Donna Duarte-Ladd


7 Sleeping Products to Help You Get a Better Night Sleep

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The Best Sleeping Products for a Good Night Sleep

The pandemic, remote life, and everything that goes with it has made many of us lose sleep, which was pretty precious pre-pandemic! While we make our way out of the fog of the last year and a half, this also has some of us losing more sleep—Oy vey.

And while we aren’t sleeping experts, we are humans losing sleep. This is why we tested products that give parents something more valuable than gold—a good night’s sleep.

Here Are 7 sleep products that we feel are worth a try.

Sleep Assistant With Google Nest Hub(2nd Generation)

The second-generation Google Nest Hub* tackles something that many people deal with, which is sleep issues. Sleep Sensing uses Motion Sense which is designed to help improve sleep by monitoring your sleep patterns. Once the hub gets your sleep data, you will then be given insights and helpful tips geared towards your sleeping patterns. And while this may feel like a Big Brother is watching, there is no camera on, and all data like coughing and um snoring stays with the data. You can also save or delete. Presently the Sleep Sensing is free with the purchase of the nest Hub (2nd generation) until next year. Googlestore.com, Starts at $99.

A Supportive Mattress: Nectar Premier Copper Memory Foam Mattress

This new premium mattress from Nectar is serious about your sleep. First, the design-y stuff on why this mattress is so good. It starts with the layers such as the Quilted Cool Cover With Copper And Sleep Fabric Tech (cooling technology). Then the Nectar Smart Layer with ActiveCool HD (works with your sleep temperature) and the Dynamic Support Layer (extra plush to help you sleep deeply) are just a few of the premium design touches that make this mattress super comfortable. Our tester, okay, it was me, had some of the most comfortable nights of sleep in a year. This mattress is firm yet not hard and comfortable but not too cushy, so the body has balance support. Nectarsleep.com, Full mattress,$1599-  2097.

*And while supplies last, Nectar will give away the Google Nest Hub with Sleep Sensing with every purchase of one of its new mattresses – free of charge!

Sleep Aid With CBD: CBD Blackberry Rose Sleep Gumdrops

When you want a few more Z’s, this gumdrop is the perfect mix of CBD, CBN(Cannabinol), and melatonin to take before bed. Our tester commented, “Unlike other products that taste more “earthy,” these gumdrops have a nice fruity/floral flavor.” Mollyj.com, $70.

Upgrading Your Pillows: Organic and Plush Avocado Pillow

We all know that feeling when we sleep on a great pillow versus a not-so-good pillow. The Green Pillow from Avocado is made from GOLS organic certified latex and GOTS organic certified kapok. It is also GREENGUARD Gold certified and vegan, and handmade. These pillows are the Rolls-Royce of pillows. Our tester stated when testing the pillows, “It is like sleeping on butter.” Avocadogreenmattress, $89.

Keep the Light Out: Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask

According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “Blue light has the strongest impact. Exposure to blue light (and white light, which contains blue light) during the sensitive period can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.” So in layman’s terms, this means if that modem light or street light is making you toss and turn, perhaps it’s time to give an eye mask a try. This Washable Silk Sleep Mask is made from naturally moisturizing silk, and not only blacks light, but it also helps to reduce the appearance of fatigue. Our tester Katarina shared, “It’s also super comfortable to wear, like a soft pillow over your eyes; and I especially like that the band isn’t super tight around the head so you can avoid hair creases.”Lunya.co, $48.

A Clock That Promotes Snooze: Hatch Restore Smart Sleep Assistant With Sound Machine and Sunrise Alarm Clock

Part of feeling well-rested is how we wake up in the morning. Instead of waking up abruptly to a beeping alarm clock, the Hatch Restore will gently wake you up with its sunrise light effect and soft noises such as birds chirping. And to help you wind down at night, you can create the perfect relaxing setting with ambient sounds and dim lighting until you fall asleep. Our tester commented, “This alarm clock has been a game-changer in how I sleep and helped me fix my sleep cycle quickly.”Buybuybaby.com, $129.99


