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After-School Activities Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Cooking With Kids: Getting Kids Familiar with the Kitchen

The dreaded dinnertime dilemma: You suddenly realize that it’s just after five o’clock and it’s time to make dinner…again! Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone else to take over the dinner preparations, or at least lend a hand from time to time? Look no further than your own children. Your toddler might not be able to pull of a three-course meal, but she can certainly help bring things to you and set the table.

Kids are always eager to learn and help, but so often we push them aside–even plopping them in front of the television–so that we can get a meal on the table without having to listen to a “drum” solo on the pots and pans, clean up extra spills because their hand-eye coordination needs more practice, make an impromptu double batch of the casserole because she accidentally put in the whole package of noodles instead of half. By taking time to embrace these teachable moments and minds, it’s possible to get kids familiar with the kitchen and basic skills from an early age.

Just as with reading, piano and soccer, with repeated practice their skills will develop and by the time they’re pre-teens they can easily cook dinner one night a month.

Safety First!

Just because toddlers can’t learn the proper way to handle a knife doesn’t mean that they should. Use common sense, and err on the side of caution, when deciding which skills you’ll teach the kids.

Younger kids can:

  • measure dry ingredients like sugar, flour, beans
  • pour milk, oil, water and broth into pans
  • stir ingredients together
  • break eggs (into a separate bowl to avoid a crunchy calcium boost to your food)
  • unwrap butter, cheese and cream cheese
  • wash fruits and vegetables
  • press granola bars into a pan
  • toast bread and bagels
  • spread jam, butter and peanut butter with a plastic knife
  • mash potatoes, bananas and cooked apples
  • use cookie cutters
  • press garlic

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Older kids can:

  • peel vegetables
  • open canned goods
  • cut fruits and vegetables
  • grate cheese
  • slice vegetables
  • use specialty appliances like blenders, waffle makers and panini presses
  • follow written recipes
  • microwave food
  • use the stove and oven

Sanitation Skills

Set a good example by pulling or pinning your hair back, putting on an apron and washing your hands thoroughly as you start each cooking session. Explain each step as you do it, rather than lecture them, and invite them to do it with you. If they choose not to, let them know that the cooking can’t commence until they’ve completed these steps. These reminders will be frequent at first, but over time donning an apron and washing their hands before cooking will become second nature.

Nutritious Nibbles

Make your first foray into cooking with the kids relatively simple and create a snack that they’ll enjoy. Some kid-friendly favorites include:

Apple Slices with Nutty Dip- Wash or peel and apple and cut it into slices. Stir together 1 cup of peanut (or other nut) butter with 8 ounces of softened cream cheese. Either dip apples or spread the dip on top of each slice.

Loaded Bagels- Toast or microwave bagels and spread with cream cheese. For fruity bagels, top with chopped strawberries and bananas, blueberries and shredded coconut. Or try veggies like colored bell pepper pieces, chopped broccoli and shredded carrots.

Berry Green Smoothies- Fill the blender with a generous handful of spinach, a banana, two cups of frozen strawberries or an assorted berry blend. Add enough milk or yogurt to blend to the desired thickness.

Expand Their Knowledge and Their Vocabulary

families-that-cook-together

Experts say that kids who are active in preparing the family’s meals tend to eat healthier. Cooking with the kids is a great time to casually discuss nutrition since you’re not competing with television commercials beckoning your kids to eat sugary-packaged snacks or magazine ads touting the newest corn syrup-laden fruit beverages that will have the kids running on high-speed all night long.

Talk about the importance of eating a balanced diet; fresh fruits rather than fruit snacks; the virtues of a heartily topped baked potato over nutrient-void potato chips.

If your family follows a way of eating that’s not mainstream–vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, Paleo–this is a prime opportunity to educate your kids about your way of eating.

Take the kids grocery shopping and let them choose new-to-them fruits and vegetables. At home hop on Google to find a recipe and prepare it for dinner. Kids who are given choices in meal planning, do they want vegetable soup or chili for dinner, are often more willing to eat the foods since they feel they’ve been given some control.

When cooking use the names of the tools as you use them. Show them the difference between ‘whisk’ and ‘stir’ as you make cookies. First you whisk the eggs with the sugar, then you slowly stir in the flour. They probably won’t remember the words the first time, but heard repeatedly during regular cooking sessions, they’ll internalize the words and start using them when appropriate.

Have Fun

Most of all, don’t stress over these cooking sessions. Enjoy your time cooking with kids! Making memories and teaching them in an inconspicuous way and over time they’ll develop a vast array of skills. What are some ways that you include your kids in cooking? Share your tips in the comments!

If your child enjoys cooking, consider some of these summer camps for your little culinary geniuses!

Cooking Camp for Tweens and Teens – Palo Alto, CA

Health Hands Cooking – Novi, MI

Children’s Culinary Creations – Los Altos Hills, CA

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Horseback Riding Programs in The San Francisco Bay Area

You may be knee deep in all things winter right now, but before you know it, summer will be here, the kids will be out of school, and you will be responsible for filling their endless days. Can you think of a better way for you kid to spend the day than learning how to not only ride, but also take care of 600-pound animal, while also bonding with other like-minded children and learning their way around a barn? The Bay area offers multiple opportunities, both camps and training programs, that will inspire your child and help them flourish within the sport of horseback riding.

Woodside

Tayside Sport Horses: There are a number of barns located in Woodside that offer comprehensive and fun programs for kids of all ages. Tayside Sport Horses has an extensive training program supporting a variety of disciplines: Eventing, Jumping, and Dressage. In addition, they teach horsemanship, grooming, and conditioning techniques to the riders at their facilities.  This is a terrific environment for your children to start riding at. Although they do not have a summer camp, their lesson program is extensive, and they can be contacted for further information. New clients receive their first 4 lessons for $80 each, and there are schoolmasters, which are expertly trained horses, available for lessons. In addition, they have both half and full leasing programs that students can graduate to once they feel ready.

