5 Tips to Throw a Fun & Easy Party

blog july 10

 

5 Tips to Throw a Fun and Easy At-Home Birthday Party on a Budget

 

One of the challenges of parenting in the digital age is the worry about making everything “Pinterest perfect.” Kids’ birthday parties are no exception, but the reality is that our children just want a fun time to celebrate with their friends. When you get back to the basics with an easy at-home party, it’s not only budget-friendly, but it’s also less stress and more fun for everyone.

 

Start with a Theme
Planning around a theme gives you a focal point and serves as a springboard for other ideas. For younger children, loose themes that are gender neutral work well, such as fairytale characters or bugs and butterflies. Older children may already know what theme they’d like, or you can brainstorm possibilities together based on their interests. If you’re still looking for inspiration, we like these theme ideas that are broken down for different age groups.

 

Another option is to have an activity-based party, so you have the theme, activity, and sometimes even the food all rolled into one, making party planning even easier. Two activity themes we love from HuffPost are chocolate-making and scavenger hunt parties.

 

Make Low or No-Cost Invitations

Printing invitations can really bust your budget, but digital options are free or inexpensive and are more eco-friendly too. Going digital can give you the option to manage RSVPs online with services like Evite. If you’re tech-savvy (or have a design-savvy child), sites like Canva give you plenty of creative freedom to make your own special invitation.

 

If you decide to go the paper route, let your child help make homemade invitations. Use craft supplies you already have lying around, or grab some blank cards from a dollar store and let your child decorate them to their heart’s content.

 

Set the Scene

 

Decorations transform your home from the everyday into a world of wonder, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on them. One budget-friendly way to decorate is to keep store-bought decorations general and spruce them up yourself. A couple of DIY decorating ideas we like from Babble are confetti balloons and using printed washi tape to decorate plain cups. Try to get the best bang for your buck with inexpensive decorations that really pack a punch. Decorating with string lights is a great way to spice up your party, both indoors and outdoors, without spending much since they are inexpensive and kids usually love them. And when you’re finished with your party, you can use the string lights to add comfort and warmth to a space in your home!

 

Focus Refreshments on What Kids Want Most

 

Instead of setting out an expensive spread of food, focus on what kids really want, such as fun snacks like popcorn and, of course, the best part: cake and ice cream. You can get away with this by timing your party to start mid-morning or mid-afternoon when no one expects a meal. Most children would agree that the cake is pretty important, so consider making it yourself and starting a tradition by letting the birthday child help.

 

Play Classic Games and DIY New Ones

 

Planning a few activities is an absolute must because downtime leads to boredom and kids running wild. Classic games are just as fun as ever, so pick a few like freeze dance, hot potato, or red rover to keep kids entertained at no cost.

 

For something more current, one of the more popular party activities these days is to set up a photo booth. Scour the internet for photo prop templates that fit your theme, and print them yourself on heavy paper. To up the fun even more, use large cardboard boxes to make an actual “booth,” and let your children get involved by decorating it themselves.

 

The reality of modern party planning is that when you get back to basics, it’s easier to let go of stress and focus on what matters most. Children won’t remember (or even know) how much you spent on their party, but they will remember how much fun they had. Use these tips and your own creativity to pull off a memorable, fabulous shindig at home without breaking the bank.

 

Photo credit: Unsplash

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5 Tips for Hosting a Child with Special Needs This Holiday Season

By Diane M. McCullom

For most people, the holidays are a joyful time spent with family and friends, though they can be quite stressful and demanding with party-attending, gift-buying and schedule-juggling. Families with children who have special needs face these same demands and more—wondering how their children will feel at social gatherings is just one of the many questions asked. If you have the privilege of hosting a child with special needs this holiday season, chances are you are wondering about some ways that you can help ease the process for these families and for yourself. We have a few ideas:

Check in with parents – Before your holiday gathering, check in with the child’s parents for a list of do’s and don’ts, traditions, food sensitivities and recommendations. This step can go quite the distance in ensuring that the child feels comfortable and at home in a new environment.

