3 Ways my one year old helps around the house

One thing I love about Montessori is that it encourages even very young children to help care for the classroom / home.  This is called “Practical Life” in Montessori classrooms, and is considered just as important as academics (check out my friend Natalie’s post about Practical Life here!)

Many people think that children should start helping when they’re five or six, but the thing is, they are not always as willing at that time.  Why not catch children when they want so very badly to be doing everything we’re doing?

Most toddlers very much want to help.  Is it actually helpful?  Well no, not always, but it is so, so worth it.  Allowing your toddler to help gives them purposeful work, which builds concentration and self-confidence.

It also shows them that they are valued members of the community.  If you help your little one form the habit of helping very early on, he’s much more likely to be willing to help when he’s older.

Every child is different, but here are three things my 16 month old currently loves helping with.

Unloading the Dishwasher

This is probably his favorite household task right now.  Before he helps, I make sure the dishes aren’t too hot and I take out all of the knives / anything sharp.  He then hands me one thing at a time and I put it away.  He unloads pertty much the whole lower level and some of the top level (he’s very tall).

Similarly, he loves helping unload grocery bags and the washing machine.

Wiping spills

Whenever there is a spill, James points to the table or floor enthusiastically.  I ask if he knows where a dishtowel is and he runs to get one.  He then wipes the spill.  He is not very effective at this yet, but he loves doing it and it’s a great habit to form.  It helps to keep a sponge or dishtowel where your toddler can reach it.

Putting things away

Children go through what Maria Montessori called a “sensitive period for order“.  This is a time when they are fascinated by the organization of things and love everything to have a place.  This lasts from birth to five, but generally peaks from 18 months to 2 1/2 years old.

I noticed James reaching the sensitive period for order by how carefully he arranges his food on his plate and by how he began to occasionally put things away.  As soon as I saw this interest, I began asking him to put toys and books away regularly and he enjoys returning them to their proper spot.  This is much easier for children if everything they use has a precise spot in the house where it belongs.

Other practical life tasks I hope to try with James soon are peeling banana slices, watering plants in the backyard, and sweeping the floor.  For Small Hands has a wonderful selection of cooking and cleaning tools for little ones.

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Loving Lately

Good morning and happy almost Friday!

So many little things have been making me happy lately so I wanted to take a minute to share a few.  I’d love to hear about what you’re loving lately in the comments!

3M Half Marathon

I would have written a whole recap post about this, but I realized I took zero photos…whoops.

Last Sunday, I ran the 3M half marathon in Austin with my little brother.

I mentioned a while ago that I was training for it, but then didn’t mention it again.  This was not a coincidence.  My long runs went steadily down hill over the past few months.  Every time I ran, I started having terrible stomach pains after about five miles.

While I was super excited to see my little brother, I was pretty much dreading the race.  I honestly don’t think I would have done it if he wasn’t flying in from Chicago to run it with me.

Miraculously I felt so good and had SO  much fun running Sunday morning!  I had a big dorky smile on my face for much of the time and couldn’t believe how good I felt for most of the race.  I believe it was my second slowest half marathon (after the very first one I ran TEN years ago), but I don’t even care.

There may have been some degree of luck involved, but I’m pretty sure now that I was having such bad stomach pains because I wasn’t planning and preparing for my long runs like I used to.  In my pre-baby days, I would map out a whole training schedule and stick to it religiously.  I would make sure to hydrate and eat high carb foods the day before a long run and always did my long run early in the day, as that’s when I feel the best running.

Yeah, that’s not how this training cycle went down.  This time it was more like, “Oh!  James is napping.  I’m not doing anything else!  Time for a ten-miler!”  This may work for some people, but apparently, lots of coffee + little water + random food does not equal a good long run for me.  Weird.

Gin-Gins

This is the other thing that I think may have helped me avoid stomach pain during the half marathon.  I got these hard ginger candies for nausea when I was pregnant, but had a ton leftover so decided to try them while running.  I used to use CLIF shot blocks (little gummied made for distance running), but knew those would bother my stomach these days.

It is probably not considered safe to eat hard candy while running, but the very slow release of sugar these give works really well for me.

