Sneezing Girl

Food Allergies and Your Childcare

Did you grow up on peanut butter as a kid? Our idea of the peanut as a kid-friendly food has changed with the growth of allergies. Peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat (gluten), soya, fish, shellfish, and other nuts to the list of troublesome foods, and you’ve got a lot to watch out for if you’re caring for kids.

If you’re a daycare or preschool professional, you’re already trained in managing food allergies. But at this time of year, when treats appear as if by magic and the excitement of events distracts kids and staff, an extra ounce of prevention may keep everybody safe and smiling.

Here are a few ways to renew your focus on food allergy safety.

Make a list. Go through the file you have for each child with a food allergy. Is the information up to date? When was the last time you checked in with parents on the condition and treatment plan? Do you have all the required medications and have any expired? When did you last sit down and review each child’s files with your staff? Be sure to log this in your file.

Post master lists to help your staff.  Now that you’ve checked and updated your information, the next step is to create an updated list of each child with an allergy, the offending foods, and any substitutions. Post the list for easy use by your staff. Your food preparation area is a priority location, but postings in other areas are helpful too. Do this discreetly, mindful of the privacy of each child.

Review symptoms and emergency procedures. Your next staff meeting may be a great opportunity to bring allergy issues to the forefront. Hives, swelling, itching, rash, swelling of the mouth area, difficulty breathing… these are just a few signs of allergic reaction you’ll want to review. Reaction times can vary widely, from nearly instant to hours later. Recognizing the symptoms and treating promptly can be life saving.






family, role model, children, parents

Be a better role model and influence your kids forever.

When a child sees someone playing the piano, making a pie crust, taking a hike, doing the right thing, telling the truth, doing volunteer work, being gracious, or standing up for herself, this is what forms that child’s opinion of the world. They need good role models. Role models shape your child’s development, and if you are a parent or caregiver, you’re under the little ones’ microscope.

Ask yourself every day, if you are setting a good example for your children? Take a tip from motivational speaker Tony Robbins and simply make a decision to hold a high standard. Hold up a mental yardstick and lean on it, any time you’re tempted to under-perform where it may matter to observing eyes.

We like these tips from child development expert Dr. Robyn Silverman about specific ways to make a positive impact on children. Some top takeaways include these:

Think out loud: Help children learn good decision-making by discussing the pros and cons of a situation. This helps them learn reasoning skills.

Admit mistakes and apologize: This helps children learn that making mistakes is human and not a catastrophe, how to take responsibility, and how to correct a situation.  If you make a mistake, role model how to set it right.

Follow through: Nobody is a stellar performer every time, but if you make a commitment to be on time, keep your word, finish what you start, and buckle down when the going gets tough, your kids will see this and pick up on these same habits.





Kid Friendly, No Carving, Pumpkin Decorating!

It’s that time of year when we take our kids to the pumpkin patch, buy a pumpkin, and start the fall festivities! If your child is too young to carve a pumpkin, we found some great alternatives for you. Check out these kid friendly and perfectly safe activities for your preschooler.

Stickers: Kids love them! Using stickers is a great way for children to express their creativity and participate in decorating their own pumpkin! You can find stickers at your local craft store. Take your preschooler shopping with you; let them pick out their favorite stickers, and you’ll make the experience even more memorable! Encourage creativity and look for silly eyes, funny shaped noses, and goofy looking mouths, maybe even a mustache or a wig to create their pumpkin’s personality! Ask questions and listen to your child’s ideas to help inspire thinking outside the box and pride in “I did it myself”. It will make pumpkin time special for them and for you!

Glitter glue: What a GREAT invention! Glitter glue is found at most craft stores. Begin by tracing the pattern of a face on the pumpkin. Let your child help. Next, let them color the pattern with glitter glue. Encourage them to get creative. Use different colors or unexpected colors for features like purple eyes or green lips. You could even add a couple of stickers to the face — maybe for the ears or jewelry accents? Be a kid yourself and have fun!

Painting faces: Put on an apron, spread out some newspaper, choose your paint colors from the local craft store and get ready for some fun. Start by tracing an outline onto the pumpkin. You don’t have to be an artist, just a partner in the fun. Let your preschooler paint using the pattern for a guide and create an original pumpkin face! Tell a story while you “work” and watch your child’s imagination spark. See our Pinterest page/Pumpkin Painting for some interesting ideas!

Pumpkin stencils: If you are looking for creative help, you can download pumpkin stencils for your preschooler to help them make the coolest looking pumpkin on the block! Craft stores usually carry stencils or you can order them online through the internet. You can even find FREE ones there. We found a few of these sites for you. FREE Stencil download A. FREE Stencil download B. Click here for your pattern stencil: Pumpkin Stencil. You can combine glitter glue and stickers from the ideas above to create different patterns and styles!

Using Cloth: Your preschooler can make some cute masks for their pumpkins. Use stiff felt to cut out a design and then glue it on! Use fabric to create a veil or a headband. It’s so easy! You can check out our Pinterest page/Masked Pumpkin for more decoration ideas.

Home Photo’s: This is really fun! Using your home photographs, have your child cut out the eyes, the nose, and the mouth and use them for decorating their pumpkin. The features don’t have to be people. Perhaps a doggy nose or kitty cat eyes would work. It’s a creative way for your preschooler to express themselves and have a blast using faces of their own family and favorite pets. You can view our Pinterest page/Home Photo Pumpkin Faces for more ideas!

We would love to see your Pumpkin decorating ideas! Please post them for us to see!

If you have more ideas, please share them on our facebook site, or right here on our blog site! We hope our kid friendly, no carving, pumpkin decorating tips have given you plenty of ideas to get started with your fall decorating festivities!



Teddy Bear Picture

It never fails, it is picture day, you have invested so much time and money (planning and new outfits) into this day and your child spills chocolate milk all over their newly pressed outfit right before you walk out of the door!  Picture day can be stressful, whether you are heading to a studio for family portraits or sending your child to school for that classic school picture.  Here are a few helpful tips that can help reduce stress and make portrait day a success.

