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Published on April 4, 2013, by in Au Pair.

While the soft, silky skin of all children tends to be a bit more sensitive than that of their adult counterparts, some kids’ skin is so sensitive that caring for it can feel like a full-time job. Kids have thinner, more delicate skin that’s more prone to irritation and even skin infections, so it’s important to make sure that you’re taking every possible precaution to protect them from discomfort or pain. These ten tips can help you to minimize the number of reactions your child has to environmental factors, and to increase her comfort level.

  1. Switch Her Laundry Detergent – If your child’s sensitive skin is becoming more uncomfortable or sensitivity is a relatively new issue, you should immediately replace your laundry detergent with one that’s free from fragrances, dyes and other additives. These chemicals can be very irritating to a child’s skin, and may be the root of a problem that’s just beginning to surface.
  2. Wash All New Clothing and Bedding – Kids with sensitive skin may experience flare-ups if they wear new clothing or use new bedding that hasn’t yet been washed. Many textiles are coated in chemicals that retard wrinkling and creasing that will disperse with the first washing. Until then, they lurk on the surface of those fabrics and cause your child pain. No matter how excited she is about a new outfit or new sheets, make sure that she understands why you have to wash new things before she can sue them.
  3. Read the Labels of Toiletries – The best shampoos, soaps and lotions to use on children with sensitive skin contain no fragrances or dyes. Before you invest in a new product, even one that claims to be designed for sensitive skin, check for any hint of scents or coloring that could be problematic for your sensitive child.
  4. Do Patch Tests for New Products – When you’re looking for a body wash or lotion that won’t ravage your little one’s sensitive skin, you may introduce a new product with each bath after the previous one fails the test. One way to keep the irritation to a minimum is to do a patch test with new products, applying them to a small area of skin and waiting to see if there’s a reaction. If the product doesn’t agree with your little one’s skin, at least the irritation is confined to a small area, rather than spread over her entire body.
  5. Keep Skin Moisturized – Dry skin feels tighter and is more uncomfortable. Once you’ve found a moisturizer that doesn’t cause your child’s skin to react negatively, be sure that you apply it liberally. This is especially important in the cold winter months, when dry heat and harsh winds can wreak havoc on everyone’s skin.
  6. Lower Bath Temperature – You don’t want to bathe a child in hot water to begin with, but it’s especially important to lower the temperature for particularly sensitive youngsters. Hot water strips the skin of surface oils, leaving it drier and more prone to irritation.
  7. Invest in a Humidifier – Dry air can be a major problem for kids with sensitive skin, especially if that dryness increases sensitivity and discomfort. Investing in a humidifier will introduce moisture into the air of your home, making it less harsh on your child’s sensitive skin.
  8. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen – Sunburns are no fun for anybody, but they’re especially painful for little ones with extraordinarily sensitive skin. Make sure that you never send your child outdoors without a liberal coating of sunscreen.
  9. Limit Exposure to Household Chemicals – Some of the most common household substances, including scented fabric sprays and aerosol air fresheners can contain chemicals that irritate your child’s skin. Make sure that her exposure to these chemicals is limited, and that she never manages to spray them directly on her skin.
  10. Know Your Child’s Triggers – Every child is different, and will have different triggers that set off a sensitive skin flare-up. Figuring out your child’s triggers may require a lot of observation over a lengthy period of time, but will make it easier to avoid those triggers in the future.

In cases of severely sensitive skin, it’s wise to work with your pediatrician or even a dermatologist to find the best possible solutions for your little one’s skin. She may need prescription-strength treatments and the supervision of a physician in order to properly manage the sensitivity and minimize flare-ups.

Published on March 25, 2013, by in Au Pair.

Granola bars are considered a kids’ cuisine staple by moms everywhere. They make for a very handy snack, breakfast food and lunchbox filler. While they may seem like simple fare, granola bars can contain a whole host of surprising ingredients. They are incredibly simple to make, too, which provides great opportunities for moms and kids to get cooking in the kitchen. There is a lot more to granola bars than rolled oats, nuts and honey, as any chef or nutritionist will agree. These 20 blogs put the humble granola bar through its paces, with resulting recipes that both you and your kids will love.

