Category Archives: Daddy Nickell

About Daddy Nickell

Nickell is the writer of a weekly parenting blog where he writes on topics such as bonding with your child, and what the father should expect during pregnancy and infancy. He writes from a father1s perspective and keeps dad engaged throughout his children1s lives. He also contributes to national talk shows and daytime television shows including “Good Morning L.A.,” “Good Morning Texas,” “Daytime TV,” WZZM 13 and KSBI TV, and as a syndicated columnist for national newspapers, parenting magazines and websites including Baby Couture Magazine, Oh Baby! Magazine, City Parent Magazine and Homeschooling Parent.

Nickell is also the founder of DaddyScrubs, delivery room duds and daddy gear for expectant and new dads. He is the father of six children, and his practiced advice has been heard on TV and radio shows around the country.

When Is the Right Time to Get Your Child a Cellphone?

Technology is important; it allows us the opportunity to stay connected, learn new things and more. Nobody needs a constant link to technology at their fingertips 24/7, but with smartphones becoming so, let’s face it – smart and easily accessible – we have settled into just that. But do you want that for your kids? It can be difficult to decide the right time to get your child a cellphone; there are many factors to consider before giving in and getting that Family Plan.

  1. Want or Need? With seven kids of my own, I’ve experienced both sides of this coin. Some of my kids expressed a strong desire or “want” for a cellphone because all of their friends have cellphones while others of my children have expressed a “need” for one as they are involved in extra-curricular activities and events and need the easily accessible communication. A child who needs a cellphone more than wants a cellphone will be less likely to abuse their cellphone privileges.  Establishing what end of the spectrum your child is on is the first step to figuring out if they’re ready for a cellphone.

 

  1. Boundaries: Giving your child a cellphone is a big responsibility as a cellphone allows your child more freedom and space. Think about other aspects of technology first. Does your child respect the boundaries or rules you set around watching TV afterschool, playing video games, talking on the phone, etc.? You’ll want boundaries surrounding your child’s cellphone, too. You’ll have to establish when the appropriate times to use a cellphone are, what types of apps are acceptable for download, how many texts they’re allowed to send in a day and to whom; many factors come into play when a child gets a cellphone. You’ll need to establish rules and boundaries that are clearly understood before your child even gets a cellphone.

 

  1. Options are Available: Contrary to what your child is likely telling you, they don’t really have to have the latest iPhone or smartphone device. There are plenty of other options available to them, and that’s important for parents to remember. Think back to the day of the original cellphone. It just made calls. Then texting was added. These two things might be all your child needs in a cellphone. I suggest starting with the most basic cellphone device then as your child shows responsibility and independence they can earn an upgrade and so on and so forth.

 

Children generally love technology, and cellphones are an important means of communication. Make sure your child is ready for the responsibility and make sure you build boundaries around this new device prior to bringing one home.

Happy parenting!

Sincerely,

Daddy Nickell

Bringing Home a Pet

Are you raising an animal lover? If so, chances are they’ve already asked for a puppy, kitten, Guinea pig, lizard, snake or bird of their own. Bringing home a pet is a big decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly – especially if you have young kids in your home. I’ve put together some tips and advice to help ensure your decision is the right one – whatever that may be.

Pick the Right Pet: There are lots of different pets to choose from. In our case, my wife and I already had two small dogs prior to having kids. Our dogs are old now, but when my toddlers began asking for other pets we decided on fish. It gave the kids extra responsibility because they had to help feed the fish and keep their bowl clean. This has worked quite well for my family, but your family might be completely different. It’s important to determine which pet is the right fit for your family, as all pets are different; they require different sorts of attention and lead different lives. Don’t rush into anything. Make certain your decision is thoroughly thought out as pets are a big commitment, and your new pet will be a part of your family for up to 20 years or more in some cases!

Get the Supplies: Once you determine which pet is right for your family the next thing you’ll need to do is pick up all of the necessary supplies. I suggest picking up all of the supplies before you bring your new pet home. Bring your child with you to pick out the supplies and let them help, so you can talk to them about the different things you’re buying and what they’re for. Do some research prior to heading out and ask questions while at your local pet store to ensure you get everything your new pet will need.

