Category: Cool Stuff for Kids

An Easy, Inexpensive Way to Measure Little Feet

A friend once told me a story about how her son’s teacher noticed he was limping one day at school. The teacher thought he may have gotten injured. After some investigation and a visit to the shoe store, my friend discovered the problem—his shoes were a size and a half too small! Once he started wearing the right size, he stopped limping and all was right again.

It turns out, this is a common problem among children. Kids’ little feet grow so quickly—sometimes after only a month! Several studies have found that more than half of children wear the wrong shoe size. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), wearing the wrong size can aggravate children’s feet and prevent them from fully participating in sports and other physical activities. That’s why it’s important to measure children’s feet frequently to ensure they’re wearing the proper size.

To prevent this problem with Matt and Nate, I’ve been taking them to Stride Rite—where I buy all of their shoes—every other month or so to get their feet measured. As they’ve gotten older, this has become a huge hassle, as the boys want to run all over the store and pick all the shoes up from the displays. If their feet haven’t grown, they get upset that I’m not buying them new shoes. Plus, it’s just another errand to fit into my already chaotic days.

Enter Squatchi. Squatchi is an inexpensive at-home foot sizer for kids. Created by two Atlanta moms, Squatchi measures sizes 2 Toddler all the way up to 5 Youth.

Squatchi

Squatchi is super easy to use. Just have your child stand and rest his or her heel against the lip at the bottom, bearing weight on the foot. The line closest to the longest toe without touching is your child’s shoe size. Be sure to measure both feet, as they can vary slightly in size, and use the measurement of the larger foot. Then you can head to the shoe store only if your child’s foot has grown, or you can buy new shoes online. Easy peasy!

The company sent me a complimentary green Squatchi to try out on the twins. I’d had their feet measured only about a month ago and they were an 8.5, so that’s the size they’ve been wearing. I was almost certain it was still the proper size. Sure enough, Squatchi measured them at an 8.5.

An added bonus is that Squatchi can become a nice keepsake—like a mini growth chart for feet! Each time you measure your child’s feet, you can mark and date his or her size on the side of the Squatchi using the included permanent marker. There is plenty of space on both sides of the ruler, so I was able to mark Matt and Nate’s sizes on either side.

The only downside I can think of is that Squatchi doesn’t measure width. But based on their research of children’s shoes and feet, as well as their market research with moms of toddlers, Squatchi’s founders determined it wasn’t necessary. One reason is that the width options offered by many children’s shoe manufacturers aren’t very specific, and some don’t even offer wide or narrow sizes. Another is that the velocity of change with a child’s width is minimal, while the child’s foot length can change every month. Finally, toddler moms who tested Squatchi prototypes with width lines found that the lines were confusing. Most moms considered them unnecessary since they generally already knew if their child had normal, wide, or narrow feet.

Overall, I think Squatchi will be a great tool for me to have to monitor the boys’ foot growth. You can get your own at Amazon.com, Buy Buy Baby, Toys R Us, and several other websites and boutiques. Squatchi retails for anywhere from $14.95 to $19.99 and is available in blue, green, orange, pink, red, and white.

100% Natural Sunscreen for Babies and Kids

Having lived in sunny Southern California for the past year, we’ve gone through our fair share of sunscreen. I have to admit that due to the high price tag, I haven’t tried using any natural, chemical-free sunscreens on the twins. I’ve simply bought giant bottles of whatever children’s sunscreen happens to be on sale, in SPF 50 or 70, and slathered it on the boys before every outing. They’ve stayed sunburn-free, so it’s been working great. But in the back of my mind, I’ve wondered how much harm the chemicals in the sunscreen were inflicting on the boys.

So when I was given the chance to try out MelanSol Natural Baby Sunscreen SPF 30—a certified 100% natural, toxin-free sunscreen for kids that protects, conditions, and hydrates the skin—for this blog, I jumped at it. A 3.4-oz. bottle retails for $24.99 at puresunscreen.com and for $29.99 on Amazon.com, so I was curious to see what difference paying so much money would make.

