Aug 29

Treat Your Family With Refreshing, Tasty Homemade Popsicles

Summer may be nearing its end in many parts of the world, with the exception of my own home state of Texas, which still has temperatures at or near 100 degrees, but there’s never a bad time to treat yourself to a cold, refreshing and delicious popsicle.

However, buying tasty frozen treats from the grocery store can get a little pricy, many people are concerned about what goes into the foods they buy, and creative families may wish to experiment with their own ideas, and let their kids participate at the same time.

Sunsella Mighty Pops Silicone Popsicle mold box
That’s where these awesome Sunsella Mighty Pops Silicone Popsicle Molds, which I received for free in exchange for an honest review, come into play. My son and I both enjoy these quite a bit, and they make creating a tasty frozen treat quick and easy.

These popsicle molds are not expensive, and will allow you to create your own yummy desserts with whatever ingredients you choose. They’re flexible, but not flimsy, and they include easy-to-use corks to seal them shut. The only thing I’ve seen a lot of people complain about in other reviews is that they don’t stand on their own, but this is easily solved by placing them into a freezer safe cup. There are six of them, so most families would have enough for everyone, and if your family is larger, you can just buy more than one set, and the same applies if you notice yourself using them on a daily or near daily basis.

Now let’s talk about my three points about store bought popsicles, and how these molds can help with that.

As mentioned earlier, buying frozen goodies can get a little expensive, and isn’t something that most families can do on a consistent basis. However, with these well made molds, you can simply buy whatever ingredients you want to use, whether you simply want cheap, flavored ice, or a more diverse dessert. You can spend as much or as little as you want and stay within your own budget.

If you’re worried about what goes into the processed, pre-packaged foods that you buy, including the frozen ones, this is a great way to minimize your risk of toxic ingredients or other undesirables. You can buy your own fresh squeezed juice or even squeeze it yourself, use fruits and veggies you select and blend into a smoothie or juice, or any of a number of other possibilities.

Speaking of selecting your own ingredients, with these molds, as opposed to pre-made store bought treats, you can put anything you wish into your popsicles, use your own likes and dislikes to guide you, and even get your kids involved in creating a tasty treat for themselves. You could even make a fruit and vegetable mixed juice in your blender and then put that into the molds for a delicious and healthy frozen treat. That’s an awesome way to encourage kids to eat their veggies too, and they’re much more likely to eat and enjoy something if they helped in its preparation.

Another great thing about using these molds and choosing your own ingredients is that if you have a child with food allergies, you can make absolutely certain their popsicle is allergy free. My son is allergic to dairy, so I can easily make popsicles that do not contain it. If I had a second child who was not allergic to dairy, I could tailor their popsicle to them personally. Even if they were allergic to citrus or something, I could be extra certain the fruits used to make the popsicles are not citrus. For parents of children with food allergies, there’s a bit of added peace of mind there as well.

Sunsella Mighty Pops Silicone Popsicle Molds in a cup
The cups that I personally used to stand these up straight only hold five each, so I was regularly leaving out one mold, but we go through them fairly quickly, so I will very likely end up purchasing another set or two of them. I would definitely give them a big five stars, and would highly recommend these Sunsella Mighty Pop Silicone Popsicle Molds to anyone who has any of the above concerns, or just wants to discover a cool way to make your own frozen desserts. They’re large enough to hold a good sized popsicle and strong enough not to come apart easily.

Have you ever made your own homemade frozen desserts? If so, how did you do them? If not, do these molds help improve your interest in trying it? Do you have any questions for me or the company that makes the product? I’d be glad to find out anything that you want to know, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about these popsicle molds in the comments below.

Aug 28

Child Proofing: Outlet Covers That Actually Work

Child proofing is an important step in keeping your young child safe. Whether it’s securing your cabinets, keeping dangerous objects out of reach, keeping little fingers out of electrical outlets, or any of a number of other things, parents spend a fair amount of time trying to find just the right products to meet the needs of their children.

Safety Baby Self Closing Outlet Covers High Contrast at angle
Outlet covers are one of the most common child proofing tools that parents use to keep little fingers safe. Most parents opt for the plug in covers as they are easy and cheap. However, the fact that they are so easy means that a smart baby can figure them out sooner than you’d prefer, rendering them useless. It’s better to spend a little more on something that will actually work.

In addition, as your child gets older, they may want to experiment with putting objects into the outlets or playing with them, and may do so behind your back when you’re not watching. Older children, as in toddlers and preschoolers, can easily figure out those plug in covers, as my son has long ago, so you need a product that will be effective for them as well.

Safety Baby Self Closing Outlet Covers
That is where these Safety Baby Outlet Covers, which I received for free in exchange for this review, come into play. Unlike the plug-in covers, these are panels that go over your actual outlet, just like the regular wall panels, except that these have sliding covers to prevent children from getting into them.

