When I first saw commercials for this, I thought that it was one of the dumber things I’d ever heard of. Markers? That don’t make a mess? Why on earth are you getting markers if you don’t want a mess? Then I started nannying full-time. It is literally impossible to keep an eye on a child at every moment, and when you blink, that’s when you hear the shriek of the older sibling screaming “NO BABY! DON’T COLOR ON THAT!” Yeah. That’s when I got the appeal.

crayola-color-wonderThe Schmoops loved these coloring books – especially the Princess ones, of course. Mainly they were left to Schmoopette, though Schmoopelina had some special glitter pages of her own. Schmoopelina (age 5) loved to sit and draw pictures with marker, so it was awesome to have something to give Schmoopette (age 2) where I didn’t have to be breathing down her neck to keep her from drawing on the table (though I did encourage her to stay on the paper, even with the “magic” markers). I will say though that even more than most coloring books, these really inhibit creativity as there are “hidden” scenes in the backgrounds. Cute… but at the same time… what if you wanted to draw your own background?

crayola color explosion mini

The Color Explosion is a pretty much perfect mess-free pick-up anywhere art project. It’s awesome. Black paper that reveals to rainbow colors with the “magic” marker. Schmoopette and I made a bazillion designs on these and I wish I had scanned them – pretty much all designs look great with this, but the more abstract ones become totally, totally awesome.

GoPaint

Thing 2 is currently having a “drawing on the walls” moment and I nearly cried to hear the sentence “I guess we won’t be giving him crayons for a while.” He’s not up to pencils yet, and markers are certainly out of the question. I can’t possibly entertain an existence where drawing wasn’t at least an option for him, so I picked up a pack of Elmer’s Go Paint markers w/drawing paper. Like the Color Wonder, the markers are only supposed to work on the paper they come with. I did my best to find the most open-ended package (that is, one without pre-drawn scenes to “color in”) and hopefully, he’ll enjoy coloring with it and we can work on “drawing goes on the paper!” while also keeping the walls safe from re-decoration.

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NOTE: These reviews are based on usability of the product for the nanny. Do not use alcohol based hand sanitizers on kids’ delicate skin! Ok!

Given that it’s flu season and the only thing more ubiquitous than the little respiratory mask at the doctor’s office is tubes of hand sanitizer, I thought I’d share my experiences. I’m not pro-hand sanitizer outside of work, but when you’re wiping someone else’s butt and that someone doesn’t exactly allow you time to fully wash your hands before charging down the stairs… yeah, it’s a little tube of sanity.

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H5N1 Virus

CareOne/Generic Brand Lemon Scented Hand Sanitizer: This was in-stock at the Schmoops’ home. I guess MamaSchmoop enjoys having her hands smell like lemons. I do not. I don’t like lemon scented anything, really, and that’s just me. Other than that, it’s kind of drying – just like Purell – only more lemony.

Purell w/Aloe: Ok, so it’s like, $2 more than the regular 99c Purell/generic non-aloe alcohol-licious goo, but if you have extremely dry skin, it’s worth those $2. My skin? My skin it is so dry that it’s akin to sandpaper in the winters. This is my go-to.

CleanWell Non-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer: I bought this at Whole Foods thinking that it would be a good alternative to alcohol based sanitizers – it’s advertised as “kid safe.” Well, it would be, except that it smells like I just stuck my hands in a vat of Italian Seasoning. I guess thyme has anti-septic properties. This is great if you want your hands to smell like thyme, but if not, you’ll find yourself cursing the fact that you paid $4 for this. This is why you always use the tester first.

Nanny Tested: Strollers.

November 9, 2009

I’m a fan of strollers. Nannying in a city for a year and having to haul children and all of their accessories just would not have been possible without a stroller. I still enjoy using one occasionally with Thing 2 just because on his own, he’s all over the place and I feel much safer knowing that he’s not hurting himself if we’re off running a few errands. So, I have a few opinions on the subject and thought I’d share.

41W5k-NEHTL._AA280_Chicco lightweight stroller

The Chicco stroller I’ve used (with two families, no less!) is slightly different, and slightly inferior as it has no basket, but this is the basic concept. Very lightweight. No frills. Still, very sturdy and gets the job done. Without a basket, the stroller gets kind of unwieldy (or I do!) with bags hanging off, but with a basket, this would be pretty much perfect. Fits in the trunk of my car just fine. Also very easy to navigate in small spaces – on/off public transportation, etc.

