Alpha Mom » Kelcey Kintner parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:32:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Great Graduation Speeches: Because We All Need A Little Inspiration Fri, 22 May 2015 22:34:56 +0000

There are two kinds of graduation speeches, the ones that inspire you to live your best, boldest life and the ones that cause you to doodle in your program and maybe even nod off for just a moment. And since it’s graduation season, we thought we’d share some of the amazing ones.

I don’t believe there is one list of the absolute greatest graduation speeches of all time. Because for every person, it would be a slightly or very different list. But there are some speeches that seem to resonate with a lot of us. They make us think. They make us laugh.  They hopefully embolden us to be better, more courageous people whether we are 21 or 81. Even if it’s not graduation day for you or your children, these speeches will give a bit of inspiration to the daily grind of life.

Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

The late Steve Jobs (creator of Apple and Pixar) was a genius and his graduation speech is quite uplifting. He may have been a tech guy but he understood the importance of following your heart and intuition. He told the graduates, “You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Jobs talked about getting fired from Apple (spoiler alert: he would work for them again), as one of the best things that ever happened to him. “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

And Jobs stressed that all of us must find what we love to do. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Hearing his words made me really wish he was still on this planet creating and motivating all of us to do better.

Mary Schmich, The Sunscreen Speech, 1997

This is the graduation speech that wasn’t actually a graduation speech. The hypothetical commencement speech, called, “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young,” was writing by columnist Mary Schmich (although it is widely and wrongly rumored to have been given by Kurt Vonnegut at MIT).

The memorable essay went viral via email and gave graduates practical advice like… keep old love letters, throw away bank statements, avoid beauty magazines, do one thing that scares you every day and of course wear sunscreen.  I do! I do!

This guide to life for graduates was written almost 20 years ago and still holds true.

Jim Carrey, Maharishi University of Management, 2014

I’m not the biggest Jim Carrey fan. But I love the graduation speech he gave at Maharisha University of Management (in Iowa by the way and obviously big Jim Carrey fans). In one poignant part, he talks about his father who could have been a great comedian but settled for a job as an accountant. Then his father got laid off. Carrey told the students, “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

The speech intertwined inspirational moments and lots of humor. “The decisions we make in this moment are based in either love or fear. So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never ask the universe for it. I’m saying I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it. And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order.”

Colleen Margiloff, Longwood University, 2012

This is a very under the radar convocation speech at Longwood University in Virginia given by Colleen Margiloff, the then President of the Alumni Association.

By the time I finished watching it, I wanted to get drinks with her and be her bestfriend.  She’s conversational, funny and just real. She encouraged graduates to always tell loved ones how they feel, recalling how she was running late on 9-11 and never said a proper goodbye to her husband, who was headed off to look at real estate across from the World Trade Center. Thankfully, by late afternoon, she was able to reach him and confirm he was okay.

Margiloff told graduates to be bold, to vote, to get a mentor and never put anything on Facebook you wouldn’t show to your grandmother and your boss. My favorite advice is about tattoos, including a confession that she will have a dolphin tattoo on her ankle for the rest of her life.

Casey Gerald, Harvard Business School, 2014

When you watch Casey Gerald give the student address at Harvard Business School, you can’t help but think you are watching a future leader of this country. He’s incredibly poised, self confident and inspiring. And he does it without notes.

Gerald talks about a near death experience with gunmen in his home that altered the direction of his life. “A strange thing happened as I accepted that I was about to die – I stopped being afraid.” He made a decision to give his life to a greater cause than himself.

Gerald went on to found a non-profit, MBAs Across America, a movement of MBAs and entrepreneurs working together to revitalize America.

Maya Rudolph, Tulane University, 2015

I’m a gradate of Tulane University and man, I wish someone like Maya Rudolph had given the commencement speech. (They got Ellen DeGeneres in 2009 too!). Although Rudolph’s speech is light on advice, it has a lot of laughs and even some familiar impersonations. She also encouraged the graduates to create their own destinies, hold on to their friends, kiss their mamas, work hard and put their damn iPhones away once and awhile.

She also pushed the students to admit their dreams – like when she admitted her dream of being on Saturday Night Live. She encouraged the graduates to say, “yes” and see where it might go – a reference to the rule of improv where you always say, yes and then add to the story.

Rudolph’s father attended Tulane and her cousin was in the 2015 class.

Sheryl Sandberg, Barnard University, 2011

If you need to get motivated to get out there and kick some butt today, this speech is a good one. Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO of Facebook, is well known for her Lean In philosophy (she wrote a book about it) where she encourages women to rise to the top of their professions so females can become an equal voice at the table.  She urged the graduates of this women’s school to help stamp out gender inequality. She said, “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”

She told the graduates to celebrate their accomplishment and then, “You’re going to find something you love doing, and you’re going to do it with gusto.  You’re going to pick your field and you’re going to ride it all the way to the top.”

Sandberg encouraged the women to think big, believe in themselves and “go home tonight and ask yourselves, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”  And then go do it.” We could all follow that advice.

J.K. Rowling, Harvard University, 2008

I’ve never read the Harry Potter series but I’m still a J.K. Rowling fan – simply based on her  2008 commencement address at Harvard. In the speech, she talked honestly about pushing through failure and poverty by directing her energy into the only work that mattered to her.

She said, “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

She also talked about the importance of raising one’s voice on behalf of those who have no voice. She stressed,  “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

And Rowling ends the speech on a beautiful note, “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters. I wish you all very good lives.”


What commencement address would you put on your list? We’d love to know. Inspire us!

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Dealing with Your Kid’s Negativity. It Ain’t Easy. Thu, 21 May 2015 14:32:00 +0000

My 5 year old son, Chase, is not a “look at the bright side” kind of kid. Like when my husband recently bought tickets to a baseball game and it ended up conflicting with a superhero party, my son was pretty much convinced he had the worst life ever.

For two straight days, all I heard was the constant whine, “I WANT TO GO TO THE SUPERHERO PARTY.” It got so repetitious and soul-sucking, that I finally gave-in and said, “I’ll take you to the party. You don’t have to go to the game.” And he responded, “But I don’t want to miss the baseball game!”


Look, I get it. He’s five. Disappointment and choices aren’t easy to process at his age but sometimes I find with all my kids (and there are five of them, so it’s not a bad sample size) that negativity is their default emotion. And it makes me crazy.

Sometimes when my older daughters get in the car after school, they are talking over each other, trying to tell me the worst part of their day. I know I’m the mom and I’m glad they feel comfortable sharing their angst and upset but I want/need to hear the good stuff too.

I don’t really know how to respond when my kids focus on the glass half-empty. Sometimes I want to squash the negativity by telling them to be grateful for everything they have. Other times I try distraction. (Cupcakes anyone?) Or another technique I use, is that I turn into Sunshine Suzy and become ultra-positive about whatever is going on.

I usually bounce back and forth between these solutions and none of them really work. But I am starting to realize that sometimes you just have to honor and empathize with your kids’ feelings.

Dr. Alissa Sheldon, a child psychologist, says, “If a child feels disappointment that is the result of an actual event or slight, then parents can use the experience as a teaching tool.” She says, let them know that it’s okay to be sad or angry.

Kids (like adults) need to feel heard and acknowledged. And then as parents, we can help them deal with these emotions.

Sheldon says, “By helping to translate what these feelings mean and that they are normal, a child can then begin to incorporate this understanding and perhaps be less troubled by these feelings when future disappointments occur.” As a parent – this is a hard place for me to be because my inclination is to try to fix everything, not sit there and help them process their feelings. 

