Helpsters Help Your Kids Adjust to the New Normal

Helpsters Help Your Kids Adjust to the New Normal

We are nearing two months since the stay at home order began in Illinois. But just as we are beginning to adapt to being at home, we must now prepare to slowly get out there. Except we will be heading back wearing masks, armed with hand sanitizer, keeping a distance from others, and, if necessary, wearing gloves. For children, it can be scary to step into this new environment.

When I learned about the new series, Helpsters Help You, which is created by the makers of Sesame Street, I was thrilled because the concept is brilliant and it is FREE for all families! Helpsters Help You is an Apple TV+ series of shorts that focuses on helping children solve problems and make plans when facing a challenge. It provides timely messages and activities for kids to assist them in the process of adjusting to a new normal–a time when they can no longer hug people, play with kids or go to places they used to enjoy.

Helpsters Help You offers newly created content that is aimed at positively impacting your child’s life in this new environment, while entertaining your child with a friendly and familiar gang of Sesame Street-style puppets. The series is available on both Apple TV+ and Apple TV, the latter which is available FREE! You can also download the episodes to your device to watch offline. So, if you are looking for something new to do with your kids, help is on the way palsies! 

What is Helpsters Help You About?

Helpsters Help You stars a team of vibrant monsters, the Helpsters, who love to help anyone with a problem. Each week, Cody, a monster, brings positivity, ingenuity and creativity to all her friends who are at home. Cody and the Helpsters share creative ideas for what to do when life doesn’t go as expected.

The series comes with a fun, engaging, Helpsters Help You activity book that you can download to give your kids additional ways they can help at home. The activity book has 35 pages of creative and fun activities for kids of various ages. I downloaded the coloring sheets because my two-year old son loves to color.

Some of the coloring pages from the activity book that my son colored

What Are the Episodes About?

My two-year old son and I watched the four free short episodes available right now on Apple TV. The episodes range from one to three minutes each, making them easy to watch. For the younger kids, like my son, the short length–as well as the friendly and familiar Sesame Street-style puppets, helped to keep him interested the entire time.

My son watching an episode of Helpsters Help You

Below are the free episodes we watched and the messages I took from each. The last one is a new episode that was just made available!

  • When Plans Change – Cody shares that a change in plans can easily be addressed by making new plans. If you can’t see your favorite tree because the park is closed, you can see the tree by using your imagination and making it with paper!
  • How to Be a Helpster – Monsters like to help people who need help. This episode helps children learn that they can also be contributors by doing things such as putting away clothes, cheering someone up, playing by themselves when someone needs alone time, or just asking someone how they can help.
  • Scavenger Hunt – Just because you can’t physically see and play with your friends does not mean that you can’t still play with them. Cody shares that you can still play with your friends via video chat by playing a scavenger hunt with her friend.
  • New! Bright Smiles & Hand Waves – Cody shares how she loves to give high fives and handshakes, but you can’t anymore if you are close. She shares that there is a new way to do the same by instead giving bright smiles and hand waves.

Share the Fun

Try out the activities with your family and share a photo/video of the fun on social media using the hashtag #HelpstersHelpYou. Below are various ways of sharing your kids fun with Helpsters Help You.

Overview of Helpsters Fun

As a mom, I am delighted to be a Helpster myself by helping to spread the word about this timely and much-needed resource for kids during this pandemic.

Working from Home with a Toddler: A Battle for Attention

Working from Home with a Toddler: A Battle for Attention
My son scribbles on my notepad while I am on a work conference call.

If there is one positive thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it’s more time with family. With the shelter in place order, everyone has to stay home–forcing more family time and home activities. For those who can work from home, like me, they are able to do so while caring for any kids they have. It is an unusual time when you can work from home while caring for your child.

I was excited to have more time with my son, as he was going to daycare before the COVID pandemic. But to say that working from home and caring for my son during the stay-at-home order has been a challenge for me is a huge understatement. I adore my son to pieces, and, actually, wanted to be a stay at home mom when he was born so that I could enjoy every part of his life. But since we need both incomes, working was the best option—even if we need to pay a hefty amount for daycare.

It is often the perception that working from home with your kids is the ideal scenario. It kind of is, but it depends how old the child is and how needy the child is as well. So how does someone manage to work a full day when there is a toddler doing everything in his power to get your attention, which impedes you from doing any work?

One of the many activities that I engage my son in during my work time.

In my case, I spend most of my workday having to play with my son, because he is not the type of child who plays on his own. My son is very social–at daycare and everywhere we goes. I also have to prepare his food and feed him a few times throughout the day, spend time trying to convince him that I need to change his diaper, and time to put him down for his nap. Sometimes he sleeps right away, sometimes it takes an hour.

