Kristi Campbell is a semi-lapsed career woman with about 18 years of marketing experience in a variety of national and global technology companies. While she does work part-time, her passion is writing and drawing stupid-looking pictures for her blog Finding Ninee, focused on finding humor and support for her special needs son.
The word autism entered my heart as a whisper. It later entered my brain as a possibility. Later still, it entered my life. I think I knew, long before I knew.
I worried, bought a book on autism, devoured it, and then felt like that must not be what my son has. He was nothing like the boy in the book. Nothing. ”Maybe,” I thought, “he just has a language delay.”
I waited for him to start speaking more. For him to start playing in the way that he was supposed to play. He did play though, unlike the boy in the book, so certainly, his issues were different. Less “severe?”
Never mind that he had an egg-sized bruise on his forehead for six weeks at the age of 18 months from banging his head on the floor. As quickly as that behavior started, it went away. I stopped worrying about it. I mean, it no longer existed. Sure, he ran laps around the house. But only when he was tired. Don’t all kids do that? Don’t they all twirl their hair, around and around and around, while drinking a bottle?
I’ve mentioned before that parents and friends assured us that Tucker would catch up, and that his delays were likely due to me being at home with him as a baby.
They were wrong.
I was wrong.
I remember one day, when I looked at my son and with a fearful, time-stopping heart, I wondered whether he was deaf. He wasn’t responding to me that day. Then, I gave him a little at-home test, and he responded. I let myself believe that everything was fine. What did I know? I had no other child in the house to compare him to. He loves to snuggle, and, from what I’d read, autistic children do not. He looks at me in the eyes. Deeply. With meaning and intent. I’d already learned from Dr. Google that children with autism don’t make eye contact…
Here. Four years later. Does Tucker look like anything other than a little boy having fun in the snow?
Autism doesn't look like anything but the way it looks. It doesn't look like Rain Man. It doesn't always include hand-flapping, rocking, or issues with language. Sometimes, it does. But, sometimes, it doesn't.
Last night, I reached out to my IRL PAC tribe.
I asked them what they wish the world knew about autism and special needs and based on their feedback, I compiled this list of 10 things every child with autism (and their parents) wishes you knew:
10 Things Special Needs and Autism Parents Wish You Knew:
People don’t need to feel awkward when they’re around my son. Yeah, they may need to treat him a little differently, but I wish they wouldn’t be weirded out.
Not all autism is the same.
People seem to think that because my son isn’t like the one single other person they know on the spectrum, that he must not be autistic.
These kids love. They need love. They are wonderful and bring enormous joy and laughter to those who love them.
Knowing one child with autism doesn’t mean anything really – they’re all so different. Please don’t tell me my son doesn’t have it because he looks so different from the other kid you know on the spectrum.
Kids with special needs are smart. Talented. Creative, and thoughtful. It may not be obvious all the time – their minds work differently.
If my daughter is making strange noises, feel free to look. She’s just making them because she’s excited. Please don’t stand there and gape at us with your mouth hanging open.
If you see my son in a grocery store, he may be head nuzzling, chewing on the corner of his shirt, or spinning. He’s anxious. I will not scold him, so please do not look at me as if I should. He can’t help how his body receives stimuli. He is trying to cope with the way his body is affected by his surroundings.
From onlookers who think I am not addressing my child’s odd behaviors: I ask for a little empathy. Don’t judge. Try to understand that his environment strongly affects him.
Please accept our kids the way that you assume we will accept yours.
I think I’m speaking for all of us when I say that what we really want you to know, what we’re screaming out loud, is that we, as mothers, are both terrified and brave.
Just like you.
That while our children may act differently from what you’re familiar with, they are our normals. That they’re full of emotion, fierce love, tender hearts, and hope.
Our special needs kids are here, on purpose, and OutLoud.
Recognizing early signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and seeking early intervention can make a world of difference in the life of a child with autism. Here, we share what you need to know about spotting signs of autism early.
When do early signs appear?
