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Paul Banas is a happy married dad of two kids and the editor of GreatDad.com as well as the Publisher of Pregnancy Magazine. He writes for and edits the annual "Pregnant Dad" issue, and also writes about technology and gadgets including baby monitors.

About Paul Banas

Paul Banas is happy married dad of two great kids living in San Francisco. He writes now about kids, new technology and how the two interact for GreatDad.com and for Pregnancy Magazine (pregnancymagazine.com) where he is also the publisher.

Here are my most recent posts

The Top Super Deluxe Toys for Kids in 2021

As 2021 starts to unfold, most parents are looking to plan ahead to make this year more enjoyable than the last. With the lack of children’s parties, playdates, and vacations, many feel that it is going to be a year of making up for lost time. More outings, time spent with friends and family when and where it is safe to do so, and some pretty awesome toys are things that many parents are looking forward to sharing with their kids this year.

While there are many things that you might plan to do with your family to make sure that the new year is filled with fun and exciting times spent together and with friends, you might be on the hunt for the perfect deluxe toy for your child. Things like electric cars and scooters are set to be big winners this year as they can encourage kids to get out and about in the great outdoors. Adventure, fun, and excitement are what these toys are all about. 

If your goal is to make this year more enjoyable than the last for your kids, look no further than these top super deluxe toys for kids.

Electric Cars

You might be a good ten to fifteen years away from letting your child get behind the wheel of a car for the first time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start sharing your interest in cars with them right now. Most kids are understandably fascinated with cars and wonder what it is like to sit behind the steering wheel and be in control of something so large. For this reason, most kids would love the chance to experience this on a small scale with their very own car.

Electric cars for kids are some of the most popular deluxe toys out there. The ultimate toy for getting out and about and exploring their surroundings, these cars are perfect for any child who is interested in learning what driving is all about. They can have a bit of control driving the car themselves, and you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that such a cool toy has been designed specifically with their age group and safety in mind. 

Some cars are made to handle rougher terrain, while others are perfect for your regular walks through the neighborhood. Others come with a remote control that you can use if your child isn’t quite ready to drive solo yet. With such an awesome toy, you can help them learn just how fun driving can be from the safety of a car that has been made to maximize the safety and enjoyment of your little one.

Electric Scooters

Scooters have been a popular toy among kids for a long time. Parents love how they encourage kids to get outside and explore, while kids naturally love speeding down the sidewalk and learning simple tricks. You can help your child take this enjoyment to the next level by opting for an electric scooter this year.

Depending on what model you go with, you will most likely need to go over a few safety basics with your child before letting them out in the open. Some pack surprising power, and you want to ensure that your child knows how to control that power! Like anything that comes with a motor, it can be all too easy for young children who are still developing their hand-eye coordination to lose control. 

Nevertheless, such scooters are designed with young riders in mind, so as long as they are taught how to be aware of others around them and that they should always wear a helmet, an electric scooter can end up being your child’s favorite new toy of 2021. This will certainly be a toy that makes those daily walks far more exciting for your little one.

Electric Boats

If you live close to the water, then perhaps you might be looking for a deluxe toy that allows your little one to have even more fun at the lake this year. An electric boat is a classic toy that brings endless enjoyment and fun to your days at the lake. 

These days, electric boats pack much more power and speed than they once did. You will have so much fun teaching your child how to control their boat with their remote controller and watching them challenge their friends to boat races. You might even find yourself purchasing one for yourself so that you can take part in the fun as well.

If your child wants to take their boat for a solo mission, you can set up obstacle courses in the water for them to maneuver around. Other floating toys and little buoys can come together to make an awesome obstacle course for your child to navigate their electric boat around and through.

Underwater Drones

It isn’t too difficult to understand why so many people are fascinated with drones. Being given a chance to take an overhead view of one’s surroundings was once an unheard-of concept. Even if your drone isn’t equipped with a camera, flying a drone gives you far more control than things like kites or electric airplanes ever could.

With so many people enthralled with the concept of drones, it is no surprise that there are now deluxe drones that can be used underwater. An underwater drone is another excellent toy to get for your child this year if you live near the water and plan on spending a great deal of time on the lake. 

An underwater drone allows you to explore far more of your surroundings when you are out at the lake than you would have ever thought possible. Taking a look at what wildlife and vegetation are thriving just below the water’s surface will captivate your child. If your drone is equipped with the right type of camera, you might even be able to capture some incredible images that your child can cherish for years to come.

