Having a baby? There are some ways to prepare for baby without breaking your budget. Sure, you can save money by breastfeeding over formula feeding or by using cloth diapers over disposables, but these options don't always work for families. The suggestions offered here are easy and can mesh with most families.
Do you really NEED it?
If you have a tight budget, here are some items you might be able to do without and save a little money.
1. Bassinet - Most babies don't need one after 3 months so this has a very short lifespan. But if you really want one (and I think it's a godsend if you breastfeed), see if you can borrow one from someone.
2. Changing table - most are only useful while baby is in diapers (a couple of years) and not only can they be expensive, they take up space. If you do get a changing table, you may be able to increase it's lifespan by using it to store toys or books in baby's room. Save money by borrowing one, buying a slightly used one or at least getting one on sale. Another way to save money and space is to get a playpen that has a changing table feature (such as Graco's Pack N Play). The changing table can be removed when you use it as a playpen.
3. Swing or vibrating chair? Many babies have a preference, so if you get both, keep the packaging and return the least favored item. Then you can put that money towards something you really need.
4. Books. Many parents want to read to their baby after (and even before) they are born. That's great. Just buy ONE or two books to read to baby in the beginning. Your baby won't be as interested in the book until they are at least 3 or 4 months old anyway. And when you want to expand your child's library, shop at book sales and garage sales or even at www.half.com. (other great sites are Better World Books and Book Depository). The Barnes & Noble website often has children's books - and even toys - in their sale annex.
Easy ways to save money
1. Get yourself on mailing lists for baby stores and manufacturers before baby's arrival to save money on the things you need. You can get valuable coupons, notice of upcoming sales and, in some cases, free samples. Start with places such as Babies R Us, Pampers, Huggies, Beech Nut, Gerber and Earth's Best. Some companies, such as Pampers, even offer a buying club so you get points for what you buy; those points can be redeemed for toys and other items.
2. See if friends or family with slightly older kids have clothes, toys or other items to give or loan you. With clothes and toys, most parents are glad to see someone else use the stuff and even happier to have some extra space.
3. If you like clothes, sign up for a Gap credit card and they take 10% of your first purchase and 10% off your purchases at Baby Gap the 1st Tues of the month.
4. Buy rechargeable batteries. Many baby products - such as swings and bouncy chairs - will eat batteries and it can cost you a small fortune (especially the items that require D batteries). Buy double of what you need (ie if a swing needs four D batteries, buy eight batteries) so you can have one set charged when the other set dies.
5. See if your supermarket has a baby club. They are free to join and you get points or cash back on purchases you would make anyway.
6. Look beyond baby stores for your supplies. For example, baby gates are often cheaper at pet stores than at baby stores. And you can often find regularly priced crib sheets cheaper at the large super stores (such as Target) than at places such as Babies R Us.
I was lucky to have some moms give me advice before having my first baby and in other cases, I learned by trial and error what was best. Hopefully these recommendations will help you, as a new parent, to get the things
that will really help you.
1. Lansinoh Cream
This is wonderful (and worth the money) for keeping your nipples from getting too sore or cracked. You can buy it at most baby supply stores and even some maternity shops.
2. Breast Pump
The Medela breast pump This can cost you a few hundred dollars but it’s worth it. I have the Pump in Style and it works really well and is fairly comfortable. Medela offers different cup sizes to accommodate different breast sizes. Save money by borrowing the pump or definitely put it on your baby registry. Put the accessories on your registry because the costs can add up.
3. Baby bottles
Dr. Brown's baby bottles have a great design and REALLY keep the baby from getting gas. We tried Avent and our baby was not happy (although we know several people who like them). The nice thing is that the Brown’s baby bottles can also attach to the Medela cone for pumping breast milk directly into the bottle.
4 Breastfeeding pillow
The Boppy is among the top-rated items for parents. While it is wonderful for breastfeeding ease, it also is great for propping a baby who can’t quite sit up yet. You also can put baby on the pillow on her stomach for “tummy time.”