The sliding covers take a bit of force to move, and need to be held in place until something is plugged into them, so children are less likely to get into them. Most young children either don’t have the necessary force to move them or the strength to hold them there, or may not even figure it out, and they cannot be easily removed by a child as they require a screw driver.

Even if a child manages to figure these out, they create more space between the child’s fingers and the electricity, keeping small fingers safer. In theory a child could hold it open and push an object into the hole, but by the time they have the coordination and strength to do this, they should know better.

Safety Baby Self Closing Outlet Covers on my living room wall
My 4-year-old figured out the plug-in covers long ago, back when he still needed them a lot, and I had to just start blocking the outlets with large, heavy objects. I wish I would have found these covers sooner. Still, even at 4, I find it useful to keep him a bit safer. He has a bit of a destructive streak, pulling down wall paper and stick on decorations and pulling strings out of his carpet, so I wouldn’t put it past him to mess with outlets when not being watched if given the chance. He doesn’t really need access to the plugs in his room, so I can keep those blocked, but it’s good to have these covers for outlets in other rooms.

If you keep buying the plug-in outlet covers, and your child keeps figuring them out, don’t waste any more money. Go for something much more secure and grab these Safety Baby Outlet Covers. If you’ve got a baby on the way, it certainly doesn’t hurt to prepare with a set or two of these either.

What are your favorite and most recommended child proofing products? Do you have any questions for me regarding this one? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Aug 28

Guest Post: Why Chemical Free Shampoo, Cleaning Products and Toys?

by Erica Loop

What’s the deal with all of the hype over chemical free products? Even though “green,” “eco-healthy” and similar terms may seem like buzzwords that the media catches on to, there’s really some serious science behind making the choice to go chemically safer. Green family graphic

Take a guess at how many synthetic (that’s manmade) chemicals are in commercial use that could possibly make it into your home. A few dozen? 50? Maybe 100? Not even close. According to the Children’s Environmental Health Network, there are 85,000 currently used in products such as cleaners and sanitizers. If so many companies use chemicals in their cleaning, hygiene and play products, are they really harmful? There’s no one catch-all answer to this question. Harmful chemicals can do anything from making your eyes and skin red and irritated to damaging your respiratory tract.

What can you do to keep your family safe? You could nix showering, ditch cleaning duties and only give your child plant-based products to play with. But, that’s not realistic (unless you want a smelly family who is hanging out in a dust- and grime-covered home while playing with a few leaves and blades of grass). Instead, get savvy and start searching for chemical free shampoo, chemical-free cleaning products and toys for babies and toddlers (or older children) that are free from harmful compounds.

What are your options?

Chemical Free Shampoos

That sparkle berry coconut pear princess kids’ shampoo smells yummy! But, what exactly is in it that’s giving off those fragrant notes? Chances are that it’s not real berries, coconuts and pears. It’s more likely that you’re smelling some synthetic scents. Not only do shampoo makers sneak in chemicals through fragrances, but the colors and cleaning agents are also typically manmade substances. There are more than 10,500 chemicals used in personal hygiene products, notes that EPA. Of these, only 11 percent have been safety tested.

If right about now you’re thinking, “We all need to go natural and organic when buying shampoo and soaps,” take another look. Not every product that raves about its ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ ingredients is safe. A naturally organic shampoo may also include chemicals as well. Does it have organic ingredients? Yes. What about natural one? Sure. And, what about chemicals? Possibly – you need to read the label to make sure that it is truly a chemical free shampoo. Chances are if you don’t recognize the word or it sounds like a chemical, it is. Specific ingredients (that are common in shampoos) to watch out for are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG).

Chemical Free Cleaning Products

Baby teething on a toy rattleYou’ve got a 2-year-old running around at home, putting his mud-covered hands all over the train table and spilling his sippy cup of juice on his stuffed animals. Toys for toddlers get dirty – and so does the rest of your house. That said, spraying on the latest cleaning that claims to get rid of the ‘bad’ bacteria can actually harm your child. Think about the last time that you wiped down your tot’s favorite doll. What happened next? He grabbed it. What happens if he then puts his hand in his mouth, sucks his thumb or uses that hand to eat a snack? That chemical cleaner is passed on into his mouth too. Like, ‘natural’ shampoos, not all ‘green’ or ‘organic’ cleaners are chemical free.

Read the ingredients carefully, looking for chemical compounds. If you’re in doubt, go with kitchen-friendly options. What are these? These include chemical free cleaning products that only contain ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda. These types of products aren’t exactly edible, but do contain ingredients that have long been used for their cleansing and antibacterial properties.

Chemical Free Toys

Not only can chemicals get onto your child’s toys while cleaning, but they also can be in the toys themselves too. Chemicals such as phthalates (these make plastics softer, and are common in flexible, squishy plastic-type toys) are carcinogens, making them harmful to humans. There are six types of phthalates banned from being used in toys for toddlers, infants and children under the age of 12. Other chemicals to watch out for in toys include arsenic, lead, cadmium, bromine, mercury and tin.