For a Night of Rest: Hum Beauty zzZz

I, like many, have work and school on my mind more than usual since both now reside in my home, which means I struggle a bit in the evenings with nodding off. If looking for a non-CBD sleep aid that you can use more consistently, I tested and am now a customer of the Hum Beauty zzZz vegan capsules. The capsules have Melatonin (calming) and vitamin B6 (normalizes circadian rhythm) along with calcium both helping promote sleep. Humnutrition.com, $14.99.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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7 Podcasts for Kids to Keep Them Engaged and Learning

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7 Engaging Podcasts for Kids

It’s time for our kids to start winding down from a pandemic school year and enjoy being kids. Whether it’s visiting the park every day or going to summer camp, keeping them engaged is always a huge part of avoiding the school slide. Books, visiting museums and libraries, and apps are ways to keep our kids interested and learning. Luckily some amazing podcasts will keep kids learning and, most importantly, engaged!

Psst…Art Programs for Kids: Get Crafty and Creative


Do you ever feel that you spend a fair amount of time begging or persuading your children to brush their teeth? Chompers is a two-minute morning and evening program of silly songs, fun facts, jokes, and riddles. If you have an Alexa, the app will keep a tally of all your kids’ tooth time brushes. Ages 3-7 

Circle Round

Not all kids have the patience to sit or listen to a podcast, especially when it isn’t part of the school curriculum. These short (10 to 20 minutes) podcasts are where kids can listen to curated folklores with themes that explore issues such as compassion, humanity, and persistence. Ages 4 to 10.


Story Pirates

Kids are the creators of this podcast with actors an eclectic group of comedians, musicians, teachers, and actors who bring these stories to life. Recent podcasts such as The Boy Who Had a Pet Ice Cube/The Not-So-Safe Safe and The Missing Golden Eggs/The Super Secret Sassy Story are pure creativity and endless inspiration for kids. Ages 3- to 103


The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian

Kids will love following Finn, an eight-year-old boy who lives in a space station. Finna has friends. Along with Abigail, Elias, and Vale, Explorers Troop 301 explore in 15- 20 minute episodes into uncharted planets, help the occasional alien and solve mysteries helping to save their space station. Ages 5 to 10.


Story Seeds

StorySeeds pairs best-selling authors and kids ages 6 to 12 to collaborate and create a storytime. With a season of podcasts, kids can listen to a brainstorming idea being processed and developed into a cool story. Ages 6 to 12

Brains On

The entire family can get on this podcast that inspires science and history. Each podcast, a kid with co-host Molly Bloom search for answers to the world’s most captivating questions. We all know kids ask the darnedest things. This is the podcast you want the kids to jump on and have fun while learning. All ages.


Stuff You Should Know

My oldest enjoys spewing out facts. What we call education, information, and what not; kids call ‘stuff.’ I wish a podcast like this were around when I was a kid. It is way more fun to learn about How Cave Dwellers Work or Rosa Parks via a cool podcast. You may want to skip some podcasts like the one on LSD or How Corporate Taxes Work, so we do suggest you check out what podcast is appropriate for your child first. 

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Tips For Children Transitioning Back to Socialization

Baby steps are best for getting kids together amid the pandemic. (Getty Images)

When the kids are finally around other kids, while joyous, emotions can also go from zero to 60 over the simplest things.

As we slowly make our way back outside, how can parents get their kids (and ourselves) back to socializing courteously and respectfully? 

Dr. Christina Johns, senior medical advisor for Lake Success-based PM Pediatrics, shared tips on how kids can transition back to being social.

Has quarantine affected kids’ development? We currently don’t have enough long-term data to determine what developmental effects the pandemic will have on children, and we will be following that very closely in the years to come. 

As New York gradually reopens, how can kids transition into being social again? My recommendation to parents is to ease in slowly. I suggest shorter play dates and one-on-one time to start, all the while reminding children to respect their peers’ physical space.

How can kids deal with misunderstandings and hurt feelings once they start having more face-to-face time? Role modeling, the behavior you want to see in your child, is key. I also suggest scripting. In other words, talk to your child about how to navigate these kinds of situations before they actually happen, and you can arm them with strategies. 

