Showing posts with label Weather. Show all posts

Get ready for summer! (aka how to apply sun screen to a squirmy baby, toddler, or child)

As we approach Memorial Day weekend here in the US, we can officially declare summer to be upon us.  If you live in the Northeast, where winter this year has been mild but very very long, it's about dang time. Perhaps only a week or two ago, you were likely still wrestling your wee ones into their jackets, and may have been caught off guard by the sudden switch to needing sun gear.

And so, we come out of our hibernation (as in we've recently gotten some actual sleep) to tell you everything you need this summer to keep your kids outside instead of destroying your house.
  1. 1. Sunscreen for home.  Putting sunscreen on a baby is really hard and it doesn't get easier as they get older.  Let's face it, kids are squirmy at all ages and the last thing they want to do is stand perfectly still while you make sure every nook and cranny of their delicate skin is covered in cream.  For that reason, I could not recommend using MD Moms Baby Sunscreen Wipes highly enough.  Are they a little expensive? Yes.  Totally worth it? Also yes.  One wipe has a ton of cream on it.  Enough, to put on big sister, little brother, mom and dad.  It requires much less cooperation from the littles, gives you peace of mind, and stores easily and cleanly in your diaper bag. In my book, this is a baby product totally worth throwing a bit of money at.

  2. 2. Sunscreen for day care.   Did you already buy sunscreen and are totally regretting it because you hate the 20 minute fight to get it on your kid and have only just found out about the wipes? Send the tube of cream to day care and go buy yourself some wipes. Fact - day care teachers are ninjas! They somehow magically get 8 kids to line up peacefully and stand there while they douse them from head to toe.  I don't know how they do it, but I'm so happy they do.  And for that reason, we do not splurge on wipes for day care. Instead we buy tubes of Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen

  3. 3. Hat. Hats and jackets are items that somehow invite the general public to comment on your
    child's attire.  If you thought you were done with community comments when you were done being pregnant,  you were wrong.  Be prepared for every little old lady on the street and bus to helpfully chime in when they think your child needs one, whether they actually do or are willing to wear one. Some kids just hate hats and others love them. If you have the former, don't worry, I promise they'll survive childhood somehow. You on the other hand, should do your best to let go of the guilt over that.  If your kid loves hats, or is willing to wear one, nothing beats the wide brimmed comfy ones of iPlay. They come in a variety of colors and prints, are adjustable, and offer a lot of sun protection.

  4. 4. Swim/water wear.  Once again, this is a place where iPlay just dominates. Their bathing suits with built in swim diapers are a must for hitting the beach.  I would also recommend getting some swim shirts and shorts (often sold as "rashguards") to reduce the area on which sunscreen needs to be applied (see photo to right for one of their shirts).  And as always, these are the kinds of things that are best purchased at the end of the season for next year if you want to save some money.
Happy summer everyone!


    

Dressing babies and toddlers for the cold when they go to day care

My kids go to day care.  They both started when they were 12 weeks old and have been attending since with very few interruptions. We picked a day care that really puts a value on the kids spending time each day out doors.  Not only that, but it worked out that the day care is located in Dad's place of work.  This means that their commute to school on transit each day is as long as ours. As a result, for the past 3 years we've had to pick weather gear for them that would:

  1. 1. Withstand the Boston winter - complete with icy temperatures, wind, and snow.
  2. 2. Be as easy to put on and take off as possible.
  3. 3. Be something that travels with the child should their teachers take them on an outing.
Having now done this for 3 years, we have some recommendations. 

Cold Weather Gear for Toddlers

We've already covered high performance boots and socks for toddlers in another post. For coats we've really liked having the Columbia Sets for Toddlers. We've always gotten the coats that came with the firefighter style pants.  These keep the legs warm while staying safety in place with Velcro shoulders, whether the kid is going down the slide or doing the "ants in the pants" dance on the train. The Velcro also allows you to adjust the length of the pants should your tyke have a growth spurt in the middle of winter (these are very generously sized outfits). Additionally, having the pants be separate from the coat (as opposed to something like the Columbia Toddler Dude Suit) makes it possible to have an outfit for an intermediate temperature by being paired with a lighter jacket (pictured). In all, this is a highly practical way to allow toddlers to be outside, come what may.