11 Ideas to Make the Perfect Garden for Kids

As a dad, you may be the one everyone turns to when it comes to maintenance around the house. While moms are also great at these things, dads are often the popular choice for DIY. This also applies to designing the backyard or garden as it can require a large amount of constructing, digging, and assembling. If this sounds familiar and you’re in the process of designing your garden to accommodate your kids, the ideas below can help.

1. Establish Kid-Friendly Zones

Before you set about designing the garden with your kids in mind, it’s important to do some planning first. While making your space a green haven for your children is the priority here; you’ll also want to consider things like safety and where to allocate adult spaces. 

For example, it’s sensible to map out areas of the garden — perhaps in concentric circles away from the house — and decide how each region will be used. You may decide that the front of the garden is where your youngest will play since it is closest to the house and safer in terms of monitoring. If you have a large space and older children, you could then create zones further away to play in. Whatever you decide, creating zones is a great way to plan for safety and priority.

2. Stay Natural

When thinking about accommodating kids, it may be tempting to add many artificial elements to your garden. However, one idea is to stay as natural as possible and use tree stumps and large stones to create props and décor. Kids are wildly creative and will have just as much fun playing around natural materials in the garden as they would if you built an entire playground.

3. Make it Fun

This seems like an obvious point but making the garden fun is key for accommodating children. While trees, bushes, and grass can provide an opportunity for fun on their own, you may want to consider building elements that encourage adventure, too. When it comes to the fun, the range of possibilities is endless and can include everything from giving them their own garden space to grow plants or vegetables to building a small pool. Before you start designing, assess your kids’ age and personality so that you can plan ways to make the garden as fun as possible.

4. Lay Grass or AstroTurf

Most gardens contain an abundance of grass, but it’s surprising how many of them don’t. If you are in the early stages of growing and designing your garden space, make sure you lay some grass for your kids to tumble around. If you’re concerned about mess, you could even experiment with laying AstroTurf instead. While nothing beats the feel of natural grass, AstroTurf can mean less dirt, especially if you also have pets wandering around!

5. Add a Child Swing

If you’re looking for actual elements to add to the garden space, a child’s swing makes a great addition. Not only does it provide a fun activity for your kids, but it is also easy to set up and install. Swings are also great for growing families as they suit children of all ages — even babies! 

6. Build Climbing Structures

Assuming you have the space, climbing apparatuses are another great feature for adventurous little tykes. If you are good at carpentry or DIY, you could build a custom one for yourself. Otherwise, there are plenty of climbing frame options on the market. Before adding your climbing apparatus, it’s worth planning ahead and figuring out how it will be used. For example, adding a roof on the frame could turn it into a tree-house-like structure, meaning that your kids can spend hours in there, even on rainy days. 

7. Add a Trampoline

Trampolines provide enormous amounts of fun for both kids and adults alike. If you have the space, adding a trampoline is a fantastic way to keep your kids and visitors entertained. If space is limited, you could also opt for a sunken trampoline instead. These are built into the ground and take up less space. But best of all, they mean there’s no risk of your kids falling off of it!

8. Install a Pool or Hot Tub

In the summer months, nothing beats having an outdoor pool in your backyard. Whether it’s a portable one that you fill up with the garden hose or one you’ve installed into the ground, water is a brilliant way to keep kids entertained for hours. If you have the space, you could also add a hot tub into the mix so that your kids can be in the water during the evening or in the colder months. And, if you’re concerned about maintenance, sites like aquaspasupplies.co.uk provide an excellent choice of pool and hot tub supplies.

9. Create a Quiet Playtime Space

Another great feature to add to a garden is a quiet playtime space. This can be a corner of the garden, such as a small, covered decking area. Not only does this provide shade in the hot summer months, but it means your kids can have snacks, lounge about, have tea parties, or just sit and read a book. To make the space as cozy as possible, you could add climbing plants and sun umbrellas.

10. Choose Child-Friendly Plants

If you’re an avid gardener and you want to encourage your kids to learn more about plants, you may want to populate it with child-friendly ones. Avoid toxic ones which can cause irritation and encourage their sense of wonder by adding flowers, or even vegetables such as tomatoes and strawberries. Plants and flowers on the safe list include fuchsias, begonias, sunflowers, clematis, and lemon balm.

11. Entice Wildlife

Another fantastic way to make a garden fun for kids is to entice wildlife. Adding bird feeders is a great start, as is creating an insect hotel that acts as a haven for bees, butterflies, and ladybugs. Watching birds and learning about insects can be a great way to entertain your kids while you’re enjoying some sun in the garden.