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Emerald Hills Training: Similarly, Emerald Hills does not have a camp promoted on their site, but they have a great program set up. With a classical training style, Emerald Hills Training is focused on the Hunter/Jumper disciplines. In addition to offering a full training program, which includes 5 days a week of training, they offer a lesson program to fit everyone’s needs. From 45-minute privates lessons to 1-hour group lessons, both $85, the program allows riders to build their own schedule.

JP Training at Portola Farm: As a full service Hunter/Jumper barn, JP Training offers a comprehensive training program, clinic program, and Summer Horsemanship Camp. The Horsemanship Camp is for children ages 7 and up and teaches children the proper technique, position, fitness, and care of horses. In addition to teaching the basics of riding, this camp program features lectures from vets, farriers, grooms, and more, giving students a well rounded riding education. There are 8 riders per session, and it is offered on select weeks in July and August. The cost per session is $550 for students on horses provided, $400 for students ½ leasing a horse, and $300 for students involved in a full lease or own their own horse.  Beyond camp, JP training offers private and semi-private lessons ranging from $80 to $85.

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B.O.K Ranch: If you are looking for a therapeutic riding program for your child, B.O.K Ranch may be exactly what you are looking for. PATH certified, B.O.K takes the times to build lesson programs for each of their riders individually. Lessons are filled with creative games and sport activities, in addition to the typical horse care, grooming, and equipment use training.

Portola Valley

Seven Oaks Farm: Although Seven Oaks does not have a camp displayed on their website, they have a wonderful dressage training program. With school horses available, including horses, ponies, and schoolmasters, their training program offers children and adults of all ages an opportunity to learn and perfect dressage. In addition to individual lessons, they offer partial and full training programs when the next step is needed. The lessons vary in price from $35-$85 and consist of private, semi-private, and group lessons.

Webb Ranch: As a multi-discipline barn, serving English and Western riders, Webb Ranch offers programs for beginner and intermediate riders in dressage, western riding, hunt seat, and even trail riding. Lessons, which include group, semi-private, and private options, range in price from $58-$78. An amazing feature of this farm is that they hold camps during Holiday and Spring Break periods, in addition to summertime. The summer sessions are limited to 24 students and they split them up into groups of 8.

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 Spring Down: With over 50 show quality horses available, Spring Down is a great place for your kid to begin their riding. In addition to basic riding instruction, students are able to pursue Jumping, Dressage, Horsemanship, and Western here. They offer spring, winter, and summer camps for children ages 6 and up. Their camp program not only teaches the basics, but also provides kids with live demos for further, real-life education. The winter camp costs $425, and the intermediate summer camp costs $395. In March, the farm even offers a $125 mini-camp for interested students.

Isola Stables: Offering Show Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing, Isola Stables has everything a rider could want. From private and small group lessons, to shows, to trail rides, every rider’s needs are addressed in this program. To get started, camp sessions are offered for 6 weeks throughout the summer. Riders ages 6-14 are welcome to attend the camp, which includes a minimum of 1 hour of riding, horsemanship activities, and arts and crafts. The cost for a session is $550 per camper.

 Menlo Park

California Riding Academy: California Riding Academy offers a comprehensive program for all levels of students, from beginners to advanced riders. They have well school horses and ponies available for riders to advance and grow on. They offer private, semi-private, and group lessons ranging from $75-$100 in price. Additionally, they offer both ½ day and full day Summer Horsemanship Camp options. There are beginner, intermediate, and even some advanced classes available. Children ages 5-15 are welcome. In addition to riding, kids are taught horse management skills, given horse breed knowledge, and participate in games and crafts. ½ day of camp cost $589 and a full day is $825, each for one week. They also offer Spring Break camps!

 Palo Alto

Page Mill Pastures: At Page Mill Pastures, riders will learn the basic techniques on lesson horses available at the barn. Both English and Western lessons are taught and private and group lessons are provided.  A private lesson costs $60 for 1 hour of riding and a group lesson for 3 or more kids for 1 hour costs $45. They also offer partial and full leases for students to take over when they are looking for more consistency in their training program.

Riding during a camp is a great way for your kid to spend the summer and finding a farm that has a good training program to continue your child’s training is key.  These are just a few options available in the Bay Area, so check them out and see if any of them fit what you are looking for. You can also ask around for referrals from friends and family to find your perfect fit, in addition to doing further internet research.

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms Vacations

Best Resort Pools for Kids

I’m a huge fan of a good resort pool. When I book vacations for our family, I look for the most amazing pool I can find. Some of the features on our wishlist this June is a lazy river, a beach, free towels and maybe even a waterslide. Bars that you can swim up to are a nice bonus. In this article, we’re going to take a tour of some of the most amazing pools California has to offer.

Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, California

Let’s start with the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. You know about the iconic monorail that goes back and forth from the Disneyland Hotel to the theme park, right? The hotel decided to take this a step further and create a monorail-themed pool. You’ll find a replica of the original Mark 1 Monorail trains at the entrance of the two water slides – the larger of the two is an impressive 180 feet long. In addition to the monorail pool, there is a retro themed pool clocking in a 4,800 square feet and a lap pool. Adults can melt their cares away in the Mickey and Minnie bubbling whirlpool, order a poolside cocktail or one of many food options and get a private cabana. Disneyland Hotel starts at $329 and admission to the park is an additional cost.