My son Chase went to the baseball game. I survived his complaining and he survived the disappointment of missing his friend’s superhero party. I think he even had a pretty good day.

The reality is that disappointment is a part of life. If we can allow our kids to feel it and move through it, haven’t we taught them a valuable life skill?

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Are Your Kids Being Treated Like an Invisible Patient? Fri, 10 Apr 2015 13:30:11 +0000

Back in the last century (remember, before the millennium?) when I was a teenager, I had to get my wisdom teeth pulled and my mom brought me to a highly recommended oral surgeon. I did not like the guy at all. He never spoke to me during the appointment. He only spoke to my mother. I felt like the invisible patient. At a certain point during the consultation, I said to him, “I don’t feel comfortable with you. We are leaving.” Obviously, as a 17 year old, I was pretty ballsy.

The stunned man looked at my me, then at my mother. She said, “Looks like we are going! It was nice meeting you.” We left and found a much nicer surgeon. One who actually treated me like a person.

My 10 year old daughter recently had a similar experience. She needs braces and was very nervous about the pain. A couple of assistants brought us in and started doing the prep work. They took photos of her teeth. They sat her down in a chair. They began fitting her for a mold. The orthodontist even whizzed by a couple times. But no one said hello to her. Or really talked to her at all. And my daughter began to cry.

I said to a few of the assistants, “If you could just say hello to her and explain what you are going to do, she will be much calmer.”  They were dumbfounded. The orthodontist came out and said, “We find that kids do much better if their parents leave.” The idea of me leaving made my daughter cry harder.

“Do you want to do this another day?” somebody asked.

“No, that will only add to her anxiety. If you could just explain the procedure, that would be great.”

In the end, one of the orthodontist’s assistants went through each step of the braces process and my daughter started breathing again. This same assistant even apologized for not explaining things earlier. It wasn’t that they were trying to be rude. They were busy, on auto pilot and not taking the time to do one of the most important things in patient care – talking to the patient.

No matter how old the age of the child, they deserve respect and kindness from practitioners. And as a parent it’s my job to make sure that is happening. I don’t expect every doctor to be warm and fuzzy but I do expect them to speak directly to my children.

Of course, lots of doctors are very good at this. My pediatrician is a master. And just the other day, I took that same 10 year old daughter to the allergist. This doctor communicated compassionately and patiently with her. She answered all of my daughter’s questions and I could watch my child becoming more relaxed as they spoke.

The truth is, with limited health plans, HMOs and visits to urgent care, sometimes we don’t get to pick the ideal doctor for our children. But we can speak up when we don’t think they are being served well. It’s really our duty as parents.

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Is Tween the New Toddler? Fri, 20 Mar 2015 14:59:16 +0000

For years, I’ve been hearing about this mystical sweet spot in childhood. As folklore has it, it occurs after the tantrum years but before teenage angst and attitude. A period of time when your child is finally somewhat rational and enjoyable and yet still wants to spend time with you.

My oldest daughter is now 10 and I figured I must be be right there. Just as I was about to bask in mother-daughter outings filled with lovely moments of bonding and laughter – she was throwing a fit over the fact that she doesn’t have an Instagram account.

Instead of a sweet spot, I have found my preteen or “tween” daughter on a roller coaster of emotions. One minute she is lovingly pushing her 2 year old brother on the swing and the next moment, she is bursting with giant tears because of some incredible injustice.

In the last few weeks alone, she cried when I killed an ant in the kitchen (instead of setting it free), when we bought the wrong color protractor although she never mentioned having a preference and when her sister got 15 minutes of extra TV while she was on a playdate.

Sometimes it’s so ridiculous, I want to laugh but I don’t. Because I know the emotions are very real. It’s almost like the feelings take over her – so suddenly and so dramatically that she can’t contain it. Just like the days when she was a toddler, protesting madly at the outrage of having to wear pants – yes actual pants  – when she left the house.

I often get blindsided. We got frozen yogurt recently and I always remind my kids to not overfill the fishbowl size cups because I need some money left over for their higher education. But this time, my daughter ignored my wishes and filled her cup to the brim with a mountain of yogurt and toppings.

After I had paid close to $20 for our 3 yogurts, I said, “Dylan, you put way too much in your cup.” And she exploded. “I’M SORRY MOMMY. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?!!! I DIDN’T MEAN TO! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME…..” And then the tears. She wouldn’t talk to me all the way home and all I could do was sigh and wonder how a fun yogurt outing turned so wrong.

The more I read about and explore the tween years, I realize they are filled with moodiness, volatile moments and pushing boundaries. There are hormonal changes going on and often preteens are as surprised by their emotional outbursts as the parents. Basically, my daughter is doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing and I just need to catch up.

And I realized I mostly need to calm down. All too often, I resort to yelling because I feel like I’m under attack. So when my daughter starts screaming about not getting to have a last minute sleepover (honestly, I just didn’t have the energy!), I found this advice very helpful…

“Kindly tell your tantrumming preteen that you see how upset they are and you want to give them time to pull themselves together before you discuss it. Ask them if they want you to stay, or to leave the room to let everyone calm down…. Later, give them a big hug, and really listen to what they have to say. Even if you can’t agree with their position, acknowledge your child’s perspective, and work to find a win/win solution.” (Courtesy of Aha! Parenting)

In the end, we decided to put a future sleepover on the calendar. And that seemed to do the trick. So no, I never did find my sweet spot. What I found instead was very sweet moments intermingled between the challenges in this new frontier. And I’ll take every one of those moments I can get.

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My Child’s Dog Anxiety Tue, 03 Mar 2015 15:43:55 +0000

I used to be a dog owner. We had a gorgeous rescue dog that we were were pretty confident was a mix between a Lab, a Greyhound and a kangaroo. She was a very quirky, lovable dog that needed to run about 10 miles a day to be calm. So we exercised her a lot.

But as I walked her down the streets of Manhattan, I was amazed at the fear of some children. Why were they afraid of my sweet-tempered, although highly-spirited pup? Why had their parents taught them to fear dogs?!  It made me sad because I had grown up loving dogs. Why had these parents taken their own fears and transferred them to their children?

(Note to all future parents: If you judge other parents, it will come back to haunt you.)

My children, 3 and 1 at the time, loved our dog Martini but she was just not meant to be a city dog. In the end, we had to find our rambunctious pet a wonderful home in Connecticut where she could run and play without the limits of city living.

Fast forward and when my younger daughter (at the time) Summer was about 3 or 4, I started noticing she was intensely fearful of dogs. She didn’t remember our former dog and grew panicked whenever a dog was around. There was never an incident where she was bitten or scared. This anxiety seemed to just suddenly appeared.

As she described it, “It’s okay when there is a person in a dog costume but I don’t like real dogs.”

Got it.

I figured she would grow out of it. It was a phase. Kids get anxious! A friend told me about her daughter once fearing lawn shrubbery. Children get over this stuff. So I didn’t give it too much attention and tried to foster positive relationships with dogs. I definitely didn’t worry.

That little girl is now 8 and still incredibly fearful of dogs. If we go to a block party, she can’t even have fun because she is terrified someone might show up with a dog. She won’t play at someone’s house unless their dog is put away in a separate room. The fear hasn’t dissipated. It’s only gotten worse. Every year, we spend a week with my mom in Connecticut. My mom happens to own two adorable canines. This is them….


