PLEASE ENJOY READING!
Baby Led Weaning. What is it exactly? This is probably something you have heard or asked yourself if you have an infant who is soon to transition to eating solids. BLW is a method of adding complementary new foods to a baby’s diet. According to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, it facilitates the development of age-appropriate oral motor control while learning the boundaries of their mouth and what they can handle. We understand it can be extremely overwhelming when trying to decide which approach will be best for you and your baby with so many different options available to you! Recently, BLW has become more popular among first-time parents when introducing solids to their children.
There are many benefits that come with BLW such as exploring tastes, textures and trying a display of new foods rather than just purees. This often leads to children becoming more adventurous eaters as they welcome toddlerhood. It also offers babies a very premature and significant lesson on learning how to stop eating when full. Since babies who are practicing BLW are self-feeders, it is harder for them to overfeed as they can when fed purees. This is said to be one of the key factors in preventing obesity and a healthier relationship with food later in life by Contemporary Pediatrics. We know every baby is different and each family will have a unique experience of their own when introducing solids to their littles! Here are a few tips below on how to get started if you choose Baby Led Weaning.
Start with Soft Foods
When preparing foods for your baby you will want to start off with things like ripe fruits, well-cooked pasta, cooked egg yolks, and moist, flakey fish. Foods that are high in calories with protein and all the healthy fats are recommended by most experts. Healthy Little Foodies shares some wonderful recipe ideas from snacks to special diet requests that all cater to BLW. Also, when preparing meals make sure to serve food that is easy for little hands to grasp such as long thing strips zucchini and soft avocado wedges! A crinkle cutter is a convenient tool to use when preparing meals. Be sure to stray away from food like grapes, popcorn, dried fruit, hot dogs etc. as these are a major choking hazard for little ones.
Yay! Your sweet baby has made it to the next big milestone. As exciting as it is when your child meets a new milestone, it is important to remember that each baby will grow and learn at their own speed. Even though you may start offering your six-month-old finger foods, they might not actually start eating the food you present until closer to eight or nine months of age. At this point, your baby is getting their main source of nutrients from breast milk or formula, so embrace the exploration and discovery that comes with BLW even if it feels slow and tedious at times.
Start When Your Baby Is Ready
It is important to make sure your baby is ready to transition to solids safely. The AAP states you should start your baby on solids between four and six months of age, but it truly depends on your baby. Your baby may be ready to transition to solids if they can hold their head upright, have lost the tongue-thrust reflex which pushes foreign objects out of their mouth, and if you seem to find them still showing hunger signs after a full day of milk portions. It is also important to remember a proper sitting position for your baby. A highchair that they can feel comfortable and sit upright in will make mealtime a more pleasant experience for all! Feeding Littles shares some of their favorite highchairs and useful information from the therapist, Judy Delaware!
Prepare Yourself for A Mess
Our tiny, sweet babies sure can make a mighty mess when it comes to mealtime! Be sure to prepare yourself for a big mess on your baby, the highchair, the floor, and maybe even the walls! There are a few things you can purchase to help ease the clean-up such as a long-sleeved bib, an easy-to-clean highchair or an under-the-highchair floor mat. Having a messy baby is part of the exploration process that comes with the Baby Led Weaning experience.
We would love to know if any of you have tried BLW and your experiences with it! No matter which method you choose to introduce new foods to your little one, a fed baby is a happy and healthy baby!
Teacher Appreciation Week starts May 3! As we near the end of the school year and reflect on what a year it has been, it is a great time to thank our dedicated teachers. This year especially has brought on extra challenges and triumphs caused by the pandemic to all of our teachers and students. Our incredible teachers work extremely hard all year to educate and prepare their students for the future. While their amazing efforts help children go on to do great things, showing them appreciation is a wonderful way to let them know how much we honor and value them! We have created a list of our favorite ways to show love to the teachers in our lives this year!
As we all continue to live in a global pandemic and are wearing masks, what better way than to surprise your teacher with a personalized mask? It is important for teachers to wear a mask that fits properly and find one that is comfortable as they may be wearing it for long stretches of their day. Etsy has wonderful options for picking out the perfect mask for your teacher and it may even encourage their students to embrace this essential accessory!
A car parade is a great way to celebrate while still sticking to social distancing guidelines. Round up past and present students from the community, deck out your cars with signs, balloons, and drive-by at a designated time. Be sure to have lots of decorations and be ready to wave and smile!