Unlike shampoos and cleaning products, most toys don’t come with an ingredients list. This is where trusting your toy retailer comes into play. Manufacturers and sellers who list what the toys are made out of, where they’re made and clearly state that there are no harmful chemicals included are obviously preferable. Keep in mind, just because a toy isn’t made out of plastics or looks ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s chemical-free. Wooden toys may be treated with chemical preservatives, glazes or varnishes that are equally as toxic as other chemicals.

According to Josh Kasteler, founder of a company called Safe Ducky that tests toys for toxic chemicals in stores,

Josh Kasteler testing toys for toxic chemicals

“Most companies test less than 1% of the products they sell, and instead rely on the test reports that their suppliers provide them. The industry standard is to test only once per year, and this one test can represent millions of products for the following 12 months (often over hundreds of separate batches).”

You would think that toys would be tested for the presence of toxic chemicals when they are made. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. “The chances are very small that a product on the shelf was actually tested or was even made at the same time that testing was originally done.  Most companies prefer testing upstream because it is far cheaper and offshore factories often are responsible managing it.  Since there is little to no testing at the end of the supply chain, this system has worked for years,” Josh says.

He argues that testing at the end of the supply chain makes the most sense from a consumer safety perspective. “The testing is done at the same place where the product is first touched by the consumer, and any production changes, material substitutions or chemical contamination that may have occurred since the last time the brand tested it is captured by testing at the end.”

If you would like a free Safe Ducky Consumer Guide to help you shop safer, click here.

How concerned are you about the presence of toxins in the products you buy? What other techniques do you use to keep your kids safe? Feel free to share your thoughts with a comment.

Aug 25

See in the Dark Automatically With Motion Sensor Technology

How do you react when the power goes out, and you can’t find a candle or a flashlight? Panic? Confusion? These are common reactions for a lot of people since our world is so visual. Those who have low vision to begin with may not be affected the same way, but for most people with normal sight, the ability to see what they are doing is essential.

In addition, many children have a strong fear of the dark, and have a fit whenever you turn out the lights. This is a very common reaction in toddlers and elementary school aged children in particular.

Battery powered motion sensing light by Aennon
There is a solution. Investing in a motion sensing light like the one that I received for free to try from Aennon may kill two birds with one stone. It is a pretty good product, and can solve several problems at once.

This motion sensing light is great because it comes with two different mounting methods, either by screwing it into the wall or sticking on with 3M adhesive. You are free to use whichever method is most suitable to your needs.

To make things even better, the light part actually comes out of the holder. You have to take it out to change the battery, but it has another purpose. If you need a flashlight in a pinch, remove the light from the holder and you’ve got a nice handy little flashlight in the palm of your hand.

The fact that it runs on batteries is a big plus too. No matter where you put it, provided the batteries aren’t dead, it will work whether you have power or not.

Take the previous example. Let’s say you have a fairly long hall in your home that gets really dark when there is no light on. You mount this light there and the power goes out, but as you walk down the hall, your motion sensor light senses your movement and automatically comes on. Now you’ve got light, and if you need to, you can grab it and keep going.

For kids who are afraid of the dark, most people buy a night light that plugs into the wall and stays on all night. However, some children may not need one that sucks up electricity all night, albeit a minimum amount, but mount one of these in their room and it will come on when they get up, giving them the light they need. This won’t work for children like my son who freak out in the dark even if they’re just laying in bed, but for some, it may. It will also be a light that they can count on to be there even if there is no power.

The only drawback I encountered with this particular motion sensing light is that the motion sensor doesn’t seem to work within the same range as it states on the product listing. It says that it can sense as far as fifteen feet, but my light only comes on within five to seven. That’s between a third and half the range stated. Still, it is a nice light, and it goes off when you’re not in range, so it won’t waste the battery, and the light is supposed to last 50,000 hours, so you shouldn’t have to worry about replacing it.

I think I would deduct one star and give it four for not reaching the full range indicated in the product listing on Amazon, but otherwise it’s a good product and multipurpose, just like the 2-in-1 flashlight by the same company, which I reviewed in a prior post.

So far after having tested two different products by this company, I’d say they make pretty high quality and extremely useful products. It would be better if the light reached the full range listed in the description, as I have it mounted in my office, which does not have an overhead light, but I am pretty satisfied with both products and have enjoyed trying them out.

Do you think that this light would be of benefit to you? If so, how would you use it? You’ve heard my thoughts. Now please share yours with a comment.

Aug 24

Guest Post: How superheroes shape our boys and girls

This is a guest post by Gabriella Diesendorf which we hope that you find interesting.