Involve Your Child: Involve your child in the process as much as possible and use every opportunity to reinforce responsibility while still allowing for excitement and anticipation. Read books, watch movies and television shows that discuss the importance of properly taking care of a pet and how kids can help do just that. Allow your child to help choose which type of pet and which type of breed you’ll be bringing home, and encourage them to do research in order to figure out what pet will be best for them and the family. If you have multiple children I suggest you hold a family meeting where each child can give their own input and express their excitement and concerns.

Be Responsible: Purchase your pet from a responsible breeder or adopt one from a local shelter if possible. If you need further education or help once your new pet comes home sign up for classes; there are now classes on everything from safe snake handling to puppy basic obedience – you’re not alone! Whatever you do, make sure you’re fully prepared and ready for the new experience prior to bringing your new pet home!

Happy parenting!

Sincerely,

Daddy Nickell

Outdoor Playtime with Toddlers

Toddler Playtime

Spring has sprung and everyone is itching to get outside and have some fun. If you have toddlers at home sometimes you have to be a little bit creative to ensure your children enjoy playing outside and exploring the outdoors. I’ve compiled a list of fun, toddler-friendly activities you can enjoy with your child this spring, summer and beyond!

Create a Sand Pit: Kids love to play in the sand, but not all of us are fortunate to live near a beach, so sometimes you have to get creative by bringing the sand to your backyard. I suggest buying a sand pit that you can fill up and keep in your backyard. I recommend a sandpit that comes with a cover, so you can keep rainwater and other such things out of the pit while your child isn’t playing in it. In addition to just the pit you’ll need tools and toys that are sandpit friendly! Shovels and buckets are just the beginning. If you get creative your child will surely enjoy hours of fun and play in their new backyard sand pit.

Head Out and Explore: There’s surely a lot to explore right in your own backyard! A simple walk around the neighborhood boasts lots of fun activities like collecting rocks, counting the number of cats and dogs you see, etc. Hiking, biking and playing in a nearby park are all fun and easy options that I highly recommend, too. My kids and I often walk to the park together looking for bugs and counting cats along the way. Once we make it to the park we play on the swings and have a snack before heading back home. It’s a fun outing my toddlers always look forward to.

Get Artsy: Invest in some sidewalk chalk or washable paint and let your little one’s decorate your driveway however they see fit. Chalk allows children to be creative with colors and designs, and you can even make it educational by talking to your children about colors, shapes and numbers while they draw. Drawing with sidewalk chalk can be a great bonding activity for siblings, too, as they’re working together to create a masterpiece of sorts!

Splish Splash: It’s all about the kiddie pool, right? Of course heading to the local aquatic center is always a fun outing, but having a kiddie pool right in your own backyard is a must! Toddlers will enjoy learning about water, discovering what types of things sink versus float and splashing around on a warm day. Please supervise your child whenever they’re in or nearby to the kiddie pool.

There’s plenty to do outside, so what are you waiting for? Enjoy spring outdoors with your toddler!

Happy parenting!

Sincerely,

Daddy Nickell

Dads Nest, Too

“Nesting” is a word predominately used to describe female behavior prior to giving birth; nesting can be defined by behaviors such as: getting the house in order, setting up the nursery, creating an ambiance in the household to prepare for the arrival of the new baby. But what does nesting mean to me, the dad? And how can it be defined by men?

The first and most important aspect of nesting for the dad-to-be is to support the mom in her decisions and help to make sure each and every task gets accomplished completely.  Be prepared for the possibility you’ll be asked to paint the nursery, and then repaint it when the color didn’t come out quite right. This also includes building the crib, the playpen, the swing, the strollers and any other baby product that comes needing assembling.

But it also means that it’s time to get the house in order and finish all of those lingering projects you’ve been slowly working on for a year.  It’ll be time to review or establish a life insurance policy, a living trust, and a long term college fund for the new baby.Check on status of smoke alarms, and light bulbs through out the house. You’ll want to be prepared for anything and everything.

