Blog Posts by Charlene Prince Birkeland, Senior Editor

  • Play Ball: 5 things kids learn from Little League baseball

    photo credit: getty imagesphoto credit: getty imagesWhile Major League Baseball is just getting into a groove, millions of kids playing Little League Baseball are approaching the end of their season. (Yes, millions! According to Little League, more than 2.5 million children played ball in the 2010 season.)

    As a parent, I'm always shocked at how quickly the season goes by. Just when my kid's team has started to really look like a cohesive bunch, we're already looking at playoff schedules and the boys and girls are deciding which coaches to dunk in the dunk tank at Player Appreciation Day.

    If you have a little one who's eager to get on the field next spring, it's a good time to pay attention to what's been happening throughout the Little League season in your town. You'll see a range of teams, with players who have big league dreams to kids who, in the third inning, are already thinking about what candy they're going to buy at the Snack Shack.

    What do kids learn from playing Little League baseball? Well, it all depends on the coaching

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  • School’s out! Five great early summer activities for kids

    photo credit: getty imagesphoto credit: getty imagesDoes the start of your child's summer vacation take you by surprise?

    Sure, you know your kids are spending oh, about 12 weeks without school. And you also know it takes time to get into that summer vacation groove. (You can expect this "getting into the groove" time to occur during the wait for the start of summer camp. Naturally.)

    And yet? The last day of school arrives and you're wondering how your kids will pass the time over the next few months.

    Fear not, anxious parent. We have five activities you'll want to pursue during the early stages of summer vacation.

    • Plan a Do Nothing Day. Maybe it's the first day of summer vacation or a few days into the break, but pick a weekday where the kids can wake up and just hang out in their PJs all day (if they so choose). You have nothing on the schedule but time to just chill out. Let the kids decide what they want to do with two rules: the activity has to be relaxing and not involve spending money!
    • Make the kids take swimming
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  • Snack Duty: Best snacks for after school sports

    Every parent who has a child on a sports team has signed up for snack duty for after a practice or game. And that parent usually faces a small dilemma the morning or afternoon of the event. It's that mild panic of "Oh no! Today's my day for snack duty!" mixed with "Oh no! What am I going to feed the kids?" Because even though you know snack duty is coming, that day arrives at the most inopportune time. Like when you're stuck in a meeting all day and have to pick up treats on the way to the event.



    It's easy to run to the store and grab a box of donuts or cookies and a pack of Gatorade, but are those snacks the best foods to be feeding the team after a workout?



    "Every parent wants to be the cool parent that brings the cool snacks," said Julie Matel, clinical dietician at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. "You want to avoid snacks loaded with sugar. Don't eliminate fun foods from diets. But a sporting event should be centered on health and what is healthy for our body. And these are

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  • New LeapFrog "Let's Go to School" DVD can help preschoolers "first day" fears (p.s. Dear LeapFrog, I love you.)

    Every parent has many, many "I will never forget when [insert child's name and memory]..." moments. For me, it was a few days after my second son was born. I was holding him in the living room and my older son, then 3, was singing on the patio. My husband called me out to watch because as my kid sang, he wrote each and every letter of the alphabet. He also knew the sound that each letter made. I was floored and thought, of course, that he was absolutely BRILLIANT.

    I'd like to take full credit for all of this but here's the thing: My kid learned the letter sounds from a DVD called "The Letter Factory" by LeapFrog. The main character, Tad, visits a letter factory where he learns letter names and sounds, and a catchy song that helps him remember the lesson. My son had only watched the DVD a few times, but it made a huge impact. And I've recommended this DVD to every single parent trying to get a preschooler excited about letters and reading. (Watching a DVD can't substitute for parental

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  • Without the Kids: 4 date ideas for new parents

    Sometimes new parents can't even imagine leaving the house without their adorable baby. Or they're just too tired and would rather hire a babysitter to watch the bambino so they can get an uninterrupted nap.

    In the hustle and bustle of changing diapers, cleaning bottles and nursing gear and surviving the general exhaustion that newborns bring, relationships often fall to the bottom of the list.