What can parents do if their child seems anxious or depressed as they get back to just being a kid? I would encourage parents to make sure they know what the truly concerning signs of depression and anxiety are in order to determine when it’s time to speak to a pediatric physician for help. Those signs can manifest in a child getting so anxious that they can’t get through their activities of daily life, their sleep schedule seems to be thrown off, they are completely disengaged, grades are dropping, etc. 

As for parents, how do we set good examples for our kids? We practice what we preach. One thing that I encourage parents to keep in mind is the idea of balance. Try your best as a parent to set boundaries for yourself and do something that’s actually engaging and social during the day. If you’ve been working all day, sitting in front of a screen, give yourself a break and go outside to chat with a neighbor. And, bring your child with you. If you start engaging in safe, social activities together, your child is more likely to pick that up and do it independently. 

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Relationship Expert Offers Advice for a Healthy Marriage Amid a Pandemic

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Love, Marriage & A Pandemic: Keeping Your Marriage Healthy

We are now coming around to one full year of being in a full-blown pandemic. Perhaps you were the kind of partner that pre-Covid knew you loved your spouse yet were okay with the work travel their job requires. Or you took turns spending an evening out with the girls or boys where you socialized and unwinded. These were pockets in your lives where you both had a welcome breather and, for the sake of being real here, one less person to worry about in the day to day of marriage and kids. Fast forward to the last year, where couples have been more together than ever and under tremendous circumstances.

We recently touched base with Dr. Venus Nicolino (“Dr. V”), a renowned relationship expert and the bestselling author of Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bullshit. Dr. V answers New York Family’s questions and shares on how to get your marriage to a healthier state, reconnect again and keep it intact.

As quarantine and the pandemic lingers on, how does one not let it ruin your marriage?

The COVID Quarrel is very real. But couples aren’t meant to be pent up for an entire year, are you kidding me?! You can’t do the stuff you normally do for fun, money is tight, and the world is falling apart. We’re not damn superheroes. Not even superheroes could do this!  

This pandemic has taken so much from us; don’t let it take your marriage. You and your partner can make it to the ever-drifting finish line together, I promise you. When you’re feeling like the stress and madness in your relationship is just too much to handle, remember to find some perspective. As heinous as this advice sounds, taking some time to remember how horrible everything is around you right now can save your marriage. And that’s not to invalidate how annoying your partner putting their soggy towel on your side of the bed every night is; it’s to validate how insanely annoying everything else is. And don’t be fooled — because you’re forced to spend so much time with your partner, you believe you’re learning “who they are.” You’re not. You’re learning who they are during a deadly pandemic that’s taken over 400,000 lives and frozen life as we know it. Trying to reflect on who they are as a person fundamentally right now is like looking at their image in a funhouse mirror (that’s not fun at all). 

You want an extra perfect relationship in the middle of a deadly pandemic? Well, guess what! You’re both humans with emotions, and your external environments can wind up shaking the foundation of a relationship that typically has had a cool, peaceful core. Stand together as much as you can, but don’t deny yourself the right to be extra imperfect. They say to never make decisions about relationships in a heated moment. Well, I say we’ve been living in a jacuzzi that was set way too high for the last year and it isn’t very fun for anyone right now.

Being with each other and kids 24/7 can take even the healthiest relationships to a rough patch. How can one salvage the damage of poor behavior, words said at low moments in the past year? 

Everybody slips up, but 2020 was a whole year of banana peels. And sadly, it looks like 2021 might be more of the same, at least for a little while. If your relationship has experienced some harsh words and low moments, I say you’ve got to remember that they’re just that — moments. The best thing you can do right now is trying to see beyond those moments because they don’t define your partnership. Don’t let them turn into something bigger than they are. Just because we’re all at home binge-watching Netflix dramas, doesn’t mean you need to star in your own every day.