During dad’s nesting phase, he should also start reading books about daddy-hood and taking some classes on fatherhood, too. You’ll want to know what to expect from your pregnant wife and also from your baby once you bring him or her home. It is also important to try and get caught up on work, so you can take some time off.  Get caught up on sleep if you can; you want to be well rested going into the hospital, because the first 6 weeks of having a newborn is like living in a 24/7 casino. Trying to get caught up on any chores around the house, such as oiling squeaky doors and tightening screws on cabinet doors will feel utterly impossible.

Of my many concerns that came to me during nesting, the most important was safety.  I wanted to be sure the cabinets were securely fastened to the walls.  Picture frames could not just drop off the walls and hurt my new baby.  I wanted the crib to be “super duper” sturdy, and all nuts and bolts tightened beyond the normal strength of humans.  I was concerned about the bathtub and making sure the sliding door was removed, the faucet had a cover, and all the cabinets had safety latches.  Of course I had to go “all over” the house with a can of WD 40 to eliminate all squeeks, and possible creaks in the doors, cabinets and windows.  Finally, my concern was the garage, where was all the “stuff” going to go?  Strollers, porta cribs, toys, etc.  So sweeping and re-organizing the garage was a must.

Preparing for a baby is fun. Enjoy each moment you spend struggling to build that changing table with seemingly too many pieces and confusing instructions! Those nine months will fly by and before you know it you’ll be bringing your new baby home.

The final piece of nesting for dad is to be prepared for the hospital. Know the route you’ll drive; know of a backup route, and have your Daddy Pack packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice – and of course do not forget your DaddyScrubs by Daddy & Company, you’ll want to be comfortable in the delivery room!

Avoid The Mid-Winter Blues

It’s usually during the month of February when you start to feel those mid-winter blues; the kids start to go a little stir-crazy and you feel a case of cabin fever coming on fast. Well, I’m here to help you avoid the mid-winter blues and to embrace the remainder of winter – with your whole family.

Take a Vacation: Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about an expensive last-minute trip to Mexico (unless you want to go)! A simple road trip to a slightly warmer location and a stay in a hotel with a pool is all you likely need to feel rejuvenated enough to make it through the last month of winter. I suggest taking a weekend – or a long weekend if possible – and making a break for blue skies and sunshine. Your kids will enjoy frolicking in the pool and drinking smoothies while you relax under the sun.

Head to an Indoor Aquatic Center:  My kids and I have a blast at the local indoor aquatic center! It’s always warm inside the center, and swimming always reminds us of the upcoming spring and summer. Find an aquatic center that is child-friendly and includes features like: a shallow pool, a lazy river, water slides and more. Your kids will appreciate that the outing is kid-friendly and you’re guaranteed to smile and have fun splashing around by their sides as well.

Take Advantage of Winter Activities: Remind yourself that winter is nearing an end and take advantage of winter activities offered within your area. In most places, you can only sled, ski and ice skate for a few months of every year, so take advantage of the winter you’re having and get out there and play. There are lots of kid-friendly winter activities that adults enjoy, too.

Indoor Activities Are Fun: Yes, you’ve been indoors for far too long now (or so it would seem), but you’re likely stuck in a routine and have been enjoying lots of the same activities. Now is the time to branch out and try a new activity like: building an indoor fort, getting a craft kit and making something special, trying a science experiment at home, etc. Get creative and do something new indoors!

Beat those mid-winter blues with these mid-winter tips, ideas and activities.

Have fun and happy parenting!

Sincerely,

Daddy Nickell

Dining Out with Kids

Eating out with kids is a task that’s often easier said than done. Trust me, with seven kids of my own, I’ve dined-out with children more than the average Joe, and from those experiences I’ve learned what works – and what doesn’t. Here are my tricks and tips for a successful restaurant outing with kids.

Quiet Distraction: Bring along a quiet distraction for children to enjoy if the restaurant doesn’t happen to provide crayons or a coloring page. I suggest, a coloring book, a toy car or action figure or some stickers. I always bring the iPod and headphones as my backup plan. Sometimes a child will be nearing meltdown mode before the food has arrived and you’ll need something to occupy them until they get to eat. Make sure you bring toys that are quiet, because others dining nearby won’t likely want to listen to a loud battery-operated toy for an hour.