Trader Joe’s Tart Cherry Oatmeal

Will I ever have a favorites post that doesn’t include something from Trader Joe’s?  It seems doubtful….

I leave for work really early and our mornings are a little rushed.  Oatmeal is my favorite breakfast and I’ve been loving these super quick oatmeal cups from Trader Joe’s.

Unlike most oatmeal packets, these have rolled oats instead of instant and the only added sugar is the sweetened dried cherries.  I add a little honey (and nut butter!), but most oatmeal packets are way too sweet to me, so I love that I can control the amount.

Corvelia Cabernet Sauvignon (Trader Joe’s)

I am by NO means a wine expert, but I really like this cab-sauv that’s only $10.  I generally buy wine in the $10-15 range and this one seems much better to me than others I’ve tried at the same price point.  I also like that it has a distinctive bottle because I am the worst about remembering which wines I’ve tried and liked when I’m in the store.

Turmeric Ginger Tonic

I’ve tried hot turmeric / lemon tonics before, but just tried this cold one yesterday and it is SO good and refreshing!  I really like that I can make a big batch and keep it in the fridge to drink throughout the week too.  I used ground turmeric instead of fresh, and also added a little cayenne.

Zella Live In Midi Leggings

I love wearing leggings, but I’m only 5′ 4″ and I find that a lot of them are too long for me and bunch at the ankles which I HATE.  I feel like leggings have to fit well not to look frumpy.

I have finally found a pair that is not see-through and is the perfect length.  If you’re on the shorter side, I definitely recommend these!

Outdoor Pineapple Blanket

I got this outdoor blanket for Christmas and have been loving it!  I like to take it outside when James plays in the backyard to give us a home base.  He seems to really like sitting on it (for about 5 seconds at a time) and the leaves and dirt don’t stick to it like my regular blankets.  I wish I had had this when he was younger!

It’s larger than I thought it would be, which I love, and it easily folds up super small and I definitely plan on taking it to the park when the weather gets a little warmer.

Big Five Personality Test

I have a strong love of personality frameworks.  My little brother told me about this one and we had way too much fun discussing / teasing each other about all of our results.  If you share this nerdy love with me, take the test!

New Words

This guys only said “Dada” for months, but now it seems like he learns a new word almost every day!  He’s currently saying Mama, Dada, baby, okay (“tay”), bye-bye, hi, play, car, uh-oh, and I’m sure a lot more that I’m not thinking of.  It is SO much fun to hear all of the new things he’s saying 🙂

Share something that’s been making you smile lately!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I love.  Thanks for your support!

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Three things that changed my perspective

Good morning and happy Friday!

Two posts in one week…who am I?

I am super excited for this weekend because my little brother is flying in from Chicago tomorrow to visit!  I saw him briefly at Christmas, but don’t see him nearly enough, so I’m super pumped 🙂  My mom and sister are also coming and I can’t wait to spend some extra time with them as well.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I was initially having a really hard time with going back to work, mostly because I was feeling guilty and like it might be the wrong decision for James.  In addition to things just generally getting easier as we both adapted, there have been three things that really helped shift my perspective to seeing this as a positive change.

1. Trust your child

I know I’ve mentioned Janet Lansbury about a million times lately, but it’s because I really have become a little obsessed with her podcast.  As someone who has a young toddler and works with 3-6 year-olds, I learn something from every episode I listen to.  We have about a thirty minute commute, so I love listening on the way to school in the morning to help get me in the right mindset for the day.  I’m about to listen to her book, No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame on Audible as well and can’t wait!

One thing she talks about is trusting your child and your child’s process.

To me, part of this is trusting that James is capable of handling this change.  I know he’s social and generally enjoys being around other children.  If I show him that I believe he can handle it, he will have more confidence in the new situation.  If I act like I’m unsure of things, especially during school drop-off, it gives the message that situation is unsafe or that he shouldn’t be there.

This also means trusting that his process may involve some tears.  I have to be okay with his big emotions, whether that’s tears at drop off (which thankfully seem to have subsided for the time) or more tantrums at home.  I know that is part of how he’s processing this big change and I want to show him that his feelings are okay.

2. Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s bad

Montessori classrooms often have 1-2 trained teachers and then an assistant.  We have the BEST assistant right now and she is totally someone I’d like to be friends with outside of work too, which is always awesome.

She has a son about a year older than mine and she has been so supportive of me as I’ve adjusted to saying goodbye to James for part of the day.

He had a couple of really hard drop-offs and she reminded me that this separation is really a good experience and a great lesson in independence.  I’m by no means saying putting a child in school / child care is always the right decision.  I think it’s so different for each family and situation, but this did remind me that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s bad.

3. Life is short

Have you guys read this letter yet?  I saw the link on this blog (which I love!) and it is so moving.  It’s a letter from a young woman who knew she was dying.  It’s a great reminder to let go of the little things and make the most of life.

I really like routine and schedule and feeling like things are under control.  Because of that, I really hate when things like naps are unpredictable or not going well.  This beautiful letter reminded me that in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter if my child doesn’t nap super well for a while.  We can still have great days together and enjoy this special time that goes by so quickly.

Has anyone inspired you lately / changed your perspective?

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I love.  Thanks for your support!

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Thoughts on Going back to work

Earlier this month, I went back to work at the Montessori school where I taught before James was born.

I actually wrote out a whole post on my thoughts on going back to work a couple of days before I started, and then didn’t post it because the experience was so different from what I had expected.

I am so, so fortunate in that I was able to make the choice to stay home with James for over a year, which was 100% what I wanted to do.  I was actually planning to go back to work last September at the one year mark, but when I met with the head of my school, she could tell that I wasn’t ready.

I will be forever grateful that I got to spend those extra months at home.  I think the combination of James turning one and going back to work at the same time was making me too emotional.  It felt like too much of an ending.  I am super lucky to have a boss who is also a friend and who has been incredibly patient and understanding in working with me to find the right time to return to teaching, and the right schedule for me.

I knew I would be somewhat emotional about saying goodbye to James for the morning, but I was not that worried about him as he’s generally social and I know and trust his teachers.

You guys, it was so much harder than I thought it would be.  To be honest, I probably would have quit after the first two days if i didnt’ know and feel committed to the people I work with.

There were two things that made our first couple of weeks really hard:

1. Nap Transition

SO hard to keep him awake on the drive home so he gets a good nap….

James is used to taking two naps.  He is not one of those super adaptable babies who sleeps anywhere anytime.  He is a good sleeper, but he thrives on a schedule.  His class at school takes one nap, so that has been a big adjustment.

It’s not that they wouldn’t let him take his morning nap at school, more just that there is no way he would settle down to sleep while everyone else is playing.  We’re still working on the nap transition.

This weekend, he took great naps, but both Saturday and Sunday, that included a long nap at 9 AM.  So far, when we try for one mid-day nap, it is super short and then he won’t nap the rest of the day, so that is an ongoing challenge.  This largely explains my lack of blog posts….

2. Ear Infection

James had a minor cold when he started school, but we had just been to the doctor for his checkup and she said it was no big deal, so I wasn’t worried about it.  Well, that turned into an ear infection and he was pretty miserable.

He had never had an ear infection before (and really only ever had one minor cold), and I didn’t realize it right away.  He was acting different / crying more than usual, but I thought it was just because he was over-tired and having a lot of big feelings about the transition.

I still feel super bad about not noticing the ear infection right away, but it also felt like a huge weight was lifted when I realized he was sick.  I had really thought he was acting so miserable because of starting school, and I had never felt so much mom-guilt before.  Ever since he started antibiotics, he is back to his super happy self!

He now gets really excited when I tell him we’re going to school and mention his teachers’ names.  It makes me so happy and relieved that this was the right decision for our family.  Now if we can just get his new nap schedule figured out….any tips on the 2 to 1 nap transition are much appreciated 🙂

On the positive side, I have loved being back in the classroom!  Even more than I thought I would.

I am getting to teach with a great friend whom I really like and respect and am learning so much from her.  We also have a wonderful assistant, who I didn’t know before, but I am loving working with her as well.  It has been really fun to see how much the children have grown and matured in a year and to meet the new little ones.  I am also really looking forward to posting more Montessori-inspired things based on what we’re doing in the classroom.

