Category Archives: Little ways to make life easier

Amazon.com Subscribe and Save

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When you’re juggling taking care of everything that breathes in your house and beyond, as well as your crazy job–finding time to drive to Target or the grocery store to load up on toilet paper, batteries, cereal, milk boxes, dish soap, tissues, coffee, cleaning supplies, bandages, and more isn’t as easy at it may seem. Your days of “popping into a store to pick up a few things” are over.

Hence, the beauty of Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program. Amazon’s program is super easy and straight forward. Simply go to their Subscribe & Save page and find thousands of everyday household items (health, child care, grocery, beauty, office, and pet products). Pick an item and sign up for free auto delivery every one to six months. You’ll save an additional 15% off Amazon’s already competitive prices.

You will always get email reminders from Amazon about an upcoming delivery so that you can change the delivery date to a later or earlier day. For instance, you can order an extra delivery of flu medicine if everyone in your house gets sick or hold off an another shipment of dish detergent when you still have a stockpile of four bottles. You can also cancel any Subscribe & Save item at any time so you’re not locked into unwanted purchases.

I’ve been using the Amazon Subscribe & Save program for about four years now, and the only things I would say to watch out for are: 1.) Going on vacation? Remember to check your upcoming delivery dates a couple of weeks before you plan on going out of town so that you can modify any package deliveries. 2.) If you have a lot of Subscribe & Save items (or canceled subscriptions) listed on your “Manage Your Subscribe & Save Items” page, be sure to look on page 2 of the item listing. Depending on how many active subscriptions and/or canceled subscriptions you have, there may be additional current subscriptions listed at the top of the second page. This is a weird formatting issue or savvy marketing strategy Amazon has used. 3.) Not all the prices are competitive. Bulky items like toilet paper may end up being a little cheaper at your local big box store, but weigh the price difference and decide whether it’s worth loading the kids in the car to save a dollar.

Note, if you have a child in diapers, be sure to join Amazon Mom. As a member of this free program, you get 30% off select diapers and wipes and shipping discounts (or free shipping). You also receive an occasional email with a specific discount on certain baby items like car seats or feeding accessories.

Now that you’ve saved all this time driving and shopping for staples at stores, maybe you can take a few minutes for yourself. Perhaps use the bathroom without your little one talking to you nonstop by the door? Well… maybe not.

Captivating coloring

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Recently, my three-year old daughter has started enjoying coloring more. She is mildly interested in the coloring sheets that come with the kiddie menus at restaurants and the handful of Miffy pages I’ve printed from web sites (although we love Miffy books!). She doesn’t really care much for Melissa and Doug coloring pages or TV character pages. But for some reason, Taro Gomi doodling and coloring books hold her concentrated attention for 30 minutes plus. Yes, that’s enough time to have a real conversation with someone or cook most of your dinner!

The author of Everyone Poops and other books, Taro Gomi is an award-winning writer and illustrator. His doodle, scribble, coloring, activity, and painting books and postcards will keep 3 to 7 year olds engaged. The clean line drawings are bold, expressive, and humorous with ample space to color and also space for embellishing (some of the pictures ask kids to add worms or apples to certain scenes for instance). If you love white space, these books are for you, uh, I mean your child. Some of the Taro Gomi books focus more on learning how to draw/doodle while others are geared more towards preschoolers who just want to color, draw simple lines, or practice counting. There is usually a nice balanced assortment of different age appropriate pages in each volume.

Here are some sample Taro Gomi color pages to download on Chronicle Books’ site.

Here are a few of our favorites to buy:

Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book
Doodle 123!: A Really Giant Doodling and Drawing Book
Doodle All Year

Be sure to check Amazon for good prices on Taro Gomi titles and possibly Barnes and Noble or Borders if you have a coupon. Many of these books are pretty thick and heavy, so feel free to remove a few pages for a restaurant outing.

We also like the Melissa and Doug triangular crayons for color, durability, and no paper wrapper to peel away.

Let’s get the blue tape

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You know how it goes. Your child gets a great present from the grandparents and all she/he wants to do is play with the bubble wrap and wheel stuffed animals around in the big box the toy came in. Yes, sometimes the cheapest and insignificant items are what holds little ones’ attention the most.

Hence, blue painter’s tape. I’m not sure how our love affair with this tape began, but my daughter has been playing with blue painter’s tape for a couple of years now and it is a big part of her daily play. The beauty of this tape is that it comes off of all surfaces (well maybe not so much hair), is reasonably priced, is reusable, and really does build spatial, construction, and motor skills. There’s something intriguing about blue painter’s tape for kids–I think that they feel like they have some control over it and what they can create with it. Most kids can rip their own tape by the age of 3 or so. We recently bought a 9 pack from Amazon for $31.12 that lasts about a year.

