Month: October 2019

  • Dealing with sleep regressions

    Sleep regressions (or for better perspective–“transitions”)

    Sleep regressions aren’t actual “regressions” but more transitions as this article describes. It’s important to remember that sleep is not a linear process. There will be ups and downs. The best advice, from my personal experience, is to closely observe your child–pay attention to their behavior (are they going through a developmental leap? learning a new skill? going through a growth spurt? teething?), and be consistent and calm with your responses to their sleep changes.

    Times to expect sleep transitions

    There are a few specific timeframes when you can expect to see some changes in your little ones sleeping patterns. Here is a breakdown of the most common ones. As with all things, your little one may not experience all of these, or may experience them a little outside of these timeframes.

    • 6 weeks
    • 3-4 months
    • 6 months
    • 8-10 months
    • 12 months
    • 18 months
    • 2 years

    Tips for handling sleep transitions in infants

    Our friends over at Discover and Dream offer some tips on dealing with both infant and toddler sleep regressions.

    When dealing with infant sleep regressions you want to help them cope without undoing all the sleep coaching progress you’ve made up to this point. The goal is to gently encourage your baby to break any negative sleep associations, create positive sleep associations by sticking to your routine and help them learn to fall asleep without help from you.

    • During the regression, it’s fine to offer extra feedings. Growth spurts can be a component of sleep regressions so don’t worry about offering an extra daytime or nighttime feeding. This is temporary and you will eventually return to your normal schedule.
    • Offer comfort as needed, but try to avoid making new or reinstating old habits. You will definitely need to offer your baby plenty of extra kisses and cuddles during the sleep regression, but avoid creating new sleep associations, such as rocking or nursing/feeding your baby to sleep.  Sleep regressions are exhausting so ask for help!

    How long can I expect a sleep regression to last?

    A regression can last anywhere from 1-6 weeks so you are bound to get exhausted. Try and see if family or friends can help you with your child during the day or with household tasks. Offer an earlier bedtime if necessary. Sleep regressions often lead to missed sleep, which can lead to overtiredness, which leads to multiple night wakings or an early rising. It’s a vicious cycle so try to get your little one as much sleep as possible to avoid making the situation worse.

    Tips for handling toddler sleep transitions

    Kasey at Discover and Dream says that it’s very similar to what you would do with infant sleep regression. With the biggest difference being that toddlers are WAY more independent, verbal, opinionated….

    So the best thing you can do it stay consistent. Keep up with your nap and bedtime routine, be mindful of delay tactics and use phrases like “this is your last chance for food” or “this is your last chance for potty” and be firm if they continue to push boundaries. Keep in mind, toddlers of ALL people, need strong boundaries to feel safe and secure. 

    If you need more help with sleep, reach out to our friends at Discover and Dream!

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  • Top 10 art supplies for kids

    Importance of art and creating for children

    With the shift towards academics in the early years and the rise of Pinterest worthy crafts, moms often feel they have to be setting up elaborate projects or doing worksheets. Neither of which are really all that helpful in early childhood. Children need freedom to create. So providing them with a variety of materials and letting them lead the way is the best way to foster creativity (and take the pressure off of yourself!). You can present them with inspiration and even lay out specific materials for them to use, but try not to have an end goal in mind.

    10 Must have art supplies

    Tempera paint: We love both the regular tempera paint for finger painting or using traditional paint brushes, and my kids are obsessed with these paint sticks by Kwik Stix that make painting a little less messy for days when you just aren’t up for a full painting extravaganza.

    Scissors: Another great tool for building hand strength, coordination, and fine motor skills. I also love that it offers the chance for a little risk taking. My kids like using these scrapbooking ones.