I’ll be back later this week to share three things that helped change my perspective on this big transition!

How has your January been?

Are you good at handling change?  I am definitely not, I get a lot of anxiety about change and pretty much dread it.

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A Special Interview – Jessica Rolph of Happy Family and LOVEVERY

I am so excited for today’s post because I got the chance to interview the founder of one of my very favorite companies, Happy Baby!

My love for Happy Baby (or Happy Family Brands, the broader company) started long before I had a child of my own.  I actually interned for Happy Baby when I was a senior in college and had such a great experience with the company.  As soon as my little guy was ready for snacks and pouches, I started buying their products and couldn’t be happier with them.

My little guy in a Happy Baby shirt I saved from my internship days

One of the Happy Family founders, Jessica Rolph, just launched a new play gym company called LOVEVERY (also available here on Amazon <- affiliate link).  It is a beautiful play gym designed based on neuroscience and babies’ developmental needs.  I love the streamlined design, as some play gyms can be really overstimulating for little ones.

This is not a sponsored post, I just love the concept behind the play gym, and wanted to share.

I hope you enjoy the interview with Jessica Rolph!

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and your business

At my best, I’m a successful serial entrepreneur, passionate about early life nutrition and learning, and a loving mother of three little people. At my worst, I am overwhelmed, have a chronically messy house, and drive my husband nuts with my constant juggle.

I launched Happy Family 10 years ago with my partner, and together we grew the company into the top organic baby and toddler food brand. Now I’m the cofounder and CEO of Lovevery, a company offering play products designed by child development experts to help parents feel confident they are giving their children exactly what they need at each stage of development.

Q: How have your own children influenced your business ventures?

My partner at Happy Family and I actually didn’t have children when we first started the company. We are both passionate about healthy foods, and my partner saw an opportunity to create a new baby food company that made the possibility of organic mainstream and affordable.

A few years into Happy Family, I started having my own babies. I found myself curious about what my babies’ brains were craving. My birthing instructor gave me a copy of a doctoral thesis on infant brain development called “Neural Foundations – What Stimulation Your Baby Needs to Become Smart”. It had all these detailed, nerdy, cool things that I could do with my child that felt really natural and simple. I couldn’t help but pouring myself into It and it totally transformed my experience as a parent. I discovered the world through my child’s eyes and felt connected to my baby because I was giving him what he was hungry to learn. I was dissatisfied with the toys we had, and started making my own learning tools. I wanted to share what has inspired me with other families, which is why we created Lovevery.

Q: I’ve been a stay at home mom for the past year and am about to go back to work.  Do you have any tips on finding balance for working moms?

Balance is so hard, but the thing that has helped me to feel as good as I can about the juggle is when I am able to be really present when I am with the kids and enjoy them. It is so hard to do, especially during the work week when I have trouble shutting off the problems my brain has been chewing on all day. The weekends are a little easier because we have more time to get into flow with the kids.

I also have accepted that there will always be a mess somewhere, and stuff to do around the house, and I try to ignore it. One suggestion a friend had is to make a list of all the things that you are not going to do when you go back to work and try to get to peace with this list. We have hired a lot of moms who are ready to come back to work, and one thing that seems to cause the most stress, is that they can’t do what they did so well as a mom before they had a job outside the home. They don’t have time to keep making their baby’s meals homemade, or they can’t pull together a pinterest perfect crafty birthday party – all things that brought them joy when they were at home but we just don’t have time for when back to work. If you can afford it, getting help with house cleaning, laundry, and buying pre-prepped food can really help. Something’s gotta give!

Q: What was your inspiration for creating the Lovevery baby gym and how is it different from other baby gyms on the market?

The play gym has so much potential to be a platform for learning for the first 12 months, but I wasn’t satisfied with what was on the market. I had a Montessori bell on a ribbon from etsy, wooden grasping rings, had printed out some black and white designs, and a Montessori graspable ball – but they weren’t convenient, safe (close supervision required with laminated black and white cards, bell on a ribbon, and the wooden rings cracked.)

