5 Hints to Securing a Babysitter This Holiday

holiday sitter

You cut your own tree this year and the stockings are already hung by the chimney with care — what’s next on your holiday list? Booking a babysitter for your many, many, many holiday parties. Don’t fret! Start with these 5 Helpful Hints for Securing a Babysitter This Holiday Season:

1. Don’t procrastinate. Book early…or right now! December is a busy month for parents and sitters alike, so send your requests now and make it clear that these dates are important to you and that’s why you’re asking so early.

2. Pay a little extra. Increase your sitter’s hourly rate by a dollar or two to entice her/him to agree to those busy weekend dates. And, try booking multiple dates with the same sitter, so she/he feels assured you’re providing a steady December paycheck.

3. Go for the Early Bird. College-aged sitters love booking early jobs, because that means they can hit the town afterward with their friends. Why not start your Saturday night date at 4 or 5 pm, so you’ll be home by 9 pm?

4. Opt for a weekday. If you have the luxury of choosing the day of the week of your event, opt for a weekday or Sunday. There is far less competition for sitters on the “off” nights, so you’ll have your pick!

5. Stay at home (well not exactly). Picture hosting a fabulous holiday party at your home. Get a sitter to watch the kids and keep them occupied while you entertain. You don’t have to hire the most experienced (read: expensive) sitter for this, since you’ll be there in case of an emergency. Always remember to explain your plan to the sitter when you book them, so there are no big surprises.

UrbanSitter has all your holiday sitter needs covered. Book early and you’ll have one less “to do” on your list!

Time Saving Tips for Your Favorite Holiday Traditions

We recently surveyed parents and most rank “decorating the tree” as their number one holiday tradition. While others rate visiting Santa, watching holiday movies and building a gingerbread house among their holiday must-dos. How is a busy parent to fit it all into a scant few weeks of holiday time? Take a look at these time-saving tips for planning, organizing and enjoying favorite family holiday traditions.

How to Save Time On Your Favorite Holiday Traditions

1. Decorating the Tree (and the house)

  • No more scrambling to find the time and choose a tree – pre-order from a local nursery, church or school selling Christmas trees. You’ll have the perfect tree, with your specifications, waiting for your pickup at a pre-arranged date and time. Some sellers will even deliver it to your doorstop.
  • Consider an artificial tree. While there are those who couldn’t fathom the thought of foregoing the real thing, there are plenty of converts who insist on a faux tree for many reasons, including the ease and speed of setting it up.
  • Determine how you want your decorated tree to look, whether it be a color scheme, a feel (old-fashioned or modern), or make a commitment to homey, handmade decorations. Having a look in mind will keep you from buying loads of unnecessary ornaments or stressing over how to decorate it.
  • Spend a few minutes on Pinterest to find kids crafts that will entertain your kids and serve as decorations. A few of our favorite finds, include:Pinecone Tree via little black door
via little black door
via little black door

Beard Cutting Countdown Calendar via La Classe della Maestra Valentina

via La classe della maestra Valentina
via La classe della maestra Valentina

Snowflake Ornament via Red Ted Art 

via Red Ted Art
via Red Ted Art
  • Rely on Mother Nature to help decorate the rest of your house, too:
    •  When you’re picking up your tree, buy an evergreen wreath for the front door and pick up some boughs or even just scrap cuttings to decorate the mantel, top an entryway table or tie to the banister.
    • Gather a few winter branches or sprigs of holly to plop into vases and jars for instant tabletop décor.
    • Have a fireplace? Why not stack a neat pile of chopped firewood indoors for a woodsy, wintery atmosphere. It’s nice to know a warm fire is at your ready.
  • Invest in sturdy, reusable containers for organizing your holiday decorations. Stores such as Target and the Container Store offer bins and boxes designed for strings of lights, fragile ornaments and wreaths. While it’s tough to add another expense to the already-stretched holiday budget, think of these organizers as a worthy investment. They will save you time and expense, keeping your decorations safe and making it faster and easier to decorate next year.