Be prepared – Organize your home in a way that provides few distractions: remove clutter, keep overstimulating items out of the central focus points of your home, have backup food that the child likes, and have fun, skill-appropriate activities and games available for the child in those moments when uneasiness or restlessness sets in.

Be flexible – You might have to throw all of that preparation out the window on a whim. And guess what? It’s OK! Be flexible enough to change your plans to meet the needs of your guests.

Teach your family – Use your experience hosting a special needs child as a teaching time for your own children or relatives to learn about awareness, difference, respect and acceptance.

Relax and have fun – A kid with special needs wants to be independent too, so let them attempt things on their own instead of immediately jumping in to help. Things might get spilled or kids might jump on your couch. As long as a safe and fun environment is maintained, don’t sweat the small stuff!

With a little preparation and an accommodating mindset for those special kids in your life, the holidays are sure to be a success for everyone this year!

Diane M. McCullom is the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 21 states.

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Sharkey’s Hair It Is

Sharkey's Hair It Is specializes in parties for little girls.

Sharkey’s Hair It Is specializes in parties for little girls.

The main floor of Sharkey's.

The main floor of Sharkey’s.

Walking into Sharkey’s Hair It Is is a visually stimulating experience.  With Hollywood lights lining the stylists’ mirrors, bold colors on the walls, a couple of televisions playing popular shows with options to play the Xbox, and pop culture music—both old and new—playing on the speaker, your attention is captured.

Originally based  in Connecticut as “Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids”, Sharkey’s Hair It Is was created to cater to the whole family.  With locations mostly in the East Coast US, and as far away as Ireland and Egypt , it is the first of its kind to show up in South Texas.  Owner of the local franchise, Marcos Saldivar, says, “My vision is to have one in each city here in South Texas.  We’re all about customer service.  When you come in, we treat you like you’re walking into somebody’s house.  We offer water and want people to feel comfortable.”

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This pink room is a popular party venue for little girls.

When asked what the secret of their three years of success has been, manager Mary Valdez commented, “We have good customer service for the kids.  A lot of parents tell us their children are requesting to come and get their hair cut here.  We treat the whole family.  They leave very happy.”  The aforementioned Xboxes, she notes, are there for whoever wants to play them, whether it be a child or an adult.

A popular venue among little girls, Sharkey’s offers two different birthday party packages.  One is for 12 girls for two hours at $375, and includes a hairstyle, make-up and nails.  They also get to dress up and play planned games in between.  Sharkey’s provides drinks and pizza, and parents have the option of bringing a cake.  The smaller package is for 6 girls for an hour and a half and includes all the same perks for $275.

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Two examples of the cars children can choose to sit in while getting their hair done.

Party Coordinator and stylist Karie Recio noted, “[Parents] like the space because they don’t have to do everything.  We have enough people to take care of the kids; it’s adapted for them, especially little girls.  They enjoy dressing up and being with the ladies.”

Haircuts for adults are $18, and $15 for children.  All haircuts come with a shampoo, and girls can get their nails done for no extra charge.  Children receive a balloon and a lollipop when they are done, and have the choice of sitting in a special car of their choice while being treated.

With great customer service and clientele, it looks like Sharkey’s Hair It Is is here to stay.

For more information on Sharkey’s, please visit their website or Facebook page.

Local Sharkey's manager, Mary Valdez, is very helpful and committed to her clients.

Local Sharkey’s manager, Mary Valdez, is very helpful and committed to her clients.

 

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Brownsville MOPS

As a mom, do you ever feel like pulling your hair out?  Are there other moments where you are in complete awe of the beautiful children that have been entrusted to your care?  Can you go from complete elation to total devastation in a matter of seconds?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) is for you!

Part of the Brownsville MOPS group plays an icebreaker.

Part of the Brownsville MOPS group plays an icebreaker.

“My favorite thing about MOPS is getting to know moms and being able to connect with them on a deeper level,” says Briana McIsaac, coordinator of the Brownsville MOPS chapter.  With 15 years in existence, it is a place where all moms are welcome.  “This year, we’ve added MOMSnext to include moms of all ages, and a bilingual table to cater to more mothers in the community,” added McIsaac.

