Thursday, July 8, 2010

Delta Toddler Beds: Perfect for growing kids in a small space

Well, hello!

Yes, I know, it's been rather quiet over here at Spawnocalypse Reviews. I'm still not sure if this type of blogging is something I really have a knack for.

BUT, my family just made a modest purchase--a pair of big-kid beds--that we put a fair amount of thought and research into, of which I figured some fellow parents with growing toddlers and shrinking bank accounts might benefit.

Once it became apparent we were going to need to move both the two- and three-year-old out of their cribs (which you can read about here), we were originally going to procure a pair of twin beds that they would use from now until college. And two mattresses. And new bedding. And have to figure out how we were going to squeeze my daughter's into a room with the approximate dimensions of a handicapped bathroom stall.

Wanting to keep things fairly equal between them, I figured we'd suck it up and bring in a pair of plastic character beds they could use with their crib mattresses for a bit. Though chances are pretty good Annie will still love Disney princesses for some time and Gunnar will worship Buzz Lightyear or Thomas or whoever we settled on, they've been known to turn before. And the off-chance that a new favorite would result in a sleeping-in-the-shunned-character-bed strike made me afraid to risk it.

But then I poked around online and found this:

And this:
At $79.99 each, with no cheesy characters and wood-like finishes matching their existing furniture, I was sold.

After fixing the flat tire we got on the way to the closest Target that had them in stock, spending almost an hour (even with staff help toward the end) trying to find the stinking things (endcap!), we got them home and assembled without too much difficulty.

The kids have now slept in their new little beds for three nights. Our assessment so far...

Pros:
  • Cute, sturdy, and sans Dora or any of her annoying friends.
  • Take up far less space than the cribs did in slanted-ceiling bedrooms, giving the kids more space to play.
  • Required no extra purchases other than the bed (though in retrospect, I'd have sprung for novelty sheets or at least pillowcases to help sell the switch).
  • Low to the ground, with small railing to prevent rollouts (three-year-old, who had been sleeping with improvised crash-mat next to converted crib, is very happy with this feature).

Cons:
  • For the price, obviously they're fairly lightweight. My two-year-old can slide hers around easily on the hardwood floor.
  • We'll have to eventually upgrade, as they're labeled to hold only up to 50 lbs. I think that's about the size of a kindergartner, but am guessing that the kids will want something more substantial before that.

Overall, the Delta Toddler Beds were the perfect solution for our needs right now, and I highly recommend them to anyone in a similar situation.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book review: Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full

Disciplining our kids is one of our most challenging yet important jobs as parents. When my kids entered the toddler years and began testing me at every turn, I was very concerned with disciplining effectively but not so harshly as to squash their spirits. I didn't want them to be reflexively dependent on authority figures to tell them right from wrong, but to have sound judgment of their own and be willing to stand up for it.


For the most part, my two-year-old daughter and three-year-old do and always have responded very well to conventional timeouts. When they misbehave, they stand in the corner for two or three minutes--or until I take a few deep breaths and plan my approach--after which we repeat what they did wrong, ask for an apology, hug, and move on. But some alternative--yet not wildly different--techniques outlined in Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full: When Conventional Discipline Fails Unconventional Children, have helped address my concerns that go beyond having children who are simply well-behaved.

Although the book can be helpful to anyone, it is geared primarily toward parents or teachers of kids with more difficult personalities or suffering from learning problems or ADHD. For them, typical time-limited punishments just don't work, explains the author, child psychologist Cary Chugh, PhD. To kids seemingly "born looking for a fight" (p. 55), being in timeout, detention, or in their rooms for an arbitrary time limit defined by a parent or authority figure only fuels their frustration. They see their banishment as their parents' fault--and return to the misbehavior quickly after their time has been served.

But timeouts can be turned up a notch by empowering children to get themselves out of it as soon or as late as they choose--by having escape linked to practicing an age-appropriate positive behavior several times (e.g., asking for a toy nicely, scrubbing crayon off the floor, walking slowly down a corridor) rather than simply letting the clock run out.

Although administering behavior-limited techniques can me more time-intensive because you have to explain and supervise the corrective behavior, the strategy is more efficient in the long run as it takes advantage of punishment time to teach prosocial behavior. As kids become intrinsically motivated to do the right thing, it increases their self-esteem and lets them see parents as allies in helping them problem-solve.

Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full, though a quick 177-page read, is packed full of concrete examples for using various forms of behavior-limited discipline with kids of all ages for all types of common problems, such as trouble getting ready in the morning, misbehavior at school, and more. It also includes several relatable anecdotes from Dr. Chugh's experience as a child psychologist, along with "cheat sheets" to help parents arrive at the appropriate technique for a given situation and follow the steps accordingly.

