DIY Caramel Apple Treats

It was quite the Summer, but Fall is finally here. The air is changing and the mornings are hinting at crisper things to come. When you’re a kid, that means one thing: fun! Jumping into piles of colored fallen leaves is always a thrill, but nothing beats the sweet, tangy and sticky caramel apples from local festivals. Nothing, that is, except the ones you can make at home!

Fall flavors like caramel apples are a magical treat. They set the tone both for enjoyment today and warm feelings of nostalgia over years to come. Yup, that bite through a layer of gooey caramel into a crisp apple right off of the tree can create memories for a lifetime.

While you can get whole caramel apples at festivals and fairs, with our DIY below, you can make your own delicious caramel apple sticks at home! You can either do this yourself, or if you’re ready to get a bit (or a lot) sticky with your little ones, then they can take part in the creation process too!

If the day outside is beautiful, this is the perfect activity to take outdoors to keep all the stickiness off of the walls, surfaces, floors… pretty much everything you don’t want covered in stickiness.

IMG_3324Ahead of time, choose your toppings and create a tray of options in little dishes.  A muffin tin can serve perfectly as a topping container. They can include everything from chopped peanuts or almonds to mini-marshmallows, a brown sugar and cinnamon mix, mini chocolate chips, or chopped candy bars.  Sprinkles are also an easy favorite.

Before you warm the caramel, set up a table outside with a tablecloth.  A quick trip to the dollar store will send you home with a plastic disposable table cloth that you can either easily wipe down, or throw away after the “event,” depending on the size of the mess left behind. Otherwise, choose a washable table cloth – or old bed sheet – that you don’t mind getting stained.

Back inside, heating up the caramel is next. Store-bought caramel is ideal because it is simple to heat and melt. Just try not to eat too many cubes as you unwrap them from their plastic! You can heat the caramel on the stove top or in microwave until melted.

IMG_3325As your last step before heading out to make the caramel apple sticks, make sure to core and slice your apples.  Insert lollipop sticks into the apple slices and they are ready to dip. If you are worried about them browning too quickly, give each one a quick dip into some soda water with citric acid mixed into it (lemon-lime pop or ginger ale both contain citric acid, if you don’t want to mix it yourself).

All you need now is your kids and a pile of napkins.  Hold the apples by the stick and dip each one a couple of times into the caramel. Gently twirl away the excess, and then dip them into the toppings. Set them down carefully on a plate or parchment paper, wait a little while for the caramel to cool and set, and then it’s snack time! Tip: with very little ones, make sure you do all of the dipping in caramel for them. Then, once it has cooled a little, they can add their own toppings!


Some fun combinations that are sure to please include:

  • IMG_3326Caramel peanut/almond – Sprinkle your caramel apple stick with some chopped nuts!
  • Caramel chocolate – Mini chocolate chips stick to caramel apple sticks even better than the regular-size ones!
  • Caramel apple s’mores –  Sprinkle your caramel apple stick with graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows!
  • Apple pie – Sprinkle your caramel apple with brown sugar and cinnamon mix.  For a hint of crust, add some graham cracker crumbs too!


Get ready for a favorite treat that your kids will look forward to enjoying every year. In fact, while you have everything set up, why not make a few extras to keep in the fridge to enjoy the next day! 

 

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5 Reasons Why the “Terrible Twos” are Actually Great

The “terrible twos” have been given this name for a reason. They can be a very difficult age. “No” becomes your son or daughter’s favorite word. Tantrums are frequent and enthusiastic. At the same time, this is a time of self-discovery and world-discovery that is imaginative, adorable, and just plain fun.

The following are some of the top reasons the terrible twos can actually be great.

