Loaded Jalapeno Bites

Better than a Jalapeno Popper, this loaded jalapeno bites recipe comes together in moments and creates a crave-able appetizer or snack the family will love.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

4 jalapeno peppers
2 ounces {1/3 of a package } of cream cheese
2 ounces of shredded cheese of your choice {1/4 of a package}
2 tablesppons of real bacon, chopped into small chunks
Your choice of dip such as blue cheese or ranch

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Slice the end off of the jalapeno peppers, clean the seeds from the inside of the pepper by gently slicing around the seeds.
Remove them with a few gentle taps of the side of your knife.
Slice the jalapeno peppers in half, removing any of the remaining seeds, clean up the inside of the pepper.
fill the jalapeno pepper with cream cheese, repeat
Top with shredded cheese and bacon chunks
Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes
The cheese will be gooey and hot! Allow these to cool for 2 minutes before serving.
A side of ranch or blue cheese dip will mellow the heat of the jalapeno peppers

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Gifting For Kids

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It may seem like something of a parental cop-out to suggest that gifts can come in the form of life lessons. That may be true too; after all, no one can get particularly excited about the idea of unwrapping the general concept of kindness - though it undoubtedly is a gift of sorts!
Nevertheless, there’s plenty around gifting that could do with a bit more thought. We now live in a world where parents will probably tout the money they have spent on their kids for Christmas (and even Easter) as a banner to be proud of. “Look how much stuff I’ve bought!” is the general message.

Now, that’s not to be too judgmental. It’s impossible to know the motivations that someone might have for doing this. Perhaps they didn’t have much as a child and are now loving the fact they can provide more for their own children. Perhaps they are just wanting to share the excitement of the event with their friends and family. And yes, some will just be doing it purely for the sake of bragging - but this isn’t a competition. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

Why Do We Give Gifts? The Good Side

In a world where most of us buy without thinking about it, why do we give gifts?

The general consensus is that we give them as a signal of our affection. It’s a sign of: I saw this and thought you would like it, and because you’re important to me, I wanted you to have it. It’s therefore no surprises that parents want to gift to their children.

When Gifting Goes Bad

The sad fact is that, sometimes, gifting can be a problem for parents. No doubt caving to pressure from their kids, some parents make the mistake of giving animals as gifts. We all know about how a puppy is not just for Christmas, but it’s now becoming a fact we have to warn a chick is not just for Easter.

Is there anything inherently wrong with giving an animal as a gift? Of course not! But it has to be about more than the day itself. That puppy that is going to be so adored on Christmas Day is going to grow into an adult dog. That dog is going to need caring for, may incur expensive vet bills, treating with Frontline Plus, walking and every other dog-related activity for around the next 15 years. So if your child is ready for that kind of commitment (and you’re ready to support them), then you’re good to go.

The Ugly Reasons For Giving Gifts

If you find yourself looking for gifts for any of the following reasons, then it might be worth taking a moment to think about what you’re doing:

  • You’re buying because you feel you should and because it’s what everyone does.
  • Due to the above, you’re no longer giving gifts that you are sure are going to be loved - you’re giving them because you’re stressfully trying to satisfy a quota.
  • You’re buying a “must have” gift because gift guides have said it’s the gift every kid wants this year, but you’re not even sure if your own child does.

So the next time you have an approaching birthday or the Christmas ads are starting to appear, think through your purchases - from the day of receipt right down to the next few years of your life. Do it for the right reasons and give your kids the best gift of all: consideration.

The Perfect Kids' Birthday Party

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Throwing a birthday party for your child is one of the most joyous things you can do with them, and it is always great to enjoy your little ones’ birthdays in any way you can. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no stress in the planning of the day itself; even just organising a little get together can soon take it out of you. If you are planning to throw your child a birthday party this year, and you want it to be on a bigger scale to usual, then read on. Let’s take a look at some of the major elements that you will need to get right if you want it to be as great as possible for your child.

Invite Early - And In Style

The earlier you invite people to the party, the better, as it gives people a good amount of notice. This means that those who are coming have longer to prepare or clear their schedule, and those who aren’t coming aren’t going to be such a shock to you, so you have longer to prepare as well. So send out those invite early, and bear in mind too that the quality of the invitations themselves are a huge factor in how likely people are to say yes to coming. Using card embossing and other such techniques can ensure that your invitations are sent out in style - and this bodes well for the big day itself.