Basic Granola Bars

As with all great things, producing your own mouth-watering granola bars begins with learning the basics. Simple ingredients do not necessarily equate to substandard quality, though. The basic ingredients of granola bars are a perfect fusion of nuts, honey and oats. Even at this level, you can experiment with each recipe; try substituting the nuts and fruit to get the best results to better your child’s individual tastes and preferences. These four recipe blogs will get you off the ground, as well as give you some ideas for variations on the basic granola bar theme.

Chocolate Granola Bars

Is there any such thing as a kid who doesn’t like chocolate? Once you have mastered the basics of baking granola bars, it’s time to get a little more adventurous. Adding chocolate to the mix creates an extra layer of taste sensation, which only compliments the nuts and fruit inside your granola bars. Chocolate granola bars are ideal for eating on the move; especially while running, hiking or after a long day of playing in the park.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Peanut butter sandwiches are so last century. That’s not to say, however, that kids don’t still carry a strong love for the delectable, creamy spread. With peanut butter granola bars you can totally reinvent the way your children view this traditional snack food. The two perfectly complement each other, creating a fusion of tastes that kids can truly appreciate. Peanut butter granola bars are perfectly suited for your kid’s lunch box, and they’ll be the envy of the class if they’re not enrolled in a peanut-free school. In these five blogs you will find everything you need to know to get started on your delicious peanut butter bars.

Healthy Granola Bars

Granola bars are perfectly suited to diets that include healthier snacks. The variation in ingredients allows you to set the nutritional value of each batch, so your kids get everything they need in a single bar. Granola bar recipes, no matter how creative, are always simple. This means that you have a lot of room for experimenting with different ingredients without deviating too far from your original theme. Health conscious cooks are sure to love the offerings in these four blogs. Use these recipes as your starting point, putting your own healthy spin on each one.

Creative Granola Bar Ideas

For the more adventurous amateur chef, granola bars offer a great opportunity to really hone your skills and get creative in the kitchen. It’s easy to stick fairly close to the traditional recipe – but remember, they do say that fortune favors the bold. Your kids will thank you, too, when you perfect the craft to create amazingly delicious treats. For some ideas on taking your granola bars to the next level, these four blogs are just what you need.

Granola bars are a really affordable treat that you can make in your home with basic ingredients, utensils and equipment. Although it is unlikely that it will last long, you can store granola for several months, as long as it is kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you need any further reason to love this versatile treat, try baking a batch today and watch your kids instantly become your biggest fan.

Published on March 20, 2013, by in Au Pair.

During the holiday season candy canes tend to make a dominate appearance in the candy aisle, and are a traditional holiday treat. But these red and white striped treats can be used for more than just a festive holiday candy to consume; they can also be used as an affordable way to make several holiday-themed ornaments. Pick up a box of candy canes the next time you’re at the grocery store and try making a few of these kid-friendly candy cane ornaments at home.