5. Baby Monitor
We love the monitor by Summer Infant Products. It costs about $170 but it does go on sale or use a store’s 20% off coupon. It has some great features. It has a pretty mobile base and the handheld unit is very easy to take with you. The handheld has a color screen with night vision so you can see baby without disturbing him. It is pretty tough, too. We’ve dropped the camera part a few times and it still works great. There’s also minimal interference between this and wireless products.
6. Play Yard
The Graco Pack N Play is another favorite among parents, including us. It is fairly easy to pack up to take with you or store. It has a changing table feature which is nice. It also is durable.
7. Infant Swing
We think Nature's Touch Cradle Swing by Fisher Price is the best one out there. You can fold it easily to put away (although it still is a little bulky) and it’s still sturdy. It is very versatile as well. You can adjust the seat so baby is lying back or sitting more upright; you can change the swing direction from side-to-side or back-and-forth. The swing offers music and white noise sounds, a little mobile and mirror for baby to look at. There also is a play tray that you can detach or attach if baby wishes to play with it.
8. Baby toy
Every baby - even newborns - should have a toy. Our baby’s favorite toy is the Noa doll by Noukies (www.noukies.com). This doll is SO soft! It also is very light so very young babies can hold it and toss it around. Noa’s braids are also great for a teething baby. Noukies dolls can be pricey (12-inch dolls go for about $25) but they are very durable and most can be machine washed. If you don’t like Noa, there are plenty of other stuffed toys such as Lola the cow.
We LOVE our Graco stroller. It's called the Mosaic stroller. It is one of the lightest strollers under $200 and it packs up fairly compactly so you can put it in a small trunk or even the back seat. It is maneuverable and strong. (We actually broke one stroller in the store trying to fold it up). It has a cup holder and a storage basket (which they could improve a little). And it works nicely with Graco’s infant car seat and when baby upgrades to a new seat, it’s a great toddler stroller.
10. Diaper Pail
We like the Diaper Champ. It got the same – or better – ratings from parents over Diaper Genie. Plus you can use regular garbage bags instead of special bags for the Genie, which is a tremendous money saver.
We went to Stone Mountain Park about 9 years ago and did the Sky Ride and 4D theater and walked around the area. We were there in October on a weekday and it was practically deserted. But I remember having a good time.
So I was excited to take my kids there again and enjoy the Halloween event. I will say one thing - they have a good marketing department because their video made the event look WAY cooler than it actually was.
So right off the bat you will pay a $20 parking fee - ON TOP OF the admission. For the Halloween event and for any regular admittance, you have to pay an All Access pass, which was $32 for adults and $30 for kids under 12 online. You pay a $6 fee for the online convenience but that's still cheaper than $35 for adults at the gate. For the Halloween event you could get $10 off for wearing a costume (but you had to pay at the gate and that means waiting on a long line as well; so you might want to choose to spend the money to save time).
We found a deal where it was $25 per person, so with tax and fees we paid $114 for 2 adults and 2 kids PLUS the $20 parking fee.
Now if we'd gone on another night, and we wanted to see the storytellers that would have been extra fee (I think $10 per person).
Be careful when you go because some attractions are not open all the time. We got there at 6 pm and the Geyser Towers weren't open and neither was the Dino Dig. Not that I'd want to get wet near sundown in 60 degree weather, but just check the schedule for the attractions, especially if you're going during special events.
The Sky Hike closed just after we got on the line. My son and husband got about 2/3 of the way done before they had to go down the stairs instead of finishing because it actually got too dark. For planning your day/night, I'd allow a half hour to actually do this attraction, not counting time spent on the line.
The Dino Explorer area was kind of cool at night but definitely geared for kids under 10. My son is 8 and still loves dinosaurs and liked seeing them by flashlight, but a few of the dinos didn't move. It's a nice thing to see but don't go just to see this.
The Dinotorium is one big play zone. We walked in and saw the chaos and left, lol. Plus we didn't have much time.