    Beeswax crayons: So I know most people buy Crayola crayons because you can get the one million pack for $5 but that’s the exact opposite approach I like to take with toys and art supplies. I think it’s important to provide kids with higher quality materials and I also love finding more natural products to replace the standard go to. While higher quality stuff tends to be more expensive, it also lasts longer. We have tried a few beeswax crayons and LOVE them–they are so vibrant. Our favorites are the Stockmar block crayons and the Stockmar stick crayons. We also love the Honeysticks brand (they also make a good bath crayon!).

    Image credit: REBECCA @ STRENGTH AND SUNSHINE

    Play dough: Did you know play dough is an amazing tool for developing hand strength and fine motor skills that are both pre-writing skills? Little hands benefit so much from this type of manipulating, moulding, squishing, and rolling. I really like the eco-dough by eco-kids–we have some regular play doh and I know it’s non-toxic and considered safe but I just can’t get past the smell. The eco-dough smells divine. If you’re feeling adventurous you can make your own play dough. Check out this recipe for natural play dough (that’s even gluten free!)

    Easel and paper: I just recently read and shared this great article about how beneficial it is for kids to work on vertical spaces–according to the article, written by a pediatric physical therapist, working on vertical spaces helps with coordination, crossing the midline, pencil grip, posture, core strength among other things. We have the Hape easel and typically just buy the Melissa and Doug easel paper and then have their regular drawing paper for table work.

    Watercolors: My kids really enjoy water colors. I don’t know if it’s because it involves dipping something in water or what, but they are very different from “regular” paint and therefore we do like to have both options for them. They will routinely ask to do watercolors. I’m blaming this on my artist husband.

    Oil pastels: My kids love these because they can use their hands to smudge, make finger prints, mix colors and generally get messy creating. They are sort of a mix between painting and drawing. We have the Faber ones, but Crayola also makes a nice set.

    Colored pencils: My four year old is really starting to get into learning how to write, and he is working on his “pencil grip” so having colored pencils around is now my go to for when he wants to practice “writing” (I despise markers).

    Glue: I reluctantly bought some glue after my kids kept talking about using it in preschool. They have actually been quite successful at not getting glue all over the house. I got the Elmer’s disappearing glue and I like it because it turns clear when it’s dry.

    Loose parts: We have a bunch of different loose parts that the kids use for arts and child led crafts. We have a stack of wood slices that my kids love to paint and glue things to and I have mason jars of the following:

    One day, when I’m feeling brave, I will go live in our art room while my kids are busy creating.

    I typically have to just walk by it and look the other way because it’s full of half completed projects and markers without tops (told you I despise markers and can’t wait to throw them all away).

    Any art room must haves that you find your kids absolutely LOVE?

    For more playroom tips check out my e-book:

    Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood which you can buy here for only $4.99!

    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these posts:

    3 Steps to Declutter Your Play Space

    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play

    7 Essential Playroom Spaces (and why you need them)

    The Power of Play

    Types of Play Important for Development

    The Importance of Early Childhood Education

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  • Baby sleep coaching: methods and myths

    Sleep “training”

    Let’s talk about something that is somewhat controversial in the mom space. As someone who focuses on natural and gentle parenting (as best I can), I’m also a mama who cannot function without decent sleep. I am prone to PPD and PPA (and deal with high functioning anxiety on a daily basis) and lack of sleep makes things significantly worse.

    Not only that, but I know how important sleep is for development of infants and kids. So my goal is always to set kids up for healthy sleep habits from the start. But that doesn’t mean things always go as planned (hello, parenthood). So with my first, I turned to a sleep coach for help when, after sleeping 12 hours a night for months, our little dude started waking every 45 minutes. He was about 6 months old, and I knew I didn’t want to just let him cry until he passed out (as my then pediatrician suggested….). Working with her taught me so much about sleep and opened my eyes to the world of sleep coaching.

    Gentle Sleep Coaching

    I know a lot of moms don’t like sleep “training” because they think it just means letting baby cry with no support but that isn’t the case. There are many different more gentle ways to help nudge babies and toddlers to better sleep. Certified pediatric sleep coach, Kasey co-owner of Discover & Dream, a sleep coaching services for families, gives us an overview on more gentle methods you can use to help baby sleep better.