Research now suggests that children can show signs of autism as early as 1 year old. However, timing varies, as Autumn W., an occupational therapy assistant who works with children with autism, explains: "There is early onset autism (before 2 years of age) and late onset (where a child meets most milestones on time and seems to be developing normally until a marked regression of skills)."
What are typical signs that a child has autism?
No child with autism is the same. There is a very large spectrum of behavior exhibited by children with autism, and there is no "typical" group of behaviors that all children with autism exhibit. As Jana T. shares: "All autistic children are unique in their own ways. There is no typical behavior of an autistic child."
What are the developmental "red flags" to watch for?
While there isn't a checklist of signs that will indicate your child certainly has autism, Autism Speaksdoes cite each of the following "red flags" as an indicator that a child is at risk for atypical development and should have an immediate evaluation:
No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months or thereafter.
No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by 9 months or thereafter.
No babbling by 12 months.
No back-and-forth gestures — such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving — by 12 months.
No words by 16 months.
No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months.
Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age.
What are other possible signs?
In addition to the milestones noted above, there are many possible signs and symptoms of autism, which include social, communication, and behavioral differences.
As Autumn W. relays: "In early onset [autism], there will be a marked delay in several milestones, particularly in speech. The child may avoid eye contact and resist being held. The child may develop an irregular gait (toe walking, walking on insteps, or never relinquishing a 'high guard'). Autistic children often fixate on objects, exploring every aspect of the object. Most autistic children will self-stimulate (i.e., rocking back and forth, visual stimulation by waving their hand in front of their face, tapping, hitting themselves, and repetitive auditory stimulation). Oftentimes, they appear to be in their own world, oblivious to their environment."
Other signs readers highlight include echolalia (repeating sounds without understanding them); sensitivity to sounds, light, textures, touch, and smells; lack of empathy/understanding emotion; or movements like flapping arms, rocking, rubbing hands or fingers together, and head banging.
What are signs of late onset autism?
In addition to early onset signs, it's important to look for signs of regression from typical development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately one quarter of children with autism will seem to have normal development until about 18 months, after which they will:
Stop talking (if they had begun speaking words).
Stop waving goodbye.
Stop turning the head when the name is called.
Withdraw into a shell and seem more distant and less interested in surroundings.
Finally, trust your gut, advises Stacy H.: "Go with your gut! Push for the evaluations! Who knows — maybe you are just overthinking things and worrying too much, but then again, maybe you are dead-on. That evaluation could make a world of difference in early intervention and really change your child's life!"
With the chaos of juggling our own schedules with our kids' calendars, it's easy for your quality time to be limited to carpool conversations and the bedtime routine. Penciling in some one-on-one time with your favorite girl may require a little extra effort, but it'll pay off in spades. Here, 15 ways to stop stressing and start making memories.
The weeknight dinnertime rush tends to take the fun out of cooking. Bring it back by devoting a few hours to hands-on foodie fun with your little one. Look up a cooking school in your area — you may be surprised to find how many kid-friendly classes are out there.
Instead of trying to squeeze in a mani-pedi while your kids are at school or during your lunch hour, schedule appointments for two after school or on a weekend afternoon. It's a fun opportunity to indulge yourselves in some girl time.
Keep reading for more great mother-daughter date ideas!
Give her a lesson in where her food comes from by taking your daughter out for a one-on-one farmers market outing. Let her have a say in your selections, and encourage her to help turn your produce picks into dinner once you're back home.
We often take for granted that our own town or city has some pretty amazing sites to see. Spend an afternoon exploring with your girl. Head off to a destination that you've always wanted to check out, or take her to one of your own favorite spots that she hasn't seen yet.
If you're a working mom, make arrangements to bring your daughter in to visit your office for the day (or, depending on her age, an hour or two). Give her a better understanding of what her mom does for a living, and spark a conversation of what she could see herself doing as an adult.
This weekend, skip brunch or lunch with your gal pals, and instead take your special little lady out for a date a deux. A one-on-one meal is a great opportunity to get her to open up on what's happening at school, in her social circle, and more.
There may be a chill in the air, but don't let it slow you down. Bundle up, and hit up a local nature trail, park, or boardwalk (hot cocoa in hand, perhaps?) for some outdoor exercise and conversation.