  • They love to help – One of the most common characteristics of two-year-olds is to enjoy doing things on their own. Many of the things they want to do are the same as what you’re doing. If you’re washing the floor, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, or making dinner. This makes your two-year-old a very happy helper. Toddlers can “help” by finding matching socks from the clean laundry. They can wipe the plastic storage containers dry. They can help you to pick out the veggies to go with your meal. Doing things with your toddler can be a fun and special time.
  • They have imaginary friends – Two-year-olds see friends in everything. Their lovey – whether it’s a stuffed animal or a blankie – is a best friend they don’t want to go anywhere without. They talk to their toys and imagine their responses. They even have entirely imaginary friends. This social imagination is great practice for building real friendships and is simultaneously an effective self-soothing technique.
  • They’re outstandingly creative – Your favorite part of this characteristic may not be the crayons on the walls or dirt clods in the clean clothing drawers, but there are beautiful sides to this raw creativity, too. Every aspect of the world is fascinating and new. Toddlers can’t wait to understand every part of it, from the smallest ant crawling on the sidewalk to the shapes the clouds make as they float through the sky. This makes them interested, artistic and captivating.
  • They are decisive leaders – At this age, kids display astounding leadership and make firm decisions. The reason is that they build strong opinions at this age and are ready to express them. At times they can seem bossy, but the fact is that they’re learning to cope with knowing what they want in life and seeking to obtain it. This confidence and demanding nature can be nurtured and honed. It’s where future world leaders, CEOs, lawyers, and all-around strong adults get their start.
  • They’re always ready for an adventure – Toddlers are fearless. They have a sense of invincibility. When combined with their creative side, they can feel like they’re flying as they launch themselves onto their pillows after jumping on the bed. Two-year-olds see the world in the same way you view a safari. Everything is new, big, and exciting. At this age, they pick things up, they climb, they run, and they continually aim to discover. As long as you keep them out of any danger, this is a fantastic time for your little one to learn strengths, abilities, and limitations while having fun and achieving goals all on his or her own.

 

Tummy, Back, or Side Sleeper? Does Your Kid Need a Standard or Less-Fill Toddler Pillow?

Choosing the right toddler pillow for your small sized sleeper is the perfect way to ensure comfort while supporting the neck and spine throughout the night.

By deciding to choose a toddler pillow or youth pillow instead of a typical “grown-up” pillow, you’re already off on the right foot. The smaller size of these options automatically ensures a better fit.

That said, depending on whether your son or daughter sleeps on his/her tummy, back, or side (or all three!), you may also want to adjust the amount of fill within those kids pillows. This will help to make sure that your child’s spinal alignment and even respiration will receive the support they need all night long.

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The goal is to try to achieve a neutral position for the spine. This means that the head, neck and upper back should line up nicely while in the preferred resting position. If a toddler pillow is forcing the head and neck into another position, it may add unnecessary pressure to muscles, nerves, and discs.

Consider the following as you choose a standard fill, less fill or custom fill for your child’s toddler pillow or youth pillow.

  •         Back sleepers – Back sleepers are often given thicker pillows than are actually ideal for their spinal alignment and their comfort. Many people feel that back sleepers need a thick and fluffy pillow, elevating the head slightly. However, this causes the spine to curve and can make it tougher to breathe comfortably. The ideal pillow for a back sleeper will usually be a standard fill pillow.

 

For kids who are back sleepers, the standard fill pillow is usually perfect because its loft is not too great, and it is very soft, allowing the back of the head to sink into it while the neck remains supported.

  •         Tummy sleepers – Although it’s usually recommended that we don’t sleep onour stomachs as it makes it quite difficult to maintain a neutral spinal position, try telling that to your little one when he or she is sound asleep! If your son or daughter is a tummy sleeper, the best thing you can do is to make sure he or she has the right kind of pillow. Choosing a thinner, low-loft pillow is usually best for a tummy sleeper because it stops the head from being forced upward and the spine from being bent unnaturally backward.

Kids who sleep on their tummies usually do best with the less-fill pillow, instead of the standard.This will help to keep the spine aligned and the head and neck comfy.  Extra tip: using a breathable, hypoallergenic pillowcase and a washable pillow is particularly important for tummy sleepers.

 

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  • Side Sleepers – Side sleeping is the most common position for kids and adults alike. Fortunately, it’s also one of the best ways to keep the head, neck, and spine aligned, provided the right pillow is used.

Kids who sleep on their sides usually sleep best with a standard fill pillow, that keeps the spine aligned.

Naturally, no child stays in one position all night long.  Usually, they change it up quite a lot, turning in many directions (sometimes upside down!).  Choosing the pillow based on their most common sleeping position can help to ensure the most comfortable and restful sleep at night and during naptimes.