Shortly after I wrote the text about influences of princesses on our girls, I couldn’t help but wondering how are superheroes important for the development of children? After all, they are iconic parts of today’s culture and they’re affecting the persons our children are growing into perhaps the most. Even before the movies and cartoons, they lived in comic books, and probably the men our husbands and brothers grew into are that way precisely because these imaginary characters were their life educators. Some psychologists are claiming that superheroes have a bad influence on kids, because they create gender stereotypes and promote violence as the solution for all problems. That might be concerning. Fear not, good parent, we shall dive deep into this topic together and perhaps even, save the day.

Image source: superheroesofvictoria.org

 

The (hi)story of superheroes

Superheroes have started to “conquer” the world in the late 30s as a way of giving hope to hopeless planet. It’s no wonder they were created in that period of time, when almost every country was in economic crisis. Since then, they’ve continued to bring hope and wonders to the world which created them. They were the way of saying: “It is possible”, “You can do it”, “Be brave”. Back then, the idea of a being that is “flying faster than a bullet” sounded like a nonsense and it was turned down by every newspaper, but, soon enough it has become the ideal of man fighting for justice on this planet, and everyone, including the grownups were obsessed with him. In no time, others have stepped where Superman had made the first move, and the world was never the same again.

Superheroes as role models

The need for role model makes an important component of early child development. There is no questioning of the need for a role model. Here we’ll question are superheroes appropriate for that responsible part? There are different opinions on this topic. As I mentioned above, some psychologists claim that superheroes send the wrong message to a growing child. But, here’s my thoughts based on personal experience on the topic. Superheroes actually can help kids develop moral stands, about good vs. bad, helping a friend, saving the innocents. Watching films or cartoons of this kind, children can also learn certain problem solving skills. When I ask my kid about some moral doubt, the first thing on his mind is “What would Batman do?”As superheroes are not defined by who they are underneath their masks but by what they do, children can see, how real people with real problems are dealing with vulnerabilities and obstacles.

Image source: activato.com

 

Do they create gender stereotypes?

Though some psychologists believe this to be true, I think it can but doesn’t have to be it necessarily. If you observe it that way, today, almost anything can pose some sort of stereotype. It’s up to us, as parents and educators to make sure that they don’t receive the wrong picture. Today, we have more and more popular heroines, so women are not anymore neglected and it is no wonder if you, for your daughter’s birthday for instance, hire animator from an agency such as Superheroes, dressed as both women and men superheroes, because a woman is no longer defenseless, she too is fighting for herself and humanity. No one can argue the bravery of Wonder Woman. Yes, body image is somewhat questionable, but when you think about it if just for a second, you can see that superheroes are something like sportsmen in our world, they look like that because of physical activities, but through their messages they are teaching kids that there is more to it than looks.

Do they promote aggressiveness?

This is actually the point that can concern parents the most. I too am not free of such fears, though I value the superhero genre. It is true that this genre today is going through many changes and some of them include more action and violence. That doesn’t mean you have to deprive your child of this kind of role model. Still we have to protect our children from aggressive content and we can do that by age categorizing the movies and cartoons. So your kid can start with Batman cartoon and Superman movies, and then move on towards Avengers and similar films to arrive to Man of Steel and Dark Knight. That way, children will be exposed to somewhat more aggressive movies when they are completely ready to understand the reasons and consequences of certain behavior.

 

Image source: kidsneedtoread.org

 

Within the limits of common sense

There is, of course, some level of potential danger for kids who take this fantasy too seriously and take it too far. Because of this possibility it is important to pay attention to the clues and keep the appreciation for superheroes in the limits of common sense, to avoid participating in dangerous or unrealistic behaviors. While doing that be careful not to suppress a child’s creativity. My friend told me a funny story, about when she told her 10 year old son to stop “Fooling around with a cape (bed sheet) and start doing his homework so that he could be a good student”. The boy answered in a clever question: “What if a child dreamed of becoming something different than society has intended?” She said to me:”I don’t even believe he knows what that means, but Superman has spoken through my little boy, and I was completely disarmed”. You must keep in mind that superheroes are giving kids the sense that everything is possible, and that feel is important while growing up. Additionally, they can improve kid’s self-confidence. That‘s why, instead of discouraging kids from watching and playing superheroes, we should explain to them the difference between superhero and human capabilities and that the costume can’t give them the same power. Superheroes can also inspire kids to enter the world of science, you can talk about Spiderman and explain spiders to your kid, etc. Also, you can talk about values that they represent (honesty, bravery, etc) and try to find some people in the real world who reflect the same values.

Superheroes are an awesome way to inspire the imaginations of children, as long as they understand that they are fictional, but that there are real life superheroes of a sort as well, such as firefighters. What influence has the superhero world had on your children? Who is their favorite superhero and why? Who is their real life hero? Feel free to share your thoughts with everyone in the comments.

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