  1. Heart shaped ornament – This one is simple to do, but it requires using a hot glue gun so you’ll need to help the kids to ensure that no little fingers get burned.  Use a low-temp hot glue gun, that way you don’t melt the plastic on the candy canes.  Start by hot gluing two candy canes into the shape of a heart.  Next, hot glue a round peppermint candy to the point where the top points of the candy canes touch.  Using some red ribbon or string, tie this heart shaped ornament to your tree.
  2. Candy cane mice ornament – For this project you’ll need to gather up some felt in coordinating colors, scissors, glue and a black marker.  Cut out some fat tear drop shapes out of one color of felt.  These will be the bodies of the mice.  Out of the same fabric, cut out a shape for the ears.  The shape needs to be like two tear drops that have kind of spilled together at their points.  This shape will be threaded through a slit in the body, which is why the tear drop ear shapes need to be connected.  Check out this link for templates.  In a contrasting color cut out tear drops that are a little smaller to fit inside the ears.  Cut out a very small circle for the nose, also in the contrasting color.  Fold the body shape in half lengthwise and cut a slit just wide enough to slide the candy cane through a ½ inch from the rounded end of the tear drop shape.  Cut another slit an inch from the first slit so that the candy cane can slide back through.  The curve of the candy cane makes the tail of the mouse.  Open up the folded felt shape and fold it in the opposite direction about an inch above the 2nd slit.  Now you will cut 2 slits ½ inch wide and ½ inch apart.  Open the felt shape up and lay it flat.  Glue the nose to the point of the tear drop.  Using a black marker, add two eyes above the nose (googly eyes work well too).  Glue the ear lining to the ear shape.  Once the ears have dried thread them through the slits closest to the nose.  Thread the candy cane through and your mouse is complete.
  3. Reindeer ornament – You’ll only need to collect a few items to make this ornament: a candy cane, a brown pipe cleaner, 2 googly eyes, a small red pom-pom, glue and red ribbon for hanging.  Wrap the pipe cleaner around the bend in the candy cane and twist to make it stay.  Bend the ends of the pipe cleaner to look like antlers.  Glue the eyes on the curve of the candy cane and the red pom-pom on the end of the curve to make the nose.  Use red ribbon to hang the candy cane on your tree or to tie on a present.
  4. Crisscrossed canes ornament- This ornament will require parental help on the first part.  Hot glue two candy canes together in a crisscross pattern.  Take a red, white and green pipe cleaner and wrap the center of them around the spot that the candy canes cross, then twist to secure.  Using a pencil, wrap each pipe cleaner end around it to create a cork screw.  After you have created all six cork screws you can stop there or take it one step further by gluing some jingle bells onto the center of the pipe cleaners.  Hang the ornament from one of the candy canes.
  5. North Pole sign ornament – Cut out a 1 inch by 2 inch rectangle from a piece of green construction paper.  With a black marker write “North Pole” on it.  Glue the sign onto the candy cane.  The straight stick candy canes work best for this, but both kinds will work.  Use the crook of the cane to hang your North Pole sign or glue a loop of red ribbon if using the straight candy cane stick.

Doing holiday crafts together with your children gives you the opportunity to spend special time with them, making sweet holiday memories. Whether you decorate your tree with the finished projects or give them away as gifts, making these candy cane inspired ornaments will provide you and your kids with hours of holiday fun.

Published on March 7, 2013, by in Au Pair.

Literally translated, it just means the 5th of May, but to Mexico Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of a victory over the French army.  Those wanting to celebrate their Mexican heritage will celebrate Cinco de Mayo in other places besides Mexico, and the celebration can be big or small.  You can make some crafts and decorations with your kids and hang them around the house while you talk a little about what the holiday means, making it a great teachable moment where you can give some history of Mexico and the struggles that they had before they become independent.  Then top off the lesson with some traditional Mexican food and drinks.  These 24 blog entries will show you how your Cinco de Mayo can rock!


Cinco de Mayo decorations, such as piñatas, are typically very bright and colorful. Streamers and puffy crepe paper flowers can be hung from the ceiling to help liven up any dinner.  Make a banner to hang over the table or door.  You can find these crafts and more on these six blog posts.


Mexican food is very popular in the United States and other places around the world.  Many families have taco night once a week.  Making Mexican food can be an integral part of your Cinco de Mayo celebration, and there are several easy recipes you can use.  Nachos are simple to make, as are many other dishes.  If you have never tried making your own guacamole, you might get your kids to help you try out the recipe on the blog found below.  Take a look at these six blogs and try your hand at these different Mexican dishes.


There is a lot of fruit available in Mexico, and as such the drinks for Cinco de Mayo celebrations are often fruity, with the margarita being the most popular.  You don’t have to have a cocktail at your celebration.  Check out some of these Mocktail recipes that you could serve to your family.  The next six blog posts will add some zip to your festive celebration.