For an entire week, my daughter Summer lives on the counter.


Summer can’t even explain why she is so scared. To have compassion, I try to imagine how I would feel if every dog was a snake. The idea terrifies me since I really hate snakes. So it helps me get where she is coming from.

When we see a dog on the street, Summer leaps to the other side of the road. The dog owner will usually say something like, “Oh don’t worry. My dog is a sweetheart. She loves kids!”

I appreciate that. I really do. But the thing is, it’s not about their dog. Their dog is cute and fluffy and my kid really doesn’t want to be anywhere near him or her. It’s not a personal thing.

And it’s also not about anything I taught my child. It’s an anxiety. We all have them.

I’m trying to go at my daughter’s pace. I respect her fears and try to reduce her dog exposure whenever we can. Be we are also trying to take baby steps. We show her photos and videos of dogs. She shares a room with her sister who plasters her side of the room with adorable puppy pictures and that seems okay. But Summer is not ready to get anywhere near even the gentlest of dogs.

My neighbor will soon be getting an 8 week Goldendoodle. I’m hoping Summer can learn to tolerate this pup and even maybe like him?

I don’t think she’ll ever be a canine lover but we are doing what we can to reduce her stress in our dog-loving world.

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School Uniforms: A Morning Savior or Crushing Individuality? Fri, 06 Feb 2015 15:54:13 +0000

When we lived in NY, my daughters attended a non-uniform school with a very casual dress code. Which meant each morning we got to mull over questions like… Are leggings considered pants or more like tights? Do you need to wear a skirt over leggings? If no skirt, how long does the shirt need to be covering the leggings? Is this shirt too short? Is this shirt too tight? Is this a school outfit or glorified pajamas?

It was very exhausting.

I tried to make rules. For example, I told my girls: No leggings alone. You must wear a skirt over leggings. But they wore me down with their daily pleadings and I eventually let them wear leggings with long shirts (as long as the shirts covered their tushes).

But even that didn’t always work because sometimes a shirt was right on the line of appropriate or inappropriate or I’m not really sure and the only thing I know is that WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE FOR SCHOOL.

School Uniforms

So I was quite relieved when we moved to Florida and my daughters started at a school which required uniforms.

They could choose from five different collared shirts… in white, pink, blue, red or blue stripes. And it had to be paired with navy or khaki bottoms (skirt or pants).

And it was GLORIOUS.

No more school clothing debates. No more attending school in outfits that were borderline sleepwear. No more worrying about what brand of clothing other girls were wearing. There was just…

Misery! Wait, what?

My younger school-aged daughter (now 8) actually doesn’t mind wearing a school uniform. She wears her uniform every day without a complaint. But my oldest daughter (now 10) can’t stand uniforms. How would she put it exactly? That it crushes her creative spirit and denies her happiness. She often wears a shirt under her uniform shirt so as soon as school is out, she can remove her collared shirt and be free.

I do get her point. I hate being told what to wear. I still shudder back to days when I had to wear blazers and pantyhose to work. I just felt so uncomfortable. So not me. I love putting on an outfit now that looks good and feels like me. I think for many of us – when we like what we are wearing, we feel better in our own skin.

But I also understand the benefit of school uniforms. It creates a respectful atmosphere for learning. It removes a lot of the peer pressure to wear certain clothing brands. It can even speed up the getting dressed process during those precious morning minutes.

But I no longer view uniforms as this magical solution to all tween fashion issues. School uniforms certainly work for some.  (There are kids who even wear their uniforms on the weekend!) And uniforms don’t work for others – like my creative free spirit child who makes eclectic fashion choices and sews her own clothes. A simple school dress code would have been a far better fit for her.

But I tell my daughter… sometimes in life you just have to follow the rules. And, at least she isn’t wearing pantyhose.

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When Mean Girls Are Too Close To Home Mon, 12 Jan 2015 16:16:01 +0000

As an adult – you don’t know what it’s like to really want to rumble with a 10-year-old until that 10-year-old is mean to your kid.

This year we entered mean girl territory. First one of my daughters dealt with a not-so-nice girl at school who created an exclusive group at recess – a group to which my daughter was denied access.

And then both of my older daughters (currently 8 and 10) dealt with mean girls in our neighborhood. For awhile, they were the popular “it” girls in the hood and then they were frozen out.

They would watch all their former friends play outside, skipping from one house to the next while they were in some kind of unexplainable exile. No one knocked on our door anymore. No more buzzing texts. Just anguish. One afternoon, my daughters were heartbroken as they watched all the other girls swimming next door together.

And as a parent, I did not take it well.

I guess because I remember this all too well. I remember being the one who was “out.” The one who was ignored and never invited. And I also remember, at other times, being the one who felt mighty and strong, deciding who was cool and who was not. The whole thing made me nauseous and now my own children were immersed in it.

When you are dealing with issues like this, many well meaning people will say, “Wait until middle school. It gets even worse!” And I’m sure they are right. But when you feel like you are sinking on the Titantic, it doesn’t make you feel better if someone says, “You think things are bad now – wait, until you hit the icy ocean water. That’s when hypothermia will set in!”

At school, the mean girl issue was much simpler. The teacher shut down the exclusive recess club, the girl’s grandmother intervened and the situation has greatly improved. But our neighborhood is tougher. Some parents don’t want to get involved in their children’s behavior – choosing to let kids work it out themselves.

Children do need to fight their own battles but I also think as a parent, it’s up to me to guide them in these younger years. I don’t think children are miraculously born with compassion and kindness (heck, we adults are still working on these skills!). Kids need to be taught how their actions can positively and negatively affect other people. How a kind word or invite can make all the difference in someone’s day.

Because the neighborhood situation is so in our faces, I kept my daughters busy with activities away from home. I also set up a playdate with a new girl that moved in around the corner. I told my daughters that we would focus on spending time with positive, nice people. They couldn’t control the actions of those mean girls but they could control how they handled it.

I’m sure years from now, my daughters will have long forgiven the girls who swam and laughed that sunny afternoon while they watched sadly from our windows. I probably won’t. Because that’s how motherhood goes.

At one point during all of this, my daughter said to me, “I would never treat anyone this way.”

I realized these painful experiences are teaching my children true compassion. Compassion for what it feels like to be the outcast. I hope they remember this feeling when they are once again the ones on top of the social food chain.

And maybe we don’t have to accept that kids can be just cruel. Maybe we can guide them – just a bit – to their more compassionate selves.

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How Should Kids Address Adults? It’s Time for Mrs. and Mr. to Make a Comeback. Mon, 29 Dec 2014 15:28:07 +0000

When I was a kid – back when folks drank Tab and thought their Magic Eight balls were totally accurate – everyone called adults by their last names. There was no question of what to call the parents of my friends. It was Mrs. Brownson or Mrs. Biondino or Mrs. Pratt.

I could never have imagined calling these moms or any other adult by their first names.

In fact, when I was in my twenties, I ran into Mrs. Brownson one day and she suggested I start calling her Michelle. Michelle? Who the heck was Michelle? She was Mrs. Brownson! I did as she asked but it never felt quite right. She’ll always be Mrs. Brownson to me.

Then I got older and had my own children. And then these children started talking! Suddenly I, and other new moms, were faced with the issue of what should our children call other adults. At the time, it seemed ridiculous to have some 3 year old playmate call me Mrs. anything. I’m not a Mrs! It sounded stuffy, formal and well, made me feel old. So my children’s playmates called me by my first name. Most moms I knew went this direction as well.