We designed the play gym with Montessori principles in mind, so babies can practice important skills like grasping, batting, mouthing, looking at dynamic visual stimulation and engaging their developing senses. We also included a book on baby development and activities of how to play with the gym that helps parents know how they can help at each stage.

Q: Do you have plans to expand Lovevery beyond the beautiful baby gym?  What products might we see next?

Yes! More coming soon 🙂 Stay tuned this summer!

Q: Did your work as a founding partner for Happy Family prepare you for launching this latest venture?  What do the two companies have in common?

There are so many new things to learn with each new business, and I’m trying not to learn every new lesson the hard way! I know that starting a business is all-consuming, and that I need to practice “passionate detachment.” This means remaining passionate and caring deeply, but also not letting every little issue consume me!

Thank you Jessica for sharing your story!

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A few of my favorite things – holiday edition

Good morning and happy new year!

I had no intention of disappearing for almost a month, but I knew December would be a whirlwind, so I’m not altogether surprised.  I am back though, and have several upcoming posts I’m excited about.

Today, I just wanted to share a few recent favorites, many of which are from the last month’s festivities.

My sister’s wedding

My sister got married on December 16 and it was the BEST day.  I love her and her new husband so much, and could not be happier for them.  The whole day was beautiful, from getting ready together to the ceremony to the reception.

Plus, how cute was this little ring bearer?

Disney World

My sister and her husband decided to go to Disney World for their honeymoon and they kindly invited us along!  I honestly debated whether or not to go because, while I wanted to spend time with my family and love Disney World, the idea of going with a one year old sounded exhausting.  Well, it was exhausting, but it was also lots of fun!  I would be happy to share a post on Disney with a one year old if anyone is interested.  I think we learned a lot through the experience.

Family Time

Between my sister’s wedding, Disney World, and Christmas, we spent a whole two weeks away from home with my family.  It was amazing to spend so much time together and to watch James get to know all my family even better.  I wish we all lived closer!

Home Sweet Home

I was never one of those people who was happy when a vacation was over.  I always felt like they flew by too quickly and I was never ready to go home.  Until now.

Traveling with a toddler is fun, but it’s exhausting and I was super ready to come home.  James is at a stage where he plays super independently and our house is set up for that.  He required much more supervision (and much more “no”) at my parents’ house and it was exhausting.  He has been so happy ever since we’ve been home and it has felt truly relaxing.  He got a couple of new sets of blocks for Christmas and is so happy just wandering around the house playing with them.

Instant Pot!

I got an Instant Pot for Christmas and I love it so much already!  So far I’ve only made basics (hard boiled eggs, apple sauce, steamed carrots, and quinoa), but I cannot get over how easy and fast it is.  I can’t wait to find more recipes and cook actual meals in it.  Does anyone have any favorites?

Thug Kitchen 101

I also got this cookbook for Christmas and love it already.  I’ve made two recipes so far (skillet beer chili mac and a cucumber salad with peanuts and cilantro) and have one more on the menu for this week.  I want to make almost everything in it and can’t wait to cook my way through the book this winter.  (If you’re not familiar with Thug Kitchen, they have great vegan recipes, but be warned, the books use a lot of profanity.)

 

Unruffled Podcast with Janet Lansbury

I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize Janet Lansbury has a podcast, but I just started listening and am already obsessed.  If you’re not familiar with her, she is a wonderful RIE trained expert in child development and behavior.  I plan to work my way through all of her past episodes over the next few months, but so far, this has been one of my favorite episodes.

And that about sums it up!  The next month is going to be pretty busy and full of lots of change, but I’m going to try to get back to posting at least once or twice a week.

What was the best part of your holiday season?

If you’ve been to Disney World, what is your favorite park / ride?

What are you excited about in 2018?

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I love.  Thanks for your support!

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Life Lately

Good morning and happy Friday!

This is our last weekend at home until New Years (yikes!), so we’re planning to soak  up lots of relaxing family time and do a few of our favorite holiday things around town.

It’s been a little bit of a rough week as I got my wisdom teeth out on Tuesday, which went fine, but is obviously not fun.  We also had a week of cold and rainy weather, but it was all worth it when we got SNOW last night!

