Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vitamin-Packed Snack: Sweet Potato Chips

Packed with Vitamin A and Vitamin C, these sweet potato chips provide good nutrition and a satisfying snack. They're easy, especially if you have a handheld slicer or a mandoline. If you don't have a special slicer, you can still cut them with a sharp knife; they just won't look quite as pretty.

2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled if desired
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 lime

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the sweet potatoes to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Place them in a mixing bowl and toss them with the olive oil, salt, and juice from the lime. Spread them out on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper (to make clean-up easier). Bake them for 10 minutes on each side or until the edges start curling.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ear Infections and Babysitting Co-op

With more than 3 out of every 4 children getting an ear infection before age 3, you can bet the kids in your babysitting co-op will be dealing with this painful problem. As a co-op parent, is it wise to take a child with an ear infection to someone else's house? And is it wise to have other children at your own home for a co-op shift while your own child is sick? Let's take a look at these issues.

First, determine whether or not the ear pain is really an infection. Sometimes children experience ear pain when they're teething or when they have a cold. If the ear seems to be hurting and the child has a fever, it's a good idea to see your pediatrician.

Ear infections themselves are not contagious, so you don't have to worry about he infection spreading to other kids. However, ear infections are often secondary infections to viruses such as the common cold, and these viruses are contagious. If you determine that your child just has an ear infection without an accompanying cold, it's fine to have him around other children. If he's being cared for by another co-op parent, just let the parent know what's going on and whether or not they need to administer any antibiotics while you're gone.

If your child seems to have an underlying virus, however, be very cautious about letting him spend time with other children. The common cold is most contagious on days 3 through 5. The tell-tale signs of the common cold are a cough or a runny or stuffy nose. If your child is in this stage of a cold, call off your own co-op shifts and don't take him to anybody else's house for babysitting. You don't want to spread the cold around the whole co-op.

In the meantime, remind your kids (and the co-op kids, too) to wash their hands well after using the bathroom and before eating. Hand washing is especially important this time of year when the air is dry and sneezes can carry germs farther.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Benefits of Babysitting Co-ops

This is a picture of a business lunch. If you think that a business lunch is impossible for you because you never have time to yourself, think again. There are many things--like business lunches--that are difficult or impossible to do with young children in tow. If you could count on a few hours a week just to yourself that you don't have to pay a babysitter for, think of the things you could do: work on a hobby, build up your business, go shopping by yourself, spend quality time with your spouse, foster friendships, volunteer in your community, and more.

The following are some of the wonderful benefits of participating in a babysitting co-op:

  • A sense of freedom and support for parents
  • Money savings
  • Socializing opportunities for children
  • Peace of mind for parents (because your kids are being cared for by friends you know and trust)
If these benefits sound appealing to you, talk with your friends and neighbors about starting a babysitting co-op.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Babies at Babysitting Co-op

When you have your initial babysitting co-op start-up meeting, you'll discuss rules for your co-op about all kinds of things: discipline, snacks, tardiness, meals, and more. Another topic you should discuss among your co-op parents is babies. Babies are an integral part of babysitting co-op, but they require more time and attention than older children.

The way you handle infants in your co-op may depend largely on the make-up of your group. Does your group consist of mostly preschoolers? Babies? Elementary school-aged kids?

Generally, it's a good idea to limit the number of children at any one babysitting shift to six. Six is a good, manageable number, and this number should also include your own children. Therefore, if two of your children will be a part of the babysitting shift, you can care for four more kids. Babies under 12 months require more of your attention, so it's wise to limit babies to just one per shift. Of course, your group can decide otherwise, but remember that shifts with multiple babies can become stressful, especially if some of the babies are not accustomed to spending time with other caretakers besides their parents.

Being a part of a babysitting co-op is wonderful for new parents. You can leave your infant with friends you know and trust while you get some much needed sleep, get some work done, or run errands without lugging around a car seat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tabitha Klein's Baby Names to Live By

It's baby week at Babysitting Co-op 101. On Monday we talked about how babysitting co-ops can support new parents in the critical days and weeks surrounding the birth of a baby. In addition to the practical needs such as child care and home-cooked meals, fellow co-op parents can be available to lend a listening ear and to talk through the many excitements and challenges involved in labor and delivery.