And it seemed to work just fine. At least at first. But you know how kids keep having a knack for getting older. Well, it’s one thing to have a preschooler call me Kelcey. And quite another to have a 10 year old who is almost towering over me. There are now neighborhood kids who will waltz into my house with a laid back “Hey Kelcey!” and somehow it just feels too casual. And what happens when these kids are teenagers?

When a child calls an adult by their last name – it’s a sign of respect. Something I think I have lost by letting my kids’ friends call me by my first name. Because these children are not my friends. They are not my equals. I do have one tween who calls me “Ms. Kelcey” which seems like a nice Southern compromise. But most of them just call me “Kelcey.” And the truth is – I’ve earned the title of Mrs. or Ms. something. I’m an adult. I work hard. I take care of people. I have wrinkles that need Botox. I deserve respect.

But how to change course now?! It seems so awkward to suddenly start demanding a more formal title like I have been knighted or something.

I think I’ll have to start fresh when my kids make new friends or change schools. Until then I’m just Kelcey. For better or for worse.

Note: The names (other than my own) in this piece have been changed. 

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“Holiday Hot Toys:” Hit and Misses of 2014 Wed, 26 Nov 2014 02:34:37 +0000

The official start of the 2014 Holiday shopping season is just days away and the big toy retailers like Target, Walmart, Kmart and Toys ‘R Us have once again each announced their Hot Toys lists. Of course these toys look shiny, fun and awesome online and in the stores but what about once your kid is actually playing with them?

Alpha Mom picked 12 toys from these retailer’s “Hot Holiday Toys” lists to put to the test. There were some big hits (heard of Elsa anyone?) but some of them definitely did not hold up to expectations. Before you spend big money, find out which toys are our favorites and which ones are misses and should be skipped or avoided altogether.

Also, we found that the prices for these “Hot Toys” can vary greatly from retailer to retailer. We gave you a general price range but check different retailers’ websites before purchasing.

Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll (Buy It)

Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll:  Definitely an Alpha Mom favorite and a Holiday Hot Toy Hit, and we’re not surprised it’s on the Hot Toy Lists of many of the retailers this holiday season.We already know that Elsa gets all the glory and poor Anna always seems to be second fiddle. Hopefully Anna can work it out in therapy some day. This singing Elsa doll (My First Disney Princess) ($30 – $47 depending on where you buy it) is a HUGE favorite in my house. Especially by my 4 year old daughter.

If you’ve got an Elsa lover at home, this is a fabulous holiday gift. Your child can touch this doll’s snowflake necklace and hear Elsa to talk to her Frozen friends as her dress lights up. The dolls sings, “Let it Go” (just a part of the song) and says 15 phrases from the movie. You can set the doll to talk/sing in English or Spanish.

This doll comes with an Olaf sidekick and three AAA batteries.

There are a couple problems with the doll. It has no off button and it has no volume control. The shoes also fall off very easily. But if you have a kid that’s mad about Elsa, buy this and try to just let it go. (Sorry I couldn’t resist.)

Final Word on Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll: “Frozen” mania continues and this Elsa doll is a nice addition. I have already purchased one of these for a birthday party this weekend. Definitely an Alpha Mom favorite and a Holiday Hot Toy Hit, and we’re not surprised it’s on the Hot Toy Lists of many of the retailers this holiday season. Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing Doll can be purchased via our affiliate Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

Zoomer Dino (Buy It)

Zoomer Dino Review: one of our favorite toys of the Holiday 2014Remember that electronic dog Zoomer from last year’s Holiday Hot Toys Lists? Well, he’s back in dinosaur form this year (about $80)! The Zoomer Dino is on many retailers’ Holiday Hot Toy Lists this year (Walmart, Target, Kmart and Toys R Us.)  Zoomer Dino wanders freely around your home and really has good balance for an electronic toy. This is an interactive toy that can detect when your child is playing with it. It will react when being pet and will get angry if you pull its tail!  Like a real dinosaur, it will spin around, chomp and roar. You can use different hand motions to make it do things like flip its tail and sit.

You can also control Zoomer Dino’s movements with a remote control. And its eyes are super freaky. The eyes change color with its mood, indicating whether it’s happy or sad.

This prehistoric pet is for children ages 5 and up (although my 4 year old son enjoyed playing with it). The toys requires three AAA batteries for the remote control (not included) and it charges with a USB cable (included).  It takes about an hour to charge and the charge lasts 20 to 30 minutes. (Before recharging – you have to let the battery cool down for 10 to 15 minutes).

Final Word on Zoomer Dino: This toy, an Alpha Mom favorite and Holiday Hot Toy Hot, is a lot like the Zoomer dog but kind of cooler because the dinosaur can be so ferocious. If you have a kid who loves dinosaurs, this is fun, interactive holiday gift. Just keep that USB cable handy because you will be doing a lot of recharging.  Last year, Zoomer (the dog version) sold out incredibly quickly so if this of interest, act fast and get your Zoomer Dino ASAP. Aside from Amazon, also look for it on Walmart and Target.

Let’s Imagine Elmo by Sesame Street (Buy It, with reservations)

Let's Imagine Elmo Toy Review: great toy for the holidays if you have a HUGE Elmo fan on your hands.  Otherwise we have reservations.Sesame Street Let’s Imagine Elmo (about $30) has three different hats (a cowboy, a sea captain and a prince) and plays different games depending on which hat he is wearing. For example, when he is Cowboy Elmo, he counts up to 20 with your child and then sings a song. When he wears the sea captain’s hat, Elmo starts up a sounds-of-the-sea identification game. When he’s a prince, Elmo plays, “Prince Elmo Says.”

When Elmo isn’t wearing a hat, he still interacts with your child by getting bounced, tickled, and having his nose squeezed! The whole thing is ridiculously cute but didn’t really hold my children’s interest for long. I found the same issue with the Big Hugs Elmo which was on many retailers’ hot toy lists for the holidays last year. All my kids (age 18 months to 10 years old) were anxious to play with the Let’s Imagine Elmo but after checking out the different hats were done.

Also young kids (age 4 and under) will have trouble getting the hats on and off so they will need assistance from an adult. Four AA batteries included.

Final Word on Let’s Imagine Elmo toy: This is a really cute gift for a preschooler who LOVES Elmo. But unless the kid is obsessed with Elmo, skip this toy because your child will lose interest fast.

Simon Swipe Game (Buy It)

Simon Swipe Game Review: great family toy gift for the Holidays.  We tested it and approve.I know a lot of people grew up playing Simon (about $15) and I remember it but didn’t play it much. I think I was too busy agonizing over that infuriating Rubik’s Cube. But I’m always a fan of a retro game so I was excited to try out Simon Swipe with my kids (It’s on the Hot Toy List of Target and Kmart this year).

Simon Swipe has four games including Classic Simon. If you’re not familiar with the game – you basically need to repeat the pattern of lights which gets longer and more challenging as you get each pattern right. In the classic game, you just tap. But in the other games now available, you tap, swipe and do u-turns. Yup, it gets that crazy.

They really should put some basic directions on the bottom of this game because it would be nice to be able to easily refer to it. We all got a little confused about how to choose and restart different games on Simon Swipe and constantly needed to refer to the directions which at some point I know will get lost.

One feature of Simon Swipe that I love is that you can turn down the volume or even turn it off completely which makes it a great car game. The game is for ages 8 and up, but younger kids can play the Classic Simon module. Three AA batteries included.

