Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disciplining Other Peoples' Kids

Disciplining children is a hot topic right now. For an interesting Today Show discussion on disciplining other people's kids, click here. In the discussion, Linda Fears and Jeff Gardere talk about looking out for other people's children and disciplining them if there's no one around to stop a dangerous situation but you.

In your babysitting co-op, you sit down with the other parents and discuss discipline. When you have children at your home during a babysitting shift, it's your responsibility to discipline them according to the methods chosen by the entire group of parents.

But what about disciplining kids outside of the structured babysitting co-op venue? What if you're at the playground and a child is doing something that could hurt himself or other children and no other adults seem to be stepping in?

Jeff Gardere establishes three rules.

1. Never put your hands on someone else's child.
2. Don't raise your voice.
3. If possible, get permission from the other parent to discipline their child, and talk to that parent about their disciplining your own child.

What do you think about Jeff Gardere's rules? And how have you handled disciplining other peoples' kids?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yummy Soft Pretzels

Oh, these are good. These are like the pretzels you're willing to pay $4 at the mall for--only with this recipe you can make about an entire batch for that much. If you're feeling brave, you can make the dough ahead of your co-op shift and let the kids shape their own pretzels. If you'd rather not deal with flour on the kitchen floor, shape them yourself ahead of time. In our experience, you can never make too many pretzels. They disappear.

1 1/2 cup warm water
1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm water
2 Tbs. baking soda
coarse salt
1/4 cup melted butter

Sprinkle the yeast on the 1 1/2 cup of warm water in a mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add sugar and salt, and stir to dissolve. Add flour, and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Allow it to rise for 1/2 hour.

While the dough rises, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups of warm water and 2 Tbs. baking soda. Stir the water often. When the dough has risen, pinch off sections and roll them into long ropes. Shape them into pretzels. Dip the pretzel in the soda solution and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Allow the pretzels to rise again. Bake them at 450 degrees F for about 10 minutes. After you pull them out of the oven, brush them generously with melted butter, and sprinkle coarse salt on top. 

Topping Ideas:
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Nacho cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pesto

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

10 Rainy Day Activities

If it's your co-op day and you're faced with a group of pent-up kids and nothing to do, use one of these ten ideas to rejuvenate everyone's spirits.

  • Make a fort in your living room with kitchen chairs and blankets. Read a story in the fort by the light of a flashlight.
  • Have a contest to see who can make the tallest tower out of paper cups.
  • Set up an obstacle course using chairs, pillows, jump ropes, and empty cardboard boxes.
  • Make collages out of old magazine pictures.
  • Write letters to grandparents, neighbors, teachers, or parents.
  • Have a tea party.
  • Gather all the stuffed animals in the house and play "animal hospital."
  • Have a talent show. Encourage each child to display one of their talents: somersaults, singing, dance moves, telling jokes, etc.
  • Balloon volleyball. String a jump rope between two chairs, divide the kids into two groups, and challenge them to not let the balloon fall on their side of the "net."
  • Board games. Pull out Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and Connect Four. Try to pair up amiable groups of children to avoid rainy day disputes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cold and Flu Prevention

It's that time of year. Everywhere you go, you're likely to hear sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and complaining. Kids bring viruses home from friends' houses, preschool, church, the grocery store, and anywhere else they've been. To combat this problem, especially when you have children over for a co-op shift, make sure everyone washes their hands. It sounds so simple, but it's easy to forget.

To help you and the children remember, print off this printable handwashing poster and post it in the bathroom, at least when your co-op kids come over. Some parents find, however, that it helps to keep a visual handwashing reminder up all the time. If fast food restaurants do it, why can't we? There are lots of printable posters available, but here's an especially kid-friendly one right here.