  1. What colors should I dress my child in?Fancy or casual?
    1. Fancy or casual, will depend on the type of portrait you have in mind and where you want to display it. Depending on the photographer you may be able to do both!
    2. Unless you know what the background will be, solid colors work best. Patterns can contrast with the background.
    3. Try to use colors that compliment your child’s features.
    4. When siblings are being photographed, dress them in complimentary colors, they don’t have to match, but simply complement each other. Complementary colors are any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such as red and green and red-purple and yellow-green on a color wheel.
    5. School portraits are normally taken in the morning, this will help ensure that clothes are free of stains and the children are fresh and happy. If their portrait attire is dressier than their normal attire, you may want to pack an extra set of clothing to change into after portraits have been taken.
  2. Should they dress for the season?
    1. If you know the background ahead of time, it is ok to dress for the season.But keep in mind, some holiday backgrounds may not include traditional colors and your child’s outfit could clash.
  3. Should my child wear his/her glasses in her portraits?Or show his/her braces?
    1. Glasses are a part of your child’s personality, and should be worn for portraits. Although it is perfectly acceptable to ask the photographer to take portraits with and without glasses. Non-reflective glasses are preferred, but experienced photographers know how to avoid glass reflection.
    2. Braces are beautiful, especially on your child. Trying to hide braces will result in an awkward smile that will not reflect your child’s spirit.
  4. How should I style my child’s hair?
    1. Stick with neat and simple. If your child’s hair is straight, and you try to curl it, chances are the curls will fall flat by the time the portrait is made. Use hair products to keep styles intact, but try not to overdo it.  You want your child to look natural…like your child, not a “dressed up” version.
    2. Try to avoid having your child’s hair cut in the week prior to the photography session.
  5. Should I encourage my child to smile for the camera?
    1. Too often parents coach their children to “smile” or “say cheese” when there is a camera in front of them. Even though parents have the best intentions, doing this will result in a forced, un-natural smile that really doesn’t show your child’s true personality. The best expression is a genuine one.  Photographers that work with children specialize in gaining natural expressions and capturing the true nature of a child.   Simply encourage your child to put on their listening ears and have fun.
  6. What if my child is scared of “picture day”?
    1. For the child that is a little shy or scared, try packing a “lovey” or favorite blanket to help them feel more secure. It also brings a special personal touch to the portrait.
    2. If you are stressed or anxious about your child’s performance during picture day, your child will feel it as well and it may add to his/her fear. Try to be upbeat and let your child know how much fun they are going to have playing with the “picture person.”

The best advice is to keep it simple, and your child’s natural beauty will glow, regardless if their hair is a little out of place.




fire, fire fighter, safety, family, parents, children, photography

House fire. It’s a scenario so terrifying most of us can’t bear to imagine for more than a second. But for country singer Trace Adkins and his family, it became a reality.

As covered by CNN, in June 2011 Adkin’s three young daughters and nanny were inside their Tennessee home when a garage fire rapidly spread to the attic and enveloped the house. Trace was out of town, while the children’s mother, Rhonda Adkins, was in the neighborhood. A call from a neighbor brought Rhonda racing home, only to see her house in flames.

But she also found her children safely outside, with nanny and dog, at a designated safe spot. As CCN reports, Rhonda said, “They ran to their safe place like we practiced, in the front yard at a big tree,” she said. “And it worked. You know, fire safety is so important, and today we used it.”

Turns out, earlier that year firefighters had made a presentation on fire safety at her daughters’ schools. One tip was to designate a spot outside as the place for the family to assemble in case of fire, and to mark the spot with a yellow ribbon. Rhonda took the tip seriously and tied a yellow ribbon around a tree in the yard. She believes it saved her children’s lives.

Loss of family photos is the one regret

With loved ones safe, Rhonda easily dismissed the loss of her house and its contents—except for one thing-Her photos. As covered by CNN, Rhonda said, “I’m just sitting here sick because those are the things that matter the most.”

Next to life itself, when tragedy strikes, the loss of family photos may be the most-expressed regret. Photography is often our sole connection to an event or generation. For your children, a professional portrait of your child can be a way to re-experience that child’s character at a certain age. That’s why Teddy Bear Portraits offers a lifetime guarantee on all our portraits. We provide you with memories of your child that are guaranteed to last a lifetime. Your portraits will be replaced without charge if any of these should occur: natural disasters, fading, adhering to glass or discoloration. When tragedy strikes, the pain of losing an irreplaceable portrait is just too much.

More and more photo albums are going digital these days. And it doesn’t take a fire to destroy all that data. Disk errors, power surges, or accidentally deleting the wrong folder—not to mention theft or vandalism—can wipe out years of irreplaceable photos. (Then there’s the risk that someday you might run out of room on your hard drive.) Your best defense against all of these catastrophes is a solid backup strategy.

We want to make sure that the visual memories of your children, should a disaster of any sort befall you.  More importantly, should you ever be caught in a natural disaster that you and your family will be safe from harm.  These lives are more precious than a photograph and certainly, can never be replaced.



Dog, family pet,

Your children can benefit greatly from being exposed to and having pets around the house.  Having a pet can teach your child responsibility and compassion in how to show respect for animals. Choosing a pet typically requires a lot of forethought.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your child’s first pet:

Your child’s age
A good age to have a pet in my mind is around age 10.  But, when I think of pets, I think of a dog or cat.  If your child is younger than age 6, you might want to start with a smaller pet such as a hamster or gerbil.

Allergies can cause a number of problems for a child or adult in the house.  It’s best to spend a little time with your future pet while in the store to see if you or your child might be allergic.  Allergic reactions include: redness in the eyes, watery eyes and sneezing to name a few.  So, be on the lookout for these reactions.

Your lifestyle
If your child is of the age that one or two of them are involved in sports, take that into consideration.  If you’re running after school to practices and attending sporting events on weekends, a dog might not be a good addition for your family.  A cat, however, might be a more feasible option, or a fish!  If you or your husband travels frequently, a dog might not be the best option, as the cost of boarding your dog can get costly.  In this instance, a fish might be a good addition to your home.  Remember that you might be taking care of this animal yourself – at least in the beginning.