Final Word on Simon Swipe: My older kids (ages 7 and 10) played the Classic Simon module because the other games got too confusing and challenging. I like that Simon Swipe is great for memory skills and it’s easy to bring on a road trip. With the retro vibe and affordable price, it’s definitely an Alpha Mom favorite and a Holiday Hot Toy Hit.

VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch (Buy It)

Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch Review: great toy for the Holidays. We tested it and it gets our approval.The VTech Kidzoom Smartwatch (about $50) is a big touch screen wristwatch with a camera, voice recorder, games and other creative effects. Hey, it even tells time! This is really a way to keep younger kids (age 3 to 7) off your cellphone. (It’s on Walmart’s and Kmart’s Hot Toy Lists this year).

My children (age 4 to 10) all had fun experimenting with this smartwatch and had no problem figuring it out. They were able to take pictures and videos. You can pick different frames for the photos, save them and transfer them to a computer if you want.

The digital and analog watch clock displays comes with 50 clock face designs and there is also a stopwatch/timer. The voice recorder has funny voice-changing effects which my kids loved! There are four learning games: Super Detective, Rotating Puzzle, Finger Dance, and Time Master and you can download more by registering online and connecting to the Vtech Learning Lodge.

You don’t have to worry about batteries. You just plug the Vtech Smartwatch in using a USB cable. It takes about 3 hours to charge and the battery will last 2 to 3 days under typical usage. Although be warned – taking photos and videos are more demanding on the battery.  The watch seems pretty durable and is splash-proof. Don’t bring it in the bath or swim with it. The user manual is comprehensive and easy to read which as a parent, I really appreciate.

Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?Just so you understand the size of the watch, this is it on my 4 year old son….

I wouldn’t buy this device if your priority is giving your kid a way to tell time. Just buy a standard wristwatch. But this is a great toy to attach to a younger child’s wrist to keep them busy in the car or when you are waiting for a doctor’s appointment. Because you can actually attach it to your child, it’s easier to keep track of it.

Final Word on the Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch: I’m always looking for ways to decrease screen time– not increase it– but I thought this was a nice twist on technology that could be great on a car trip or when you need to keep little ones busy for awhile. The Vtech Kidizoom Smartwatch is an Alpha Mom favorite!

FurReal Friends Get Up & GoGo My Walkin’ Pup Pet (Consider Skipping)

FurReal Friends Pup Review Review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?There was mass hysteria in my house when the FurReal Friends Get Up & GoGo My Walkin’ Pup Pet (about $50) arrived. My five kids were very excited and immediately started fighting over who could walk it first. (This toy is on the Holiday Hot Toy Lists of Target, Walmart, Kmart, Toys ‘R Us, and Toy Insider).  This plush, electronic puppy is designed to act like a real puppy. A leash with a controller allows your child to walk her. She also wags her tail, sits and tilts her head. The dog also responds with barks when you talk to her. Four C batteries required.

The key problem with this furry pup toy is that it can only walk in a straight line so when your child wants to turn, they will either have to physically pick her up and turn her or try dragging her with the leash which just makes her fall over. So it gets a little frustrating trying to walk her. It’s also pretty slow going. You do not have a greyhound dog on your hands here.

This pup also comes with a free app. After you download the app (works with Apple and certain Android devices), face your phone/tablet toward the dog and she will interact with the activities your child plays on the app like washing and drying the pup. There are no instructions so you kind of just wing it – your kids will figure it out in no time. I wasn’t too jazzed about the app because I’m not looking for more ways to increase my kids’ screen time. I’d rather they just play with the dog and use their imaginations.

All of my kids quickly lost interest in the FurReal pup except for my 4 year old daughter. Not surprising, since she’s an animal lover and still adores the FurReal Friends Cuddles My Giggly Monkey Pet that was on many retailers’ Hot Toy lists in 2013 and was a favorite of ours. Still she kept saying, “The puppy only walks in a straight line!” My 18 month old son also liked playing with it a bit because it’s interactive.

Final Word on the FurReal Friends Get Up & GoGo My Walkin’ Pup Pet: If this was $20 or $30 bucks, I’d absolutely recommend buying the toy pup for a young child (aged 2 – 5) who is passionate about dogs. But at $50 it seems too expensive for what you’re getting. And it also won’t stop your kids for asking for a real dog. Which is the real bummer.

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Chair (Consider Skipping)

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Chair Review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?It’s not often that you see a really new idea when it comes to baby/toddler toys. But I was intrigued to check out this Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Chair (about $48) for kids 12 months and up because I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  It’s on the Hot Toy List this year of Toy Insider.

This seat knows when your toddler sits and stands, activating songs and phrases. Your child can press the light-up remote or flip book pages to hear numbers, shapes and more. Lift the cushion for more songs and interactive play. There are three levels of play (with different songs, phrases and sounds) depending on your child’s age. Requires three AA batteries.

I really like the idea of this toy but my 18 month old never sits down. Like ever. Unless he’s strapped into his high chair or the carseat, he is roaming around and causing trouble. He was interested in the Laugh and Learn Smart Chair when it first arrived but has mostly ignored it since then so he can focus on his never ending effort to get into the trash cans. My daughters were a bit more sedentary at age 18 months and may have played with a toy like this for longer.

Final Word on the Laugh and Learn Smart Chair: I wouldn’t be so quick to throw down $48 for this chair unless your toddler has the ability to sit down for a little bit and play with toys. If your kids is a more of a “search and destroy” toddler then this might not be the perfect fit. Available at our affiliate Amazon.

Sew Cool Sewing Machine (Consider Skipping)

Sew Cool Sewing Kit Review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?The Sew Cool Sewing Machine (about $30 – $40) is a super cool concept and is on Walmart’s Holiday Hot Toy List this year. It’s a threadless machine that kids can use to create purses, pouches, characters and more out of precut shapes. There is no thread, no foot pedal or bobbins to wind. You simply place the material in the machine, press the button and follow the dotted line. There are 9 included projects. Four AA batteries required.

Unfortunately, this toy seems to be 100% targeted at girls only. A product description begins, “Girls can start sewing in a safe and creative way!” They only show a girl enjoying the product and it just comes in a deep pink and purple because you know that’s the only color girls like, right?! Ugh. My 7 year old daughter’s favorite color is blue. And haven’t these folks ever seen “Project Runway?” Don’t they know that lots of talented and creative little boys will grow up to be designers too?!

Insulting 1950’s marketing aside, my 7 and 10 year old daughters enjoyed this. Although it was a little hard to get the material in the right spot sometimes. I have no idea how the material sticks together but apparently it works like a felting machine which blends the fibers together.

BUT – by the time a kid is old enough to use the the Sew Cool Sewing Machine (6 and up), why not teach them to sew for real? There are adorable products where kids can start using a needle and thread like My First Sewing Kit by Alex’s Toys or American Girl Crafts Sew and Stuff Kit. Or craft stores and other small businesses will teach you or your child how to use a sewing machine. My 10 year old started taking sewing lessons a couple of months ago and she has already made a bag, shorts, a skirt and a top!

Final Word on the Sew Cool Sewing Machine: I think this is a fun toy for a kid who has expressed an interest in sewing and wants the feel of a real sewing machine. But I can’t overlook how it is entirely marketed to only girls and kids aren’t learning any real sewing skills. But that aside, it’s a nice break from all the screens/apps, and I’d still recommend it for the future “Project Runway” star. You can purchase the Sew Cool Sewing Machine through our affiliate Amazon.

