Donna Duarte-Ladd


Simple Halloween Recipes to Make Your Kids

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Easy Halloween Recipes by Catherine McCord of Weelicious

If looking for a fun way to celebrate Halloween with fantastic main dishes or snacks, Catherine McCord of Weelicious and One Potato never disappoints with her creative recipes. Think spooky deviled eggs and wrapped mummies or even a pile of dirt (hint…it’s really tofu pudding!) that are simple and, most importantly, loved by kids. Whether you are hosting a small Halloween party or make snack time a bit spooky for the kids, we have some of Catherine’s most fun and spooktacular recipes!

Deviled Egg Spiders


Mummy dogs


Chocolate Tofu Pudding Pots


Pizza Mummies


Puff Pastry Pumpkins

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Expert Life Coach Offers Advice for Reconnecting With Your Partner

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Relationship Tips on Reconnecting with your Partner

We all know that we were all a bit on autopilot during the height of the pandemic. You and your partner got through this challenging time, and like most of us, did the best you could. We took each day as it came. We put one foot before the other. There were those times we let things slide since we were all in one space together with nowhere to go. But now school is back in session, and while Covid is still a factor in our lives, we are starting to get back to normalcy. And, gasp, your partner is getting on your nerves again. This is part of the ‘getting back to normal’ part, and now that we can have space both mentally and figuratively, the regular life stuff is hitting us again. We connected with expert Life Coach and author (If It’s Not Right, Go Left) Kristen Glosserman on getting back to a healthy relationship with the one you love. 

Check out our Educational and Fun Toys Perfect For Fall!

As kids return to school and new variants pop up, making for the uncertainty of our next steps, how can couples get back to connecting without being in survival mode?

Connecting, really connecting, with your partner is like anything else: if it’s important to you, then you’ll have to allocate time and energy to it. So, if you have found that partnership was de-prioritized over the last year or two, you want to bring it back to the top of the list. Remember, it’s about energy; wherever we put energy is where it will grow. My husband and I have designated one night of every week as our date night. I talk about this, and how “Love is a Choice” in my new book, If It’s Not Right, Go Left. As a couple, Marc and I are very consistent with our date night, giving each other one night a week alone, just the two of us, where we can have that space every couple needs. With back-to-school, so much of parents’ energy goes into the children and their schedules and needs. I know every parent is completely tuned in to that right now. Still, it is important not to lose sight that you still have a partner, and that area of your life still requires energy and effort. 

On our date nights, Marc and I stay conscious of the direction of our conversation, agreeing to talk about something other than the children or work. We’ve managed to create a discipline around our communication. It’s a practice, like yoga, and it’s something you start small and keep getting better at. Whenever we catch ourselves slipping in a negative direction, we use healthy, positive communication to stay close instead of drifting apart. Just by using positive language with your partner, you really can control the energy dynamics. The other night, my husband and I were bickering, and the next morning we both said, “I want love.” It works.

For date night inspiration, why not try:

• A new activity together, like going for an after-dinner walk or jog. 

• Playing tennis or going bowling, just to shake things up a bit.

• Trade places in the kitchen, where Marc is awesome. I have my traditional favorite repertoire, but he challenges me with new-to-me recipes, such as Beef Wellington or cooking up a whole fish. 

• Try to adjust your mindset and get on the same wave as your partner. 

Remember, it’s about the shared experience more than anything else. So be spontaneous, and jump in the car for a mini-adventure; just a short distance from your home base, there could be something new and exciting worth checking out. COVID made it hard to travel, so Marc took us exploring nearby in the Hudson Valley, where we discovered some amazing places together. 

After 20 months of total togetherness, how can couples maintain a healthy relationship as couples spend more time apart?

I think it’s about finding the value and benefit in change, any change. Change is hard, and change is good: that’s an important lesson in my book. So this newest change—more time apart instead of total togetherness—can be a good thing if you choose for it to be. Just think, now we have an opportunity to be on our own, to put a little more energy into our individualism and independence. Then, we can come back together and share that experience with our partner. It’s healthy when we choose to see change as a positive; that’s a great mindset. In any partnership, too much time together or apart—or anything too extreme—doesn’t benefit anyone. So yes, we got used to a lot of togetherness, and maybe it was too much. Embrace change by recognizing that there has been something beautiful about all this time together, and now it’s OK to do things differently. Recognize that there will be less time together, and choose how best to spend that limited time. YOU get to choose. Now, we can focus on the quality, not the quantity, of our time together. We can make those together moments count! 

