How to Prepare your Child for School

How to Prepare your Child for School | Douglas Toys It’s that time of year again; the kids are heading back to school! If you’re a seasoned pro with older children, you know the routine. But for younger kiddos who are heading off to school for the first time, kicking off the school year can be a scary transition. With one daughter entering pre-K and another starting kindergarten, I’ve been busy preparing two nervous little ones to leave the nest. Luckily, these five tips have helped turn their uneasiness into excitement.

Have an Ongoing Conversation About School

For the last month or so, I’ve been working the upcoming school year into conversation with both my girls. Kids (much like adults) are often frightened by the unknown. By talking about school beforehand, you’re introducing your child to the ideawhile also putting a positive spin on it. I’m a big believer in reading books to help children make sense of any period of change. Not only does reading aloud nurture early literacy skills and communication, the American Academy of Pediatrics also says that it helps with social-emotional development. On a similar note, experts say that reading also teaches children empathy. In other words, reading together about a child who’s also nervous about the first day of school reinforces the idea that this is a totally normal way to feel. In addition to talking and reading, another great way to keep the conversation going is to mark the first day of school on your child’s calendar. Each day, have him or her count the days. This is the perfect time to talk with your child about their upcoming school schedule, which you should be able to find on the school’s website. For example, I’ve been explaining to my oldest how the car circle will work for drop-offs and pick-ups so that she’ll feel comfortable with all the commotion at dismissal. To make drop-offs smoother in the mornings, consider picking up a special cuddly toy that’s specifically designated to the car. Staying with the literacy theme, Clifford toys make an ideal option.

Make School Shopping Fun and Child-Driven

One thing that got my kids really revved up for school was the shopping. Try incorporating them into the process as much as possible. Sure, hitting the school supplies aisle with kids in tow isn’t exactly the most stress-free activity (I was tempted to leave them with my husband and knock out their shopping lists on my own), but allowing them to take part in it was worth it. Start by reviewing their lists together. If your school doesn’t mail you one, they’re usually available for download on the school’s website. Then make the experience as child-driven as possible. I had my kids locate the items we needed and mark them off the list. When it came time to buy clothes and backpacks, I gave them free reign to choose whatever they wanted. This really gave them a sense of ownership and excitement surrounding the new school year. If you’ve got a tote bag on your list (or need one to carry items for extra-curricular activities or library trips), check out our Clifford toys page where you’ll find Clifford Fun Fashion Totes.

Connect with Other families

Befriending other kids who will also be attending the same school or grade is a great way to get your child fired up for the new school year. Case in point: we recently came across two brothers who just moved into our neighborhood and are zoned for my older daughter’s elementary school. The encounter has opened the door for play dates with new friends and someone to potentially carpool with. The fact that my daughter will be able to recognize some of her pals at school is also reassuring for her.

Take a School Tour

Perhaps the best way to prepare your kid for school is with a full tour. While classroom tours typically occur during back-to-school meet-and-greets with the teacher (which are also fantastic), taking a separate tour of the whole school can be equally rewarding for your child. For us, seeing the playground, cafeteria and computer lab were highlights that made the upcoming transition to full-time school seem a bit more cool. It’s also comforting because it gives your child a better idea of what to expect.

Explore Extra-Curricular Activities Before School Starts

Pinpointing fall activities is another great way to get your kid excited for the upcoming school year. This can be approached in one of two ways. You can either choose something that’s brand

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new, which comes with its own special novelty; or you can stick with an activity your child is already familiar with, which could be an easy way to make them feel comfortable. After doing T-ball in the spring, we’ve opted to mix it up a bit with tumbling this fall. Again, adding this activity to my kids’ calendar and showing them photos of the gym online is getting them super pumped. You can also explore any after-school activities that might be offered by the school. Attending a school-based YMCA, for example, is a wonderful way for your child to make more friends while identifying school as a fun, safe place to be.

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8 Things Parents Should Never Buy Used

8 Things Parents Should Never Buy Used

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Nobody loves hand-me-downs more than me. In fact, a good chunk of my daughters’ clothes and furniture are secondhand treasures. But take it from methere are some things parents should never buy used. Here’s a roundup of the kid-related gear that’s best bought new.