Limited Options: Too many options usually lead to upset, so take it upon yourself to limit your child’s options for food and drink. Sure, the restaurant might offer: coke, sprite, dr. pepper, milk, iced tea, Shirley temple, Roy Rogers, lemonade and water for the drink options, but that might be an overwhelming selection for your child to pick from. We usually offer our children the choice of milk or water. And we do the same with the food. There are usually 3 – 5 entree choices on the kid’s menu; we choose the healthiest two options and allow our children to pick between those two.

Pick the Right Restaurant: Find out what restaurants are kid-friendly in your area and try those first. If you’re traveling look on Yelp or call restaurants to find out what the atmosphere is like and if the restaurant is suitable for children and families. It will be miserable for all involved if you try to take a family to a fancy establishment only to find yourself trying to clean up spilled milk while comforting a screaming toddler. Save the fancy restaurant for date-night, and hit up that 50’s diner with fun music, milkshakes and coloring books with the kids.

Order Kids Food First: Often times my children are very hungry by the time we make it to a restaurant, so my wife and I make a point to order their food when we order everyone a drink. The food will then arrive more quickly, and your children won’t sit hungry longer than they have to. Don’t wait for the waiter or waitress to ask you what you’d like to eat for dinner. Take initiative and politely let them know your kids are hungry and you’d like to put their order in immediately. It’ll be worth it!

Childproof the Table: There are all kinds of items on a restaurant table that aren’t suitable for children. As soon as you get to the restaurant make sure you first childproof the table – or at least the area of the table within your child’s reach. When I say childproof the table, I essentially mean getting rid of knives, salt shakers and breakable objects and ensuring there are lids on all children’s cups.

Communicate: It doesn’t hurt to talk about dining out ahead of time. Discuss what it will be like and how the children are expected to behave. Have a tea party or trial run at home; you’ll be able to play and have fun while helping your children learn what’s expected of them at a restaurant.

Eating out with kids can be fun. Remember, it can be an unpredictable experience. Be prepared to leave early and take your food to go if necessary.

Happy parenting!

Sincerely,

Daddy Nickell

Families Can Have More Fun

There’s nothing better than smiling and laughing with the family, but it’s sometimes easier said than done. With seven kids of my own, I know it can be difficult to ensure everyone has fun everyday, so I’ve created a list of tips that’ll ensure families can have more fun together!

Laugh and Sing: Families can have more fun together by laughing and singing.  When it starts to get out of hand in the kitchen or the car, I often start making up words to tunes the kids are familiar with, all of sudden they start laughing and we get a change of pace. They find it very funny when I sing the wrong words to popular songs. Any time you can do something goofy to make your family laugh or smile – I say go for it! Don’t take yourself too seriously, and take advantage of every opportunity to smile.

Play More: We have more fun together as a family when my wife and I actively participate in playtime with the kids. We get down on the floor, ride bikes together, climb up the slide and go back down, etc.  If you want to have more fun as a family, participate and become part of the show, not just a parent watching on the sidelines. Your kids will love to see that you’re not afraid to get dirty or act silly, and you’ll all have lots of fun playing together.

Be Prepared: Families can have more fun by being prepared for anything and everything. Pack your diaper bag (or Daddy Diaper Pack) with essentials and extras – just in case. Determine how many diapers you’ll need for a specific number of hours then add two more.  Download the movie on the iPad that you can turn on when your child is approaching meltdown mode. Being prepared will allow families to have more fun together because there will be less to complain about (ie: nobody will be chilly if you stay out after the sun goes down because you packed jackets in advance) and parents will have less to worry about.

Go with the Flow: Don’t get stressed when plans change – go with the flow and stay flexible. The journey through parenthood can be bumpy, and parents have to learn to accept sudden changes and make the most of them. If you get stressed about a change in plans, chances are your children will follow suit. If you remain calm and are determined to have fun with your family, however, they’ll likely act in the same manner.

I know it’s not always easy to be a parent, so take it day by day, remain calm, smile more and play a lot – you can do it!