2. Visiting Santa

Do your homework and plan ahead to avoid wasting your day away in an unbearably long line for Santa:

  • Veteran, Santa visiting parents advise that you can find the shortest lines at a store when the venue first opens, during weekdays and early on in the season.
  • Lesser known or less popular locations for visiting St. Nick are often far less crowded than places like the Herald Square Macy’s in NYC. If you can’t give up the thought of seeing the Big Guy in the Big Apple, consider Santaland Express at Macy’s. Reservations are available up to 48 hours in advance. You can reserve using the Macy’s app on your smartphone (iPhone app/Android app) or in person at Macy’s Herald Square at kiosks located in the Cellar and 9th Floor.
  • Accept that no matter where you go, you’re most likely in for a long line. Be prepared with snacks and small toys to keep the kids entertained while they wait.
  • Consider sneaking a peek instead of sitting on his lap. Many places offering visits with Santa will allow you to get up close to the big guy without waiting in line if you’re willing to just sneak a peek and maybe get and give a little wave, instead of having a seat on his lap.

3. Watching Holiday Movies

Disney’s Frozen is the new holiday movie of the season, but it’s hardly your only option. Opt for watching favorites at home by hosting a fun movie night or leaving a movie with a babysitter for a special treat to enjoy while you’re away. Thanks to Let’s Lasso the Moon for this excellent round-up of favorite holiday movies for kids of all ages.

4. Building a Gingerbread House

via Simply Recipes
via Simply Recipes

If you’ve done this before, you know that assembling these tiny, candy-bejeweled creations is far more work than one would expect! Make it easier, faster and tons more fun with these helpful tips:

  • Leave the assembling to the experts. Order pre-baked, pre-assembled gingerbread houses to avoid the painstaking task of building a house that stands and stays standing. You can order through a local bakery or online.
  • If you insist on building your own (or forget to order a pre-assembled one!), opt for using graham crackers instead of gingerbread. It’s far easier.
  • Take advantage of free, downloadable templates for creating a house out of rolled dough.
  • To hold your house together at the seams and keep the candy from falling off of it, use Royal Icing. Here’s the recipe from Simply Recipes.
  • Shop in advance for kid-friendly decorating tools and materials. Keep it simple by using these time-tested favorites: gum drops, candy candy, licorice strings, small lollipops, and peppermints. Buy more than you think you’ll need, since your builders will likely devour much of it before it ever makes its way to the gingerbread house! If you have tiny tots involved, remember that candy can be a dangerous choking hazard and small pieces should be avoided if little hands are involved.

With a little advance planning and expectation setting, these popular holiday traditions can be a wonderful way to enjoy the holidays with your children. By keeping it simple and relying on the helpful tips shared above, you’ll be able to focus on the fun and keep the stress and expense at bay.

UrbanSitter.com is always ready to meet your childcare needs – any season of the year.

19 Books for Giving to Kids of All Ages

By Lela Nargi

Put off by the idea of giving the kids in your life a pack of toys they’ll only grow tired of by the time the new year hits? Then give them books—lots and lots of books. Here we get your list started with our picks for the brightest, most beautiful offerings of the season, for children of all ages. Happy reading!

Color Dog by Matthew Van Fleet & Brian Stanton. Finally, someone’s put adorable, freeloading puppies to work—helping tots learn their colors. This thick, colorful photo book has big, toddler-friendly tabs for puling to make tails wag and heads bobble, and foldouts galore, behind which a host of irritated cats would prefer to remain inconspicuous (ages 2+, $20).

Tough Guys Have Feelings Too by Keith Negley. Possibly the best gift of all for the sensitive kid on your list is the gift of self-confidence. The slim volume, enriched with vivid color block  illustrations, shows the toughest of men feeling sad, uncertain, and lonely and is certain reassurance that our feelings only make us more lovable (ages 3-5, $18).