Sheraton, Hawaii, Maui

The Sheraton on the island of Maui is perhaps one of the dreamiest settings imaginable. Located on the Kaanapali section of the island, you’ll find a world class beach alongside a world class pool. As sun sets, the hotel honors Black Rock, a Hawaiian sacred site, with Hawaiian dancing, conch blowing and music. This can all be viewed while floating along in their gorgeous, 142 acre pool. On one end, you’ll find a shallow kids area for toddlers to splash about. On the other, adventure awaits as you float in your tube from pool to pool that includes a gentle waterslide. Waterfalls, large volcanic looking rocks and bridges adorn the scenery. Hidden in the middle of the winding paths of the pool is a jacuzzi surrounded by large rock formations and tropical Hawaiian fauna. BBQ and drinks are available at all three of the cafes lining the pool and towels are free. Once your child has explored the pool, the beach is equally as nice. Gorgeous white sand, incredible scenery and warm water awaits. Sheraton, Maui starts at $349.

Silver Mountain Resort, Kellogg, Idaho

Thousands of miles from Hawaii is one of the most incredible indoor pool arenas in America. Silver Mountain Resort in Idaho offers a plethora of water activities with weather never being a deterrent. Let’s start with the Flowrider. Surfers and bodyboarders alike will enjoy 60,000 gallon per minute, 35 miles per hour waves. If that’s too intense, there is a 315 foot lazy river to grab a tube and float in. Waterfalls and pit stops are at every corner. For the little ones, Cub Cove has sprayers, misters and other water fun on land. The warm springs is nearby and perfect for children who wants something warmer than the pool but not as hot as a hot tub. There are also obstical courses, water basketball, a rafting ride, restaurants, a fifty four foot slide and a pond for toddlers with two kiddie slides and a bungee swing. In short, this place has something for everyone in the family including a ski resort right out the front door. Silver Mountain Resort overnight stays start at $103.

Golden Nugget, Las Vegas, Nevada

Ever wondered what it was like to swim alongside sharks? No, we aren’t talking about somewhere out in the ocean. You can safely swim inches away from sharks at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the middle of the Golden Nugget’s swimming pool lives a 200,000 gallon aquarium filled with sand tigers, black tips, zebra sharks, brown sharks and nurse sharks.  You’ll find a 30 foot tall shark chute and a three story waterslide that goes right through the tank that will let you explore wildlife while getting a nice adrenaline rush. There are restaurants and bars dotted alongside the indoor pool. If you can’t get enough of the sharks, you can go on one of their daily shark tours led by on staff marine biologists. Golden Nugget rates start at $50 and the Shark Tank Tour is $30 per person.

MGM Grand, Las Vegas

Las Vegas was hard to pass by on our list. There are a bunch of hotels with incredible pools. However, the Golden Nugget’s shark pool and the MGM Grand’s quarter of a mile long lazy river are our picks for kids. Grab an inner tube and begin your journey around this seemingly endless river. 26 Cabanas are available to rent as well as pool gear like inner tubes and rafts. From all angles of the 6.5 acre Wet Republic pool complex, you can hear music and feel the bubbling energy of the guests. Alongside the lazy river, there are 3 additional pools, 3 whirlpools and a multitude of waterfalls. This is a blast for children (make sure you bring sunscreen) and if the kids get hungry or thirsty, poolside service awaits. After a long day at the pool, the kids can step inside the hotel for a world class Cirque Du Soliel show. The MGM Grand starts at $113 per night.

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Great Wolf Lodge, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

As I’m writing this post, it is currently zero degrees in Wisconsin Dells. But no matter, this amazing pool park is indoors and 84 degrees. With over 80,000 square feet of activities, it’s easy to forget the nasty weather that awaits you outside. Unique to this resort is a four story tree house that includes suspension bridges, swinging cargo nets, slides, spray stations and a 1,000-gallon bucket of water that dumps on top of guests. A few other notable features of the park are a giant funnel to swirl in, a wave pool, 400 foot water slides, a water slide raceway, a slide that goes pitch black and spits you out in a pool to start all over again, toddler areas and more. Days can be spent inside this pool wonderland and you’d still find it tough to do it all. Great Wolf Lodge starts at $129 per night.

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Nickelodeon Suites Resort, Orlando, Florida

Because one isn’t enough, Nickelodeon Suites Resort has two full water parks. The Nickelodeon Hotel’s Lagoon Pool includes a four story water tower that has seven slides, water jets, climbing nets, flumes and a four hundred gallon water tank ready to dump water (or slime) on unsuspecting resort goers. You’ll find Spongebob themed water toys throughout the park alongside poolside cabanas with food and beverage service. If you’ve had enough water, you can take a break at the full scale miniature golf course or the basketball courts with hoops that you can adjust for height.  The resort also includes two relaxing whirlpools for grownups. Daily at 4:45 the resort has a mass sliming where a bucket of green goo at the top of the water park shoots out to cover all of the guests below. We haven’t even gotten to the Oasis Pool. The second resort on the grounds offers a water tower, slides, snack bar and a kids’ play area. This area includes an olympic sized swimming pool, jets, and much more. Rates for the Nickelodeon Suites Resort start at $159 per night.

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Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, Scottsdale, Arizona

This hotel is a kid and adult paradise with 10 swimming pools, 45 waterfalls and 20 fountains and a 30 foot, high speed waterslide. Kids can hit speeds of up to 25 mph while they go flying down the water tubes and end with a giant splash at the end. The waterfalls and jets are fun for kids as they cross several narrow paths between the immense pools. This resort is located in one of the most beautiful and exclusive parts of Scottsdale adding to the incredible scenery around the pool. There are cabanas for rent, bars and restaurants poolside as well as several places to load up on sunscreen and pool accessories. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort starts at $479 per night.

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Guest Posts Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Time Saving Tips for Busy Moms

by Lucy Daniel

Whether at home or in the workplace, moms tend to be the busiest due to their multitasking nature. It is important to organize yourself and plan very beforehand if you are to achieve the set goals daily, weekly, and monthly.

With a strictly followed guideline, you will be amazed at how you can save time and at the same time perform all duties you have in time. Here’s a few time-saving tips for busy moms:

1. Embrace Technology

Technology has advanced to the extent of people being able to access important services on mobile devices and is rated one of the most recent time saving tips for busy mums.

