5 Simple, Healthy Summer Meals

Whether you’re coming home from work or from a long day at the pool or beach with the kids, you need a healthy dinner to feed and please your family – and you need it quick. In the heat of the summer, the less time in the kitchen, the better. These tried and true favorite summer recipes are fresh and satisfying, and so simple that you could ask the sitter to prepare them.


5 Simple, Healthy Summer Meals

Edamame Salad
A satisfying salad your kids will devour. After all, what kid doesn’t love the tiny green soy bean?

via Whyy Org
via Whyy Org


  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon siracha (optional)
  • 1 pound frozen, shelled edamame, thawed
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup shredded carrot

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.


Nourish Bowl
Not exactly a recipe, but rather a formula you can follow and customize to create a healthy, delicious one-bowl meal for every member of your family. Start with a big bowl with a base of dark leafy greens, top with a protein, a carbohydrate, and a healthy fat. Check out the helpful diagram and suggestions for each component.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 1.07.36 PM
via Nutritionally Stripped

Greens | spinach, romaine, arugula, kale, micro greens, sprouts, mustard greens, swiss chard, etc.
Proteins | tempeh, beans, quinoa and lentils (starchy-proteins), hemp seeds, nuts/seeds, eggs and wild-caught fish, animal proteins
Healthy fats | avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, hemp seeds, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, truffle oil
Veggies | carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, snap peas, peas, radish, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower; any and all veggies you enjoy!
Carbohydrates | sweet potatoes, quinoa, millet, brown rice, wild rice, beans (starchy-protein), corn and peas (starchy veggie)
Fruits: strawberries, pears, banana, papaya, mango, grapes, raspberries, apples, etc.
Dressings |  2 tablespoons hummus + 2-4 tablespoon apple cider vinegar + 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast = a super thick and creamy dressing.


Any Veggie Frittata
This super simple recipe uses asparagus as the star ingredient, but really any veggie will do.

via Simply Recipes
via Simply Recipes


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

1. Heat butter into a 10-inch oven-proof frying pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add asparagus, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, for 3 minutes.

2. Pour in eggs and cook until almost set, but still runny on top, about 2 minutes. While cooking, pre-heat oven broiler.

3. Sprinkle cheese over eggs and put in oven to broil until cheese is melted and browned, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from oven with oven mitts and slide frittata onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges.


Lemon Garlic Pasta
What could be easier (and more delicious!) than pasta tossed with lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, parmesan and roasted garlic? Dress it up with some roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, shrimp or fresh vegetables…. if you have the time and are so inclined. Roast garlic ahead of time if you know this dish is on the week’s menu, and you’ll have an even speedier meal.

via Wonky Wonderful
via Wonky Wonderful


  • 1 head of garlic (10-15 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 tbsp fresh lemon juice (1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • lemon zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy)
  • 1/2 lb angel hair pasta (cooked)
  • fresh grated parmesan

1. Place peeled garlic cloves in an oven safe dish, drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Oven roast at 400° for 30-40 minutes (until lightly golden browned). Let cool for 2-3 minutes, then chop.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Feel free to use a different type of pasta if you prefer.

3. In a large sauté pan over medium/low heat – heat the olive oil and chopped garlic for 4-5 minutes while stirring.

4. Add the lemon juice and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.

5. Reduce heat to low – add the salt and red pepper flakes.

6. Add the cooked pasta and toss with the lemon garlic sauce until fully coated.

7. Transfer to serving dishes and top with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon zest, fresh grated parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes (optional).


Mini Breakfast Pizza
Everyone loves breakfast for dinner. Put a twist on the usual pancakes or scrambled eggs by whipping up breakfast pizzas instead. The beauty of the recipe is that it’s highly adaptable. Use what you have on hand – English muffins, bagels or bread, any suitable meat, cheese or veggie.

via Sweet Remedy
via Sweet Remedy


  • 3 english muffins
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice open English Muffins, top with pizza sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Add olive oil to a skillet, crack eggs inside and cook on high until almost done. Add eggs to prepared english muffins and top with more cheese and parsley. Bake on baking sheet for 10 minutes or until eggs are cooked through.

What recipes do you keep up your sleeve for when time is tight or to leave the sitter to make for dinner? Share your favorites with us in the comments! 