Mothers of Preschoolers, or MOPS for short, is an international nonprofit organization that exists to support mothers as they parent children from birth through Kindergarten.  MOMSnext is an extension of that, helping raise kids who are beyond the preschool years.  Local gatherings typically run for a couple of hours, and include homemade meals, childcare, icebreakers, crafts and inspiring messages.  Outside of meetings, planned extracurricular activities include playdates and special events, such as Moms’ Night Out and MOPS and POPS Night (large group date night with childcare provided).

The MOPS theme for this year is, "A Fierce Flourishing:  Celebrate Lavishly, Embrace Rest and Notice Goodness."

The MOPS theme for this year is, “A Fierce Flourishing: Celebrate Lavishly, Embrace Rest and Notice Goodness.”

Long-time member, Laura Castro, had the following to say about her MOPS experience:  “We have really supported each other through a lot.  There has been a sincere desire to love each other as best we can.  What I’ve found over the years is that it has become a community for me.”  Remembering the weeks following the birth of her second daughter, Castro remarked, “The meals (that MOPS makes and delivers) are great.  Having people come in my home and knowing they were not looking at my chaos meant a lot.  The first few weeks after a baby is born are very chaotic.”

Extracurricular MOPS activities include occasional fundraisers.  Picture here: last year's Zumbathon.

Extracurricular MOPS activities include occasional fundraisers. Pictured here: last year’s Zumbathon.

With three chapters that meet regularly in the Rio Grande Valley, mothers from every area are invited to attend.  Whether you are a stay at home mom, work part-time or full-time, MOPS is a place for you.  The Brownsville chapter meets every other Friday, with the next meeting being October 9th, from 9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at Central Christian Church on 1100 E. Alton Gloor Blvd.  Harlingen MOPS meets the first and third Wednesday of each month from 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., at First Christian Church on 421 S. 13th St.  And the McAllen group meets every first and third Thursday from 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at BT (Baptist Temple) Church on 2001 Trenton Rd.  For more information, please visit their Facebook pages:  Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen.

Giana Gallardo Hesterberg is passionate about many things, including being a wife, mother, teacher, speaker, blogger, gardener and friend.  You can follow some of her adventures on her blog storiesbytheseashore.blogspot.com 

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Acts of Random Kindness

Journey of Love:

I pride myself on being the type of parent that provides the world with something powerful, something that moves this world. We see so many things that are wrong with the world and unwillingly we expose our children to these wrongs. I choose to show my children that yes, these wrongs do exists but it the positive impact that you make of these wrongs that build your character, and to me… that’s power. My journey with my kids is that of compassion, strength, love, to be strong and always make a difference. I believe we have a choice to love one another and love is so important. It’s the good we have left in this chaotic world. Without further delay I’m going to introduce to you my children. My firstborn is ten his name is Jordan. What can I say about Jordan, he’s a fighter and generous and he always stands up for others. My son always stands up for the disabled which I admire very much. My daughter is brilliant and quirky. Miss Victoria is 7 and very independent. She has a million questions and sees this world so differently and so beautifully. My kids are my world and I want them to be amazing. This month our random act was giving less fortunate kids clothes for school.

 

Donate Computer Key In Blue Showing Charity And Fundraising

 