You can learn more about Dr. Chugh and purchase his book for a special Web-only price of $15.99 at http://carychugh.com. The book is also available on Amazon, where you can read several expert-written reviews.

I think anyone who has or works with kids should take the time to read this book. Even if, like me, you're fortunate enough to have children who are not extraordinarily difficult, it never hurts to have more tools in your parenting arsenal. And even if you think what you're doing is working just fine, you may be surprised when you ask yourself if the way you discipline your kids is helping to correct their misbehavior or merely to manage it in the short term. This book will help you make that a conscious decision.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

DVD review: Minnie's Bow-Tique, with clips

If your kids like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, they will love Disney's recently released Minnie's Bow-Tique. The 96-minute DVD includes four entertaining and educational stories featuring my daughter's hero, Minnie Mouse, plus two interactive remote-controlled games and a Minnie bow frame magnet.


Even though the selections--Minnie's Bow-Tique, Minnie's Pajama Story, Minnie's Bee Story, and Minnie's Picnic--are packaged as little girls' answer to Mickey's Choo-Choo Express, both my (almost) three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter adore every episode, especially the title pick.

Though I try to avoid using the TV as a babysitter, this DVD was an absolute lifesaver a few weeks ago when a stomach virus had me nearly incapacitated for an entire day while my husband was at work. Our DVD player had been on the fritz, too, and somehow the stars aligned to keep it running Minnie's Bow-Tique at least five or six times back-to-back until I could emerge from my fetal position on the couch (and unlike a lot of kids' programming, it didn't make my headache or nausea worse). The kids were enthralled, and eager to "help" Minnie and her friends resort her fallen bows after "Goopy" knocked them down off the shelf.

You can find Minnie's Bow-Tique on Amazon for $15.49 or at Target for $14.99. From my experience, the movie is worth every penny, but check out these clips to decide for yourself.

Minnie’s Picnic


Featurette: Bow-tique Game


Minnie’s Bow-tique


Minnie’s Pajama Party


Minnie’s Bow Story


See? I told you you wouldn't be disappointed!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

DVD review: Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine For You Special Edition

Looking for an adorable Valentine's gift for your kids that won't promote tooth decay? Check out the newly released Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You Special Edition DVD.


With about 50 minutes worth of classic Disney animation, this DVD includes three stories emphasizing love and friendship: "A Valentine for You," "Un-Valentine's Day," and my toddlers' favorite, "Three Little Piglets." Bonus features include "My Hero" (from the New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh) and the "Catch the Love Bug" Game.

The package also includes six Valentine cards featuring Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger.

The entire package retails for $29.99, but is available on Amazon for a little less, and is sure to delight little Valentines of all ages.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If you can't get the kids to cooperate...

...with a holiday photograph...


get John Boveri to make the photograph work with the kids and/or occasion.


Happy holidays, from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's under our tree

I had a surprisingly difficult time buying gifts for my one- and two-year-old. Last year, we got away with wrapping up a bag of blocks and an Elmo bath mat and calling it a day. This Christmas holds the pressure of being possibly the first one they'll remember.

So I thought I'd share the details* of my last-minute masterpiece, not so much to be useful (since I'm sure your shopping was finished ages ago), but to share my sense of satisfaction with someone before this stuff is long forgotten and/or strewn around my house. *Prices are approximate/from memory.

Purchases for Gunnar, age 2.5:


A.C. Moore: Two Thomas trains (one motorized), for a total of about $30 on sale

Target: Cars PJs, $12; Spiderman sneakers, $17; sunglasses, $5

Big Lots: Toy Story coloring tray, $8; stocking stuffers, $1-$2; book, $3

BJ's: A keyboard he can grow into, $30

For Annie, age 19 months:


Target
: Baby doll, $10; stroller, $10

Big Lots: toy baby bottle, $3; learning mailbox, $25

The rest is similar to Gunny's.

And...to both toddlers from Santa:


Family Dollar: Unisex play kitchen that will not overwhelm our space, $20 (the only one I've seen that wasn't pink, huge, and/or $100 or more)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A quick and dirty diaper review

With two kids under the age of three, we go through over 300 diapers a month.

We've tried every brand of disposable waste-catchers, from premium to generic, and we always, always come back to Luvs.

Exhibit A:

[Image of super-soaked, non-leaking diaper, removed now that I've made my point.]

In addition, they are soft (i.e., comfortable), lightly scented, and often cost exactly the same as the sandpapery generics.

Our second favorite generics are Kirkland diapers, found at Costco.

And if money were no object, we'd be happy to Pamper our babies' bottoms any day.

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way to post this review. I even tried to contact the company to get some coupons for you, but they shot me down (per policy). However, you can find lots of money-saving deals on the company sites and other places online. Also, I apologize for the graphic nature of this post; but if you're like me and buying diapers by the caseload, I'm sure you've seen--and smelled--far worse.