One exciting aspect of inviting a new baby to your family is the chance to name him or her. Baby name books are fun to read while you're pregnant, and we've found an interesting one that is not your typical baby name book. Baby Names to Live By concentrates on namesakes rather than names. It contains hundreds of mini biographies of exemplary people who happen to have names that work well for today's babies.

If you're expecting a little one, take a look at it. You might get some great ideas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Babysitting Co-ops and New Babies

Babysitting co-ops and young families go hand-in-hand. In fact, the reason babysitting co-op exists is because we’re in the business of creating and raising children. If you are one of those moms who might still be looking forward to expanding your family, we wish you the best. There’s nothing more exhilarating than learning that you’re expecting and then welcoming a beautiful new child into your household. And at the same time, there’s nothing more exhausting than being pregnant and adapting to the schedule of a precious newborn.

When news comes that a co-op member is expecting a new baby, be prepared to make some adjustments. Your newly pregnant friend may find that she’s terribly ill during those early months. And once she finally feels like she’s got her burst of energy back, she may start feeling very tired as she enters the final trimester. Certainly, we’ve all been there and can lend a sympathetic ear when these days are challenging. When this time comes, and it will come, babysitting co-op can come to the rescue and help in many different ways.
  • The new mother can take time off from babysitting while still using the co-op for much-needed rest.
  • Co-op members can chip in and provide the new parents with a couple of home-cooked meals.
  • Co-op parents can provide moral support for the new baby's siblings, who may feel left out and discouraged.
The illustration above is from a new book by Lola M. Schaefer. It's called One Special Day, and it's about a little boy named Spencer whose world changes when his mom has a new baby. I love this book because it's very positive, reinforcing Spencer's good traits and self-awareness while adding a new dimension and role to his young life.

If your own children or some of the other co-op children are facing this life-changing and exciting event, read the story to them to start a conversation about their concerns and excitement.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Preschool Discipline Strategies

Thriving babysitting co-ops have a lot in common with preschools. Groups of kids regularly get together for several hours at a time. Sometimes these kids have a great time together, and sometimes they have problems. Babysitting co-op parents can smooth out difficult co-op shifts by adopting some of these discipline strategies from preschool teachers.

  • Explain the rules. Kids know the rules of their preschool classrooms, but do they know the rules of your co-op shifts? Some children already know your rules, but others don't. It never hurts to repeat your rules, so mention them at the beginning of each shift. "Welcome, Emma and Jane. I'm glad you're here. Remember to not stand on the furniture, put the toys back when you're done with them, and don't touch the dog's tail."
  • Maintain order. Kids feel more secure in orderly environments, and this is often reflected in preschool classrooms. Obviously, it's unnecessary to turn your living room into a preschool classroom, but you can create a sense of order by keeping toys in one place, enforcing the same rules all the time, and establishing a schedule for your babysitting shift.
  • Offer instruction. If you just send a group of kids into a room filled with toys and activities, they may feel overwhelmed with all the options. Instead, offer one activity at a time and show them how to do it. "Now we're going to color. Come over to the table and find a picture you'd like to color."
  • Praise positive behavior. Preschool teachers know that praise creates positive classroom environments. This discipline strategy is easy to adopt in a babysitting co-op: "Cade, thanks for helping your brother to get his shoes on before we go outside." 
  • Consistency. If you send one child to timeout for hitting but let another child get away with it, you'll find yourself with resentful children who like to challenge your authority. It's difficult, but be as consistent as possible with enforcing the rules during your shifts.
  • Visual charts. Co-op parents may not need to go this far with discipline unless they have particularly problematic kids in their shifts, but it's a useful tool to know about that preschool teachers often use. Many preschool teachers make a three-colored chart with a happy face, a serious face, and a sad face. Each child's name goes on the happy face at the beginning of the shift. If a child misbehaves, send him to timeout and put his name on the serious face. If he acts up inappropriately again, his name moves to the sad face. Like I said, this is unnecessary in most cases, but it's very effective if you're having a difficult time with a certain group of kids.
What preschool discipline strategies have you adopted that you've found helpful?