I volunteer with a special group that helps very desperate cases and I try every week to contribute my time and efforts towards this cause. This week I went through my closet and removed quite a bit of clothes and shoes I no longer needed. to my surprise, my very observant son did the same… I let him continue because I wanted to see the end results of his act. Before I knew it, he had a huge bag of clothes he no longer needed as well as shoes. He didn’t ask questions as neither did I. I waited patiently to see what else he would do. This is where it began. His journey. He came up to me and asked me when my friend would be picking up the stuff so he would help her load up. I said sometime later on tonight, she’s very busy helping tons of people out. We were sending out a shipment to Reynosa which is a very violent area in Mexico. My son later on told me that at church he helped kids in Africa by making them shoes out of blue jeans. I was in shock because he didn’t beach or boast. See these random acts have become rather regular for us. At that moment I realized that I was teaching him something so important, so beautiful. I sat there and as he was telling me how he lived helping and how it was so important to him, I saw such excitement in his voice. He looked at me and said thanks mom. I then asked for what he said nothing just thanks. We both understood why. It was a moment where we didn’t need words. We just knew. My friend arrived and he helped load up, told her thank you and left it at that. That night, I was a very proud mama. You have to be real with your kids but you also have to show them to give and give. Love will set you free and is just so beautiful to help the less fortunate. Our journey had just begun. Each month we will be doing a random act of kindness. I will be documenting each moment. I hope to inspire you to do the same. A small light can ignite a whole room imagine what more can be done if we all did just a little more.

 

Mom Squad Member,

Crystal

www.tots-tweens.com

By: Crystal
Mom Squad Member

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5 Kid-Tested Tips for Healthy Eating

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve healthy eating, but then again, so do some of my worst memories.  So how do you get your kids to remember eating their veggies as a good memory instead of the traumatizing them for life?

Bad childhood memory time…please don’t serve Lima beans straight out of a can on a regular basis or mounds of steamed brussels sprouts the size of golf balls. Why not?  Because of you do this I can almost guarantee that all of your efforts to get your kids to eat healthy will be in vain.  Think about it, even if they manage to stomach them now, of all the vegetables you will serve them in their lifetime these bad experiences will probably be what stands out in their minds when they are adults, making them shy away from nutritional powerhouses like brussels sprouts in the future.

Even myself who pretty much loves eating every fruit or vegetable still struggle when I get to lima beans and ugh steamed whole Brussels sprouts really…can I get a side of cheese sauce with that.  The smell of Brussel sprouts steaming alone is enough to clear the table.  Try a fresh shredded brussels sprout and apple salad or even sautéed chopped brussels sprouts with onions and garlic as a sandwich topping instead.

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My husband liking his Brussel sprout salad….30 years later and a Sauteed Brussel Sprout Sandwich mmm…

So what else can you do to make healthy eating a good childhood memory?  The following 5 tips are what worked for my parents when they were raising me and what has worked for me so far with my kids, check them out.

1.  Get cooking…..together.

My best childhood memories are set in the kitchen, cooking with my grandma.  Not that everything she taught me to cook was “healthy” but it sure was fun.  All kids want to “help.” Yes, I know 6 year olds may not seem like the best helpers, especially after they spill a pitcher of fresh squeezed juice all over the floor, but that is just part of being a parent.  When learning about food and healthy eating it is important to know what goes into your meals. What better way to teach kids what is in their meal than by having them help prepare it.  Kids are more likely to taste something new if they had a hand in making it because not only are they are proud of their creation but they are curious.  A few ways my son helps me in the kitchen are…

  • gathering ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator.
  • washing the produce.
  • chopping soft foods (such as mushrooms) with a butter knife.
  • mixing and measuring.
  • layering ingredients (sandwiches, pizza, lasagna…pretty much anything that has to be assembled in layers).
  • pressing the button (on the blender, toaster, food processor, juicer, etc) with adult supervision of course.
  • setting the table.
  • and my favorite, cleaning-up.

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My oldest son “helping” make fresh squeezed juice

2.  Serve the rainbow.

You hear this over and over but what does it mean? No you don’t have to spend hours making your food look like perfectly sculpted rainbows, animals and such. Just add a splash of color to each meal. How do you do this?

  • Serve a side of fruit or veggies.
  • Add finely chopped veggies to family favorites.  (Put some avocado or diced tomatoes next to your quesadilla.)
  • Use a variety of fruits and vegetables. (After a while even favorites get boring, you can only eat broccoli so many ways in a week.)
  • Make burgers.  After-all, eating burgers and fries is not the unhealthy mistake most people make, scarfing down greasy take out on a regular basis is the mistake.  Burgers should be layered with color green guacamole and lettuce, purple onions, and juicy red tomatoes, and surrounded by crispy baked sweet potato fries.