Really? No sushi, no lunch meat, and I can't touch kitty litter??
[reposted from Lucie's List]
There are TONS of pregnancy myths and fact about what you should-- and shouldn't -- be doing during your pregnancy. Perhaps you've already been admonished by an annoying coworker about the dangers lurking inside your turkey sandwich.
The truth of the matter is that the majority of miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects occur from reasons that are totally outside of your control. This will either give you comfort or totally freak you out; hopefully it's the former.
As it turns out, many of the rules of the pregnancy police come not from actual data or studies, but from the "why-take-a-chance" philosophy that pervades American medicine, no matter how infinitesimal the actual risk.
First, a biology lesson.
Mr. (or Ms.) Fetus
Only half of your tiny peanut is identical to your own biology (the other half belonging, of course, to your sperm-donor-of-a-husband, or boyfriend, or fiance, or one-night-stand --- no one's judging here).
Because of this dissimilarity, your little ball of baby cells would normally be rejected by your body's own immune system (much like with a transplanted organ). Thankfully, our immune systems have evolved to NOT attack the developing fetus.
Essentially, your whole immune system lets down its guard for the duration of your pregnancy. As a result, pregnant women are more vulnerable to nasty stuff. This also explains why you'll get every strain of cold under the moon during the 3rd trimester, even if you are normally quite healthy.
So which of the rules are justifiable and which aren't? Let's have a look at some pregnancy myths that have been debunked or confirmed.
Listeria is the big bad bacteria that you want to avoid during pregnancy, mainly because it can cross the placental barrier and infect the fetus, which can result in miscarriage or fetal death.
True, pregnant women are about 20 times more likely to get listeria than the non-pregnant, but EVEN SO, it is EXTREMELY rare, infecting about 50-100 per million for those with a bun in the oven (3 to 5 million without).
~ This is even less likely than your chances of dying in a plane crash (1 in 30,000).
* For comparison's sake, 1 in 84 people die in car crashes.
It should also be noted that most listeria infections in pregnancy occur in the 3rd trimester, when suppression of Th1-mediated immunity is at its maximum.
The highest risk foods for listeria are preserved fish (lox and stuff), cheese from unpasteurized milk, and deli meats. Pate (pa-TAAAAAY). Under cooked hot dogs. Stuff like that.
Bottom line: With those kinds of odds, you should worry more about your driving and less about your turkey sandwich.
Most American OBs say, "No sushi for you!" However, if you look at the data, 85% of seafood illness comes from eating raw shellfish -- that's right, bivalve mollusks, namely, raw oysters and clams.
If you take those out of the equation, the risk of falling ill from eating seafood is 1 in 2 million servings. [By comparison, the risk from eating chicken is 1 in 25,000.] So... can we agree that we won't eat raw oysters and clams? I mean, really? Millions of Japanese women are not wrong (and yes, with some of the best public health officials in the world, they've looked into it).
Furthermore, fish eaten in a sushi restaurant in the US is almost always flash frozen before it gets to the restaurant, so any parasites or bacteria in the fish would have been killed during the process.
Bottom line: No raw shellfish, but your salmon roll shouldn't be any more scary than your chicken sandwich.
"You should eat lots of fish when you're pregnant." No wait... "You should avoid fish when you're pregnant."
Well, which is it?
"Between the warnings about parasites in sushi and about mercury in certain species of fish, pregnant women are being scared off fish altogether. And that's bad news, since the fatty acids in fish are the ideal nourishment for a developing baby," said Steven Shaw, a former food writer for The New York Times.
So is there a "too much"? All researchers can do is guess at it, but many suggest that the warnings against seafood consumption are dramatically overblown.
In fact, a study in the Seychelles [a high fish-eating population] showed no link between the children's development over their first 6 years and the levels of mercury contained in their mothers' hair during pregnancy, which is a measure of the amounts to which fetuses were exposed.
Bottom line: Common sense would tell us to limit consumption of fish that are high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (sorry, no shark for you this week [snort]).