4 Things to Do Before Summer Break

We are weeks, if not days, away from the end of the school year and the start of summer break. Before you let go and slide into the spontaneity and freedom of summer, take a few minutes to tackle these four things. They won’t take much of your time, and by thinking ahead, you’ll guarantee your family a happier, less stressful, and more productive summer together.



1. Determine a summer routine
Part of the charm of a summer break from school is getting a pass from the routine of the school year and having more time to do what we please. There’s no school bell, no homework, there’s more time to spend outdoors and more relaxed bedtimes. No one wants to rob their children of that freedom and their chance to simply be a kid enjoying a carefree summer, but it’s also important that we keep a sense of routine going in their lives. Experts insist that kids need routines to know where they stand and what’s expected of them. Routines establish a model for healthy living, help to set good habits and they give comfort and security.

Without school to add structure to their day, you need to spell out to your kids how things are going to work. Map out an average summer day in your family, including an acceptable time to start the day, how much screen time is allowed, rest or nap time, camps or special activities, chores that are expected, meal and snack times and bedtime. Be sure to allot for plenty of unstructured time, outside play and time together as a family, too. The objective isn’t to set a schedule with military precision, but to create an outline that will help guide the less structured days of summer, keeping them enjoyable and stress-free.

2. Register for camps
If you haven’t already registered your kids for camps or drop-off activities, jump on it and find a few options to keep kids occupied and entertained during the long, dog days ahead. There are plenty of affordable options, including mini, half-day camps and programs offered by local libraries, churches and schools to entertain the kids and provide you with a few hours of freedom to work, rest or play. Find the right camps, and your kids will see the time as a fun break and a special summer memory.

3. Book a summer sitter
No matter how much fun you have planned and how much you’ll cherish the extra time with your kids, you’ll need a break. Scheduling a regular sitter gives you the peace of mind of knowing time to yourself is right around the corner. You’ll be able to better enjoy family time when you aren’t struggling to squeeze your own needs and responsibilities into the mix. UrbanSitter makes it easy to find a sitter who’s available when you need help – say, three mornings or two afternoons a week, to plan ahead for date nights or special occasions, and to find childcare for the last-minute invite from a friend who happens to be in town.

4. Set goals
While setting your summer schedule, give some thought to your objectives for the months ahead. A little advance planning and a strategy will help ensure that you don’t wish away the time and find yourself at the end of the break wishing you had accomplished more. Set personal and family goals, such as making more time for your own hobbies and spending more time having fun as a family. Depending on the ages of your children, good summer goals can be traveling to a new place together, teaching your son how to ride a bike or confidently jump into the pool without swimmies, entertaining more spontaneously, sleeping under the stars with your kids, or getting away for a weekend alone with your spouse. School-age kids will enjoy and grow from setting their own goals. You might suggest goals, such as reading 10 books or logging a set number of hours of reading, attending sleep-away camp for the first time or learning or improving on a new skill.

This helpful to-do list shouldn’t take any joy from your summer, but rather help improve your chances of having the idyllic break you and your family deserve.

What’s on your summer to-do list? Let us know in the comments!

How to Create the Perfect Family Picnic

meg_son_grassWhat better way is there to enjoy a relaxing afternoon with your family – soaking in the sunshine, eating good food and simply being together –  than with a glorious, family picnic? Before the summer slips away, follow our formula to create the perfect family picnic. We show you how to choose the right menu, including ideas and recipes for delicious and easy-to-prepare fare; how to pack just right; and also provide a fantastic round-up of the best picnicking spots for families in the SF Bay Area, New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Greek Salad via Pinterest

STEP 1: The Perfectly Portable, Family-Friendly Picnic Menu.

The best picnic meals are the ones that come together without a whole lot of effort. After all, who wants to be slaving away in the kitchen in August?  The most successful picnics are also easy to transport and simple to eat while sitting or lounging on a blanket.  In other words, they are fuss-free.

And, since we’re talking about a family event, make sure the menu provides food and treats kids will be happy to eat without any pleading or begging from you. Think finger foods and simple salads you can eat out of the individual containers you transport them in.