What type of care does your pet require?
Research the breed for the type of animal that you are thinking about bringing into your home, making sure that his/her needs can be meet and that you will be able to meet the requirements for your future pet!

Cost is always a consideration when contemplating the addition of a pet into your household.  It’s best to sit down with the whole family and go over the cost and even the responsibility of your new family addition, making sure you are all on the same page. Having your child be apart of the conversation, will help them feel more connected to the adoption process and better companion for their new pet. Letting them know they responsibilities of owning a pet will be a lesson they will carry with them for a lifetime. When it comes to the items you need to discuss, a few items that come to mind are vaccinations, food (monthly supply), training (if needed), monthly grooming fees or items, and if you go out of town, what about boarding fees, as well as any additional items such as cages and maybe even a fence for your pet, to keep them safe. All of this can add up, so sit down and really go over the cost of the type of breed you will be getting. Cat, dog or even a fish; each will require a certain type of care.

Once you have considered all of the factors that come with your new little buddy, you should be on the right track for making your child’s first pet a positive addition to your home and your child’s life.


Keats called it the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness; Yeats took it in with placid admiration, capturing its peaceful energy in the following lines of his poem The Wild Swans of Coole:

‘The trees are in their Autumn beauty, the woodland paths are dry, under the October twilight, the water mirrors a still sky.”

Autumn, or Fall, has inspired many a poet to wax lyrical, or gush over the beauty of blushing leaves. The season gets its name from the mass shedding or ‘falling’ of crimson, withered blossoms from tired trees. But it’s also a magical time for children, not least because of the opportunities for making dramatic crunching noises as they trample their little feet down pathways, roadsides, avenues and foot-walks. What a sense of presence and power that action alone gives them over their environment. And when living in a world where everyone is so much bigger and more powerful, such organic opportunities to make some noise are as rare as they are beautiful.

Why not take a stroll outside with your kids this fall and go collecting some of those ever-present leaves? There are heaps of fun activities involving leaves to stir the imagination of your little ones. All of them engage your child’s curiosity and desire to learn about the world around them.

One fun activity is to trace the vein patterns along leaves with paint. This focuses your child’s attention on the micro aspects of the leaf, and gets them thinking about the overall anatomy of things. As well as tracing the veins, why not trace the border, and then have some fun comparing the size and shape of different types of leaves.

When you’re done, tie your awesome collection of glitzed-up, multi-coloured leaves along a piece of string and use it as bunting to decorate your child’s playroom or bedroom.

Another fun game to put those scarlet leaves to use involves first drawing and coloring in a tree and its branches. Once done, stick your painted leaves to the tree and call it a magic wishing tree. Why not write a wish on each leaf, or turn it into a family tree with names, or, and this one is sweet, a gratitude tree: write what you’re grateful for on each leaf. The ideas for this are endless. You can incorporate your child’s personality here with a little imagination.

When you’re done beautifying your collected leaves, why not send us your pictures so we can post them to our Facebook page and share your child’s creative genius with the world!

Have fun – and don’t forget to capture those special moments on camera for posterity!




For young preschool aged children, the world is full of new things to discover and learn. One of the basic skills needed is the ability to identify various shapes. There are many fun and creative ways to teach your children to recognize squares, circles, and rectangles; food is one way.

This idea is fun and tastes good, too. Help your children work on memorizing their shapes by trying this activity and bake a shape!

1. To start, you will need a can of biscuit or sugar cookie dough. That’s the easiest way if you want to focus on making shapes instead of mixing up a recipe in the kitchen. However, if you prefer, you can always use your own favorite recipe.

2. Roll out the biscuit or cookie dough. You will need a working space that is low enough for your child to easily reach. A great option is utilizing your kitchen table; this provides a safe and reachable cooking space.

3. Find some cookie cutters that represent the shapes you want your child to learn. Show your child how to cut a shape out of the dough with the cutter. Remember to flour the cookie cutter so the dough comes out easily. If your dough gets stuck in the cookie cutter, you could end up with a frustrated toddler or preschooler.

Consider making the shapes by hand instead of with cookie cutters. Have some examples of the shapes nearby so that your child can copy them. This is also a fun way to introduce letters. Children love to see their name and it is one of the first things they learn to recognize with letters. They will have a lot of fun creating it themselves.

4. When you have enough shapes made, help your child to arrange them on the cookie sheet. You can make them even yummier by spreading them with butter, then sprinkling them with sugar and cinnamon. Now, you have a delicious cinnamon-tasting treat!

5. Put them in the oven to bake, according to the recipe’s instructions. You can add to the fun by watching them bake in the oven together. Children are fascinated by how cookies and biscuits grow and spread while they’re baking.

6. When they are completely baked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. When they’re ready to eat, examine the shapes with your children. Ask if they remember what each one is called. You may want to play a game – if they can name the shape, they can eat it!

When your children begin to learn the various shapes, they will see them everywhere. A fun activity like this one can help your child learn to identify shapes on their own.




Mobility concept, Instagram, Vina, Smartphone, Iphone

Have you ever been interested in making movies? No lights? No camera? No problem! The Pew report states that 56% of American adults own a smartphone. Chances are, you have one too! A smartphone can be more than just a device to play games on, make phone calls or send emails. You can capture and share creative videos of your child with your family and friends. Two great apps that allow you to create and share videos are Instagram and Vine.

What is Vine?
A free app by Twitter that is available for iPhone and Android that allows you to create and share videos up to 6 seconds long.

What is Instagram?
A free app by Facebook that is available for iPhone and Android that allows you to create and share photos and videos. Instead of 6 seconds or less like Vine, you are able to create videos up to 15 seconds.

Both have their advantages, so make sure you give them each a try and see which one you like best. I personally prefer Instagram over Vine due to photos and 15 sec video clips, along with more editing options and creative image filters. It may be best to find one that most of your friends and family are on so you can share with them. If you are worried about the general public watching your videos, be sure to change your privacy settings. You can manage your permission setting and only approved people will be able to view your videos.