You guys, it was 85 degrees here on Monday and snow is quite unusual here in Austin, especially in early December, so this was a pretty magical surprise.  I noticed it was snowing right as we were putting James to bed, so of course we brought him out in his jammies to see it.  He wasn’t too impressed.  We tried again this morning, but he really doesn’t have the proper shoes / mittens to enjoy it without getting too cold.  Still, I am loving sitting here drinking coffee and watching the snow fall off the trees this morning.

Here are a few other snapshots of our life lately!

Eating / Drinking

Unsweetened Cranberry Juice – my brother-in-law was drinking this when I was in Wisconsin and I gave it a try.  It is super tart (duh) and I love it.  I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but I really like tart things, and I think this is delicious over ice.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I think it would be great mixed with club soda too.

Lemon Poppyseed Scones – These tiny scones are so cute and they freeze so well!  I tried freezing them both before and after baking and both worked well, but I think they’re a little better frozen before baking.  It’s fun to have them in the freezer and be able to just pop a couple in the oven for a morning treat.

Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Fruit – You guys, this is my new obsession.  First because it is delicious, but also because it makes the best toddler snack!  I don’t mind buying puffs for trips and things like that, but they’re not my first choice for an every day snack.  These are crunchy and delicious and the only ingredient is fruit.  I’ve only tried the raspberries, but am going to get a bunch more kinds when I go back to Trader Joe’s.

Reading

A ‘3 Gift Christmas’ can be Magical – We are not doing this this year, and I’m not sure we ever would, but I do sort of love the idea of a more minimalist Christmas.

Car Seat Guide – We had to switch James to a convertible car seat pretty early because he is super tall, but I wish I had had these guides when we were choosing!  A reader sent them to me recently and I think they would be super helpful for anyone looking for a new car seat – I find this type of safety-related decision so overwhelming.

If you’re looking for more weekend reading, check out my latest two articles on Motherly 🙂

Thinking

About reframing.  I’ve mentioned my favorite podcast many times, but one thing Gretchen and Elizabeth talk about a lot is “reframing” – changing the way you think about something, even when you can’t change the situation.  I’ve been trying to do this with my wisdom teeth this week.  While getting them removed was painful and no fun, I feel so grateful that we have good dental insurance and I could do it without it being a big deal.

I’ve also been reframing how I feel about this very busy month.  While yes, it’s been a little bit stressful at times, it’s all because of a family wedding I’m super excited about, a family vacation, and Christmas, my absolute favorite holiday.

I find this reframing strategy so helpful!

Loving

This baby / toddler stage.  James is so, so much fun lately.  He has been super happy and independent and my new favorite thing he does is dance.  It is the absolute cutest thing 🙂

Looking forward to

My sister’s wedding! And Disney World! And Christmas!  Basically, all the things 🙂

What have you been up to lately?  Please share!

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Traveling with Littles – Balancing Routine with Excitement

Good morning!

How is your December so far?  Mine is busy, but happy!

I am by no means an expert on traveling with a baby, but we’ve had a few very successful trips recently.  With holiday travel coming up for many, I wanted to share a few tips that have made our trips fun and relaxing for both our little one and us.

I would love to hear any tips you have for traveling with young children in the comments!

1. Create a “home base”

This is the number one thing that has helped us in traveling with a baby / young toddler.  If you can baby proof a whole room wherever you are staying, that is excellent, but even a little corner of a room can really help.  It’s important for a baby to have a space that’s his own, where he can move and explore without constantly hearing “no”.  It is also super helpful for allowing the parents to relax!

In Maine, there was a sun-room we could easily baby-proof.  When we visited my husband’s family in Wisconsin last week, my mother in law set up a little corner of the living room for James.  She set out a blanket to define the space, and cleared off the lowest shelf of a book shelf and set a few toys there.  This was so effective, that we did the same thing in our own living room as soon as we got home!

He is in a stage where he loves to run around and explore, so he did not stay in that corner the whole time, but he seemed to really love having a “home base” to return to after exploring other parts of the house.

2. Bring or Buy familiar foods

My son is not picky (yet…), and it’s really fun to introduce him to new foods when we travel, but I still like to make sure we have a few of his staple favorites on hand.

