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How to Prepare Your New Babysitter

babysitter helping child color a drawing

After spending weeks looking for the right babysitter, you’ve finally found the perfect person for the job. However, finding a babysitter is just half the battle. You also need to prepare them for the tasks ahead if you want to set them up for success. Even the most experienced babysitter knows that no two families are alike. As such, you should take steps ahead of your babysitter’s first day with the kids to help everyone prepare.

Create an emergency contact list

Your babysitter will know to call 911 if a true emergency occurs. However, they should also have a list of family members, friends, or neighbors to call if something happens and they can’t reach you. Have at least three names and numbers on your list other than your own. You should also create rules as to when your babysitter should use these numbers. You may want them to call only if a true emergency occurs, or you may want them to call if they have questions or if one of the kids had a minor accident.

Make a schedule

Kids depend on routines, but your babysitter won’t know what your daily routines are. You don’t need to map out every single detail. Nevertheless, you should at least mention the most important parts of the day: when they eat, when they go to bed, etc.

Prepare meals or have a list of allowed foods

In most cases, a babysitter will be working around dinnertime, so they’ll need to know what to feed your kids while you’re gone. This is especially important if your child has food allergies or is a picky eater. You can prepare meals ahead of time, or you can create a list of allowed foods that your babysitter can either have delivered or make themselves.

Introduce your child to your babysitter ahead of time

Don’t wait until the first day to introduce your child to your babysitter. Even if your child isn’t particularly shy, they may have trouble dealing with a stranger at first. So, take some time out to have your babysitter get to know your child before the big day. You should also take this as an opportunity to let your babysitter in on anything they need to know about your child. This could include their food preferences, favorite toys, what they like to do for fun, etc.

Inviting a new babysitter into your home can be a challenging experience at first, but it doesn’t have to be. By creating a welcoming environment with plenty of toys and stuffed animals, your child and your babysitter will become the best of friends. To get started, look through our website here at The Zoo Factory today!

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The Best Games for Kids with ADHD

The Best Games for Kids with ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is one of the most common conditions in children across the nation. It can be a difficult condition to live with for both the child and the parent, but thanks to advances in modern medicine and psychiatry, many children grow up to live full and happy lives. However, it does mean making some lifestyle and parenting changes, including what kinds of games your child plays.

Movement-based games

Kids with ADHD often have a problem sitting still. Games that rely on movement, such as Twister, can help burn off that excess energy. Even something as simple as an indoor trampoline or a game of catch can help your child deal with their hyperactivity.

Computer or video games

Inattentiveness is a common symptom of ADHD, but on the flip side there is also hyperfocus. In other words, kids with ADHD can develop a laser-like focus on an activity they find particularly enjoyable. Many kids apply this hyperfocus to computer or video games.

Turn-based games

Turn-based board games such as Uno, Sorry!, or even turn-based strategy games like Civilization, can teach valuable lessons to children with ADHD. Oftentimes people with ADHD struggle with patience and waiting their turn, so a turn-based game can help instill those skills.

Mobile games

Just as computer or video games are great for kids with ADHD, so too are mobile games. There are a wide variety of games on the App Store and Google Play that would be great for your child. Puzzles, strategy games, and even movement-based games (think Pokemon Go) can all be found on your smartphone or tablet.

Solo games

One of the advantages of ADHD is that your child with have a rich, inner world. While they may struggle with inattentiveness, these same children will have a wonderful creative streak. This creative side can come out in solo activities, such as playing with dolls or stuffed animals where they can play out stories and characters. A doll or stuffed animal companion can also help deal with anxious emotions that many children with ADHD struggle with.

Here at The Zoo Factory, our stuffable animals can be a great toy for children with ADHD. Look through our website to find the perfect stuffed animal friend for your child!

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How to Prepare for the New School Year

How to Prepare for the New School Year

Summer is drawing to a close and soon our kids will be heading back to school. In the weeks ahead, it’s good for kids and parents to start preparing for the new school year. This is especially important this year with the coronavirus still spreading across the country and many kids remaining unvaccinated. Read on to learn how your family can prep for school in the coming weeks:

Create routines early

Routines can help your child stay on track each day. By getting up, going to school, and doing homework all at the same times each day, it’ll be easier for your child to get their work done. However, it’s important to start these routines early, preferably before school starts. That way the transition is easier on their first day of school.