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Dinner and some lovely rainbow chard at the farmer’s market

3.  Take your kids shopping.

Who loves going grocery shopping?….Um not me. But for some reason picking, counting and weighing produce is fun, to my son. That is probably because he doesn’t notice the 1,000 other people trying to get to the tomatoes on Sunday evening at HEB. Yeah, I go to the grocery store and not everything in my house is organic because really I do have a life and driving to 20 different places to buy the things on my list is just not realistic.

The goal is to know what to buy when you are at the store, if it comes in a box with a long list of ingredients you don’t understand….it is probably not the healthiest choice.  You should shop for ingredients to make meals; not packaged meals.  Frozen veggies are a better substitute for fresh than canned veggies.  For one, they just come out looking better plus they don’t have as many preservatives.

Make it a goal to go to the local farmer’s market (as a family) at least once a month, taste what the vendors are offering, and buy a couple of your fresh seasonal favorites.  Click here for a listing of RGV Farmer’s Markets.

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Fresh cherry tomatoes and serrano peppers.

4.  Make eating a family affair.

Who really likes eating alone, come on, that is just sad and you know it. Even if it is just me and my 11 month old at home and he is not hungry but it is lunch time for mama, guess who is going to sit in his high chair and have a bowl of diced fruit. Yeah it may mean your meal is not very peaceful and that you will slip on a slobbery piece of apple when you stand up but seriously they are so cute even when they are a mess. Make a goal for how many times you will eat as a family this week.

Teach older kids how to set the table and and enjoy mealtime conversation without the TV blaring. Yeah, it may take some time before your 6 year old learns how to eat with his mouth closed and not to speak with a jaw full of spaghetti; but this is the time to teach them.

Eating together also means eating the same food together. I know lots of parents who let their kids eat first because their food is ready first….because what they serve themselves is different than what they serve their kids….sorry guys but this is not cool. It is just more work for you now and more importantly, in the long run because bad habits are hard to break. Growing up if I said I wanted frozen chicken nuggets instead of wherever was cooking, it would not have been received favorably because my mom and dad were not short order cooks. Plus, if you want your kid to eat a variety of foods and have a sophisticated palette….serve them real food that you want to eat too and eat it together.

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My two little boys at the dinner table

5.  Be a food role-model.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to go on a strict diet.  A healthy relationship with food is beneficial for every member of the family. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too….just not at every meal. So what could you do?

  • Model eating a well-balanced diet throughout the day.
  • Choose fresh local foods when you can.
  • Make good restaurant choices
  • Enjoy meal time as family time.
  • Plan your meals. Not that you have to stick to a rigid plan but having an idea of what you are going to cook saves a lot of shopping time and money spent on things that sit in the pantry unused before getting sent to the food bank before it is too late.
  • Educate yourself.  For you this may mean learning about the food pyramid on choosemyplate.gov, taking a cooking class  at the McAllen Culinary Academy or making a new recipe board on Pinterest.  Whatever you do, take some time to reflect on your eating habits and make a couple healthy goals for you and your family.

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Orange Cranberry Muffins and Breakfast crepes are oh so sweet!

Check out my food blog and follow me on Instagram for more of my healthy eating ideas.

 Enjoy!

Audrey Cisneros

www.chileylimon.com

www.theimaginaryshop.com

 

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the McAllen Culinary Academy

2900 N 10th St McAllen TX 78501

(956) 683-0021

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Simple Wishes Nursing Bra

Simple Wishes Nursing Bra – The BEST  nursing bra I’ve ever had. Since I have had a lot of engorgement I needed to pump from the breast that was not being fed from.

02-Black-front Being able to do that hands free was so nice. I also had to pump frequently and hands free pumping allowed me to massage my breasts while I pumped to relieve the pain and the pressure that I felt. The material is also very soft and not binding at all!

 

Simple Wishes B3 - Nursing and PumpingReview by: Monica Black from Belly View Ultrasound in McAllen, TX.

For more information on Simple Wishes visit www.simplewishes.com!