Image via Cooking Light
Mozzarella Bites via Cooking Light

Here are some sure-fire hits for the best family picnic food:

  • Greek Pasta Salad – an entire meal in one bowl.
  • Edamame Salad – kids dig the tiny green bean.
  • Crudites with Kid-Approved Ranch Dressing for dipping
  • Fruit (it comes in its own package)
  • Baked Mozzarella Bites – You can eat these and the marinara dipping sauce at room temperature.
  • Quiche or a Spanish Omelet – delicious served chilled
  • Kebabs- with or without meat, food on a stick is cool.
  • Sandwiches – if you have a picky eater on your hands, stick with what you know works.
    Simple Sandwiches via Good Housekeeping
    Simple Sandwiches via Good Housekeeping

    If your crew likes shaking it up, try a new combo, like one of these 12 Simple Summer Sandwiches. Most can be assembled on-site.

  • Cheese and crackers
  • Brownies – These Frosted Zucchini Brownies use applesauce instead of oil and require no eggs.

STEP 2: Thoughtful Picnic Packing.

Gather the essentials – enough to have everything you need, but not enough to weigh you down so much that you’re worn out by the time you get there.

Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

You get bonus points if you can eat out of the containers the food is stored in, meaning you have less to carry and less to toss.  Stick with foods that require no or few utensils and borrow small plastic containers from the stash you use to pack your kids’ school lunches.

Just as important as the food are the extras –

A soft blanket everyone can fit on, a ball or Frisbee, a game the whole family can play, some music and of course, sunscreen, bug spray and water. If it’s a late evening picnic, a lantern is useful and sets a nice mood, and flashlights will entertain the kids while you rest and enjoy the night.

STEP 3: The Right Picnic Spot.

Your kids would likely be thrilled to simply throw down a blanket and sit on the back patio, since it’s so much more exciting than eating at, say the kitchen table.  If you’re looking for a better spot, here are our picks for the best places to picnic with families:







It’s an awesome time of year to be outside! Need a babysitter to take the kids to the park? Try UrbanSitter!

6 Speedy Summertime Dinner Recipes

Summer is here, the kids are home, and they are hungry! Who’s got time to cook? Check out these 6 ideas for easy, no-cook, no-fuss dinners that get you in and out of the kitchen in a flash. We wouldn’t want you to miss out on a minute of summertime fun!

1. Gazpacho

Chop, pour, puree, chill and – voila – dinner! Here’s the perfect quick and healthy dinner that fills their bellies and cools them off, too. Hopefully, your kids will think cold soup is quite funny and they’ll get into the game by adding their favorite toppings to make it their own. Try chopped avocado, cilantro, tortilla chips, feta and croutons for toppings that make for a complete meal.


Gazpacho by Babble
Gazpacho by Babble

2. Bruschetta = Toast for Dinner

Strawberry Bruschetta by Annie's Eats

We’ve all had the kind with tomato and basil. Why not surprise them with a surprising new twist (kinda like cold soup!) – Strawberry Bruschetta – a wonderful combination of sweet strawberries, tangy goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar with a touch of fresh basil on top. It’s a fantastic flavor combination, and screams “Summer!” You’ll need just a nice French baquette, fresh strawberries, a touch of sugar, olive oil, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. The very simple recipe is here.

3. Quick Fish Tacos

Ok, technically, you do have to do some cooking with these fish tacos, but if you have a grill or even a grill pan, it’s a cinch. The recipe is also great for making good use of leftovers, so grill a few extra pieces of fish and save them for these tacos the next night. The sauce makes these extra special, and it’s just a simple mix of sour cream and lime juice with the level of seasoning (salt, pepper and jalapeno) that works for your tastes. The mix of veggie slaw and avocado make it a well rounded meal, and just right for summer.

Fish tacos

4. Antipasti Platter

A cold antipasti platter requires absolutely no cooking and next-to-no prep. It’s about as simple as calling for take-out, and yet so much tastier. With some forethought, you can keep many of these items on hand and pick up the rest at a one-stop shop. Go Italian by choosing a selection of cold deli meats and cheeses, jarred roasted peppers, sliced tomatoes, basil, olives and crackers or bread. Or, go Middle Eastern with a chunk of fresh feta cheese, hummus, olives, pita and any tasty Mediterranean tidbits you can pick up, including dolmas or a grain salad. If a big platter of tasty morsels isn’t going to cut with your kids, turn it into sandwiches they’ll dig, and grab a piece of fruit to go with them.