Happy Parenting!

Sincerely,

Daddy Nickell

911 Emergency Plan for Kids

In a world full of unknowns it’s important to have an emergency plan in place, so your family knows exactly what to do in the case of an emergency. It’s also extremely important to make sure your children understand what an emergency is, and how they should react in the event of one. I’ve compiled a list of ideas and reminders that will help you create an emergency plan in your home.

Communicate: I’m a firm believer that parent-child communication is essential for success in just about every circumstance, and communication is definitely key in establishing an emergency plan, too. Start by talking to your children to learn what they already know about dealing with emergencies, discuss different types of emergencies and ensure they understand exactly what constitutes an emergency. Make sure your discussion is age-appropriate; how you discuss the idea of an emergency will vary from toddlers to teenagers, of course.

Write Down Numbers: Have emergency numbers written down on or near the fridge. In our house, we have an emergency binder that has phone numbers for just about any occasion including: our neighbor’s phone numbers, grandparent’s phone numbers and more. If your child is old enough to carry their own cell phone then make sure they have all of the important numbers programmed in their phones for emergency situations.

Proper Alarms for Early Warning: Make sure you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in place within your home, and test them every six months to ensure they’re working properly. These early warning devices could save your life. For information on where to purchase these devices and how to properly install them in your home visit: http://www.firstalert.com/ or an alternate credible source.

Practice Drills: As is the case with many things, practice makes perfect. If your family is faced with an emergency you’ll want to be prepared, and you’ll want your kids to know what to do. Have several practice drills within your own home to help determine a plan of action for an emergency situation. You may feel silly while practicing, but you’ll be grateful for those drills in the face of an actual emergency.

Look to the Media: There is so much information available to teach children about emergencies. I suggest looking to kid-friendly books, television shows, movies, etc. to help solidify the idea of an emergency, get advice from an additional source and help your child become more familiar with the whole concept.

No matter how you develop an emergency plan that works best for your family, the most important thing is that you’re prepared.

Sincerely,

Daddy Nickell

Traveling with Toddlers

As a seasoned traveler, I know how stressful it can be to fly with toddlers. Don’t get caught up in the stress this year, follow these tried and true tips for ensuring easy travel with your toddlers this winter and beyond.

 

Planning Ahead for Toddlers:

  • Buy some books about flying in a plane, so that your child will understand the whole concept. You might also buy a toy plane that you can talk about with your toddler. Discuss the people who work on the plane, where you enter the plane, where you sit on a plane, etc. The goal here is to get children used to the idea of flying.
  • Get a backpack or special travel bag that is just for the toddler, and,  beginning a few weeks in advance, discuss how the child can help pack their own bag, and talk about what items they’d like to bring with them to play with on the plane.
  • Discuss with your child all the steps that come with flying on an airplane, such as: the ride to airport, checking bags, going through TSA, waiting to board, getting on the plane, looking out the window, etc, so they’ll know what to expect when you arrive at the airport on travel day.

 

Plan in 15 Minutes:

  • Estimate the time and length of the trip from beginning to end and make plans in 15 min increments.  For instance, if you’re planning for a 5 hour flight you’ll know:
    • The first 30 minutes your toddlers will be excited, as they will have just boarded the plane; they’ll be looking out the window, watching the activity, seeing other planes, and watching luggage being loaded. Then you have the exciting take off to look forward to, too.
    • Once the plane passes through the clouds, the show is over for the child and it’ll be time to start to calculate how to entertain your toddler for the remaining 4.5 hours left in the flight.
    • You’ll want about 16 different 15-minute activities with some backups in mind, too that will keep your toddler entertained throughout a long flight. My suggestions include the following:
      • Start with a book – while they are still excited to fly.
      • Bring a favorite toy – doll or action figure.
      • Playdough is always a good item to have on-hand.
      • Scotch tape can actually be quite entertaining.
      • Don’t forget to factor in snack time – bring a good assortment.
      • You can add 15 minutes for a trip to the bathroom or a diaper change.
      • Get out of your seats (if the seatbelt sign is off) and walk around the plane.
      • Coloring book and crayons are definite staples.
      • Change seats with each other to get a fresh view of the surroundings.
      • Talk to the seat neighbors if they’re friendly.
      • Bring some toy-cars, or play items that allow for imaginary play.
      • Bring some magnetic blocks, or other creative building toys