MelanSol

First, the facts:

  • MelanSol is non-toxic and contains no chemicals.
  • It is the only natural sunscreen that uses a high-concentration blend of bio-active antioxidants. These antioxidants boost a child’s ability to neutralize free radical damage that is responsible for sunburn, early skin aging, and skin cancer later in life.
  • It is the only natural sunscreen that does not irritate the eyes.
  • It absorbs and starts protecting the moment it’s applied, allowing for immediate fun in the sun—no need to wait 30 minutes after applying.
  • It offers broad spectrum protection, safely reflecting 97 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
  • It is water resistant for up to 40 minutes.
  • It is gluten free and BPA free.
  • It’s manufactured in the U.S.

That all sounds absolutely wonderful, but how well would the product actually work? I couldn’t wait to try it.

The first time I used MelanSol on the twins was for a morning play date in our sunny backyard, where the kids would be splashing around at the water table and playing with squirt guns. When I opened the bottle, I was a bit taken aback. Since I’d only ever used traditional sunscreen, the non-greasy formula surprised me. It felt more like moisturizer than sunscreen. It had no scent, and it was also a beige color—sort of like makeup. I thought for sure that I’d have to apply tons of it on the boys for it to even be effective.

But I was wrong—a little bit truly goes a long way! I didn’t need to apply a lot at all, and the fact that it rubbed in super quickly was a lifesaver with two squirmy 3-year-olds. My boys also tend to look in every direction except at me when I’m applying sunscreen to their faces, which a couple of times has caused me to accidentally put some too close to their eyes. It happened again while applying the MelanSol, but the sunscreen never ran into their eyes (and if it did, it didn’t bother them).

I was a bit concerned that the SPF was only 30, since I’ve only ever applied higher SPFs on the boys. But after two full hours of outdoor play, they were burn free! I was also thrilled that I didn’t have to bathe them right away—their skin wasn’t ashy or sticky like it usually gets from sunscreen. They also didn’t smell like sunscreen.

I now fully understand the difference between all-natural sunscreen and traditional sunscreen for kids, and it sure is nice to not have to worry about chemicals going into the kids’ bodies. I just wish it weren’t so darn expensive. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for!

If you want to try MelanSol for yourself, click here to order a free sample. Then come back and let me know what you think!

 

Baseball Fanatics!

If you didn’t yet know that baseball is a religion in our house, allow me to share this photo of the twins, taken this past weekend:

LA baseball fans

Yup, this is typical attire when we’re at home. And each morning at breakfast, the boys love to “read” the box scores in the Los Angeles Times, during which they correctly identify every team’s logo. They’ll go down the list and squeal, “That’s the Detroit Tigers!” or “Look, the Baltimore Orioles!”

So my discovery of Fanatics, a leading online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, could not have come at a better time. Unlike most sports retailers, the site carries a wide selection of apparel and accessories for kids. (Most stores carry a lot of infant clothing and shirts for bigger kids, but very few items in sizes 2T to 4T.) Keith was also excited to see the huge variety of MLB hats—many of which are hard to find in stores—to add to his collection.

I also happened to find Fanatics just before my family experienced our greatest baseball memory thus far. On Sunday, August 17, we went to a Dodgers vs. Brewers game at Dodger Stadium. Despite the fact that the Dodgers lost 7-2—and that it was a boiling 90 degrees outside—it turned out to be our greatest baseball memory as a family thus far. The boys have been to several MLB games already, but this particular game felt extra special. Maybe it’s because we’ll be moving out of Southern California in less than two months. Maybe it’s because our baby girl will be here in 2 1/2 weeks and these outings as a foursome will be soon be ending. Maybe it’s because both of the boys’ beloved LA teams, the Dodgers and the Angels, are in first place.

But the main reason this game was so magical? It was the first one the boys didn’t spend begging for souvenirs and concessions, making us walk back and forth through the stadium, and/or pretending they had to go to the bathroom 800 times just so they could get up. This time, they were actually captivated by the game. They sat still until nearly the end and really paid attention. They clapped along with the crowd. They yelled, “Let’s go, Dodgers!” They pointed out everything on the field. (“There’s the dugout!” “There’s the umpire!”) They asked Keith questions about the players. It was truly the stuff that family baseball memories are made of.

Dodgers bobblehead

The real highlight of the outing, though, came on the drive home. The boys sat in the backseat wearing their new Dodgers souvenir batting helmets, chatting happily about how much fun the game was. Then, without a hint of irony, Matt said, “I’m going to play for the Dodgers when I’m a grown-up.”