What should I video?
The most important thing to remember in any video is to have fun. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to pretend to be an expert. Make it exciting, from videoing you and your child cooking or reading their favorite book, have some fun! Capture the moments you want to remember and you will enjoy sharing with others.

One advantage to a smartphone is the accessibility and ease of use. You do not have to worry about missing that special moment! Most phones have the camera feature readily available. This helps to eliminate stress and worrying about having to set up and allows you to video those special moments on the go. Both Instagram and Vine allow you to stop and start the video. You can video one action for a couple seconds and stop, and then you can start again from a different location. Take advantage of it.

10 video ideas to help get you started:

  1. 15 Sec cooking show
  2. Your child’s favorite toys talking (puppet show)
  3. Tour of your child’s room
  4. Singing
  5. Dancing
  6. Vacation moments
  7. Baby’s first (walking, talking, etc.)
  8. At the park
  9. Fashion show
  10. Saying “hi” to grandma and grandpa

Remember to have fun! Make your videos creative and exciting. Don’t be afraid to try new things; you can always delete a post. If your child is old enough to use the phone, let them make their own videos. Instagram and Vine have both made it extremely easy to use. Go give it a try!


Our little one’s might be moaning that summer time has come to a close, but perhaps we can get them excited about going back to school with a little shopping! Back to school shopping for a whole new wardrobe can be a little overwhelming- no one wants to break the bank! Department stores can be intimidating, especially when you have your child with you, insisting on a certain color shoe or shirt! Organize a “must have” list and be prepared so that the shopping trip is enjoyable for you and your child.

Before you go:

  • Prepare a budget with your child. This will serve as an opportunity to teach a lesson in responsibility. Even if they don’t truly understand, they might be less likely to get upset if you have to say no because you cannot afford something.
  • Set some ground rules and be prepared to let them pick out a few items on their own that they like, even if you don’t. It is important for your child to like their clothes so they are comfortable and not self conscious. This will also eliminate drama in the morning and help to avoid toddler refusal of getting dressed.

What to buy:

  • Underwear – it is probably best to buy 10 pairs.
  • Socks – 10-14 pairs. I always try to buy at least 2 pairs of each color… that way when one gets captured by the sock ghost I have 3 and can make a new set. I also try to buy a distinct brand or pattern per child to avoid sock swapping or in some cases sock envy.
  • T-Shirts – Classrooms can get pretty toasty, so your child will want to take off heavy outer layers once they come in from the cold. T-shirts are more practical for younger children because long sleeves get messy and dirty along the wrists. It’s one of the cheapest ways to accommodate trends and buying a variety of inexpensive designs.
  • Sweaters & Sweatshirts- 2-3 should be ideal! In early fall you can throw on a light cardigan over a t-shirt and keep it simple. This goes back to being able to layer for those little ones. Sweatshirts are comfortable too when they need a little extra warmth, plus they fit in those little cubbies without wrinkling.
  • Pants – 3-5 pairs, young children still spend a lot of day time on the floor. It is important to get a durable material like denim. Also stay away from zippers and buttons. Toddlers can get frustrated easily especially during bathroom breaks-elastic is much easier for them to deal with.
  • Skirts and sweaters – it is best to have a nice outfit for occasions, especially school portrait day. Although dresses are not always appropriate for the playground, you might have a princess who simply insists. If this is the case, purchase some leggings to wear underneath the dress or skirt.
  • Shoes – At least 2 pairs. Most schools prefer children to wear sneakers on the playground these days for safety reasons. Darker colors don’t show wear and dirt as much.  Also, remember Velcro is easier for little fingers.
  • Boots – 1 pair of water proof and warm boots is necessary for cooler climates that deal with weather conditions. You should check your temperature regulations at school as to what they consider “too cold” for outdoor play. You wouldn’t want your little one to have cold feet.
  • Coats – 1 Fall- 1 Winter and 1 Rain- If you live in an area that deals with winter elements you would want to make sure your child’s coat is lined and water proof. Allow your child to help pick out their coats – this is important so you don’t have to deal with days when they simply don’t want to wear a coat. Unfortunately they are too young to understand that just because they see the sun, doesn’t mean that it isn’t cold outside.
  • Hats, gloves and scarves – One thing I have learned with my toddlers is NOT to over spend on these necessities. We have lost countless hats and scarves. Gloves and mittens are easy to find at the dollar store during winter months. I suggest stocking up on these as they are tiny and are easily misplaced. Also, try to find a pair that it water proof so your little one doesn’t have wet hands. Plus, they can take awhile to dry. – Don’t forget to check out your neighborhood Goodwill Store and other children consignment shops. Coats and jackets usually hold up better than most children clothing, by design they are naturally more durable. You can find some great bargains especially if you hit up the clearance section before the weather season starts!


135384711 Little Girl with Camera for BLOG

Children have a natural curiosity and a unique view of the world. More often than not, they are noticing things not on the adult radar, so teaching your child to take portraits is an opportunity for you to see the world through your child’s eyes. It’s also a great time for you and your child to bond and connect, as well as a learning opportunity.

If you don’t have a camera for your child, no worries! There are plenty of cameras out there to choose from and we are providing a couple of sites that will help you in your search. We made 2 separate checklists that will give you ideas on what to look for in cameras, as well as how to teach your child to take their own portraits. Let’s get started!

When considering cameras for your preschooler, you will want to consider these things:

  1. How old is your child? Cameras will specify age on the packaging.
  2. What features are you looking for in a camera that will be appropriate for your child?
  3. Do you want to purchase a digital camera or film?
  4. How much do you want to spend?

We found a couple of sites that will assist you in your search for purchasing the right camera for your child. The first site is at Adorama. The article on this site lists features to think about when purchasing a camera, as well as points to think about when teaching your child how to take portraits. The other resource is actually a page on Google that lists quite a few kid friendly cameras. Both of these sites will give you “food for thought” so you can find the perfect camera for your child!

