St. Louis. A graduate of Washington University with degrees in English Literature and Film Studies, she now spends her days playing Legos, diffusing sibling rivalry, and hoping her house will magically clean itself. Alyssa is also a contributing editor for, and a Guest Perspectives Blogger for

6 Steps to a Safer Family Medicine Cabinet

Your medicine cabinet may contain life-saving medications, but it can also pose serious health risks to your family. Ensure your family’s health and well being by always followng these 6 key steps to better medicine cabinet safety.

1. Keep your medications and supplies organized.

In an emergency, you don’t have time to rummage through old bottles of poorly labeled medications to find the one you need. Always keep daily prescriptions within easy reach, and be sure to keep children’s medications separate from adult medications to prevent dangerous mix-ups.

2. Check expiration dates routinely.

Medications can lose potency once they expire, so expiration dates should be checked routinely — once a year at least. Storing medications in a warm, humid environment may shorten shelf life, so if in doubt, consult with your doctor or pharmacist.

3. Dispose of medications safely.

There are many options for disposing of expired or unused medications safely, including flushing the medicine down the toilet, or mixing it with kitty litter or coffee grounds before throwing it in the trash.

4. Don’t play doctor.

Even if your medicine cabinet is stocked with natural remedies like homeopathics or herbal supplements, it is still a good idea to consult with a doctor or trained specialist — particularly if you’re using these in conjunction with prescription medications.

5. Use a secure lock.

According to WebMD, “more than 60,000 young children in the U.S. are treated in emergency rooms each year for accidental overdoses.” Most of these cases occur when children find and ingest medication that has not been locked up safely.

A secure lock is also essential to keep teens out of the medicine cabinet, as this demographic is increasingly likely to abuse drugs that they have access to in their own homes.

6. Keep your medicine cabinet well-stocked.

The WebMD Medicine Cabinet Makeover video includes tips on which over-the-counter medications to always keep on hand. Basic products you’ll want to have include:

  • Bandages and other first aid supplies.
  • Antihistamines (useful for treating allergic reactions).
  • Pain relievers and fever reducers.
  • Antibiotic ointments.
  • A thermometer.
  • Rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

By securing and organizing your medicine cabinet, you’ll be able to meet all of your family’s medical needs quickly and safely. Medications that save lives can become deadly if they make it into the wrong hands, so don’t delay — take these potentially lifesaving steps to a safer medicine cabinet today.

by Alyssa Chirco

Alyssa Chirco is a freelance writer, parenting blogger, and mother of two from St. Louis. A graduate of Washington University with degrees in English Literature and Film Studies, she now spends her days playing Legos, diffusing sibling rivalry, and hoping her house will magically clean itself. Alyssa is also a contributing editor for, and a Guest Perspectives Blogger for

6 Ways to Work on ABCs With Toodlers and Preschoolers

Fancy flashcards and “educational” toys may be appealing, but the best ways to introduce alphabet letters and sounds to toddlers and preschoolers remain the ones that involve simple and creative play. Ready to work on pre-reading skills at your house? Try some of these fun ideas for incorporating the ABCs into the normal routine of your day.

1. Choose a “Letter of the Day”

Sesame Street has one, so why can’t you? Choose one letter or sound and make it the focus of your day (or week, depending upon age and ability). Point out apples in the grocery store and look for acorns on your nature walks. Show your child how to use his finger to make the letter A in shaving cream on the side of the bathtub.

2. Use a “Movable Alphabet”

Many of us grew up playing with refrigerator magnets, but probably didn’t realize that we were learning to read through a Montessori method known as the “moveable alphabet.”

You can make your own “movable alphabet” out of materials like pipe cleaners or smooth rocks. Another fun option? The Alphabeasts — a collection of 26 plush characters (think stuffed animals) who each represent a different letter of the alphabet.

3. Create an Alphabet Sensory Tub

Younger toddlers will enjoy scooping and pouring the contents of an Alphabet Sensory Tub (and will gradually become familiar with letter shapes), while older children who already know some letters can work on finding and identifying the various letters and their sounds.

This is a great indoor activity for a rainy day, and also a nice way to keep little hands occupied when you need a few minutes of peace to accomplish an important task.

4. Read Aloud

Don’t underestimate the value of simply reading to your children. Alphabet books are a simple and fun way to introduce letters and sounds, but also think of all the other letters and words you encounter throughout the normal course of your day. Point out the giant letters on store signs during daily errands, for example.

5. Eat Your Words

Mealtime happens every day, so why not work in some ABCs? Serve alphabet soup or pasta, and make it a game to see who can identify the sound of the letter on their spoon.

For a more hands-on activity, head into the kitchen and bake your very own alphabet pretzels. Shaping the letters out of the soft dough is so much fun that kids won’t even realize they’re learning too!

6. Sing Songs

Children love to sing songs — the sillier, the better. Rock out to The ABC Rap or the Fisher Price-Little People ABC Sing-Along while completing routine tasks like laundry. Extra points, of course, if you dance around your living room while jamming with your pint-sized MC Hammer.

How did your children learn their ABCs?

by Alyssa Chirco 


Alyssa Chirco  is a freelance writer, parenting blogger, and mother of two from St. Louis. A graduate of Washington University with degrees in English Literature and Film Studies, she now spends her days playing Legos, diffusing sibling rivalry, and hoping her house will magically clean itself. Alyssa is also a contributing editor for, and a Guest Perspectives Blogger for