So there you have it, folks. Write this date down: On August 17, 2014, Matthew Daniel Walters declared to the world that he is going to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I can just envision the LA Times story in 2034: “At just 3 years old, rookie Dodgers shortstop Matt Walters already knew he would one day play for the boys in blue. His twin, Angels catcher Nate Walters, took a bit longer to choose his path in life.” Wouldn’t that be amazing?

When you get a moment, check out the Fanatics website. There is something for every fan, no matter what sport you follow!

And P.S.: Yes, we are a house divided. Keith is a huge Angels fan, and I have retained my loyalty to the Mets. But while Matt and Nate love both LA teams, they often have a real LA rivalry going. Matt, who is obsessed with Clayton Kershaw, favors the Dodgers. Nate, who idolizes Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, leans toward the Angels. A freeway World Series would be pretty awesome!

What’s your favorite family baseball memory? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Most Bad-Ass Lullabies Ever!

We’ve taken many music classes with the twins, and despite the fact that many of the teachers have Disney-worthy voices, they’ve always insisted that “babies like their mommies’ and daddies’ voices best.”

Yeah, not my babies. I have a singing voice not even my own kids can love. Sometimes when I start singing along to a song in the car, they’ll yell, “Don’t sing, Mommy!!!”

But the boys do love music, and they can even appreciate good music when they hear it. The other day, Nate started singing Brian Wilson’s “California Role” under his breath, much to Keith’s delight. When we listen to a top 40 station, the boys will shout, “That’s Katy Perry!” or “I love John Legend!”

Still, Keith and I are definitely subjected to our fair share of kid music. After 30 minutes or so in the car, the boys will start whining, “We want to hear our music!” Then we’ll have to listen to Parachute Express or Greg and Steve for the gazillionth time, until we’re ready to blow our brains out. And the Toddler Tunes channel on cable seems to have not updated its playlist since Matt and Nate were babies.

So when Keith and I discovered Rockabye Baby, we were instantly hooked. Rockabye Baby takes the rock music parents love and transforms it into instrumental lullabies. The company has put out more than 50 albums to date, giving the lullaby treatment to artists including the Beatles, U2, Coldplay, and David Bowie. Babies and kids love the music because it’s beautiful and soothing, and parents love it even more because it includes recognizable songs from their favorite bands. No more listening to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Hush, Little Baby” over and over again at nap time and bedtime!

For parents who want a little more variety, Rockabye Baby recently put out its first compilation album and mini picture book. The album, called “Good Baby, Bad Baby,” features 13 lullaby versions of pop hits, including Beyonce’s “Halo,” Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie,” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” According to Rockabye Baby, the album “is sure to make for a smooth bedtime regardless if your baby is as good as gold or bad to the bone.”

Good Baby, Bad BabyRockabye Baby sent me a digital copy of the album to review, and I have to say—I love it! I felt the company found really unique and interesting ways to “lullaby-ify” the songs. I was also pleasantly surprised by the more unexpected inclusions, like Radiohead’s “Creep” and Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” both of which are amazing.

Matt and Nate listened to the songs with me while playing. They really enjoyed the album as well, but Matt asked a few times, “Where are the words?” (All of the lullabies are lyric-free.) That just proves the music is best for what it was intended for—nap time and bedtime, when kids are trying to drift off to sleep.

The boys did get very excited when they heard the lullaby version of their favorite pop song—Pharrell’s “Happy.” When the first notes started to play, they both stopped what they were doing. A look of recognition crossed both of the boys’ faces at about the same time and they started shouting, “It’s ‘Happy!’ It’s ‘Happy!'”

And like Matt and Nate, I think “Happy” is the best song on the album. I was a bit mystified by the inclusion of Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’.” (Really, could you get more inappropriate for little ones?) But as I said, none of the songs include lyrics, so it was included more for the tune and for parents to enjoy.

In short, I am really thrilled to have this album now that my baby girl will be here in less than a month. I plan to purchase more Rockabye albums prior to our cross-country drive to our new home in Virginia in October, because I think the songs will help all of the kids nap—and Keith and I will really enjoy listening to them. Let’s just hope they don’t also put the driver to sleep!

Check out this YouTube clip of the Rockabye version of Pharrell’s “Happy.” It’s awesome, right?