What are cataracts—and how can they be treated?

Most fathers are aware that, as we age, we’re likely to develop problems with our eyes and eyesight. However, of the reported age-related eye diseases (AREDs) we might develop, cataracts are by far the most common, and it’s estimated there are now around 30 million Americans living with the condition. 

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are caused by proteins in the lens of the eye clumping together, often resulting in a visible clouding over the lens. This bond of proteins usually results in significant eyesight problems (listed below) but are typified by a blurring or clouding of vision. Cataracts can occur in one or both eyes and can strike as early as the age of 40, meaning fathers shouldn’t just wait until they’re ‘old’ to schedule an annual eye exam.  Cataracts can only be fixed with corrective surgery, with the chances of it being more successful increasing the earlier you catch it. This means fathers of all ages should definitely consider their eye health as early on as possible to safeguard their vision for when they get older.

What causes cataracts?

Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence to explain why we develop cataracts as we age. However, there is a suggestion that many contributing factors are lifestyle based. This means, for fathers to prolong their vision, they should avoid bad habits such as excessive drinking and smoking, as this will ensure that your eyesight is good enough to better interact with your children and actually see them grow up. 

Some of the main factors that cause cataracts are believed to include the following:

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Injury to the eyes
  • Prolonged use of steroids
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Diabetes
  • A prevalence of cataracts in your family
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Too much time spent in the sun without eye protection

Tell-tale signs you may be developing cataracts

There are some common tell-tale signs that might suggest you could be developing cataracts. If you experience any of the following, you should visit an optometrist immediately:

  • Cloudy vision: it’s very common for cataracts to cause a blurring, dimming, or clouding in vision.
  • Reduced vision at night: cataracts can severely limit vision in the dark—making tasks such as driving extremely dangerous.
  • Light sensitivity: sufferers of cataracts often complain of an over-sensitivity to bright lights.
  • Difficulty reading: the cloudiness of cataracts can impair your reading vision.
  • Halos: cataracts can cause light dispersal around bright objects, rendering a halo effect.
  • Frequently upgrading glasses: if you find you frequently have to increase the strength of your glasses, you may be developing cataracts. It’s not enough to just buy a cheap pair of supermarket glasses—instead, visit an optometrist for a full diagnosis.
  • Double vision: the diffraction of the lens caused by cataracts often results in sufferers experiencing double (or even triple) vision. 
  • Experiencing yellow-tinged sight: the protein that causes cataracts can often turn yellow or brown, which causes the light entering the eye to take on a similar yellow tint. 

Since the risk of cataracts is hereditary, it’s important as a father to know the signs so you can catch and diagnose it. Not knowing about the medical issue can put your own children at risk, but by being aware of the issue, you can put in measures in place to hopefully protect their eyesight too. 

Diagnosing and treating cataracts

By far the most important step in treating cataracts is to regularly visit an eye specialist. Optometrists are highly skilled professionals trained to diagnose and treat potential issues before they develop and become a problem. As cataracts are most common in our mature adulthood, you should make regular appointments with your eye specialist. For the over 65s, this is suggested to be every one to two years—but you should start regularly visiting an eye consultant regularly from age 40. 

The treatment of cataracts involves a relatively simple operation to substitute the existing natural lens of the eye with a new artificial replacement—for example, the PanOptix trifocal lens

The vast majority of cataract patients experience little to no discomfort or pain, and the operation is almost always performed under just a local anesthetic.

Best of all, the surgery is extremely low risk but has an astonishingly high success rate of over 90%. In the US alone, it’s estimated that around 3 million cataract operations are performed every year, restoring near-perfect vision to patients. 

In summary, by undergoing regular eye checks and being aware of the early symptoms of cataracts and other AREDs, you can help to prevent problems with your vision in later life, meaning that you can raise your children without issues or limitations. 

A Guide to Taking Your Kids on Vacation

Taking your kids on vacation is usually a mixture of anticipation, fun, and stress. While they may be bouncing with excitement, you will most likely hold the fear of the inevitable plans going wrong. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and let the stress of the kids running wild ruin your own relaxation time, but there are ways to make the experience enjoyable for the whole family. Read on for a guide on taking your kids on a fun-filled vacation. 

Plan Everything 

Planning everything means just that – absolutely everything. From the first item you pack to when you return home, you must know exactly what you are doing. Save spontaneity for the times between you and your partner!   

Make plenty of lists, including what you need to pack. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overpacking when you have kids, but do avoid this, as it will just add on more stress as you’re digging through looking for their favorite toy. 