I recommend that you choose one night to be a family and stay home and cook. We like to do that with an early, cozy dinner on Friday or Sunday. Where will your moments be? How will you enjoy the time together you do have? Choose those moments because if we don’t choose, they won’t happen. With everyone’s schedules altered and in flux, we may have to create some new traditions… great! Change is hard, and change is good!

At the end of each chapter in my book, I give readers ThinkWork, my version of homework for grown-up success. So ask yourself these questions: 

• How can this time apart be beneficial to me? 

• What do I want to accomplish on my own? 

• What would I like to create more space for? 

• When is the best time for us all to come together? 

For the full list of advice, visit NewYorkFamily.com.

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Expert Weighs In on Benefits of Kids Wearing Masks At School

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The school year is happening, and while the mask debate is just that — a discussion that may go back and forth for hours — here in New York, wearing a face mask in school is required.

Will the requirement change soon? Probably not, as the Covid Delta variant is still a huge concern. Our new governor, Kathy Hochul, has asked state health officials to require a universal mask mandate in both public and private schools. But many parents understandably have concerns about kids mask-wearing all day at school. 

How vital is mask-wearing in schools? What are the benefits? For some mask-wearing insight, we chatted with Samantha Lowe, MD, a pediatrician with White Plains Hospital Physician Associates in Armonk, NY, on why mask-wearing matters. 

With school going back full time, how important is mask wearing for our students?

Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. The most effective protection against all COVID strains, including the Delta variant, is vaccination. However, more than 50% of children returning to school are doing so without the benefit of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is occurring for three reasons. First, children under 12 years of age are ineligible for vaccines at this time. Second, there is a percentage of students who meet vaccine eligibility but have chosen not to be vaccinated. And, third, there are other students who meet the vaccine age criteria but are ineligible for vaccines due to other health issues. Because of this, correct mask-wearing for all students, and anyone coming in contact with those students, is an absolute necessity.

Are two masks necessary?

At this time, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask with two to three layers that fits snugly over your face. In February of 2021, the CDC published research suggesting that layering a cloth mask over a surgical mask (double masking) when a mask only has one layer may provide additional protection from potentially infectious particles. However, if your mask already has multiple layers and fits tightly, it’s not necessary to double mask and might make masks uncomfortable to wear and/or hinder vision if they go too high up on the face.

A mask is only protective if your child is wearing it. Because children’s faces vary in size, it has been shown that cloth masks, especially those with adjustable ear straps and a nose cinch fit better than paper masks. Studies have shown that tightly woven cotton fabrics do a surprisingly good job of filtering out particles, and their performance can improve under humid conditions, such as those created when you breathe. Make sure that the cloth masks are thick enough that you cannot see through them, and if possible, add a filter to provide an extra layer of protection. 

 For special needs kids or children with speech delays, do masks hinder language development? Any tips for parents?

If your child has special needs or speech delays, it’s worth discussing any concerns you may have with your pediatrician based on your child. For those parents, it may also be worth a conversation with your child’s school (for instance, to assure teachers will be wearing clear masks, providing necessary mask breaks etc…). There are also things you can do at home to help. Younger children naturally take visual cues based on a person’s mouth and how that translates to overall emotion and mood. With everyone in masks, you can help your child shift from reading mouths to reading eyes. You can practice this at home while wearing your mask and playing a game – can you guess if I am smiling? Frowning? Laughing based on my eyes alone?

It is sometimes hard to hear what others say underneath their masks, especially if they are naturally soft-spoken. It’s important for you to understand what volume of voice your children can hear clearly. You can model the teacher’s speaking voice to determine if the normal level is understandable or whether a few notches louder may be optimal. Then you can mention this concern to your school and the child’s teacher.

Take as many opportunities as you can to arrange get-togethers with other children and relatives outside so they can benefit from as much full facial visualization as possible when they are not in school. 

As kids return to classrooms that can sometimes be hot, are there any tips for them to keep in mind if they feel overheated and overwhelmed with their facemask?