5. Cobb Salad

Before you protest, “My child will never eat salad!” – remember a salad is just a bowl of stuff a.k.a. building blocks. Chop what you have on hand, for a traditional cobb salad it would be some greens (a bag of salad mix works fine), cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, maybe cold leftover chicken or some bacon or ham, a can of kidney beans or maybe garbanzos, cubed cheese, a couple of hard boiled eggs. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan household, hold the meat and dairy. Give your child bits of what works for him, and throw the rest into a bowl and serve salad to the rest of the family. As easy as it is to grab a bottle of salad dressing, resist and spend a few minutes whisking one of your own. A Tarragon Vinaigrette, care of Iowa Girl Eats, works well and can be made with a whisk if you don’t want to drag out the blender or food processor.

For the Tarragon Vinaigrette:
Whisk or blend 2 Tablespoons lemon juice; 2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar; 10-12 tarragon leaves, torn;
1 small shallot, roughly chopped;
1/2 teaspoon sugar;
salt & pepper to taste; and 
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.


6. Dessert: Nutella (or Nut-free Nutella) Matzo Sandwiches

Your kids’ eyes will pop out of their heads when they come to the table and see chocolate sandwiches on their plates! Inspired by the Jewish tradition of serving sandwiches on Matzo during Passover, these sandwiches are simply Nutella spread between Matzo crackers. And for the nut-free households, Weelicious shares a handy substitution that tastes just as good as Nutella. The nut-free version blends one part chocolate chips with one part sunflower butter. Serve this yummy creation with whatever is fresh-picked at the Farmer’s Market and requires nothing but a knife for slicing.


* All yummy images courtesy of Pinterest.  

HINT: These are great make-ahead meals to leave with the babysitter! Find trusted babysitters at UrbanSitter.com.

5 Ways a Babysitter Can Help This Summer

find a summer babysitter

Now that the kids are home from school for the summer, you’re faced with a whole different set of childcare needs. If you need full-time childcare for the summer, you likely have it covered by now. For the rest of us who could use a hand over the next few months, here are some helpful ways a babysitter might be just what’s needed.

5 Ways to Make the Most of a Summer Babysitter:

1. Camp and Activity Chauffeur

A summer schedule that includes day camps and summer activities, such as lessons or tutoring, has the potential to turn you into a prisoner of your own car. Instead of enjoying a relaxing break from school-year routine and obligation, you’re pulling your hair out trying to mastermind the logistics of transporting numerous children to numerous locations at undoubtedly conflicting times. Hire a sitter to help with the load.

UrbanSitter has many trustworthy sitters who are more than willing to drive your children using their own car or yours. Do a babysitter search and filter to see only candidates who have a vehicle and will drive kids.

2. Mother’s/Father’s Helper

For the times when an extra pair of hands makes all the difference in the world. Hire a babysitter to play with the kids while you make an impressive dinner for guests (or even a simple one for your own family), help entertain a load of visiting friends and cousins, take over while you tackle a DIY home project that’s you’ve been itching to get to (turn the baby’s room into a big kid room, starting with a fresh coat of paint; sort and organize the clothes your kids are outgrowing at rapid pace), co-host a summer birthday party, or maybe even just help to give older siblings a bit of extra attention if a new baby has recently joined the family.

3. Morning or Afternoon Sanity Saver

It’s really fantastic to have a few hours every week you can count on to take care of life without bringing the kids along. Hiring a babysitter for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, a morning each week or as often as you can afford is an absolute sanity saver. Imagine how much easier it would be schedule appointments, catch up with a friend from pre-kid days or just get some work done, knowing the kids are covered.

Did you know UrbanSitter allows babysitters to post their weekly availability, blocking times when they have other jobs or classes, so you can see who is available to fit your schedule?

4. Vacation Nanny

Whether you are driving to a nearby beach for a week or taking the whole crew on a plane for a jaunt across the country or over the pond, it’s infinitely easier to do it with a babysitter along to help. You might have your spouse or a grandparent to share the load, but they aren’t likely relishing 24/7 kid duty. A babysitter can help entertain the kids while you and your spouse or other adults  truly enjoy some vacation time – dining out past 5 pm, reading a book poolside, playing a round of golf or sneaking off to the spa.

Be sure to talk with your babysitter before the trip to make sure you have the same expectations for the trip, including how much time she’ll spend with the kids, when and if she’ll join in on family time, how much free time she will have, and what expenses will be covered.

5. Pool or Park Chaperone

If your summer involves a lot of time at the pool and park, lucky you, but chances are there are days when you have other places you want or need to be. It’s pretty darn nice to have a reliable, trustworthy babysitter to take the kids off your hands and take them to the pool or park. If you have more than one child, especially if one is a baby or toddler who is still napping or an older child who has other places to be, it’s valuable to  have a babysitter to split the duty. She can help while you stay home with a sleeping baby or transport an older child.