    Kasey: “When using a gentle way to teach your baby independent sleep, you will help soothe your baby when they cry, until they learn to sleep without help. This type of method focuses on calming, soothing, and comforting a baby, but still allows a baby to learn to self soothe. Some gentle techniques include the shush/pat method, pick up/put down, rocking, patting, back rubs, and the 5 S’s which is great to calm newborns and young babies (0-3 months).

    Sleep coaching myths

    We often hear moms saying that they don’t want to hear any tears or could never have their child cry-it-out.  And I get that! I don’t know a single mom that LIKES to hear babies cry, especially not their own babies. You’ll even see debates about how sleep coaching can diminish the bond between you and your child or accusing you of doing long term damage to your baby’s brain–but it’s just not true. In fact, there is research proving these are just myths.

    Kasey explains that, “Babies thrive on routine and chances are if your baby is not sleeping well, their routine is not beneficial to restful and restorative sleep. When a new routine is created, old habits have to be broken, and as a result, your baby will be confused and show their frustration by crying. The crying is simply your baby’s reaction to the change in their sleep habits, nothing more. Don’t mistake the crying for fear, sadness, or abandonment. Once your baby learns the new way to fall asleep, the tears will stop and your baby will be falling asleep on their own.”

    There are many ways to gently coach your baby to better sleep. And while she says she can’t promise a tear-free experience, she offers gentle methods to try and reduce the tears as much as possible.

    She doesn’t believe in just letting babies cry but letting your child experience some tears while you are there to comfort and love them is something very different–and I agree. As one of my all time favorite gentle parenting experts explains attachment to your baby is about calm and consistent comfort, not never letting your baby cry.

    Most common sleep issues

    One of the most common issues that children have with sleep include sleep associations or “sleep props.” This is anything a child uses to fall asleep.  For example, the breast or bottle, a pacifier, white noise, rocking, swinging, movement in the car can all be sleep props.

    Sleep associations are a normal part of falling asleep. It’s when these props disrupt a child’s sleep that they become a problem.  

    Some children are more sensitive and need the same exact prop all throughout the night and when transitioning during sleep cycles. Eliminating these props and helping children learn to self soothe will be the key to improving your child’s sleep. Often times children that have strong sleep associations usually have very bad sleep patterns. Eliminating sleep props and teaching a baby independent sleep is the cornerstone to improve a baby’s sleep.

    You do you

    Here’s one thing to keep in mind. As with all things parenting related, you have to do you. Do some research (Google scholar style, not just random articles online), talk to a few professionals, asks some moms who have similar values and then go with what makes you comfortable. You’re going to get judgement on either side of ANY issue–so just smile and nod. You can’t let judgement from others be the guide to your parenting decisions.

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  • Mindfulness: Beanie baby body scan

    Beanie Baby Body Scan
    Guest Post By Jennifer Barrett
    Mother~Yoga Teacher~Mindful Awareness Educator

    One of my favorite mindful awareness practices to facilitate with grown ups is a body scan meditation. The practice invites us to purposefully bring attention to various parts of our body, and to simply notice any sensations or lack of sensations in that moment. This present moment awareness is not only calming for the nervous system, but it offers excellent practice in focusing the mind.

    This practice is invaluable for children, but in its bare form, can be too abstract.

    I had an aha moment last weekend when my nine year old found me on the couch and began to pile his beanie baby stuffed animal all over me. What a perfect way to bring this practice to little ones!

    I asked him to lie down on his back and invited him to simply notice the feeling in his body wherever I placed one of his beanie babies. I put one of his shoulder, then the other shoulder, his thigh, the other thigh, his belly, and so on. I made sure to ask if it was okay for me to continue.

    Once the beanie babies were all in place he remained still, balancing them there and just noticing the rise and fall of the beanie baby on his belly as he breathed in and out.