The Mellops Go Spelunking by Tomi Ungerer. What could be more festive that a family of cave-hunting pigs?  This reissue of the classic learning/adventure tale follows father pig and his brood into Earth’s underworld, where they discover cave-pig paintings, stalactites and stalagmites, and the lair of perfume smugglers. Oink on! (ages 3-6, $15)

Classic Children’s Tales: 150 Years of Frederick Warne. The British children’s publisher Frederick Warne brought you, and your parents, and your parents’ parents, some of their favorite stories of all time, Beatrix Potter’s The Sly Old Cat not least among them. This compendium of six of their most famous offerings presents, too, their original, charming illustrations, along with introductions by contemporary children’s book authors and illustrators. A perfect read-aloud for the end of a holiday—or any—evening (ages 3-7, $25).

Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin & Daniel Salmieri. This seriously ingenious little book within a book will have your kids manipulating its pages over and over to work its transformative trick. All the while, they’ll be reading a hilarious take on what happens when robots take over the world, and wishing upon any star that it will come true (ages 4-8, $19).

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon, Tanya Sin & Mark Siegel. In December of 1938, Christmas and the seventh night of Hanukkah converged, creating a super-charged atmosphere of love and giving for a boy who had already lost so much in his young life. New York City-dwelling kids especially will relish the opportunity to compare their city, then and now and to reflect on all the ways that we are the same (ages 4-8, $18).

Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers. 

In this charming graphic novel for the kindergarten set, a young girl gets a box of her very own colored pencils for a present and is inspired to use them to write and illustrate her own book. There is plenty of fodder here for all sorts of creative kids to
get making, and with a vengeance—
especially if they received their own box of colored pencils, too, this holiday season…
hint, hint… (ages 5+, $13).

Whatever Happened to My Sister by Simon Ciraolo. The holidays mean lots of extra family time and no one understands the bittersweet twinge of this like a younger sibling. But just when all hope is lost for a return to happier, simpler times, the teen of the household swoops lovingly in on her little sister to show her that times may change, but family is forever (ages 5+, $18)


Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield & Michael Foreman. There’s a classicist in almost every family, and this terrific rendering of the Bard’s plays in story form brings 21 tales to light for a young, traditionalist audience that might otherwise be frustrated with language that can be a challenge at times, even for grownups. A far cry from a child’s version of Cliff’s Notes, the author weaves Shakespeare’s own words and tone into the fabric of his renderings, with familiar, and yet fresh, results. In fact, you might want to add it to your own bedside stack of must-reads (ages 5+, $25).

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers. While kids are unwrapping new toys and games galore, this book is a not-so-gentle but still sweet reminder for them to think fondly on all the possessions they once loved and cherished—before they carelessly discard a whole new season’s worth (ages 5-8, $19).

Lost in NYC by Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio García Sánchez. New York kids love a book about their own hometown at least as much as aspiring kid visitors to the city do. It gives them a chance to test their own street savvy, and to see themselves in the landscape. This graphic novel, though, will also appeal to children who love buildings, children who
love maps, and children who love trains—which probably means pretty much every
kid you know (ages 8+, $17).

Historium by Jo Nelson & Richard Wilkinson. The internet may have rendered encyclopedias obsolete, but this amazing large-format illustrated series—the first was Animalium—is single-handedly showing kids of all ages the joys of knowing a little about a lot of strange and interconnected things. Got a kid who dreams of becoming an archaeologist? Then this book is the ultimate brain- and eye-candy for her (ages 8-12, $35).

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. A middle grade fairy tale that unfolds over a wild, snowy expanse of Russian wilderness as a young wolf rehabilitator named Feo struggles to save everything that she loves. This is the perfect story for curling up to on a cold winter’s night, and for dreaming of all that is possible in this world—and others (ages 8-12, $17).

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon. For the tween reader who loves a rousing adventure—and is still pleased to have accompanying illustrations to bolster the scenes he’s imagined in his mind. This book will add just a bit more magic to the holidays (ages 8-12, $18).

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Graphic novels have become a popular means for conveying tales of tween drama, and this illustrated story about best friends drifting apart to find their own new and true selves is an apt example of how powerful the genre can be. Even if your own kid shakes her head at the notion of roller derby, Roller Girl will get her thinking about her own unique abilities (ages 8-12, $13).

The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith. For the ballet-obsessed on your list, this story is a retelling of E.T.A. Hoffman’s fairytale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” itself the inspiration for perennial season favorite performance, The Nutcracker. Only here, readers will be forced to contemplate the possibility of a strange, alternate fate: mice and squirrels taking over the world (ages 10+, $17).

