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4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy Throughout the School Year

4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy Throughout the School Year

We always want to keep our kids healthy throughout the school year, but with the coronavirus, it has become more important now than ever before. Schools have always been a prime place for children to pick up germs and illnesses, so it’s necessary to take extra precautions before your kids get onto the school bus. Here are a few ways to get started:

Keep them up to date on their vaccines

While the coronavirus is still a major concern, that doesn’t mean you should forget about the other infectious disease that your child could come into contact with. During the early fall months, take your child to their pediatrician to get them up to date on their vaccines, including their annual flu shot.

Make sure they wear their mask

For most school districts, wearing a mask is required when attending class. If you have younger children, make sure they understand the importance of wearing their masks throughout the day. Additionally, give your child two masks to hold onto just in case they lose the one they’re wearing.

Teach them proper hand washing techniques

Regularly washing your hands is just as important as wearing a mask. When your kids head off to school, they should go knowing how to properly wash their hands. You can follow the CDC’s guidelines for how and when to wash your hands here.

Keep an eye on their stress levels

During such stressful times, it can be easy for our kids to feel overly anxious. Not only does this compromise their mental health, but it can compromise their physical health as well. Indeed, anxiety and stress can actually weaken our immune system, leaving us more susceptible to diseases. Keep an eye out for common signs of stress to make sure your kids don’t get too anxious throughout the school year.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want to make sure every child has a safe and healthy school year. For more tips, read more posts from our blog!

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How to Recognize Stress in Our Children

How to Recognize Stress in Our Children

We live in stressful times, and our children aren’t immune to this. However, it can be difficult, as parents, to recognize when our children are stressed out. Many children don’t have the proper words to express what they need or what’s bothering them, so it can be easy for parents to overlook their child’s stress.

It’s important, then, for parents to recognize the common signs of stress in children so they can get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Behavioral signs of stress

Children often display their stress and anxiety when they start acting out. Moodiness, aggression, even clinginess are all key behavioral signs of stress. This can happen at home, but it can also happen at school (especially if the source of stress is school). Teachers might complain that your child is getting into trouble or not paying attention in class. They might also start skipping school, withdrawing from their friends or family, and the like. If this starts happening with your child, try to get to the bottom of it before exacting a punishment.

Physical signs of stress

In addition to behavioral signs, there are also a few physical signs. Some of these include the following:

What to do

If your child is showing any of the above signs or symptoms, it’s important to try and find out why. Try talking with your child to see what it is that’s bothering them and what you can do to help. Once you know the reason, you can create a plan of action to try alleviating some of their stress. It’s also a good idea to teach your child better ways to manage their stress. This can be done through counseling or through regular mindfulness practices.

At The Zoo Factory, we believe our stuffable animals can be a great source of comfort for children during these times. To learn more, look through our inventory or contact us today.

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When Is A Newborn Baby Old Enough For Stuffed Animals?

When Is A Newborn Baby Old Enough For Stuffed Animals?

When it comes to bringing a newborn baby home, medical experts advise parents to do and not do many different things. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a leading cause of death for children under one year of age. An important piece of information parents should follow is to avoid placing toys, blankets or anything else into the crib that could increase chances of suffocation or SIDS.

The dangers of stuffed animals to newborns

While stuffed animals are cute, fuzzy and appealing to babies, they can pose a threat. Most babies learn to roll over between three and four months old, which increases the chances of suffocation. There are plenty of things you can do to decorate a nursery before it’s safe to put blankets and animals in the crib.

Wait until about 12 months of age

Newborn babies don’t have the strength or skill to remove items from their face while in the crib. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents do not put soft objects in a baby’s crib until 12 months of age. A soft object includes a stuffed animal, regardless of size.   

But keep an eye out for signs of maturity

There is a definite benefit of waiting for that first birthday before purchasing a plush friend for your baby. However, just like with many other things, you’ll have to wait for signs of maturity and development, and not really a number. A good guideline is about one year, but when your baby can remove things from his or her face, that’s when it’s safe to start the snuggling!

