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Kids and Sleep: Children Ruin Sleep But You Can Make It a Little Better

My kids are 9, 4, and almost 2. I’m about to talk to you about getting the right amount of sleep, which is hysterical since sleep is the one thing no one in this house seems to get. But I’m going to give it the old college try.

First of all, know how much sleep kids are SUPPOSED to get.

Last year, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, changed its recommendations for how much sleep children should get and the highlights are as follows:

  • Infants 4-12 months should sleep 12-16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 1-2 years of age should sleep 11-14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 3-5 years of age should sleep 10-13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 6-12 years of age should sleep 9-12 hours per 24 hours
  • Teenagers 13-18 years of age should sleep 8-10 hours per 24 hours

Some parents are blessed with kids who come home from the hospital and sleep through the night right off the bat. But if you’re like me and none of your three kids fit this description, you’ll want to use a bat to bludgeon yourself because maybe then, in a fit of unconsciousness, you’ll actually get some rest.

Even when they got older, they weren’t good sleepers. Which is to say, they’re not really good sleepers right now. Will finally sleeps through the night, but Tommy is 50/50 and we often have to go get him once or twice in the wee hours of the morning.

And then there’s Sammy.

This picture is Sam sleeping on a dog bed on the floor in our room. That’s how desperate we were for sleep. Even before bed, Sam is difficult. He requires a set regimen and very specific, detailed agenda before he even considers falling asleep. So every night, I have to:

  • Sing him “In Heaven There is No Beer
  • Then I sing him “Keg on My Coffin
  • I end things with “Wagon Wheel
  • I have to tell a story that involves a dragon and Snow White, but it has to be new and original
  • I spray “monster dust” around the room and on Sam
  • I tuck him in like a mummy
  • I ask him what sweet dreams will have, and he answers either “catching big bass” or “anteaters” (his favorite animal).

Even after all that, chances are he’s going to get out of bed 3-5 times before he settles down. And even when he settles down, he’s going to get up at least once and try to sneak into our bed.

It’s exhausting and I feel like we’re failing ALL. THE. TIME. But we persist, mainly because we have to for their own good. A study published in Pediatrics found that children with non regular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties, and consistent sleep routines lead to positive outcomes such as improved attention, improved behavior, and improved emotional regulation. The bottom line is insufficient sleep in children can also lead to increased risk for challenges with weight, hypertension, diabetes and decreased performance at school (not to mention erosion of parental sanity).

So how do you improve sleep habits, especially with many kids going back to school? Luckily, there are some things you can do to improve your odds along with one thing you should NEVER do. Let’s start with that one first.

No matter how tempting it might be, never give your child an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to make them sleepy. If you are giving them OTC medicine, always read the label as cold and flu medicines may contain diphenhydramine, which can cause drowsiness. It is important to only treat your child with the right OTC medicine for the symptoms they are presenting, not to aid in sleep. And no whiskey on the gums, no matter how much your grandmother swears it’s fine.

Now, here are some things you CAN do:

  • Get into a routine and stick to it – consistency breeds familiarity which (hopefully) results in Zzzzzzzzzs. But if you have them going to bed at 11 pm one night and 7 pm the next, that’s going to be impossible.
  • Use 8 pm as a guideline – Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Mama Doc says melatonin levels naturally rise in kids under the age of 12 around 8 pm, and they begin getting tired. We try to follow Nature’s lead and make the transition to bed at 7:30 for Tommy (2), 8 for Sam (4) and 8:30 for Will (9).
  • Limit screen time before bed – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all screens be turned off 30 minutes to 1-2 hours before bedtime. Small screens (like smart phones) are more disruptive to sleep than TV because the light from the devices can impede natural hormones that help us fall asleep. My kids are still too young for cell phones, but when they do get them, they won’t be allowed to sleep with them in their rooms.
  • Start a sleep diary – Granted, I haven’t tried this yet but after looking into it as a suggestion from the folks at KnowYourOTCs, it seems like a smart idea. Also, it would’ve come in handy for us as we just took Sam for a sleep study and other tests, and the information would’ve really helped the doctors as they try to treat him. Click here to learn more.

In the end, every kid is different and while a lack of sleep is a rite of passage for most parents, it doesn’t always have to be so hellish and there are ways to mitigate the damage. Well-rested kids are healthier and better adjusted, and so are their parents.

Or so I’ve heard.

This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Healthcare Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are my own.

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Tips for Preventing Summer Bug Bites

Summertime means being out on the lake — with bugs!

When this is your view for the majority of your summer (at least on the weekends), that’s a very good thing. But it also comes with some very bad things — namely, a few million mosquitoes and other flying pests that could turn a smooth ride into a bumpy nightmare.

My kids love to be outside. And ever since I took up fishing and got myself a canoe, I love taking them out on the water. We navigate new rivers, ponds, and lakes and pretend we’re explorers seeing new lands for the first time. We catch our fill of bass and pickerel and we SWEAR the biggest fish of our lives just nibbled on our line but barely escaped our clutches. And we definitely chronicle the wildlife we see.

Beavers firming up their dams and gnawing on trees. River otters darting across the river. And, unfortunately, bugs. So many bugs. Which is why I’ve learned a few helpful tricks to cut back on the damage, and teamed up with KnowYourOTCs.org to dole out a few ways you and your family can mitigate mosquito maladies this summer.

When it comes to a day outside and preventing bug bites, it’s all in how you prepare.

The most obvious way is using insect repellent. I’m now going to shout one word at you and if you take anything from this post, this is the word I want you to remember. Ready? DEET!!!!! Use repellent that has DEET. I beg you. This is BY FAR the most effective repellent you can use, and it protects for between 2-5 hours. Get more useful info here.