Ultimate Amazement Park Playset (Consider Skipping)

Ultimate Amazement Park Playset Holiday Toys 2014The Ultimate Amazement Park Playset by Vtech (about $50) is on the Hot Toy lists of Target and Walmart this year.  We found that it is way bigger than you think it will be. In fact, it’s 3 feet long with ramps, loops and a spiral course (!!!). It has lots of fun sounds and melodies. But you’ll barely notice because you’ll keep saying to yourself, “Wow. This is really big.” Unless you’re living in Daddy Warbucks’ mansion, you will have a hard time figuring out where to put this thing. And because it’s so tall, it’s a bit unsteady and ours kept crashing over. So a lot of the time, it looked like this….

Fallen over holiday Toys 2014

It’s pretty easy to put together which is always a big plus when it comes to toys. You can follow the picture on the box and definitely keep the box for storage. My 4 year old son thought the playset was pretty cool but it only comes with one car, which is not enough. He used his matchbox cars on it too. Two AAA batteries included. Meant for kids 12 months to 5 years but we think it’s really for kids 3 and up. My 18 month old only knocked it over. Again and again.

Final Word on Ultimate Amazement Park Playset: Unless you have a big playroom or space for this, I would skip it. If you have space to leave it up, and your child is into cars and racetracks, it could be a lot of fun. The Ultimate Amazement Park Playset can be purchased on Amazon.

DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio Easel and Storage Case Set by Play Doh (Consider Skipping)

DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio Easel Review: should you gift this for the Holidays?My kids have never used any of the DohVinci products so they didn’t really know what to expect. The Play Doh DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio (about $26) is a cool toy gift for kids who love to do anything artistic and is on Toys R Us’ Hot Toy List this year.

Basically your child is squeezing out Play Doh through these Deco Pop tubes to create 3D designs. They can either follow the designs on three different art boards or create their own on two blank boards provided. Your child can add dots, zigzag lines and other details.  It’s a little harder than it looks and my 10 year old daughter was frustrated that she couldn’t make the lines exactly the way she wanted. My 4 year old had a really hard time squeezing the Play Doh out with the styler. My 7 year old could do it but had to use two hands.

The creations harden overnight and then you can keep them forever! I know. You’re welcome.

This non-toxic Play Doh contains wheat.

Final Word on DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio Easel and Storage Case Set: This toy cannot be used simultaneously by several children because you only have one styler to put the deco pop tubes into to create your art. So if you have several children, they will need to exercise some patience before trying it out or you may need to purchase additional stylers. My kids enjoyed experimenting with this toy but I think they have more fun with construction paper, some water colors and glitter glue. The Play Doh DohVinci Anywhere Art Studio is available for sale at our affiliate Amazon.

LeapFrog LeapBand (Avoid It)

LeapFrog LeapBand Review: does it deserve to be called a Holiday Hot Toy?The LeapFrog LeapBand is considerably less money than the Vtech Smartwatch. The LeapBand only costs about $30. But despite the fact that the LeapFrog and the Vtech watches look very much the same and are targeted at the same age group (LeapBand targets age 4 – 7), it really is a different product. The LeapBand is intended to be an activity tracker for kids.

There is no touchscreen which will likely send your children into a state of panic but within minutes they will learn how to operate this LeapBand. The LeapFrog LeapBand is preloaded with 10 active play challenges and 4 cool down challenges to get kids moving like, “Pounce like a lion!” (Parents can add up to 36 more challenges for free in LeapFrog Connect.)

The idea of LeapBand is that kids run, jump and play to earn rewards and power a pet pal that lives on the band. For example, in one game, Pet Chef, your child can help a pet collect food and make healthy snacks.

Parents can set the LeapBand so that it is locked during quiet times (when your child is at school and sleeping). Parents can also check their kid’s activity by connecting the LeapBand to their computer and logging onto LeapFrog Connect. You charge the phone by plugging it in to the computer using a USB cable. The battery will last 3 to 4 days depending on usage.

I am not a big fan of this watch – despite the fact that I love the LeapFrog brand and really adored the LeapPad Ultra reviewed last year on Alpha Mom.  The watch is huge and the band is very stiff.

Is a kid really going to wear this all day? No. And more importantly, why would you want them to? I let my 4 year old twins, my 7 year old and my 10 year old try the LeapBand (even though the 10 year old is above the targeted age group) and I didn’t see a lot of activity. What I saw was a lot of kids staring at screens. And yes, once in a while, they were jumping and doing short activities. But mostly they were playing these pet pal games while lounging on the couch.

You want your kid to be more active? Save yourself $30 bucks and send them outside to play tag, a game of soccer or go on a bike ride. Or if you’re stuck inside, how about an active game on the Wii or a trip to your local Y.

Final Word on the LeapFrog LeapBand: I think the idea of an activity tracker for kids is brilliant but this just didn’t quite get there.

Paw Patrol Look-out Playset (Avoid It)

Paw Patrol Holiay Toys 2014

I love the idea of this Look-out Playset (for about $30) because so many kids enjoy the show “Paw Patrol” on Nickelodeon.  (This is found on the Hot Toy lists of Target, Kmart and Toys R Us). And my 4 year old twins (boy and girl) were really excited to play with it. But it’s kind of a piece of junk. The main problem with the toy is that the slide breaks apart again and again. I finally resorted to using duct tape to keep it together but the slide still won’t stay attached to the playset. A scan of Amazon reviews shows that many people had this same issue.

Other than that major problem, it’s cute. It has an elevator, lights and sounds and a working Periscope. It also includes a Chase action figure and his police SUV. It comes with three button cell batteries.

Final Word on the Paw Patrol Look-out Playset : If the manufacturer can fix the toy’s slide problem, then this will be a big hit. But until then – definitely skip this toy and maybe try one of the other “Paw Patrol” toys on the market.

Which of the toys would I buy for my kids?

I think the Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Singing doll is a hit for this holiday season, along with the Zoomer Dino and the Vtech Kidzoom Smartwatch. I also like the Simon Swipe for some family, retro fun. Also, if you have a big Elmo fan on your hands, then the Sesame Street Let’s Imagine Elmo is a cute toy to purchase.

Happy Holidays!

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Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles Wed, 05 Nov 2014 23:39:54 +0000

I’m constantly on the hunt for a good reusable water bottle for the family- you know, one that is safe (and doesn’t leach chemicals), doesn’t leak, keeps water cold and is sized right for lunchboxes, gym bags and my purse. There are good reasons to ditch buying store-bought water in disposable plastic bottles. About 38 billion non-reusable plastic water bottles don’t get recycled each year. Ugh. So it’s worth it to find an alternative both for the environment and our wallets.  That’s where Alpha Mom comes in.

There are many many options on the market when it comes to reusable water bottles but we think the number one factor to consider is that the water is stored safely in a bottle – without chemicals from the container leaching into it.

Over the past several years, the main concern has been about the chemical BPA which is a key ingredient found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, and until several years ago many plastic food and water/ drink containers were made from plastics that were laced with BPA.

In case you are not up-to-date on BPA, over the years we have heard lots of news reports warning about children’s and pregnant women’s exposure to products containing BPA. The US Department of Health and Human Services has called for parents to reduce their children’s exposure to products containing BPA because of its possible negative health effects on the developing brain, and its possible links to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The FDA has said that exposure to low levels of BPA is safe but since we are all exposed to BPA constantly (plastic toys, plastic food containers, canned foods, store receipts, etc), it’s best to reduce our exposure whenever we can and that includes reusable water bottles. That led to many companies producing plastic food and water containers to switch to BPA-free plastics like Tritan.