Rockabye Baby CDs are available for purchase at www.rockabyebabymusic.com/music, or you can download the albums on iTunes. Here’s to long naps and restful nights for you and your little ones!

 

Biking With Twins

Keith and I have never let having twins keep us from doing the things we love. Sure, we sometimes hire babysitters so that we can have some kid-free time. But more often than not, we simply get creative so that the boys can enjoy our favorite activities right along with us. We’ve taken incredible hikes in the mountains of Colorado with the boys in backpacks on our backs, we’ve eaten many delicious restaurant meals with them beside us in high chairs, and they’ve even accompanied me on quite a few marathon shopping trips (bless their patient little hearts).

Since moving to Southern California, we’ve discovered another activity we love—bike riding. We debated buying bicycles to ride along the beachfront because we thought it might be too tricky to take Matt and Nate along with us. But boy, were we ever wrong. We purchased an awesome bike trailer—the InStep Sierra Double Bicycle Trailer—for the boys to sit in, and they absolutely love it! Sure, Keith does all the work pulling them, but he gets a great workout, and we all have a lot of fun.

Click here to read my full review of the InStep Sierra Double Bicycle Trailer on babygizmo.com. Then head on over to Amazon.com to buy one!

Bike trailer
The twins enjoying a bike ride in their InStep Sierra Double Bicycle Trailer

 

Halloween Costumes—Times Two!

Halloween is only a few weeks away, and for the first time ever, I am truly on top of it. I have never been a crafty person and have always been a bit jealous of the moms who put together adorable homemade Halloween costumes for their kids. For their first Halloween, Matt and Nate were Winnie the Pooh and Tigger.

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For their second Halloween, they were The Tortoise and the Hare. This was a nod to the fact that, at 16 months, Nate was still not walking, while Matt had been running all over the place since he was 11 months old.

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Both sets of costumes were adorable, but definitely not very creative. So this year, I was all excited to make the twins fun, coordinating costumes. But, after asking them about 8,000 times what they want to be for Halloween, we had a clear consensus: They wanted to be Johnny and Roy. For those of you who don’t know, Johnny and Roy are firemen from the 1970s TV series “Emergency!

My first reaction was, “What? Firemen? BOOOOOOORING!” But then Keith reminded me that the holiday is about the kids and not about me. So, I reluctantly agreed that the twins can be firemen.

We got the firefighter costumes a couple of weeks ago, complete with helmets and fireman rain boots, and the boys have been gleefully running around the house in them. And I have to say—they look absolutely adorable!

However, all is not lost in the creativity department. Keith and I have been hard at work making costumes for ourselves to coordinate with the boys’ costumes. And, Keith has been logging some serious garage time building a very special accessory for our little firefighters.

I can’t wait until Halloween so I can post pictures of our costumes! In the meantime, though, check out my Baby Gizmo roundup of 10 Great Halloween Costumes for Twins. For a sneak peek, check out these adorable salt and pepper outfits from Etsy shop TheWishingElephant. Can anyone guess which of my boys would have been salt and which would have been pepper? Teeheehee!

Salt and pepper

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

When my brother was little, my mom used to make him homemade macaroni and cheese. My mother is an excellent cook, so I’m positive that it was absolutely delicious. But one day he returned from his friend’s house and said, “Mommy, her mother makes the best macaroni and cheese!”

The next time my mom saw this friend’s mother, she said, “My son loves your mac and cheese. Could you give me the recipe?”

The mother replied, “Of course I can! I go to the cabinet, take out the box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and follow the directions.”

Nice, right? But I can’t really blame my brother. There’s something about that blue box that is just so delicious! I admit to having a weakness for Kraft myself, and it seems Matt and Nate have inherited it. Luckily, they also love when I make mac and cheese from scratch. In fact, I think they’ll take it any way they can get it—which is why I found a way to make my homemade mac and cheese a bit healthier. I sneak pumpkin puree into it, and they don’t even notice it! Bwahahahahaha! Sneaky, sneaky! In fact, Keith and I think the pumpkin makes the dish creamier and a tad sweeter.

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese—yum!
Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese—yum!

Try it on your own children—I guarantee they will love it! Get my Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese recipe here:

http://blog.babygizmo.com/2013/05/pumpkin-macaroni-and-cheese