At The Zoo Factory, we have tons of adorable and soft stuffed animal kits that make a great gift idea for your child’s first birthday. By this milestone, you’ll have a sense for what animals and colors your child prefers, making the buying process easier. Look through our inventory to get started!

 

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How to Throw a Birthday Party During COVID-19

How to Throw a Birthday Party During COVID-19

From school to work, COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of our lives. It has even changed how we celebrate our children’s birthdays. We want this day to be special for our kids, but we also want to keep them and their friends safe from the virus. While you can’t hold a traditional birthday party in these times, you can put your own spin on it while keeping everybody healthy and safe.

Drive-by parties

If you want your child to see their friends in person, but you don’t want to run the risk of close contact, a drive-by birthday party is a great compromise. Put up signs and balloons in your front yard and have guests drive up to say hello for a few minutes. Guests can then hand over their birthday presents, while you can give those who stopped by a gift bag as well. At The Zoo Factory, we have Carry Home Boxes and other animal kits that are great for this purpose.

Zoom parties

If a drive-by party isn’t possible to do in your neighborhood, you can always opt for a zoom party. These are virtual parties done over Zoom or other video chat channels. While there is no risk of someone contracting COVID-19 from a zoom party, we still recommend that you keep the guest list small. Having more than 10 people (especially children) on one video call can get unruly. To get started, you can read our guide on hosting a zoom party here.

Backyard parties

Finally, if you’re in an area with low COVID-19 numbers, you can hold a small, outdoor party without much risk of infection. Keep the guest list small, and always provide the option for guests to attend through Zoom or Facetime instead (especially elderly family members). Do not let anyone into your home but keep the party outside in your backyard where there’s plenty of space to spread out. You’ll also want to keep high-contact activities to a minimum.

We may have to stay socially distant, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun. If you’re planning on throwing a birthday party during COVID-19, then take a look at some of our party kits to get started! 

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The Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids

The Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids

At its core, mindfulness is all about awareness. It means being fully present and noticing what’s happening around us. Most of us practice mindfulness in daily meditation practices that use our breath or our senses to keep us in the present moment. By staying present, we are able to enjoy a wide variety of benefits both in the short term and the long term.

While mindfulness can be extremely beneficial to adults, it can also bring a wide range of benefits to kids. Here’s how:

It strengthens cognitive skills

Cognitive functions such as organizational skills, attention spans, and remembering details can be strengthened by repetitive mindfulness practices. In fact, one study conducted over an 8-week period showed that a regular mindfulness program helped children better focus on the task at hand while also learning how to regulate their emotions.

Mindfulness can improve emotional health

In the modern day, stress, anxiety, and depression all seem to be commonplace. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Daily mindfulness practices can actually ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving overall self-esteem and emotional health. This is accomplished by teaching kids how to be present, and to reflect on their emotions in order to better understand them.

There are social benefits too

By improving their cognitive skills and their emotional health, mindfulness can also help our children when interacting with their peers. Mindfulness allows for greater empathy and compassion, helping kids better understand the people they interact with on a daily basis.

How to practice mindfulness

Clearly, a daily mindfulness practice can be a great help to our kids, but how do we get started? Thankfully, there are a few ways you can go about it:

  • Download a meditation appmany popular apps such as Headspace or Calm offer special meditation plans for children.
  • Buy a book on children’s mindfulness – in addition to apps, there are also many books available to teach parents and kids how to practice mindfulness.
  • Practice Breathing Buddies – this is a breathing exercise uses stuffed animals to teach kids how to focus on their breath.

At The Zoo Factory, we believe a daily meditation or mindfulness practice can greatly benefit all children. So, if you’re searching for a breathing buddy, look through our inventory to find yours today!