Practice at home in varied climates to find the mask that is most comfortable for your child to wear for extended periods of time. Know your child’s schedule and let them know when they can expect mask breaks during the day. If possible, on very hot days, try to limit their time in masks by driving them to school. Tell your children to advocate for themselves if they feel too hot or panicked by their masks by asking for a mask break in a safe environment. Kids are usually very resilient and get used to wearing masks very quickly in all climates and situations. 

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Expert Tips on Adapting to the New Normal of Family Life

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The New Normal: Expert Tips on Getting Back to IRL

Many of us are in a bit of a recovery mode. The pandemic was uncharted territory for the entire family, and life did always feel steady. And as we work to get back to the “new normal,” it has maybe felt a bit challenging. I chatted with Jess Huddy, Chief Learning Officer of Cognition Builders. Cognition Builders is a global organization that employs a specialized team to resolve individuals’ and families’ behavioral, intellectual, social, emotional, cognitive, and academic needs.

If you or your family are feeling a bit off, you’re not alone; we are coming off a historic and frankly weird time, and now is the moment to get guidance from the experts. From how to prevent conflict with your partner to repeating mantras when in a challenging time, these helpful tips will help you get to your new normal.

Many families are returning to work-life and school IRL next month. Kids will be resocializing full-time, and parents who have been with their children 24/7 will now be with their peers again. What advice (or tips) can you share with parents on dealing with the mixed bag of emotions some may be experiencing (I know I am!) going back to the new normal in the upcoming months?

Change is a normal part of life. Pandemics are not. While we’ve all been (im)patiently waiting for the return to normal, now that it’s here, it’s hard to know how to feel.

To get some control in these uncontrollable times, we can all start by watching what we say — and think. Of course, we all like to vent. After a year of virtual learning, we all NEED to vent. But when pessimism becomes our first language, we start to see life as a series of problems and inconveniences. What we think determines how we feel.

This doesn’t mean we should all sugarcoat our frustrations and pretend everything is amazing. Instead, the key is to speak and think about life’s challenges in a way that is reflective, not reactive.

What does that even mean? Here’s an example: Let’s imagine you’re feeling rusty in your role on the first day back in the office. If you’re being reactive, you might tell yourself, “I can’t remember how to do anything. I’ve lost my talent.” This kind of self-talk is self-sabotage.

But if you respond reflectively, you might think: “Today didn’t run smoothly. It will take some time to get the rhythm again.” Here, you’re acknowledging the problem, considering it objectively, and leaving room for a solution.

Another good trick? Repeating encouraging mantras. It sounds cliché, but the research backs it. Some that might apply:

  1. The changes ahead will be challenging, but bearable.

  2. It will take time for new/old routines to feel right again, but they will.

  3. My family and I can, and will, adjust.

Equally as important as what you say: what you do. If you don’t prepare for the first day of in-person work/school, you’ll be left with a ton of dread. Be proactive in getting ready for all things IRL — and help your kids do the same.

How? Make a shared family calendar and review the new schedules together. Create (or recreate) daily routines you’ll keep when school and work are back in-person: shift sleep schedules, pack backpacks at night, time your commutes. Make your day-to-day adjustments now, before the return to normal forces you to improvise. If you’re comfortable doing so, warm up to more social interaction, too. Start scheduling playdates regularly, get out of the house and in public more often; desensitize yourselves to socializing.

There is firm data that mothers experience the ‘Motherhood Penalty’ during the pandemic lockdown. This is not to say that their partners did not step up, but statistically, women spent more time on childcare during the pandemic. One of your missions at Cognition Builders is to “eliminate the conflicts which crack the foundations of everyday life”. How can a marriage learn from this experience and be more unified? 

When the pandemic shut us in our homes for a year, family problems grew like weeds. Time-at-home was all-the-time: no school, no breaks, no boundaries. Lockdown took a magnifying glass to our worst habits and forced us to face their consequences.

Mothers have long taken on the bulk of childcare, but COVID-19 sent this imbalance through the roof. Part of the problem — pre, during, and post-pandemic — is assumption. Most often, couples don’t ever actually discuss who will be responsible for what. Instead, each partner falls into their set of responsibilities — for mothers, that typically includes most of the childcare — and everyone autopilots. They go on like this until resentment boils over and forces the issue to a head.

To prevent conflict, couples should sit down and intentionally discuss how childcare — and all other shared responsibilities — will be divided. During this conversation, it’s important to:

  1. Be specific. For example: Dad is doing bath time on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday; Mom is doing bath time on Wednesday and Thursday.