After you have created some crafts and used them to decorate your space you will need activities to do before or after the meal.  These six blog posts will share games for your celebration, like musical chairs with mariachi music.  The kids can stay busy by doing printable games and puzzles.  You can get the whole family together to sing some special Cinco de Mayo songs.  Take a look at these ideas and see if you and your family can find something that inspires you for Cinco de Mayo.

Published on March 3, 2013, by in Au Pair.

Convincing kids to eat healthy foods when they’re constantly bombarded with marketing tactics promoting preservative-laden novelty items isn’t easy, but it can be done. There are a variety of ways to make healthier fare more fun, encouraging kids to eat better while still allowing them to enjoy their food. Childhood is the time when eating habits are established, so helping kids make healthier choices on their own is one of the best things you can do for them. These 15 tactics can add some visual spice to run of the mill foods, saving the long-term health of your kids and your pocketbook in the process.

  1. Cookie Cutters Aren’t Just for Cookies – Turning an ordinary, wholesome sandwich into something exciting can be as easy as making fun shapes with a cookie cutter.
  2. Buy Baby Varieties – There’s something inherently fun about miniature food. As an added bonus, the strong flavors that can cause kids to turn up their noses with foods such as veggies may not be as pronounced in baby varieties because they’re often harvested before the taste profile fully matures.
  3. Learn Food Origami – Turning radishes into roses and boiled egg slices into daisies are just two examples of ways that creative knife work turns ordinary food into a treat.
  4. Dress Up Lunch Bags – Who says that lunch bags have to be brown? Decorate them together with stamps or drawings to make the contents within seem more special.
  5. Make Faces – Making a face out of a food item is a whimsical way to encourage kids to eat things they might ordinarily refuse.
  6. Create Animal Shapes – When in doubt, make food look like an animal. With a bit of imagination and some creative prep, you can turn an ordinary snack into something exceptional.
  7. Play With Your Food – Your mother may have forbidden the idea of playing with your food, but that doesn’t mean you have to. An inverted apple slice with toothpicks through the bottom and a single grape on each end of the toothpick turns ordinary fruits into a car kids can enjoy playing with before they chow down.
  8. Sweet Sushi – Fruit leathers are healthier than rolled up gummy fruit treats and can make adorable wrappings for “sushi” made of crushed rice cereal.
  9. Freeze! – Frozen foods are just more fun than those at room temperature! Before serving foods that are frozen solid, make sure that all of your pint-sized diners are able to chew them without difficulty to prevent choking.
  10. Get Experimental – You can draw inspiration from a variety of sources, but there’s nothing like coming up with your own innovative food design. If cooking is a hobby of yours, you may even find that the process is fun and soothing.
  11. Splashes of Color – The primary draw of many processed foods marketed to kids is the bright coloring. Unfortunately, those attractive hues are almost always the result of chemical dyes and additives. Take a cue from the food manufacturers and make your kids meals colorful. Steamed vegetables tend to hold their color when they’ve been blanched, so work with the natural colors of the veggies and come up with a fun arrangement.
  12. Take a Dip – Even the most pedestrian foods become fun when dipping is part of the eating process. You don’t have to opt for fat and preservative filled processed dips, either. Organic offerings and hummus are great choices.
  13. Creative Containers – Kids love things that are just their size, so buying small containers or ones with a unique twist can make mealtime more fun. Small ramekins, re-purposed containers and other innovative methods of plating can make an everyday snack seem new and exciting.
  14. Toppings are Tops! – If it can be squirted, shaken, sprinkled or dusted over food, kids will almost always love it. Sometimes the addition of a few fun toppings alone can be enough to convince kids that a run-of-the-mill meal is something special.
  15. Group Prep – When kids have a hand in preparing their food, they’re automatically more invested in it and less likely to think that it’s boring. Letting little ones assist with assembly may create more work when it’s time for clean-up, but it keeps them engaged and involved with the preparation of their food. It’s also a great way to spend quality time together, passing on basic food prep skills and tricks.

If you’re running low on inspiration, there’s no shortage of kid-centric recipes and plating ideas on the Internet. Entire blogs are dedicated to the idea of fun kid-cuisine and are filled with techniques for every skill level.