    To remove them I reversed the process. I asked him to notice what it felt like each time I took one off. He loved the practice so much he asked to repeat it. I shared it later that week with one of my classes of young children and one little girl became so calm she almost fell asleep right then and there!

    So have fun, play with this practice and let us know how it goes. We are always here to answer any questions. You can check us out at wegrowyoga.com

    Until next week…

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  • Newborn Sleep: Tips from a certified sleep coach

    I know sleep is a MAJOR topic for all parents, but especially parents with newborns. With your first baby you hear all about how newborns don’t sleep, but it’s worth noting that you can begin to develop good sleep habit from the start. I team up with a local certified sleep coach, Kasey Gregory at Discover and Dream, to bring you a Q&A to address some of the most important sleep topics when it comes to newborns and young infants.

    Q: Is it possible to set babies up for good sleep habits from birth?

    Kasey: “Absolutely! I started right from the beginning with my second son with shaping healthy sleep habits, gave him love, attention, snuggles, and kisses throughout the day to bond with him and always went by his lead.  When you work on independent sleep from the very beginning iit usually means that sleep training is not necessary or at least not any major sleep training down the road. Just remember that once your baby has been accustomed to one way of falling asleep, it becomes more challenging to undo it.”

    Q: Are wake times truly important?

    Kasey: “Wake times are a very important part of improving your child’s sleep.  Wake time length is the amount of time your child can stay awake before needing to sleep again. If your child is up for too long, he or she may fight sleep. The same goes if your child is not awake for long enough. Inappropriate awake periods also contribute to poor naps and night wakings. Getting the timing “just right” is crucial as it can greatly improve overall sleep. With newborn sleep, nailing those wake windows will help you be successful.  Babies are so sensitive to overtiredness in the early months that trying to put a baby down awake and overtired is extremely difficult.  Keep those awake times short. Newborns need a lot of sleep and they need to sleep often. On average, 0-1 month use 30-45 minutes, 1-2 months use 45-60 minutes, then 2-3 months use 60-80 minutes.”

    Q: What are sleep cues parents should be on the lookout for?

    Kasey: “For babies 12 weeks and younger try and be very observant of sleepy cues because an overtired newborn can have so much trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. You may notice red eyebrows, turns head, blank stare and that means they are getting sleepy. If you put your baby down now sleep will likely come easier and they will stay asleep longer. If they start to yawn, rub eyes, become fussy then they need a nap now as you are getting close to missing their sleep window. Your baby might fuss a bit longer before falling asleep and may wake up prematurely into the nap. If they start to arch their back, demonstrate hysterical crying, make fists then they are overtired. If you put your baby down now it’s possible that they may refuse nap altogether or protest a lot before falling asleep. After 3-4 months you can balance sleepy cues with the time on the clock with wake windows.”

    Q: What’s all the fuss about swaddling? 

    Kasey: “Swaddling can also help your baby sleep better and for longer periods of time.  It will also help soothe a fussy baby. Babies have a strong startle reflex, so the swaddle keeps their arms and legs from failing.  My favorite swaddle is the love to dream swaddle up as it allows your baby to sleep in a more natural position with arms up (This is one of the swaddles listed on Play Learn Thrive’s simplified newborn checklist!)

    Q: Talk to us about sleep associations.

    Kasey: “A sleep association is something that occurs at or near sleep times. So another tip to shape healthy habits early on is to separate food from sleep and encourage full feeds. Some of these associations are positive and others can negatively impact sleep.  Once your baby starts to have longer periods of wakefulness, it’s a good idea to feed them at the beginning of their awake time, followed by changing, play, and then down for a nap.”

    Q: How can you start to form a sleeping schedule for your baby?

    Kasey: “Waking baby every 3 hours during the day will help make sure your baby doesn’t sleep through feeds in those early weeks.  If you let your baby sleep longer than that, they will start to try and make up for the missing intake at nighttime. As the weeks go by, you may have to experiment with capping single naps closer to 2-2.5 hours.  By 6 weeks I was capping my sons nap at the 2 hour mark as that helped him get long stretches at night.”