    Leaving the house without the kid (kids if you have multiples) becomes incredibly important for new parents because it gives the rookie mom and dad a chance to reconnect as a couple.

    You don't have to go on a fancy date and leave the baby home until the wee hours of the night. (Although I do recommend doing that every once and a while--24 hours a away from your kid can seem like a week-long vacation.)

    Here are five simple and budget-friendly date ideas for new parents:

    • Visit a cafe and bookstore. Whether it's breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or dessert, dining at small, quaint cafe
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  • Help your college kid get organized

    Help your college kid get oranized.Help your college kid get oranized.I was at my local bookstore earlier this week and this CollegeCase (US$20) caught my eye. It's a sleek binder filled with pocket folders for bills, banking information, pay stubs, and all of those important things that your kids will need to keep track of now that they're on their own in college. It also includes useful organizational tips.

    Seems like a good way to get your kid prepared for the new school year, no?

    If you want a more budget-friendly option, visit your local office supply store and buy a one inch binder, dividers and a few pocket folders.

  • Parenting Poll: What's the going rate for the tooth fairy?

    photo credit: purlbee.squarespace.comphoto credit: purlbee.squarespace.comMy oldest son is losing his teeth left and right. It's a big kid milestone and a big parenting milestone (mostly with Mom doing a lot of this: "Ohhhh, mah baaaay-beeee is growing up." Sigh. Look at baby pictures. Sigh again.)

    I've been saving cute "tooth fairy" ideas for the past year, because I love all things crafty and cute, and I also am very into creating family traditions. The tooth fairy pouches to your left? So, so sweet. And very simple to make.

    But as to what goes IN the tooth fairy pouch? That's questionable.

    Our tooth fairy leaves coins. There's something magical about finding shiny change that the kids can jingle and hear "clink" when they drop their booty into their piggy bank.

    How much? It has varied. The first tooth brought in two bucks. It was a big deal when my little guy pulled out that miniscule, sharp bead. The tooth fairy wanted to share the joy. (Um, "ohhhh, mah baaaay-beee.").

    Plus, this particular rookie tooth fairy was unclear on the going rate for teeth.

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  • New PBS parents blog helps parents inspire their kids to read

    Booklights from PBS Parents @ BlogHer 09Booklights from PBS Parents @ BlogHer 09I just took through the exhibit hall at BlogHer 09 in Chicago and one of my favorite finds? These adorable PBS parents booklights, which are helping to promote the site's new blog, Booklights. (Get it? Pretty cute.)

    If you need some help finding books for your young readers, or need ideas to help foster a love of reading in your children, you should definitely take a peek at Booklights. The bloggers offer really useful tips and insight, and their book picks so far have been wonderful.

  • Daddy Dish: Rick Springfield on parenting mistakes, child stars and how to raise a gentleman

    You lose track of time when you're talking to Rick Springfield, especially when it's a subject he loves. (He's kind of dreamy, so you want to talk for a long time.) And he really loves his two sons, and loves being a dad.

    A few months ago I posted part one of a video interview I did with Rick Springfield where we chatted about his new children's lullaby album, "My Precious Little One." Since then, I've been trying to whittle down the rest of the video into a single "part 2," but I spent an hour with the guy and seriously, I've been having trouble paring down the footage because I want to share it all.

    So. I'm posting three video clips where Rick talks about child stars, raising a gentleman, Rick's rookie parenting moves, and the difference he sees in parenting now versus back in the day. (We met at a coffee shop in his hood in Malibu; please pardon the background noise.) To view part one of the interview, click here.

    Enjoy.

    (Side note: I'll be posting some outtakes and snippets

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  • Etsy Pet Pick of the Week: Give your dog a wild look

    Wild thing...Wild thing...I noticed my dog's leash is getting a little worn and ragged, so I took a little Etsy stroll to search for a new one.

    I found this adorable eco-friendly green leopard leash (US$28) made by anniessweatshop. It's an inch thick and 4-feet long, which is perfect for walks. The leash is made from renewable or repurposed material and can toss it into the washing machine and dryer for easy cleaning.

    And it has a matching collar. Cute!

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