Published on February 26, 2013, by in Au Pair.

There’s something about being cooped up in the house day after day that can wear on a person.  The sun isn’t shining and you feel like your spirit is being smothered beneath a blanket of clouds.  Add in the cold weather and it’s no surprise that you don’t feel like going anywhere. After weeks of enduring being shut up in the house, the winter blahs can take over. Worry no more, these 30 blog entries have just the ticket for helping you break out of your winter doldrums.  Check them out and see if your mood improves.

Change Your Mood

Finding a way to change your mood is what breaking out of the winter blahs is all about.  The good news is there are several ways to do that.  How about curling up beside a roaring fireplace with a cup of coffee and getting lost in a good book?  Or what about renting a funny movie?

Change Your Surroundings

During those cold winter days when you are stuck in the house, why not rearrange the furniture?  You can also get a jump start on your spring cleaning while you’re moving the furniture around.  Not only will you have a fresh, clean smelling room, but you will have a new view because you’ve moved the furniture all around.  Little things like this can break you out of the winter blahs.  These five blog articles will give you some other ideas for changing your surroundings to improve your outlook.

Change Your Body

If you are feeling depressed, you might need to get out and get some exercise.  Even if you just take a walk around the block, getting some fresh air and a little sunshine can help you feel better.  If there’s a lot of snow, take up snow shoeing or cross-country skiing.  If the exercise doesn’t work, maybe you can buy a few new pieces of clothes for your wardrobe that will brighten your outlook and change how you feel about your body.

Change Your Location

A common way to beat the winter blahs is to get the heck out of Dodge.  Take a trip to a warmer climate and get some sun.  Planning and looking forward to your trip will help you get over your blahs, and once you are sunning yourself on the beach all of the dreariness of winter will be nothing more than a distant memory. These five blog posts can help with some ideas on where to go to get away.

Change Your Menu

If you are experiencing the winter blahs, you might try changing your diet.  Eating healthier and cleaner can help you start to feel better.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking out of routine and trying something new.  Maybe you should make your favorite summer recipe and see if that improves your mood.  These five blog entries will give you some menu changing ideas.

Change Your Outlook

Curing the winter blahs is sometimes as easy as refocusing your energy on something else.  Get together with friends or create a gratitude journal.  Watch a good movie and laugh.  Take a look at these five blog articles and see if you can use any of these ideas to break out of the winter blahs.

Published on February 24, 2013, by in Au Pair.

Whether you exist on a diet of classic comfort food or are a naturally adventurous eater, there are certain foods that you should make a point of trying at least once in your lifetime. These are twenty-five of those edible wonders, from simple pleasures to experiences with eating dangerously.