Certain Toys

Don’t get me wrong, my 4- and 5-year-old girls enjoy their used storybooks just as much as they would if they were purchased from our local bookstore. But some used toys really ought to be passed over. Used Legos, for example, need to be disinfected before being played with, which can be a cumbersome affair. The same goes for cuddly toys and stuffed animals. Between bed bugs, lice and bacteria, there are plenty of creepy crawlies out there that can easily make their way onto previously used snuggle toys. With great deals on items like our stuffed black labs, it makes more sense to save yourself the headache and go for a fresh new furry friend. If it gets a little dirty along the way, you can easily breathe new life into a stuffed black labbut at least you know where the mess came from.

Car Seats and Cribs

Something that’s definitely on the no-no list are used car seats. Unless you’re able to confirm that the product hasn’t been recalled or previously involved in a car accident, it’s just too risky. Tons of car seats and car seat accessories are actually recalled more often than you might think. The same can be said for bassinets and cribs. When my youngest was born, a family member gave me a beautiful bassinet that I couldn’t wait to put my newborn inuntil I did a quick Internet search and found that more than a few babies had been injured before the model was recalled. Into the trash it went.

Bike Helmets

Bike helmets are specifically designed to protect your little one’s head. When learning to ride a bike or scooter, there’s going to be too many tumbles and scraped knees to count. Since that’s simply par for the course, it’s important that your child wear a helmet that offers the best protection. Experts say that bike helmets should be replaced immediately if they’ve endured any sort of crash. The same goes for helmets that have cracked or missing foam. Again, there’s also always the possibility that the helmet has been recalled. Play it safe and buy it new.

Bath Toys

One of the most horrifying memories from a few years back was when I took a peek inside one of my toddler’s squeezy bath toys. After I cut the head off a rubber duck, I discovered nothing but mold and mildew! When buying things secondhand, I would highly recommended skipping over any bath toys. With the constant exposure to moisture, it’s just not worth it. The only exception I might make is with plastic baby bathtubs, but be sure it hasn’t been recalled first.

Bottles and Pacifiers

This one kind of goes without saying. Still, these are things I sometimes see on display at garage sales and secondhand stores. The reasons to opt for new bottles and pacifiers seem obvious enough, but let’s break it down just to be safe. If these items haven’t been sanitized correctly, you could be looking at contracting a mouth infection. Bottle nipples and pacifiers also

tend to crack and break apart with too much use. Broken rubber bits are definitely not something you want in your little one’s mouth.


New sneakers can get pricy, but the truth is that finding high-quality used shoes can be a tricky task. In addition to getting filthy, shoes lose both their luster and durability with typical wear and tear. Rain and moisture can also do a number on shoes. (The last thing you’ll want to put on your kid’s feet are icky sneakers.) What’s more is that unsupportive, worn-out shoes aren’t only uncomfortable; they can also make your child more likely to trip and fall. This especially goes for sandals. This is why my little one rarely gets her big sister’s old shoes.

Bedding and Towels

Come across a cute set of crib sheets at your local flea market? You might want to think again before you make the purchase, even if they appear to be in good shape. The bed bug problem in the U.S. is a real thing, and your odds of coming into contact with them may increase when buying used clothingespecially sheets and towels. There’s no shame in shopping at secondhand stores. (Some of my favorite vintage dresses and household decor are from my local thrift store.) But when it comes to bedding, I always take a pass.

Breast Pumps

I have to be honest here; I used a hand-me-down breast pump for years that was previously owned by my cousin. But after doing some research, I would seriously think again if in the same boat today. Experts strongly discourage going the used-breast-pump route. For starters, many are designed as single-user products. The concern is cross-contamination, which can occur if the pump and accessories aren’t properly sanitized. Even with new tubes, the possibility is still there. It’s also only a matter of time before the motor begins to lose its pumping power. Do yourself a favor and buy this item new.