Cold Weather Gear for Babies

Stroller straps can be placed over the coat
If you're expecting that you'll have a baby who is unlikely to walk before the end of winter, then something that's basically a bag for the baby is the way to go. As we mentioned in our post about the versatile winter blanket, we do not have stroller bunting for our kids.  This is because we need their cold weather gear to go with them and be usable for day care outings, without having to unstrap it from the stroller. With our first, who was born in June, and thus 6-9 months old in her first winter, we made the mistake of getting her the Columbia Sets for Toddlers described above.  This set, while really great for older kids, was kind of a pain to wrestle a baby into.  Not only did we have to stuff her into both parts of the snow suit separately, but we then had to get some boots on her feet as well. So, when planning for my son's arrival, I wanted something easier, especially since I knew I would have to get two kids bundled for any outing.

Straps disappearing inside the coat for a safe buckle
We settled on the 7AM Enfant Doudoune One Piece Infant Snowsuit. This brand makes all kinds of high quality weather gear from stroller bunting, to carseat covers, to carrier covers.  However, the snowsuit, in my opinion, is the best investment because it is one thing that can be used in any of those situations. The suit is essentially a bag with a hood. Unlike a true bag, though, the legs are separate and closed with snaps like a footie.  This means that the baby can both straddle the parent in a carrier as well as be easily strapped into a stroller.  Additionally, no separate mittens are necessary as the sleeves can be made to leave the hands covered or uncovered, as desired. It definitely wins points for ease all around. Just this week, a fellow parent in the day care infant room complimented the ease with which I was able to remove the outerwear from the baby while juggling all of his other possessions.

Best of all, a baby wearing this suit can be placed into a car seat safely.  You've doubtless seen the recommendations against strapping children in puffy coats into car seats because they can easily slip out in accident. However with this snow suit you can put the straps of the car seat inside the coat (thread the crotch strap between the leg snaps and attach to the shoulder straps before zipping up the sides).  This allows you to get away with not having a separate car seat cover, which for a carfree family is nice bonus.

Buying Smart

Thredup Inc.As we mentioned in our post about gender neutral clothing, we tend to buy seasonal gear at the end of the previous year's season.  We lucked out and were able to get the baby snow suit for half the price last spring.  Likewise, by shopping for toddler winter coats in the summer and/or at second-hand stores, we've never paid full price for those either. Since staying warm is one place where skimping on quality is a bad idea, it's always nice to get a good price on something you were going to buy anyway.  Buying high quality clothes second hand, whether at your local thrift shop, or from ThredUp, is always a good idea.  Children grow way too fast to wear out anything well made.



  

The truly versatile winter baby blanket

Whenever I see something advertised as having 20 uses, I assume that at least 19 of them are a terrible idea or a serious stretch.  It's pretty hard to design something that really and truly works well in multiple circumstances.  So when I saw the Kurumi Ket Carrier Cover with Hoodieadvertised as having "5 in 1 uses," I was extremely skeptical.  I was originally looking for a cover to use with a carrier while preparing for the arrival of our son.  This is because when my daughter was a baby, we just tried to carry her inside our coat (see picture on the right).  This really didn't work well and resulted in neither my daughter nor the parent carrying her being particularly warm.  So, I saw that the Kurumi Ket Carrier Cover with Hoodie had good reviews and figured that worst case, we would only use it as a carrier cover and nothing else.


Color me wrong.  So far we have tried this extremely versatile blanket in a number of circumstances with great success.

Nursing on the playground

Nursing Cover

I don't always use a nursing cover for modesty reasons, especially when there is literally no one else around.  I have, however, started to have the experience of needing to nurse outside in less than pleasant weather.  When I only had one child, I would, of course, go somewhere more comfortable in these circumstances.  However, my older kiddo really does need to be able to run around and the younger kiddo isn't exactly patient when it comes to food.  Thus, I have been finding myself nursing on a park bench in all kinds of weather recently.  The Kurumi Ket really does work great as a cold weather nursing cover.  The fleece hood keeps it on the baby without much need to even close the snaps (though I could if I needed to) and I can still see what I'm doing.  Viola - baby and mom are warm.