 

What to Expect as the Parent:

  • You might want your child to nap on the plane, but you need to be prepared because that won’t always happen.
  • Parents should remain calm, and listen to the child’s excitements and fears.
  • Make each activity last as long as possible. Take a diaper change, for example, walk slowly and explore on the way there and on the way back.
  • Don’t rely on the airplane for a meal. Pack plenty of food for your child.
  • Do not even think about yourself; consider yourself lucky if you get to glance at a magazine or close your eyes for a few seconds.
  • Try to avoid taking out your computer, unless your child is napping.
  • Always have a “Def Con 5” item at your fingertips. What I call the Def Con 5 item is a toy you can pull out when your child is reaching melt down mode, and you still have 30 minutes trapped inside a plane.
  • I try to keep the i-Pad hidden as a last resort, and not as a first choice item. I’ve used the i-Pad as a reward or something to look forward to.

 

Consider Your Toddler’s Health:

  • Upon takeoff and landing, children under 3 have trouble clearing their ear pressure. You can help by ensuring they over-exaggerate yawning, drink lots of water, or chew on some goldfish.
  • If you’re able to, I suggest wiping down your airplane area with cleaning cloths. Wipe down the trays, arm rests, front and back of seats, window shades, etc. to protect your child from harmful germs.
  • Have your toddler wash his or her hands after going through TSA.
  • If the child is under 2, I recommend bringing a car seat that they’re already used to and comfortable in.
  • If you are going to bring an i-Pad make sure you also pack a pair of headphones that are comfortable and easy for the child to use.

 

The bottom line is: the more relaxed and prepared you are, the easier it is for the child to learn to fly.  The more you fly, the more comfortable everyone will become.

Good luck and happy parenting!

Sincerely,

Daddy Nickell

 

Routine Tips that Work

When you have children you know the importance of a good routine. Children thrive on routine and they’ll come to appreciate it greatly, but it’s not always easy to establish a routine at home. With seven children of my own, I have tried it all, and I have come to figure out tips that help build and establish a routine.

And without further adieu, here they are:

  1.  Consistency – Write down your desired routine and complete it consistently, as a family, everyday for a week. The first week might be difficult, but don’t give up – be consistent. At the end of the week you’ll be able to make changes and modifications where necessary, and you’ll likely be surprised by how well your family has taken to the routine. After the first week it’s all downhill! Things to ensure are part of the routine include: a designated wake up time and bedtime, hygiene schedules, healthy meals, family time, play time, down time and school.
  2. Communication – Talk about the routine everyday in order to make sure all family members are on the same page. Let your family add to the conversation in discussing what they like, what they don’t like, what works well, what doesn’t and why. Finding a routine that works for everyone is key to the success of your routine. So give every family member a chance to communicate in order to be sure everyone’s needs are being met by the routine you’ve created.
  3. Organization – Be as organized as you can when it comes to your routine. Make sure homework is complete in the evenings, projects are ready for transport to the car before going to bed, everyone has what they need to leave the house, etc. We use a large family calendar wherein we write in big projects, happenings and the daily schedule of activities as well as a large white board where we write important reminders, so we don’t let anything fall through the cracks or ruin our routine.
  4. Schedule – In our home, everyone looks at the calendar, discusses it, adds to it, and talks about their day, after school events, upcoming weekend events, family nights, and after school sports. Use a calendar and teach your children how to use it, too. If they know what the calendar means they’ll likely ask you to add their important events, activities and ideas to it. Don’t forget to allow time in the schedule for bumps in the road. Your routine might be bumpy every other day, and it’s important to plan time for those bumps in the schedule and make room for adjustments, too.

I know routines have the tendency to be rigid, but you can’t forget to have fun – be a family, be supportive, be funny, smile; life is short, enjoy the moments of chaos, and grow together.

Happy parenting!

Daddy Nickell