Chicago parenting predictions for 2013


Being a parent in 2013 isn't that much different than it was a century ago. We parents are all working hard to do our very best for the little people in our lives. But family life is constantly evolving, and every year we are exposed to new innovations intended to make this parenting gig a little bit easier.

From genius online artwork organization to the greatest new thing in kids' birthday bashes, we found the best in new parenting trends and innovations that Chicago area families can expect to see this year.

Here's what is coming your way:



Mini Me

When you head out shopping next year, plan to pick up one outfit for you-and something very similar for your "mini me." "In 2013, look for little girls to be emulating what their moms are wearing, now more than ever," says Kristine Prugh, Chicago mom of three and the founder of Twinkleberry and Son showroom. "For spring, expect to see lots of maxi dresses, mint green paired with peach, and shoes with glittery embellishments-for both moms and their daughters."



The proliferation of the photo booth

Photo booths have been around for years, but they were largely relegated to amusement parks. But these machines (and the quick and funny photo strips they produce) are becoming prolific. Photo booths now are readily available for rental, and families are incorporating this playful element into celebrations such as block parties, birthday bashes and more. Local companies like Shutterbox Photo Booth rent photo booths for any occasion (even if it is just to show your kids that you can still get your silly on!).

There are also a handful of great apps for smart phones that are perfect for photo booth fun on the go. Some of our favorites are IncrediBooth and PopBooth.



Take your recycle bin building to the next level

"Everyone knows kids favor the boxes toys come in over the toys themselves, which is why these two new two companies have made such an impression on me," says Lindsey Gladstone, editor of DailyCandy Kids and mom to two little ones. Makedo sells kits that include tools (saw, hole puncher, connectors, hinges) to join together cardboard, plastic and fabric castoffs so kids can get seriously creative.

Toobalink adds connectors to paper towel and toilet paper tubes to allow your little architect to build towers out of items that otherwise would end up in the recycling box.



What's old is new again (but it is a lot easier this time around)

Sure, you meant to send Grandma and Grandpa a postcard from your recent vacation. But the process of selecting a postcard from a rotating rack in a souvenir shop, penning a message, obtaining proper postage and popping said card into a mailbox feels like a lot of work when you could just send a picture from your smartphone. At the same time, there really is something special about getting an actual postcard in your mailbox.

Enter Postino. You snap a picture, add a message (including your real signature), buy a stamp through PayPal and your real postcard arrives in a real mailbox in just a couple of days.



DIY (with a little bit of help from the experts)

The days of kids' birthday party extremes are over. Parents no longer have to choose between outsourcing the whole shindig to the party planning experts or sucking it up and handling every last detail of the party themselves. Piece of Cake Productions provides the tools to help families pull off first-rate celebrations for every occasion. These entertaining experts provide complete downloadable party plans and basics (party timelines, invites, menus, crafts and game directions, shopping lists, etc.) that make it possible for mom and dad to pull off the whole party themselves (while actually being able to enjoy the experience).



Tea party

Tea isn't just for pretend parties with baby dolls or lazy afternoons with old ladies anymore. Take your tea parties to the next level in 2013. Tea drinking in the U.S. is on the rise, and kids can get in on this trend, too. Families are realizing that caffeine-free, herbal teas offer numerous benefits for kids. Retailers such as Teavana even have entire sections of their website devoted to tea for little ones. Choose a caffeine-free tea and mix with a bit of juice or honey to make this warm offering more appealing to kiddos.



Outfitting your kids made easy

Kids require constant wardrobe updates. You get everybody set up with shoes, clothes and all the necessary outerwear only to discover that your son's feet have grown overnight and your daughter's brand new jeans are suddenly floods because of her serious growth spurt. Two companies are rethinking the way families deal with the constant in and out of kids' clothing. is a monthly kids' clothing club. Sign up online, provide details about your kid's sizing and style preferences and receive a box with $100 worth of clothing basics (retail value) for $39.99 a month. Parents can provide feedback to their stylist online and pause or cancel the membership at any time.

Of course, parents also have to deal with all of the clothing their kids have outgrown. This is where Moxie Jean comes in. "Moxie Jean takes the hassle out of keeping up with high-quality kids' clothes so that your little ones always look great no matter how fast they grow," says Sharon Schneider, founder and CEO of Moxie Jean. Here is how it works: Request a free mailer bag, fill it with the high-quality but too-small clothes and send the bag back to Moxie Jean. You can choose whether you want to use the credits you earned from your bag to buy new items through Moxie Jean or you can donate your credit to the families served by the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.



The new family photo album and an answer to kids' artwork overload

Gladstone is always looking for the newest big thing for the 6 and under set-and their parents. One of her favorite innovations in apps is Artkive. "Any parent who suffers from art project overload-and the accompanying guilt about throwing their kids' artwork away-will appreciate Artkive. Photograph your kids' masterpieces as they come home-and then toss them right in the trash. At the end of the year you can make a coffee table book of the art straight from the app," she says.

Use This Life to get a handle on your family photos. "Digital photos are great, but I live in fear of our hard drive going haywire and losing all of our memories," Gladstone says. This Life gathers all the digital images from your desktop, phone, camera, and social channels and stores them safely in the company's cloud.



Kid-sized versions of the performances that mom and dad love

Why should adults have all of the fun? Increasingly, local cultural institutions are offering more and more programming designed to engage younger audiences. For example, Second City Improv Extravaganza Explosion now offers its signature brand of off-the-cuff sketch comedy show for families (read: you can count on the humor being clean).

Similarly, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra offers programs that kids and their music-loving parents can appreciate. Check out the Family Matinee Series or the Once Upon a Symphony program for preschoolers.


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