In the current world, there are many types of software and applications that can assist you perform roles while on the move. There are Apps for almost everything such as banking, grocery lists, and calendars.

2. Delegate roles

As a mom, it is wise to understand that you cannot carry out all the duties you find necessary by yourself. It is important to delegate duties to anyone available who can lend you an extra hand. Bigger roles can be divided into smaller roles, which can be easily shared out to family members.

3. Prepare early

This is a crucial time saver especially for moms who work both inside and outside of the home. Many duties can be done at night before going to bed or even early in the morning before your kids wake up.

Cooking enough food that lasts an entire week is also a good way of saving time. Shopping once a week significantly reduces the trips you have to make to grocery shops every other time you want to cook.

4. Prioritize

Arrange duties according to their importance. Don’t strain yourself just because your aim is to finish all the duties assigned. It is advisable to assign enough time to each chore depending on how involving it is.

It is also important to consider your health a top priority. Some alone time is important and can be utilized for personal exercise or just indulging in a good book.

5. Carry an Extra Bag

An extra bag can save both time and money. Carry along snacks and games for your children when venturing out to avoid splurging on expensive venue food and trinkets.

Not only will this save time and money, but also lead to healthier options.

6. Know when to Ask for Help

Many see asking for help as a sign of weakness, but it is actually beneficial in knowing your strengths and where you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Your time is valuable.

Best of all, we’re ALWAYS here to help! When searching for after-school activities and camps for children, use ActivityHero to save time! Not only do we help you plan out your calendar, you can also arrange carpools and connect with other parents in the area.

Lucy Daniel is a travel blogger from London who loves to express her recent journeys. She writes articles for blogs and websites during her free time, currently focusing on ESTA  which is now mandatory for all travelers to the USA who plan to enter the country by air or sea. Did you like this post? She can be contacted at [email protected]

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Parenting Resources Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Mom’s Night Out: 4 Reasons Why You MUST Make Time For It






Mom spends her days (and nights) taking care of everyone else, so who makes sure Mom is taken care of?

In other words, if we don’t take care of ourselves, who else is going to?

Every Mom needs a night out.

We need to get away, even just for a little while, to keep our sanity.

We need to unwind, reconnect with the real (adult) world, and be reminded that we’re not in this crazy thing called motherhood alone.

moms night out

Here’s 5 reasons why you need to make time for Mom’s night out.

Be someone besides Mom

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the identity of “mom” that we forget who we really are.

We get in such a routine with naps, diaper changes, carpools, and soccer practices that we get very little time for ourselves.

Take the time to surround yourself with people who remind you of who you are and what you love (other than your family, of course).

Let loose

Moms need a night out every once in a while to be reminded that we are still allowed to have fun.

We deserve a night to have a drink, shake our booties, and eat a hot meal that someone else cooked for us. And *gasp* someone else to clean up after our mess!

We can be funny, rude, and even a little inappropriate without worrying about which little ears and eyes are paying attention.

moms night out

Commiserate

It can be hard to be a parent and hold it together with no one to complain to.

It can be very therapeutic to surround yourself with other women who complain about their kids, husbands, jobs, and anything & everything else. You’ll realize that you’re not the only one with problems, and you may start to feel a little better about your own.

Get empowered

As mothers, we are often our biggest critics. We have a tendency to beat ourselves up and sell ourselves short over seemingly small things.

Female bonding is so important in that it gives us a chance to build each other up, leave judgement aside, and know that our friends are there for us no matter what.

moms night out

So make time for a Mom’s night out. Not only is it necessary, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy.

4 Reasons Why you NEED to Make Time for Mom's Night Out

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Parenting Resources Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

4 Tips to Keep Summer Camp Costs Down






It takes time to find the right local camps that your kids will enjoy, add to that the challenge of trying to figure out how to get them to fit in the household budget. But never fear, there are some helpful tips in how to keep summer camp costs down.

1. Do Your Research

Keep Summer Camp Costs Down
Photo by Flickr user javi_indy

There are the obvious cost differences between half-day, full-day and overnight camps; but there are also cost differences between age groups, regions and camp types.

There is no doubt that areas with a higher cost of living have a higher cost for camps. But, in every region, there is a wide range in prices by camp type.

The same desirable camp in your neighborhood might be more affordable if you’re willing to drive an extra mile or two. Weigh out the pros and cons including cost & location, and see what works best for your family.

2. Ask Yourself: What Exactly Are You Looking For?

Keep Summer Camp Costs Down
Photo by Flickr user mrgie1

To put it simply, the more specialized the camps, the more expensive.

Horseback riding camps and coding camps tend to top the lists across the board, while the lowest cost camps tend to be subsidized by non-profit entities or cater to a specific membership, including religious groups and local Parks and Recreation departments.

Camps with costs in the middle range are pretty much what you would expect: traditional day camps that offer a lot of different activities as well as specialty camps that require less of an investment.

So if your child is keen on going to a coding camp this summer, how do you manage to fit it in your budget?

Since specialized camps are so focused on a central theme, a little goes a long way. In other words, opt for a week or two at a specialized camp and fill the rest of the summer at a traditional camp — both your child and your wallet will be happy.

3. Consider the Different Needs of Campers at Different Ages

Keep Summer Camp Costs Down
Photo by Flickr user tlindenbaum

You might think that camps for younger kids would cost more due to a higher staff to camper ratio needed. However, the average cost actually increases as the campers get older and teen camp topics can also get more specialized.

Ask yourself what your kids needs at their age and skill level before committing to a camp.

If your teen is comfortable in a camp with a wider age range between campers, it can be a great way to keep summer camp costs down.

4. Shop for Discounts

Keep Summer Camp Costs Down
Photo by Flickr user javi_indy

The early bird gets the worm… er, the deal, in this case.

Many summer camps release their schedules in winter or early spring. They may also offer a discount for early bird registration.

Got siblings?

