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Helpful advice from rookies and veterans

By KATHERINE SNOW SMITH
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002

Sprinkle baby powder on sandy legs and the sand brushes right off.

When your child gets an "ice cream" headache, have him drink something else cold.

Pick a day, a child's birthday or Christmas perhaps, when you all curl up and watch home movies or go through photo albums.

Whether we're rookies or veterans at the parenting thing, there's always some little tip out there that can make your life easier or enhance your time with your children. Here are a few more that I've received in your e-mails, calls and letters. And please, keep them coming.

Some friends finally got their 3-year-old to give up her pacifiers by telling her she could buy a toy with them. She had been longing for an Ariel mermaid doll, so they bought one secretly, then took it to a nearby store where they had arranged ahead of time for the owner to sell it to their daughter at the price of all five of her pacifiers.

When movie theaters offer an all-you-can-eat popcorn and drink special, ask if they will split it into separate cups and popcorn containers. I know the Muvico Baywalk 20 theater will do this so it's much more economical to pay $8.25 for four or more people's snacks than $3.75 for a small popcorn and $3 for a small drink for each person.

Record yourself reading to your kids each night and before long you have a tape they can play in the car or during quiet time. Or mail it to a niece, nephew or family friend for a present.

The best birth announcement I've received was from friends who used colorful paint pens to write the name, weight, height and birth date of their newborn daughter on a white onesie. They put the outfit on her, took her picture, then sent the photos to friends and family.

One reader told me she declares "anything goes day" every now and then. Her kids get to do anything they want, within reason. They can have macaroni and cheese for breakfast, stay in their pajamas all day, play outside in the mud, jump on the bed or whatever. (Maybe it helps get this stuff out of their system, and next time they want to do it you can remind them they have to wait until the next special day.)

When you misplace a member of the plastic dollhouse family or a train car breaks on the Pooh Express, call the manufacturer. Fisher Price has mailed replacement parts to me for free several times. I've had the Disney catalog replace a whole Disney World amusement park and train set when the engine quit working after about three months.

If you're in a rush, save time by doing two things at once. Eliminate cleaning up a messy high chair by spoon-feeding baby food to a novice eater in the bathtub.

If you don't buy those cereals that look and taste more like candy -- the peanut butter and chocolate balls come to mind -- but your kids still ask for them, here's a suggestion. Make it a tradition that they get to pick one awful, super-sugary cereal when you go on vacation or on some other special occasion.

Kids love birthday parties. To make a parent's or even a dog's birthday more exciting for them, I let my kids give it a theme. We get whatever plates and hats are on clearance from the party store and we make a cake they get to decorate.

If you're giving a baby shower or even your own child's birthday party, put out blank envelopes and ask guests to put their own address on one. This takes one step out of writing thank you notes.

If your child's room isn't clean before bedtime, tell her she has to clean it then and it's going to replace book reading time.

Make a lot of cookie dough at one time, then mold it into small rolls, wrap them in wax paper and freeze. Pull out a roll whenever you want to make slice-and-bake cookies.

One friend spreads the dough on a glass casserole dish, slices it into small squares then freezes the dish. When it's frozen hard, she moves the dough squares to a plastic freezer bag and has a ready supply of her own "break-and-bake" cookies.

Of course, if you're like me and can't resist eating the cookie dough, better not try this one.

Have your kids collect postcards when you go on vacation, then make them into souvenir place mats when you get home. Buy sheets of big construction paper, then let your kids arrange the postcards. You can get them laminated into 11-inch by 17-inch plastic folders at Office Depot or Kinko's for about $3 each. Make sure your paper is about a half-inch smaller than the lamination folder so there is a good seal all the way around.

A friend didn't make it home to her family in Georgia when she was pregnant, so they gave her an absentee baby shower and videotaped everybody presenting her with baby presents. You could do the same thing for a long-distance grandparent's birthday. Videotape your kids singing "Happy Birthday," and opening their cards or presents, then drop the gifts and tape in the mail.

The web site www.tampabaykidsnet.com offers regularly updated information about events for kids around the area from clown appearances at malls, to family festivals to children's plays. It also posts schedules of story times at each area library and other music, art and extracurricular classes for children. The schools' weekly lunch menus are posted as well as store coupons and free stuff you can get for your kids. There is also a listing of the nights that area restaurants offer discounts for kids.

-- You can reach Katherine Snow Smith by e-mail at Oliviachar@aol.com; or write Rookie Mom, St. Petersburg Times, PO Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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