UrbanSitter lets you search for babysitters who are child/infant CPR-trained. Our blog post on Summer Safety is a great resource to share with your babysitter before she takes on summer duty.

Regardless of when you need a babysitter, UrbanSitter is an excellent resource for finding just the right one for this summer and beyond.

Check out new babysitter profiles that have been added in your area, and go ahead and try a new babysitter who’s right for you. You deserve it!



What to Expect from a Summer Sitter

find a summer sitterWith the end of the school year looming, it’s time to line up a summer sitter (or two) to help out in the coming months. Since many college-age sitters are on summer break, you’ll have many choices IF you hire now. Here are just a few qualities you might want to look for when selecting a summer sitter.

Things to Look for in a Summer Sitter

Compatible schedules. If you’re a stay at home mom, you might just need a few hours in the morning to work out — this might be the ideal schedule for a college student who wants the afternoons off to be with friends. UrbanSitter makes it easy to find a sitter with a compatible schedule. Start with a search by date/time to view available sitters and their monthly calendars, or post a job for your exact needs.

Lots of energy. If your children love to play outside–and if one of your brood happens to be “a runner”–you’ll probably need a summer sitter who is willing and able to keep up with them in the hot weather. Spell out how many hours and what kinds of activity your kids like, so your sitter knows what she’s committing to. Also, it’s a great segue to remind your sitter about sunscreen and proper hydration for the kids.

CPR-trained. If swim class or trips to the pool are on the agenda this summer, it might be reassuring to hire a sitter who has been trained or is certified in child/infant CPR. On UrbanSitter, you can search specifically for local babysitters who are CPR trained/certified. Don’t forget to talk to your summer sitter about the importance of calling 911.

Willingness to drive. Some sitters will happily take on the responsibility of pick ups and drop offs. Besides checking their driver’s license and driving record, you might want to review schedules and best routes with your sitter–and show them how to use the child car seats. A few test runs with you in the car may also help to gauge your comfort level with the sitter’s driving capabilities. UrbanSitter lets you search for sitters who have a driver’s license and their own car, so you can get some road relief.

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

How to Line Up Summer Childcare Help

UrbanSitter babysitter

The typical school-age child has 10 weeks of summer vacation. That’s at least 70 full days with you or another caregiver–be it a daycare provider, camp counselor, nanny, babysitter, family, or a friend. Regardless of your family’s regular schedule, it’s likely you could use a bit of additional childcare this summer. Now is the time to think about lining up your summer childcare help, here are a few options to get you started:

Summer Camps

Summer camp doesn’t have to mean an entire summer away from home. A week or more of ½-day soccer, gymnastics, or swim/tennis camp could be just what both you and the kids need to make it a fabulous summer. If you haven’t already registered your kids for summer camps or maybe you thought camp didn’t fit the budget this year, be sure to check out our earlier post –Tips for Choosing Summer Camps for Your Kids.  We’ve included links to help find affordable mini- and day-camp options for your kids, and provided tips for choosing camps that give you the most bangs for your buck.

Regularly Scheduled Babysitters

If you don’t have your kids in a camp or daycare, you’ll definitely need a break, and so will your kids. Shake things up by hiring a regularly scheduled sitter to babysit a couple mornings every week while you run errands, hit the gym, do a bit of housework or simply relax child-free. Many parents who have an infant and older kids, find it helpful to hire a sitter to stay with the baby while he naps and they spend some quality time with the older siblings, or the flip side – they have the sitter take the big kids somewhere fun, while you get things done at home when the baby’s asleep.

How do you find these sanity-saving sitters? Reach out now to find local college or high-school students or neighborhood mother’s helpers.

  • College students typically have some babysitting experience and are hungry to earn extra money. Students at nearby schools or locals who are home for summer break are especially good options. Expect to pay what you would pay a seasoned babysitter, and be sure to get a commitment well before summer break starts as their time is likely in high demand.
  • High school sitters, though less experienced, are often in the eyes of your child the most fun and energetic sitters. For those who have little experience with kids, plan to have them play with your children for a short time while you’re at home, or cover for you while you make a quick run to the grocery store until you are both comfortable with you leaving them alone. Negotiate hourly rates based on experience.
  • Mother’s Helpers are typically teens looking to get babysitting experience and earn a bit of money. Many start offering their help after completing a local babysitting or CPR course aimed at preparing them for potential childcare emergencies. Regardless, it’s best to leverage them as fun-loving, responsible kids to help out while you’re at home. Hourly rates are far less. Talk with the helpers or their parents to determine a rate that’s fair.