Plenty of camps offer discounts for registering multiple family members.

More common discounts are offered for registering for multiple sessions or by getting insider deals and codes. Lucky for you, ActivityHero has all the best deals listed on the website!

Stay updated on your favorite camps and discounts in your area with our discount and deal page.

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Parenting Resources Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Tips to Choosing the Best Summer Camp Programs for Kids

With so many summer camps to choose from, how do parents know what to look for in finding the right fit for their kids?

Written by Sarah Antrim

5 Tips to Choosing Best Summer Camp Programs for Kids

Not all children are the same, so what might be the right fit for one may not be for another. Never fear, ActivityHero is here to help!

We’ve put together some tips on how to choose the best summer camp programs for kids this year.

1. Think about what your child is getting out of the school year, and then consider what they’re missing.

A deeper connection to nature and the outdoors? An opportunity to build on the core academic subjects of the school year?

Determine what you think matters in your child’s development, and view summer as a chance to fill in the missing pieces.

2. Once you’ve narrowed down the subject matter, look for these things:

  • Adult supervision that both inspires your kids and keeps them safe.
  • A ratio of no more than 10 kids per staff member.
  • Age group divisions for kids that span no more than 2-3 years.
  • Positive reviews of the program’s effectiveness and
  • A Director who is experienced, passionate, and organized.

3. Ask as many questions as possible. Here’s a few questions that parents should ask about summer camp programs:

  • What is your program trying to accomplish with children?
  • Who is the director? How many years have they been directing the camp? What does he/she look for in the staff he/she hires?
  • Who is going to be working directly with my child?  What is their education level? How are they trained?
  • How do you develop your curriculum? What are the learning objectives of the program?
  • Do high school students have direct supervisory responsibility for campers?
  • What are the age groupings and camper to staff ratios?

4. Focus as much on who the people will be working with your child as you do the content.

No matter what the summer camp program, the people will drive what your child takes away from the experience.

5. Seek out programs that offer consistency and minimize transitions in location, staff, and fellow campers.

Choosing the best summer camp programs for kids is only possible if you make kids as comfortable and educated as possible about the process. Set your kids up for success by not signing them up for too many different camps.

Find out ahead of time what the first day check in scene will be like, then describe it to your child ahead of time so they know what it will be like. You want to avoid a lengthy separation process on the first day.

With the thousands of summer camp programs available, choosing the best for your kids can sometimes feel like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. With these simple tips, you can help to set your kids up for success this summer.

Search all of our camp listings and find the perfect fit for your child, your schedule, and your budget at ActivityHero.com

Categories
Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

5 Activities for Toddlers & Pregnant Moms






These Mommy and Me activities will help keep your toddler happy and engaged, while allowing you to stay healthy and relaxed for your upcoming big day.

By Leah Bieze

toddler kissing mom's pregnant belly
It’s important to remember that when you are pregnant, you need to have time to relax, rest, and ready yourself for the big day ahead.

But when you have a young toddler already running around, this can seem nearly impossible!

These five toddler activities are designed to keep your toddler happy and engaged while allowing you to enjoy your time as well.

Shop for toddler classes near you >>

Toddler Activities #1: Preparing the Nursery

Whether your little girl loves to help decorate or your little man is keen to head to the hardware store, preparing the nursery together will help your child come to terms with the big changes that are coming.

Allow your toddler to choose colors, a mobile, or a special toy for the baby. They’ll feel important and more in control of the situation. And both of you will get plenty of one-on-one special time.

Toddler Activities #2: Playing Shop

As toddlers grow and develop, they love to have the opportunity to mimic the world around them.

And it’s an important way to help them learn and pattern important behaviors.

Playing shop is a fun way to role-play that simulates a real world experience. Use paper money and choose items from around the house as the “goods.” As the shopkeeper, you can sit back and relax whilst your toddler has all the fun deciding what to buy.

You can mix this up by having a clothes store (a.k.a. closet) with a “changing room” and a grocery store (a.k.a. pantry or fridge) to make the game last a little longer.

Just make sure you set up the “cash register” comfortably by the couch so you can relax.

Toddler Activities #3: Swimming Smart

Heading down to the local pool can provide much relief for pregnancy hot flashes while keeping a bouncing toddler equally thrilled.

Be sure to check first if the complex has a toddler-friendly wading pool.

If the thought of getting out of your maternity wear and into a swimsuit in public is too much, consider investing in a small wading pool for your backyard or patio. Your little one can splash around, and you can lie in the pool and comfortably relax as you play lifeguard. And if you invite some other moms over, you can all enjoy the water and help each other keep an eye on the kids.

Need a real break? Ask Dad to take a day off and leave you on the lounge chair as he takes your toddler for a dip in the pool.

Shop for toddler classes near you >>

Toddler Activities #4: Creating a Home Spa

A little bit of pampering never hurts, and this is especially so for those of us in the throes of pregnancy.

Setting up a home “beauty school” is a really fun way to share some special time with your little one. Lead by example to reap rewards with this fun toddler activity – start by brushing you child’s hair and then asking him or her to do the same to you.

Next, try gently scratching their arms, back, and legs and again have them do the same.

Activities can vary from “painting” toe nails with water-based paints to putting makeup on, or sitting back and having your feet rubbed.

You’d be surprised how much fun this can be! (And that children can actually give great massages.)

Toddler Activities #5: Doing Mommy and Me Yoga

These days, gyms are far more accommodating of children – and of pregnant ladies!

Pregnancy yoga is an ideal way to stay calm and fit enough for the big day ahead. For toddlers, there are many yoga classes known as “mommy and me” classes. Kids roll around on the floor, stretch, and turn their little bodies into strange and wonderful shapes.

Underneath the fun, though, yoga is now being recommended by many occupational therapists to help small children relax.

And this can prove very useful through the stressful time ahead; after all, it’s not easy becoming someone’s big brother or sister!

