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Products That Make Momsense — Back to School edition

August 22, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
As a parenting magazine editor and mommy blogger, I get a constant flow of all manner of products coming across my desk by either snail mail or e-mail on a daily basis. Most of the stuff gets deleted or tossed in File 13 faster than a 9-month-old can put a marble in his mouth.

Every once in awhile I'll find something worth exploring further, and I'll go to the website, request more info from the marketing folks and/or ask for samples. Other times, without my having to so much as click a mouse, really cool stuff just appears on my desk, presumably from the Really Cool Stuff Fairy, who uses our longtime maintenance and mail guy, Fred, as her messenger. A lot of these products end up in readers' hands through my monthly giveaways in OV Parent magazine. Some of it I pass on to people I know will use it, and some of it I keep — a job "perk" that actually lives up to its name.

If I don't happen to mention a worthy item in the magazine — if it doesn't "fit" when it comes to space or theme — I try to save it for use in this occasional blog series of mine, "Products That Make Momsense." Without further ado, here is the back-to-school edition.

— Kid's Xlear Saline Nasal Spray — You've heard of the benefits of xylitol in dental hygiene, yes? Well, it also has it going on when it comes to noses. This patented formula by Xlear (pronounced Clear) delivers a moisturizing, soothing, non-habit-forming, all-natural spray to little stuffed-up noses. And because bad germs adhere to the slightly sticky xylitol (which is a natural sugar), it further helps prevent illness — just in time for your child to head back to Germ Central. A year-round allergy sufferer, I've been using the kid's sample they sent me and am happy with the results. Bonus: When it drips down the back of your throat, it's actually sweet unlike the gag-inducing bitter Rx products I've used! $6.99 for .75 oz.,

— Zazzle customized binders — Personalization is hot among kids, and offers customized full-color Avery brand binders in three ring sizes, 1 inch, 1.5 inches and 2 inches. Kids can go to to create their own binder using their own photos or choose from a myriad designs and photos provided on the site. The printing is full color and photo quality. Bonus: Avery is a Box Tops for Education partner. Starting at $18.95,

— Schoolbags for Kids — One Here. One There. — This company offers cute, durable backpacks in a variety of colors for your child, and for every bag purchased it sends one filled with school supplies to children in need. The bags come in red, turquoise, green, pink, blue or purple. The bags they send are a highly visible yellow, because the kids who get them usually walk to school. Recipients so far attend schools in Belize, India and Thailand. $54.99,

— Nearparent app — This new app from development company Nearparent Ltd. takes the GPS locator tool a step further by allowing you to set up a closed network of trusted adults on your child's phone. Have your child check in to let you know where he is. Then, if he needs help for any reason, he presses the alert, and a message is sent to the network, showing everyone the child's location on the map. The child can then see which adult is the closest. Note: Children should always be told to call 911 in a real emergency. The location-based app is currently available for Android and iPhone devices and is also SMS compatible for users of non-smartphone devices (like me). Free,

— Chiquita Smashers — Along the lines of squeezable applesauce, Chiquita has launched Smashers at Giant Eagle stores in Pittsburgh in the past week. They feature four flavors: mango, mixed berry, orange, and strawberry/banana. The squeezable fruit purees also include bananas and are formulated with no extra sugar but extra vitamin C. And they taste great! Bonus: The Chiquita Smash Shack is traveling to Pittsburgh locations through mid-September offering samples and prizes. Check out the Facebook page, for info, shack stops, coloring pages and nutrition help. $4.49 for 4-pack at Giant Eagle.


— Griffin: Woogie — This star-shaped plush iPhone and iPod Touch case lets you hand over your mobile device to your little one without fear. It has a protective pocket that velcroes shut to hold the device, while a touch-through screen protector lets the parent choose movies, apps or music for your child. It comes with a built-in, battery powered speaker (or just plug directly into headphones). Woogie even has its own app, available for free from the iTunes App Store to preview Sesame Street digital books and more from Iceberg Kids. $19.99 at Apple Stores, 

— Little Looster — So you're using your "free" time now that the older kids are back in school to get busy potty-training the little one? Check this out: The Little Looster is a wraparound plastic stool for the commode that not only gives your child the boost he needs but provides a comfortable place to rest his feet while he does his business. The wraparound design helps ensure he doesn't fall no matter which way he exits the throne. The testers at The National Parenting Center loved it and gave it the 2011 seal of approval. $34.99,


— Sentry Good Behavior Pheromone Collar — Back to school can be a lonely time for pets who were used to little rugrats paying them all sorts of attention over the summer. If you are also gone more now that school is starting back up, there's a tool that can help ease your pet's separation anxiety — a pheromone collar. The collar emits the pheromone given off by nursing feline or canine mothers and has been proven out by both laboratory results and pet owners' testimony. The collars are good for 30 days. $11.99 at Petco,


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Kid's Xlear