Your Go-To Source for Trusty Babysitters, Whenever the Need Strikes

UrbanSitter, of course! With the UrbanSitter mobile app, you can find and book a sitter on the go, and even have a confirmed sitter within minutes.

  • See which babysitters are recommended personally by parents in your local network (friends, parents at your child’s school, YMCA, mother’s clubs, etc.).
  • Need a Monday-Wednesday afternoon sitter or someone to drop the kids off at camp? Post a job and sitters will apply if they’re interested.
  • Schedule interviews online and even screen sitters beforehand by watching their video profiles!
  • Did you know the site even has a feature that allows you to shop by rate? Yep, you can search for a babysitter with the best rate, one that fits your budget.

You can rest assured there’s always a fantastic sitter ready to take your kids off your hands for a bit, whether it to entertain them at home, take them on a fun field trip, or even just take over carpool duty.

Regardless of your family’s summer agenda, don’t forget to include extra childcare in your plans!

Round Up: A Luxury Vacation with More than a Little Something for the Kids

The Wall Street Journal published an article this week about luxury hotels adding more kid-friendly services in order to meet the demand of parents and grandparents who are bringing little ones to high-end hotels and resorts more than ever before.

The article reminded me of a trip we took with our then 9-month, 3 and 6 year-old children. It was a family wedding at a Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos. While I wouldn’t call it a luxury hotel experience, the place was incredibly family-friendly, our kids’ favorites being the swim-up ice cream bar and dinner-and-movie nights at the kids club. With our kids having so much fun, we didn’t feel guilty about sending them off to the “childcare,” and we were able to truly have a vacation, enjoying some quiet time by the pool and a few adults-only dinners.

The hotel industry has finally caught on. Parents today would happily step up the family vacation and pay a little more to stay at a high-end hotel, as long as they felt it was enjoyable for the kids.

Here’s our round up of the most impressive hotel offerings for kids, many taken from the WSJ and others are own favorites:

  • Hyatt just weeks ago rolled out a new kids’ menu with adult-style meals based on fresh, organic ingredients rather than the ubiquitous frozen chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. The menu was developed with collaboration from Alice Waters.
  • Costanoa Lodge outside of San Francisco bills itself as an eco-friendly adventure resort. They have a fantastic kids club centered on exploring tide pools.
  • Rosewood and some Ritz Carlton hotels offer spa services for kids, including a Princess Fizzy Pedicure at Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas.
  • You have less to pack and carry thanks to Mandarin Oriental providing baby strollers and organic crib sheets.
  • Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, CA, offers outdoor science experiments and locally inspired art projects for kids.
  • Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in Cape Cod sports a pirate ship water park and treasure chest-shaped ball pit, in addition to twice-a-day ice cream by the pool for kids and a mini kids camp for 2-4 year olds.
  • Rose Buds Program by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts incorporates Montessori elements in its 17 kids programs world-wide, allowing them to offer truly educational fun.
  • Sea Island, a resort on the coast of Georgia, carefully recruits a special team of college students, selected for their leadership skills and enthusiasm, to serve as role models for young guests at its impressive Camp Cloister.
  • Esperanza, an Auberge resort in Cabo San Lucas, allows kids to “adopt” baby sea turtles and release them on the beach.

As an additional service to guests with kids, most hotels are willing to book a babysitter to watch your children in your room. For a more personalized, often less expensive alternative, try UrbanSitter to select and book a sitter while you’re away from home.

Contributed by UrbanSitter blogger and mom of three, Dawn Van Osdell.

7 Summer Safety Guidelines to Share with Your Sitter

Give yourself a break this summer and hire a sitter to take over a day of pool duty, run the kids to the park or just spend an afternoon playing with them in your own backyard.

But, before you take off for your well-deserved time-away, make sure you have a responsible sitter. UrbanSitter enables you to find sitters whom friends or other local parents recommend, plus you can see if the sitters are First Aid and CPR-trained. Those added layers of comfort go a long way when choosing someone to care for your kids, especially at a pool or beach.