Group Thank You Video
A simple note or card says a lot, but why not take it to the next step and make it a video? Get out your smartphone and film each parent and student thanking the teacher for their hard work. If your school is still doing remote learning, then a video you can email your teacher is the perfect personal, but long-distance gift! An unrehearsed, but heartfelt message can show your teacher that you genuinely appreciate what they do each and every day!
I know what you are thinking, and classroom supplies may not be the first thing you think of as a gift for teachers, but essential supplies are one of the more highly requested teacher appreciation gifts. Teachers need all the help that they can get with keeping their classrooms stocked with all the things! Often times the supplies given at the beginning of the school year do not last. You can help by gifting extra supplies with a DIY gift basket.
Coffee, Tea or Wine Gift
Depending on the day, teachers can appreciate a hot cup of coffee or tea and possibly a big glass of wine at the end of a long day (we’ve all been there, right?). You can include a bag of their favorite brew or tea with a beautiful mug to pair in a gift basket. If you are gifting your teacher a bottle of wine, we suggest planning a time to meet with them in person rather than sending it to school with your child! Either way it is a great option for teachers to enjoy the “fruits” of their labor!
Teacher Appreciation Week is a wonderful opportunity to show love! We want to give a big thank you to all of our teachers, private educators, and tutors for all that they do for us! Here is a sweet appreciation video that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Thank you, teachers!
Earth Day is Thursday! A national day for everyone to focus on the environment and caring for our planet. Earth Day is a great opportunity to teach our children about the three R’s- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle as well as how plants grow! There are so many ways parents and children can protect, preserve and restore our planet from cleaning up, to recycling, composting, planting a garden or just enjoying the beauty of nature! We have put together six eco-friendly activities for families and children to celebrate Mother Earth this year
Make A Bird Feeder
There are many ways to make a homemade bird feeder out of recycled materials such as toilet paper tubes, popsicle sticks and even pinecones! Feeding birds is a great way to get kids involved in nature and teach them to observe wild animals. Here is a fun bird feeder biscuit recipe that is eco-friendly, so no need to worry if a big wind gust blows away your feeder!
Have A Picnic
Finding a shady area at a neighborhood park and setting up a picnic is a great way to get outside and enjoy Mother Nature. To make it an ecofriendly picnic be sure to pack your food in reusable containers, bring reusable utensils, water bottles and straws! Also, you can reduce your carbon footprint even more by preparing a vegan meal!
Make A Nature Crown
Nature Crowns make a fun and easy craft you can make and wear to celebrate Earth Day! No need to buy any items, you can use an abundance of items you find in nature. Some great things to use are flowers, grasses, clover, vines, sticks and dandelions! Be sure to take some whimsical photos while wearing the creations you make!
Practice Earth Day Yoga
Celebrate Earth Day with children by doing a special outdoor kid friendly yoga session. Try standing barefoot in the grass, so that you can feel Earth under your feet and are grounded while breathing in the fresh air and feeling the breeze! You can pick either Earth or animal related poses such as tree, dog, elephants, and cat poses. Yo Ri Mi Kids shares creative and easy yoga poses to try with your children outside!
Start A Garden
We all know kids love to play in the dirt, so starting a family garden is a wonderful way to take care of plants together. If you do not have a lot of space or live in the city you can always make a potted garden or even a patio garden! When planning your garden have your children measure out the soil, dig the holes and pick which seeds they want to plant. Be sure to talk about each plants life cycle and watch them flourish!
Plant A Tree
There is no better time and than Earth Day to plant a tree! You can find a special place in your backyard to plant a family tree that you can enjoy for years to come. If you choose to plant a fruit tree, you’ll also have the added benefit of beautiful blossoms and fruit you can enjoy once the tree is mature!
We would love to know how you and your families are celebrating Earth Day this year. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see how we will be celebrating this year!
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law. Among many provisions related to COVID-19, the bill includes several items that impact most families and caregivers. Here are the top five:
1. Doubling the expenses families can put toward a Dependent Care Account (FSA)
This is usually the biggest care-related tax break you can take advantage of because the amount of income that you allocate toward your Dependent Care Account becomes tax-free. So, it acts like a tax deduction. The ARP increases the cap on the amount you can allocate toward a Dependent Care Account from $5,000 to $10,500 for the 2021 tax year – more than doubling the savings from an average of $2,000 to around $4,000. As a bonus, the ARP allows you to roll over unused money in your Dependent Care Account into 2022.
