Tag Archives: Kids

How to Survive a Long Flight With Kids

How do you take a long-distance flight with three kids without losing your sanity (or your savings account)? That’s what we’re looking at this week.

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Rare Adam West PSA Will Make You Miss the Bright Knight Batman Even More

If you’re a fan of the 1966 Batman show, the first thing that will hit you as you watch Adam West in this retro PSA is a strong wave of nostalgia. There he is, smooth as a silk Bat-cape, purring through his lines about pedestrian traffic safety. But, by the time the clip ends, things feel unexpectedly weird.

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How to Make Screen Time Rules That Work for Your Family

Not long ago, pediatricians recommended limiting the amount of time kids spend on phones and tablets to just one or two hours a day, with toddlers getting none at all. That has changed, and now parents are supposed to make sure kids have a healthy relationship with their devices. Where do you begin? Here are a few ways to approach the task.

Remember That Screen Time Isn’t Everything

Especially when children are young, it’s tempting to assume that any time they look at a phone or a tablet or a TV, they are wasting their time. But not all screen time is the same: children might be drooling and staring at a dumb cartoon, or they might be playing a game that requires creativity or problem solving. Once they get a little bit older, they might be using “screen time” as a way to communicate with their friends, or research real-world activities like crafts they want to build or decisions about what to buy with their allowance.

If you want to set limits, pay attention to what your child is actually doing when they have “screen time.” I see a huge difference between my seven-year-old watching videos versus building things in Minecraft. (I feel truly conflicted when he watches videos about Minecraft—he’s passively consuming media, but he’s also learning skills that he turns around and uses to create.)

Rather than setting time limits, Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive in Their Digital World, suggests encouraging children to spend their time on more creative pursuits: making videos rather than watching them, for example, or learning to code their own video games when they are old enough.

You may still feel you need to set limits, but they don’t have to be restrictions on spending time with screens at all. Instead, you could use a tool like Circle to block access to certain websites at certain times. And you could follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guideline to keep mealtimes and bedtime tech-free.

Make Sure the Phone Isn’t the Only Fun Thing Around

We know that children need real-world play time, and interactions with real people. But just like us, they can gravitate to electronics because those devices are more convenient to use. “Are the dress-up clothes and the legos and the musical instruments as accessible as the screens?” Heitner suggests asking yourself as you look around your child’s environment.

If you’re trying to eat healthy, we’ve already explained how you can manipulate your environment to make healthy food more available and junk food out of sight and out of mind. That’s the same idea here. Even if you set firm rules, kids may spend their time whining about when they can watch YouTube next. But if their favorite toys are easy to get to, they may forget about the phones and tablets, at least temporarily.

That may mean an inconvenient tradeoff for you as a parent: watching videos can keep kids quiet, and is definitely less messy than a Lego explosion.

Look at Your Own Media Use

It’s hard to get kids to look up from their phones if you never do, either. I’m definitely guilty of this, especially if I’m on deadline. Heitner mentions that sometimes she has to arrange meetings with people in other time zones, so she can’t always put her phone away in the evenings. But she makes sure to put her phone away at certain times of day as part of her family’s routine.

“A great parenting tactic is to be honest with our kids when we’re busy,” she says. “But I also think we shouldn’t have a default be that we’re always connected and never unplugged.”

Decide Which Rules Make Sense

I didn’t really name my kids off the winter storm lists, but I was tempted.

When the AAP announced their 2016 guidelines about device use for kids, they also launched a Media Plan tool that helps you make a list of rules that work for your family. As you go through, you can check off rules for each of your children, and add your own as you go.

I hoped that the result would be a concise list of family rules I could post on my fridge, but the tool produced a lengthy printout. Still, it was useful to go through all of the rules and consider which ones I actually wanted to follow, and which I didn’t.

The biggest impact of the AAP’s guidelines, Heitner says (and I agree!) is that parents no longer have to pretend that they do, or should, set strict limits on screen time for their children. And we don’t need to look down on families who give their kids more screen time than we do. “It’s harder to talk to other parents because we’re so busy judging them,” she observes.

Without the guilt of the old rules, it may be easier to speak more openly with other parents about what they do when their child throws a tantrum about giving up the screen at bedtime. Or how they decided whether their middle schooler was ready for their own phone. Preschool teachers and special needs therapists (such as speech therapists) are a fantastic resource on early childhood learning, she points out. If you feel comfortable discussing tablet use with teachers, you can get great suggestions for apps that are appropriate for your child—or even for offline activities that could help your kid’s playtime to be more well rounded.

Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photos by Roy Luck and Josh Engroff.

Ask an Expert: All About Taking the Perfect Family Road Trip

Ask an Expert: All About Taking the Perfect Family Road Trip

One of the quintessentially American parts of childhood is the good old-fashioned road trip. The whole family packs into the car and heads to their vacation destination, perhaps to a national park for a camping trip or something a little more fun like Walley World. But traveling with the whole family isn’t always a simple task!

Here to offer some guidance is Erin Gifford of Kidventurous. Erin writes about how you can have a great road trip with your whole family without driving each other crazy. In fact she took a solo cross-country trip last summer with four kids in tow! If you’re planning a trip this summer, Erin will be here for the next hour to answer your questions so leave a comment below!

Have an expert you’d like to see participate? Email us. Image by Dan Heywood (Shutterstock).

Parents, Sample Your Baby’s Snacks for Safety

Parents, Sample Your Baby’s Snacks for Safety

Some snacks sold as finger food for babies can become choking hazards when left out of the package for a few hours. Medical researchers figured out this fact that slipped by multinational corporations—with the simple tactic of asking adults to eat the food.

