Double the Children, Double the College Tuition: How Parents Can Start Saving Now

By Maria Rainier

As if raising a newborn wasn’t already as expensive as it is, raising twins can really take a strain on your finances. After all, you have to purchase double the amount of diapers, clothes, toys and, eventually, double the college tuition. We know what you’re thinking: Isn’t it a bit early to think about college? Not really. Experts suggest saving as early as birth to help secure your children’s future. While keeping your fingers crossed that at least one of your children will score a scholarship or grant, it’s better to start preparing now in case this does not happen. That said, to learn a few ways you can start saving for your twins’ college education, continue reading below.

529 Plan

The most popular choice with most parents is a 529 plan, which is a state- or educational institution-operated savings plan. There are two different options: savings or prepaid. A savings plan works very similar to an IRA. It grows tax-free and allows you to choose from several investment options — whichever stocks and bonds you choose to invest in will determine the total amount of money the beneficiary (your child) will receive once he or she reaches a certain age. The prepaid option allows parents to pre-pay all or partial parts of their child’s college education. It’s important to remember that the price of tuition varies over time, so pre-paying might not be the best choice. It’s good to know there are also some tax breaks available in most states when getting a 529 Plan.

Coverdell Education Savings Account

Another popular savings choice is obtaining a Coverdell Education Savings Account. It’s very similar to a 529 plan in terms of the fact that it can grow tax-free, but this saving plan has restrictions — you cannot put more than $2,000 in the account each year, and your child must also use the money before he or she turns 30 years old.

Gerber Life College Plan

Technically, this is an endowment life insurance policy to help your children survive financially if you experience a premature death; however, the Gerber Life College Plan is also backed as a college savings fund. Once your account reaches its maturity date and you’re still alive and kicking, that money can be used for your child’s education. There is no investing. You choose the amount of money you want to contribute each month (which eventually becomes your fixed premium). However, there is a guarantee that your benefit payout will be larger than what you contributed.

Upromise

Last but not least is Upromise, offered by loan lender Sallie Mae. This is a different approach at savings since it allows you to save for your child’s education every time you make purchases. Upromise is partnered with more than 8,000 chain restaurants and thousands of other retail stores. Every time you make a purchase at these locations, 25 percent of your purchase goes into your child’s college fund.

Maria Rainier is an avid education blogger, particularly in the area of online learning and higher education. She’ll gladly dole out her wisdom to anyone who will read her advice, from prospective students considering online degrees to course instructors frustrated with the efficacy of their lesson plans.

Parents of Twins Create Braincandy DVDs, CDs and More

By Sam Reich-Dagnen

Once upon a time, when our twins–Blaise and Logan–were almost three, my husband and I had a vision. That vision was enough motivation to rethink our lives, our sense of family and our careers . . . soon Braincandy was born! In April of 2004 we quit our jobs and set up an office in the laundry room of our Seattle home. Having young twins was a handful and like all parents there were times when we just needed a little down time to take a shower or make dinner! In our diligent efforts to be conscientious parents, we discovered that what we were looking for–developmentally appropriate content that truly engaged our children rather than just putting them to sleep–wasn’t available. That’s when we began to form the ideas and concepts behind Braincandy. Editing our first DVD between “spin cycles” and the zen-like sounds of our Kenmore dryer, we saw our vision turn into reality.

Educational or entertaining? Why should a parent have to choose? With Braincandy, our approach is to infuse the fun back into learning and to honor each child’s ability to construct meaning on their own. Our first product offering, a series of developmental DVDs and CDs, is based on children learning about themselves and the world through their five senses. Our sweet, simple recipe forms the fundamental building blocks for early learning and begins to lay a foundation for social and emotional development. The content combines real kids doing real things, funny sense part puppets, simple face animations in bright bold colors and our ever popular Ipodders (silhouetted dancers), all set against a background of engaging, “kidified” music from reggae to classical and more.