Handy Toilet Training Checklist to Keep Stress Low and Success High

Toilet training can be a very daunting time for parents. Though it may seem like a relatively straight-forward process, when the time comes to start to introduce the toilet and reduce dependency on diapers, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

There are, after all, many factors to consider. There is a wealth of advice available (both requested and unsolicited) but many tips are conflicting and it’s tough to know which ones will be right for your kid. Even knowing whether or not a child is ready can make even the calmest parent feel jittery.

It’s important to remind yourself that there is no single perfect way to toilet train a child.  The goal isn’t to try to make everything ideal all the way through and feel guilty or frustrated when things go wrong. The goal is to try to help to make the transition as smooth as possible and to recover quickly and in a positive way when things don’t happen according to plan.

Use the following checklist to help to make sure you’re ready to give your child as smooth and positive an experience as possible, keeping stress levels down and success levels high.

  • Talk about it – Talk about going to the bathroom and the various stages involved in that. This can involve demonstrating how the toilet is used, including flushing afterward (which many children love), followed by hand washing. The more you talk about it, the more comfortable and interested your child may become.
  • Watch for signs that he/she is ready – Every child has his or her own time to be ready for toilet training. This in involves both physical and emotional readiness. Watch for when the dry times between diaper changes are longer and more consistent. Watch to see if your child chooses to have bowel movements on his/her own or in a hidden place, even though he or she is still wearing diapers. Signs like these indicate both interest and potential readiness.
  • Choose a technique – There are many different guides and tools to help during the transition. Decide whether or not you will be using Pull-Ups, a kids’ potty, or a training seat on the actual toilet, and so on.
  • Always use the bathroom – Even if you’re using a kids’ potty instead of the toilet for the first while, keep it in the bathroom to reinforce the need to use that room and only that room for toilet-related activities. In fact, place the potty next to the toilet if there’s room to do so, to further encourage the association with the activity. Ideally, there should be one potty in every bathroom in your home so your little one never needs to travel far.
  • Be consistent – Once toilet training starts, make sure all caregivers are on board with the same strategy. Consistency is very reassuring and can help to avoid preventable mistakes along the way.
  • Be prepared for accidents – This includes having a fresh full change of clothes ready for your little one wherever you go (yes, even a shirt…when it happens, you’ll know why) and protecting furniture, particularly the bed, with a waterproof mattress protector and pillow protector. That way, when accidents occur, you’ll be ready for them and less likely to become frustrated.
  • Buy clothing that is easy to remove – Ideally, your child should be able to pull down his or her own clothing quite easily. In this way, once your child feels the need to use the toilet, there won’t be a risk of an accident because s/he can’t get his/her clothing off in time.
  • Make potty time fun – Sitting on a potty chair can be dull. Place a couple of (washable) toys within easy reach of the potty or read books during this time.  That way, your child will not associate the time with boredom and avoid it.
  • Be ready for setbacks – Try to keep a positive attitude and a good sense of humor.  Some kids transition to a toilet quickly while others need time. Be prepared for some messy surprises and – as much as you might feel inclined to become frustrated – avoid getting angry or losing patience with your little one.

Remember that this is a time in which your little one is in control, and you’re there to provide support and resources. You can’t make things go any faster than they are supposed to for your child. Instead of rushing things, be prepared, be positive and celebrate your victories together.

 

Travel Tips – How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep When You’re Away from Home

The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to see family and friends you don’t typically get to visit throughout much of the rest of the year. This sends families on car trips, train trips, on busses and to airports across the country. After all the excitement of the trip and seeing the people you’ve been missing, it would be easy to assume that your little ones will fall asleep very quickly at night…until reality kicks in.

That said, when you’re away from home and you’ve tucked your little one into a different bed, it’s incredible how determined that little rascal can be to keep those tired eyes open! Trying to get your child to settle at night when you’re away from home can suddenly become more daunting than you’d expected.