Stroller Blanket

We never ended up getting one of those foot muffs for the stroller when my daughter was a baby (the Skip Hop Stroll and Go Three-Season Footmuff is a well regarded example).  We pretty much just put her in a warm coat and headed out.  If it was particularly cold we'd throw a blanket on her and if it was windy we'd use our rain cover.  However, for those days when the weather was changing and we ended up relying on the blanket more than planned, it was always a pain to keep it on her and in the stroller.  More often than not, the blanket would fall out at some point during the outing only to be rolled and then stepped on by yours truly.  This is why I totally love the idea of using the Kurumi Ket as a stroller blanket.  The little arms with snaps can attach to the stroller frame so there is no way of losing it.  They recommend attaching it "upside down" with the hood covering the baby's feet - genius!  It's certainly not as warm as a real footmuff but so far it's been working great.


Carrier Cover

Last, but not least, we are also using it as a carrier cover - the item of desire that started this whole thing in the first place.  Here I am, pictured about to embark on a walk with my little bear snuggled comfortably in his carrier, covered by the blanket.  

All around I would give this blanket an enthusiastic thumbs up!  Not only is it truly versatile but for the price it is honestly great value.  I think it's about to join the Mai Tai as a permanent resident of my stroller basket. 

Part 3 - I don't have a car but my stroller is boss (what else do you need?)

See Part 1 - I don't have a car but my stroller is boss (why)
See Part 2 - I don't have a car but my stroller is boss (which stroller?)

Despite the fact that sometimes it feels like we live in the great white north (see: winter of 2015) my family spends quite a bit of time outside.  Some of this time is spent on the playground, and some is spent getting to and from places.  We run errands, we go out to eat, we go to the children's museum, and sometimes we plain ole' take a walk as a family.  (Our favorite destination is what we refer to as "the far Starbucks", all of half of a mile away.)  As such, we spend a lot of time thinking about the right weather gear and other equipment we need to make ourselves comfortable on our journey.

So here is our advice for the kinds of things you might want to add to your stroller (whether you went with our recommendation for the actual stroller or not) to make it the kind of tricked out ride that meets all your needs (oh yeah and those of your kid... the kid matters here too... yeah).

Rain cover

Ok, so once again, for kids in the back - we live in a city with terrible weather (but the food is great, or something).  Sometimes you just have to walk on the wild side, even though the sky looks ominous, and go outside anyway because you've been in the house too long. Other times you need to go outside, even though it's actively raining because you have to go to work.  For those days you need a rain cover for your stroller.  We use  the Snap Stroller Raincover and Weather Shield (because we have a Valco Snap Stroller) but pretty much every stroller company makes these things and some even make universal ones (for those of you out there who have multiple strollers).

On the day these photos were taken, I got caught in a rain storm so bad that even though I had an umbrella and eventually tried to hide under an awning, I looked and felt like I had taken a shower.  Meanwhile, my baby stayed bone dry and sleeping undisturbed in his protected chariot (and I didn't even have the cover fully secured because that freaks me out).  Our cover is also generous enough that it covers the diaper bag we keep clipped to the back - sweet.  It resides, almost permanently in the stroller basket and sometimes even gets pulled out when its particularly windy. (Really, you should visit our city, the food is fantastic.)

Cup holder

I don't actually have anything funny to say about our Valco Baby Universal Cup Holder because I love it so much.  It's just too serious a business to be glib about. I enjoy nothing more in this world then setting out on a nice long walk with a baby napping in the stroller and an ice coffee resting delightfully in its designated place.  This cup holder in particular will attach to any stroller.  It self levels and takes literally almost any width cup.  Also, it has a particularly handy feature in that the brace for the cup holder stays attached to the stroller but the holder itself can be detached easily.  This is a very useful attribute when you're trying to squeeze into a narrow space and it's getting in the way (like say your daily bus trip to day care).

Car seat adapter

If you're ever going to drive with your baby, even if you don't own a car, you're going to want a car seat and some way to transport it.  To accomplish this you can either buy a car seat with wheels, a "travel system", or an adapter for your chosen stroller to click in the car seat. A travel system is when you buy a stroller and car seat from the same manufacturer, i.e. a "system", so no adapter is needed.  (An example would be buying the Britax B-Agile and B-Safe Travel System.) However, outside of buying a system, most strollers sell adapters for most of the common car seat brands.  Yes it adds to the price of the stroller but infant car seats are heavy and unwieldy.  You're not going to get very far just carrying the thing on your arm (again, the other option is to shell out even more money and buy a car seat with wheels).  When we used a traditional infant car seat we had the Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and so Valco Baby Snap Car Seat Adapter (Chicco) was the correct item for us. Obviously you should pick the adapter that matches your stroller/car seat combination.

