The Gerber Life Parenting Blog

What parents want to know

With work, family and finances, modern parenting can sometimes feel like a juggling act. The Gerber Life parenting blog gives parents advice and tips to help you take on today-and plan for tomorrow. Our parenting blog offers articles on saving money, college planning, family insurance, parenting tips, living green, and health and safety. Although we may not be able to manage your retirement account, drive your all-star athlete to practice, or cook your family's favorite three-cheese lasagna, our parenting blog can provide you with ideas, advice and tips so that you can focus on what matters most: raising healthy, happy kids. We invite you to join the conversation and enjoy our parenting blog.

  1. Dining in for Father’s Day? Celebrating From Your Home? Simple Ways to Make it Special.

    For some families, celebrating Father’s Day is all about dinner at a restaurant. Other families like to stay in and show dad a good time from the comfort of their own home. No matter which type of celebration you prefer, we’re here to help you make dad’s special day just that…special.

    Out and About

    It’s safe to say that dining out with children is never as relaxing as it was before you had kids. But there are ways to make your dining experience—especially one as important as Father’s Day—a bit more enjoyable. Here are just a few ideas:

    1.    Go to places that are family friendly. It may seem obvious, but taking young kids to a restaurant known for its romantic ambience isn’t a good idea for you or the other guests. You’ll probably spend the entire meal trying to keep your son or daughter quiet. That’s definitely not a great way to spend Father’s Day. Instead, try to find a place that’s a little noisy and doesn’t mind a mess on the table. You’ll be more relaxed—and happy—knowing your kids can be kids.

    2.    Beat the dinner rush. Since most people go out to eat after 6 p.m.—especially on weekends—make a point of arriving at the restaurant around 5 p.m. If you think the restaurant still might be crowded at that time, be sure to make reservations. You won’t wait as long to be seated and you’ll get your food quicker. And when kids are involved, you usually only have about a half hour before they start to get antsy.

    3.    Bring your own entertainment. Most family friendly restaurants offer crayons and placemats to keep kids occupied, but it’s also a good idea to bring some of your son or daughter’s favorite toys. Or, let your older kids play games on your cell phone. Games like Hangman can actually be fun for the whole family.

    4.    No snacking before going to the restaurant. If your kids ask for a snack before you go out, don’t give in! They may complain about being hungry, but that’s a good thing. After all, you’re going to the restaurant to eat.

    The Inside Scoop

    For the family that likes to stay home on Father’s Day, there are many ways to have fun with dad. These ideas might work for your family:

    • Host your own concert. Set up a pretend stage, get a hairbrush to use as a microphone, put up some folding chairs for your audience, turn down the lights and shine a bright flashlight on the singer. Then take turns singing your favorite songs. Be sure to cheer loudest for dad, since it’s his special day.
    • Host a movie night. Don’t just rent a movie and sit on the couch. Go all out to make it just like a night at the theater. Hand out tickets, set up a concession stand with fresh-popped popcorn and boxed candy, and turn down all the lights. Even though it’s dad’s day, try to pick a movie that the whole family can enjoy.
    • Look at old pictures and videos. Kids love seeing old photos of themselves and watching videos from when they were younger. If you have your photos in a box, bring it to the center of the room so everyone can sit around it. Or, if all your images are in digital form, create a slideshow on your computer. For videos, the best approach is to hook up the camera to your TV. That way, everyone will be able to see the show without having to huddle around a tiny camcorder screen.

    No matter how you choose to spend your Father’s Day—at a restaurant or in your home—don’t forget to tell dad just how much you love and appreciate him. That’s probably what he wants most anyway.

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    Categories: General Interest
  2. Father’s Day Gift Ideas to Help Dad Enjoy a Longer, Healthier Life

    One doesn’t have to look too far to find a news story about a “crazy” dad who screamed at the umpire or threw a tantrum on the sideline. The more powerful sports stories, however, are those that aren’t in the newspapers: the father who plays catch with his son every night until it’s too dark to see the ball, or who encourages his daughter to keep skating even though she has fallen down more than she has stood up, or who puts an arm around his child after losing the big game.

    These lessons in hard work, patience, perspective and love may not be front-page news, but you can celebrate them this Father’s Day. So, if your dad understands what it means to build healthy character in his kids, give him a gift that shows how much you appreciate his healthy attitude – one that says, “We want you to enjoy a long, healthy life!”

    Here are a few ideas:

    • Set up a basketball hoop in the driveway, and then challenge your dad to a game of one-on-one. If you’re feeling really generous, let him win.
    • Turn off the TV. The typical dad may want to relax on Father’s Day but that doesn’t mean he has to sit on the couch and watch television. Turn off the TV and take him somewhere to do something active. For example, if he likes watching golf, go with him to the driving range. If he enjoys baseball, take a trip to the batting cages. Maybe the activity is as simple as just going for a walk together.
    • Cook a healthy meal. For some families, figuring out what dad would like for dinner is a tough decision. This year, make sure the meal is healthy and made from ingredients that you know he likes. You can find lots of recipes online, but don’t stop there – buy him a healthy-cooking cookbook to tempt him to eat healthier all year long.