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How to Properly Store Your Stuffed Animals for the Long-Term

How to Properly Store Your Stuffed Animals for the Long-Term

If you’ve ever had to put away your stuffed animals, for any reason, you know how difficult it can be, both for sentimental and practical reasons. However, there will come a time when you just don’t have the space to keep your childhood stuffed animals around in your room anymore. For this, you will need long-term solutions that will keep your stuffed animals safe and protected. Here’s how to get started:

Display them

Most adults don’t play with their childhood stuffed animals, but they still get joy from seeing their favorite teddy bear sitting nearby. Displaying your stuffed animal collection using glass-front shelves or freestanding cases can keep them protected while keeping them in sight.

Use air-tight storage bins

Perhaps you don’t mind not seeing the stuffed animals but still want them protected while in storage. Air-tight storage bins are your best bet, as these will ensure that bugs, dust, and dirt won’t collect onto your stuffed animals. You can keep these storage bins under your bed or down in your basement. If you place them in your basement, try to keep them off the floor in the case of any flooding.

Wrap them in acid-free tissue paper or boxes

By wrapping each stuffed animal in acid-free tissue paper or acid-free boxes, you can preserve the life of the stuffed animals when they are not on display or in use. To prevent matted fur, try using more than one box to put the stuffed animals in. They should spring back to life and be ready for play or decoration when the time is right again.

For more tips on how to care for your stuffed animals, read through our blog or contact The Zoo Factory today!

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4 Tips for Giving Your Kids an Allowance

4 Tips for Giving Your Kids an Allowance

Many parents struggle on whether or not they should be giving their kids an allowance. However, allowances can be good teaching moments, helping your child learn how to better manage their money at an early age. If you’re planning on giving your kids an allowance, here are some tips to get you started: 

Make them earn it 

You shouldn’t just be handing out money to your kids every week. This will teach them very little about the rewards of hard work. Instead, have their allowance depend on the chores that they get done around the house. If they don’t do their chores, they don’t get their allowance. You can also add bonuses if your child does extra work around the house, or if they did particularly well on a recent exam. 

Give them one dollar per year of age, each week 

Once you have the rules set in place, the next thing you need to think about is how much you’re giving your kids each week. It’s recommended that you give them $1 per year of age, each week. In other words, if you have a 5-year-old at home, they should be earning $5 each week. Once they turn 6, they’ll earn $6 each week, and so on and so forth. 

Encourage them to save 

Kids have poor impulse control, so they will likely want to spend their money right away. If this is truly what they want to do, then let them, but you should try encouraging them to save their money for something else down the road. Help create an end-goal (such as tickets to an amusement park or a new stuffed animal) that they can build towards to teach them the benefits of saving. 

But let them spend their money how they want 

At the end of the day, your child earned that money fair and square, so they should be able to spend it on what they want. Even if it’s something silly that they won’t want in a few hours, buyer’s remorse can be a good teaching moment for your kids. The more they experiment with their money, the more they will learn how to better manage it in the long run. 

Once your child has saved up some money of their own, one of the many things they can buy for themselves is a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory. Check out our inventory to get started! 

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How to Encourage Your Child to Read

How to Encourage Your Child to Read

Reading is one of the best things a child can do for themselves. Not only will it help them academically, but it will also help them throughout their entire lives, giving them access to a vast collection of knowledge and skills. Vocabulary, critical thinking skills, attention span, and more are all tied to reading. However, not all kids are keen to pick up a book right away. Thankfully, there are ways to encourage a love of reading in your child from an early age. 

Read with them 

Reading with your child sets a good example while also associating reading with something enjoyable (i.e. spending quality time with you, their parent). The more often you read with your child at an early age, the more likely reading will become a habit.  

Let them pick the books that they want to read 

One of the reasons why kids dislike reading is because they dislike the subject that they’re reading. If they’re given books to read that they think are boring, they’re less likely to crack open those books in the first place. Instead, take your child to the library or your local bookstore and let them pick out the book that they want.  