If damaging words were said or done, I want to direct people to the power of a sincere, “I’m sorry.” Not the thing you say in that sarcastic, passive tone — the thing you say with intention as you’re looking your partner in the eye, and after you acknowledge the harm that was caused by your behavior. At the end of the day, humans want to feel seen. We want to feel like we’re not screaming our needs into a void because our partner retreated into the bedroom to rage-watch The Bachelor after a fight. Instead, be present, and share your side of the story, too. We all know the truth is somewhere in the middle, and just because you were an asshole doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be heard, as well. Finding common emotional ground with each other gets you off those islands you’ve been floating on solo in the sea of conflict.  

The pandemic brings on unprecedented stress; how can a parent who has not many options of places to go to and has children to watch make sure they don’t lose it on their partner?

This is the oldest trick in the book — before you say that mean thing, you’ll wind up regretting half the time, take ten seconds to breathe and ask yourself, “Is this worth escalating right now?” And that’s hard to do. Exercising impulse control in an argument can feel like trying to not rear-end the guy who cut you off just for the rage of it. There is a middle ground between sticking up for yourself and not causing a full-blown couple crash. Science shows that hurtful words said in even just one argument can have a lasting impact on how someone feels in the relationship forever. You don’t want that, especially if it’s not how you’d normally conduct yourself. Everyone’s experiencing some kind of elevated stress right now; don’t let it mess up your life any more than it already has. 

  • If a breath exercise sounds like some new-age crap you’re not trying to do, then you can just take a breather. Excuse yourself to the other room for a second. Nobody said it has to be graceful. You can just zip it and zip it to the closet for a moment. And if your partner tries to follow you?
  • Even if you think your partner is being an unfair jerk about things (I see you Mr. “How many times can my temple take running into the corner of this open cupboard”), try to verbalize to them that your goal is to work through this heated hang-up together. Letting them know that ultimately their side IS your side can be incredibly disarming and instantly switch up the confrontational energy of a fight.

How can you reconnect with your partner while still in a Pandemic?

You’d think couples would have an easy time connecting in the pandemic given the roof they share 24/7. But as anyone knows that’s been stuck with anyone for too long, we can start to resent that roof and find escape through things like our phones and the never-ending scroll of social media. Believe it or not, you can make hanging out with your partner fun again. Get dressed up, order takeout from your favorite restaurant, drink too much wine, and then order pizza (or more pizza, if you’re fancy and had it for your main course). Download an app that gives you and your partner prompts to share stories and preferences that you’ve somehow never even heard them say yet. For example, name of app + funny prompt/answer. Get outside. Plan walks to your local park. In many ways, COVID’s left us with some of the most fundamentally connective things to do with our SOS. And you know what might help you feel even more connected? Take a break from one another sometimes. Eat your dinner separately one night. Stay up late playing your kid’s favorite video game with them. Have a dad / mom-daughter / son hangout. Allowing your relationship some space to breathe can be a breath of fresh air that’ll leave you excited for the time you get to spend together. 

Dr. Venus Nicolino, best known as “Dr. V,” is a renowned relationship expert, media personality and host of WeTV’s Marriage Boot Camp, which just aired its 8th season. Dr. V recently became a bestselling author and debuted at #1 on the LA Times with the release of her first book, “Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bullshit”. The New York Post called it one of “five books that will change your life.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.  

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Children’s Books To Read in Honor of Black History Month

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10 Books For Black History Month and Beyond

This month, February, is Black History Month, a time to honor Black America. And while we do this, it is also an opportunity to educate our children about what it means to be Black and what better way than by learning through literature?

Here are 10 books for the kids and family to read this month and every month afterward.

Psst..check out more ways to celebrate- Black History Month: Family-Friendly Activities in New York

Ambitious Girl by Meena Harris, Illustrated by Marissa Valdez

Author Meena Harris (yes, niece of Vice President Harris) shares on an ‘ambitious girl’ and her journey of discovering what girls and women have faced in the past and present challenges and what they may face in the future obstacles. An incredible story for girls to read about the positivity of being ambitious and reframing what it means to be ambitious and proud. Ages 4 to 8.

Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

In this sweet book ( a follow up to Princess Hair), we learn what Aria loves about her hair, which compliments are okay, but touching her hair without asking? Not okay. Beautifully and creatively illustrated, the reader follows Aria on her adventures and learns how she skillfully demands boundaries. Ages 4 to 8.

Shirley Chisholm Is A Verb by Veronica Chambers, Illustrated by Rachelle Baker

A picture biography book on pioneering woman Shirley Chisholm. Authored by bestselling author Veronica Chambers and vividly illustrated by Rachelle Baker, kids will learn about this amazing woman and her life.

For starters, she was the first Black woman to campaign for the Democratic nomination for the United States’ presidency. And there is more for children to learn about, including her childhood in Barbados to attending Brooklyn College. I didn’t learn about this icon until college; start them young and teach your child about Shirley Chisholm. Ages 4 to 8.

Black Music Greats: 40 inspiring icons by Olivier Cachin, Illustrated by Jérôme Masi

Kids will learn from some of the greatest Black music icons of all time in this artfully and detailed book. Learn about Prince, Nina Simone, and other music legends’ backgrounds, hit songs, and other fun facts like nicknames and their signature style.

An eclectic array of music icons from Marvin Gaye to N.W.A is featured in this cool book. Kids will learn how these Black artists changed the music scene, defined an era with their sound, and in some instances changed the musical landscape with their sound. Ages 7 to 10.

Cocoa, Tea & Honey Paperback by Kimberly Davis-Peters

A lovely read for your toddler, this book shares how to celebrate all shades of brown complexions. It is about looking beyond all skin colors and accepting friends for who they are, not what they look like. Vividly illustrated, this book makes for a lovely morning or bedtime storytime. Ages infant to 12.

For the full list of children’s books, visit NewYorkFamily.com.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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5 Self-Care Apps To Help Support Busy Moms

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5 Apps That Help Moms With Self-Care

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, many mothers have shared that they feel disconnected from how we lived life a year ago. While virtual life can be both a blessing and a curse, it can also serve as a lifeline. Here are five apps that focus on mental health, gratitude, or can serve as a tool to help you get through the day.

Psst…read about Meaghan Murphy: Author of Your Fully Charged Life and Tips on Moving Forward with Positivity!

Daily Self-Care: Shine

Founded by two former work colleagues who realized that the support they provided to each other was instrumental. This support was “everything,” as they state on Shine, and they wanted to help more people.

The Shine premium account offers many tiers of daily support. Start your morning with the ‘Daily Shine,’ a 9-minute breathing exercise that sets an intention such as helping you when life throws you a curveball. Or working on letting go of the past. You can ‘check-in’ for the day and click on the mood you are currently feeling or click on gratitude. Depending on your perspective, the app will provide you the tools to help your work through this feeling. For example, when I clicked that COVID- 19 was a worry, I was presented with a helpful article on “How to Build a Routine during the Pandemic.” The app offers a library of meditations (800 +) from some pretty cool people covering topics that affect many mothers, such a COVID-19, Black Mental Health, and a biggie for moms, sleep. With gentle nudging from Shine, it will be suggested to write out a helpful mantra for the day, read, or post it on the community board. 

Gratitude Journal: Presently

If you own an Android and are looking to document what you are grateful for this year, then you may want to try Presently. This free app (and ad-free, whoo hoo) lets you record daily entries as well as a jaunt down past gratitudes. As busy parents know, it is easy to drop off from self-care; you can set helpful daily reminders to keep your practice going. It will also nudge you to share your thoughts by presenting you with an array of questions that get the brain and heart reflecting. You can treat Presently as your personal diary and keep your entries to yourself or share them with others. The app allows you to import and export entries. 

Meditation & Yoga Support: Insight Timer

If anxiety or lack of sleep has been an issue for you, the Insight Timer app is a free app that has become quite popular. Insight Timer shares yoga, meditation, and live sessions that can help with sleep and anxiety. There is even a mediation guide the kids can join in on from the wildly optimistic and happy Goldie Hawn, “Keep Your MindUP For Your Brain.” One of my personal favorite meditations is from the author and wellness consultant Alexander Elle “Re-Centering In Times Of Uncertainty.” 