Make pandemic preparations

Kids under 12 years of age are unable (as of writing this blog post) to get vaccinated. As a result, schools, parents, and children need to take extra precautions to keep everyone safe. Different school districts will have different requirements, so it’s important to be aware of your school’s rules before sending your child off for their first day. At the very least, make sure they have masks and hand sanitizer handy throughout the day.

Set realistic expectations

What would you and your child like to get out of the coming school year? Perhaps you want to get their grades up, or maybe they’re interested in getting involved in a new sport. Whatever your goals are, it’s important to set realistic expectations. For example, if your child has been getting Cs in Math, aim for a B instead of an A this year. To further encourage your child, offer rewards for a job well done.

One way you can encourage your child to do well this year is to give them a stuffable animal friend. Look through our inventory today to get started!

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What to Do When Your Child Gets Overstimulated

What to Do When Your Child Gets Overstimulated

You’re at the grocery store trying to stock up for the week. Then, suddenly, your child starts to scream and cry. No matter what you do, they won’t stop crying, and you eventually declare defeat and head home. Sometimes our children do this when they’re stressed, but they may also do this when they’re overstimulated. By recognizing the signs of overstimulation, you can help your child calm down sooner rather than later.

What is overstimulation?

Overstimulation occurs when a child is overcome with various sounds, sensations, and activities. This typically happens in loud, crowded areas such as a grocery store, school, a party, and more. Adults can often feel overstimulated as well, but with kids, they are less equipped to handle it. As a result, kids (especially toddlers) have meltdowns from too much stimulation.

Signs of overstimulation

Different children will react to overstimulation in different ways. Some may become more hyper or aggressive, while others might begin to cry or run off to a different room. Babies and toddlers are more often to cry and scream when they’re overstimulated. School-age children, meanwhile, may start acting wild, out-of-character, grumpy, or exhausted.

How to calm an overstimulated child

If your child starts to become overstimulated, it’s best not to panic. Stay calm and try to take your child to a quiet place. Let them sit quietly while doing a calming activity like reading, playing with a stuffed animal, or cuddling up with you. Once they’ve calmed down, ask them if they’d like to return to what they were doing or if they’d like to do something else.

Find the right amount of stimulation

In the future, it’s important to find what amount of stimulation your child can handle. This can help prevent meltdowns. Over time you’ll start to see patterns, and you’ll realize what situations cause your child the most stress. This does not mean you have to avoid these situations, but it may be a good idea to limit how much time you spend in them and give your child the ability to get away to relax.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we believe in the calming effect of stuffed animals. If you think a stuffed animal friend can help your child with overstimulation, look through our website today!

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How to Protect Your Kids from the Summer Heat

How to Protect Your Kids from the Summer Heat

School is out and summer is here! While you’re getting ready for pool parties, summer camps, and the like, don’t forget about summer safety. Our kids can be particularly susceptible to the summer sun and heat. So, here are some ways you and your kids can beat the heat this summer:

Lather up on sunscreen

Sunscreen is a must for kids six years and older. The sun’s UV rays can cause nasty sunburns and even put your kids at risk for skin cancer later in life. Before heading outside or into the pool, apply sunscreen 15 minutes prior to stepping outside. Your sunscreen should have an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 or greater (the higher the number, the more protection it affords).

Stay hydrated

Heat stroke and dehydration are one of summer’s biggest threats. Even if the temperature is relatively mild, your child can still get dehydrated quickly. Always have a bottle of water on-hand whenever you go outside. You should also be aware of the top signs of dehydration so you can catch it before it gets worse.

Never leave children in parked cars

Even if you’re stepping away for just a few minutes, you should never leave your child in a parked car. Cars can heat up rapidly, reaching dangerous temperatures in just a few minutes. The higher the temperature, the greater the risk of a heat-related illness or death, even if the window is cracked open. If you’re leaving your car, always bring your child with you.

Cool off inside

You can take all the steps above and still find your children hot and dehydrated. It’s important to take a break from the heat and find somewhere inside to cool off, preferably in an air-conditioned room. While they’re inside cooling off, give your kids some toys, video games, or stuffed animals to play with and to keep them occupied before it’s time to head back outside.

The Zoo Factory has plenty of stuffed animals your children can play with either inside or outside this summer. Look through our inventory today to get started!