    Q: Why is my baby sleeping all day, and ready to party all night?

    Kasey: “Most newborns are born with day/night confusion as they sleep a lot during the day, then are up for long periods at night. In the beginning you will need to switch an infant’s internal clock or circadian rhythm.     Here are a few tips to help reverse day/night confusion.

    1. During the day, keep the lights on, talk at a normal tone, keep the blinds open, nap your baby in the light, and go on with daily activities without trying to tip-toe around your baby.
    2. At night you will do the opposite. Keep your voices down, dim the lights, turn off electronics, start setting a calm and quiet environment, and a small bedtime routine to help you baby recognize that sleep is coming.

    Keep in mind that setting your newborns internal clock can take up to 8 weeks to resolve.  Once day/night confusion is resolved you should nap your baby in the dark to ensure good-quality sleep.”

    Q: Any last pieces of advice?

    Kasey: “I would try and implement routines from the very beginning, such as a morning routine, nap routine, and bedtime routine.  This helps to set your baby up and to understand what is coming next. Once a baby begins to understand consistent routines, they feel more relaxed moving through their day.”

    You can follow Kasey and Discover and Dream on Instagram–@discoveranddream

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  • 100 Things to do outside with your kids

    100 Easy Outdoor Activities for Kids

    If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know how much I value kids spending time outside. As parents it is up to us to choose to lead the way. Here’s the thing. You don’t need to live on a huge lot of land or have direct access to a state park in order for your kids to experience nature. You can live in an urban area, in a suburban area, or in the country. You can live in a house with a yard, or in a condo or apartment surrounded by skyscrapers–it doesn’t matter. Just remember that little people don’t need huge spaces. One tree can feel like a forest to them. So find that one tree, that little grassy area in the local park, the weeds growing between the sidewalk cracks and make it a priority for your kids to not just “see” nature but to experience it first hand.

    Below is a list of 100 simple things to do outside with kids. Most are free or can be done at little cost.