Hooks

If you regularly grocery shop or run errands with your stroller on foot, you're going to want some hooks to hang from the handle bar to help you transport your stuff home. For this purpose we have Stroller Hooks.  This allows us to transport an entire shopping trip exclusively using our stroller.   As a side note, you my have seen people walking around using something called The Mommy Hook (stupid name).  We picked the hooks we did because the velcro attachment on them keeps them from sliding around the handle and also because they were cheaper.

Word of caution: always fill up the basket of your stroller first before adding heavy things to the handle, especially while your baby is still a baby and not a giant toddler.  One downside of having an ultra-light stroller is that it can tip if you're not using common sense.

Baby entertainment

Finally, we've come to something that's for the baby instead of the parent (though of course, a quiet and entertained baby is really very much for the parent). There are many options for things to attach to the stroller to keep your wee one happy once they're not just using it as a convenient napping location.  We've enjoyed using the Skip Hop Stroller Bar Activity Toy as well as attaching other toys to the stroller straps with pacifier clips.  But frankly there are many options for stroller toys out there.


       


This post is the third in a series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

Part 2 - I don't have a car but my stroller is boss (which stroller?)


See Part 1 - I don't have a car but my stroller is boss.

If you live in the city and don't have a car, you probably need a good stroller (though even this fact can be debated by some).  I knew this decision was super important, so when I was pregnant with my first baby, I approached this with the kind of methodical process I am used to implementing at work - a spreadsheet.  Looking back at the spreadsheet I created then (yes I still have it, yes I am a dork, you're welcome), here are the criteria I evaluated all potential strollers on:
  • - weight
  • - wheel type/quality
  • - storage basket quality
  • - fold-ability
  • - 2nd child accommodation
  • - adjustable handle height
  • - width 
  • - parent-facing infant
  • - accessories available 
Two kids and a bazillion million stroller trips later, I have to say, these are not a bad place to start when looking for your own stroller.  Many people will tell you that the long list of criteria is why there is no such thing as a perfect stroller.  That you need a different stroller for different occasions (a heavy duty stroller for every day, a light stroller for travel, a jogging stroller with big wheels for bad weather and exercise, a something stroller for something else... I don't know, I stop listening at this point).  Those people live in a place where they have somewhere to put their arsenal of strollers (and I guess are willing to spend a looooot of money on them for only occasional use).

Based on an insane amount of googling, review reading, trudging to 5 different baby stores, and soul searching we finally settled on the Valco Baby Snap*.  You've probably never heard of this company and that's a shame.  It's the only stroller we own and it has held up admirably.  Please allow me to sing their praises in the post below (no they haven't paid me for this post).

With experience, I would say by far the most important criteria are weight, wheel type/quality, storage basket quality, and to a lesser extent, fold-ability.  However, let's go through each of the criteria mentioned and discuss at length (the only way I know how).

Weight

This is your most important criteria, frankly.  Most of Boston's transit is accessible, which means that usually an elevator is an option.  I say usually because it is not always the case.  I have picked this stroller up, carried it, bounced it up and down stairs, on and off buses and and and and...  I can do this because it weighs 13lbs (though I believe the current model comes in at 15 lbs).  Many strollers sold weigh in at a hefty 25lb+.  You may be thinking that you can easily lift that much and I'm sure you can, but you're forgetting the baby.  And this baby, will not be a baby for long... fast forward a year and you'll be adding 20lbs+ of child to that chunky stroller as well.... and a diaper bag... and your coffee... and the rain attachments... and the groceries you're taking home in the stroller...  Get a heavy stroller over 20lbs and you will curse the day you were born.

Wheel type/Quality

This feature is important for 2 reasons -  weather and maneuverability.  We live in the north and have terrible weather.  The wheels on our stroller have gotten through snow, slush, standing water, and have lived to tell the tale.  The suspension on the stroller has also let us go over train tracks with an infant who doesn't even wake up to notice.  This is another place where some people will tell you that you need a "jogging stroller" for the bad weather days.  Nope.  You just need a regular stroller with high quality wheels.