But “BPA-free” is not aways a reliable term. For example, reusable bottles made by Sigg (before August 2008) were labeled “BPA free” but a study found (and then Sigg confirmed) that the epoxy used in the liner of their aluminum reusable water bottles contained BPA. Sigg’s current bottles have a new lining that is BPA-free (the lining is called Ecocare) but many Sigg customers felt duped and the company has had to work to win back the trust of customers.

We also learned this past summer (through an investigation by the journal Environmental Health) that many BPA-free plastic containers (including Tritan plastic) may also leak other concerning and estrogen-mimicking chemicals into water and food it stores when the container is exposed to ultraviolet rays (like when you’re on the sports field). One interesting note… reusable water bottle maker Nalgene’s green bottles actually tested negative for these chemicals after exposure to UV rays (mostly likely due to its green color which seems to block the rays) which is why we reviewed it below.

Confused yet?

Don’t panic. We know it’s a lot of information to absorb. But we are trying to make it simple.

When picking the reusable water bottles to test out as potential favorites, we focused on the ones that we know (as of now) to be made of the safest materials for storing water. We chose mainly non-plastic reusable water containers made of food-grade safe materials like stainless steel, aluminum (with BPA-free linings) and glass. We also included Naglene’s BPA-free plastic reusable water bottle in green since it tested safely in the Environmental Health journal research this summer.


Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel Bottle with 3.0 Sports Cap (Option A)

Best and Safest Water Bottles: Klean Kanteen

I’m in love with the Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel water bottle and not just because “KK” happens to also be my initials. It is free of BPA, phthalates, lead and other toxins. The bottle is made from 18/8 food-grade stainless steel and the drinking valve is made from food-grade silicone.  You can drink a lot of water quickly and easily because of the wide spout. About $17 and up depending on the size.

Leak-Proof: Tiny bit of leaking if you really shake it upside down but overall not a problem even if you throw it in your bag. It would be nice if Klean Kanteen created a cap to flip over the spout as an additional defense against leaking. This would also help in the event you drop your bottle, so you’re not cleaning dirt out of the spout. (The company does not claim leak-proof. Instead they claim leak-resistant.)

Taste of Water: I think the water tastes great. My husband thinks it has a weird aftertaste.  If you buy this one, maybe you can be the tie-breaker.

Fits Ice Cubes: Yes. No problem at all.

Outside Condensation: After I fill it with icy, cold water, it definitely has outside condensation.

Keeps Water Cool: Cool enough. Several hours after filling it up with cold water, it is room temperature.

Ease of Cleaning: Very easy because of the wide spout.

Final Word on the Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel water bottle: This definitely is a favorite. I loved the flow of the water and the ease of cleaning.  Clips onto a backpack or messenger bag. A number of other reviewers on Amazon did complain about the paint peeling off the outside of the bottle but I have not encountered that problem.

Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel Bottle with All Stainless Loop Cap (Option B)

Best and Safest Water Bottles: Klean Kanteen stainless steel loop cap

The Klean Kanteen Classic water bottle (reviewed above) can also be used with the All Stainless Loop Cap (a very similar cap is also available in BPA-free polypropylene).  This All Stainless Loop Cap twists on and I find it to be completely leakproof. (I really shook it up and down to make sure.) To drink out of it, you just unscrew it. In fact, if you buy the water bottle above with the Sports Cap, you can buy the All Stainless Loop Cap for about $10. So it’s a good investment to buy both. That way you can switch it up whenever you want.

So which size Klean Kanteen Reusable Water Bottle do you buy? 

For preschoolers, I recommend buying the 12 ounce bottle with the Sports Cap for easy drinking without spilling. For kids in elementary school, I would purchase the 18 ounce with Sports Cap or Loop Cap depending on which cap your kid prefers. This size will still fit in most lunchboxes and provides for plenty of water. As for adults – I think the 18 ounce is perfect.  It’s plenty of water but still fits in my purse. But if you are a big outdoor enthusiast, you may need the 27 or 40 ounce. Just know – you are buying a BIG water bottle.

Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle (Option A)

Best and Safest Water Bottles: Naglene Water Bottle in green

We decided to review Nalgene’s plastic reusable water bottle in green only because one study showed that the green coloring of its bottle blocked UVA rays from affecting the plastic. Why is this important? Because an investigation by the journal Environmental Health showed that many BPA-free plastic containers (including Tritan plastic)  leached concerning estrogen-mimicking chemicals when exposed to UVA rays. And we all know that water bottles can get a lot of sun on the soccer field, in your car or at the playground. So we love the idea that the green color could possibly prevent chemicals from leaching into your water.

The Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle (only buy green) is a very affordable (about $8) 12 oz. reusable water bottle. It is made of Tritan plastic which is BPA-free.

This is a durable, leak-proof water bottle that is really suited towards children because of its smaller size. You can clip this bottle to any backpack, diaper bag, or stroller.

Leak-Proof:  Yes. A very small amount of water came out when I really shook it upside down but I was pretty impressed for a so-called sippy cup.

Taste of Water: Tastes good! Like chicken. Kidding. It tasks like water.

Fits Ice Cubes: Easily.

Outside Condensation: Yes, a lot of condensation.

Keeps Water Cool: Yes, stays pretty cool. It stays a bit cooler than the other bottles we tested for this review.

Ease of Cleaning: Easy to clean. But you will need a tiny bottle brush (Dr. Brown’s sells a great one) to really get the inside of the spout clean.

Final Word on the Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle (in green only): This is a terrific water bottle for kids. But 12 ounces is way too small for teenagers or adults. Once your kid is past the toddler phase, definitely invest in a larger water bottle like the Naglene On The Fly Water Bottle (in green only) (see below).

Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp with On The Fly Cap (Option B)

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles: Nalgene On The Fly in green

This Naglene OTF (On The Fly) cap fits the Grip-N-Gulp water bottle but is better suited for older children. It has a flip top that is incredibly leak-proof. Once you open it, you can easily drink. And because it’s so leak proof, you can absolutely feel confident throwing a bottle with this cap into your kid’s lunch or your bag.

The next size up in the green options of Naglene reusable water bottles is 20 oz  and it’s the Nalgene On The Fly Water Bottle so it comes with the awesome and leak-proof cap we use and is also made of Tritan plastic like the Grip-N-Gulp water bottle we use. They don’t make a green water bottle in 18 oz. So if you’re looking for a water bottle for older kids 12 oz might be too small, so 20 oz is probably the best option. However, we didn’t get to see whether 20 oz is too big for our older kids’ lunchboxes.

Sigg Water Bottles

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles: SIGG Kids'

Sigg makes lots of different water bottles for adults and kids so we tried out two different kinds – a kids’ water bottle (in a Hello Kitty design but there are many different ones to choose from) and the Sigg Active Top reusable water bottle (targeted at outdoor enthusiasts).

Sigg Kids’ Water Bottle

Sigg’s kids’ reusable water bottles come in two sizes (0.3 liters and 0.4 liters) and cost about $19. Unless you are buying for a toddler, just get the 0.4 liter version which is about 13.5 ounces. This is a pretty great water bottle. Kids love them because they have a variety of cute designs and parents love them because they fit easily into a lunchbox.  Sigg water bottles are available with a variety of different spouts. The Hello Kitty designed water bottle we use has a twist nozzle and a flip-up cap that provides a tight, durable cover.