Shop for toddler classes near you >>

Guest blogger Leah Bieze designs and markets an online maternity wear, LJB, that creates beautiful lines and an elegant look. LJB is based in Adelaide, South Australia but delivers worldwide.

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Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

7 Simple Ways to Get a Home-Cooked Dinner on the Table Every Night






The kids are seated silently and properly at the dining room table with napkins in their laps awaiting that moment when Mom enters the room with a warm turkey, fresh whipped potatoes and healthy green beans. Sounds like the perfect night at my house. Wait, no—silly me, that was a rerun of Leave it to Beaver that was on last night. This has never happened in my house.

Dinner time at my house is whenever everyone can manage to sit their butts down and I can think of something to whip up at the last minute. Chances are if it’s a matter of cleaning up the kitchen, meaning first unloading the dishwasher then reloading it with yesterday’s dirty dishes, we’re looking at a pizza or takeout night. We all want to serve a home-cooked meal to our family every night, but life tends to get in the way, time gets away from us and suddenly it’s 5:30 and we’ve got hungry kids tugging at our sleeves about filling their tummies. Sound familiar?

Busy and conflicting schedules are making family dinners a thing of the past in many households. Soccer practices, meetings running late and play rehearsals mean we are constantly on the run and shoving fast food and granola bars down the hatch whenever we have a free moment. Research shows that families that eat together not only eat healthier, but save money and have stronger bonds with one another. Making time for a home-cooked meal is not always easy, but with some simple planning and preparation it is an attainable goal.

Start with a clean slate.

Nobody wants to cook in a dirty kitchen. If you’re anything like me you might put off doing the dishes until there is nothing clean but a single fork and an old Tupperware container in the cabinet. Walking into a dirty kitchen when you’re already hungry tells you that cleaning up that mess will push back dinner at least another half hour if not more. A great way to make yourself actually want to cook in your kitchen is to clean as you go along. It’s a lot simpler and actually saves time, plus you won’t have to scrape all that crusty cheese off the bottom of the pan if you rinse it while it’s still warm. Simple enough, right?

Plan ahead.

If you take any one thing away from this read, I hope this is it. Planning ahead saves SO much time and leaves the stressful guess work out of getting dinner on the table. Every week, gather together some recipes and plan out your weeknight meals so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. What makes this even simpler is that… wait for it… yes, there’s an APP for that! In fact, there are tons of apps for that. My personal favorite is Food on the Table which combines its recipe database with a shopping list and meal planner so it does basically everything for you but cook the food.

image from siliconangle.com

Stock up on the basics.

Things like rice, beans, canned tomatoes, boxes or cans of chicken or vegetable stock, and other dried or canned pantry items are called for in most dinner recipes. If you have these basic items on hand at all times you can definitely whip something on a whim. Just remember to only stock up on the things that last, though—things like produce and meats spoil pretty quickly and are better left for a later purchase.

Embrace the slow cooker.

Repeat after me, the crock pot is my friend. I’m pretty surprised at how many people have dusty slow cookers in the back of their cabinets that they’ve never used. I have made some pretty outstanding things in my crock pot—eggplant parmesan, buffalo chicken tacos, tomato and rice soup, not to mention the most delicious pot roast you’ve ever tasted. Slow cookers are especially handy in the summer when it’s too hot to turn on the oven. It’s just so simple—dump ingredients in, turn dial to low, cover and walk away… seriously, it’s that easy. Just make sure it’s plugged in before walking away or you’ll set yourself back a few hours. Yeah, it sounds funny until it happens to you…

image from pbfingers.com

Love your leftovers.

So obviously nobody wants to eat the same old cold spaghetti in the fridge from last night’s dinner, but there are ways to be creative with leftovers. Leftover meats and cheeses can be added to omelets for breakfast, stick sautéed veggies into a quesadilla, and those tiny bags full of halved onions, celery stalks, carrots and whatever else can be thrown into a pot for some delicious homemade stock for soup. Check out Premeditated Leftovers for some fabulous ideas on how to dress up yesterday’s dinner.

Friendly freezer meals.

I really wish I would have embraced this more during my pregnancy like those smart moms did; I would have eaten a lot fewer hamburgers and pizzas! Casseroles, meatloaves, even marinated chicken and vegetables can be prepared ahead of time and frozen until its ready to be popped in the oven. Joelen from What’s Cookin’ Chicago has an amazing list of frozen meals she prepared during her pregnancy and was kind enough to share with the world.

Don’t feel bad calling in the back-up plan.

Some days, no matter how hard you try to plan ahead, time just REALLY gets away from you. Don’t feel bad if you have to throw a pizza in the oven or call for delivery from your favorite takeout spot. Hey, everyone needs a night off every once in a while and as long as it doesn’t become a regular thing it can even become a bit of a treat. In our house we make Friday nights our “special dinner night” where we order in from a favorite restaurant and watch movies. As long as dinner time is spent as a family, the effort won’t go unnoticed.

 

Written by Sarah Antrim

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Parenting Resources Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Best Apps for Busy Moms






Lists get lost, sticky notes lose their stick, handwritten notes end up looking more like chicken scratch than the useful reminder they were intended for… and let’s face it, if you can’t remember why you walked into the kitchen in the first place you’re probably not going to remember to pick up the coffee filters from the grocery store.

Thankfully, the technology of smart phones has made all of these a thing of the past and puts organization right at your fingertips. With thousands of apps available for download, many on the cheap or even free, your life can be a lot easier and more organized with the simple swipe of a screen. Here’s a few of our favorite apps to make Mom’s life easier.

Get Organized

Doctor appointments, hockey practice, birthday parties—it takes some sort of magic to keep everyone’s calendars straight.

Winner of the 2012 best family/parenting Appy award, Cozi might just be the magical solution your family has been searching for. Cozi—a family calendar and planner, shopping list, magical all-in-one organizer—allows you make personal event logs for each member of your family and sync them into one handy organized schedule. Each user can see the events for the entire family day by day, and each week a summary of events is sent to you via email.

