You’re Outa Here

Spring is in the air, so let’s get outside and start having fun!

backyard adventures base camp shelterBase Camp Shelter (Backyard Safari Outfitters)
Journeys—whether they’re a thousand miles or just out to the backyard—start with a single step. But before you start stepping, you need to plan out where you’re going to rest along the way. The Base Camp Shelter is a 3-sided tent, which means you won’t want to use it in the rain. However, it’s perfect for fair-weather overnights, rest stops, shade at the beach, or as a place to observe birds, bugs, and other natural wonders. It has a zippered rear window, moisture-proof floor lining, mesh storage pouches that you can fill with healthy snacks for your weary adventurers, and D rings for hanging lanterns and other gear. It’s also light, extremely compact, easy to carry, and sets up in minutes., thereby removing many of the obstacles that keep kids from enjoying being outside and encouraging them to get out and start having adventures. Ages 5+. About $49. http://www.backyardsafari.com/

Star Wars Science Jedi telescopeStar Wars Jedi telescope (Uncle Milton)
Star gazing is a classic parent-child activity, one that can spark an interest in ancient mythology and/or science. There’s plenty to see with the naked eye, but a telescope can make the whole experience a lot more fun—and educational—for everyone.  The Jedi telescope works like a real telescope, allowing a closer look at the moon, stars, planets, and other celestial objects. When you and your child get tired of seeing things the way they are, you can always explore that famous galaxy far, far away. The Jedi telescope has 10 Star Wars-related images built in, including planets such as Tatooine, Dagobah, and Kamino, and even the Death Star. Ages 5+. $22.00 http://unclemilton.com/star_wars_science/

backyard adventures walkie talkieWalkie Talkies (Backyard Safari Outfitters)
Communicating with basecamp is an important part of any outdoor adventure. And with its two-mile range, you can give the kids some freedom to explore without losing contact. These walkies come two in a pack and include basic instructions and an adventure guide, but not the 8 AAA batteries you’ll need. They’re easy to use and the sounds quality is good—as long as you’re in an open area where there’s not too much to interfere with the signal. Perhaps the nicest thing about these walkies is that they allow you to communicate with your child the old fashioned way: using words. No texts, no apps, no data plan required. $30. Ages 6+. http://www.backyardsafari.com/

little scholar school zone tabletLittle Scholar tablet (School Zone)
When the adventure is over, it’s time to get back to the real world. And the Little Scholar tablet can help with that transition. Made by School Zone, which has been manufacturing educational materials and products for more than 35 years, the Little Scholar comes preloaded with 150 apps, e-books, songs, and videos, all of which are ready to use right out of the box. The apps are the full versions, which means there’s nothing to download and none of those annoying in-app upsells that we’ve seen in some other tablets. The apps cover a wide range of subjects, including math, spelling, and reading in a playful, creative way. Popular titles include the “Start to Read!” E-book series and the “Charlie and Company” video series. The password-protected A+ app is designed for parents, and lets us pick the apps our kids have access to and monitor their progress. Little Scholar runs on Google Android 4.2.2 and has an 8-inch screen with 1024×768 resolution. For kids 3-7 (anyone older than that will want a more adult tablet). $169.99 at online retailers and www.buylittlescholar.com .

New Mother Has to Go Back to Work Too Soon

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I just had a baby two months ago. I’ve been off work under the Family Leave Act until now and would like to take the remaining 4 or 5 weeks. But, unfortunately, we really need my salary to make ends meet. The prospect of leaving my baby (my husband needs to work full-time too) is making me miserable. I’m feeling like a terrible mother and I have no idea what I can do to feel better about this situation.

A: You may find this hard to believe (I certainly did), but the United States is one of only a handful of countries in the world without a paid family leave policy. Combine that with a tough economy and the social pressure many new moms feel to go back to work, and it’s no wonder that the average maternity leave is only 10 weeks. It’s even harder to believe (but true), that about 16 percent of new mothers taken between one and four weeks of leave, and a third don’t take leave at all, rushing back to work as soon as they’re physically able. That’s according to the latest data from HRSA (the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

I’m sure some of those new moms are happy to be working again, but I’m betting that a lot more are, like you, miserable, beating themselves up for being bad mothers, and wishing they could quit their job. You’re not in an easy spot, but here are a few ideas that should help:

Talk—and listen. A lot of couples in your situation tiptoe around the elephant in the room: money (or the lack of it). You and your husband have to buck that trend and start talking about finding a reasonable (and fiscally responsible) way of making sure that everyone’s needs are met, or that they’re at least taken into consideration. That means listening to each other carefully and respectfully and acknowledging the pressures that each of you face.

Get your childcare situation in order. Fear that the baby won’t be adequately cared for is what many new mothers—and fathers—find most unsettling about going back to work. Since you need your husband’s income as well as your own, make finding a trusted childcare provider a top priority.