But when you’re using it, keep a few things in mind:

  • Don’t spray near kids mouths or noses
  • Spray in an open area
  • Apply the spray 15 minutes before prolonged exposure to the sun
  • Don’t use on kids younger than 2 months
  • Don’t use any sunscreen/DEET combos — it dilutes the effectiveness of the sunscreen

Oh, and don’t apply insect repellent directly to open wounds. I know this one from experience, because I’m frequently an idiot. It burned worse than that time in college when — well, that’s a story best left untold.

It’s also wise to wear long sleeves when you can. I know it’s hot and your kids will complain, but they’re probably going to whine anyway so at least they’ll be safer while being annoying, right? Also, avoid perfume and cologne as they attract more mosquitoes.

If your kids do have bug bites, there is some recourse to save what’s left of your sanity in between shouts of “BUT IT ITCHES!!!!”

First of all, consider some OTC meds and skin protectants, which you can find more about here. Also, your kids are going to scratch. They can’t help themselves, but you can do a few things to assist. Use an emory board to soften your child’s nails so when they scratch, they’re less likely to break the skin. And if that doesn’t work, cover up the bites with a band-aid.

And because I so don’t have all the answers, check out this video of Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, who is a lot smarter than I am with even more tips.

So go outside and play because it’s gorgeous out and soon (at least here in New England) it will be winter for 8 months. But make sure you take precautions and don’t mess around with bug bites while you’re hanging out in the yard or park. Because you shouldn’t be collecting mosquito bites, you should be catching outdoor moments like this.


This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Healthcare Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are my own.

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Video: Down and Dirty Sunscreen Tips for Parents of Young Kids

One solution to kid sunburns? Wear a hat!

Look, I could type all these well thought out and funny things to tell you how to put sunscreen on kids. But that takes a long time and no one reads anything anymore. So instead of that, I’m just going to show you two quick and funny videos (one of which stars yours truly and Sam!!) that have some great tips on what to look for in sunscreen and how to actually apply it to kids.

Now go forth and seize summer with no burns!

This one is the one with me and Sam:

And this one stars some other top-notch bloggers with ridiculously cute kids:

This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Health Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are my own.

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Video: 3 Steps for Safely Disposing of Over-The-Counter Medication

I’m gonna be totally honest with you — I never thought about expiration dates on  over-the-counter medication before. Also, I had a bunch of it in my medicine cabinet.

I’m not alone, either. Check out these stats:

  • 62% of adults have never sought information on how to properly dispose their expired over-the-counter (OTC) medicines
  • 50% of adults say they typically dispose of unwanted or expired OTC meds in the trash but only 8% mix them with undesirable substances before tossing

I hate cats and I loathe the taste of coffee, so kitty litter and coffee grinds have always been undesirable substances to me. But little did I know both would actually come in handy one day. That’s because they’re included in the three simple disposal steps:

  1. Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag
  3. Throw the container in your household trash

That’s it. Seriously. But if you want more information, you can check out more great tips here.

And although I generally try to keep my ugly mug off video, I’ve teamed up with some great Know Your OTCs bloggers who all combined to form one awesome video.

This is a sponsored post. I am collaborating with the CHPA (Consumer Health Products Association) Educational Foundation and knowyourOTCs.org. I was compensated for this post but as always, my opinions are my own.

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All You Need is Love (and Beat Bugs on Netflix)

Watch Beat Bugs and trick your kids into liking The Beatles
Watch Beat Bugs and trick your kids into liking The Beatles

It’s not always easy to know if you’re raising kids the right way, but if they know about The Beatles from a young age, then congratulations — you’re doing at least one thing very right.

But introducing young kids to old music isn’t easy. If parents say “Hey guys, I’ve got this great music you’re just going to love,” then that’s the kiss of death. So how do you get kids to stop listening to all the annoying crap and like the things you like? You trick them into it.

I admit, I had my doubts about the Netflix original, Beat Bugs, because at first glance it seems like just another obnoxious kid cartoon. Plus the sun has a face that really freaks me out. But then I realized it’s a cartoon built entirely around Beatles songs, and it quickly got really awesome up in the Daddy Files household.

My kids took to the theme song and haven’t stopped singing “All You Need Is Love” since. And let me tell you, there are few things cuter than a 3-year-old belting out “ALL YOU NEED IS WUV!” over and over again. The story is about five bug friends who live in some guy’s lawn, but that’s not really important. What you and your kids will love are the more than 25 Beatles songs that will warm your heart when sung by the next generation.

And some big stars are voicing them, too. You’ve got:

  • P!nk: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”
  • James Corden: “I’m A Loser”
  • Aloe Blacc: “Rain”
  • Robbie Williams: “Good Day Sunshine”
  • Eddie Vedder: “Magical Mystery Tour”
  • Frances: “In My Life”
  • The Shins: “The Word”
  • Wesley Schultz (of the Lumineers): “Honey Pie”
  • Sia: “Blackbird”

When Tommy hears the opening he loses his mind. When the older two hear the familiar strains they flock to the couch. Beat Bugs has the distinction of being the only thing that can bring my three boys together on the couch for an extended period of time without killing one another. That right there is worth it.

beatbugsboys

So if you’re a fan of children singing adorably and a Beatles aficionado, you’re going to love Beat Bugs. And if you’re not a Beatles fan, then you’re clearly a cyborg and this isn’t for you.

As a Netflix StreamTeam member, I received free Netflix for a year and other products for this post. But as always, all opinions are my own.

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