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What to Pack for a Family Road Trip

Family Road Trip | Douglas Cuddle Toy

Heading off on a vacation this summer? For most families, skipping expensive airfare and opting to drive makes a lot more financial sense. In addition to keeping more cash in your pocket, road trips are also an opportunity to create new memories together as a family (while making pit stops at cool destinations along the way)!

If you’re getting ready to hit the road with kids in tow, there are some things you definitely don’t want to leave home without. To make a long drive as comfortable as possible for your little ones, here’s a roundup of five must-have things to pack before hitting the highway.

Your child’s favorite loveys

Chances are, your child has a treasured stuffed pal or blanket that feels like part of the family. Being that it is a family vacation, be sure to bring these loveys along for the ride.

Since road trips require long stretches of time in the car, it’s only natural for children to grow restless and cranky sooner or later. Having their favorite lovey (formally known as a transitional object) can help soothe crabby little ones.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), transitional objects are a perfectly healthy part of development. Why? They help children cope with unfamiliarity while providing a sense of comfort and safety. Sshlumpies make for an ideal lovey object because they’re portable, cute and (most importantly) super soft! The AAP stresses that softness is part of a transitional object’s appeal.

Having a lovey in the backseat will also help your child sleep away some of the drive.

Snacks to keep those hungry bellies full

Nothing will throw off your travel time like having to continually stop for food. Be sure to pack a good supply of grab-and-go snacks to help keep hunger at bay. Word to the wise: avoid messy foods.

Good go-to items include fruits and veggies in squeezable pouches, almonds (assuming your child is old enough to have them and doesn’t have a nut allergy), apple slices and cereal bars. When it comes to drinks, be sure to stick with water, which won’t stain if it spills. To be on the safe side, opt for travel cups with secure lids.

I like to keep our snack bag in the front seat during family road trips. Otherwise, the kids will blow through all the goodies before we’re even out of the neighborhood!

In-car entertainment

For most parents, it doesn’t take long before they hear whines of boredom coming from the backseat. Think ahead and be sure to pack things that will help pass the hours.

Consider renting an educational movie that kids can watch along the ride. To prevent fights over who gets to hold the iPad, try mounting it to the back of one of the front seats. Sites like Pinterest are full of creative ways to do this.

When movies lose their appeal, card games and handheld video games can also do the trick. (I prefer ones that teach letter sounds, number sense, etc.) Stuffed animals are another great option. More often than not, the novelty of a new toy is enough to keep kids enthralled. Consider picking up a new cuddle toy that you introduce to your child while on the road.

Extra clothes that are within reach

Let’s face it—family road trips get messy! It’s only a matter of time before a drink is spilled or a potty-training little one can’t hold it in. Having an extra set of emergency clothes on hand can be a lifesaver.

Just make sure it’s within reach. If your child gets carsick, the last thing you’ll want to do is pull over on a busy highway to dig around in the trunk.

Alternatively, some parents prefer to pack emergency kits for each child that contain things like extra clothes, shoes, underwear and more.

Clean-up supplies

On a similar note, it doesn’t take long for a family car to become a trash pit during a long drive. Keeping the glove box stocked with a few plastic shopping bags is key. During each rest stop, be sure to clean out the mess as you go.

One other thing I would never leave home without is a good supply of baby wipes. Even if your kids are older, wipes are a must! Between food, runny noses and unexpected spills, you’ll thank yourself later for keeping these on hand.

Hand sanitizer is another thing you’ll want in the car. This is especially handy to have when visiting a public rest area or before digging into a drive-thru meal. (Speaking of drive-thrus, bringing along a little basket for each child to sort their meals in the car is genius!)


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5 Fun Summer Activities for Children

Temperatures are up, barbeques are out, and beaches are packed—in other words, summer is in full swing. It also means that the kiddos are out of school and home all season long. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or you work full time, keeping your kids both entertained and stimulated during the summer months can be […]

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5 Easy DIY Pet Costumes for Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching! Are your furry family members ready for the big day? We’re not sure how you feel, but to us there’s not much cuter (or hilarious) than a pet in costume. I mean, if they’ll cooperate with the shenanigans of dressing, staying still for the perfect photo op, why not? The cuteness […]

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