Decorate Sparingly

A huge mistake that parents tend to make is that hey fuss too much over how the day looks. It goes without saying that you probably want to decorate the party to some extent of course, but try not to overdo it, as this usually only results in a poorer atmosphere than if you hadn’t decorated at all. Take your time with it, too, as this will ensure that you don’t end up accidentally getting carried away with the process of decorating.

Provide An Array Of Food

Let’s be honest: the food is one of the primary reasons that people attend such occasions. You should make every effort to cater, literally, for everyone who comes, and with children's parties this can be much easier said than done. After all, you are going to have both adults and children present, so you want to make sure that you are providing decent sustenance for both of those major groups. Let’s not forget the importance of asking the birthday girl or boy what they want too - if there is one day when you can probably allow them whatever treat they want, it’s their birthday.

Consider Entertainment

You don’t necessarily have to go all-out on entertainment, but there is a certain joy on having some at least. All children’s parties can be hugely improved by the addition of a magician or a clown, and you might find that it is a great way of giving the day a kind of focus. Chose your entertainment well, and as with the other elements of a perfect party, don’t overdo it too much.

How to Make Popcorn in the Microwave

Popcorn is a great snack option, but the prepacked varieties are loaded with fat, salt and calories. I figured out how to pop my own healthy and tasty popcorn in the microwave. You are going to love how easy it is to make fresh popcorn, not to mention how economical it is too!

1 teaspoon of Olive Oil
1/4 cup of popcorn kernels

a medium size glass bowl
A plate that can cover the glass bowl

Add olive oil and popcorn to the glass bowl.
Cover it with a plate and microwave it for 2 -3.5 minutes
Remove from microwave when the popping slows to one pop every 2 seconds.

Paper Plate Donut Craft for Kids

Paper Plate Donuts are a fun craft to make with the little ones! We paired this activity with the adorable children's book If You Give a Dog a Donut.

Harper and I love to get crafty together! We often pull out our Kwik Stix and paint together! She loves the freedom of painting without an anxious mom and I love offering her an outlet for her creativity.

We also love to read great stories together! So, on this day, we combined the fun of a craft using Kwik Stix with a favorite book to create paper plate donuts!

This craft is incredibly easy but offers so many options for creative expression in toddlers and preschoolers.
You can have the supplies ready in under 5 minutes for crafty fun with the kids.

One Paper Plate per child
Kwik Stix
Pom Poms or small bits of paper to resemble sprinkles

Cut the center out of your paper plates.
Offer the kids the Kwik Stik, if you don't have any paint sticks, you can use markers or crayons.
After the paint has dried (it only takes 90 seconds) have the kids glue on pom poms or paper bits or sprinkles.

There you have some adorable and easy crafts to pair well with a fun book!

Eat Happy!

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Have you ever woken up and felt miserable?  With no real reason for it?  According to research, our diets play a big part in our moods.  So there might be a reason for the morning grumps and, more excitingly, a way to cure them.

Clams.  There’s an interesting place to start.  Clams are full of vitamin B12.  If we become deficient in B12 then it can lead to depression.  So increasing the amount of seafood you eat can make you feel happier.  It doesn’t need to be a daily clam chowder, we just liked the word.  You can get lots of B12 from trout, salmon or from beef and chicken!

Alpha-linolenic acid isn’t a food but it is another thing we can lack in that leads to depression.  Low ALA levels in our bodies make our moods low, so you need to stock up on foods which have plenty of ALA in them.  Walnuts are a great place to start, and really delicious too.  If you have a lack of ALA in the diet then it also decreases levels of the brain chemicals dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of joy, and serotonin, which inhibits anger and aggression so you really could change your morning misery by adding plenty of seeds to your breakfast.

Of course exercise is also a mood booster.  There are loads of different ways we can get a little more active.  Check out the bbg program review for some good ideas and then kick start your day with a mood enhancing regime.  Just make sure you keep your hydration levels nice and high.