Not only does it organize family events, but it also includes a shopping list, to-do list, journal, and even a meal planner. Say it with me now, Hallelujah!

Keep track of Baby’s Schedule

How many times has this happened to you—visit the doctor with the kids and you’re asked questions about their eating and sleeping habits but can’t seem to find the right answers?

That’s where Baby Daychart comes in. More geared toward mothers of infants and toddlers, it tracks your child’s eating, sleeping and elimination schedules on a daily basis. You can also track their mood to see any patterns related to possible food allergies or habitual fussy times.

The lite version is free if you want to get a taste of how it works, but it is well worth the price tag of $2.99.

Cook a Yummy Dinner

Those four words that seem to sneak up on your every day: “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Well let me offer you three comforting words: Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner—it even sounds fun, doesn’t it?

I can’t even begin to stress how much I love this app; it’s like playing a slot machine every time you’re looking for a recipe which helps take the edge off of the WHAT THE HECK IS FOR DINNER fiasco. Simply turn the dials to the desired ingredients (pork, beef, vegetables), dish type (appetizer, soup, sandwich), and the amount of time you have (from slow cooker to less than 20 minutes) and you’ll have a list of great recipes right at your fingertips. A recent update also includes a grocery scanner and list making this app pretty close to an entire meal planner.

Try it for free or upgrade to pro with a $2.99 investment.

Financial Organization

Don’t let bills sneak up on you every month and start spending smarter with the help of this app.

It seems like such a simple concept—gather all of your bills and put them in one place so you can see exactly where your money goes every month. My only regret is that I didn’t start using Mint sooner.

First step to financial organization—grab this free app and get started. Mint allows you to sync your bank accounts and bills, visually organize your money, set budgets for life categories such as dining and shopping, and offers tips on how to start saving for the future.

Get Budget Savvy

Cutting costs where you can doesn’t mean you’re cheap, it means you have learned to be smart with your money.

Getting the best deal on the things you need takes some time and a little guidance—enter the Coupon Sherpa. With coupons from over 5,000 retailers like Old Navy and Walmart right at your fingertips, you’ll feel like giving your frugal diva a high five.

Your budget savvy self will also appreciate its pricetag—free in the iPhone app store.

Capture Memories

Camera phones have come a long way, and with a few adjustments and edits can produce some pretty decent pictures. Do yourself a favor and save a little time capturing beautiful memories; suck it up and join the hipster crowd by jumping on the Instagram bandwagon.

Instagram can turn any ordinary picture from a camera phone into a beautiful photo—think a pocket-sized Kodachrome—with a single click. Easily upload photos to a personal album or share with Facebook and Twitter.

Available for free for iPhone and Android, this app is well worth the time.

busymom

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Family Frugal Living: How to Live with Less & Get More






Photo by Flickr user Matt Johnson
Photo by Flickr user Matt Johnson

We want it all—the big house, the fancy car, all while juggling happy kids and getting a home cooked meal on the table every night.

Unfortunately, life can get in the way—especially with kids—and we lose track of spending and end up in a rut.

Frugal living doesn’t mean making sacrifices to save a few pennies, it’s simply learning how to make smarter decisions with your money so that you can live the life you really want.

Saving a little bit here and there will allow you to save up for that family vacation you’ve always wanted to take; and easing the worry of financial troubles will allow for a more stress-free and happy household.

Make a budget & stick to it

Yes it’s tedious and sometimes a hard conversation to have, but take the time to sit down with your partner and break down your budget.

Pull all of your bills, bank statements, and other expense records for the last 3 months and separate your necessary expenses from your leisure expenses. Come up with a total number for your monthly bills then figure out where else the money goes. Seeing it on paper can make a big difference. If you spend $5 on your favorite coffee drink per day, that’s $35 per week or over $1500 per year! Imagining all of the things you could do with that extra money might make coffee at home a lot more appealing.

Just be sure not to sell yourself short; try to round your numbers up to give yourself a little more cushion—for example, if groceries vary from $250-$300 per month, give yourself that extra room so you’re not feeling stressed at the store.

Check out deal-a-day websites.

There’s a reason that sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are so popular—they offer great deals on everything from produce delivery to kids music classes. You may even discover an exciting idea for a much needed date night!

Deal-a-day sites allow you to treat yourself to something you wouldn’t normally buy by offering it at a fraction of the price. Sites like Deals for Mommy and Zulily offer huge discounts all things mommy-related like name-brand diapers or designer kids clothes.

Keep Summer Camp Costs Down
Photo by Flickr user javi_indy

Shop the sale papers.

I’m not telling you to go out and be the next featured star of “Extreme Couponing,” but you’ve got to admit that they’re onto something.

Coupons are everywhere nowadays and if you really need that one specific brand or item it’s a great way to get it on the cheap. Coupons.com offers free printable coupons every day. Some grocery stores even have double coupon days which can really bring in the savings.

Reward kids with experiences, not material things.

Kids want stuff, there’s no avoiding it. Taking a kid to the store is like… well, taking a kid to a store.

Grocery stores cleverly line the aisles with little trinkets and overpriced plastic junk that just screams out to every bored child stuck in a shopping cart. To avoid tantrums and save money, don’t give into the marketing ploy and offer the reward of an experience. Offer to stop by their favorite park on the way home or play their favorite game before bedtime.

Cheap plastic things lose their luster quickly if they don’t disappear under a couch first, but memories last a lifetime.

Don’t get stuck on brands.

Does the top-selling peanut butter really taste all that different from the store brand?

Stores like Trader Joe’s and Aldi can offer lower prices because they sell their own brands. Just a little secret insider tip, many of the off-brand products are actually overflow of name brands that are sold under a different label. This varies by store, but just goes to show you that you can get the same quality products for a lower price.