    If none of these gifts are quite right for your dad, find one that is, and make sure to give him a big hug as you give him his gift. Studies show that hugs can reduce stress, reduce heart rate, improve moods and lower blood pressure.

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    Categories: Health & Safety
     
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  3. Creating a Budget You Can Live With and Grow With

    It doesn’t ever seem like there’s enough money to do all that is needed. We’ve got a few ideas that will help you stretch your dollar just a bit more.

    Here are a few tips for creating a realistic and financially sound budget:

    The Basics

    1. Get out your bank statements from the past three months, and then…

    • On a piece of paper or on the computer, make two columns. Jot down your monthly income sources in one column, and your monthly expenses in the other column.
    • Distinguish between your fixed (unchanging) expenses – such as rent or mortgage payment, cable TV bill, car payment and minimum credit card bill – and your changing expenses – such as groceries, entertainment and eating out.

    2. In the “expense” category, include an amount to save and an amount for unknown expenses.

    • Save about 5 to 10 percent of your monthly income, to go into a savings account.
    • Set up an automatic transfer into your savings account each month.
    • Add a buffer for unknown expenses, such as car or home repairs. Not sure how much money to set aside? Think bigger than you might need. That way, if you don’t spend the entire amount, you can make an extra payment on a credit card, or deposit the money into your savings account, or carry forward the amount to next month.

    3. Do the math.

    • Tabulate the total for monthly income and the total for monthly expenses.
    • Subtract the total expenses from the total income.
    • If there’s money left over under “income,” put it in a savings account. Coming up short? Take a good, hard look at where you’re overspending – and start to cut, cut, cut.

    Some Ways to Cut Back

    • If you go to the movies, go to matinees. They’re much cheaper than nighttime movies, and a great way to spend time with your family. Remember to take snacks with you, rather than buying expensive snacks at the movie theater. Better yet, rent a film and have a movie night at home.
    • Make several large meals, and use the leftovers during the rest of the week.
    • Use grocery-store coupons, but only buy what you need. Stay away from buying in bulk.
    • Shop at consignment shops and outlet centers for bargains on clothing and home decor items.
    • Instead of buying that expensive mocha frappuccino, search the Internet for a recipe for mocha frappuccino and then make it yourself for a fraction of the cost.

    With a good, sound budget in place, you can sleep better at night and start building a nest egg for the future – and set a good example for the kids.

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    Categories: Saving Money
     
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  4. How to Stay Fit and Fabulous When You Have Kids and Oh So Little Time

    The kids, the laundry, the job, the bills – when is there time to exercise? Fact is, if you don’t exercise, you won’t be able to take care of the kids, the laundry, etc… Here’s how you can do a squat here and some cardio there, when you seemingly don’t have even a minute to call your own.

    • Walk around the neighborhood. Bring your child along in a stroller or carry your child in a baby carrier or sling.

    • Jump rope or jump on your kid’s trampoline. It’s great cardio and great “together time.”

    • Dance. Gather the kids, put on their favorite music and shake those hips.

    • Do squats, lunges, calf raises and crunches. You can do one exercise while watching TV, another while brushing your teeth, and another before showering.

    • Take the stairs whenever you can. Ten minutes a day of this and your legs and glutes will thank you.

    Try to make it a habit to do something good for yourself – such as exercising. Even with little time on your hands, you can aim to fit it all in, so you can be fit and fabulous.

     

    “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
    —Tenneva Jordan, author

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    Categories: Health & Safety
     
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  5. Considerations When Saving for College

    Whether your child is still learning to walk and mobilize their toddler tools, or moving deftly toward college age, you should be saving for college. Here are some things to consider to start saving for college properly.

    1. Current age of your child. Children have a habit of growing up much too fast for most parents’ taste. If you haven’t yet experienced this phenomenon, you will. When you look at your 15 year old, you’ll see him/her at age two or three—which was only “yesterday.”
    2. College costs continue to increase unabated. When current Baby Boomers went to college, “expensive” tuition was around $2,000 to $3,000 per semester. This level applied only to more prestigious schools, like Harvard College, Boston College, and Stanford University. Today, in most cases, you merely need to add another “0” to estimate tuition.
    3. Classic and newer options to save for college. Classic
      college savings options include savings accounts, CDs, investment accounts, mutual funds, annuities, and U.S. Savings Bonds. Newer college planning choices include 529 plans and Coverdell education savings accounts. The Gerber Life College Plan is another excellent option. It provides a “guaranteed benefit payment” for children expected to begin college in 10 to 20 years.
    4. Your current and projected financial condition. The recession of 2007 to 2009 taught us multiple lessons about financial uncertainty. Many who believed their jobs and finances were stable and secure received unpleasant surprises. We also learned that even the largest university endowment funds, from which most scholarship money comes, can be decimated by a down economy. Until—and unless—these funds recover strongly, millions of scholarship dollars will remain unavailable.
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    Categories: College Planning