I like to pack a few of these favorites, so we don’t have to rush to a grocery store as soon as we arrive somewhere.  I generally pack a small container of frozen peas, string cheese, and frozen pancakes (I make a big batch and freeze some, so generally have these on hand).  Of course, I also bring lots of puffs and pouches, just in case 🙂

3. Build in free time

What kind of vacationer are you?  I definitely used to be a “do all the things” traveler, but no more!  At least not quite as much….

Exploring new places as a family is awesome, but I find that letting the little guy have a big chunk of time every day to just be goes a long way toward making everyone happy.  If you’re staying somewhere without much space, find a local park or play place!

4. Protect bedtime

Naps and bedtime may get a little wonky on travel days, but in my experience, more than one day in a row of missed naps or late bedtimes is pretty much a disaster.  We make sure James gets to bed on time, with rare exceptions.  Granted, we’ve never stayed in a hotel room with him, just Air BnB’s or family homes where we could continue hanging out after he went to bed, so I’m sure that would be trickier in a small hotel room.

5. Surprise him with favorite books

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I like to put away a few of James’s all-time favorite books a few weeks before we travel, and surprise him with them on the trip.  He is always so excited to see the books he loves and is happy to read them about a hundred times in a row, which is particularly helpful on airplanes.

Do you have any tips for traveling with little ones?  Please share!

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December Goals and NaNoWriMo Recap

Good morning and happy Friday!  I didn’t mean to disappear lately, but things have been very busy!  We just got back from Wisconsin on Wednesday and now it seems like all the things need to happen to prepare for Christmas and some upcoming trips.

I will likely be blogging less this month, but will pop in when I can 🙂

Here is a recap of last month’s goals, and my goals for December.  I would love to read yours in the comments!

November Goals

I had only one goal in November, which was to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  This was a little bit of a last minute decision, and I am so happy I did it!

NaNoWriMo is basically a free program designed to help people write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November.  Most adult fiction is longer than that, so it’s not really a whole book, but it’s a sizable chunnk.

I sort of wish this challenge were in October instead, as I, like many people, traveled for Thanksgiving, which makes it harder.  Knowing I had upcoming travel planned, I focused on this goal big time in the beginning of November and completed the goal on November 18!  This way I could just relax and spend time with family and friends for the week we were away for Thanksgiving.

Two things were key for me in succeeding – Completing an outline of what I wanted to write before November 1 and writing at the same time every day.

I know some people don’t like to write from an outline, but for me, it was extremely helpful in making it easier to keep writing when I was perhaps too tired or not feeling creative enough to make big decisions about the story.

Writing every morning, usually at 5 AM, also worked really well for me.  I was generally done with the daily word goal (1667 words) by the time James was up for the day.  I often wrote more later in the day, but having the minimum done took the pressure off.

I definitely recommend NaNoWriMo for anyone trying to start a writing habit!  There is also no reason you could not complete a challenge like this on your own, or with a friend, in a different month of course.

December Goals

Does survival count as a goal?  Just kidding, but this month is going to be a whirlwind, even more than most years – for good reasons though!  My sister is getting married and we are going on a family vacation before Christmas this year.  Then we’re traveling for Christmas as well.  It’s going to be nuts, but hopefully very fun too.

I’m mostly done with Christmas shopping at least, so that’s something!

I’m only setting two goals for the month, and they are really more intentions than goals.

1. Read the Bible daily

I already know I will likely miss some days, but I’m going to stick to this as much as possible because it’s so easy to lose sight of the meaning behind Christmas.  I personally like this site for daily readings.  I’m also going to try to read to James daily from his children’s Bible I got him for his Baptism, at least while we are in town.

2. Set Reasonable Expectations

I wrote a little about this here, but I am working on having reasonable expectations for holidays, and experiences in general.  I am really excited about both our vacation and Christmas, but I know they will be 1000 times more enjoyable if I don’t try to fit in every tradition and every fun activity.  I just want to spend time with family and see James’s little smile.  That will be more than enough.

Do you have Demember goals?

Is this a crazy month for you?

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7 Easy DIY Montessori Baby Toys (10-15 Months)

Good morning!