The researchers found out that Gerber Yogurt Melts, for example, turn into tough-to-swallow marshmallows once they absorb humidity from the air. Gerber Graduates Wagon Wheels are big and scratchy, and potentially dangerous. Lest you think the researchers are overreacting, just scroll through the comments on Gerber’s page for the wagon wheels. Nine of the 12 look like this:

Parents, Sample Your Baby’s Snacks for Safety

To study the foods, the researchers asked adults to try to mash up the food in their mouth without using their teeth. Gerber’s fruit and veggie pick-ups easily passed the test: they’re basically soft chunks of fruits and vegetables. Cheerios, favorite cheap-and-easy snack of parents everywhere, were too hard to chew but softened quickly in the mouth.

The full results aren’t published yet; the researchers just presented an overview at a Pediatric Academic Societies conference. “I would really love to encourage parents and pediatricians to try the products,” study coauthor Ruth Milanaik of Cohen Children’s Medical Center told Today. In other words, you don’t need to wait for scientists to chew your baby’s food. You can try it yourself.

Some Baby “First Foods” Are Choking Hazard, Says Study | Today

Photo by Mandajuice via Visual hunt

Don’t Feed Babies a Ton of Rice Cereal, Says FDA

Don’t Feed Babies a Ton of Rice Cereal, Says FDA

Rice cereal is a popular first food for babies. It’s also kind of high in arsenic, says the Food and Drug Administration, so if your kid gets a steady rice cereal diet, it’s time to diversify.

Plants pick up minerals from the soil they’re grown in. Rice is especially good at picking up arsenic. It doesn’t matter if the rice was grown organically or not; this is a blanket warning for rice in general. Baby rice cereal is getting the most attention because some babies eat a lot of it. It’s typically fortified with iron and other nutrients, so pediatricians love to recommend it. The FDA says it’s still fine in small quantities, but don’t go crazy:

Rice cereal fortified with iron is a good source of nutrients for your baby, but it shouldn’t be the only source, and does not need to be the first source. Other fortified infant cereals include oat, barley and multigrain.

Pregnant women, likewise, should avoid relying heavily on rice in their diet. At very high levels, arsenic can interfere with a baby’s brain development. Brown rice carries more arsenic than white rice, and some rice-growing parts of the world have more arsenic than others, Deborah Blum writes at Undark. Arsenic has also been found at high levels in organic brown rice syrup, which is used as a sweetener.

Currently, the FDA does not set a limit on the amount of arsenic that can be in rice products. In a recent analysis, they sampled infant rice cereals and other foods. About half (53%) had levels above the European Union’s cutoff of 100 parts per billion. Non-rice foods were all below that level. The report doesn’t name brands, but baby food maker Gerber quickly wrote a letter to families pointing out that their rice cereals were all below 100 ppb.

The FDA has more information on arsenic in rice here.You can read their recent warning to parents at the link below.

For Consumers: Seven Things Pregnant Women and Parents Need to Know About Arsenic in Rice and Rice Cereal | FDA via Undark

Photo by Shannonpatrick17.

How to Drive Around for a Week in a 1981 VW Camper Van With Two Small Children 

It happened every time we stopped for gas. Someone would approach, usually someone kind of old. “Great van,” they’d say. “What is it… an ‘80, ‘81?”

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PSA: You Can Borrow a Free Child Car Seat from AAA

PSA: You Can Borrow a Free Child Car Seat from AAA

If you’re expecting little visitors or traveling with a child and don’t want to lug the car seat through the airport, contact AAA. Members can borrow a child car seat for free.

The latest AAA member magazine mailed to my house says that AAA lends convertible and booster seats to members, available for pickup and can be reserved for up to two weeks. This is a great option if you’ve got friends or family with children visiting but they’re not bringing along their car seat.

If you’re traveling with kids, AutoSlash points out that you can save the $10-15 a day charge for a car seat by booking at Hertz with your AAA discount code 1805452. Alternatively, you can call the AAA office near your destination to see if you can borrow a car seat, but you’ll have to find some way to get your kid from the airport to the AAA office without one. Anyway, that daily car seat charge can really add up—and might even make getting an AAA membership worth it just for this benefit (along with the other hidden benefits).

Photo by HighTechDad.

The Junior Rangers Program Teaches Kids to Love the Great Outdoors

The Junior Rangers Program Teaches Kids to Love the Great Outdoors

Visiting a national park is a great way to get your kids closer to nature, and to keep them interested, the National Parks Service’s Junior Rangers program offers free games and booklets that teach your kids about the park they’re visiting (as well as the outdoors in general) while they’re there.


The booklets are available in advance or on the Junior Rangers’ web site, so let your kids check them out before you get to the park, since some of them explain the park’s history. While each park in the program has a customized booklet, most of them have activities like word searches and word and picture matching, and other fun activities for your kids to do on the trip there, or just during downtime.

Your kids can also answer questions in the booklets either through their own observations in the park, or by asking park rangers while they visit. Hit the link below to see if the national park you’re headed to is part of the Junior Rangers program.

Junior Rangers Programs | National Park Service

CringeMDb Helps You Find Safe Movies to Watch With the Whole Family

If you’re looking for a movie you can put on for kids, or something you can comfortably watch with your grandma, CringeMDb can help.

When you’re browsing through Netflix, a rating and some cover art isn’t always enough to know what you’re getting into. CringeMDb is a simple web app that lets you search a movie by title and see if it’s “certified cringeworthy,” or something you’d probably be better off watching with different people around. It will also tell you why the movie isn’t ideal for family viewing. If you’ve already seen the movie, or want to add your opinion to the mix, you can “agree” or “disagree” with the movie’s listing and help the service become more accurate. You probably don’t need CringeMDb all the time, but a PG-13 rating, for example, can mean a lot of different things. You can try it yourself at the link below.

CringeMDb via AddictiveTips