Airport parking is also something that you need to organize beforehand, as failing to get this sorted before your departure date can add a huge amount of stress. Thankfully, parking can now be organized online at various airports, allowing you to easily sort out Gatwick, Beijing, Dubai and Newark liberty airport parking, as well as other popular destinations well before your flight, giving you one less thing to worry about. 

Fills the Days Up

Kids on holiday act up when they’re bored, so make sure you keep them entertained by filling the days up. This means going to the beach, amusement parks, restaurants, waterparks – whatever is nearby! This will also help them drop off quickly in the evening, so you can enjoy a few relaxing moments to yourself as the sun goes down. 

Take Books and Movies

For the moments where you don’t have the energy to go out, make sure you pack activities for the kids. Books and films are a great way to keep them occupied for a while. This way, if you need a quick nap in the afternoon, you’ll be able to stick a 90-minute movie on for them. Thankfully, kindles and streaming now mean you don’t have to increase your luggage to bring along these items.

Choose Your Accommodation Wisely 

If you’re going to have little ones running around the place, then you should look out for family-friendly hotels. You don’t want to take your kids to a couple’s retreat! Find places that have activities for kids within the hotel so you don’t always have to travel to entertain them. A pool always helps, too.

Include a Rest Day (or Two) 

While you should aim to keep your kids entertained, you should also include a rest day. Schedule it for the middle of your vacation, and don’t plan anything for the whole day. Spend time napping, watching films, and don’t leave your accommodation unless you want to go grab an ice cream. It’s a great way for everyone to rejuvenate, so you’re prepared for the next adventure the following day. 

Always Have Snacks

Kids get grumpy when they’re hungry, so you must always carry snacks. In the car, by the pool, while perusing shops – always have snacks! It’ll keep the hunger away and ensure that they don’t play up because of hunger. Even if you think they’ve eaten plenty that day, have snacks on you! Also, don’t forget the water, as you’ll all need to stay hydrated, too. 

Accept Altered Plans 

When it comes to traveling with kids, things won’t go according to plan. No matter how perfect your plans are, accept that you will need to alter them now and again. Your child may get sick, throw a tantrum, or just simply need a day of rest. Don’t let this get to you, and make sure your child knows they won’t be forced to have fun. 

Bring a Comfort Item 

Your child might experience homesickness while away, and one of the ways to make them feel better is to give them a comfort item from home. This could be a photograph, a teddy, or an old toy they’ve had since birth. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that’ll help them feel at home when they’re feeling homesick. 

Remember Sun Protection 

If you’re going to a sunny location, then you must protect yourself and your family from the sun. This means plenty of sunscreen layers, hats, shades, and long-sleeve clothing. If you’re out in the middle of the day, then try to get inside somewhere while the sun is at its highest. Sunburn and sunstroke are both terrible things to deal with, especially on holiday, so be mindful about the rays. 

Give Your Older Kids a Phone 

If your kids are a little older, then consider giving them a phone. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just one that can call or text you in case of an emergency. Many kids get lost while on vacation, so you want to take extra precautions, even if your eyes are always on them. 

Teach Basic Phrases

While entering a foreign country, it shows respect if you try to learn their language. Get your kids involved by teaching them a couple of phrases. Not only will it be delightfully cute when having dinner out, but it will also teach them something they’re likely to never forget. You don’t have to go overboard – a simple ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye,’ and ‘how are you?’ is enough for them to feel included in the conversation.

Leave Plenty of Time for Everything

There will always be something new popping up, like needing to tie shoelaces or going back to the hotel for something forgotten, so you must leave plenty of time for each activity. If you think it’ll take three hours to head to the beach and enjoy lunch, then allow four hours instead. By doing this, you will minimize many of the stresses that come with a vacation. 

Enjoy the Time Away!

Most of all, make sure you and your family enjoy the time away from home. While there will be stressful moments, the fun should outweigh them, so make the most of the special time together. Go on walks, soak up the culture, and do as many new activities as you can. When your kids are older, they’ll look back at this time with fond nostalgia, so give them memories to last a lifetime.   

Kids Birthday Party – Top Tips for Throwing a Great Event

Kid’s birthday parties are fun for those of all ages. Kids over three get very excited over their birthdays, and always want to invite their friends and classmates to come and celebrate with them. While these moments are ones that parents everywhere cherish, a lot can go into organizing a party like this, so it’s best to be prepared. If your kid has a birthday coming up, here are a few tips to help you show them a great time. 