I wanted to share a few really easy DIY baby toys today.  Readiness of course depends on the individual child, but I would say these would generally be good for a 10-15 month old.

I am not crafty (at all), but I love creating toys for James for a few reasons.  For starters, it is a very budget-friendly way to give your little one something new to play with.  I also love that it allows me to give him something perfectly suited for his current interests and abilities.

For the last couple of months, one of James’s all time favorite things to do is what I would call insert work – basically putting things in containers.  You;ll see that a lot of the toys I made him revolve around that skill, at different levels of difficulty.

Also, I should add that I did not come up with most of these ideas.  I browsed various Montessori sites to get ideas before going to Hobby Lobby.  In general, I love both How We Montessori and The Kavanaugh Report for ideas on Montessori baby / toddler work at home.

1. Basic Insert Work

This is as simple as it gets, just a pleasing object and a container to put it in / take it out of.  I don’t even know what this wooden thing is, but the shape was nice and I knew it would fit nicely in a jar I already had.  I made two other very simple insert works like this for James, one with a little yellow wooden ring in a small circular box and one with a large cardboard egg in a large cylindrical box.  These would not all be on the shelf at one time, but having three options allows me to switch them out when he masters one or gets bored.

2. Mailbox Insert Work

This is the same concept, but considerably more difficult.  All you need is a container with a hinged lid that you can make a slit in, and some discs that will fit through the slit.  I used a cardboard mailbox from Hobby Lobby and made the slit with an xacto knife.  I used wooden discs to insert.  This would be nicer and more durable with a wooden box, but I wasn’t sure we had a tool to make a slit in wood.

This sat on James’s shelf for a couple of weeks before he showed much interest.  Then he wanted me to put the discs in, but would not try it himself or would try it briefly and get frustrated.  Just last week though, he became super interested in it and put the discs in and took them out over and over again.

3. Straw Insert Work

This one is also super easy to make.  I simply poked holes in the lid of a cardboard box and cut up little straws for James to put in (pipecleaners should work too).

4. Peg Insert Work

(If I had known how much he would like this, I would have found my xacto knife to cute the hole….)

This is the latest, and probably has been James’s favorite of all of the things I’ve made for him recently.  I simply made a hole in a (clean!) soup container from a restaurant and used pegs that are part of a hammering set he was given.

To say he loves this would be an understatement.  From the moment I gave it to him, he was enthralled and does it again and again and again.  The only downside is that he cannot take the lid off of the container if it is on tightly, so it’s not always completely independent.  It try to put the lid on loosely so he can do it himself, but a container with a hinged lid would be better.

After practicing this for a week or so, James also became entranced with putting the pegs in his pop up peg toy, which is more challenging because the holes are smaller.  (Previously, he would take the pegs out, but not try to put them in again.)  Giving him an easier version helped him improve the skill he was working on so he could be successful with the more challenging one.  I geek out over watching things like that – development in action 🙂

5. Velcro Heart Box

I really like this one, but James hasn’t showed much interest in it yet.  I’ll probably put it away and try again in a month or so.

This is a simple wooden box I found at Target with wooden hearts attached with velcro stickers.  Baby can take them off and stick them on again.

6. Wallet with Cards

Is anyone else’s baby obsessed with credit cards?  James is not a big fan of running errands, but LOVES taking the card out of the machine when I pay.  One day he got my wallet from my purse and spent almost an hour taking the cards out and trying to put them back in.  I knew I had to make a version of this activity to put on his shelf.

I took an old wallet and filled it with old gift cards and rewards cards (cards from back when I went shopping, for myself….).  This was so simple and so fun for him.

7. Makeup Brush Treasure Basket

A “treasure basket” is any collection of objects your baby might be interested in, put together where he can access them.  For example, I used to have a bowl of interesting kitchen objects James would play with while I prepped food.  These are really great for babies who aren’t yet mobile, but I still put them together for James from time to time when I stumble upon something he might be interested in.

He generally likes brushes of all kinds, so when I was cleaning out my makeup and jewelry and found this set of makeup brushes, I put them together in a wooden box for him to enjoy.  doesn’t get much simpler than that!

Are you crafty? I am so not, but wish I were!

Do you make homeade toys or homemade gifts?

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