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Maclaren Volo

This stroller is very similar to, but not as good as, the Chicco. The Volo I used was easier to fold up, but did not have brakes. No brakes! This is double plus ungood for riding on the subway where the brake is all that’s between you and the stroller flying on down the train – so I had to be extra sure to place my feet strategically around the wheels, which can get super tricky when the train is crowded. Do not want. The basket though is a big plus. Really love the basket. But really, a stroller needs some brakes.

Oddly enough, the day I post this, Maclaren has issued a recall of every stroller they’ve made since 1999 due to fingertip amputation hazard (!). Clearly, I was not pro this stroller in the first place, so there’s another reason to go for the Chicco.

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Phil & Ted’s Dash

This is the way to do a double stroller, if such things must be done. I can’t even imagine the pain and heartache of a side-by-side double and public transportation (or even sidewalks!). This one is itself plenty wide. I used it as a single stroller only in the winters when the big wheels were a total necessity for walking down snow-filled sidewalks, and definitely recommend it on that count as well. It’ll get through anything. It is rather bulky for the subway for just one child, but with two kids, it takes up far less space than any other double stroller I’ve seen. Only drawback: When using as a double stroller, there is no convenient place to hang a diaper bag thus turning nanny into a sherpa.

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Mountain Buggy Urban single

I imagine that these wheels would be awesome in the snow, but I have not used this stroller in a winter setting. This stroller is a beast. It doesn’t fit in the trunk of my car without a lot of manhandling, and even that means that everything else has to be taken *out* of the trunk (and that’s not a lot of stuff, but still). It’s very, very bulky. I’m pretty much a fan of the basket and that’s about it. It’s a lot of stroller for just one kid. While it says “urban,” I imagine that the best use of a stroller like this would be off-roading. Or, of course, jogging. If you roll that way, so to speak. This stroller does have a great feature that I haven’t seen in many toddler single strollers: the ability to recline the seat back. That’s awesome for a stroll that turns into a nap. Way awesome.

Nanny Tested: Sippy Cups.

November 5, 2009

As someone who works with toddlers, I’ve used my fair share of Sippy Cups. The argument can be made that they’re not too much better than a bottle with a different kind of “nipple” and to learn how to properly use a cup at the table it’s better to simply have adult assistance with a regular cup, but for trips in the stroller, they’re indispensable. That is, if you have the right one. Behold, sippy cups I have known!

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Munchkin style cups

These cups are perfect if you want a sippy cup for table use. They’re simple to use, simple to clean, and cheap. I wouldn’t recommend putting them in the dishwasher as this is not the sturdiest plastic, but they wash very easily in the sink with just a regular sponge. They’re not good for stroller usage as there’s no way to keep them from leaking or potentially spilling in a diaper bag.

31WJ0WK40YL._SL500_AA200_Avent sippy cup

Avent bottles are extremely popular and user-friendly. Their sippy cup, however, is a nightmare. Too many parts to keep track of – that handle is totally unnecessary, but without it the top doesn’t screw on quite right. That top is nearly impossible to clean in the sink, but it’s not always the best idea to put the sippy cups through the dishwasher since they’re completely made of plastic. This is theoretically “leak proof,” but it’s very difficult for the child to actually get any liquid out of the cup without tipping it totally upside down (like a bottle) which doesn’t actually aid the child in learning how to transition from a bottle to a regular cup. No one I know who has used this cup would recommend it.

317tt36hLSL._SL500_AA265_Gerber graduates cup

The Cadillac of sippy cups. These are by far my favorite. The plastic on these is extremely sturdy and dishwasher safe. The top is constructed that liquid only comes out when the child is sucking, much like a sports bottle. And yet, it is not so finicky that the cup must be totally upside down like the Avent top. Totally spill proof in a diaper bag. A ++. Love this cup.

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Rubbermaid juice box

The non-sippy cup cup. The family I worked with in Boston loved these and swore by them for diaper bag usage. I hated them. The plastic doesn’t go through the dishwasher well, so all of the tiny little parts must be washed by hand. Tiny. Little. Parts. If you’re willing to scrub with a toothbrush, you can get the top *fairly* clean, but it’s near impossible to clean inside of the mouth bit, especially once the child has bitten it down a few times. I would recommend a pipe cleaner (as demonstrated by OhDeeDoh) to clean the straw. Time consuming to clean, to say the least. Also: in my experience, they smell funny if you leave water in them for >2hrs. Do not want.