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll with new illustrations by Anna Bond. Truth be told, text and illustrations go in and out of style. And 150 years after Lewis Carroll released his Alice, the classic story gets a fresh, modern, and most welcome update from illustrator Anna Bond, who also manages to give the protagonist and all her cohorts a sweetly innocent mien (ages 10+, $30).

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. If the holidays are about anything, they’re about family—the one we’re born to and sometimes, the more nurturing one we find in its stead. A wrenching, honest tale for teens who are prescient enough to understand that life’s miracles can be subtle and often, must be worked for rather than waited for (ages 12-17, $20).


The Absolutely Essential 60th Anniversary Edition of Eloise by Kay Thompson & Hilary Knight. Is this re-released book—enhanced with a historical scrapbook of the author
and friends—actually for kids? Or is it really for their grownups, who grew up admiring and aspiring to the reckless hi-jinx of Manhattan’s unruliest citizen? Likely it will fit the gift-giving bill for quite a number of folks on your list. Because Eloise, it seems, simply never goes out of style—and that’s just the way we like it (all ages, $20).

6 Festive Kids’ Crafts That Are Good Enough to Eat

For busy parents and babysitters, what could be better than a delightful kid’s craft and a snack wrapped into one? Edible art projects keep kids entertained, engaged and fed without much fuss. This is incredibly helpful especially when you are preparing holiday meals and entertaining guests. These are also great projects to have grandparents or guests spearhead while you cook–or set these up with your sitter for a fun afternoon activity.

Edible Festive Kids’ Craft Projects

Fruit Gobbler Turkey

via Spoonful
via Spoonful

Unload some of your holiday dirty work by letting the kids create the centerpiece for the big Turkey Day table. This big turkey is loaded with fruits and veggies that your kids will love assembling (while you work on dinner), and enjoy gobbling up just as much. You’ll need:

Bosc pear (head), Melon (body), Cheese (beak and tail feathers), Red pepper (snood, feet and side feathers), Raisins (eyes), Grapes (tail feathers), Bamboo skewers, Toothpicks.

Find complete instructions at Food.com.

Hairy Spider

via Kids Activities Blog
via Kids Activities Blog

Forget about the Halloween craft featuring a fat marshmallow as the body of a creepy crawler. These hairy spiders are of the healthy variety and for tots fascinated by bugs and they work any time of year. We can thank Kids Activities Blog for showing us how to easily create a healthy snack with a chunk of banana dipped in flax seed, pretzels for spider legs and raisins for eyes.

Another Turkey to Gobble

via Cute Food For Kids
via Cute Food For Kids

There’s no shortage of edible turkey crafts to tackle. We think this guy is pretty darn cute and simple enough for little kids to handle without frustration. There are two options – a healthy one made with clementine sections and a “special treat” version that uses skewers of candy for feathers. Both work the same way: cut the bottom off of an apple, flip it around and stick it to the other end with a toothpick to create a stable base. Next, thread oranges or candy and marshmallows to toothpicks and insert for the bird’s feather. Create a head and face out of construction paper, and let your own little turkey stick it on the apple body with another toothpick.

Candy Necklaces

via Blondie and Brownies
via Blondie and Brownies

Creating candy necklaces is a smart activity to help kids practice counting and patterns and to improve their fine motor skills. It also makes for a great project for a party, since it’s relatively simple and low fuss. There are tons of options for edible bits to string for a DIY edible necklace. Think fruit loops, mini marshmallows, Cheerios and pretzels. Blondie and Brownies suggests buying a few yarn darners, essentially large-eyed needles, to help with the threading (she found a set of 7 at Walmart for under $2).

A Mouthful of Teeth

via Kid Spot
via Kid Spot

Apple slices + peanut butter + mini marshmellows = a mouthful of teeth! No detailed instructions are needed for this adorable and yummy craft. Simply slice apples, spread with peanut butter or a nut-free alternative (cream cheese would work well) for denture cream, and stick mini marshmallows along the “gums” for teeth. Voila! Who wouldn’t smile at these?