I also have to watch him like a hawk to make sure that he does not hurt himself, eat Play Doh, put a paint brush in his mouth, and the list goes on. When I have conference calls, it is usually chaotic. Sometimes the person I am talking to has no idea—other times I just can’t hide it. I get multiple interruptions–taking my pen, pulling my earplugs, asking for more food, more milk, my attention, requesting to play with me…the list goes on. You don’t fight it because you won’t win.

I end my “work day” mentally and sometimes physically exhausted from trying to juggle working and being a parent. I have to wait until my husband gets home from work so that I can get to work–pulling in a lot of late nights and waking up with very little sleep. It is a vicious cycle. I start the week looking forward to Friday so that I can get a break.

I don’t blame my son. He is just being a kid. It is just an inconvenient situation that we have to get through so that we can help flatten the curve. Truly, we are blessed to have such a happy and outgoing little boy and to be able to be home safely with him.

I am without a doubt treasuring our time together. It is just a time with very little sleep.

Learning About Kidney Health Can Be Fun For Kids

Learning About Kidney Health Can Be Fun For Kids

Today is Take Your Child to Work Day, but due to COVID-19, most kids have already been watching their parents work from home over the past month. Parents have not only been homeschooling, but also supplementing their child’s education to keep them busy with various activities.

I recently learned from Fresenius Medical Care North America about a new initiative they developed to teach children about kidney health. As families in the Chicago area and across the U.S. wonder how to keep their kids engaged at home, especially with many schools closed due to COVID-19, Fresenius is encouraging families to take part in The Kidney Kid initiative–a collection of virtual learning activities that teach children about kidney health.

The Kidney Kid is a team of superhero characters that take children on adventures to learn about their kidneys and how to keep them healthy. While it’s important to make sure children are entertained and educated during school closings, it is also critical to promote healthy behaviors from an early age. Kids often learn that you need a heart, brain and lungs to survive, but what about kidneys? You need one too!

Obesity is a primary risk factor for chronic kidney disease (CKD); 381 million children and adolescents aged 0-19 were overweight or obese in 2016, making it essential kids stay active and eat healthy to curb the risk of CKD. The Kidney Kid provides opportunities for children at home to get exercise, stay entertained, and gain awareness of their kidneys. The program offers a website, free smartphone app, and games for children ages 6-12, all of which include activities for children to learn and have fun with their parents or teachers trying to teach from a distance.

My son playing with the Kidney Kid app.

So if you are looking for something new to teach your child today, check out the Kidney Kid. Get your child started on learning about that fourth organ in the human body that is necessary for survival. Kidney Kid is not only keeping my munchkin entertained today, but also teaching him about his kidney. He may be two years old, but we are getting ahead of the game!

Bye Bye Binkies!

Bye Bye Binkies!

Weaning off our son from his beloved binky was hard. I don’t know how some parents are able to do it cold turkey without shedding a tear. I can only assume that the child is not that attached to the pacifier. Hearing my son cry was hard–and we did not do it cold turkey!

Considering how attached our son was to his pacifiers, it was hard to imagine a time when he didn’t like them. But that was the case for his first three months of his life. We hoped we were one of those lucky couples whose baby did not really care for them and, therefore, you never had to struggle with weaning them off it.

The last of my son’s pacifiers.

Well, we were not the exception.

We never forced our son to like pacifiers, but we certainly encouraged it. See, Jason was not a good sleeper as a baby. After the first three months, we couldn’t get him to sleep on his own or without the aid of us rocking him to sleep. We were lucky that it was the only thing we struggled with. But he woke up several times after going to sleep. So we barely slept. We looked for ways to get him to sleep and stay asleep.

When we heard that pacifiers provide comfort and help babies sleep, we tried to get our son to like them. After refusing them for so long, we were surprised when he finally did. He loved them so much that he sought them for everything–sleeping, comfort, you name it.

My son enjoying his binky when he was around six months.

By the time he was two years old, it was time to wean him off. We were afraid that it would be harder to get him to stop using one the older he got, we feared that his teeth would be affected, and, according to his pediatrician, that it was likely not helping with his recurring ear infections.

We couldn’t cut him off cold turkey so we started slow…and it was working! If he had a pacifier during the day, we asked him to give it to us and surprisingly, he did! But he still called out for it at night. When we decided to wean him off it during his naps and bedtime, it was hard. He cried very much and begged for them.