  2. Be honest. Share ideas, preferences, suggestions, and be open to discussing them. For those who like to appease: remember that confrontation is not conflict. Write down your thoughts before talking with your partner, so you know what you really want.

  3. Level the field (if needed). When one partner takes over on certain tasks, all that practice can make them faster and “better.” But when we tell our partners: “It’s just easier if I/you do_____,” we’re choosing long-term bitterness for the sake of short-term convenience. Instead, both partners should be equally equipped to handle the things that need to get done, even if that means doing a little learning upfront.

  4. Not get stuck on 50/50. What’s right looks different for every family. If partners agree that labor division is fair, realistic, and acceptable to everyone, then that’s a successful outcome.

  5. Follow through. A plan is only good if it’s used. Partners should hold each other accountable and be accountable to one another.

  6. Be flexible. What works now won’t always work. Things change, children grow, and we all need to reorganize responsibilities from time to time. Or, we may put the plan in play and find it only worked on paper. Regroup! Start back at step one.

My son is officially a tweenager. I thought I’d be the cool mom but the words and things that come out of my mouth at the heat of the moment are cringe-worthy. I worry that in this period of my son’s growth, we will never be close again. Help. 

Very few things are cool in the eyes of a tweenager… least of all their moms. Preteens love to dunk on us. The harder we try, the more they know we want it, the more satisfying the dunk. It is a vicious cycle, so free yourself of the need to be considered cool. It’ll come (much) later.

You can’t earn your son’s favor — or respect — by pleasing him all the time. Parenting decisions shouldn’t be based on what our kids want in-the-moment, because it typically doesn’t overlap with what they need. If you don’t serve your son’s best interests now, then you really will run the risk of not being close in the future.

As for the heat of the moment, you do want to make sure you’re setting the right example. A few, simple rules:

  1. Don’t respond to insults (or any other inappropriate language). For example, if you ask your son to complete a chore and he calls you a name in response, resist the temptation to ask, “WHAT did you just say to me?!” Instead, ignore the comment outright and repeat your initial request. Then disengage.

  2. Walk away when emotions are running high. If your son is yelling, for example, don’t try to reason with him. Instead, say: “We will continue this conversation when you’re feeling less angry.” Then walk away.

  3. Hold the line. Don’t be derailed by requests for “five more minutes,” complaints, negotiation attempts, or any other clever method used to subvert the rules. Once you place a demand, make sure you get compliance and don’t backpedal. (If not, that’s what consequences are for).

Psst… check out Chores for Kids: How to Get Them Started

Jess Huddy (M.S., M.A., LAC) is the Chief Learning Officer of Cognition Builders. In this role, Huddy serves as Cognition Builders’ lead strategist on curricula and program development. Huddy holds two master’s degrees in psychology and clinical mental health counseling, respectively, and is a licensed associate counselor. In 2018, Huddy co-authored “Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter,” published by Andrews McMeel. She is a three-time published poet and, most importantly, proud mama to Emmeline.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Expert Tips on Signs and Steps to Take For Babies With Colic

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When home with a new baby while the time is joyous it also can be a bit of a fog. Tired parents who are adjusting to their new baby have a lot on their plate so when the baby starts to cry, like a lot, it may take a bit of time to know when it is colic. 

We asked Dr. Smita Malhotra, pediatrician and mindfulness expert about what is colic and tips on how parents can help with the fussiness and also support both baby and their mental health.

In layman’s terms, what exactly is Colic? Colic is defined as frequent crying in a baby that is otherwise healthy. Babies with colic cry for three hours a day, for more than three days a week and this can last three weeks or more. Colic can start in the first few weeks of life and while there is no established medical treatment for colic, it usually resolves by about 3-4 months of age. 

Seasoned parents may know when their baby has Colic, but for a new parent, what are the signs and steps to take if you think your child has Colic? When you become a parent, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that “mind reader” was part of the job description. Essentially, that’s what we have to be when we’ve got a fussy baby on our hands. But here’s a little secret: Once you’ve ruled out hunger, a dirty diaper, and sleepiness, you’re left with three likely culprits: colic, gas, or tender gums.

A fussy baby, a tired mom, it can be a rough time. How can a parent get through this period? Meditation is a practice that helps us to calm and focus our minds. For me, that practice takes on a variety of different forms during my day. And one of the most important parts of my practice of meditation is consistency. 