Cheesy Reindeer

via Cute Food For Kids

You may cringe at the thought or jump for joy, but November 29 marks the start of the Christmas season! Get your kids in the spirit by plunging into a wintertime craft. Adorable reindeer are perfect for little hands to create with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge, pretzels for antlers, olives for eyes and a bit of red pepper for a nose. Cute Food for Kids provides a handy tip – use a straw from a juice box to punch out tiny eyes from an olive, and a fatter straw to create the nose from a bell pepper.

Leave these handy craft activities with your sitter while you’re out holiday shopping – search for babysitters online at www.UrbanSitter.com.

Holiday Gift Guides for the Children, Nannies and Babysitters on Your List

Photo by monettenriquez

Get a head start on your holiday shopping by checking out two brand new UrbanSitter Pinterest boards.

We’ve created awesome holiday gift boards to help guide you to the right present for your kids or other little ones on your holiday list, and we don’t want you to forget your nanny or the super babysitters you depend on throughout the year, so we’ve created a gift board for them, too!

Here are just a few suggestions to get you started on your holiday shopping:

Holiday Gifts for Nannies and Sitters – Pinterest Board

Most nannies and babysitters will agree that a cash bonus is the best holiday gift, but it’s always nice to accompany it with a personal gift to show you think of them as more than just a household employee.  How about one of these?

Mujjo Touchscreen Gloves are ingenious. Their conductivity and texture allow you to use any touchscreen device without taking your gloves off, which means you can text or map out your destination without getting frost-bitten hands.  They come in five colors. You can’t go wrong with black.

Kelly Wearstler Cabochon stud earrings are not only gorgeous and incredibly thoughtful to give. They are also sure to appeal to any taste or personal style. You can’t miss with either the Hemmatite or Howlite natural stone insets.

West Elm Favorite Throws are super soft and offered in an array of beautiful colors. They are just right when you want to give a little something to show your gratitude.  And just the right price at their currently reduced price of $23.

How about a little something for your child to give his nanny or favorite sitter? We’ve got the perfect find. This gold heart key chain from JCrew will melt her heart every time she grabs for her keys.

If she’s worthy of a splurge, why not give a road warrior urbanite a snazzy new bike helmet like this Furono Leopard Bike Helmet from Cloak & Dagger? It’s just the thing to jazz up her daily commute to your place.

Holiday Gifts for Babies and Kids – Pinterest Board

Here are five cool finds that are sure to please boys and girls in each age range on your list.

The Bloom Coco Lounger is a gift parents will appreciate and baby will enjoy. It calms fussy babies with a gentle rocking motion and looks uber cool in the living room.

You won’t wince when you see Baby chewing on these adorable rattles. Yellow Label Kids products are hand-knit from organic bamboo yarn and are made by artisans who are paid fair living wages as set forth by the Fair Trade Federation. And, they are oh so cute and have a soft bird song rattle.

Think of your toddler’s eyes popping open in wonder when she opens her very own personalized board book featuring photos of Mommy and Daddy, the family pet, and a favorite toy or blanket. This impressive gift is totally DIY and sure to become a cherished favorite. Click here for a tutorial from the blogger who created it.

The LeapFrog LeadPad is a big hit with kids age 4 to 7. It’s entertaining and educational and a bit easier on your wallet than going the IPad route.  Think of how nice it will be when you don’t have to hand over your smart phone to keep him busy in the waiting room.

Do you know a Big Girl who is all about glitz and glamour and would love nothing more than to get her ears pierced and sport some flashy studs?  You can hold off on the pierced ears a few more years thanks to Poppy Drop Earrings. They work like temporary tattoos, which means she won’t lose them and can easily change them to match her outfit. Choose from a handful of collections, which include flowers, peace signs and cute little bugs.

Did you get some good ideas? Watch for our next post for some great fodder for building your own Mommy Wish List to whisper into Santa’s ear!

UrbanSitter has not been paid to feature any of the products shown above. These are personal favorites of the editors of the UrbanSitter blog and do not reflect endorsement by UrbanSitter, Inc.