2. Increase in savings from the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
The amount of childcare expenses families can receive a tax credit on increases to $8,000 per dependent (max of $16,000 per household). Previously the cap was $3,000 per dependent (max of $6,000 per household). This tax break will now phase out for families with AGI over $440,000.
3. Extension of paid sick leave and paid family leave credits
The Families First Act (FFCRA) provided subsidized paid sick leave or paid family leave for several reasons related to COVID-19. The American Rescue Plan Act extends the FFCRA tax credits, providing an additional 10 days of subsidized COVID-related paid leave (up to $12,000 total) per employee, extending the time period for using subsidized paid leave through the end of September 2021, and expanding the COVID-related reasons that qualify for the tax subsidy. While providing this paid leave is now optional, access to a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement makes it much easier for families to provide the leave if the need arises.
4. Larger Child Tax Credit
The child tax credit increases from $2,000 for eligible children (up to age 16) in 2020 to $3,600 for each child up to age 5 and $3,000 for those age 6 to 17. The full increase is available for households with adjusted gross income (AGI) of $150,000 or less for joint filers ($75,000 for individual filers). The regular credit of $2,000 per child is still available for families with AGI of up to $400,000 for joint filers ($200,000 for individual filers).
5. A third stimulus payment
The American Rescue Plan provides a direct payment of $1,400 for those with annual adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less ($150,000 for couples), gradually decreasing the payment amount for those that earn between $75,000 and $80,000 ($150,000-$160,000 for couples). Additionally, families that qualify can receive $1,400 for every child or other dependent they have. The stimulus checks are cut based upon income reported on the taxpayer’s 2019 tax return (or 2020 return if it has already been filed). The IRS provides an online tool for taxpayers to check the status of their stimulus check and access answers to FAQs.
While all five of these items do not apply to all families, the vast majority qualify for at least one. We encourage you to contact our partners at HomePay for a complimentary budgeting assessment.
Most people assume that paying their caregiver “on the books” will significantly increase their cost of care. Good news: they’re wrong! The truth is, for most employers, dependent care tax breaks offset most – if not all – of the employer payroll taxes. And the American Rescue Plan Act has greatly expanded those tax breaks. A typical family will see their savings from tax breaks at least double and some will see their savings even triple!
For most families, the tax savings will cover all the employer-related costs (including taxes, insurance, and payroll service) and some of the nanny’s wages. That’s right, most employers come out ahead by paying their household employees legally!
The 2021 Childcare Tax Breaks are Better Than Ever
If you employ someone in your home whose services are at least partly for the well-being and protection of a child (under age 13), and your household meets the work-related test — which means the care is needed because both parents work, are looking for work or are full-time students – the expenses qualify for one or both of the following tax breaks:
- Dependent Care Account. Also called a “Flexible Spending Account” (FSA), this tax break allows you to pay for childcare expenses using pre-tax dollars. The limit for 2021 is $10,500 per family per year. Depending on your marginal tax rate, utilizing your FSA can put as much as $4,800 per year in your pocket. While the rules are set by the IRS, families access this tax break through a participating employer. For enrollment details, check with your HR or Accounting Department.
- Child or Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC). Families can receive a tax credit on care-related expenses through their federal income tax return using IRS Form 2441. The expense limit is $8,000 for one dependent or $16,000 for 2 or more dependents. Your credit percentage will depend on your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), but most will get a credit between 20% and 50%, which will yield an annual savings between $1,600 and $4,000 for families with one child and between $3,200 and $8,000 for families with 2 or more children. Note: This break phases out for AGI >$440,000.
Maximizing Your Tax Breaks
Eligible expenses include the employee’s wages, employer taxes on those wages and any fees paid to a staffing agency. If your household AGI (adjusted gross income) is less than $125,000, the CDCTC will result in the most savings. If your AGI exceeds $125,000, you’ll likely get the most savings through an FSA.
SPECIAL SAVINGS NOTE: If you have access to an FSA, more than one dependent, and AGI between $125,000 – $440,000, you can maximize your savings by using both tax breaks. You’ll utilize your FSA for the full $10,500 and save up to $4,800 per year. If your dependent care expenses are greater than your FSA contribution, you will have “excess expenses” of up to $5,500 ($16,000 – $10,500 = $5,500). The excess expenses can be applied to the Tax Credit on Form 2441, which will save you an additional $1,100-$2,750 per year.
Thank you to our friends at HomePay for providing all of this great information. For an estimate of your tax costs and tax breaks, visit our website.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER!