How to Prepare Your Baby’s Crib

I always say that the prettiest baby cribs are ones with no babies in them yet! That’s when your crib and nursery look absolutely pristine. Snap a few pictures now while the ribbons on the bumper are placed just so… like a vignette from Cookie. No messy burb cloths slung on the sides. No used diapers that didn’t manage to make it all the way into the diaper genie.

For me, style became secondary to ease very, very quickly. I’ll let someone else give you design tips. My advice… get those mattress pads and sheet savers in place! I tell every soon-to-be mommy to get at least two Ultimate Crib Sheets. [Read more…]

How to Create an Organized Homework Space

Homework is a fact of life for most school kids and their parents. For me keeping my kids on track starts with creating a positive and well organized workspace. As a founder of a local neighborhood after school program, I’ve come up with a list of ideas I believe go along way to encouraging and enhancing homework completion.

First and foremost, develop an organized homework routine. In our house, timing is a big issue. My ten year old son needs to play for a while when he gets home, while my twelve year old daughter usually heads straight up to her room and starts her homework right way.

Either approach works great so long as there is some consistency regarding the time (and place) homework is done. Developing an organized schedule may also help avoid procrastination. Just because your child may not have homework on a particular night, doesn’t mean they can’t use their ‘homework time’ for pleasure reading or working on an upcoming project.

I’ve also learned having your child play a role in selecting where school work is done is VERY important. While a desk may work for one child, it may not work for another. The kitchen table may be a better option. Regardless of the location, it’s important to select a homework area with adequate lighting, one that is comfortable for working, and is as free from distractions as possible. Large, clutter-free work surfaces are best.

Homework time is also a good time for the whole family to pursue quiet activities e.g. paying bills, reading, writing etc. Not only does this provide a good work environment, it models positive behavior as your child sees you working at things that require effort. You may also consider a ‘no phone call’ policy during this time.

For more tips on helping your kids with their homework visit homework help.

If your child’s school doesn’t enforce the use of an organized homework agenda, create your own. Both agendas and checklists have become invaluable tools in our home. Keeping a running ‘to do’ list helps not only my kids stay organized and on top of assignments, but it reminds them about what materials they need to take to class. Crossing completed items off a list gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Help your child develop an organized homework plan and estimate together how long each assignment should take. Also assist him in prioritizing homework assignments in the order in which they should be done. Starting with one assignment or part of an assignment that isn’t too long or difficult is a good idea to give your child a sense of accomplishment.

Teach your child how to manage and organize his time, and how to structure long-term school projects. Understanding how to break down big assignments into smaller more manageable steps will be important to your child’s overall academic success.

Pay close attention to due dates. When dealing with assignments like science fair projects, your child should not only note project requirements and due dates but also his plan of attack. Post required steps like visits to the library or the purchase of materials.

Talk with your child about the importance of not leaving school until he checks his assignment list and makes sure he has any necessary books and materials.

Keep school supplies and storage areas organized. Making sure your child has all the necessary supplies shows him that you take his work seriously.

Help children stay organized by encouraging them to get in the habit of putting textbooks, binders, signed notes, and other necessary materials inside their backpack as soon as they are finished with them. And finally, keeping their backpack in the same location every night eliminates last minute panic.

For more creative organizing solutions visit Sherrie Le Masurier is a lifestyle columnist, organizing consultant, and co-owner of, a website geared to organizing and decorating kids’ rooms.

How to Get Rid of Clutter

clutterI have a two-pronged approach to clutter: 1) Get rid of the clutter you have and, 2) Don’t buy (yes, I said buy) new clutter. Easier said than done? Really? Assuming that you are the average person with the average kid/baby home (as in, not the ones that I hear about on TV that truly live amidst mountains of trash), I think a little dedication to a few tasks will go a long way to minimizing the clutter in your environment. And this, my friends, goes a long way in minimizing the clutter in your mind (or at least, that’s been my experience).

Get Rid of the Clutter You Have
Quite simply, throw everything out that you don’t need!
• Go through your closets and donate clothes you haven’t worn for a whole season or, organize a clothing swap with your girlfriends like my friend, Emma did in our neighborhood.

• Do the same for books, furniture, miscellaneous household items. If you are a pack rat, enlist the help of a friend who is NOT… like me! Pretend you are moving to a small apartment and have to pay extra for every box you bring.

• For random papers (this is the best!), get banker’s boxes, one for each room if you want, and label them “pre-2009.” Just toss EVERYTHING in there. Store the boxes. If you don’t touch them in a year, toss them. If it makes you feel better, wait 2-3 years and then toss them. The point is, the piles of papers everywhere will stop stressing you out.