Where’s the Party?

First, you’re going to need to figure out where you’re having a party. Is it going to be at your house? Or is there somewhere like an activity center or theme park that your kid wants to go to? Most parents don’t want to know, but kids (and some parents do compare party venues. That doesn’t mean you have to play this social game, but you should be aware that depending on the age of your child, he or she might be very aware of who had the coolest party this year. 

Commonly, kids like to have parties at the same or at similar venues to their friends, so perhaps ask some of the other parents you know for recommendations and book the party there as soon as possible.

And remember, small kids don’t need big parties or splashy decorations. It’s fine if that kind of thing makes you happy, but don’t put pressure on yourself if you’re not into it. 

Your kid’s birthday party doesn’t have to be expensive

Of course,  you can go for a high-price venue or if the sky’s the limit, order up a pro magician or even the latest boy band. But if you don’t have tons of cash, there are still ways to make birthdays fun and memorable. You just might need to be a little more creative. Our best recommendation is to think of magical times you had when you were little and which ones of these are things kids just don’t do anymore. Two ideas we did with our kids: 

  • Kite-flying – A day at a park flying kites can be very low cost. Kids love to fly kites and it’s relatively easy to do. And kites are relatively inexpensive. A quick search on Amazon yields party packs of kites at around $2. 
  • Nerf gun battle – We rented a local community center big room for two hours and bought an extra 200 Nerf darts. We invited kids to bring their own Nerf guns and brought along some extras just in case. Then we set up the kids with some big cardboard boxes. After two hours of sweaty heart-stopping gun battles, we fed them cake from the local supermarket in the driveway. Our son’s friends said it was the best party ever (at least that year). 

Invitations

Once you know when and where the party is taking place you can send out invitations. Our advice:

  1. Plan early. You’ll be surprised by how long it will take for yoru child to choose u9p friends when attendance may be limited by venue or budget. 
  2. Make sure you give the other parents plenty of notice to avoid your kid being disappointed at the turnout. 
  3. You can buy invitations for your kid’s birthday party, but our recommendation is to use social media or Evite.  Not only does it save on paper, but you just don’t want the added hassle of pestering parents who’ve lost their invite in a stack of bills. Evite makes it easy to keep track of respondents and automatically remind them of the event. 
  4. Choose the time of your party and don’t forget about lunch. If you plan a party from 11-1, kids and parents are going to expect lunch. It’s also considered very insensitive to feed kids cake at 5PM right before they are supposed to go home and eat dinner.
  5. Be clear what you want in the invitation. If it’s “no gifts,” make that clear. A key thing to remember is to spell out whether it’s a drop-off event or whether parents need to stay to supervise. Of course, a lot of parents are excited to get a few hours to grab a coffee with friends during a party, but in some cases, like the kiting party mentioned above, you may need parents to supervise their child to avoid any dangers.

Games

If you’re having your party at home you will need to come up with some entertainment for the kids to enjoy. In the summertime perhaps they could have a water fight in the backyard, or play a game of soccer? You could set up a treasure hunt that is suitable for both inside and outside, or hang up a pinata. There are plenty of fun and exciting things to do at home that will keep them entertained for hours.

Remember that in our overly-scheduled and planned world, kids don’t often get a chance to just be kids. Just having free time to run around with their friends can sometimes be the most fun way for them to spend an afternoon, especially if there is cake!

Food

The most important thing is the birthday cake. Whether you made it yourself or bought it from the store, make sure it’s the centerpiece of the buffet. Again, know your audience.. There’s no reason to get a $100 cake for 7-year olds. They are far more excited by a store-bought cupcake that is half frosting.

While kids will want the usual tasty party foods like pizza slices, mini-burgers, cookies, and chips put out plenty of healthy snacks available to balance it out.

Don’t forget other parents

If you weren’t clear in the invitation or your venue is inconvenient, some parents may decide to just hang out awkwardly if invited or not. At the same time, if you invited parents to hang out, watch and socialize, don’t forget to lay out some grown-up food for them to enjoy. You could even hire a private event bartender to serve adult beverages, as well as non-alcoholic drinks for the kids.

Decorations

No party is complete without some fun decorations to brighten up the room. Balloons are a staple for kid’s parties, as are paper streamers. If your kid has requested a theme for their parties, such as pirates, or their favorite movie, find some decorations to reflect that to help create the atmosphere. If you’re on a budget, search online retailers to find great deals that won’t hurt your wallet.

Make sure your kid has the best birthday this year and use these handy tips to help you plan their party.