The Truth About Kitty Litter
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite whose only natural host is the cat. Reeeer.
The truth is if you've had an indoor/outdoor cat for years, your chances of being immune from a previous exposure are fairly high - perhaps as high as 90%.
Studies show... of the 10% of pregnant cat owners that are susceptible, about 2% of those are exposed to toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. Of those (now 0.2%), only 30% of the 0.2% become infected. If infected (this keeps getting better, huh?), only 30% of those are "clinically infected", meaning their newborn will be impacted in some noticeable way.
Where are we on the math? About 0.0018 (or, 1.8 in 100,000) of the fetuses of pregnant cat owners will get sick from toxoplasmosis. You can see why doctors really don't see this very often.
Should you tell your husband or partner that this really isn't a threat after all?
Hell-to-tha-NO! Let him think it's highly lethal for, like... the rest of your life (come on, you can't get drunk for the next few months, the least he can do is scoop some kitty crap, yeah?). It'll be our little secret. ;-)
Conclusion: Ladies, I'm not saying you can't get sick from things like listeria, sushi, and kitty litter. I'm just saying they're fairly unlikely (k, so don't sue me). The beauty is that everyone can decide based on their own risk tolerance. I love 'dis country!
People have been wearing babies for centuries. We could learn a thing or two from our ancestors.
American women went away from babywearing a couple of generations ago when doctors preached that a baby who received too much love, touch, and attention would be “spoilt.”
Now we know better: babies desperately want to hear the sound of your voice and the beating of your heart. They also have a very good sense of smell; just the scent of mommy or daddy is enough to calm their nerves. In fact, one study showed that infants who were carried/worn during the day cried and fussed 43% less (overall) and 51% less in the evening hours (4 pm to midnight)1. Yes, please! Sign me up for that.
The Tula Baby Carrier
Babywearing is also a practical logistical solution: wearing your baby allows you to go about your day like a normal person.
In the early days (before your baby can sit unassisted), babywearing is the only practical way to do things like grocery shopping, where you really need your hands free to push a cart. Things like getting the mail, walking the dog, going through airport security and boarding a plane, doing housework, or navigating through a crowded street market becomes infinitely easier with a baby carrier.
Nay, downright enjoyable!
As with strollers, there is no one carrier that is perfect for every situation, so my advice is to decidehow you will primarily use the carrier, then go from there. Meaning… will you use it for shorter periods of time, for doing things around the house, taking short walks around the neighborhood – OR – will you use it for longer periods of time, like going on long walks or hikes. Or both.
Speaking of lifestyle, excuse me while I grossly overgeneralize and stereotype people, but I really have noticed that there are two very different types of moms out there: the walkers and the drivers.
The walker is a mom who lives in a city or walkable suburb. They walk to neighborhood parks and cafes and take public transportation sometimes (or a lot). Perhaps they also go hiking, visit street markets/festivals, and generally have more of a metropolitan lifestyle. These moms greatly benefit from longer-term babywearing. (I just described all of my mommy friends in San Francisco.)
The driver is a mom who lives in the suburbs and rarely gets from A to B on foot. This mom mostly drives everywhere and her baby/toddler tends to spend most time away from home in her car seat or stroller. Perhaps this mom also has a long commute from work and doesn’t tend to leave the house again once she arrives home. These moms will be just fine with a “small baby” carrier and probably won’t need/use one after 6 months or so. (I just described all of my mommy friends in Atlanta and Tampa.)
After living in both environments, I can tell you that the needs of these two groups are very different (sorry for overgeneralizing, but it’s kinda true). (Yes, I know you can fall somewhere in the middle, just humor me.)
Picking an Infant Carrier
Infant carriers are smaller and meant to be worn anywhere from 0-4 to 0-9 months, at which point you would switch to a larger “soft structured carrier,” which will take you well into toddlerhood.
Nesting Days Newborn Carrier
You could also skip the infant carrier and go straight to a soft structured carrier to save some money – with the understanding that young babies (0-6 months) tend to get swallowed up in most SSCs.