We’re here for you! After going through this many times with our own children, the Little Sleepy Head team has come up with a list of tried-and-true tips and techniques to keep those excited travelers on  as close to a normal sleep schedule as possible

  •         Bring your child’s pillow and pillowcase from home – The familiar fill, fabric and even smell of your kid’s own pillow and pillowcase can help your little one settle down more easily at night.  Most of us struggle to sleep in a strange bed, but the pillow your child is used to can make things feel more “normal” at night no matter where they are. When your kid uses a toddler pillow and pillowcase, it’s not difficult to toss it into a carry-on, backpack or tote as it’s not nearly as large as a standard pillow.
  •         Never forget your child’s lovey at home – For similar reasons that a pillow can be comforting to your child, so can his or her lovey. That favorite toy is a friend that provides comfort to many different senses and should be considered as important as your passports and cell phone. Many kids hold their loveys in special ways when they’re falling asleep. Ensuring these toys or blankets are present makes sure kids don’t need to try to come up with a new sleep position when they’re already sleeping in an unfamiliar place.
  •         Stick to regular bedtimes – When you’re away from home, it’s tempting to throw all schedules out the window. After all, you’re on vacation! However, this can throw off your child’s internal sleeping and waking clock.  It will only make it harder for him or her to fall asleep at night  and can set them up for meltdowns the next day due to exhaustion. It’s better to maintain a bedtime and waking time just as you would at home, to keep your little one’s clock on time.
  •         Lean on aromatherapy – A little spritz from a lavender linen spray can help to create a calming bedtime environment.  If you’re already using this scent at home, that’s even better as it will feel very familiar to your little one, especially when he or she closes his or her eyes. Lavender has been used as calming aromatherapy for centuries.

When it all comes down to it, the key to easing your little one to sleep at night no matter where they are is to create a soothing, comfortable and familiar environment. Enjoy a calming bedtime routine, keep the lights dim, leave devices with screens out of the bedroom and try to encourage restfulness as much as you can. Even if that first night is a bit rough, don’t give up on the next one!

School Lunch Prep Tips for Busy Parents on the Go

In a perfect world, it would be lovely to be able to create three gourmet meals per day for our kids. Meals they’d actually eat, no less. Still, despite our busy lives, we can still put together some fun and nutritious school lunches, even if they’re not quite up to Cordon Bleu standards.

The key is to use the right tricks and hacks to save time, stay organized and never forget that the whole point is to make sure the lunches are actually getting eaten. Here are a few of those awesome tips to keep you on track and make you feel like a lunchtime master chef.

  • Make batches of lunches you can freeze – Once you find a moment to make some school lunches, use the time to its fullest potential and prep several instead of just one.  That way, you can store them in the freezer. Sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly freeze very well, for example. That way, you can just reach into the freezer in the morning and pack one.  It will stay cool all morning and be thawed by lunchtime. These will keep in the freezer for 4 to 6 weeks. Just be sure to date your batches so you know which ones to use first.
  • Make extra portions of favorite dinners – Whenever you make a dinner your kid really likes, prepare a couple of extra portions. That way, you can freeze them and provide a yummy alternative to sandwiches without any extra effort. Rice and pasta meals tend to work well. In the morning, just reheat them and pack them in a heat insulated container so they will still be warm at lunchtime.
  • Make lunches in the evening, not the morning – Making lunches the night before will save you a world of grief. Find the time when it best fits into your own schedule.  Is it when you’re preparing dinner? After you’ve eaten and have cleaned up the dishes, but before leaving the kitchen? Whenever it is, you’ll be much less stressed and less pressed for time if you do it the night before than in the whirlwind you face every morning.
  • Freeze drinks overnight for double use as an ice pack – When you’re sending a lunch that is best kept cold, a freezer pack will do a great job, but it also takes up a lot of room. Real estate within a lunch box or lunch bag is limited. Instead, freeze the drink you’re sending so it will keep the lunch cold and will also be nice and chilled to drink by lunchtime.
  • Let your kids pack their own lunches – Once your children are old enough, they can start taking part in their own lunch prep. This can mean packing the foods you’d prepared for them the night before, or selecting their own fruit and snack from among pre-defined choices (from a fruit bowl in the fridge and a snack bin on the counter, for example). Added bonus: kids who make their own selections tend to be more likely to eat what they’ve chosen
  • Don’t be hard on yourself – If your kid ends up eating PB&J two or three times in a week, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. As long as your child has a balanced meal with fruits, veggies, proteins and starches – and possibly a fun snack or dessert – you’re doing just fine. Many kids love peanut butter sandwiches and would happily eat them every day. Sure, it’s great to be able to give added variety throughout the week, but there are times when you’ll be busy and as long as you’re sending a complete meal, a few repetitions won’t hurt anyone.