    1. Go for a hike
    2. Spend an afternoon at a playground (sit back and let them play!)
    3. Find a tree to climb in your neighborhood or a nearby park
    4. Have a picnic on the grass, at the beach or find a picnic bench close by
    5. Let baby do some tummy time on a blanket with their hands in the grass
    6. Go for a walk for the purpose of collecting “treasures” (rocks, acorns, pine cones, burrs, twigs, feathers)
    7. Let your little one use their “treasures” to create art
    8. Sign up for a Tinkergarden class
    9. Lay on the grass and watch the clouds (this is a great mindfulness activity)
    10. Seek out puddles for splashing (check out my gear guide for getting kids outside in the rain and winter)
    11. Set up a tent in the backyard for a simple “camping” overnight
    12. Purposely go barefoot in a mud puddle
    13. Collect berries, leaves and fallen pedals or leaves and make “soup” (just bring any old pot and wooden spoon outside with a little water–you’ll be surprised at how long this entertains kids)
    14. Roll down a grassy hill
    15. Sit outside at night and listen for sounds. Talk about the sounds and what kinds of animals come out at night.
    16. Draw in the dirt with a stick
    17. Go on a scavenger hunt looking for specific things–things that start with a specific letter or things that are a specific color
    18. Play in a creek
    19. Skip rocks in the ocean, lake or stream
    20. Build a fort outside (either with natural materials or bring some blankets and pillows out if you aren’t feeling as adventurous)
    21. Paint magic sticks (find a large stick, let the kids paint it and decorate it any way they want)
    22. Garden (plant wildflowers, easy to grow veggies, let your kids weed)–we love this real garden set for our kids
    23. Go outside and see if you can figure out the direction of the wind
    24. Go outside during the different seasons and make a list of what makes each season (have them describe what they see, smell, feel, hear)
    25. Set up a tent outside, no need to sleep there just use it as an invitation to play
    26. Make a bird feeder
    27. Use binoculars to bird watch
    28. Go to a local farm to learn about the farm animals
    29. Take a few of your favorite books outside and read on a blanket
    30. Collect rocks and use them to build something
    31. Eat a meal outside
    32. Go for a walk and just talk about what you see
    33. Go for a clean up walk and use sticks to pick up litter
    34. Throw rocks into a river to see how big the splash can be (find rocks of all different sizes, make guesses on how big the splash will be, throw the rocks in and talk about the outcome)
    35. Have your child do school work outside (even just bringing their computer and sitting on a blanket or in a chair outside is a simple way to reconnect with nature)
    36. Go outside when it’s super cold and take a few deep breaths–talk about how it feels to breath cold air (you can also do this when it’s humid out)
    37. Visit a nearby mountain or nature preserve
    38. Go for a walk around your neighborhood in the rain (you close enough to home so getting wet isn’t a big deal)
    39. Catch rain drops in your mouth
    40. Use sidewalk chalk to draw outside
    41. Paint rocks
    42. Make mud pies
    43. Walk or bike to a destination nearby versus taking a car
    44. Collect bugs
    45. Help rake leaves
    46. Make a pile of leaves and roll around in the pile (then rake them back up!)
    47. Help shovel snow
    48. Play hide and seek outside
    49. Finger paint using mud
    50. Make bark or leaf rubbings (put paper over tree bark or leaves, use crayons to rub the paper leaving the markings of the leaf or bark)
    51. Go outside to look for butterflies, bumblebees, dragonflies
    52. Hunt for rocks with moss (my kids love moss!)
    53. Find fallen logs or big rocks to climb
    54. Make a collection of different colored leaves (see how many they can find)
    55. Bring a sensory bin outside and fill it with water or dirt
    56.  Build a snowman or make a snow angel
    57. Go sledding (even if it’s only a small hill!)
    58. Look for wild berries and use them to make “magic potion” (don’t let them eat unless you are certain the berries are edible)
    59. Ride a bike or a scooter somewhere local
    60. Make a flower crown
    61. Make a nature tic tac toe board with four long sticks–use pine cones, acorns or rocks as the pieces
    62. Use a magnifying glass to identify bugs
    63. Wash toys–bring a bucket of soapy water and a sponge outside and let the kids wash toys (and whatever else they can find)
    64. Fly a kite
    65. Play tag
    66. Play catch or kick a soccer ball around
    67. Go for a swim
    68. Build a backyard fire (make sure to do this safely!)
    69. Fill some water cans and water plants
    70. Look for large rocks or logs to lift up and see what’s underneath
    71. Go to the beach and build a sandcastle
    72. Star gaze and talk about constellations
    73. Build a fairy house with anything you can collect outside
    74. Dig a hole and bury some treasures (anything small like acorns, leaves, small rocks)
    75. Make a leaf boat with large green leaves and sticks–set them to sail on a river or even in your sink
    76. Pick flowers and practice arranging them in a vase
    77. Catch fireflies
    78. Build an obstacle course with natural elements (rocks, logs, trees)
    79. Make a DIY pulley system–throw a rope over a tree branch or post and tie it to a bucket. See how much they can pile into the bucket
    80. Flatten a cardboard box and use it to slide down a hill
    81. Examine an ant hill with a magnifying glass
    82. Find a Free Forest School nearby
    83. Make or buy a mud kitchen (we love ours from Etsy)
    84. Visit a local farmer’s market
    85. Take a nap outside (in a hammock, on a trampoline, in a lounge chair, on a blanket)
    86. Take some pots and pans outside to use as drums
    87. Make a mandala out of leaves, sticks and pebbles
    88. Bring paint or crayons and paper outside and use nature to inspire art
    89. Collect different natural materials in mason jars and see if you can guess what they are by smelling them–(try fresh cut grass, lilacs, dirt, mint) close the lid and leave out in the sun for a little while to help maximize the smells
    90. Lay on the ground and listen to sounds–try to make a list of all the sounds you hear
    91. Dig for worms
    92. Go for a walk at night and “chase the moon”–just allow your little one to follow the moon and see where it leads you
    93. Make a nature collage
    94. Paint your driveway with washable paint using your hands and feet
    95. Run through a sprinkler
    96. Practice cutting grass or weeds with scissors
    97. Harvest garden veggies or fruits (help pick and put into a basket)
    98. Find a local place to pick apples, pumpkins, berries
    99. Plan a camping or “glamping” vacation. My family went here and it was amazing!
    100. Let your little one take you on an adventure outside–just let them lead the way