Make sure the books aren’t too easy or too difficult 

Even if your kids are reading books that they find interesting, if the material is too difficult for them to read, they might get frustrated with it. Conversely, if it’s too easy, they’ll likely get bored with it. Make sure that whatever book your child picks out is roughly at, or just slightly above, their reading level. If you’re not sure what they’re reading level is, consult your child’s teachers. 

Reading buddies 

Another technique that parents use to encourage reading is reading buddies. This is where stuffed animals are used to help children learn how to read. Children can read books to their stuffed animals, or parents can use stuffed animals to hook their kids into a particular book. 

Looking for a new reading buddy for your child? The Zoo Factory has you covered. We have stuffable animals of all shapes and sizes, so look through our inventory or contact us for more information. 

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Helping Your Child Return to School After COVID-19

Helping Your Child Return to School After COVID-19

School districts around the country are taking steps to safely return kids back to school. Some schools are bringing kids back completely, others are doing a hybrid model, and there are a few that are opting for completely digital learning. While schools are doing everything that they can to keep your children safe, there are some things that you, as a parent, can do as well to better prepare your child for the new school year. 

Talk to them 

Older kids likely understand the risks that are involved and the precautions they need to take when going back to school. Younger kids, meanwhile, may struggle to understand why they need to wear a mask or why they’re not going to school five days a week. Before the school year starts, take some time to sit down and talk with your child about why this new year will be different and how important it is for them to practice good social distancing.  

Check their temperature each morning 

One of the first signs of COVID-19 is a high temperature. Catching it early will help ensure that your child doesn’t spread the disease to other children and families. Check their temperature every morning to determine whether or not they should go to school. If their temperature is ever higher than 100.4 degrees, then they should stay home. 

Get them a mask and hand sanitizer 

It is more than likely that your school district will require children to wear masks. Even if they are not required, it is still a good idea to wear them. Be sure you have at least two masks for your child, as chances are, they’ll lose their first one eventually. You should also equip them with some hand sanitizer to further limit disease spread.  

If you can, avoid the bus 

Buses can be a prime spot for the coronavirus to spread. If you can manage it, try and drive your kid to school yourself, or have them carpool with a trusted friend. If the bus is your only option, then make sure your kid wears their mask and stays six feet away from other kids at all times.  

These are stressful times for both parents and kids. That’s why we at The Zoo Factory want to do everything we can to make things easier on families. Our stuffable animals can be a great source of comfort to kids, and our blog is an excellent resource for parents. Have further questions? Then don’t hesitate to reach out today! 

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How to Repair Your Child’s Stuffed Animal

How to Repair Your Child's Stuffed Animal

Our children’s stuffed animals go through a lot. They’ve been squished inside of a suitcase, dropped in a pile of mud, slept on during the night, and much, much more. While stuffed animals are hardy creatures, there will come a time when their stitches and seams begin to weaken or break all together. While some injuries are beyond repair, there are ways for you to get your child’s stuffed animal back to normal again.

Inspect the damaged part

Begin by inspecting the damaged part of the animal. Consider whether this is a simple fix you can do at home, or one that will require help. Often times, it’s easy enough to fix yourself, but for those who don’t know how to sew, there are repair shops, or “stuffed animal hospitals,” where a “sick or injured” stuffed animal can be “healed.”

Match the thread colors, content, and size

If you can do the repair work yourself, be sure to match appropriate thread colors, content and size. By using the right tools, you can replicate the original work, which will help maintain the integrity of the stuffed animal. Of course, to your child, just being able to hold their friend again might be all that matters, so to each their own when it comes to making repairs.

Replace the stuffing

If the animal has lost any stuffing while torn, be sure to replace it with a like fill. It will help the animal regain its original shape and keep the fabric in place. Even if no stuffing has been lost, if the well-loved stuffed animal is showing signs of stuffing shift, try to reposition it before you begin stitching or mending.

Fixing your child’s stuffed animal is often quick and easy, but there will come a time when that stuffed animal is beyond repair. When this happens, The Zoo Factory is here with plenty of stuffable animals that your child will adore. Look through our website to get started!