Everything you need to know to get your child a passport

Posted by Alina on Friday Feb 21, 2014 Under useful tips

Getting a passport for a child before you actually need it can eliminate much of the stress of going through the application process and paying expediting fees. There are plenty of other things to worry about when traveling with young children. A tip for taking a proper passport photo of an infant too young to sit in front of a white back ground is to lay them on a white sheet, snap a photo. I used one of the many passport photo apps on the iPhone, and the pictures were accepted without any issue.

What you should know:

– Every child traveling out of the country needs to have a passport.

– A child’s passport is valid for 5 years.

– Applications for minors, under 16 year of age, must be submitted in person. Both parents/ guardians must appear with the minor, or if only one can make it, he/ she must bring a notarized consent form (DS-3053) from the other parent. For single parent/ guardian situations you can get more information here.

What you need to apply for a child’s passport:

  1. Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
  2. Photo Identification
  3. Parental Consent
  4. Passport Photo
  5. Application Forms
  6. Passport Fees

How much does it cost?

The simplest option, currently, is $105. There is an $80 Passport Book Fee, and a $25 Execution Fee.

Of course various other fees may be paid for expedited processing, shipping, extra pages and more.

For more in depth information and to download needed passport forms (which may be filled out online and then printed), please go straight to the source.

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Toddler friendly iPhone apps

Posted by Alina on Tuesday Mar 16, 2010 Under mommy products, toddlers, useful tips

Although it is probably not the best idea to hand your iPhone over to your toddler, this maneuver has saved my husband and I on long car and plane trips as well as during long dinners out. Our son, who is now 22 months old, is unbelievably savvy with the device. He is able to open it, choose the application that he wants, play with it, and then move on to the next one when he’s bored. He also knows how to access the iPod and turn on the show of his choice. This probably shows that he has been playing with the iPhone a bit more than he should. However, Apple, knowing that parents like us are out there, offers applications that are fun and even educational for the little ones.

The following cost a dollar or two:

Tozzle is a shape matching app, with 20 different boards that kids can choose from. When a child drags a shape to its matching outline, it makes a sound appropriate to the shape (its name if it is a letter or number, sound of doorbell on a door, or sounds of the appropriate animal, etc…) The boards/ themes are very colorful, include letters (lower case and capitals), numbers, various scenes (fish in the sea, farm, garage, and many more). If after a couple of tries, the child does not match the shape successfully, an arrow appears on the screen and floats to help guide the child. This has been one of my son’s favorite apps.

Letters and Shapes from Toddler Teasers are two separate apps that my son enjoys as well. The child is asked to touch a certain letter or shape and if he/she gets it right, there are applause, cheering and after a few correct answers, they get a virtual sticker. If the child gets it wrong, he/she learns the name of the shape or letter he/she actually touched and is then asked to try again.

Kidzongs by Stepworks is a simple app that has 6 children’s songs with very basic animation and an option to have a voice sing the songs or just play the music so the child can sing himself. As simple as it is, my son enjoys this one, probably because of the familiar tunes, but does not spend a ton of time with it.

Kidztory by Stepworks makes apps of narrated children’s books.  The books are interactive, with the characters moving and making sounds if touched. I have The Little Red Hen, and this book can be narrated in English, Spanish, or Cantonese.

Wheels on the Bus from Duck Duck Moose is an interactive musical book based on the song with the same name. There are various pages with illustrations to touch and explore. You can choose to hear the song in different languages and played by different instruments. There is even an option to record yourself. This app gets a great deal of play time.

ZooBox was a favorite for a long time, when he was a bit younger. This app has photos of various animals that the kids can flip through and each picture has the animal sound to go with it after the phone is tilted to a certain angle and held for a few seconds. I think it’s too basic at this age.

These are free:

Virtuoso Piano has a free version which my son enjoys. It is a piano keyboard that can be played on the phone by tapping the keys.

DoodleBuddy is a cool application which allows your toddler to draw with their finger, there is a choice of different colors, backgrounds, characters with sound effects, and you can even draw over pictures that are saved on your phone or you can snap a new one and get creative. At his age, my son likes to doodle, explore all the buttons/features of this app, and use the characters with sound effects.

The phone could never replace the attention and interaction of parents or caregivers with the kids, but after all other avenues of entertainment (crayons, wind up toys, books, etc…) have been exhausted, it comes in quite handy if you have a cranky toddler, who does not understand why he has to be strapped to a car seat for another hour. You can learn about these and other applications by hitting the APP store icon on your iPhone or iTouch or through iTunes on your computer.