  1. Venison – A staple in the diets of some hunters and many Europeans, non-hunting Americans may not be familiar with the high-moisture, comparatively low-calorie meat that is fresh venison.
  2. Steak Tartare – While every instinct in the modern diner’s body goes against the idea of eating raw meat, the risk of contracting a illness from bacterial or parasitic contamination is relatively low when fresh meat is used and basic food safety guidelines are adhered to.
  3. Cheese Fondue – Cheese fondue is a food trend that peaked during the Seventies and has largely died out, but it’s a culinary wonder that shouldn’t be missed.
  4. Borscht – The bright-red hue of borscht is a result of all the beets it contains. A Ukrainian dish popular throughout Eastern and Central Europe, the jewel-toned soup is a treat that shouldn’t be missed.
  5. Baba Ghanoush – A Levantine delicacy, Baba ghanoush is an eggplant dish that’s often eaten as a dip with pita bread in Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
  6. Pho – This Vietnamese soup takes a full day to properly prepare, and is traditionally served with a platter of fresh herbs and sprouts to be added in accordance with the diner’s tastes.
  7. Aloo Gobi – Yellow with turmeric and seasoned with garlic, ginger and cumin, Aloo gobi is a dish of cauliflower and potatoes popular in India, Nepal and Pakistan.
  8. Black Truffles – The price of these delicacies sniffed out by pigs can be prohibitive to everyday eating, but these mushrooms are definitely not to be missed at some point in your life.
  9. Heirloom Tomatoes – A shocking number of urban natives think that all tomatoes taste like the grainy, pale genetically modified items found in chain grocery stores. The juicy sweetness of an heirloom variety has almost nothing in common with its bland cousins, and must be experienced to be truly believed.
  10. Baklava – Sweet, sticky and sinful, the layers of honey and phyllo that make up baklava is a true sweet treat.
  11. Gumbo – Traditional gumbo, full of seafood, sausage, okra and served over rice, is a staple in the Mississippi Delta, but not widely enjoyed outside of the region.
  12. Fugu – Truly courageous epicureans line up for the risk that is dining on fugu, a Japanese delicacy that can be fatal if prepared improperly. If you’re an adrenaline junkie with an affection for food, this might be just the dish for you.
  13. Chicken Tikka Masala – Found on the menus of Indian restaurants around the world, legend states that tikka masala was created in a London kitchen. Despite its murky origins, chicken tikka masala is an intensely flavorful dining experience.
  14. Spaetzle – An egg noodle dish favored in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, South Tyrol and Alsace, Spaetzle is simple and delicious.
  15. Poutine – Outside of Canada, the combination of fries, gravy and cheese curd is practically unheard of. If you’re looking to sample a bit of traditional Canadian fare, however, poutine is the way to go.
  16. Fried Plantain – The taste and texture of fried plantain lies somewhere between a potato and a banana, an odd combination that results in an addictive treat.
  17. Frogs’ Legs – While adherents of the frog leg as a delicacy maintain that it mostly tastes like chicken, eating them is still a unique experience that everyone should have at least once.
  18. Beignets – Cafes in New Orleans serve up these bits of fried dough by the dozen. With a cafe au lait, they’re definitely something to write home about.
  19. Gazpacho – A cold, tomato-based vegetable soup from the Andalucía region of Spain, the summery flavors of gazpacho make it an ideal choice for warm-weather meals.
  20. Eggs Benedict – Rich hollandaise, poached eggs and English muffins are a favorite brunch menu item, and should be thoroughly enjoyed at least once in every lifetime.
  21. Mole Poblano – The combination of chocolate and chili is an ancient one, dating back to the Incas. Mole poblano, a chocolate chili sauce from Puebla, is a one-of-a-kind experience no food enthusiast should miss.
  22. Bagel and Lox – Originating in New York City, bagel and lox consists of a bagel and a brined salmon fillet.
  23. Lobster Thermidor – With lobster meat, cognac and egg yolks, lobster thermidor is an experience in French luxury dining that requires extensive preparation. While it’s not a dish you’d have every day, everyone should try it at least once.
  24. Polenta – Made of ground cornmeal boiled into porridge, polenta is a versatile Italian staple item once considered a peasant food but now regarded as just plain tasty.
  25. Carob Chips – There’s a reason why health-food aficionados use carob chips in place of chocolate: it’s a fat-free tasty alternative that’s high in vitamins and minerals.
Published on February 11, 2013, by in Au Pair.

There are many benefits to playing a musical instrument that go beyond improving hand-eye coordination and instilling a sense of responsibility in your child. Some other benefits include doing better in school, increasing attention span and having fun playing familiar songs for an audience of family and friends. It can also improve a child’s ability to socialize with their peers. Truly, the benefits are innumerable. Here’s a list of additional benefits that stem from playing a musical instrument that you won’t want your kids to miss.