Another GREAT product RGV Tots-Tweens found at the ABC Kids Expo!

 

 

 

 

 

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Nuzzle Hug my New BFF

NuzzleHUG large taupe D-H cup

Nuzzle Hug - I love this product. I dealt with major engorgement issues so I used it both hot and cold. Being able to remove the individual breast pads helped too so I could have one in the freezer if I needed it. The size of each pad is really perfect too, I had engorgement up into my underarms and the pads gave great coverage.

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The warmth on my neck was also such a relief!  You forget how heavy a newborn can seem in those first few days of constant carrying.  Cuddled up on the sofa with a cold glass of water and the nuzzle hug warming my breasts and neck, best feeling of relief!  Overall it’s a great product!

Review by: Monica Black

BellyView 4d/3d Ultrasound

 

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Winner of the 2014  Preferred Choice and  Top Choice Award!!!

Nuzzle Hug is available at http://nuzzlemom.com/index.php/shop/. Pricing starts at 49.99.

Another great product we found at the ABC Kids Expo!

 

Lulu Hanke

www.tots-tweens.com

 

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Milkies Nipple Nurture Balm!!!

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Milkies Nipple Nurture Balm =  LIFESAVER!  I was skeptical because the consistency is different than traditional lanolin. It’s thinner so I wasn’t sure it would create a good barrier but it really does. It’s not sticky at all. I really feel the healing properties. Since I was very engorged I was constantly feeding then pumping then feeding then pumping. My nipples started to feel irritated but the product really helped soothe them and heel them.  I never dealt with any cracking or bleeding so I don’t know how effective it is with open sores (unless the product helped prevent that issue). It smells like olive oil which seemed odd at first, but I got used to it right away. Baby never once noticed it or had any aversion to it!

Monica Black
Belly View 4d/3d Ultrasound
 

Nipple Nurture Balm is $9.95 available at http://www.fairhavenhealth.com/nipple-balm.html.

Recommended Use: Apply to the entire nipple after each feeding.

• 1.5 oz in each container, generally a 1-month supply.

• Soothes, protects, and heals sore and cracked nipples.

• Made from organic ingredients, safe for both mother and baby. Does not need to be washed off before feedings.

• Lanolin-free with no harsh chemicals or additives.

• Recommended by lactation professionals

• Contains no animal products and is not tested on animals

• Alleviates breastfeeding discomfort so you can better connect with your baby

Lulu Hanke

www.tots-tweens.com

Enter to win 3 Milkies Products! Winner will receive Nipple Nuture Balm, Milkies Freeze and Milkies Milk -Saver!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Organizing BreastMilk

The Milkies Freeze is a “first in, first out” breast milk storage system that fits in your freezer. Simply collect your precious breast milk in any milk storage bag, and place the bag on the metal quick-freeze tray at the top of the Freeze.

 

 

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Milkies FREEZE Product Review-  The tray that lays on top of the storage compartment really sets this item apart from others!  Perfectly flat and frozen baggies every time. The tray is metal though, so the condensation that forms from a warm bag of milk on a cold metal tray can cause bags to stick. I just put a paper towel between the tray and bag. Great product if you go through your milk quickly. I recommend storing 3-4oz per bag to keep bags from getting stuck in the compartment and to keep them flat enough to store and remove easily. Easy way to stay organized.

Review by: Monica Black
BellyView 3d/4d Ultrasound
Mcallen, TX

 

What does Milkies Freeze Do:

  • Enclosed storage keeps milk storage bags protected from damage and prevents leaks
  • Efficient, space-saving design stores more milk in less space
  • First in, first out system ensures that oldest milk is used first
  • Can be used with any milk storage bag
  • Disassembles for easy cleaning
  • Stores up to 60 ounces of breast milk in any brand of milk storage bag
  • Metal “quick-freeze” tray facilitates rapid freezing
  • Prevents contamination of your precious breast milk

Milkies Freeze is $29.95 available at http://www.mymilkies.com or call 1-800-367-2837.  Winner of the Cribsie Awards!  Another Great product we found at the ABC Kids Expo!

 

 

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