The reusable water bottle is made from aluminum with an EcoCare liner that is BPA and phthalate free. The bottles are 100% recyclable.

Leak-Proof: Absolutely no leaking – as long as you remember to close the spout before putting the cap on. If you only put the cap on – you’re in trouble. But if used properly, you should feel very secure putting this water bottle into your bag.

Taste of Water: Just like the Klean Kanteen above, my husband thought this bottle left a metallic aftertaste and I thought it tasted completely normal. Maybe there are metallic people and non-metallic people. Best to figure out which one you are.  My kids have no complaints about the taste of the water but keep in mind, these are the same kids that will think nothing of drinking 3 day old water that happens to be sitting by their bedside.

Fits Ice Cubes: I thought there was no way ice cubes would fit into this bottle but I was wrong! Standard ice cubes go right in one at a time.

Outside Condensation: There is a bit of condensation after I fill it with ice cold water.

Keeps Water Cool: Keeps water reasonably cool but after several hours, it was room temperature.

Ease of Cleaning: Your standard kitchen brush will NOT fit in this water bottle. You will need one of those more narrow brushes that is meant for cleaning baby bottles.

Final Word on Sigg’s kids’ reusable water bottles: This is a favorite of ours because I love how it does not leak and the designs are super cute for kids and adults.

Sigg Active Top Water Bottle

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles

The Sigg Active Top reusable water bottle seems to range drastically in price ($15 to $29) depending on where you buy it. It’s a big water bottle (.75 liters or about 25 oz). You can buy a similar water bottle called SIGGnificant that comes in a 1 liter or almost 34 ounces but we didn’t specifically try that one out.

The Sigg Active Top reusable water bottle apparently has state-of-the-art engineering with a pressure-relief valve and pre-ventilation system.” All I know is that I couldn’t really drink out of it. Neither could my husband. Nor my kids. It’s like you need a YouTube tutorial to figure out how to get water out of this thing.

It has a straw inside but the outside mouthpiece is sort of a mystery. I tried using it like a straw. Nothing. I tried guzzling it. Nothing. I tried biting the mouthpiece. A trickle of water. I’m puzzled. The idea is to not have to unscrew the bottle, so you can simply reach for your beverage when you’re thirsty and on the go. I’m not a marketing genius but it seems like customers will get mad if they can’t actually drink the water.

BPA and phthalate free.

Leak-Proof: Tiny bit of leaking if you really shook it upside down.

Taste of Water: What little water I could get out of it, tasted fine.

Fits Ice Cubes: Fits ice cubes easily.

Outside Condensation: There was condensation on the outside after I filled it with ice cold water. Hey, I can just lick the outside of the bottle to stay hydrated!

Keeps Water Cool: Kept water reasonable cool.

Ease of Cleaning: Easy to clean most of it. The inside straw might be a pain to clean over time.

Final Word on the Sigg Active Top reusable water bottle: Do not buy this water bottle. If you do, please tell me how it works.

Lifefactory Glass Reusable Water Bottle

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles: Lifefactory Glass Reusable Water Bottle

The Lifefactory Glass Reusable Water Bottle is available in 12, 16 or 22 ounce sizes for about $19 to $22. It comes with a silicone sleeve which makes it easy to grip and and a flip cap. The glass bottle and cap are BPA/BPS-free with no phthalates, PVC or polycarbonates.

There is just a comfort that comes with a glass bottle. I love not worrying about chemicals leaching into the water! But glass is much heavier than plastic, stainless steel or aluminum which can be an issue for some people. The 16 oz water bottle we use fits into my children’s lunchbox but it might not fit in smaller-sized ones.

Leak-Proof:  It can leak a tiny bit if you don’t really secure the flip cap and I worried about the flip cap coming off entirely in my bag.

Taste of Water:  Water tastes great.

Fits Ice Cubes: Easily.

Outside Condensation: Yes, but the rubber sleeve makes it pretty not noticeable.

Keeps Water Cool: Reasonably cool.

Ease of Cleaning: Easy to clean.

Final Word on the Lifefactory Glass Reusable Water Bottle: I love this bottle and I love drinking out of glass but the top makes me a little nervous. Because my water bottles always end up topsy turvy in my bag. I was not 100% confident that the flip cap was going to be completely secure if the bottle really got thrown around in my purse. And if the flip top doesn’t stay on, your stuff is going to get wet.

Surprisingly, I think this is quite safe for older kids. The glass is thick and the silicone helps protect it. I even held my breath and dropped it on the ground a couple times and it did not break. See what I’m willing to do for you guys?

Takeya Classic Glass Reusable Water Bottle

Best and Safest Reusable Water Bottles: Takeya Classic Glass
This is another option for a reusable glass water bottle. I really like this one.  The Takeya Classic glass reusable water bottle comes in two sizes… 16.5 or 22.5 ounces for about $17 to $22.  It has a silicone sleeve which provides a good grip and a top that is completely leak-proof. The 16.5 ounce water bottle will fit into a kid’s lunchbox as long as the lunchbox isn’t too small.

Like the Lifefactory water bottle reviewed above, this is made from pretty thick glass with a protective sleeve and it did not break when I dropped it on the ground. I don’t use this water bottle with my toddler or preschoolers (because it’s glass and heavier) but I totally let my tweens use it.

Leak-Proof:  No leaking. At all.

Taste of Water:  Water tastes great.

Fits Ice Cubes: Ice cubes fit but it would be nice if it had a wider spout for easier refills.

Outside Condensation: Yes, but the rubber sleeve makes it non-issue.

Keeps Water Cool: As cool as any other water bottle.

Ease of Cleaning: You will need a more narrow bottle brush to clean it. And it’s a bit difficult to get the silicone sleeve on and off so I left it on when I cleaned it.

Final Word on the Takeya Classic glass reusable water bottle: I like this reusable water bottle because of its simplicity. No fancy spout that leaks. You just screw the top on and off. The 16 ounce fits easily into my purse but seems to run out of water quickly so I would go with the 22 ounce bottle for adults. And I would love a bigger spout. But it still a favorite of mine and I did prefer it slightly over the Lifefactory bottle because there is just no possibility of Takeya leaking.  However, if you need a super light water bottle, then glass is probably not the right option for you.


What Reusable Water Bottle Should I Buy?

Obviously I stayed enormously hydrated while doing this review. Here are my final recommendations….

For the kids, there are some great water bottle options. I recommend the Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel with Sports Cap (mentioned above) in the 12 oz. size.  I also love both the Sigg kids’ reusable water bottle  (which is available in lots of cute designs) and the Nalgene Tritan Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle (in green only).  The Sigg kids’ water bottle in the Hello Kitty design is adorable and totally leak-proof for school kids. The 0.4 liters (which is about 13.5 ounces) is the perfect size. And the 12oz Nalgene is fabulous because with the sippy cup top and the “On The Fly” top – this water bottle can take you from toddlerhood right into elementary school. The Nalgene is also a great deal money-wise.

For adults, I love the Klean Kanteen Classic Stainless Steel Bottle with 3.0 Sports Cap in 18 ounces. I just found it lightweight, not too big, easy to drink from and not a problem to clean. I also really liked the Takeya Classic Glass Reusable Water Bottle because it is completely leakproof and I really like the feel of drinking from a glass bottle. The 16 oz seemed a little small so next time I’ll probably get the 22 oz.

Alpha Mom purchased all of the bottles reviewed here.  

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