If you would like to take your practice to the next level by having access to their library of micro-courses, you can sign up for a subscription that is $60 for the year. 

Vision Boarding: Canva

Vision Boarding is when you create a ‘board’ that helps you set goals for the future. It is best to set a realistic number of goals, dig into old magazines, cut out words and images. A modern approach would be to design an ’a board’ via an app. Whether you craft on paper or your device, your board should feel inspirational and aspirational. Canva is free and offers fun fonts; using an array of templates, and you can add images, edit, change up with gorgeous filters, icons, and shapes. The app is free, but you are charged for any premium elements you add to your design. You can download in PNG, JPG, and PDF formats.

Mood Self-Care: MindDoc

If you suffer from depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder — MindDoc is a self-management app that offers insights and monitors your mood. When many people do not have as many human connections as we had pre-pandemic — MindDoc can be a useful tool in self-management for mental health disorders. Not to replace a therapist or a psychologist, this app is when you need to check in with your feelings, and helpful words to calm you. The app costs anywhere from $4.49 a month. MindDoc ranges from $24.99 to $47.99 a year. 

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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What It’s Like Raising a Child With Autism (For Me)

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Raising a Child With Autism

When my son was first diagnosed with Autism, I decided that I would still do ‘normal’ things and advocate for him to live a ‘normal’ life.

Boom. Wrong.

It didn’t take long to learn that having a child with special needs means ‘normal’ goes out the door. Of course, I am only human, and what mother doesn’t want their child to live their best life? I soon realized that I, the parent, had to learn to support my child’s growth at whatever pace he was at the present moment. This means working at his level. And much like a rubber band that springs back after going forward, the progress many parents experience with an autistic child goes back and forth, with triumphs and setbacks. At least, this is what parenting looks like for my family and me.

A Diagnosis is a GameChanger

Having a child on the high spectrum with Autism changes your life. I have always been a fierce mother, but having a child with special needs has made me an advocate, caretaker, and an expert at saying ‘no’ to the bull sh*t that life can throw at you. A special needs parent will know what I mean; there is no time to waste. Sure, when I am at the playground, I admit it hurts my feelings not to be friends with a group of parents like I have with my oldest child. It saddens me to see children ignore my boy, but the truth is, he doesn’t even notice nor care. All he sees is the fun he is about to enjoy at the park. He lives in the moment, enjoying the time hanging out with me. So I put my big girl pants on and shake off my ego, and join in on the fun.

It’s No Party

The CDC describes stimming as “people with an ASD might spend a lot of time repeatedly flapping their arms or rocking from side to side. They might repeatedly turn a light on and off or spin the wheels of a toy car. These types of activities are known as self-stimulation or “stimming.”

In the beginning, when my boy would stim, some parents would look at me with a hint of sadness or embarrassment — but I refuse to participate in a pity party. Yes, my kid outwardly shows what he lacks: speech, social cues, and ‘normal’ behaviors, but what he does show are happiness and love, and if you can’t get on board with that, your loss.

Parenthood can be a bit like high school. There are clicks, and there are the ‘cool’ moms. With my first child, I possessed the need to hang with other mothers. Those first few years of parenthood felt confusing and lonely, trying to navigate where I ‘fit’ in. It’s one reason I segued from the fashion world into parenting; I was figuring this new chapter out and wanted to share what I was learning. Yet with my second son, the hardships of finding a group I could commiserate with never happened. And this is okay. I have found that where both my child and I receive support (and yes, 100 percent, you need help in this journey as much as your child) is with my son’s ‘team.’ He has fantastic teachers, pare (classroom support), therapists, and doctors. For it takes many people and experts to get my son and the family in a healthy state. And if reading this, you think, “well, you’re rich.” I am not. Some aid is from organizations that fit into my budget and have been worth it, and other assistance comes from his school and organizations we stumbled upon when looking for help.