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5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

Let’s face it, our kids don’t eat as healthy as they should. Instead of eating salad or broccoli, they’d rather have a plate full of chicken nuggets or macaroni. While these things are fine to eat every now and then, our children need a well-balanced diet in order to grow into healthy, fully functional adults. If you’re struggling to get your kids to eat healthy, here are some tips that may help:

Provide choices

Kids don’t like to be told what to do. If you tell them they have to eat that plate of broccoli no matter what, you’ll be in for a world of disappointment. Instead, offer them choices. Instead of having only that plate of broccoli, have them choose between broccoli, salad, or celery. This way you’re giving your kids some form of autonomy while still controlling what they put into their bodies.

Start small

Just as with any lifestyle change, it’s best to start small. Changing too much too quickly often ends in failure. If you want healthy eating to become a lifelong habit, then introduce new foods gradually and don’t eliminate sweets or junk food completely.

Include your kids while cooking

Many of our kids are suspicious of new foods, but they’re often more willing to try new foods if they had a hand in making them. Of course, you don’t want them doing anything that is too difficult for them, but even young children can handle basic tasks such as measuring or stirring ingredients.

Set an example

If you encourage your kids to eat healthy but don’t do so yourself, you will have a hard time getting them to commit. Set an example by making changes in your own diet as well as your children’s.

Have goals in mind

Does your child eat too much chocolate or drink too much soda? Then set goals to try and cut back on those unhealthy habits. Once again, start gradually by cutting out unhealthy foods a little bit at a time. If your child drinks too much soda, for instance, try cutting back on one can of soda each day first. After your child has done this for a few weeks, reward them, and then move the goal post to two sodas.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want all our kids to live happy and healthy lives. To learn more, look through our blog today!

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What Is Positive Reinforcement?

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

Kids misbehave. Even the most docile, angelic children will do something wrong at some point. How are you going to respond? Increasingly, parents and teachers are turning to positive reinforcement to teach their kids what is right and what is wrong. Here’s how it works:

How positive reinforcement works

Positive reinforcement is all about rewarding good behavior and ignoring the bad. For some caregivers, this may seem counterintuitive. After all, if we don’t punish bad behavior, how will our kids know what they’re doing is bad? Yet, studies have shown over and over that punishing bad behavior does little to prevent that behavior from happening again. Kids typically misbehave to get attention, and by punishing bad behavior, we’re giving them attention (however, not all bad behavior can be ignored, which we will address later). That’s why it’s best to turn our attention to the good things that they do instead of the bad.

How to practice positive reinforcement

Practicing positive reinforcement is all about praising and rewarding good behavior. This can range from verbal praise to offering gifts for a job well done. What you do to reward that good behavior will depend on the behavior. For example, if your child put their dishes away without you asking, acknowledge this behavior by verbally praising them or giving them a thank you hug. On the other hand, if your child has improved their grades over the past semester, consider giving them a bigger reward like a new toy or stuffed animal.

Be careful not to reinforce negative behavior

As we said before, punishing bad behavior simply gives your child the attention they’re seeking. As such, they’ll learn that this bad behavior is a good way to get your attention. While you’re practicing positive reinforcement, it’s important that you don’t also reinforce negative behavior. Positive reinforcement only works if you pay attention to the good things your child does and ignore the bad things.

However, not all bad behavior can be ignored. If your child got into a fight with another child, this needs to be addressed. When these incidents happen, make sure there are consequences such as loss of privileges or other logical consequences.

If you’re child has been behaving well recently, show them how proud you are with a new stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory! Look through our site to get started.

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Gift Ideas for Kids Going Off to College

Gift Ideas for Kids Going Off to College

Our kids are graduating high school, and before we know it, they’ll be heading off to college. As we well know, college is a huge step, provoking a lot of emotions like excitement, curiosity, and even anxiety. We can help our kids by getting them the perfect gifts to start their new life. Here are a few ideas to get started:

The Practical Gifts

College isn’t like high school. Our kids will have new responsibilities from cooking their own meals to preparing for tough final exams. As such, they’ll need a helping hand to get situated and used to their new life. You may not be able to look after them all the time like you used to, but you can still help them out even if you’re miles away. Here are some practical gifts that your kids can use every day to keep themselves afloat:

  • Programmable alarm clock: Some kids have a hard time getting up for that 8am lecture. Make sure they don’t miss out by getting them a programmable alarm clock.
  • College cookbooks: There is a plethora of cookbooks out there geared directly to college students. Many of these contain recipes that can be cooked inside a dorm.
  • Eye mask and ear buds: Sharing a single room can be tough. Give your kids something to block out any disturbances with eye masks and ear buds.