Storage basket quality

The worst thing about your kid growing up and deciding to ditch the stroller is that you now have to carry all those groceries home yourself.  The basket is where you'll put your rain cover, your unstructured carrier for baby freak out emergencies, your groceries, and your older child's coat they decided to ditch.  A good basket that's easy to access is your super best friend.

Foldability

One could argue that foldability only matters for the suburbanites who have to fold and fit their stroller in the trunk of their car all the time.  However, we have definitely gone to restaurants that are very small in our area and had to fold our stroller in order to fit our family inside.  Also our stroller has fit nicely in the overhead shelving of Amtrak trains.  Finally, it can be carried by the conveniently placed handle (see picture).

Note: this feature is much more important if you live in NYC.  As you've likely noticed the only way to get on the subway in most stations is to bounce your stroller down the stairs, take the baby out, fold the stroller, go through the (not accessible) fare gates, put the baby back in, and proceed (or go through the emergency exit and set off the alarm).  For this reason, having a one handed fold may be very important to you and thus possibly worth considering getting the Britax B-Agile Stroller (discussed below) instead, as it has a slightly easier fold.

Second child accommodation

I am a planner by nature.  Prior to having any children I thought I wanted two and so that is why I put this criteria on the list.  Having now had two children I recognize the foolishness of this kind of planning.  Whenever someone tells me how many children they want to have and how close together I smile at them and usually mumble something along the lines of "start with one and see where you end up".  Life is messy and complicated and there's no way to know how hard a conception/pregnancy/delivery/infancy will be on a family.  Other parts of life can interfere too.  I know so many families who thought they would only ever have 1 to end up with 3 and vice versa.  So on this topic, I say, plan for the child you're pregnant with now and don't buy a stroller with a frame that will accommodate 2 sitting children (popular examples of this are the Britax B-Ready, the Baby Jogger City Select, and the UPPAbaby Vista).  Buying a stroller that you hope will pan out 2 years from now when you have a second will result in you hating it for the entire time you use it with your first because it's too heavy to get onto a train.  Even if you do end up with two kids your oldest may be willing to walk most places.  You may be able to pop the baby in the carrier you have in your storage basked and let the older kid ride when they get tired.  And finally, almost any stroller will accommodate a hitchiker so that is always an option too.

Adjustable handle height

Ok this one is real.  My family is lucky in that I am 5'4" and my partner is 5'3".  This means that any stroller that works for one of us works for both of us.  If one or both of you are tall, you're possibly going to need a stroller with an adjustable handle height.  Here are some urban friendly options you might consider
  1. 1. Buying a stroller handle bar extender like this one.

  2. 2. The UPPAbaby Cruz Stroller. This stroller is more expensive and the wheels are less good.  That said, it's light enough, and if you're tall, this may be one of your few options.

  3. 3. The Mountain Buggy Mini Travel system.  I don't know much about this stroller other than the fact that it made the rounds of the urban parent internet when it came out.  I know it's a high quality brand and the specs of this guy seem good.  If you're tall, this is certainly an option worth considering. 
  4.  
  5. 4. The Baby Jogger City Mini GT Single Stroller (don't confuse it with its not "GT" cousin the Baby Jogger City Mini Stroller, which does not have an adjustable handle and has crappier wheels). We are friends with a mixed height urban dwelling couple who have had good luck with this guy and you certainly see plenty of them walking around.  Definitely seems worth a test drive.

Other things on the list

  1. 1. Width - It turns out most (non-double) strollers are pretty much the same here.  Ours is on the narrow side, which is of course better but it's not much of a differentiator.

  2. 2. Parent-facing infant seat - This is certainly a nice to have, especially if you're a nervous parent.  That said, the importance of this feature shrinks when compared to others. 

  3. 3. Accessories - these are really important.  So important, in fact, that we will write a whole other post about them.
  4.  
  5. 4. Price.  You may have noticed this was missing from the original list of criteria and this is because I purposely omitted it.  I went into my search thinking that since we don't have a car we were going to live and die by our stroller choice so it was worth spending some dough on.  That said, the stroller we picked was actually THE CHEAPEST one we considered coming in at under $300 (the price varies based on your color choice).  Isn't that always a nice surprise?