I admire parents who easily cut off a child’s bottle or pacifier cold turkey. But that is just not in my blood. Also, every child is different. So, what may be hard for one child, may be easy for another. So I had to keep reminding myself that it will happen. That is where we are right now.

They were never used again!

I am grateful for all of the comfort the binkies provided my son. Their job is done and we must move on!

What They Don’t Tell You About Toddlers

What They Don’t Tell You About Toddlers

What does a hematoma, a busted lip, a scratched out cheek, and bruised forehead have in common? A toddler! I am not talking about an angry toddler, but rather a happy, sweet and active toddler who has no concept of what he is doing when he is playing. In this example, the victim is me and the toddler is my cute little munchkin.

When I gave birth to my son, I read a lot about raising a child. I read numerous articles about feeding, bathing, sleeping issues, learning to walk and talk—you name it. What I did not learn in all of this reading is that when those cute little babies turn into toddlers they can pose a health hazard—to you! I’m not talking about exhaustion or sleep deprivation—which I already talked about in a previous post—but rather a hazard to your physical health. Toddlers, I’ve learned, can unknowingly hurt you when they are carelessly playing with you or when they just suddenly make a jerky move. There is not a lot written out there about this common stage so I will tell you my experience with it.

In my case, I have a very happy and playful two year old. I play around with him a lot physically—tickling him, carrying him, pulling him—because that is how he likes to play. He is a boy so he is much more of a physical player. When we play like this, he tends to get super excited and carried away—all while laughing out loud. But all of this playing has at times come with some pain.

In the past year, my son has left me with a hematoma on my left eyebrow from head butting me, a bruised forehead from slamming a wooden puzzle on my face, a few swollen and busted upper lips from hitting me with a toy and a swollen cheek from digging his nails into it. Most recently, I stopped him short of hitting my neck and knocking the wind out of me. I was so stunned about what may have happened that I told my husband…in shock that I had just prevented a serious injury. Nothing happened, and I can laugh at that now, but I know that I need to keep one eye open always with my munchkin.

I recently read an article from Bored Panda that hilariously illustrates the various toddler “weapons” and how those weapons can hurt parents. Thinking back about it, it is quite funny and it is a relief to know that I am not alone!

Achoo! Under Two

Achoo! Under Two
My son showing me how he can blow his nose on his own

Having a cold sucks. Having a child under two with a cold sucks even more. It is not just awful because you don’t want to ever see your child sick. It sucks because you can’t give a child under 2 years old any cold medicine to alleviate his cold because it can cause serious and possibly life-threatening side effects. Therefore, you must resort to several non-medicine remedies to help your little one get better soon. Below are some common remedies my son’s pediatricians (we saw a pediatricians medical group) told me to use and my experience with them.

  • Saline nose drops or spray to keep nasal passages moist. 

My experience:  It works great to break down the sticky mucus that you can’t see and wipe with a tissue. I used the nose drops when my son was under one year. As he got older he began to refuse the nose drops so I tried using the nasal spray and he flat out refused it every time so we never really used it.

  • Nasal suctioning with a bulb syringe to suction mucus from nasal passages. 

My experience:  This simple little bulb is probably one of the best inventions out there for infants! It was amazing to see so much of the mucus suctioned out with this magical little bulb. My doctor instructed us to use it shortly after the saline nose drops as it made it easier to suction the mucus out. Again, my son let me do it when he was little, but fought me from using it as he got older. 

  • A cool mist humidifier to shrink nasal passages and help him breathe better. 

My experience:  It did not seem to make much of a difference. I still used it several times, just in case it helped in some way that I did not see. However, I did not notice my son feeling or breathing better after using it. We tried to get it as close as we could to him without it being too close.

  • Infant acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever and aches. 

My experience:  We used this when our son was older (not a newborn) and the doctor gave us the okay to use it. This greatly helped to reduce his fever and discomfort.

  • Plenty of liquids to keep him hydrated.

My experience:  We not only gave him plenty of milk to drink, he wanted it. Because his little nose was runny, he depleted a lot of his liquids and was parched. When he was 12 – 18 months, we were weaning him from his bottle. However, he also started daycare, which led to a lot of colds and other sicknesses. We let him have his milk in his bottle when he was sick and that provided some comfort to him.

Every child and family will have their own experience with these common remedies for children under two. This is just my experience. Who knows? You may have more success than I did with the humidifier! Always check with your doctor to see what he recommends for your child.

I will do anything to help my little man get better soon. But I am relieved that he will be two years old soon and hope to finally be able to give him some limited children’s cold medicine when he gets a cold.