We arrived at 6 pm and the Halloween event was over by 9 pm. For nearly $150 we really didn't get to do much in those 3 hours:
-- part of the sky hike
-- the Dino explorer by flashlight which was ok (will bore any kid over 10 years old)
-- walk around a glorified mall with expensive food and some souvenirs (we skipped those shops)
-- a Mad Hatter "dance" party that really wasn't much fun, according to my 12 year old
-- a short parade at the end that consisted of maybe a dozen families holding carved pumpkins on sticks and a few people in costume dancing.
And there are LOTS of clueless and downright rude people walking around or just stopping dead in front of you or cutting you off, which makes 3 hours there seem like a lifetime.
I will say the giant tower of pumpkins was neat, especially during certain songs and they did do a good job with lighting.
I think the Halloween event overall is geared toward kids under 10, although perhaps the dance party could have been for older kids (although my 12 year old said it was lame, lol - I waited outside; I was done at that point), but if you get there while it's still light out, there are things like the Sky Hike to entertain an older kid.
I think all told, considering the expense and aggravation, I can't recommend Stone Mountain or the Halloween event. There are other, more fun things to do for a lot less money. For about the same amount of $ or less (if you know where to park and go on a value night) you could do the Holiday Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which are really neat - although some kids might complain it's just a bunch of lights (so that really depends on your kids and their attitudes - my kids enjoyed it last year).
If you do decide to go to Stone Mountain, plan on spending more than 3 hours there to get your money's worth (do some deep breathing exercises to endure the annoying people) and definitely find a coupon or take advantage of their specials, but for a family of 4 you'll still spend around $100 just to get in.
I've known about Crystal Springs Family Aquatic Center in East Brunswick for years but just never got around to trying it out -- until today. And I wish I had gone sooner. It is a smaller water park, but offers a lot, and it is easily within a short drive for many in Central Jersey and a very good value.
Their web page really under sells this attraction so I'm going to tell you some more about it and my experience there. We arrived a little before 1 pm and the parking lot was pretty full but there was a short line for the ticket booth and once inside it was pretty busy (a lot of camp groups were there) but not overly crowded. Four our family it was $84 ($22 per adult and $18 for my son who was under 48 inches. If you live in East Brunswick, it's even cheaper for the day.
There were two very cute areas for the smaller crowd. The first area had a set of 6 small slides that you accessed via a little wading pool with a mushroom waterfall. The slides dropped into a 2 to 3 foot wading pool that had a few sprinklers and "dunking" areas. I'd say this area is most enjoyed by children up to 6 years old, because of the slide, but preschoolers and older (like my son) may want to quickly move to the Splash Pad area.
The Splash Pad area was a lot of fun for kids of various ages and even for adults. There were animal spray fountains that kids could aim at each other, rings of sprayers and more water dunking buckets that are very refreshing on a hot day. My husband took great pleasure in pushing me under one.
There is a very neat area that has a Lily Pad and a Log Crossing. My daughter is about 52 inches tall and could do the Lily Pad fairly easily but she was not tall enough for the Log Crossing. It still was a lot of fun for her.
Of course, there is a lazy river which is just that, a river that flows along but it's a nice ride and it was just as nice as the one we tried at Six Flags White Water in Georgia.
There are several pools including a lap pool, a pool that went up to 5 feet and a wading pool that went up to about 3 feet (you could access it if you wanted to leave the lazy river). The 3-foot wading pool was a nice area to relax with a chair and dip your feet in the water while the kids played.
The water park also offers 3 water slides that look like they would be fun for kids at least 8 years old. We didn't try the slides because my 10-year-old doesn't like slides that don't use mats so I can't really comment on how "fun" they were.
You can bring food with you and have a picnic or grab a bite at the concession stand which I thought was pretty affordable. We got 4 hot dogs, 3 fries, 3 waters and a slushie for $20, which is comparable to what we've spent at McDonalds or Burger King except this tasted better.