The humble radish is a known mood lifter.  They are easy to grow in your garden or you could just buy them in the supermarket.  A spicy crunch from these little red jewels may lift your mood because it can stimulate the release of dopamine and norepinephrine.

Back to fish, Oysters aren’t just a natural aphrodisiac, they are also packed full of zinc.  In a recent study, depression patients were given larger doses of zinc over a three week period.  They were soon feeling a little more positive and all said they noticed a rise in their moods.  

Now, for chocolate lovers, if you indulge in the rich dark kind (75% cocoa or higher) then you will find a boost in your mood.  Chocolate is full of chemicals such as polyphenols which can make you feel calm and content.  One of the polyphenols actually mimics the mood boosting effects of marijuana.  So you can have a safe and legal way of feeling a little bit better about life.

Finally, Apricots.  Apricots have been shown to decrease the chances of becoming depressed, especially in those aged 65 or over.  They are also packed with loads of other mood boosting nutrients including, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, higher levels of which are linked to higher moods.

So next time you are feeling a little down in the dumps, look towards your lunch and see if you can change your mood!

Tips For Keeping Your Family’s Finances in Good Shape

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We all know what family life should be like. It should be travelling as a group, seeing new places, doing craft and DIY projects together, and essentially enjoying the warm embrace of the clan. You can will that into existence through your own love and energy, but there’s one thing that can derail your quest for the ideal family life: your finances. Fail to keep your money in order and you’ll be putting your family’s prosperity at risk.

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Birthday and Christmas Celebrations

You’ll always want to give your family members the very best birthday and christmas celebrations you can think of, but it’s important not to get carried away. Too many people place their entire festive spending on credit cards, and then spend the whole year paying them off. If you do this, you’re running the risk of your spending getting out of control. In any case, there’s no reason to spend thousands of dollars that you don’t have - not when there are so many inexpensive ways to celebrate Christmas and DIY gift ideas!

Where To Travel To Now?

Imagine if you could give your children an adventure they would remember for a lifetime. While they’ll have seen the world, eaten in the finest restaurants, and seen first hand many of the wonders of the world, you’ll have left yourself...utterly broke. There’s little doubt that everyone - parents and children both - can benefit from getting away from the familiar and travelling, but that doesn’t mean you should be spending money you don’t have. Instead, look at inexpensive travelling options, such as camping or volunteering through sites like Workaway - you’ll see new places and learn new skills.

The Right Size Home

There is an unwritten rule about buying a house that says you should buy as big a home as your budget allows. But this is a lie. To begin with, if you have a budget of $350,000, you’ll look for homes around that figure. And while looking, you might just see your “dream house” for sale at $375,000...and you convince yourself an extra $25,000 is no big deal. But it is a big deal, it is! Instead, think about what you really need from your home. How many bedrooms, communal areas, what size kitchen, etc, and make that work for you - not the budget. You might end up buying a home that’s worth $200,000 but absolutely perfect for your lifestyle and position.

Finances: Behind the Scenes

It’s not enough to just have a sense of the state of your finances. You need be on top of the facts of how they’re doing. You should be aware of your credit score, as this determines what credit and loans you’ll be eligible for in the future (and at what rates). If you’ve had financial difficulties in the past, you probably don’t want to know your credit score, but don’t despair even if it is bad: take a look at Lexington Law Firm review for 2017 - credit repair services and take the step to improve your score. Being on top of your finances also means cataloguing your monthly outgoings and incomings, being aware of every bill (and when they come out), and how much money is in your savings pot.

Upping the Ante

And talking of savings, it’s worth revisiting your savings strategy and seeing if you might be able to increase the amount that’s going into your savings account. Most people don’t save as much as they should, but this is a mistake - and you’ll notice it later on down the line, when you look at your savings account and are disappointed by what you see. Adding an extra $50 a month can have a big effect when it’s multiplied by years - and you’ll appreciate it much more than that one meal out that would cost you.

Dividing Where The Cash Goes

One of the best ways you can keep on top of your family’s finances is by building a budget that divides where your money goes. If 50% is to go on household bills and food, you might decide to put 30% away into a savings account and then have 20% for fun and recreation. By sticking to the percentages you create, you’ll be less likely to spend a little extra “just because”. You have a formula, so stick to it!