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Posted by Alina on Thursday Nov 19, 2009 Under communication, useful tips

sharingI recently went to a workshop organized by some of my mama friends about “positive discipline”. I found it quite interesting and thought I’d share one of the things I learned. My question to the instructor was about sharing, and what is considered proper playground etiquette. When my 19 month old son and I are out at a park, I feel this pressure to make him share his toys with kids who come up and are interested in them. My son, however, usually resists and sometimes gets to tears, which is when I just leave the issue alone.  I don’t know why I feel this pressure, perhaps because other parents are making similar requests of their kids, or because it seems like a “nice thing to do”.

The instructor answered it with a great metaphor. She said, “Imagine you are getting ready for your day. You’re feeling groggy, just stood in a line, finally got your long awaited cappuccino, and as you are about to take the first sip, someone tells you that you have to hand it over to the person next to you…”  Her point was, that until kids are in their 3’s, they don’t really get the whole sharing thing. She said not to MAKE him share, but rather to PRAISE him when he does so of his own volition. She also said this is a good age to be working on turn taking, and the same logic can be applied to toys. “It’s Henry’s turn to play with the toy right now, but you can have a turn when he is finished”.

One big point of this lecture was PRAISE . To be most effective it should be immediate, include touch (on the shoulder, pat on the back, a kiss, whatever you choose….), and be specific. Praise seems to be the positive reinforcement that makes the greatest difference when trying to alter a behavior, whether with kids or adults.

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Unfortunately, a friend of mine told me this week that her toddler daughter sustained a tibial fracture. She said that she came down a slide with her daughter on her lap, which, most parents I know, myself included, have done multiple times. While they were coming down, her daughter’s foot got stuck on the side of the slide and she let out a loud shriek. Since then, her daughter has not been able to bear weight on her leg. My friend took her daughter to a hospital where she was diagnosed with a non-displaced tibial fracture.

Apparently this is not such a rare occurrence and an article on just this topic was published less than a month ago in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, titled “Tibia Fractures in Children Sustained on a Playground Slide.” The article is a retrospective study by Dr. John T. Gaffney, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Mineola, NY, who looked at 58 patients with tibial fractures and focused on the 8 cases which all happened while playing on a slide. The age of those 8 children ranged from 14-32 months and in ALL of the cases the child suffered a fracture while going down the slide on an adult’s lap. It appears that the injury happens when a child’s foot gets stuck on the side of the slide and because the parent’s speed and momentum makes it difficult to stop, this results in a tibial fracture for the child. The study recommends that if a child cannot safely go down a slide on their own, they should be redirected to a different activity to maximize the child’s safety.

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Fall Kids Fest in Madison Square Park

Posted by Alina on Wednesday Oct 14, 2009 Under useful tips

This coming weekend, October 17th, 2009, Madison Square Park will be hosting the Fall Kids Fest from 10:30am-1:30pm with live music, arts and crafts, face painting, snacks, a costume parade lead by clowns, and much much more. This is the second year that it is being held.

I went with my husband and son last year and although it was quite crowded, and our son was a bit too young to enjoy it all, it was still fun to witness the ongoing events and see all the adorable little kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes.

For more information, here is an article about it from Time Out Kids, which is a partner in providing this fun filled event.

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Infant Massage

Posted by Alina on Wednesday Oct 7, 2009 Under health, useful tips

I was recently contacted by an expert in the field of infant and children’s massage therapy, Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT, who will be in NYC on October 17 & 18, 2009 Saturday & Sunday to present a workshop at the St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital. During the course she is offering free infant massage lessons for families from 1:30-2:30pm. For further information please check out her website You must RSVP to if you are interested in participating in this event. Ms. Allen says ” Babies and children simply love to be touched. In fact, they thrive on it and it is a crucial part of their development.” She was kind enough to share some of her massage tips with readers:

Getting Ready:
– Make sure the room is warm enough (especially if removing the child’s clothing)
– Relax yourself
– Warm your hands by rubbing them together
– Ask permission to start massage by making eye contact and verbally asking out loud “Is it okay if I give you a massage?”

Massage Time:
The Legs
If your little one is laying down facing you,
– Start by placing your warmed hands around the top of baby’s leg at the hip
– Cupping one leg, gently stroke downward towards the foot
– Do not put any pressure on baby’s knee or ankle
– Then stroke the bottom of the foot and gently hug each little toe
– Next kiss the feet, babies love this!
– Repeat on the opposite leg.