Furthermore, many of the soft structured carriers (Ergo, for example), require the purchase of a newborn adapter in order to use it with a young baby (0-6 months). The newborn adapter is often about the same price as some of the infant carriers below, so…. you’re better off just getting an infant carrier that’s appropriate for young infants. Your choice.
Lucie's List (Meg Collins)2. Best Baby CarriersFollow On
Yes, she’s wearing socks on her hands. Sue me, it was cold…
For me, this is hands-down the easiest carrier to take on and off, especially if you leave it in its semi-intact position after taking it off. In the Bjorn, your baby can face in or out, which is fab. It can also be used very early on for newbs without needing a special newborn adapter. Lucie loved facing out in the Bjorn so she could watch the world go by.
However, this is not Sweden’s finest piece of engineering… the downside for the parent is the ouch-factor: think of carrying a heavy backpack on the front of your body. This carrier exerts a great deal of pressure on the lower back and the straps tend to dig into your shoulders. This results in a condition I call “Bjorn back” or “Baby back” (you may also be stricken with Baby wrist, Baby hips and knees, or Baby shoulder — none of which are pleasant). The BabyBjorn Miracle is slightly easier on the back, but for that price? I think you can do better.
People also love to hate on the Bjorn because it’s a dreaded “crotch dangler” [drink!], which means the baby is not in an ergonomically correct position and, in theory, could develop hip dysplasia. With casual use, I don’t think this is a real issue. However, for baby’s sake, I would not wear it heavily. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns.
Having just talked all that smack, I have to admit I LOVE the Bjorn for its easy on/off, around the house convenience. Need to throw it on to unload the dishwasher, get the mail, or tend to another child? YEP! For 0-4 months or so, this is a very handy carrier indeed. Closeted, crotch-dangling mothers around America agree. But after baby hits the 15 lb mark? Forget it, your back will be DYING. It absolutely pains me to see moms or dads carrying around older infants or even young toddlers in a goddang Bjorn. Ouch, people! It makes me want to have an impromptu baby carrier intervention.
I’m not sure I would buy one new, but if you can borrow one from a friend for the first few months, you’ll be glad you did. It’s all about options! BabyBjorn introduced a new carrier, the Baby Carrier One, named so to be “the only carrier you’ll need from birth through toddlerhood.” This is a pricey (but pretty nice!) carrier that behaves more like a traditional soft structured carrier, like the Ergo, but with the convenience of easy in and out that Bjorn is known for. Read our complete review of the BabyBjorn One.
The Moby is the bizzaro Bjorn: difficult to get on, but a pleasure to wear. The closeness and comfort that you have with a Moby is like no other, mainly because you are literally wrapping baby to your body so you move together as one unit.
The Moby is a single, long piece of stretchy fabric that you tie around you and your baby and, like grits, is an acquired taste. It takes a bit of practice to tie it correctly, but once you do, you’ll be in love. Unlike the Bjorn, it’s great for wearing for long durations because it doesn’t cause back fatigue. Seriously though, I would never have figured out how to tie it if I had just read the manual.
I made an instructional video here:
Just remember: it takes some practice and patience. If you lack both of these qualities, see #3. The Moby is totally perfect for your 0-6 month old baby and at ~$45, it’s very affordable.
A lesser known, but similar wrap is the Boba Wrap. Many moms like it better because it’s more stretchy and less bulky (and cheaper!).
Ergobaby released the Ergobaby Wrap in March of 2014. This wrap has a built-in pocket to store all the fabric so it doesn’t drag on the ground. It’s about $80 though; almost double the price of the others. So unless someone else is buying… see my review here.
The K’tan is the Moby without all of the intricate tying – the best of both worlds if you ask me. Your baby can face in or out (yay!), and can be carried on your hip when they get older. Unlike most other carriers, the K’tan is not one-size-fits-all. It is sized to fit the wearer (you), not your babe. Therefore, you may not be able to share it with your partner if there is a great size difference (which there usually is). This is the biggest downside.
For a video on how the K’tan compares to something like the Moby, click here.