If you have older teens or daredevils, they might become bored with this park after a couple of hours and prefer something like a Six Flags or Action Park. However, for kids who enjoy swimming with a little extra fun - and especially toddlers to elementary school kids - this is a great way to beat the summer heat.
Great things about the park:
Things you might miss:
There were animals everywhere! There were bears in pajamas, dogs, a Backyardigan or two, an Angry Bird and even a dinosaur. And there were plenty of entertained kids.
Kids, some in PJs, brought their fuzzy (or not so fuzzy) friends to the Somerset County Library for the Stuffed Animal Sleepover. They sang songs and listened to stories before leaving their friends for some overnight fun at the library. We've gone the past few years and my kids love it.
I particularly enjoy seeing the photos of what these animals will be caught doing while the library is closed. My kids love it, too.
But it's also a great way to encourage a love for reading and the local library. Right now, both my kids are reading books. My 4-year-old is scanning a book while cuddling his stuffed lion, Lolly (his all-time favorite animal so he didn't go to the Sleepover but Roly-Poly did - the round dog in the photos). When I tell them we're headed to the library, they're always excited about getting books or what event they'll be going to.
And what's more these events are free!!
So be sure to visit your local library this summer (here is a list of NJ libraries) and join a summer reading program. And if your local library doesn't have a Stuffed Animal Sleepover, tell them how much fun it can be and maybe they'll host one.
Children under 5 years old are twice as likely to die in a home fire as the rest of the population, according to the American Red Cross. Hopefully this shocking statistic will give all parents the motivation to take a long, hard look at whether their family is doing all it can to keep safe.
National Fire Prevention Week 2011 runs from October 9 to 15, 2011. Some local fire companies and schools are holding educational events to celebrate this important week. The National Fire Prevention Association is celebrating National Fire Prevention Week with the release of the first picture book featuring its mascot, Sparky the Fire Dog. (Read our review of the book).
We have compiled some fire safety resources that can help parents and their children review their fire prevention knowledge and brush up fire safety.
If you have duplicate cookie cutters (for some reason I have three snowmen and four stars of slightly different sizes) or just don't use them for baking anymore, there are two crafty ways to give them a second life.
The first is to use them for a painting project. Just grab some paper and choose your paint colors and dip your cutter into the paint for a quick masterpiece. Wash the cutters when you're done and you can use them again and again. Depending on the shape, you can create a paint project for a particular holiday or just for fun.
Use the cookie cutters for play doh or clay. Your child can roll out the play doh and then use the cutters to make their different shapes than what came with the play doh set.
If you are working with baking or air-dry clay, then you can use the cutters to make clay jewelry, clay coasters (if the shapes are large enough) or fun art objects.
There are some great options for plush toys, whether you're shopping for the Christmas holiday or another occasion. (For more gift ideas check out our gift guide).
Dolls and plush animals by Noukies is the brand I am most familiar with (and they have been in business the longest) so I admit to being a little favorably biased. My daughter was introduced to the Noa doll (see photo on right) when she was an infant and now more than 4 years later, this doll is almost as soft as when we got her. She has been washed multiple times, thrown, caught in a door, tossed in the tub and has held up very well (her skirt had a mesh-type lining that frayed and had to be cut out but the rest of her looks wonderful). We have since bought Lola the Cow and Paco the Donkey and although they don't get as much abuse they are still very well made.
There are a host of characters from hippos and lions to other dolls and more plushes for boys and girls (although I think there are more choices for girls). Besides plush toys, they offer blankets, rattles, pull toys and rockers. The one major down side is since FAO Schwarz stopped carrying the brand, it can be difficult for U.S. customers to locate and buy them. There are several British online merchants who will not ship to the U.S. and Amazon rarely has them, leaving parents with the option of having a friend in Europe or the United Kingdom buy and ship for you or purchasing them on ebay. There are often items on ebay but if you're searching for a particular character (such as Noa who is not readily available), you could be waiting a while and paying a hefty price tag. However, I think the cute factor, durability and the fact that my daughter still adores her Noukie dolls 4 years later (she still snuggles with Noa every night) makes it worth the effort.