In addition to pushing handwashing, sanitize toys, door knobs, and other oft-handled objects occasionally during flu and cold season, especially if you know some of the kids have had contagious viruses. Sanitizing wipes make this job easy, and you can even recruit the kids to help you with clean-up before the parents come to pick their children up.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Food Allergies and the Babysitting Co-op

At your initial start-up meeting, it's a good idea to ask if any of the children have food allergies. If any of the co-op kids do have food allergies, each babysitter needs to be aware of the severity of the allergy. Since there should be a medical form for each parent, everyone should be well aware of potential concerns, but if the allergies are very severe, you may need to make sure all parents are trained.

For example, if a child has had a severe allergic reaction in the past (facial sweeling, hoarse voice, wheezing, fainting, etc.), then all babysitters need to be trained to use an EpiPen. This doesn't take long, and you can do this training at each calendaring meeting to keep the instructions fresh in everyone's mind. Allergies should be clearly listed on each child's medical form along with instructions for babysitters to follow in the event the child has an allergic reaction. Click here for printable EpiPen instructions.

Babysitters should be sensitive to food allergies and not serve food that the allergic child can't eat. However, if the child's food restrictions are severe, she's probably used to eating alternative foods and won't mind the substitution of a safe food for a food everyone else is eating. So if you're serving sandwiches and she can't eat wheat bread, give her a bowl of soup or a burrito made from a corn tortilla. Parents with food allergic children shouldn't expect babysitters to stock specialty foods for their child. It's always helpful to pack specialty foods the child likes. That will take a lot of pressure of the babysitter.

With a little awareness and care, the co-op can make sure that kids with food allergies are properly taken care of. This gives parents real peace of mind and is one of the best benefits of a babysitting co-op. The child is always with responsible adults who know the child.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch

If you go to the library before your next co-op shift, pick up a copy of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli. It's always nice to have a fresh picture book on hand to read to a child having separation anxiety or to the group as a whole when things get a little rambunctious.

And this is such a sweet story.

The mailman delivers a mysterious package to lonely old Mr. Hatch one February day. The attached note says, "Somebody loves you," so Mr. Hatch assumes he has a secret admirer. This revelation changes Mr. Hatch. As he goes about town he wonders who his admirer might be, and his actions toward everyone become more generous and kind. He begins to make lots of friends.

When he finds out that the package was delivered to him by mistake, Mr. Hatch once again becomes sad, lonely, and withdrawn, but now that he has a whole slew of new friends, they won't let him stay sad for long.

It's a heartwarming story, and it might just soothe some young hurt feelings and self-consciousness.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Co-op Valentine Party

If it's been a while since your whole co-op got together, it might be nice to plan a Valentine's party so you can see all your friends in one place. Without interrupting the co-op schedule, try to find a time when everyone's available. If you want older kids and working spouses to come as well, plan it for the weekend.

To keep things simple, have everyone bring a potluck dish to share. Kids could exchange valentines. Adults could talk and eat chocolate. If your co-op is lively, you could roll up the rug and put some dance tunes on.

Whole co-op get-togethers are a great way to get to know each other better. If your only interactions with each other are exchanging information about diapers and feeding schedules, you may begin to see each other as only business associates. Also, if new people have joined your co-op recently, give them some good socializing time with the whole group. Others will be more likely to use their shifts if they know them better. So take time to sit down together and relax. And eat. Did I mention chocolate?

If you'd like to know how to make those cute straws in the picture above, click here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


It doesn't look like fruit snacks, and it is the dreaded green color, but we've found that many kids genuinely like edamame for snacks. Edamame is just a fancy name for boiled green soybeans. You can buy them in the freezer section of your grocery store. They're delicious and easy to keep around, and they're really healthy. Here are the nutrition facts for just a half cup serving of shelled edamame:

  • 120 calories
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 2.5 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat (0.3 grams plant omega-3 fatty acids)
  • 0.5 gram monounsaturated fat
  • 11 grams protein
  • 13 grams carbohydrate
  • 15 mg sodium
  • 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C
  • 10% Daily Value for iron
  • 8% Daily Value for vitamin A
  • 4% Daily Value for calcium
In addition to serving them plain (warm or cold, shelled or unshelled--by the way, lots of kids really enjoy shelling them), you can eat them with crackers, roast them with olive oil and salt, or toss them in a salad. Pull them out for snack next time you have a babysitting shift. The kids' parents will appreciate the healthy snack, and best of all--there are no crumbs!