Pay close attention to the sizing recommendations. If you are at all in-between sizes, get the smaller one. The material is quite stretchy.
It comes with an extra piece of fabric that you can tie around to give you extra support (more like a Moby) if you feel like you need it. Some people forget about this piece then complain it isn’t secure enough. It’s there – use it.
The Nesting Days carrier is different because you wear it around your tummy, like a shaper, which makes it very secure, comfortable, and totally hands free. This carrier also gives much needed tummy support after giving birth, especially for C-section moms.
Snug as a bug
The creator of Nesting Days, Julie Arvan, is a nurse and postpartum doula who also worked in the apparel industry. With the Nesting Days carrier, she brought together the best of both worlds. The fabric’s are soft, stretchy, and completely machine washable.
This has become my go-to gift for new moms and the friends who received one can’t stop raving about it. See our demonstration video here.
Nesting Days is ‘made-to-order’ in small batches in San Francisco. Immediate delivery is $99. Pre-orders that ship in 4 to 6 weeks are $89. Sizing is based on your pre-pregnancy dress size. They run a little small, so size up when you order. Wrong size? Nesting Days sends you the right size in a few days, and a pre-paid envelope for the return. Made for newborns 5-18 pounds. You’re going to love going skin-to-skin!
Beach and Pool Products!Headed to the beach, pool or waterpark this summer? Check out these cool new products to make your trip easy and fun.
Sharkbanz $59; Sharkbanz.com Sharkbanz is a new wearable that uses patented magnetic technology to interfere with sharks’ sensitive electroreceptors and deter attacks. Simple to use, store, and durably built for surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving and general beach-going. Sharkbanz use no chemicals, batteries or electricity to deter sharks. The wearer just straps it on any time they’re about to head into the ocean, and they comfortably fit on children. “Easy to put on, stays on well and so far we have not had any problems with sharks so it works great!” says Gavin.
The Freezable Carryall Lunch Bag $19.99; PackIt.com This stylish tote is a great option for all your lunch needs. Whether it’s a big pasta salad or a hearty meal to bring to an outdoor event, this bag has the room to fit it all. The front storage pouch provides extra room for utensils or any other personal items. "I love that you can just pull it out of the freezer, throw your lunch, drinks and snacks in and head to the beach!" says Laura.
Mad Hippie Facial SPF $24.99; MadHippie.com Chemical-free and all natural 30+ facial SPF utilizes zinc oxide—the safest and most natural physical blocking agent available. Combined with naturally photoprotective oils, red raspberry seed oil, avocado oil and carrot seed oil, plus vitamin C + E + Ferulic acid, this hydrating blend offers broad-range antioxidant protection from photo-aging. "Nice and thick and not greasy at all," says Michelle. "Rubs in really well so I feel my kids are completely protected for a day at the pool."
Ro·Sham·Bo Baby's waterproof baby sunglasses $20;roshambobaby.com Designed specifically for babies and children’s use, abuse and love of putting things in their mouths, Ro·Sham·Bo's waterproof baby sunglasses, like these bright blue baby sunglasses, are so durable that they can be bent, stretched, pulled, stepped on (they have even been run over and survived!) and bounce right back to shape. Ro·Sham·Bo Baby shades come in baby, junior and adult sizes. They block 100% of UVA/B rays, have a shatter resistant lens and are small parts tested, so safe for babies. Full lens and damage replacement is guaranteed if lens or frames break or get damaged. "Genius! Indestructible children's sunglasses! They look great and I can throw them in our beach bag and go," says Suzanne.
Nautica® Beach Chair and Umbrella $39.99-$49.99; BedBathandBeyond.com This stylish, lightweight beach collection from Nautica is perfect for staying cool and relaxed when at the shore. Features a 5-position beach chair and 7-foot beach umbrella. "Durable, different colors and designs to choose from and easy to carry as a backpack," says Robyn. "Perfect chair and shade for the beach or a soccer game."