Pure Joy

My son is four and a half. He is still young and living his best life. He will swing at the park during a snowstorm with a smile on his face; he can do circles around many a teenager with his mad puzzle abilities. When he sleeps, he sometimes has traces of cinnamon and butter at the corners of his mouth; and all I can think of is how lucky I am. He is pure joy. Of course, like all parenting challenges, there are days harder than others. Some days leave us both in tears.

His future is one big mystery and frankly scary to wrap my head around, but if anything having a child with special needs has taught me is to cherish each day, and you will see the wonder and joy of life in spades.

Psst…Wanting to connect with moms with special needs kids? Check out Wolf + Friends App: For Parents With Special Needs Children

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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5 Kid Toys That Will Make Great Gifts

kid toys

Shopping for toys for little kids can be a bit challenging, because they’re no longer babies, and not quite ready for big kid toys. Each kid’s personality and growth needs to be taken into account. 

Our five picks of little kid toys range from snuggly stuffed toys to tech toys, all offering fun play and growth for growing kids.

Check out our picks for holiday toys for little kids.

Our Generation Doll & Pet Poodle – Malia

This 18-inch doll is a perfect gift for your kid moving past the toddler stage who wants an older doll. Malia has long, wavy brown hair and brown eyes that open and close. And she is accompanied by a pet, a 6-inch furry puppy! Ages 3+, target.com, $25.49

FAO Schwarz Giant 69-inch Dance-On Piano Mat

The perfect gift for kids who love music and dance. This fantastical piano is almost 6 feet in length and perfect for the entire family! Ages 3+, target.com, $39.99

Tinsel Yeti

A plush friendly monster with fuzzy earmuffs, sparkly blue horns, and tinsel strands. Perfect for the toddler ready for a fluffy toy that invites imaginary play, especially as we stay in more this winter. Ages 1+, gund.com, $30


Dimpl Digits

Learning through play is the best entertainment for kids, and this Dimpl Digits toy is perfect for kids to touch, push, and pop while also learning; the squishy silicone bubbles allow little fingers to pres while learning numbers. Ages 1+, fatbraintoys.com, $19.95


VTech® Myla’s Sparkling Friends™ Finn the Fox Toy


This techy toy is perfect for ages 4 and older to play with for hours on end. Finn’s magical necklace can be touched to choose a color, and afterward, a tap of her hair, eyes, and ears produces that color. Finn has 100 fun, magical responses — kids will have fun exploring her moods and reactions. Ages 3-4, buybuybaby, $14.99

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How Moms Are De-stressing Amid COVID-19

Taking some me time is crucial for moms. (Getty Images)

Now that school has started, and moms have worked to get into a rhythm, one of the many things I have heard from my friends is that they are going about their day, yet there are days when we all miss other mothers’ connection. 

There is a sense that something feels a bit adrift. Although experts can share how to manage these moments, it is also helpful knowing how other moms are working through their funks in the time of COVID-19. We asked a few moms to share what brings them some joy, whether it is in self-care, connecting with friends, or just taking in the quiet of the morning.

“My girlfriends and I have made a habit of finding a funny parenting meme or short video and sharing it via text at the start of each week,” says Denise Courter of Fidi Families. “It’s a great way to laugh and remind ourselves that we are all in this together, and though we might not see each other, we are still there for each other.”

Sasadi Odunsi of Brooklyn Bead Collective and ambassador for Every Mom Counts, emphasizes the need for self-care.

“I think the phrase that I keep coming back to is one that was shared with me as a new mom navigating my way, and that is, put on your oxygen mask first,” she says. “As mothers, we are continually giving and taking care, but we need to remember to take care of ourselves as well. If we don’t take time to breathe and refuel, we’ll start to break down and not be able to take care of everyone else as well. 

“Self-care is so different for everyone; for me, it usually means doing some kind of movement, whether it be high intensity for even 15 minutes, or doing something that is just for me and my sanity,” she adds. “It’s also taking time to be creative and sit down to make something. For you, it might be getting into bed earlier than usual with a good book or watching a show.”

Kaity Velez, parenting writer and creative strategizer, agrees.