Relieve some of the pressure. Most couples, regardless of how enlightened and egalitarian they want to be, end up slipping into “traditional” roles after becoming parents. And because women put so much pressure on themselves to be good mothers, you may try to do more around the house than you can handle. Don’t. If your husband can’t take on any more, you can either hire someone to help out (which, given your financial issues, doesn’t sound very realistic) or learn to relax your standards. Does the house really need to be immaculate? Also, be sure to schedule some couple time or “me” time. A few hours alone with your husband—even if it’s just renting a video and snuggling up on the couch—will really help.

Spend more time with the baby. Since you and your husband will be working, you’re both going to miss your baby and you’re both going to want to spend time with him from the moment you walk in the door. Negotiate first dibs with your husband—especially if you’re still nursing: your breasts may be ready to explode by the time you get home and you’ll need the baby to do what babies do

Parenting an Atypical Child


Rita Eichenstein, author of Not What I Expected.
Topic:
Help and hope for parents of atypical children.
Issues: Defining “atypical;” how the diagnosis of an atypical child affects the child and the parents; the emotional stages parents go through as they struggle to help their child; how to get help when you need it.

Parenting with a Story + Not What I Expected

Paul Smith, author of Parenting with a Story.
Topic:
Life lessons in character for parents and children to share.
Issues: Tell a young person what to do–play fair, be yourself, stick to the task at hand–and most will tune you out. But show them how choices and consequences play out in the real world, with real people, and the impact will be far more profound.


Rita Eichenstein, author of Not What I Expected.
Topic:
Help and hope for parents of atypical children.
Issues: Defining “atypical;” how the diagnosis of an atypical child affects the child and the parents; the emotional stages parents go through as they struggle to help their child; how to get help when you need it.

No More Bedtime Battles

Getting the kids to go to bed—and actually stay there—can be of the most challenging parts of any parent’s day. The best solution is to have (and keep) a good bedtime routine. But what’s a harried mom or dad to do when the routine doesn’t work? Sometimes, having the right helper is just what the Sandman ordered. Check out some of these fun and innovative new products for bedtime and beyond.

melody mates blanketMelody Mates (Melody Mates)
Most kids (and most grownups too) want a soft, snuggly blanket to cuddle up with. And what could be better than one with a gently glowing, soothing animal face on it? Melody Mates actually goes one step further, pairing the blanket with a matching (and washable, yeah!) pillow. Push a button and calming lullabies play and the LED lights glow—just enough to be friendly and put an end to those bedtime battles, but not nearly bright enough to interrupt sleep (that would be evil, wouldn’t it?). Soft, plush Melody Mates come in six flavors, including cow, duck, frog, and monkey. For ages 12 months and up. About $30. Unfortunately, batteries aren’t included. www.MyMelodyMates.com

broboBrobo (Brobo)
If you haven’t met Brobo and his friends, we’re glad to introduce you. These fun, adorable, cuddly buddies first hit the market in 2012 but were pretty hard to find until now. There’s Brobo himself, Pep, Mumu, Trex, and Dog. All of them have a futuristic, robot feel and a glowing center that looks like Iron Man’s Arc Reactor. They’re great company for your little one, and they’ll definitely help scare away the darkness when it’s time for lights-out. The glowing center has a very bright “flashlight” mode and a much-less-bright nightlight mode. Just swipe a hand (or tail) over the lights to activate. Both shut off automatically after five minutes. $35 at www.brobo.com

 

ok to wake clockOK to Wake! Clock (Patch Products)
If you’ve got a child who gets up at 5am when you were looking forward to sleeping in, the OK To Wake! clock will be your new BFF. The clock will let you child know—even if he or she can’t tell time—when it’s okay to get out of bed and demand breakfast or cartoon time. Just set the desired time and the faceplate will light up. And for those weekday mornings when the kids would like to sleep ‘til noon instead of going to school, the OK to Wake! just switch to alarm clock mode. You can also use it as a night light. Batteries required. $33 at http://www.patchproducts.com

dino petDino Pet (BioPop)
Although Dino Pets are shaped like dinosaurs, they don’t really have very much to do with those prehistoric reptiles. The Pet’s name comes from dinoflagellates, which are the bioluminescent phytopankton that live inside its clear, plastic body. (Yes, we know that dinoflagellates sounds like a dinosaur that has gas or is being whipped.) Like most other pets, Dino Pets are alive and are fun to play with. Unlike other pets, you don’t have to take them for walks or clean up after them. You will have to feed them with the provided Dino Food, though, but only once every few months. During the day, the algae soaks up energy from the sun or low-wattage lightbulb. But at night, they put on an amazing light show—all you have to do is touch the dino’s body or gently shake it. Part night light and part science project, Dino Pets are absolutely fascinating. $59.95. Additional dino food is $14.95, and if your colony suddenly goes extinct, you can order refills for $49.95. http://biopop.com/products/dino-pet