Swimmer Jr Speaker $39.99; PolkAudio.com At the approximate size of a racquet ball, the Swimmer Jr. by Polk BOOM is Bluetooth speaker that delivers surprisingly loud, high quality sound. It is also waterproof so your teens and tots won’t have to worry about dropping it in the pool while you’re on vacation this summer- plus, it will make shower time a lot more fun. Features a celebrated flexible tail design that can be hung, looped or attached to any object such as a backpack, a belt loop, bike handlebar, etc. All you have to do is link the speaker to your smartphone via Bluetooth and the kids will be jamming in no time. "My son attaches it to his backpack so he always has a speaker with him," says Tracy.
The Great Plate $15; GreatPlate.net The Great Plate is an innovative plate and cup holder in one. It is the perfect companion for every occasion, from slumber parties to popcorn and movie nights. Easily allows kids to hold both their snacks and beverage comfortably, keeping inevitable spills at bay. BPA-free, dishwasher/microwave safe, reusable and recyclable. Sold in a set of four in bright, cheerful colors. "Great for outdoor snack use and they float!" says Craig.
Chill Factor™ Drink Bottle $18.99; http://thechillfactor.com/drink-bottle Stay hydrated when playing outdoors during the summer with the Chill Factor™ Drink Bottle, a color changing water bottle for both kids and adults! Simply place the water bag in the freezer prior to use, and when ready to hit the park, the trail, or the beach, pour in water or any room temperature drink. Use your hands to squeeze the water bottle and in seconds, your drink will be chilled, staying cold for up to two hours. When cool, the new hyper color function shows you how cool your bottle is. "My kids love this," says Tracy. "And they are easy to grab and take to the pool."
Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 8 oz. Airless Pump $33.99; BeyondCoastal.com Beyond Coastal's top-rated 100% natural sunscreen provides shelter from UVA rays with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. SPF 30 effectively blocks 97% of UVB rays, which cause sunburn. This ultimate skin care is moisturizing, water resistant and hydrates skin with aloe vera, shea butter, and vitamin C. "Easy to apply and stay on whether the kids are in the pool or at the beach," says Laura.
Super Soft® Water Trotter $129.99; BedBathandBeyond.com The kids will jump for joy with this adorable Super Soft Water Trotter pool toy. They'll have so much fun racing around the pool with this ride-on horse, featuring built-in safety handles to help kids keep their balance. Perfect for the horse crazy kid. Vinyl coated for durability. Recommended for ages 5 years and up. "This is my kids favorite pool toy!" says Ramona. "Everyone loves to play with it, regardless of age."
Shore Jr Sandals $39.99; us.Hi-Tec.com Going on an adventure in the sun? Need to splash through some water? The Hi-Tec Shore JR is the perfect sandal for every kid. This sandal is constructed with a soft synthetic upper for comfort, durability and breathability. A shock cord and adjustable heel strap ensure a customized and secure fit. The EVA midsole absorbs impact for all-day comfort and a rubber outsole provides grip on any terrain, making the Shore Jr. the ultimate kid's summer sandal. Adult shoe selections also available. "Perfect for the beach or tidepooling," says Erin.
Derby Duck $59.99; DerbyDuckFun.com Taking the form as a classic yellow rubber ducky with sunglasses, this 72-inch-long stylish inflatable duck is made with durable, heavy-duty vinyl and has a recessed seating area that's comfortable for lounging. It has two built-in handles on its sides, giving passengers plenty of stability as well as a convenient cup holder to keep drinks cool and fresh. The Derby Duck pool float can hold multiple people, making it the perfect way to combine relaxation and recreation in every backyard swimming pool. This Derby Duck is the perfect item to have at every pool party during the summer! For ages 6 and up. "I love the built-in cup holders," says Craig. "Great for lounging around in the pool on a hot day."
Too Cool Key West Aloe $10; KeyWestAloe.com Summer weather can damage and diminish skin by drying out precious moisture and nutrients. But adding back what you lose with a little spritz of hydration may be the remedy to your woes. Infused with hydrating properties from 80% of Aloe Vera and the protection of Red Algae, skin will soak up the moisture and keep it locked in for the months ahead. "Feels refreshing on my skin after a day in the sun," says Tammy.