Tips on how to give your preschooler some direction and encouragement:

  1. Take time to train your child on how to use their new camera, let them practice at home first before heading out into the world. You don’t want to stifle them, but giving them a good start, by knowing how to use and hold the camera, will be helpful to them.
  2. Give your child some ideas on what to photograph, give them a little direction to kick start their creativity. They will appreciate this!
  3. Show them simple techniques, like how to center an image in the frame and how to be still when pushing the button.
  4. If it’s a digital camera where you can see the pictures they are taking, encourage them, tell them how great their picture looks, inspire their creativity!

Bottom line is, keep it simple—making sure it’s a positive experience for them. Once you get back home, sit down with your child, and together, pick the perfect portrait or two that you would like to frame. Hang it in your home, put in your child’s room, or in the family room. Your child will be proud to see their portrait displayed, and the memories that go with it, will last a lifetime.





When the school bell rings, it can get expensive quickly. Check out some money saving tips for this 2014 back to school season!

Wait To Start Shopping
We all like to jump ahead with our shopping sometimes, but we all know how fast kids can grow. The closer your shopping is to your local school start date the better your children’s clothes will fit and the better deals you will receive. Plus, if your child is already into trends and likes to play a part in their wardrobe, you might have an interest in waiting to see what is popular when school starts.

Place a “Bid”… Shop Online
Today’s internet can serve as an awesome international yard sale. EBay is a platform for retail merchandise. You can find great deals on clothes, jackets, and shoes. I have found that parent’s auction off their kid’s best items that were most likely for a special occasion and usually only worn once. Don’t forget to check out online coupon codes- at most retailers you don’t have to have a printed coupon, you simply need the code you can get from a quick search on your smart phone. You can also add your email to your favorite retail stores list and  have coupons sent directly to you. Some states offer a “tax free Holiday” that mainly applies to school supplies and clothing.

Buy in Bulk
A simple way to save money is by buying in bulk at warehouse stores. This is a smart way to stock up for the many lunches you will be preparing. I have found great deals on snack food and school supplies as well. If you would like variety, find a friend or neighbor that wants to split the bulk purchase and lower the overall cost per serving.

Stick to the List
Many early education centers provide parents with a supply list prior to the first day of school. Do NOT over spend on school supplies that are not on the list and in today’s economy no one wants to waste money. If you simply feel the urge to indulge, talk to the teacher about their favorites or all year round essentials… maybe you can help supply paper towels, cleaning sprays or other classroom must haves. Another suggestion is to reach out to a family through a community center or church that might be struggling and offer to pick up their school supply list for them. You can also utilize your city’s website and find a backpack drive for you and your children to participate in.

Homemade Secrets
Juice boxes and pre-packaged snack foods can add up. Invest in some plastic containers and seal-able drink cups that are child friendly (they can open them themselves) and fill them up daily with their favorites. In the long run it will be more cost effective if you bake cookies, make pudding, slice cheese and lunch meat, than to buy pre-packaged servings.  Not  only will you save money, you will reduce waste.



Social Media pin board

These days, everyone, including their Mother is on Facebook. Social media has quickly become a major part of our everyday lives. Pair social media with an iPhone, and your employees can capture and broadcast to the world almost any moment, good or bad.  Society as a whole has grown accustomed to sharing and sharing quickly, almost without thinking.

Sometimes, definitely without thinking.

Child care operators just got a big wake-up call about the perils of social media misuse—by truly thoughtless employees. In August, headlines shouted the story  of Virginia child care workers who were fired after they posted photos and derogatory comments about kids in their care. A policy was in place and the employees were dismissed. But the damage to parent relationships and the established trust between the families, children and the center’s integrity had been compromised. How did this social mistake impact their overall business… who knows?

Yes, social media is great at keeping us connected and can be a powerful business-builder. People today enjoy the convenience and constant access to conversations from the businesses they like to do business with. They seek out your Facebook page and eventually become brand advocates. And if you’ve ever posted an impromptu picture of a child, you know the joy that can bring to a parent’s day, closing the gap between the office and a not-to-be-missed moment expressed on the face of their child.

Have you addressed the use of social media with your employees? Clearly, hiring respectful people with good judgment who love what they do is your best bet, but having a policy and communicating it is essential. In addition, like distracted driving, social media gadgets can present a safety issue, pulling attention away from kids.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a social media policy template  that complies with the 2012 National Labor Relations Board Guidance. And here are a few short take-aways:

  • Employees have rights, including the right to use social media on their own time. But when social media use at home or work impacts their performance, co-worker performance, or business interests, an employer can step in.
  • Employees represent the company and should always be respectful of others. Their communications should reflect the core values of their employer.
  • Employees do have legal responsibilities, which can include refraining from posting about customers, vendors, and co-workers.
  • In case of emergency, social media can be extremely useful to get the word out quickly about what to do and help people find each other. This has been proven by CNN, The Red Cross, USA Today, the United Nations and other large networks as well as local news media.

If you haven’t already done so it may be time to consider the recent headlines as an opportunity to bring up the issue of social media with your staff, and remind them of your current social media policies or get some new policies in place that will reflect  well upon others and your business.

cooking, meals, meal, family, quick, preschool, recipe, cook, kitchen, food

Quick Casseroles kids can learn to like!

Many young children have a natural resistance to food like a casserole that is “all mixed up.” Some kids won’t eat an item that has even come near something else on the plate, much less touched it. Do you have one of these picky eaters? If you do, you know the struggle and may even go to the trouble of preparing different meals for different members of the family. Most kids seem to outgrow this over time, but it may leave you wondering when and how you can move on to more mature cooking.

It can be easy and fast to put together hearty casseroles once you master the basic ingredients. But as you know, not all children are willing to give casseroles a try. So here are 18 kid-friendly recipes, along with a key strategy for getting your kids to give them a try.

The number one tip to get kids to try casseroles is to incorporate a favorite food. The point is to create a route through their resistance to get them to try a “mixed up food.” Once they overcome their resistance, you can use casseroles as a pathway to pack in veggies, whole grains, and healthier options over time.

There are lots of great ways to encourage kids to try new foods. Here’s another. When you have time to supervise, get them involved in cooking by giving them some responsibilities, from planning to prep to serving and cleaning up. If they participate, they’ll take much more interest in trying out the result of their efforts and also learn important life skills.