Get Insurance

Sometimes, you need to spend money to protect your finances. Trying to save on insurance is a mistake. Consider this: if you were to travel overseas and had an accident in the mountains but didn’t have insurance, you’d be paying for the (likely expensive) transfer to the hospital, treatment, and then alternative travel home all our of your own pocket. Similarly, if your scrimp on your home insurance and it was struck by a natural disaster, you’d have lost one of your valuable assets. In many ways, insurance is just as important as savings, and as it’s relatively affordable should be considered a necessity.

Emergency Pot

There’s a figure out that that says around half of Americans would struggle to find $400 if they needed it in an emergency, such as carrying out urgent home repairs or fixing their car. You won’t have to include yourself in that number if you have an emergency pot. This should be different from your savings pot, and is to be used for those expensive, one off payments. A broken boiler isn’t the most glamorous thing to save for, but it’ll stop you putting the bill on credit!

Is Investing the Key?

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as having too much savings. If you’re doing absolutely everything by the book, you could end up in a situation where you have tens of thousands of dollars piled away. In that event, it’s better to look at investing your money so that you get a higher return on your cash, which can’t grow if it’s not planted. It’s risky, however, so make sure you speak to your financial advisor before making any decisions.

What Are The Best Ways To See & Experience Your Holiday Destination?

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If you’ve ever traveled anywhere, you’ll appreciate that your experience will be influenced by the choices you make during the adventures. A new viewpoint or perspective of the area could make all the difference to your opinion of a place, and your enjoyment during your vacation.
You deserve to gain the best possible experiences in life. Therefore, going the extra mile to ensure that you see your vacation spot in the greatest manner should be top of the agenda. After all, simply taking the hotel’s coach tour around the city will only ever provide a limited insight.
Try these three ideas on your future holidays, and you’ll be amazed at the impact they bring.
Take To The Sky
Image result for hot air balloon
There’s no doubt that a bird’s-eye view will give you a new perspective of the city that you are visiting. Looking at the terrain from up high will allow you to spot things that you’d have never seen before. Moreover, the experience itself is something that’s sure to take your enjoyment to the next level too.
Helicopter tours are a great option, but some destinations are best suited to a slightly different mode of aviation. A hot air balloon tour in Dubai, for example, will provide a stunning outlook on the city itself as well as the Arabian desert. Furthermore, the relaxed nature makes it the perfect way for couples, families, and groups of friends.
Whatever option you take, seeing the world from high above will quite literally send your holiday enjoyment into the clouds.   
Embrace The Locals
Specialized tours involving unique transport and experiences are great. But experiencing the city via a walking tour guide or guidebook is quite a restrictive way to experience your destination. Sometimes, a little spontaneity can make all the difference.
Whether it’s visiting the attractions, exploring the town, or simply eating in the restaurants frequented by locals doesn’t matter. Just remember to consider the company you are traveling with, especially when children are involved. Otherwise, their lack of enjoyment could prevent you from gaining yours too.
Of course, you should do a little planning before arriving to make yourself aware of any safety threats or places to avoid. Generally speaking, though, experiencing the area on your terms will provide a far more rewarding outcome.  If you’re lucky enough to visit when a big event is happening, don’t be afraid to get involved either.
Go Off Road
Hiking, Hikers, Backpacks, Backpacking, Grass  

Most holiday destinations will boast shopping, fine dining, and other generic experiences. The biggest differences come from the natural attractions, so why not experience them? After all, you may never get another chance.
Hiking the local terrain, or renting bicycles can be a particularly pleasant experience. Let’s face it; the light exercise will boost your spirits also. If you are going to do this,  you should pack basic repair kit as well as first aid precautions. Failure to do this could see your dream day turn into a holiday nightmare.
Depending on the destination, there may even be opportunities for water rafting and other adventures. Either way, gaining the full explorational experience is surely better than sitting by the pool for the entire duration.

Where to Stay in Wayne County

Thank you to the Best Western and Wayne Count Visitors Bureau for hosting our family on this trip!

We have stayed in a number of hotels over the years. Both my husband and I have been bitten by the travel bug and it is not uncommon for us to make a spur of the moment trip.