We are not experts; in fact, we’re simply parents like you trying to give our children great opportunities to build the foundation for independent, creative thinking. We believe at this early developmental stage that this is accomplished through active play and experimentation. In a world where children are overstressed and expectations are built around traditional “outcome” driven models, our goal is to offer an alternative to parents. After conducting exhaustive research with the numerous studies and books available on the topic of early childhood development, and interviewing hundreds of parents, we’ve found that parents are looking for tools that help bring a more balanced approach to child-rearing and education.

At Braincandy, we believe passionately that young children are natural “creators” and “inventors” who desire to be challenged every day, asking questions and connecting the dots. Feeding that sense of wonder lets young children and their families worry less, play more and develop a life long love of learning.

Visit www.braincandykids.com to learn more about our DVDs, CDs, clothes and toys.

Baby Proofing — The Dangers in Your Home

By Jane Thompson

www.ChildProofingTips.com

Child Safety & Child Proofing Advice for the Busy Mom

One would think that the house is a safe haven for everyone, and it is the place where you turn to so that you can relax and rest. However, that is definitely not the case for your twin babies unless you have taken adequate pains to baby proof your house. Baby proofing requires a fair amount of planning and implementation and, if done well, in time can help you spend the time with your children after they are born. For first-time parents, baby proofing poses a great challenge because they have no idea what babies are capable of. And, when all is said and done, it is difficult to envisage the world from the point of two six-month-olds.

Thinking of Baby Proofing Ideas

The best way to think of the potential areas that need to be taken care of in the house is to get down on your knees and look around. Doing so will give you an idea of how the world appears to crawling six-month-olds. Another aspect that you should remember is that babies are looking at everything for the first time, and it is obvious and natural that they should be curious and inquisitive about each and every thing that they see. While you should allow constructive exploration, keeping everything potentially dangerous out of bounds is required.

Checklist of Potential Baby Proofing Dangers

Some things that you should watch out for include:

Garbage can — The trash can is extremely enticing for babies. It seems like a magic box that Mom opens, and then the thing in Mom’s hand vanishes and disappears into the magic box. The fact that it is all getting accumulated at the bottom to be thrown away later is something that babies do not realize. Curiosity about where the stuff is really going attracts babies, and when they do find out what lies beneath, even then the trash can continues to hold some attraction. Keep it inside a cabinet that is latched so that access is restricted.

Dog food bowl — This is one area that most parents forget to take care of. Dog food is meant for the dog, and the last thing that you want is to have your babies trying to stuff their face with some Pedigree. Ensure that the place where the food is kept is secured and inaccessible. You can use gates or doors.

Medicines and cleaning materials — Many cleaning liquids and medicines tend to be colorful, and this is something that attracts children all the more. All cabinets that are low and accessible to children should be latched using child safety latches.

Sharp and small objects — All sharp edges should be covered, and decoration pieces that have some pointed ends should be kept away till your children grow older. Small objects that can be stuffed into the hold of a toilet roll should be removed from the floor or low tables immediately before your little ones get their hands on it.

Make sure that you become a super-efficient detective to uncover all the dangers that lie around the house so that you can make your house a safe haven for your twin babies. Obviously, you want to ensure that all the hazards your children can face are eliminated before you welcome them to their new home. This can only be done if you have covered all aspects of baby proofing. To get insight into a series of proven methods and options, check out this website.

Do You Twitter? Join the Parents of Twins and Multiples Group

by Susan M. Heim

If you’re on the social networking site, Twitter, and have twins, triplets or more, we’d like to invite you to join our Twitter Group: Parents of Twins and Multiples!

Just go to http://twittgroups.com/group/twins and click on Join Group.

Once you’re a member, be sure to Follow all the members of the group so you can all tweet about parenting twins and multiples.

And please visit my Twitter page and follow me at http://www.twitter.com/ParentingAuthor. Don’t forget to DM me to say hello!

If you have no idea what Twitter is, you might want to check out this Newbie’s Guide to Twitter. Hope to see you there!

Staying Hydrated When Pregnant with Twins or Multiples (Giveaway, Too!)

by Susan M. Heim

If you’re pregnant with or recently gave birth to twins or multiples, you know what kind of toll a twin pregnancy takes on your body. It’s especially important to get plenty of good nutrition and stay hydrated. I’ve never been an enthusiastic water drinker, so I really wish they’d had this great product when I was pregnant with my twins. It’s very healthy and it tastes good, especially when you make your own “mocktail” like the one below that was specially formulated by the Glow Mama creators for TwinsTalk readers!

If you’d like to find out more about Glow Mama and the importance of staying healthy and hydrated while pregnant, visit www.drinktoglow.com. To order, go directly to www.glowmamastore.com and enter the code TM842 for 15% off your order at the Glow Mama store!

Want to win a Two-Week Taster? Head over to my blog, Susan Heim on Parenting, before December 1, 2008, and leave a comment to win!

Avoiding Mistakes in Teaching Twins

I recently participated in a terrific radio discussion about the unique challenges that teachers face in teaching twins and multiples. There are a few myths and some misguided ideas about teaching twins that need to be corrected, and so this segment focused on what every educator and parent needs to know about teaching twins. CLICK HERE to listen to this 15-minute discussion.

Avoiding Mistakes in Teaching Twins

Rae Pica with Eve-Marie Arce, Susan M. Heim and Deborah J. Stewart

About the guests: Eve-Marie Arce is the author of Twins and Supertwins: A Handbook for Early Childhood Professionals and previously served as the president of the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC). Susan M. Heim is the author of It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed., is the Executive Educational Director over three childcare campuses.

Literacy for All: Getting Mental About Pictures

By Holly Engel-Smothers

Picture books from our childhood evoke warm, fuzzy feelings and can bring back a flood of memories. They remind us of some long lost friends: Winnie the Pooh, the “Goodnight Moon” bunny, Brown Bear. When we rediscover these classics, we can almost smell our childhood bedrooms, feel our blankies, and hear our own mom or dad reading to us.

But picture books are important for more than just the obvious “telling a story” reasons. They are not just for fun! The pictures in books are actually vital for children to learn to build mental pictures of a story. If we have a mental image of details from a story, then comprehension and understanding of the material are greatly increased.

One strategy to increase visual understanding and imaging of a story is to model using all five senses when looking at a picture. Some examples are:

“The rabbit smells the carrot soup.”

“The girl hears her daddy walking up the stairs.”

“The cat’s claws feel sharp.”

As your twins get closer to age two, they become more verbal and can put themselves in the place of characters to imagine their thoughts and feelings. There can be more conversation about what the characters in the book are doing and feeling. When discussing a picture, your two cuties may use simple “sign language” to indicate a smile for happiness, or hug themselves to indicate loving a pictured animal, or covering their ears to show that a pictured situation is loud, like in a circus or when a dog barks. Interpreting your twins’ ideas and reiterating them into sentences is a great way to increase vocabulary, listening skills, comprehension, and even bonding.

It isn’t advisable to make every page a “mini-lesson” in comprehension and visualization. When the situation, the book, and your twins present the right situation, then incorporate the five senses (or just one at the moment) to talk about a picture:

“What does the fish see?”

“What does the baby taste at lunch?”

“What does the bear hear on his walk?”

“What animal’s fur felt smooth when the girl touched it?”

“What does the mouse smell?”

At all ages, the importance of having a loving, pleasant experience is the first goal in literacy. The effort and time you put into reading time will not only create strong minds, but endearing memories for your sweet babies.

[NOTE: This article is one of many from parent educator and mom of twins (and a twingle), Holly Engel-Smothers, who will be sharing her wisdom and expertise on the subject of reading through this “Literacy for All” column, which will appear on a regular basis on TwinsTalk.]