You can add to the fun by purchasing a few kid-safe, kid-sized kitchen utensils. We found some at smallhands. If you have a youthful chef in your family, we’d love to hear about it. Here also are some important safety tips for kids cooking on their own  –  useful information to keep  everyone safe in the kitchen.




Grandparent getting a gift from grandson

Grandparent’s day is just around the corner, September 13th to be exact! Have you thought about what gift you will give your grandparents? What about a photo gift idea, using photos you have at home? We came up with a few ideas for gifting your grandparents!

Framed photo refrigerator magnet: With a photo magnet, there is no need for wall space to hang a photo, just place it on your refrigerator or a filing cabinet at work. Choose your favorite photo and upload it to our Teddy Bear store. You can start your order now by clicking here! Teddy Bear Portraits Store/Portrait Magnets!

Photograph inside a Christmas ornament: Here is another great gift idea for grandma and grandpa. This creative photo ornament is a gift that keeps on giving, year after year. It can also be a project for you and your family to do together! You could even recycle an old Christmas Ornament and place your favorite photo inside. To see how to make this snowman ornament, go to our Pinterest Snowman Ornament page.  

Gift-wrap this year’s Christmas gift with photo tags: Put a different spin on how you wrap your grandparents Christmas presents this year, and add a photo tag! Find a photo, and print it out on your computer, or go to a local copy place and have them make a copy for you. Cut it into any shape you want—punch a hole in the top with a hole puncher and you will have a beautiful photo tag! Check out our Pinterest Photo Tags page for ideas!

A painted jar with a photo attached to the front. You could paint a mason jar, or any jar, and glue or tape using ( double-sided tape), you could tape a photo of the entire family or just your child onto the front of the jar. Place some beautiful flowers in the jar and you have the perfect gift for Grandparent’s Day! For a good visual of this, see our Pinterest page/Jar with a Photo.

Portrait framed with cup cake liners! Using cupcake liners, green scrapbook paper, and a picture frame—place the photo of your child inside the cup cake liner, glue the cupcake with the picture onto the front of a portrait frame, and make a stem from green colored paper! What a great gift and a very different gift for your grandparents! To see how to create this, go to our Pinterest Cup Cake Photo Liners page.

We love you to pieces, photo frame! This is another clever idea to gift your grandparents. Take an old or new photo frame and purchase a puzzle with big pieces. Write one word on each puzzle piece, making it say “We Love You to Pieces.” Then glue each puzzle piece around the picture frame. To see how to make this clever frame, go to our Pinterest page/Puzzle Photo Frame.

Don’t forget to stop by the Teddy Bear Portraits store for more gift ideas. Make this best grandparents day ever!






Sneezing Girl

Your child is bound to get sick from being in daycare, but not to worry!  There are several things you can do to prevent, or at least reduce the chances of becoming ill. Here are some informative tips to help protect preschool children from nasty bugs such as salmonella, MRSA, influenza and the common cold.

This is very basic. Wash your hands and oversee the hand washing of every child who uses the bathroom, picks his/her nose or handles anything unusual. It has been proven that 90% of bacteria can be killed by simply watching your hands with soap and water or by rubbing anti-bacterial gel briskly into your hands.

Clean Surfaces
By using a bleach-based moist towel to clean surfaces such as desk or table tops, counters, phones, computer keyboard tabs, toys, door handles and computerized accessories, you can kill such the germs which develop ecoli or MRSA (staph).

Don’t Forget the Feet
Little feet like to kick off shoes and let them fall wherever they may drop. Don’t let that happen. Clorox wipes can kill bacteria on the surface and bottom of shoes just as well as it may anywhere else.

A Note about Flushing
When flushing the toilet after use, be sure to close the lid first. A closed toilet lid allows the waste droplets to be contained and not slung out of the toilet by the swirling action of the flush.





The first day of school at any age is tough on both parents and children. Prepare your child for preschool by explaining to them what adventure they are about to participate in. Forecast what their day to day will look like. The better you can explain the easier it will be for them. At our preschool orientation we were well educated on their daily routine, we learned all about the morning routine, when snack time would start and what afternoon play entailed. Even though the day to day will change a little, the routine will most likely be just that, a routine. Reviewing this with your child prior to them attending preschool will help them adapt. Take them on a tour of the school before their first day to familiarize your child with the surroundings.

Have a countdown- Help your child keep track of when they will begin attending preschool. Start a calendar with a countdown system and make sure they are included with crossing days off. Try giving them a sticker book and point out each day where they will put a sticker and at the end that is when they go to school. You can also, have them color- in squares and get them used to staying in lines… As adults we naturally we may want to simply draw a line through the date, but this will help to keep the concept fun!

Nap Time- If your child is going to participate in a preschool program that provides nap time allow them to take their comfort toy. This will help them to get comfortable in their new surroundings and they can adjust quicker. It doesn’t matter if it is a favorite blanket, comfy pillow or their favorite Teddy Bear…  It can ease their fear if they select their own take along toy.

It is important to remember that routines are very important to children and starting school might be an adjustment. Each child is different and should never be compared… having said that if your child struggles with separation anxiety, try to remember that they need to see your confidence in where they are going. It is very hard to leave a child when they are upset; however children pick up on your comfort levels. It is very important to talk about and explain where you are going and to always say goodbye. Your tone, voice and attitude send a message to your child even if they are too young to fully understand your explanation.

cooking, meals, meal, family, quick, preschool, recipe, cook, kitchen, food

Master Quick Casseroles, Say Goodbye to Fast Foods

Ever looked for quick and easy recipes only to find ingredients that are too exotic for your kids? When your day has been packed and everybody is starving, it’s hard to come up with quick, budget-friendly recipes that are quick and easy to make at home.

Enter the humble casserole, which can be whipped up in surprisingly a few minutes. But your kids won’t eat casseroles, you protest!  We have some strategies to solve that in a later post. But first, let’s go back to Home Economics 101: Once you know the basic elements that make up a casserole, you’re free to tailor ingredients to your family’s liking — and what you have on hand. You’ll also know how to stock up your pantry and freezer and pre-cook starches so you can always dish up a satisfying, heartwarming entree in just a few minutes.