I consider myself to be well versed in staying in a hotel. I know what to expect in amenities and levels of cleanliness. But,  I have to admit, on a recent trip to Wayne County Ohio, everything I expected in a hotel was to become re-envisioned.

After a long day in the car with two kids, nothing sounded nicer than checking into the Best Western in Wooster and putting my feet up. As we arrived, I went into the lobby only to have to do a double take. The Best Western in Wooster was much nicer than I could have expected. I made my way to the front desk to be greeted by a friendly face who checked me in a speedy fashion and I went out to retrieve my family.

As we made our way in with the luggage rack, the manager greeted us and took us to the room, which to my delight was the executive suite. I honestly had no idea the Best Western offered suites and was thrilled with the idea of spreading out after hours in the car together.

The room was located on the third floor, as we entered the room, I was truly speechless as the room was handsomely appointed, spacious and extremely comfortable. My kids were impressed with the television and ample room to pull out some legos and start building. {experienced travel moms know that a ziploc baggie of legos can make any situation better....}

Mr. Sweet Silly Sara let out a relieved sigh at the sight of the in-room Keurig and assortment of coffee. He later admitted he was prepared to drink gas station coffee for the weekend and was super impressed to have the best in room coffee while at The Best Western.

I was all around impressed. Like I mentioned, I have stayed at all kinds of hotels, but this was by far the most pleasant experience I have had upon arrival. I became touched by the thoughtfulness of the staff at The Best Western in Wooster when a basket of healthy snacks for the kids arrived along with a fantastic bottle of local wine for my husband and I. The staff at this hotel goes above and beyond to make your stay amazing.

The manager stole my heart right away when she offered me a tour of the hotel. Within moments she made me feel like an old friend and the look at the hotel gave me a good idea about the people that own and operate the establishment. They all have one common goal based upon one common interest. A lot of pride goes into The Best Western in Wooster to make each visit as pleasant and comfortable as it could possibly be.

While we were at the hotel we took advantage of the super clean pool. The kids were thrilled to splash around and get some exercise!

We walked around town and had dinner at a nearby restaurant. We took in the sights and stores of downtown Wooster and made our way back to the hotel. It had been a long day filled with fun. The kids easily fell asleep on the couch turned sleeper sofa and they blissfully stayed asleep all night long, as the room as incredibly quiet.

We had breakfast in the well appointed breakfast room. It offered ample seating and choices for the entire family. From waffles and yogurt, to biscuits and gravy or cereal and fruit, they had the bases covered. The breakfast attendant was efficient and sweet. The day began on a fantastic note after a hearty breakfast.

As we explored all that Wayne County had to offer, we made our way back to the hotel several times. The staff smiled and offered friendly greetings and absolutely charmed my children.

When the time came to check out of the hotel, my family had decided that when we make our way back to Wayne County, there is no doubt about it, we want to stay at the Best Western. The staff and the beautiful rooms make it hard to even consider staying somewhere else.

When you make your way to Wayne county to take in the sights of the Amish country, do yourself a favor, get in touch with the Best Western for a taste of luxury accommodations at family friendly prices. The hotel offers a fitness room, small bar, complimentary breakfast and a super clean pool for guests, making this an ideal place to stay with your family.

You might also want to check out our where to eat in Wayne County guide.

Staying Sane On A Day Out With The Kids

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When you have your first child, you tend to have an idyllic idea in your head about what you think parenthood will be like. You picture yourself effortlessly flitting between capable mother and social butterfly, between devoted wife and the 'fun parent' - all with very happy, well-behaved kids in tow. However, while this may be a reality that you do get to experience upon occasion, you will soon start to realize that frequently, parenting can be an uphill struggle. The fact that this comes as a surprise to many new parents can partially be blamed on the image of parenthood that TV and movies present to us, making it look easy. We all want an easy life when it comes to raising our kids, for both them and us, but you may soon realize that if you are not prepared for every eventuality, you could find yourself in a sticky situation.