Once you have your kids in good hands, follow these helpful guidelines to communicate summer safety with your sitter:

  1. Share your emergency plan. If your child falls off the monkey bars at the park and the sitter can’t reach you, whom does she call? Where’s the nearest ER? Leave her an emergency contact list that includes cell phone numbers, your home address and instructions on what to do in case of an emergency.
  2. Pack a ready-to-go tote bag of safety essentials for your sitter. You’ll both feel good knowing she’s prepared. Include a first aid kit, sunscreen, insect repellent, water bottles, snacks and your emergency contacts.
  3. Practice sun smarts. Even on cloudy days, children can burn and just one bad sunburn in childhood is said to significantly increase chances of a melanoma later in life. Protect kids with hats, sunglasses and a sunscreen that shields against both UVA and UVB rays. Babies under six months cannot wear sunscreen, and should not be exposed to sun.
  4. Never leave kids unattended at the pool or beach, regardless of age or swimming ability. Swim vests and arm floats are helpful, but should never, ever replace a watchful sitter. Is your sitter certified for child/infant CPR? If not, consider paying for them to take a course.
  5. Keep kids hydrated. Children can’t sweat like adults do, so they are more prone to dehydration. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids have something to drink every twenty minutes when they are active. Tell your sitter to have sippy cups and water bottles handy and replenish often. She should watch for signs of dehydration – listlessness, redness in the face and irritability – and know to respond quickly.
  6. When riding bikes or scooters or skating, mandate a helmet. The AAP advises parents that 85 percent of all bike-related injuries could have been prevented if a helmet was worn.
  7. Prevent bug bites and stings. Provide your sitter with non-toxic repellents to apply after sunscreen. Be watchful of any allergic reaction to stinks or bites, and know what to do if a reaction occurs. Include single-dose Benadryl in your summer tote.

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12 Ways to Avoid the Summer Junk Food Trap

Summer gives us a chance as parents to loosen up, take a break from routines and schedules, and live a little more spontaneously with our kids. But, according to a study recently released from the University of Texas, the lack of routine, decrease in activities, and disruptions in the way we eat during the summer are to blame for our kids gaining weight 2-3 times faster than they do during the school year.

There are simple ways to keep your family’s health and nutrition on track and still enjoy the carefree spirit of summer living:

1. Keep a consistent meal schedule, much like you do during the school year. Kids should eat three square meals with two snacks in between, and they should know that mindless eating throughout the day isn’t smart.

2. Rather than giving into the ease of convenience snacks that are often processed and loaded with sugar, transform ordinary foods into special summery treats by freezing them. Try frozen grapes, cups or sticks of yogurt, homemade juice pops, and fruit smoothies.

3. Prepare and keep meals in the fridge for the sitter to feed your kids or for you to pull out instead of hitting the fast food drive-through on your way home from the pool. Having simple meals ready to go means you won’t have to cut a fun day short so you can rush home to make dinner.

4. Teach your kids about balance. It’s okay to have an ice cream sundae, as long as it’s balanced with healthier choices and plenty of exercise.

5. Limit sedentary activities like TV and electronics, and get everyone active with activities that take advantage of summertime weather. Get outside to ride bikes, go swimming, and for the little ones take the ride-ons and push toys for a spin.

6. Together, search your own kitchen for foods to make an easy, healthy picnic to take on a day-trip or eat in your own backyard. You can build a meal without turning on the stove or pushing buttons on the microwave.

7. Give everyone in your family a personalized water bottle to stay hydrated and stay away from the sugary juices, sodas and energy drinks. Research shows that even very active kids never need sports or energy drinks.

8. Sign your kids up for mini sports camps to stay active and have fun.

9. Get your kids involved with good food. Take them on a trip to the farmer’s market and use the outing as an opportunity to talk about healthy choices. Show them the beautiful array of local produce and let them choose some to try at home.

10. Start a garden – even a small container garden for the patio or windowsill – to get kids involved with growing and caring for fruits and vegetables.

11. Research proves kids are more likely to eat foods they help select and prepare. Let your kids help make a grocery list, find items in the store, and help prepare a meal by cleaning, prepping and cooking with you. Make the tasks age-appropriate so they don’t get injured or overwhelmed.

12. Find indoor activities to keep your family active when it’s too hot to head outside. Living room dance parties work just as well as indoor inflatable play centers, and are even more fun if friends are invited to join in on the fun!

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