We love this idea from Amy Dacyczyn’s Complete Tightwad Gazette, page 625. Here’s her basic formula for a generic casserole:

1 cup main ingredient, e.g., tuna, cubed chicken, turkey, ham, seafood, etc.

1 cup second ingredient, e.g., thinly sliced celery, mushrooms, peas, chopped hard-boiled eggs, etc.

1 to 2 cups starchy ingredient, e.g., thinly sliced potatoes, cooked noodles, cooked rice, etc.

1 ½ cups binder, e.g., cream sauce, sour cream, can of soup, etc. Go healthier with mashed beans, egg whites, flax meal, low-sodium soups, etc.

¼ cup “goodie”
seasoning 1/4 cup “goodie” (pimiento, olives, almonds, water chestnuts, etc.)

Seasoning to taste

Topping, e.g., cheese, breadcrumbs, etc.

Mix together in saucepan and heat for 10 minutes on the stovetop — done! Add a side veggie or salad and serve up a fast, nutritious, yummy hot meal.

Trent at The Simple Dollar blog suggests healthy substitutions for the binder and toppings. He also recommends buying your starch in bulk. Check out his recipes for these casseroles: chicken-broccoli; tuna- potato; ham, apple, and sweet potato; Reuben; and others in various posts.

Get super smart and double the recipe to pop one in the freezer, and save even more time and energy.  Stay tuned for more to come!




girl school routine books

Are you already dreading the alarm clock? Are those long summer days about to be replaced with early cool mornings? Are you afraid of the fit you are about to release with the simple words of “bedtime!” It’s back… school time is here! New backpacks, a cool wardrobe, combing hair early in the morning, those famous words of “hurry and finish your breakfast so we’re not late!” We as parents, no matter how prepared we think we are, can struggle in the morning with getting our children out the door. It doesn’t matter if we are a “Super Single Mom” who does it all, a “working Mom” who has her own schedule or a “Married Mom” with a modern partner of a husband… Routines are never easy to start, but they will help us get off to a good healthy, successful and peaceful mornings.

“Make their lunch the night before.” How many times have you heard this one? Let’s get real for a moment… I worked all day, I came home, helped with homework, cooked dinner, facilitated baths and then went into a bedtime routine of stories and prayers. I finally have time to clean up the day’s messes before I put my feet up and kick off my high heel shoes – the last thing I want to do is make school lunches for tomorrow! I agree, a routine is important and will be helpful, however it must be practical to your family’s lifestyle.

I think the key to a peaceful morning begins with the previous night’s bedtime routine. Getting a solid nights rest will lead to a pleasant morning. It is important to get your child accustomed to going to bed at a decent time again after summer fun, late-night bug catching, fire work watching, sleeping in sleeping bags, in front of the TV nights! It makes sense to start maybe a week prior to actual “go” time. While your children are picking out their bedtime stories, utilize this time to pick out the clothes they will be wearing in the morning. At our house, I always get my five year olds approval on the next day attire so that in the morning, we don’t have any surprises that cause either of us to be frustrated. I also set out her socks and shoes. Setting the whole outfit out in a reachable place allows her the opportunity to dress herself in the morning and gives her a sense of much needed independence and pride with her accomplishment.

As the morning comes, my one SECRET to success is that I always make sure I am ready before I even attempt to wake up my children. Not semi ready, or all I have is make-up ready… I am talking I could walk out the door with my travel cup of tea ready. This allows for me to focus on my children in the morning and not feel rushed. It also helps me not to forget anything. The last thing I want to do is walk out the door and head to the office without my laptop or iPhone. I am also very lucky that I have a wonderful husband, a true partner to help in the morning with our routine. As I am getting the children dressed, he is in the kitchen preparing lunch and breakfast. As one child is eating, it frees up time for me to brush and style hair. We all have places to be in the morning and we all have set times to be there… Sometimes a matter of 15 minutes can impact your entire day. Have you ever heard of flexible schedules? Talk to your employer about the possibility of coming in 15 minutes later. 15 minutes to an employer is simply 15 minutes you can add to the end of the day, but to a toddler or young child that extra 15 minutes allowing you to be the one to take them to daycare or school makes the world of a difference.

A few quick helpful hints to happy mornings:

  • Preparing backpacks the night before.
  • Do homework as early in the day as possible.
  • Always check your child’s backpack for project assignments and or show and tell dates.
  • Set up a calendar that is strictly focused with school events and hang it in a place you will always remember to look.
  • Create a pencil box that is specific for homework, fill it with supplies: glue sticks, sharpened pencils, erasers, coloring crayons, color pencils, safety scissors and markers. Keep it in one location so it is always easily accessible.
  • Find library books that are due the night before.
  • If rain is in the forecast set out an umbrella with the backpack.
  • If colder weather is in the air set out gloves and hats along with coats by the backpack.
  • Pick out attire the night before.
  • Move car seats around the evening before if needed.
  • Teach your child to put shoes in the same spot each afternoon, preferably their closet.


Were you lucky enough to have one special friend in childhood who truly “saw” who you were as a person? Childhood friendships can be pivotal in shaping who we become as adults. Because these friendships are so important, consider using these strategies to help keep your kids connected with their friends during the summer.

1. Make plans

Contact the parents of your child’s friend. Share contact information and make plans to meet periodically so your children can maintain their relationship through the summer.

Ideas? Check out local movie theaters for special summer movies at reduced prices. Plan a get-together after watching the movie and share an afternoon. This allows children the opportunity to reconnect and parents to get acquainted.

For very young children, plan regular play days. A sleepover with school friends is a great way to stay connected. Pitch a tent out in the backyard. Plant a child’s garden. If you have a good relationship with the other family, you may want to plan some activities where you meet for a day trip, for instance, going to the zoo or even a joint vacation.

2. Get technical, with limits

Most children and teens have cell phones. Your child may want to spend the entire summer texting with their friend, which is one a way to maintain a friendship, but don’t let it prevent actual connecting in person. Set ground rules about using cell phones to create openings for other activities and relating in person.