  1. Time Management and Organizational Skills – Practice makes perfect, but you have to make time for practice. Learning to play an instrument requires a child to work on managing their time in order to fit the appropriate amount of practice into their day. In addition, a child must learn to be more organized so they don’t lose or misplace music books or parts of their instrument.
  2. Focus, Concentration and Determination – Playing an instrument helps improve focus and concentration skills. A child must learn to dedicate a certain amount of attention and focus to learning new notes or chords. Consequently, for them to learn an entire song they will have to assemble all the new notes they have learned. The reward of performing well can increase their level of determination to succeed, as well.
  3. Goals and Aspirations – It takes discipline to learn to play a musical instrument, and every note produced is another goal met, another triumph along the way. When a child gets into the swing of things, they often become committed to the idea of learning and perfecting a new song they enjoy. This part of the process can promote short term and long term goal-setting habits in a child.
  4. Sense of Achievement and Confidence – Learning how to read music is like learning a second language, so learning a new instrument is an accomplishment in itself. Conquering every song he tackles is hard work and something he will feel proud of. This will boost his confidence and sense of accomplishment, especially when he begins to learn songs that are familiar or tunes that he loves.
  5. Stress Relief – Initially, learning a new instrument can be a bit overwhelming and even a bit stressful. Over time, however, as your child becomes more comfortable, it can become a source of stress relief. Playing music that brings joy can help soothe a child. It can also be calming for others to hear them play music.
  6. Creative Expression – There’s nothing more releasing than learning a song that makes you happy or writing your own music that moves you. Playing an instrument allows your child to be expressive in how they are feeling by using music as an emotional and creative outlet. A child’s personality and talents can shine when they are allowed to be creative with music.
  7. Patience – Learning a new instrument takes patience. Mistakes are repeated many times before getting an entire song down pat. The process of learning through small triumphs and defeats teaches a child to have patience and to be diligent. They will begin to understand that with time and practice, they can achieve greatness.
  8. Improved Memory, Reading and Comprehension – Playing an instrument with sheet music requires constant reading and comprehension. Seeing notes and chords on the page and translating them to finger positions takes skill and committing them to memory takes persistence.
  9. Being a Team Player – Playing an instrument in a school band teaches a child to be a team player just as well as being on the football or basketball team. Each instrument has its own part and place in a song, and in order to participate in an ensemble a child will be forced to learn the art of working with others as a team to meet a common goal.
  10. Better Grades – A child who is taught music has been exposed to the necessary skills of concentration, focus and patience. These are abilities that tend to translate to above-average academic performance, as proven by a report released by the College Entrance Examination Board, which showed that students with a musical background outperformed their non-arts peers on the SAT and other standardized tests.

Playing a musical instrument promotes a child’s self-esteem by improving several key skills and habits. But most of all, playing a musical instrument is fun and exciting for kids. Children learn to overcome challenges in the process of learning an instrument, which spills over into a greater level of patience. Playing a musical instrument is a cycle of creative outlet and discipline that will likely carry on later in life.

Published on February 5, 2013, by in Au Pair.

The days of parents deciding what is best to send their children to school with for lunch is quickly fading.  Schools are becoming so obsessed with fighting childhood obesity that they are putting into effect some pretty strict rules about what children can and cannot bring for lunch.  Stories about schools confiscating children’s lunches are even making news headlines. As you prepare your child’s school lunch, consider these 10 tips:

  1. Make it fun: One of the most important things to remember about grade school lunches is that kids love to eat foods they consider fun.  One way to make their lunchtime meal more fun is to make your own Lunchables using a Bento box.  These are Asian inspired boxes that have sections you can fill with little bits of different foods.  Add whole wheat crackers, cheese, rolls of lean deli meat and water or 100% fruit juice. 
  2. Make it different: Don’t pack your children the same thing day after day.  If your child likes deli meat, try serving it on a salad one day and in a wrap the next. You can find salad bowls that have a separate section for the dressing so that everything stays fresh and crisp until lunchtime. When it’s time for lunch, your child can add the dressing and shake up the salad, which will distribute the dressing evenly and allow him to enjoy a healthy twist based on food he likes.   
  3. Put some love in it: Include a surprise in your child’s lunch.  Write a note on a paper napkin.  Put a sticky note on a juice box.  If the other kids tease him about his lovey dovey notes from mom, then include a “joke of the day” instead.  Print out a funny comic for him to read and share at lunch time. 
  4. Include fruit or veggies: If your child doesn’t like plain carrots or celery, include a to-go container of peanut butter or ranch dressing for dipping. Surprise him with different fruits like kiwi or star fruit.
  5. Include a water bottle: Send your child to school with a frozen bottle of water. This can double as an ice pack in his lunch that keeps his food cold, and it will have melted enough to drink by the time lunch rolls around.
  6. Ask your child what he likes: It’s super important to get your child’s input when it comes to preparing lunches.  Kids who are involved with their meal planning and preparation are more likely to eat their meals.
  7. Don’t send too much: Parents seem to err on the side of sending too much food instead of too little.  Kids have small stomachs and the younger they are, the smaller their stomach is. 
  8. Don’t send candy: Avoid sending candy to school.  Healthier alternatives include yogurt covered raisins and trail mix. Let your child pick his favorite cereal and add a handful of cereal, nuts, seeds, pretzels and chocolate chips to a Ziploc bag.
  9. Make sure to send protein: Protein helps kids stay full longer. This is so important in school where kids can’t graze all day and eat when they want. Include a protein rich food, like a ham sandwich, some almonds or a piece of string cheese with your child’s lunch.
  10. Beware of allergy restrictions: Many schools don’t allow specific items if there is a highly allergic child in the classroom. Popular foods that are regularly banned include peanuts, peanut butter and strawberries. If your child is a peanut butter lover you can try substituting sunflower butter in its place, which is similar in taste and consistency to peanut butter.


Published on January 27, 2013, by in Au Pair.

Purchasing greeting cards at the store has gotten more and more expensive, and many people are opting to take card making up as a hobby instead of shelling out the extra money.  The problem with making your own cards is that you don’t want it to look like you got your crayons out and made a card like you did when you were a kid.  There are so many rubber stamps and techniques out now that you could almost duplicate a store bought card with some practice.  Check out these 40 blog entries and take a look at some examples of the types of cards you can make at home.

Sympathy Cards

There are several times when you might want to send a sympathy card, such as when there’s a death in the family, a pet dies, a friend loses her job or someone didn’t do well on a test or interview.  It’s nice to have a few sympathy cards on hand for those occasions when you just want to remind that person that you care.  Take a look at these five blog posts.

Birthday Cards

Probably the most popular card to send is the birthday card, and it’s good to have cards for both adults and children on hand.  When you make your cards yourself you can choose whether the sentiment is funny or serious.  Look through these five blogs and see if you find any inspiration for making your own birthday cards.


Congratulation Cards

You hear about something great that happened to a friend or family member and you want to send them a card.  Congratulation cards can be generic so that they’re appropriate for any and all occasions or very specific so that it is obvious that you made that card just for him.

Get Well Soon Cards

You should keep a stock of get well cards on hand because by the time you hear someone is sick and drop them a card in the mail they could already be feeling better when they finally receive it. Plus, taking a card over attached to a cup of chicken noodle soup is always a nice gesture.  These examples found on the following five blogs could give you some ideas.

Thank You Cards

It’s always nice to be thanked, however sending thank you cards is a bit of a rarity these days. Thank you cards can be made to suit the occasion, like making a card with a house on the front to thank someone for their hospitality, or can be more generic so that you can use them anytime.


Making your own invitations allows you to totally customize them to match your party theme.  You only need to make as many as you need and if you think of one more person you can sit down and make just one more invitation.  It’s hard to do that when you have to buy invitations in lots of 8 or 25 at the store.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

Masculine Cards

It can be hard to create more masculine cards for boys. Kids’ cards can at least contain some toys that boys like to play with, but making a card for an adult male is hard.  To get some suggestions on what colors to use and what themes work you should check out these five blog posts.

Baby Shower

Someone is having a baby and you are in charge of the shower.  You can go all out and use all the baby things you can find, but remember you may have to make a lot of cards.  Baby shower cards can be invitations to the shower, thank you’s for the mom-to-be to use later or cards for guests to give the first-time mom advice.  For more ideas you can check out these five blogs.