Take the family day out, for example. This is something that many parents think they can simply fly into with their kids, and everything will go swimmingly. Sometimes, on a fluke, it can. But more often than not you may attempt a family day out where everything seems to go wrong - your child has a tantrum, you forget half the things you were supposed to bring and on top of everything you end up getting lost. This can all make for a pretty stressful day, not the nice family bonding event you had in mind. But remember that even if you find the prospect daunting, having a day out with your children and partner can be a great way to bring you all closer together. It's no secret that these days kids are becoming increasingly sedentary and spending more and more time indoors. Therefore, it's your role as a parent to encourage them to spend some time away from the screen, enjoying some of the outside world. Here are just a few tips on how you can make sure your family day out runs as smoothly as possible, so it's something you and your children can regularly do.

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Pick an appropriate attraction

The first thing to do is to decide where you are going to go. If it's the first time you have taken your kids on a full day out, make sure it isn't too far away - long journeys only tend to make kids bored, and when they are bored they can get irritable. The next thing to be aware of is the attraction or event itself that you will be attending. Bear in mind the age of your kids - will they be able to understand and comprehend what you have taken them to? For example, your ten-year-old may be perfectly okay with going to a museum as they will be able to read all the signs and fully immerse themselves in the experience. Your five year old, however, may find that the whole thing goes over their head somewhat. Try and find something that is suitable for all ages so that everyone (including you!) can enjoy the day.  

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Keep them safe

In the home, you tend to have full control over your children and the things they get up to. Therefore, the level of risk they are typically exposed to within your four walls are pretty low. On a day out, however, this changes completely. We all know how hard it is to find the time to take your kids out for a treat when you work full time and when you have so many other responsibilities. So, the last thing any of us want is for that day to be ruined by an illness or by an accident. Chances are you'll be traveling to your destination by car, so the first thing to consider is whether your children have the appropriate car or booster seat in your vehicle. Most states have a law that states a child up to a certain height legally has to use a specialized seat when traveling in a car, so by failing to provide this, you could be breaking the law. You may also want to consider baby car seat covers if you are traveling in otherwise extreme weather conditions, as these will help to keep your child more comfortable.

Make sure your children have dressed appropriately for wherever you are going - for example, they will need to wear sturdy shoes if you are planning on spending the day outdoors. Ensure you have any emergency medication you may need on your person as well, such as if your child is diabetic and may require an insulin shot. But it's not just about medical conditions that could flare up while you are out and about with your little ones. Stranger danger is also something else you need to be aware of when you are going out in public with your kids. As unlikely as it is that you will come across anyone unsavory, it is unsurprising that many parents are unwilling to take the risk. Sit your kids down before you go out and explain to them what they need to do if someone tries to make them go off with them while you are out and about. Tell them that you are not trying to nag, or trying to spoil their fun, but you are just trying to keep them safe. Ask them not to run anywhere out of your eye line and if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable, to tell you immediately.

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Keep them occupied

Children can be so typical sometimes - you've brought them on a day out that you think will be perfect for them, yet an hour in and they are already whining that they are bored. This can be hugely frustrating, but it is important to bear in mind that children's attention spans are significantly lower than ours. It has been reported that a child between the ages of five and six years old has an attention span of around ten to fifteen minutes. That is, they are capable of attending to the same activity for that period before they have to move onto something else. Be aware of this when on your day out - if you are at a museum or some other kind of attraction where there are lots of things to see, don't expect your kids to spend a long time at every individual display. Keep them moving, and you will (hopefully!) avoid too many complaints.

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Encourage good behavior

It's one thing your child kicking off and throwing a tantrum in your own home. But when they do it in public, where all eyes are on you, it can be completely mortifying. Children often cause a scene in public because they know it distresses you and that they can have the upper hand in the situation, so above everything else it is vital that you stay calm. If you do need to discipline your child in public, try not to raise your voice, as this will only escalate the situation. Instead, use a low, quiet voice, but one that has enough threat in it to make your child realize that you are serious. Ask them to stop what they are doing and tell them that if they don't, you will be returning home and the day out will be over. This is a useful tactic as it acts as a preventative rather than a cure. Once your child is in the grip of their tantrum, all reason tends to go out of the window, so it's best to stop one happening in the first place. Your child will soon realize that being well-behaved allows them to experience much more fun, family days out, and you will have a more harmonious parenting experience as a result.