Many families have email and Facebook accounts, and these are helpful tools to coordinate activities with families whose kids are friends with your kids. Exchange email addresses or connect through Facebook. Educate your kids on Internet safety and stay close when they are online to monitor what’s happening.

Another idea? Online games such as Club Penguin, Bean Babies, ToonTown Online, Neopets and Free Realms. These games are set up so children can connect with old friends and make new ones in a safe virtual world. If you are wary about these games, start playing them yourself, and allow your child to play only when you are playing.

3. Rediscover the tried and true

If your children aren’t ready for high-tech yet, remember ‘good ol’ Ma Bell’ or whatever telephone service you use. You may want to set up times for calls to encourage connection, or if needed, set limits on telephone time.

Finally, if your child is serious about staying connected with friends, suggest that they send postcards or letters, especially if you family’s traveling or visiting special places in your area where you can get fun postcards. Not only will they keep in touch, but they will also improve their writing skills.





Family reading book

Reading is an important component in your child’s creative and cognitive development.  More importantly, it can be one of the most enjoyable activities that will provide entertainment and educational benefits.

Here are a few tips to help you engage your child and make reading a regular part of his/her daily life and routine.

1. Schedule regular reading times:

It is important to schedule reading activities at a time during the day or evening that doesn’t conflict with other routine “fun” activities and that will be manageable for the parent(s) involved.  Early evening after dinner is usually good – especially in the summer.  Stories at bedtime or bedtime stories have been successful for many parents, but it is a good idea to vary the times as the child grows older.

2. Book selection 101:

Choose a topic or character that your son or daughter likes.  This may sound simple, but often parents will select books that they enjoyed reading as children, rather than focusing on their child’s interests.

3. Small doses:

Children do not have a seasoned or long attention span, so you’ll be more successful in your efforts if you start with one chapter.  You can always continue but reading one chapter is a good starting point.

4. Encourage open dialogue/questions:

Asking the child what they think about something that occurred engages dialogue and increases their understanding.  You want to set the stage for this not only to be entertaining but a learning experience as well.  It also allows a parent to monitor the reading capabilities of his/her child.  This will be especially helpful in understanding how your child learns best.

5. Use visuals/visual aids:

Pop-up books or books with a lot of pictures will be extremely helpful in allowing your child to visualize a story and begin to use his/her imagination.  Also, some storybooks have pictures that can be used for coloring.

Lastly, try to create excitement through your tone and how you communicate about your reading activity.  After all, this is an exciting new adventure!




parenting, mom, kids

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived lives of the parents.”  Carl Gustav Jung

The family unit is busier today than ever before, and we wanted to share with you five ways to make parenting a little less stressful.

1. Keep a gratitude journal – Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal reduces stress by reminding you of all the good things in your life. We found a list of books to get you started at Good Reads.  You don’t need a fancy journal—it could be a spiral bound notebook or any kind of writing journal. However, if you want something a little fancier, check out this site at  Baby Zone.

2. Schedule time for relaxation and fun – For those busy moms, here are 11 secrets to getting better organized found at Good House Keeping.  Scheduling time with your family for fun and relaxation has many rewards. We found a site; Growing Weisser  that lists a variety of activities you can do this summer with your family and children. So you can relax together!

3. Exercise with your kids – We found this awesome site at Cure Joy  that lists 7 tips in what exercises you can do with your children. For all you busy moms out there, this site gives you options on how you can (de-stress) your day, and spend time with your family.

4. Do something just for you – Even if it’s just once a week, or once a month, find something that you do, just for you.  This article at Elephant Journal  lists 50 things you can do for yourself. No excuse!

5. Enjoy each season of being a mother – Each season changes from day-to-day and week-to-week. This site explores how to view each season with a grateful mind-set. Abundant Moma

Parenting is the hardest job in the world. We hope we’ve given you plenty of ways to help you be the best parent you can be. Please leave your comments; we’d love to hear from you!











apps, parenting, portraits

When it comes to balancing the family and work life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unorganized. However, we may have found a solution for you! These web-based organizational sites and apps, are user-friendly and great for organizing those day-to-day tasks. Now lets get started!

The Google Calendar is a good place to start. Using your Gmail—email account; you can set-up this FREE web-based calendar and app. If you don’t already have an account, Sign up here to get a Gmail Account.  We also found this informative You-tube video on How to setup and use your Google Calendar,  to help get you started. Hosted by—Author Michael Linenberger. Michael wrote a #1 selling book on Amazon titled: Master Your Work Day Now. He will show you how to create tasks, to-do lists, and how to make this calendar work for you—in your busy life!   is a web-based site that offers FREE and paid memberships. For parents who organize events that require volunteers—this site could assist you! As stated on their website, Sign Up Genius is a, “fully-featured volunteer management system…” is big enough to, “…coordinate massive international events, but simple enough to organize a small potluck party.” For the busy parent, this site could save time coordinating your next big or small event.

The CluckCluck App,  is a .99 cent iTunes downloadable app that assists in making it easier to communicate and coordinate schedules with your child’s caregiver. It allows you to see the caregivers schedule and even pay the sitter online, as well as talk in real time with your children. This app enables you to stay connected with your family no matter where you are!  is another FREE web-based calendar. As stated on their website, this app “…Cozi keeps track of everything from school schedules and sports activities to grocery lists, meals and chores — all in one place …” If you have one or more children involved in extracurricular activities, this could be a great way to keep up with all your family activities, keeping you on track!

The  app, found at the website, allows both child and parent to interact at the same time. You can stay connected to your child in real time and know what they are playing, watching and learning while online at the website. You can even set up time limits for how long your child is online, and set up alerts for lunch-time and dinner, with messages that pop-up right on the screen for your child to see! With this interactive app, you can feel connected to your children during the day, and keep yourself organized throughout your busy day!

These are only a few of the many web-based organizational calendars and apps you can choose from. For all you busy parents out there who want to get and stay organized, it is our hope that one of these sites will work for you! If they do, let us hear from you. Leave your comments below!