Whether it is reading an inspiring book or practicing deep breaths, a nighttime routine helps to keep both my children and me grounded. Incorporating meditation into your day might be easier than you think!

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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How to Qualify for Biden’s New Monthly Child Tax Credit Starting July 15

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The New Monthly Child Tax Credits Start July 15th: An Expert Explains How It Works

The child tax credit, part of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden this past March, starts on July 15. This will be a huge relief for many families, but many parents have a few questions, such as how it is different from the child tax c added when doing yearly taxes and who qualifies. We connected with Radha Seshagiri, director of public policy and systems change, at SaverLife (a nonprofit on a mission — to inspire, inform, and reward the millions of Americans who need help saving money) to share on how this Child Tax credit works.

Also, if you do not usually file a tax return, you can visit the online tool IRS recently unveiled to help low-income families register for monthly Child Tax Credit payments.

Psst…check out our Summer Reading List for Kids of All Ages 2021.

What is a tax credit, and how does it work? 

A child tax credit is a benefit to help families who are raising children. It helps offset the costs of raising kids. 

A refundable tax credit is one in which you receive more than you owe in taxes. For example: if you owe $3,000 in taxes and have credits totaling $4,000, the government owes YOU $1,000. 

What is the Biden Child Tax Credit, and how is it different from the $3,000 Child Tax Credit (CTC)? 

The Child Tax Credit has been around since 1997, but, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), it used to be distributed in a lump sum at the same time as other tax refunds. 

The American Rescue Plan, signed into law on March 11th, 2021, under the Biden administration, includes an expansion of the Child Tax Credit. 

To get money to families sooner, the IRS will send you half of your 2021 Child Tax Credit this year, automatically, starting in July. It will be broken up into monthly payments, which means payments of up to $300 per child under age 6 and $250 per child ages 6 to 17. 

You’ll get the remainder of the credit when you file your taxes in 2022. 

This is a temporary one-year expansion of the CTC for your 2021 tax return (which you file in 2022). 

Who qualifies for the Biden Tax Credit and when will it start, and how long will it run? 

Here’s who’s eligible: 

● Any individual who earns under $75K 

● A head of household who earns under $112,500 

● A couple that earns under $150K and has dependent children 

There is no minimum income requirement. Children claimed for the CTC must have a valid Social Security number (SSN). 

It is important to dispel some myths about people who are qualified. Many people believe that because they don’t make enough to file taxes, they don’t qualify. This is not true. If you don’t typically have to file tax returns, you HAVE to take some form of action with the IRS. The White House website has a great FAQ on the credit and eligibility: ChildTaxCredit.gov. 

Are there other tax credits that can help families, especially families at the poverty level? 

People can qualify for credits for several reasons. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), for example, is a significant credit for lower-income workers between the ages of 25-64, especially those with children. The Savers Tax Credit is a credit that lower-income workers may receive for contributing to a qualified retirement plan. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit helps families with children offset the cost of care. There are several more available through the IRS.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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The Best Summer Road Trip Destinations for Families 2021

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Summer Family Road Trips!

We all have memories from our childhood of the trips we took with our family; being kids, we remember only the funny and good stuff. Now that we’re parents, we know that while road trips can be intense, especially with younger kids, this time together bonds us and will be part of the fabric of our children’s memories.

A discovery we may have always known as we make our way out of the pandemic is that New York and the cities and states surrounding our hometown are full of beauty, history, and adventure.

Here is to a summer of awe and travel with these must road trips for Summer 2021.

Catskills, NY

A recent trip my family took was to the Catskills. There were a few things that went through my mind when I visited the Catskills. One, we need to do this more—two, what an easy trip it is. And three, Woah, can the Catskills be even more beautiful? And while New York is reopening and there are many things to do, why I loved our road trip to the Catskills was that it was something we could do even as the world was in a crazy state. Of course, it is always nice to visit places and try the food, but nature alone in the Catskills is a sight. First, we took a hike, literally. There are many hiking trails in the Catskills, and my mom’s tip is to check out the Great Northern Catskills’ website to find the trail that works for your family. While nature is supreme in Greene County, I have a list of what we will be visiting this summer. Top on this list is horseback riding, more hiking trails, food tasting at the restaurants, and taking our oldest son on a camping trip or staying at one of the family resorts. Yay for summer upstate!