That's all great but I just cannot buy a stroller without a test drive

If you live in the Boston area, Baby-Koo carries them in stock so feel free to head on over to them.  I'm sure most big cities have at least one retailer that does as well.  However, if you cannot find one, a really good runner up to the Valco Snap is the Britax B-Agile Stroller.  It's almost identical on features and price.  However, in the end we picked the Valco for the slightly better wheels and the fold that results in the seat being inside rather than out (so we don't have to worry about it getting dirty when folded and stashed in the back of a restaurant).  That said, if the Valco didn't exist, this would be my stroller of choice.

 * Note: we bought our stroller in 2012 and since then many new models of this same stroller have come out.  We have good friends who own the 2014 version and we remain convinced that this is an excellent stroller, especially for the price.


This post is the second in a series of posts about carfree living. Other posts include thoughts on strollers for urban use, necessary accessories, and whatever else we think to blog about!

Jackets - your kid won't wear them, but you'll feel better if you own some

2 year old in styling rain coat.
When I was a teenager I refused to wear a coat on a regular basis, despite the fact that my family lived in the mountains of northern PA and not San Diego.  I had assumed that I would pass on this or some other annoying habit to my children, I just didn't expect it to manifest quite so early.  I am sad to say that we have begun the coat battles already.  (I know you're thinking that I should just let her not wear a coat and wait until she tells me she's cold.  However, she is very stubborn and has literally had her lip turn blue and hasn't asked for a coat.  I'm not waiting until the hypothermia kicks in).

10 month old in raincoat.
Anyway, if you live somewhere it rains periodically, your kid will need a good rain coat.  We've had a really great experience with Hatley Raincoats (Amazon) or Hatley Kids (Zappos).  Not only do they come in all sorts of adorable patterns, but they are super practical as well.  They have a soft terry cloth lining that feels good to the kid and provides some additional warmth for those days when it's raining AND 35 degrees out.  They are generously sized so we have been able to use the same coat for both spring and fall of a given year.  And they have lovely hood (tip: use a hair clip to keep the hood on your child's head if you live in a windy city).

While it's true that they can be pricey, you can often find them at "end of season" sales either in brick and mortar establishments or on Amazon.  Because of the generous sizing, you're likely to be able to guess your kids size (we already have our 3T coat ready for next spring).  Also, many of their designs are quite gender neutral and the coats are quite durable so if you do have multiple kiddos this is a great candidate for hand-me-downs.

Excited your kid walks everywhere? Live somewhere it snows? You need footwear!

Boots

So maybe this is just the PTSD talking from having survived Boston in February 2015 (that picture was only after the first storm), but boots really are a necessity if you're going to keep walking, taking the bus/train, and living your life in a northern city. When our eldest was a baby, some fancy designer boots were a fun gift to get, but now that she's 2, going on 22, waterproof, warm, and easy to put on is a must.
Toddler, scared of walking on snow after the 1st storm.

We've had a great experience with Bogs Baby Boots (AmazonZappos) (which are a misnomer as the sizes really run all the way up to adults practically). All of them are quite appropriate for boys and girls. Styles are available that will satisfy everyone from the non-conformists to the folks out there gunning for more gender targeted products. The pair modeled in the picture are the "indigo" variant of the Flower Stripe boot. That link takes you to a search for all the various styles and colors.

Back to the practical, not only are they waterproof, but these boots are machine washable so even the yuckiest of slush is not a problem!

Socks

Ok, even a "normal" winter up here means good warm socks are needed for kids and adults alike. Our winner for the whole family is Smartwool. You can search for Smartwool for everyone here (Amazon) or here (Zappos), Smartwool socks have the feel of something thick and heavy but still fit into most shoes. They breathe pretty well too, so you don't have to talk your toddler OUT of wearing them on a warmer day when she REALLY REALLY REALLY WANTS green socks and these are the only green socks you own. For what it's worth, I also own a Smartwool sweater for the really cold days, so they've got me sold.

Note: This post is footwear focused, but in case you're checking this out in the midst of winter weather before we can write about coats/snowsuits. I'll let you know the snowsuit above (that we love!) is from Columbia Sportswear. Find their stuff on Amazon and Zappos.