Don’t Buy New Clutter
Once your home is de-clutterfied… keep it that way. I’m no Fly Lady. She’s got much more involved tips in this respect. But my philosophy is that “clutter” doesn’t walk into your house on two feet! I have a bit of a zero tolerance policy on clutter because I have limited storage/space (which I’m finding is truly a blessing in disguise). Did anyone catch Jerry Seinfeld’s bit on “stuff?” …how everything we buy is just a few steps away from “trash?” Soooo true! The shiny new small appliance first sits on the island, then in a cabinet, then in the basement, then in the garage, then in the dumpster! My point being, before you buy anything, keep in mind that when you buy any thing, you’re actually making a commitment to IT! You’re the one who will have to clean it and maintain it and store it! So either don’t complain about it later or just don’t buy it. You’ll be doing a good deed, not just for your home, family life and pocket book but also doing your bit to save the planet and ourselves! Really… watch this video called, The Story of Stuff if you don’t believe me (or just because… it’s really cool, albeit depressing!)

For all those things that seemingly walk into your home unassisted, diligently escort them out promptly. I make a habit of putting junk mail straight in the recycling bin from the mailbox. I go through all my kids papers daily to see which ones can be trashed and which ones go in the giant portfolio for posterity (until they move out and decide to toss them out themselves), and any junk Happy Meal toys never survive more than a week before surreptitiously disappearing into the trash bin.

I seem to be winning the war on clutter in my house. My car… on the otherhand… is another story!

Do you have any good anti-clutter tips?

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommy’s recommendations for travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.

How to Design a Nursery

baby room ideasThe Peaceful Nursery: Preparing a Home for Your Baby with Feng Shui

Discover the joys of nesting as you prepare the perfect, peaceful space for the newest love of your life! As an expecting parent, designing this special room is a wonderful opportunity to prepare, mentally and physically, for the changes to come.

The Peaceful Nursery shows you how to apply the best principles of home decorating, Feng Shui, and healthy living to create a warm and welcoming environment for your new baby.

  • Dozens of color photographs and helpful diagrams will inspire and guide you
  • The Quick Tips section at the end of each chapter will save you time and money
  • The 12 Steps to Clearing Clutter and great storage and organization tips will save your post-partum sanity

Additional sections on colors that soothe and arranging parent bedrooms make The Peaceful Nursery: Preparing a Home for Your Baby with Feng Shui the ultimate guide to creating beautiful and nurturing spaces for you and your baby.

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommy’s recommendations for travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.

How to Make Holiday Keepsakes

So you’ve just created the perfect holiday card! And you’ve sent it to all your friends. But do you keep one for yourself? Do you have an archive of all your sweet, personalized cards from years past? That was my dilemma. Every year, we display all the cards we receive from everyone else and it’s so great to see how much all the children have changed from year to year. But what about your own? Their pictures aren’t really tugging on the heartstrings in some drawer or file folder, are they?

Since my kids were born, I’ve made ornaments out of our annual holiday card. Each one is a little different. One year, I found a company online that would actually print your picture on a glass ornament. I’ve used wooden picture ornaments and silver ones… it’s fun to see the collection grow. My kids looooove putting them up during our First of December Tree-trimming Extravaganza and ooohing and aaahing about their cute, changing selves!

Really… I’m NOT Martha!!! But not only is it a great way to preserve those holiday memories… it’s also a way to get my holiday projects to do double-duty! Practical, see?

Click to see the matching card and ornament!

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommy’s recommendations for travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.

How to Make Easy Holiday Treats

It’s like Santa’s workshop at Practical Mommy’s these days. With the help of two very helpful elves, we whipped up batches and batches of holiday treats. I like to get the kids involved in making something special for their teachers. Each of them have FOUR (count them, four teachers) plus “specialists.” Hence, we make batches and batches of treats. But in case you didn’t read my Thanksgiving story, my days of Martha are OVER. The operative word here is EASY.

Here’s what you need:

• Baker’s Dipping Chocolate
• bag(s) of pretzels
• sprinkles (optional)
• cookie sheets
• parchment paper (optional)

4 Steps to Yummy Holiday Treats
1) Microwave the Chocolate. We used the “Heat and Dip” kind that is microwave safe, white and milk variety.
2) Dip pretzels in melted chocolate. We also used dried apricots.
3) Place on cookie sheet and refrigerate until chocolate is hard (about 5-10 minutes).
4) Pop off cookie sheet and package in really cute tins or bags. (Parchment paper makes the popping off part easier).

That’s it, folks! How PRACTICAL is that?!

For more great and easy crafts that you can do with your kids this season, download Fun Kids Christmas Crafts. You can get it NOW! … not tomorrow when you brave a trip to the mall or, in 5-7 days from Amazon. You can have it NOW… for less than I paid for my dried apricots! Let’s not forget that Winter Break is mere days away!!!

If you’ve bitten by the holiday craft bug, you don’t have to wait. It’s immediate gratification. Just like chocolate-covered pretzels!

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommy’s recommendations for travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.