Here are some ways to get creative with blue painter’s tape:

  • pretend bandages on stuffed animals
  • build anything and everything with blue tape, paper, cardboard, paper plates, etc…
  • decorating or dressing up stuffed animals
  • “wrapping” objects (see the mini-pumpkin above) or pretend gifts
  • fixing things–of course this involves “breaking” or ripping something apart first!
  • attaching dolls or other objects to cars, play houses
  • art projects when you don’t want to use glue or just don’t have any glue on hand
  • airplane ride entertainment
  • pretend bridges (attach it between chairs)
  • create “do not enter” sections of a room
  • mini kites
  • fun abstract greeting cards or wall/window art
  • marking off a pretend house on a wooden floor
  • pretend jewelry
  • play food

Add some packing peanuts to the blue tape mix sometime and you’ve got an afternoon of non-battery powered fun.

Two notable gift sites

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Yes, I wish I could make the extra effort to buy locally, but I do end up doing much of my shopping online when my three-year old is sleeping (hopefully in her own bed). I came across two great online stores recently. Although I haven’t ordered from them yet, they both have some unique gift items, perfect for the holidays.

Founded in Chicago, The Paper Source has locations throughout the country. They sell beautiful calendars, invitations, note cards, ornaments, gift wrap, and more. There are some great design-y art project ideas here too. A few of my favorite items available online are the 2011 Animals to Love Desk Calendar, the 2011 Paper Source Wall Art Calendar, and the Woodgrain Rubber Stamp (I’m not particularly crafty by nature, but I can think of some pretty cool art projects you could make with this stamp).

Based in San Francisco, the garden store Flora Grubb captures a certain vision of those who are architecturally inclined, in love with storybook whimsy and plain old imagination. If you can’t get out to San Francisco, there are several gift items on their website. In the not so expensive category, I love the Handcrafted Forest Floor Ornaments, the Wall Bubble Aerium, and the Cube Aeriums.

Traveling with your bundle of joy?

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Okay, so your little bundle of joy isn’t really all that little anymore and sometimes isn’t exactly joyful while traveling. We’ve taken our toddler/preschooler on a few airplane trips and these items have definitely come in handy.

1. Go-Go Kidz Travelmate

If you plan to bring your child’s car seat onto the airplane and have purchased a separate airplane seat for them, the Go-Go Kidz Travelmate is quite handy. This wheeled plate easily attaches to most car seats (we have the Britax Diplomat) and makes moving around at the airport a little easier. Read more about FAA travel guidelines and regulations for traveling with small children. Most kids find being wheeled around in their familiar car seat in the airport kind of fun and falling asleep is definitely easier in a well padded car seat than the regular airplane seat/Moms lap/balled up sweater combination. Note, you need to detach the Travelmate from the car seat before putting them both through the X-ray conveyor belt. So try to time the possible nap in the wheeled car seat appropriately. Full dimensions, product video, and features can be found on the Go-Go Kidz Travelmate web page (but buy through Amazon to save some money).

2. Hefty One Zip Storage Plastic Bags (gallon and quart size)

Dependable and easy to use (even your child can open and close them), the Hefty One Zip bags are great for wet clothes (potty training anyone?), snacks, holding crayons and other toy pieces you bring on board, wipes, and tissues. Make sure you bring extra gallon sized ones in your ever bulging carry on bag ready for the unexpected.

3. Photos on your laptop

Many kids like to look at pictures of themselves. We often load several hundred photos of our daughter onto a laptop and let it play in slideshow mode while on the plane. It is great for keeping your child occupied and offers some fun conversation starters. Sometimes including older photos of when your child as an infant is particularly fascinating to your little one.

4. What to do about ear popping (or lack thereof)

In order to help alleviate ear pain, always remember to have some juice or water in a sippy cup or cup with a straw available for take offs and landings. We also found offering favorite snacks (be sure to pace the snacks before take offs and landings so your child will actually be hungry) a good way to encourage swallowing and ear popping. Any of Dr. Sears’s fruit chew supplements also work well (the pineapple/mango ones are a bit sour though) to aid swallowing and of course have the added benefit of being nutritious.

5. Doodle Pro

Not really sure why, but the Doodle Pro (the smaller sized version is easier for travel) can keep your toddler/preschooler occupied for more than 15 minutes! No mess and no crayons to drop, Fisher-Price has several different versions of this toy that can be used for alphabet, number, and vocabulary building in addition to drawing goofy portraits of Mommy and Daddy. Good prices on the Doodle Pro can be found at Target and sometimes Amazon.