The Sentimental Gifts

While practical gifts are all well and good, don’t forget the sentimental ones too. College can be a rough transition, and most kids feel some sense of homesickness. A few sentimental gifts from their parents and family members can mean all the difference.

  • Framed pictures: Find a few sentimental photos of the family that your kid can hang in their dorm room.
  • Care packages: While your kids are away at school, be sure to send them care packages with gifts from home.
  • Stuffed animals: Stuffed animals aren’t just for little kids, they can also be for big kids who are making the tough transition into adulthood.

Are you looking for the perfect stuffed animal for your kids who are going off to college? Then look through our inventory here at The Zoo Factory today!

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Family Summer Activities for 2021

Family Summer Activities for 2021

In a little over a month, our kids will be out of school and starting their summer vacations. But COVID-19 is still a concern. While most of us adults will be vaccinated during the summer months, kids under the age of 12 likely won’t be. That’s because the FDA has not yet authorized any of the current vaccines to be administered to children, and that likely won’t change before the beginning of summer.

However, that doesn’t mean you and your family can’t enjoy themselves this summer. Here are some fun and safe summer activities the entire family can enjoy in 2021:

Go camping or to a secluded getaway

If you’re eager to get away from home, camping is a great bet. Unlike other types of vacations, you won’t be interacting with too many strangers. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the great outdoors. Even if you don’t want to spend your time in a tent, cabins or an Airbnb are still safe alternatives. They’re at least better than hotels where you have to share eating areas and stay in close quarters with other guests.

Visit friends or relatives

Chances are that the kids haven’t seen grandma or grandpa in quite some time. But the CDC has updated their guidelines, saying that fully vaccinated people can interact with unvaccinated people from a single household. This means that even if your kids aren’t vaccinated yet, they pose little threat to their grandparents or other elderly family members.

Start a new project or hobby

If you’re not comfortable traveling yet, there is still plenty for you to do in the comfort of your own home. Encourage your kids to pick up a new project or hobby. Plus, thanks to online resources like YouTube or Udemy, it’s easier now than ever to learn new tricks in the comfort of your own home. They can start gardening, drawing, painting, or anything else that may interest them.

Take a virtual tour

Many famous sites around the world are now offering virtual tours for families who can’t travel. Gettysburg, the Louvre, and the Smithsonian are just some of the many sites that offer online tours. So, settle down with the kids and get ready to experience some of the world’s greatest wonders.

If you’re looking to get your kid something special this summer, look through our inventory here at The Zoo Factory today!

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How to Encourage Your Kids to Get Better Grades

How to Encourage Your Kids to Get Better Grades

We all want our kids to do well in school. While some kids are intrinsically motivated, others not so much. They may need an extra nudge or two to truly put their best foot forward when it comes to schoolwork. If your child needs that extra encouragement, here are a few ideas to get you started:

Provide help with homework

Everyone needs a helping hand at least once in a while. Our kids are no different. When our children struggle in school, their motivation to do well takes a hit. They may believe that they will never understand a subject, thus believing that there’s no point in studying. If your child is in this position, consider providing them with some extra help either from yourself or from a tutor.

Set realistic expectations

Some kids will never be straight-A students. And that’s ok! Grades don’t always correlate with intelligence. Your child may struggle in math and science, but they may excel in art or music. Nevertheless, we still want our kids to do their best. So, instead of pushing your kids to get straight-As, encourage them to get grades just above what they are currently receiving. For example, if your kid has a C in Math, encourage them to bump it up to a B-.

Offer incentives

Incentives can be a great way to motivate kids who simply do not care about school. But make it an incentive that they truly care about. For instance, if your child loves soccer, tell them you’ll let them go to a summer soccer camp if they get their grades up. For young kids (such as kindergarteners or first graders), give them a special treat like new books, toys, or their favorite meal.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we offer plenty of stuffed animals for your child to choose from. To get started, look through our inventory today!