The Tummy
The tummy should not be massaged right after eating. If baby has not recently eaten (within 30 minutes), introduce your touch to the belly.
– Place your hands at the belly button and move them in a clockwise motion
– This movement can help ease the pains associated with gas, constipation and has been known to ease colic

The Arms
– Repeat the same soothing strokes that we used on the legs

The Back
– Stroke the back, starting at the shoulders, over bum and down the legs, showing extra care not to put any pressure on her spine
– Continue stroking the back a few times
End with a hug and kiss!

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Subway stations with elevators

Posted by Alina on Sunday Aug 30, 2009 Under useful tips

nyc-subway-map1Since many mamas like to/need to get around town by subway, and some fear it because of limited elevator access, I thought I would post a couple of useful links to help you all navigate the NYC subway system with greater confidence.

Here is a link to subway stations in the five boroughs that have elevators from the platform to the street:

In case you worry that the elevator may be out of service, which sometimes happens, here is a link to that information, which the MTA updates regularly:

When I  find myself at a station with no elevator or one that is out of order,  people passing by are usually quite helpful when I need a hand, especially in Manhattan. There are tons of nice New Yorkers out there, sometimes, you just have to ask.

Happy travels!

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Tips for traveling with a toddler

Posted by Alina on Tuesday Jul 21, 2009 Under useful tips

Here is a new trick that I learned from a more experienced mama, and it made a huge difference in a recent transatlantic flight with our toddler. Toddlers are very curious and will explore something new for a while, which gives you, the parent a nice break. I went to a toy store before our trip and bought about 7 or 8 little cheap toys (for example: a little change wallet, toy car, wind up toy, a magnetic doodle pad, etc..), and spent a grand total of $16. A 99 cent store would be an ideal place for this but I could not find one. I didn’t show any toys to my son before the trip and pulled out something new every hour or two during the flight. I was pleasantly surprised when the little change wallet filled with paper and pieces of card board cut out like cars, kept him busy and calm for almost 20 minutes! We also purchased a portable DVD player for this trip and Elmo kept our little guy’s attention during the meals when it was impossible to walk up and down the isles, competing with the food carts. Although novelty is the theme here, it’s also wise to bring some familiar toys or books to make your toddler a bit more comfortable in a new environment.

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Stroller Friendly Subway Stations

Posted by Alina on Friday Apr 10, 2009 Under useful tips

If you have ever traveled with a stroller on the NYC subway, you know that stations with elevator access are a rare find, especially with complete access from the street to the platform. Some stations which do have elevators, like Union Square, provide access from the street to the mezzanine, but not down to the platform, leaving you facing a full staircase with your stroller. Often people are helpful and will lend a hand, but many times they will pass right by. Thus, when there is a new station that opens up, with complete elevator access, moms like me (who take the subway with a stroller almost every day), get very excited!

As part of the $530 million project, the new South Ferry Terminal station has opened on March 16th, 2009.  It is located below the Peter Minuit Plaza in Lower Manhattan, adjacent to Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. The new station has elevator access from the street all the way down to the 1 train platform. There is also a free transfer between the 1 train and the R, W at Whitehall Street station. You can read more about this project on the MTA website.

Another thing that is handy to have in your diaper bag is a print out of the page that Time Out New York Kids has put together, showing subway stops with elevators. Here is a link.

Happy travels!

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Kegel Exercises

Posted by Alina on Friday Mar 27, 2009 Under health, useful tips

Kegels are named for Doctor Arnold Kegel, who first described these pelvic floor exercises. Pelvic muscles create a hammock inside your pelvis for the organs that lie above. The aim of Kegel exercises is to improve tone in the pubococcygeal and other muscles that encircle the urethra (bladder tube), vagina, and rectum.

To practice isolating these muscles, try stopping and starting the flow of urine. When performed correctly, no outward sign of effort should be visible. You can do these any where any time, and most women would benefit from performing a set of 10 repetitions multiple times per day. The exercises can be performed in a variety of ways, for example; a) contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, b) contracting, holding for 5-10 seconds, then relaxing, c) elevators: contracting the muscles incrementally (like an elevator going to 1st, 2nd, 3rd floor) and releasing gradually, more advanced ways include barbells, springs, and rubber bulbs made especially for this purpose. You can perform these exercise in various positions, such as lying, sitting and standing.

Benefits of Kegels include easier birthing with fewer tears, enhanced sexual enjoyment for both partners, prevention of prolapsing of pelvic organs, and prevention/treatment of urinary incontinence (such as with sneezing or coughing). It is an important exercise and something that can easily be worked into most people’s routine.

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