“After months of being in survival mode, I’ve found that carving out me time is crucial when most of the day is spent doing brain gymnastics between work and parenting,” she says. “For me, that means getting up a little earlier for an early morning walk when the streets are still quiet. There’s no motive other than to move and be with my surroundings.”

This article first appeared in New York Family.

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Expert Tips on Easing Back to Speech Therapy for the School Year

Children who receive speech therapy have new obstacles amid the pandemic. (Getty Images)

Now that we are into the school year, be it remote or blended, we’re finding that some students who have had the steepest regressions in learning are kids with special needs. 

We spoke with Lori Caplan-Colon, a leading speech-language pathologist specializing in pediatric feeding disorder and founder of Montclair Speech Therapy, on how kids and parents can work on their speech learning practices this school year.

Some students with speech delays who have returned or will be returning to school have unfortunately regressed. Any tips on easing them into more in-person services? Be sure to check in with the classroom teachers and remind them that your child will need special care not only in dealing with classroom interactions but also with broader social interactions with the larger student body.

Let the teachers know that lockup and isolation are especially challenging to a child with speech disorders as there are a lot fewer opportunities to practice their learned skills. Explain your concern that a quarantine lifestyle has placed challenges on your child’s ability to practice with peers and caregivers across environments, which is typically a big part of the therapeutic process. Perhaps the teachers can keep an eye out and let you know of any specific issues that arise.

While the teacher may not be able to wholly accommodate your child, at least you have raised the issue with them and made them aware of this back-to-school challenge. Additionally, here we may want to note the reduced ability to successfully communicate with masks. A lot of our little ones are demonstrating frustration when they are not interpreted with this barrier. Additionally, for our lower muscle-tone kids, with increased drooling, we are finding that masks are needed to be frequently changed, causing additional challenges.

As many schools will also be remote, any tips on balancing both? Managing expectations goes a long way towards striking a balance between in-class learning and telelearning, so sticking to a schedule and frequently going over that schedule or calendar with your child will prepare them for what’s expected. Children thrive with routines and schedules. Using child-friendly pictures to signify schedule changes are a favorite. Additionally, using magnetic boards and/or dry erase boards will allow a child to signify when an activity is completed and allows a child to make predictions about what will happen next.

At the same time, chart where your child is having challenges with each scenario (in class and at home), and bring those issues up with your speech therapist so they can focus on exercises that will mitigate the situation.

Find out from your child’s teachers what’s working in class and try to emphasize those skills at home so they carry over to the virtual classroom setting.

For parents who have now found their child has developed stuttering or seen the return of stuttering, what can a parent do to help? First of all, get in touch with a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stuttering and get a proper diagnosis of the condition. They can set up a proper treatment.

Avoid showing displeasure with your child’s relapsed behavior, and instead remind yourself of the skills you practiced when your child first had a stutter. Slow down your own cadence, ask fewer questions, and let the child speak on his or her own terms. Be sure to maintain eye contact with your child, do not try to finish his/her sentences and do not use language like “spit it out or hurry up.” Start rebuilding using the techniques you employed before and if your child is slightly older, remind him/her of the tools in his /her toolbelt to reduce the bumps.

Understand that given the pandemic and the way it’s disrupted all our routines, developing a stutter or seeing a return are not unusual reactions. Empathy first, and then start the search for solutions and mitigation.

Kids who are nonverbal such as kids with autism, have been some of the hardest hit during this pandemic. Is there such a thing as catching up? It’s not so much a case of catching up as it is re-establishing a sense of normalcy. Sticking with a predictable routine will help your child with autism find comfort during a time when disruptions have become a daily occurrence, where you can stick to routines, like bedtimes, meal times, hygiene times, etc.

What can parents do to help their nonverbal children where speech therapy is so vital? One thing that’s very helpful is to lead by example by demonstrating to your nonverbal child how people can communicate with body language and expression. Game playing is especially useful for nonverbal children. Games that promote listening skills and mirroring actions, like Simon Says or Charades, can help re-enforce communication by body language.

The idea is to express the importance of effectively communicating with others around you, even when that communication is accomplished without speech.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com

For more education coverage, visit longislandpress.com/category/education
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