Monday, February 6, 2012


One of the tricky things about babysitting co-op is that your child must learn to act as sort of a host during your babysitting shifts. While we think this is great practice, it's not always easy practice. When child care takes place in a neutral location like a day care center, all of the children are on equal ground as far as toy ownership is concerned, but when the child care is happening in your house, your child may feel territorial--and rightly so.

To help you and your child with the difficulties of sharing when the other children arrive for your babysitting shift, we've put together a few tips:

1. Put away precious items before the shift starts. If there are toys that are so special to your child that he would be devastated if something happened to them, put them up and out of sight before the children even arrive, and remind your child that the toys won't come down until the babysitting shift is over.

2. Don't force your child to share. Well-meaning parents may occasionally grow impatient with their children and take a toy out of her hand to hand to another child. While this technique may solve the immediate sharing problem, it doesn't give your child an opportunity to grow, and it may result in her acting even more tight-fisted next time.

3. Help kids to solve the sharing problem themselves. Instead of stepping in and policing the situation, talk it through to help the kids solve it on their own. Say something like, "Hm, it looks like we have a problem here. Both of you want the same toy right now, but that won't work. How can we solve this problem?" If the kids are too young to solve the problem themselves, give them a couple of options to choose from: "Brandon will play with it for 15 minutes, and then Anna will get it for 15 minutes."

4. Remember the art of distraction. If the situation gets really tense and the kids can't solve the problem themselves, distract the kids with a new activity or toy. Use this method as a last resort. You'll exhaust yourself if you spend the whole babysitting shift trying to entertain everyone and avoid all conflicts. Remember that a certain amount of conflict is inevitable, and learning to negotiate never hurt anybody.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Egg Salad Sandwiches

First off, I have to establish a disclaimer here. I never ever tried an egg salad sandwich as a kid. My parents never made them. Maybe their parents never made them either. But one day not so long ago, I was over at a friend's house for lunch (our kids were playing), and she looked in the fridge and said, "Hmm. Kinda low on ingredients. How about an egg salad sandwich?" I'm always game for new foods, so I said sure. I helped (watched) her make the sandwiches and then took a bite.


We now have egg salad sandwiches all the time, and the kids love them. They're smooth and squishy, and you can make them salty if you want or you can add some crunch with pickle relish or chopped celery. And kids like to help make them.

If you're like me and have never been exposed to egg salad sandwiches, here's a basic recipe. But after you've made them once, you won't need a recipe. And my friend was right: they're great when you're low on ingredients. They don't take much.

4 hard-boiled eggs
3 Tbs. mayo
1 tsp. mustard (regular, Dijon, or anything)
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (not necessary but yummy)
1/2 tsp. salt
dash pepper.

Smoosh the eggs through the tines of a fork until they look like crumbs. Kids like to help with this step. Then add all the other ingredients and stir until nice and uniform. Slather it onto bread.

Fancy add-ins:
Pickle relish
Chopped celery
Tuna fish
Chopped olives

Movie Time: Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown

You can't miss the Valentine's Day candy at the grocery store, and if your kids are in preschool, there's probably already talk about Valentines and class lists and probably a party. Get your family and co-op kids in the mood by watching an old classic:

Just in case it's been a few years since you've seen it, we'll refresh your memory. This is the 1975 Emmy-nominated TV special where Charlie Brown faithfully checks his mailbox hoping for Valentines and takes a briefcase to school to carry home all the Valentines he hopes to receive. Snoopy dances around as Cupid and tries to hit Charlie Brown, but unfortunately he misses every time. Linus falls in love with his teacher and buys her an expensive box of chocolate with all his allowance money, and poor Sally thinks the chocolates are really for her.

It's a sweet, funny little film, and it may convert your kids to Charlie Brown--and that would be a wonderful thing because then you would have a reason (or excuse) to watch all the TV specials you grew up on.