Travel Tip: For a family-friendly hike, check out Mountain Top Arboretum, a public garden nestled in the Catskill Mountains where kids can explore native plant communities, natural meadows, wetlands, and of course, hike the forest.

Annapolis, Maryland

Since the pandemic, one sneaky parenting move I have been doing with the kids is picking fun spots to visit that are also full of history. Annapolis is just the ticket. The car ride is about 3.5 hours (starting from Midtown). Go for a long weekend or make it a family vacation and spend the week, as there’s plenty to do. We love to stay downtown at one of their charming beds, breakfasts, historic inns, or hotels. We park the car and explore on foot since Annapolis is a walkable town. First stop, City Dock. We enjoy watching the boats parade along Ego Alley. If your family loves being on the water, take a 40-minute harbor cruise or a sail on the historic skipjack, the Wilma Lee. For fun with the older kids, you can also rent kayaks or stand-up paddle boards. With 533 miles of shoreline, Annapolis and Anne Arundel County offer endless opportunities for on-the-water fun. When it’s time to feed the kids, hop aboard a water taxi for a quick ride to a delish meal along Restaurant Row and visit the Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park; it just reopened with a new state-of-the-art exhibition, Our Changing Waterfront, that the kids adore. Don’t miss the Maryland State House – the oldest in continuous legislative use in the nation; the home of the Declaration of Independence signer William Paca and stop by for a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy! To plan your trip check out visitannapolis.org!

Travel Tip: Be sure to make time to head over to the Banneker-Douglass Museum of African American history and culture, focusing on the history of Maryland.

Hudson County, NJ

If looking for a day trip or a long weekend getaway with the fam this summer — you’re going to want to check out Hudson County, New Jersey. With education and history (and fun!) being a theme of these road trips, Hudson County (NJ) is on point. For your skater kid, head over to one of the many skate parks (Bayonne, Hoboken, Jersey City, Union City, and West New York) so they can show off their backside moves. There are plenty of gorgeous parks for the little ones — Pier A Hoboken, North Hudson Braddock Park, Hamilton Park Weehawken, to name just a few. My favorite for the entire family is Liberty State Park, situated on the Hudson River. The family (bring the stroller for the wee ones) can walk the two-mile Liberty Walk promenade with views of the One World Trade Center and Battery Park. When it’s time to rest or eat lunch, eat at the Liberty House Restaurant and take in the scene on the waterfront. And bringing that education and history theme into the trip, hop on a ferry via Statue Cruises and visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Liberty Science Center, the immersive, hands-on science museum is l. With so much to do in Hudson County, NJ — check out all the attractions, places to eat delicious food at visithudson.org.

Travel Tip: If, like me, you appreciate a well-planned map, you’ll love these helpful road trip itinerary maps that can be downloaded. I have my eye on the map that educates and traces New Jersey’s Black Heritage in Northern New Jersey and the Warren Heritage and Western Highlands: New Jersey Scenic Byways, but there are plenty more to choose from. Go to visithudson.org/nj-road-tripitinerary to pick your road map.

Poconos Mountains

(northeast Pennsylvania’s Carbon, Monroe, Pike, and Wayne counties)

If looking for a summer trip in the mountains, a Poconos visit needs to be in your future. This beauty is right out of a fairytale book with non-stop mountain terrain, rivers, waterfalls, and woodlands. While popular in the winter, the summer in Poconos is just as gorgeous and fun. There are 261 miles of bike and hiking trails as well as fishing and boating. Families can also visit the nine state parks and two National Parks. There are many camping options for families to pitch a tent and enjoy the outdoors as well. If kids need a break from nature (yeesh, I know only kids would need a nature break), your youngest kids will love checking out the giraffes at claws n paws or learning about the history of local art at the Antoine Dutot Museum & Gallery. There is so much to do in the Poconos, so definitely check out poconomountains.com to map out your family road trip to the Poconos.

Travel Tip:  Want to make more of a commitment to your summer vacation in the Poconos and visit year-round? I can’t blame you. The Sérénité is a private residence club at Camelback Mountain. The Sérénité has created a hybrid vacation program where your new vacation home includes luxe amenities, a clubhouse, and more. Yes, please!

For the full list of summer road trip destinations, visit NewYorkFamily.com.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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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

podcasts for kids
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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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