Prices varies from $8 to more than $100 depending on the character, its size, the toy (ie rockers are expensive) and merchant location.
These dolls are so "ugly" they're cute! The Ugglydolls tend to look like little stuffed monsters but like those found in Disney's Monsters, Inc, these cuddly creatures are not scary. They're covered in a soft fleecy material and the stitching is very kid-friendly (although I still wouldn't leave an infant with any stuffed animal unattended).
We've only had two Uglydolls for a few months, the Pink Ox for my daughter and Little Ugly Turny Burny for my son, but they're popular toys in our household. My son is only a few months old and the Little Ugly is a great size at 7-inches tall and light enough for him to grasp during playtime. Ox is one of the larger plush toys at 14 inches tall and is perfect for a toddler or preschooler to tote around. My daughter plays with Ox, sleeps with her and sometimes even uses her as a pillow.
Because we've only had them a short time, I can't say what their lifespan will be although there's no reason to think they can't hold up being washed and handled for years. Like Noukies, there are several characters that will appeal to boys and girls. They also make other items including clothing, blankets, adorable action figures, tin toys and more. Their site also has a fun arcade section with games for older kids.
Unlike Noukies, you can find these dolls fairly easily: directly through the company's website, on Amazon and through other specialty stores in your area. The Little Ugly Dolls tend to cost around $10 while the larger ones are sold for about $20 and there even 2-foot dolls for $50 but you can find them for less, particularly on Amazon, depending on the character.
Little Ugly Dolls (7-inch) tend to be about $10; 14-inch dolls are usually $20 and 2-foot plushes are typically $50.
Disney's Pook a Looz are a snuggly addition to any child's household for a reasonable price (for most characters). I don't own one but I have seen them and they appear to be kid-tough and kid-friendly. The really neat thing about these plush dolls besides the cuddle factor, is the wonderful selection of favorite Disney characters for boys and girls. Just some of the Pook-a-Looz character lines available include:
The Pook a Looz plushes are typically 12 inches but there are some 10-inch toys and can range in price from about $12 to more than $30 depending on the character and its popularity. They can be purchased at the Disney Store, Toys R Us (although they had a limited selection of plushes) and Amazon. Right now, the Disney Store is selling certain Pook A Looz for 2 for $20.
As with many Disney themes, they don't stop at plush toys. There are Pook A Looz pins, keychains, Wobblers (which appear to be the Pook-A-Looz version of Weebles) and wind-up toys.
Pook-A-Looz Plush Toys can range sell for about $12 to more than $30 depending on the character and the retailer although the Disney Store is selling some of them for 2 for $20. Pook-A-Looz Wobblers, keychains and wind-up toys tend to sell for about $6.
The Hey! It's Free! website is a great site for finding freebies in a user-friendly manner. You can periodically check the home page for the latest free stuff or visit the various categories, including children, to see what new offers there are.
For example, if your child is still in diapers, Hey! It's Free! often has codes that you can use for the Huggies Enjoy the Ride and Pampers Gifts to Grow rewards programs. All you do is copy and paste the codes in your account and you have free points. If you haven't signed up for either of these rewards programs and you buy Huggies or Pampers products, you should take advantage of the free rewards program (and Hey! It's Free! has a 100-point code for new Pampers enrollees by Nov. 30).
This site is a great way to keep informed of upcoming offers for free samples as well and you can check it as often as you like or even sign up for updates.
Paint tray is clean with plastic cups
Those plastic containers for Jello, pudding or fruit (such as those packaged by Dole) are really handy for snacks on the go with your children - especially when you buy them on sale.
But I've always felt guilty about all that packaging, even though I've always put them in the recyling bin. So here are some ways to get a Second Life out of these containers before you toss them (hopefully in your recycling!):
Parenthood NJ Picks