First time hosting a play date? Never fear – it’s easier than you think. Here are a few tips to help your play day go off without a hitch.
1. Provide snacks. Choose healthy snacks like apple slices or everyone’s favorite goldfish. If you’re not sure about the dietary concerns of your guests, feel free to ask the other parents before they arrive. Send a simple text, “Does Sasha have food allergies?”
2. Put your pets away. Since we’re on the topic of allergies, some parents and even adults have allergies to animals that you may not be aware of. In addition, while your child loves your dog, the other child might have limited experiences with animals, and your dog’s excitement could terrify your guest.
3. Offer your guest a drink as soon as possible. Coffee, tea, water, or soda are good options to start with. You might even offer to have a glass of wine together. Let’s put it this way: if you’re willing t o have a glass of wine in the middle of the day, maybe she is too. It doesn’t hurt to throw it out there. (Hint: If you invite me over, I like red.)
4. Prepare your child for the play date. If there are any special toys that your child then not want to share, have your child to put those toys away before the play day begins. Having that conversation ahead of time will help with some of the stress of sharing those coveted toys.
5. Do not turn on the TV. The kids are there to play. Let them do that.
6. Turn on the music. To that point, sometimes too much silence is off-putting. Put some light music on in the background. Let your home be inviting.
7. Tidy up before your play date. Not during. Again, let the kids play. (Note: If you’re the guest, help clean up before you go. Even if the host says, “Oh you don’t have to do that.” You do. She’s just being nice.)
8. Be clear about the parking or stoller situation. As we live in a very dense area, sometimes it is difficult to figure out what to do with your car or your stroller. Let your guest know where you typically park, or where you leave your stroller. If you have a parking spot in your garage, maybe you can move your car into the street before she gets there so she can park in your spot.
9. Do not hover over the kids. Spend some time getting to know your guest. Compare bedtime routines and dinner menus. Laugh a little. Friends are everything.
10. Connect. The best part of a play date is spending time with other adults. Learn more about the ways other people run their households. Try to be open and honest with other moms about what works for you and what doesn’t. Be willing to hear advice and offer yours.
Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com.
Mel Kozakiewicz talks to child and family therapist Divya Dodhia about raising children in an age of racial and ethnic intolerance.
Back in September when bombs exploded in trash cans around New York and New Jersey, I called (who else?) my sister. At the time, her city (Charlotte, NC) was reeling from the death of Keith Scott, a black man fatally shot by the Charlotte Police Department. In both of our cities, racial and ethnic differences and presumptions seemed to be on everyone’s mind.
Like moms across the country, my sister and I contemplated what (if anything) to say to our little ones about race, diversity, and the United States of America. We desperately wanted, like generations of mothers who came before us, to raise children who could be kinder and carry less prejudice than the generation before. But how?
I didn’t want to scare or create anxiety in my children by bringing up issues that they couldn’t possibly understand. But at the same time, I didn’t want them to overhear confusing discussions by perfect strangers on the Light Rail. So maybe I should just answer whatever questions they might bring up instead of saying anything preemptively? Would that work? And then I could try to answer them in a way that makes sense to them. You know, like be honest but not traumatizing.
None of this was in the manual.
So I sat down with child and family therapist, Divya Dodhia for some guidance. Long conversation short, there are no easy answers. (You’re welcome.) Most of her advice was preemptive, but not in an event-specific way. Her advice centers around the ways we talk to our kids in general – how we interact with them. Here’s some of the greatest hits:
- These are the conversations we need to be having. It’s our job to be able to stand up to injustice, in whatever form that takes – whether it’s racism or mental health or whatever the case is.
- Talk at their level. Use examples from their own lives. When a person is discriminated against, that means the person is being left out. They’re so young, they won’t understand racism, or xenophobia. But they do understand feeling left out. Or bullying. Start there.
- Begin with very small with very basic concepts of humanity. Start with simple things such as empathy and making good choices. Get them to think about how the other person feels.
- Use these conversations to encourage and explain empathy. Empathy is so important. Let’s say for example your child hears someone saying this or that about the police. It’s confusing for that child because we’re supposed to trust the police, but you and I know that these situations are complicated. In that case, bring it back to the individuals. Tell them that not everyone will have the same experiences and that a lot of what people say is based on their own personal experiences.
- Talk about feelings and the choices that go with them. What can you do with the experiences that you have? Let them bring up the examples. You might ask, “Can you think of a time when you felt ____? Then what happened?”
- Help your child understand that just because one person thinks one way, not all the people think this same way.
- Teach simple skills such as sharing and using kind words and even using your manners such as hi, hello, and goodbye. It’s a foundation of you being a human being. You can take it to the next level and talk about what it means to be nice.
- Instill that good choices lead to good consequences. Even at a young age, they have a right make your own choices, but they also have to deal with the consequences, and those consequences might impact other people. You can do this outside of these larger conversations, and you should. Use examples like ‘If you don’t wake up and brush your teeth, how do you think the rest of the day is going to go for you?”
- Replace “Don’t do that” or “Don’t say that,” with try “How do you think this person is going to feel if you do that?”
- Remember that behavior is a method of communication. Children have a difficult time articulating feelings, especially when they have negative feelings like guilt, fear, or embarrassment. Learning how to deal with those are the foundations. Anger is normal, but how you display it matters.
- Finally, give them the language. For example, you might say, “People from different parts of the world will have different foods, different cultures, and look different – that’s called diversity.”
I hate bringing my kids to restaurants. “Don’t touch that. Put that back. Don’t eat the salt. That one’s pepper. See? Omigod. Come on. (Sigh.)”
In addition to my little ones’ inability to sit still for even ten minutes, I’m hyper-sensitive to the dining experiences of the other guests. The smallest squeal (is there such a thing?) makes me feel like I’m ruining everyone’s dinner.
My partner, on the other hand, loves dining out. He’s not bothered by their behavior. “They’re not even that loud,” he’ll say, or “It’s 6:10. We’re allowed to be here right now.”
Trying to compromise, we powered through about a year of storming out of restaurants until we figured out how to make it as easy as possible. Here’s what we learned:
- Pre-Game. This is not a drill. Have a glass of wine while you’re getting ready. Put some music on. Chill out a little before you even leave the house.
- Try for a later nap. The last time we went out as a family, we succeeded in starting nap-time at 2:30 and then let the boys wake up on their own – at 4pm! Obviously we can’t always control who sleeps when, but we found that if they nap later in the day, they’re easier to manage in a restaurant.
- Bring toys. Don’t rely on your iPad or phone to entertain the kiddos. Part of the reason we bring kids into restaurants is to teach them how to behave in public. That means we have to engage with them. Try bringing table toys, like small packs of Legos, matchbox cars, or puzzles as a way to do that.
- Arrive early. The witching hour is about 8pm, right? That means you’re a part of the 6pm crowd now. If that seems early, just try it once and be amazed by all the other families there too.
- Order right away. Check out the menu online so that when the server greets the table, you can at least get some appetizers going. When you’re dining with little ones, every minute counts.
- French Fries. It’s a night out. Get the fries. Don’t dig your heels into health-consciousness for the kiddos. There’s a time and a place for everything. In the restaurant, indulge.
Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com and has been living in Jersey City since 2003.
Jersey City Traveling Tips for Stress Free Holiday Travel
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!! Yeah, that is unless you are traveling and your flights is delayed or cancelled, the airline loses your luggage or you run in to the Grinch. I know some of you are going to be traveling or are still thinking about getting away for the holidays. So, I wanted to pass along some tips and information to make your holiday travel full of holiday cheer.
1. If you can, avoid peak travel days.
The busiest days to fly are those days immediately before and after the actual holidays. If you can, try to book your flights two days before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. However, you can actually save some money if you fly on the actual holiday.
2. Try to book a non-stop flight.
At peak travel times, there is the possibility of delays due to weather, air-traffic problems or even being bumped do to an oversold plane. It is best to book a morning flight as these flights tend to be delayed less often than afternoon departures. If you have to book a connecting flight, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make the connection, expect delays.
3. Make sure to confirm your seats especially, when traveling with children.
Go to the airline website at least 24 hours in advance to make sure you still have the seats you requested. Also, it is a good idea to call or check that your flight is still on schedule before you leave home.
4. If you are flying make sure to check in early.
First, make sure to check in online 24 hours in advance. You should receive an email from the airline as a reminder. It is important to give yourself plenty of time to deal with the crowds at the counter, as well as trying to get through security. Remember for domestic flights you should arrive at the airport two hours prior to departure, and for international flights you should arrive three hours in advance.
5. Stay at an airport hotel the night before an early flight.
I know this is not for everyone, but it might be something to consider. A great added perk is that some hotels will allow guests to leave their car in the hotel parking lot for the duration of your trip and provide a shuttle to the airport.
6. Ship gifts or even your luggage ahead.
If you do not send your gifts ahead, then do not wrap them before the flight. You can pack gift bags and tissue paper to be used as wrapping. Also, to make navigating the airport easier you can send your luggage ahead using Fed Ex or UPS. Even better, Fed Ex has better tracking and will insure your belongings. Sometimes it can cheaper than the check bag fee for the whole family.
7. Load up on the entertainment.
Make sure to load up on music, movies, apps and e-books for the entire family. It will help to keep everyone occupied if there is a delay. Don’t forget your battery charger as well. My family loves the PowerTrip as well the Satechi Portable Charger . They both offer USB ports and can charge just about anything.
8. Load up a carry on bag when traveling with the kids.
I pack my boys travel backpacks with lots of books, toys and snacks. But when traveling with little ones over the holidays make sure to have EXTRA. If you are delayed or miss a flight you will want to have a lot of snacks, special treats, toys, diapers or even a change of clothes. I have a great Airplane Survival Packing List when you sign up on my website for The Busy Mom’s Vacation Planning Kit.
9. Know the new TSA rules. Here is the latest updates for the holidays:
- Remember 3-1-1 for carry-on luggage for non-exempt liquids: 3 ounce bottle or less for all liquids, gels and aerosols; placed in a 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag to hold all small bottles; 1 bag per passenger.
- TSA recommends that passengers do not travel with wrapped packages. In order to determine if the contents of a package are a threat, a security officer may need to unwrap and inspect the item.
- TSA allows small snow globes in carry-on luggage when packed in a passenger’s plastic 3-1-1 bag. Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis-ball size) will be permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag as a passenger’s other liquids.
- Food items such as pies and cakes are permitted, but may require further inspection. If travelers are not sure if a food item is considered a liquid or gel it is best to pack the item in checked baggage or ship it to a destination in advance.
- Also remember that kids 12 and under do NOT have to take off their shoes when going through security.
- Medically necessary liquids and gels, including medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are exempt from the 3-1-1 rules, and are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml). They are not required to be in a zip-top bag. Officers may ask travelers to open these items to conduct additional screening and passengers should declare them for inspection at the checkpoint.
10. Don’t worry, Be Happy!!
If you are prepared for any delays that is half the battle. In the crazy hustle and bustle of holiday travel keeping calm and trying to go with the flow will go a long way.
Many Jersey City families are planning extended trips home over the holiday season. If you haven’t had an opportunity to travel with your little ones yet, or if you have but wish you would have done it differently, take a look at our travel tips. And as always, reach out to us with tips of your own that have worked for you!
- Resist the urge to immediately hand over the iPad. (Or your phone, or whatever screen you have handy.) Even animation and apps get boring after a while and you’ll want to save this secret weapon for when you really need it. Don’t wear it out right away.
- Let got of expectations. Traveling with toddlers is going to take longer, create more crumbs, and include more tears than your pre-kid trips. That’s ok. Be ready for it. And don’t apologize for it. It’s life. Allow the 3 hour journey to take 6 hours – it doesn’t matter.
- Plan breaks. Especially if you’re in a car. Look at the map ahead of time and see what might be a good place to stop. Or skip that step and simply know your kids. Will they run around a McDonald’s for 45 minutes? What about an empty parking lot? Got any sidewalk chalk?
- Choose your battles. This is not the time to hate on McDonald’s. They have clean bathrooms, toys in the same box as chicken nuggets, and COFFEE. Don’t mind if I do.
- Anticipate bedtime. Your friends and family probably won’t notice the subtle tugging your child does when s/he’s ready for bed, but you do. When you see the first sign of sleepy-eye, high-tail it to bed. There’s no need to bring out the overtired titan that resides inside all of our children if you don’t have to. You’re the one who will have to manage it; be as proactive as possible.
- New toys. Have a kid-sized backpack full of toys still in the packaging (remember that the packaging is part of the fun) for your child to bring along everywhere you go. Include small and generic toys like crayons, notebooks, matchbox cars, ponies, playing cards, stickers, books, bouncing balls, etc. Feel free to roll these out over time if that works for you too. (DO NOT get excited and show them the stuff before you start the trip. Their magic is in their newness.)
- Get your diapers delivered. If there are things you’re going to need for sure (like diapers, squeezies, formula, wipes, pacifiers), consider using a service like amazon prime or diapers.com to have them delivered ahead of time to your destination. Then pack a few more than necessary for the journey and use the new ones upon arrival. That will save room in the car (or in your luggage) for comfort or for that extra item you wanted to bring.
- BYO kid cups. Or bottles. Or silverware. (Or order the with the diapers.) Get or bring whatever it is that makes your child a more comfortable and pleasant soul. It’s not easy to be in a new environment, especially one that might not be kid-friendly, for kids or for parents. Bringing small things like cups can help.
- Pack complete outfits into ziplock bags. It might add a little bit of time to the packing part of the trip, but you won’t be dismantling your suitcase in a fit of rage looking for baby socks first thing in the morning or immediately following a diaper blow-out. (Just like the iPad, right? Let’s save the mommy-meltdowns until absolutely necessary.) Don’t have time to ziploc outfits? At least put the clothes in plastic bags to avoid getting them wet if it rains while they transfer the luggage to the plane.
- Take extra clothes for your little one if you’re flying. Have it handy in case of an accident. And bring an extra for you! You do not want to smell like milk for the majority of a 10 hour flight.
Eat and change diapers before boarding. You never know how long you’ll be sitting before the food is served. (If there’s food…) Make sure you and your kiddo won’t be hungry, at least through take off. And changing tables on airplanes are as cramped as can be. Try to avoid starting the trip there.
- Airplane headphones don’t work for kids. They’re either too big or they’re ear buds. They don’t fit. Get some before you go. You’ll be glad you did.
Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com and has been living in Jersey City since 2003.
Halloween Tips Jersey City
Now that we’re clear into October, if you haven’t started thinking about Halloween, you’re late. Costumes and candy are about to explode all over town and if you’re not ready for it, duck and cover.
Lots of our kids won’t know what they want to be. Some are too young to understand the concept entirely, and some will change their minds multiple times prior to the date. If you have a kid who has their heart set on Elsa or a Paw Patrol hero, consider yourself lucky. Don’t push the envelope. Log onto amazon RIGHT NOW and order the pre-made cookie cutter costume. Job done. There’s no reason to create drama where there isn’t any.
But if your kids fall in one of the other categories, here are a few things to consider:
- Use make up, masks, and even hats sparingly. Anything on the face or head probably won’t make it more than a few minutes unless your child is over the age of 4.
- No appendages. Enough said.
- If your kid is a wild maniac (which is probably why you’re reading this) – excuse me, I mean: If your kid is high energy, costumes that look like clothes are best. Ultimately you want your kid to forget that they have it on until they look down and Surprise! I’m wearing a costume! Superhero t-shirts, for example, with sweatpants or leggings (for boys too) are great examples of this.
- Consider costumes that double as dress-up/imagination play that can extend beyond Halloween. Melissa and Doug has a line of dress up clothes that work for this purpose, including doctor and firefighter outfits.
- Take the easy way out. Go to Target or BJs or some kind of costume shop (but go soon while they still have sizes and options) and let them pick something. Unless you’re super-passionate about Halloween, there’s no need to have the best costume on the block. No one cares that much, especially the little ones.
- Let it be fun. Don’t stress yourself out about finding the perfect ensemble unless it’s truly enjoyable for you AND your child.
- Consider consignment stores. It’s a bit of a drive out to Once Upon a Child in Fairfield, but if you can get something gently used for $5 or $10, you can grab a couple of things and feel comfortable having choices without breaking the bank. (Also you can stock up on jeans or light jackets while you’re out there. Or boots! Snow! OMG! Focus – Once Upon a Child only have name-brand stuff that’s in great condition. It’s worth the drive.)
- Check Facebook groups for parents who hung onto last year’s costumes. Again, start doing that soon too because people jump all over the good ones in that arena. (Next! Next! Next!)
- Family costumes are so cute but they’re also a lot of work. If your plan is to put your husband in a Big Bird costume, you’re going to want to start working on that (and him) now.
- When all else fails: tutus & sparkles, capes & swords. For some kids, that’s all that matters anyway.
(P.S. Wine, anyone?)
Planning a successful birthday party can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not in the market for a keeping-up- with-the- Jones type, over-the- top party. Here’s my advice for a quick and easy birthday party that doesn’t break the bank: Go to Target. That’s it. (Just kidding.)
Successful kids birthday parties plan for two audiences – parents and kids. Keep this in mind as you start putting it all together.
Invitations: You can spend a lot of time and energy making beautifully designed invitations on websites like Shutterfly or you can buy a pack of eight and fill in the blanks while you’re watching television. It’s up to you. Some parents choose use online invites but getting an envelope in the mail is really fun for kids and also helps to build anticipation.
Snacks: Get more snacks than you need. They don’t have to be pinterest inspired fruit sculptures; they just have to be plentiful. No one wants a pack of hungry kids running around. Get easy snacks like pretzels, grapes, baby carrots, cheese sticks, juice boxes – please don’t forget the juice boxes, or tiny water bottles – chicken fingers, goldfish… And also get just a couple things that the adults want. We usually have wine and cheese at our parties, but if you’re opposed to boozing at your kid’s party, get coffee.
Entertainment: Kids don’t need a lot of entertainment. You don’t have to hire a magician or a singing Elsa, but have a few things for the kids to do. If you forget this step, they’re guaranteed to run in circles screaming. No one wants that. Paper and crayons are easy. Stickers are fun. Kids love bubbles, noise makers, balls… Again –bring more than you think you need. Someone’s going to break their noisemaker and steal someone else’s…Screaming will ensue… Save yourself the headache and get extra. (Skip the birthday hats. I’ve never seen a kid excited about the hat.)
Music: Don’t underestimate the power of a great playlist. It doesn’t have to be full of wheels on the bus and the ABCs. The kids are going to be occupied. Play something the adults enjoy.
Cake: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to parties where the cake has been untouched because the parents forgot the knife. Don’t forget the knife. Also – it’s nice to have a fancy cake – everyone loves a beautiful cake – but it truly doesn’t matter. You can get one at the supermarket and be really happy with it. And if you plan even one day in advance, the supermarket can usually make you a fancy one for a quarter of the price.
Decorations: Get decorations that double as either toys or dishes. Balloons are good for this; they don’t have to be helium balloons. It’s hard to play with helium balloons anyway. Or get the colorful “Happy Birthday!“ plates and napkins to place strategically around the room near the aforementioned snacks.
Treat bags: Temporary tattoos, books, more stickers…Have one for everyone. Bring a couple extra for unexpected stray siblings who might tag along. No reason to put candy in these bags. They just had cake. Give the moms a break.
Baby Sign Language therapist in Jersey City
What is baby sign language?
Baby sign language is a communication tool to be used with preverbal babies. Babies naturally use gestures before they can speak (reaching for a toy, pointing etc.) so expanding upon those gestures by teaching them sign language is a great way to start building communication skills. In North America, baby sign language instructors typically use ASL (American Sign Language) signs as the basis for teaching. It is important to note that, although ASL signs are used, you are not teaching your baby American Sign Language. You are simply using the exact sign for the exact English word.
Is my baby too old or too young for baby sign language?
I suggest starting baby sign between 6 months to 1 year of age. Although babies are listening to and deciphering language even in-utero, they do not typically respond to language until about 6 months. Waiting until this time increases the chances that the baby will respond to and possibly use the signs, which encourages parents and caregivers to continue to use signs consistently.
Why should we learn baby sign language?
Baby sign language is beneficial for you and your baby because it allows you communicate with each other. Rather than the parent guessing what the baby wants, the baby can communicate exactly what that need or want is. This can reduce the amount of frustration for the baby and parent or caregiver. Studies also show that signing babies tend to have larger vocabularies as they get older. One of the biggest reasons to start signing with your little one is the quality time you get to spend learning something new with your baby.
Will signing delay my baby’s speech?
The simple answer is no. There are no studies which link early signing to speech delays. Typically, if a child learns to sign and does not develop age appropriate language skills, it may be an indication of a pre-existing condition.
What can I expect from a baby sign language workshop?
Here at Speech Quest JCNY, workshops are one hour a week for 6 weeks. Parents and babies will come to class and learn together. Each parent is provided with a book and a CD for practicing at home. During each class you will learn new categories of signs (family signs, food signs, animal signs, etc.), signs for nursery rhymes and signs for some new songs! If there is time during the class you may also learn how to sign words from simple children’s books. Our baby sign language classes are unique because they are taught exclusively by licensed and certified speech language pathologists. We reserve time during each class to discuss any developmental questions about language that parents may have. We also encourage parents to get to know each other, which is why we reserve 10 minutes at the end of each class to mingle, it’s called our ‘Talk for 10’. You and your baby will leave each class knowing new signs and having a stronger connection with each other and the
I love this! Where can I sign up?
Head on over to www.SpeechQuestJCNY.com to register or to sign up for a free 20 minute preview class!
Briana Evans, CCC-SLP is a licensed, certified speech language pathologist and owner of Speech Quest Speech and Language Therapy. She specializes in articulation, reading skills and early language development. She graduated from Columbia University with a Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology. In addition, she is working toward certification in PROMPT therapy, a kinesthetic articulation technique. She currently provides in-home or at- school services for children and teens. She believes in a lifestyle approach to speech therapy, which includes embedding support throughout the client’s daily life
Email: [email protected]