April Is National Multiple Birth Awareness Month

The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. (www.nomotc.org) has declared April 2009 the first National Multiple Birth Awareness Month. The following information on their website explains why this month is so important:

“With the incidences of multiple births on the rise, more families are faced with both the joys and challenges that face multiple birth families when dealing with medical complications, both pre- and post-term, financial hardships, and other unique issues that only impact multiple birth children and their families. The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. (NOMOTC), along with its local chapters and other national sponsors, want to focus on creating a higher level of understanding of what those challenges are, as well as what support groups are in place to assist our multiple birth communities…. For 2009, our focus/theme will be on educating our communities on the vast network of support groups that are available to assist families with multiples.”

If your multiples group would like to hold an event to educate parents of multiples, educators, medical professionals and/or the media about the needs of multiple birth families, please visit NOMOTC’s website for ideas, promotional materials, and more. If you’re looking for a local support group to join, you can also find a list of organizations on the site. And, of course, keep coming back to TwinsTalk for online support!

How the World’s Largest Twins’ Festival Got Started

Every year, more than 3,000 sets of twins of all ages and from all around the world gather in Twinsburg, Ohio. It is the world’s largest annual gathering of twins! Held the first weekend in August, the Twins Days Festival is an occasion for fun, as well as scientific exploration. Each year, researchers and scientists show up to conduct various surveys and experiments with twin participants. Other events include a “Double Take” parade, a twins’ talent show, fireworks, a golf outing and other contests. There has even been a double wedding-twins marrying twins, of course! So, how did this amazing gathering get started? Here’s a history lesson:

Born on May 18, 1772, twins Moses and Aaron were born to Abel and Mary Wilcox in Killingworth, Connecticut. The twins were so identical that even their closest friends and family members had trouble separating them. They were also alike in temperament. If one was sad or ill, the other one became so, too, even if they were apart! As adults, they both served as officers in the War of 1812, and became prosperous merchants and manufacturers.

Their personal lives also ran parallel. They married sisters, Huldah and Mabel Lord, and both had nine children. With their families, they moved to Millsville, Ohio, and farmed together on jointly held land. They also sold small parcels of land for the Connecticut Land Company. Then the Wilcox twins made an odd request: They would give six acres of land to the town for a public square along with twenty dollars to be put toward building the first school if the town’s name was changed to Twinsburg. Their unusual request was granted!

The twins who did everything together nearly died together, too, only four years after arriving in Twinsburg. A few minutes after Aaron died in his home, Moses, who lived a half-mile away, is reported to have risen up in his bed and exclaimed, “My brother Aaron is dead, and I shall die, too,” which he did a little later in the day. The twins were buried together in the same grave, one above the other, in Twinsburg’s Locust Grove Cemetery.

A plaque in the town square reads: “In memory of Moses and Aaron Wilcox, the twin founders who gave Twinsburg its name, and this public park. They were unique in that they married sisters, had an equal number of children, held their property in common, were identical in appearance, were taken ill of the same disease, died on the same day, and are buried in the same grave.” It also states: “This monument erected as a permanent tribute to the foresight and integrity of the Wilcox twins who dedicated the land for this park and were instrumental in Twinsburg’s cultural, religious and educational growth.”

So, make your reservations now for the next gathering in Twinsburg, Ohio! Their official Web site is at www.twinsdays.org.

Congratulations to Amy McCullough, Winner of Braincandy DVDs

TwinsTalk member Amy McCullough is the winner of the Braincandy Mother’s Day drawing! Amy wins a full set of Braincandy DVDs for her twins, Jack and Olivia.

Each DVD in this 5-disc series covers one of the 5 senses:

See My World

Hear My World

Taste My World

Touch My World

Smell My World

Through characters in the “Sense Gang,” children explore the world through their five senses. Lots of music, puppetry, games and fun entice young children to engage in their surroundings.

Congratulations to the McCullough family! To learn more about Braincandy products, visit www.braincandykids.com.