Don’t forget the list.

You’ve made your weekly grocery run, put everything in its place and realize—crap, you forgot the milk. It happens more often than we’d like to admit—you make a list on a sheet of paper and either leave it on the counter or lose it before it hits the store.

Avoid wasting time and money on several trips to the store by using a grocery list app for your smart phone. My favorite is Cozi, which combines a calendar, to-do list, grocery list, and even a journal to jot down notes. Keep everything organized and in one place and you’ll never forget the milk again—well, at least you’ll be less likely to.

Photo by Flickr user NessieNoodle
Photo by Flickr user NessieNoodle

Buy in bulk.

When you come across a good deal at the supermarket, stock up. Things like rice, canned vegetables, and dried beans can keep in the pantry for years, and meat can safely be kept in the freezer.

Be sure you stock up on staples, not fad or phase foods that kids may grow out of. Once you create a stock pile for yourself, you’ll spend less time and money on grocery store trips.

Shop the Farmer’s Market.

Alright, so it’s not always most cost effective to shop the farmer’s market, but when you weigh out the pros and cons it can add up.

The produce in the grocery store has been coated in petroleum, shipped from another country, and been sitting on the shelf for days or even weeks. Farmers are likely to have an oversupply of what’s in season in your area at harvest time (read about the Dirty Dozen to see what’s worth buying organic—basically anything you which eat the peel/outside).

What better way to get your kids to love produce than giving them the absolute best?

Photo by Flickr user Wally Gobetz
Photo by Flickr user Wally Gobetz

Learning to embrace the frugal live by saving a few dollars here and there because of smart shopping and proper planning can help you live the life you’ve always wanted. 

 

Written by Sarah Antrim

Categories
Parenting Resources Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

7 Ways to Save Money on Family Activities






Photo from blog.al.com

No matter what the season, every parent knows it’s essential to get kids out and about in order to keep your sanity. Stir-crazy little ones can quickly lead to a crazy mom, which means there should always be activity options that are affordable, local and simple enough to navigate through. Unfortunately, many children’s activities are out of the price range of a typical family. More affordable options like visiting a local pool or hiking a nearby trail can be made much more difficult if there are very young siblings involved. Oftentimes elementary school-aged children end up sitting around more than older or younger kids often because of a lack of time or money. If you often find yourself placing your child in a similar situation, take heart – there are plenty of ways to save money on family activities that will enrich the lives of your kids and not break the bank.

Buddy Up!

Many local amusement parks offer group discounts or some sort of deal if you refer a friend. Gather some close friends with similarly-aged children and enjoy a discount on admission, lunch or any other number of things. All running deals should be listed on a destination’s website, but feel free to call and ask about group or tell-a-friend deals.

Have a Flexible Schedule

The local water park may be too expensive for a weekend trip for a family of 5, but do they have a discounted rate for a weekday or evening admission? If you live somewhere warm enough, a “night slides” deal or something like it might work out particularly well for you. Even Disneyland offers a twilight admission price. Look for mid-week promotions, deals for those visiting a winter destination in the summer (like ice skating), or be on the lookout for grand openings in your town that may offer great incentives in order to build a customer base.

Pack Smartly

Often the admission price to an amusement park, museum or other attraction isn’t the issue – it’s the money you spend once you’re inside the gate that can cause problems. Packing smartly can save some major bucks. Pack lunches for every member of your family – while it probably won’t be as tasty as the resident pizza or hot dog stand, it will be healthier, more affordable and convenient. Double checking your bag before leaving the house can also save you money – did you remember to pack sunscreen? Extra diapers or a change of clothes? Extra camera batteries? Remembering everything on the first try leads to avoiding the purchase of marked-up essentials at the closest gift shop.

Use Cash

Avoid the use of those magical debit cards and you’ll save a bundle without even trying. If you’re headed to an amusement park or another pricey destination, budget out how much you can spend beforehand. Withdraw that exact amount of cash from the ATM and limit yourself to that. Money becomes much more precious and tangible, and gives you an opportunity to teach your kids an important lesson about valuing cash and pacing themselves when it comes to spending.

Coupons

Coupons are obviously a good idea when you’re trying to save money, but there are many available in places you probably never even thought to look. Fast food restaurants often offer incredible discounts to local attractions, and many websites have cropped up in recent years. Use those sites to print your own coupons or order tickets ahead of time online with a particular promo code. Coupons can also be unexpectedly found on box tops (cereal, juice, fruit snacks, etc.) and in the free parenting magazines available on many newsstands where you live. Sometimes even mentioning a certain radio station or local TV show can get you a hook up at a place you normally would’ve had to pay more for.

Embrace Free

Encourage your kids to enjoy free activities rather than the big, impressive things. Parks, libraries, some museums and nature trails are always free and available for play and exploration. Sometimes our kids get too wrapped up in electronics and “wow” factor-driven events which can lead to paying a high price not only monetarily but also in the sacrifice of imagination and intellectual engagement. Try to challenge your kids during school vacations to find three free things they love for every one thing they have to pay money for. Teaching joy through frugality is something they can carry with them for their whole life.

Do a Swap

Maybe your kids love swimming but you don’t have the money or space for a pool. Have you ever taken it one thought further to realize maybe the neighbor’s kids love video games but don’t have the latest hit your son happens to have? Or maybe you have access to a horse, volleyball net or even a coveted book collection? Get to know your neighbors and arrange goods swaps. Your children may enjoy an afternoon in a backyard pool while the other local kids happily eat your famous chocolate cupcakes. Everyone has a talent to share or swap, and this can save you a lot of money while helping you make new friends at the same time!

Try to keep money out of conversations with children unless you are trying to teach them a lesson in value and restraint. Kids tend to become stressed out if they sense instability, so stay positive and emphasize the fun that can come out of being budget-conscious and grateful for all the things your family has!

 

Written by Tamara Warta