    If you’re looking for more information about the importance of play and tips to reorganize your playroom check out my e-book:

     Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood which you can buy here for only $4.99.

    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:
    The Ultimate Outdoor Gear Guide
    The Ever Growing Importance of Outdoor Play
    Type of Play for Development
    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play
    7 Essential Playroom Spaces (and why you need them)
    The Power of Play
    What I’ve Learned about Early Childhood Education

    Read More

  • Newborn Checklist Simplified

    Being a new mom is one of the most overwhelming things you’ll ever experience. But preparing yourself for the journey doesn’t have to be. Babies NEED very few things and the best advice I can give you is to find someone whose parenting style you admire, and ask them what they found helpful and what they could have done without. You can always pop on Amazon or send someone to Bed Bath and Beyond for a “nice to have” so don’t stress about having all of it because more stuff doesn’t make things easier–more stuff makes things more overwhelming.

    Here is my list of MUST HAVES as well as a few NICE TO HAVES (and even a few things you absolutely don’t need.)

    New born Must Haves

    Feeding

    For breastfeeding: This is one thing you NEED to prepare for to set yourself up for success. Breastfeeding is natural but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s hard at first, especially if you don’t have support. So getting your thoughts around what it’s going to take, having all the essentials, and knowing how to get help is crucial to success. Make sure you check out your local La Leche League and often hospitals will have a lactation consultant on staff. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

    The Haakaa: this amazing little silicone breastmilk collector will be your best friend. Seriously. You literally just suction it to one side and while you nurse on the other side it collects the milk that is let down during the process. It’s incredibly helpful to have on hand for when your milk comes in (which isn’t until day 3 or 4 post partum). You can get super engorged and it can painful AF (like I didn’t take any meds after delivery but HAD to take something when my milk came in). The goal is to get milk out to lessen the pain BUT you don’t want to pump because that will just tell your body to make more milk. In comes the Haakaa–it doesn’t actively pump milk out so it will allow for your boob to drain just enough milk to make you comfortable without making engorgment worse.

    Manual breast pump: Yes, you should have an electric pump (I love the Spectra2 over the Medela for many reasons–see if your insurance covers a pump and go from there). But you also NEED a manual pump. It’s so much easier to sit and pump a few ounces of milk if needed vs hooking up to an electric pump. It’s also helpful for engorgement if you need to relieve the pressure and the Haakaa isn’t getting enough out and you’re still uncomfortable. Manual pumps are often a lot more effective than electric pumps–but nothing is more effective than a baby (so don’t freak out about how much you pump and think you’re not making enough milk!)

    A nursing pillow: A ton of people recommend that Boppy. I’m going to tell you the boppy is NOTHING compare to a pillow called My Brest Friend. The boppy is great for tummy time and for generally having a pillow to rest on while you (or someone else) holds baby BUT it is not the best for actually breastfeeding. My Brest Friend clips around your waist and can actually support baby while you walk around (you’ll appreciate this feature, I promise). It is more structured so it helps position your arms and therefore baby much better than the boppy, and it has a little holder in the front for nipple cream, nursing pads or whatever else you think you need to keep close while nursing.

    Nipple Cream: Have lots of this on hand–it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I like this one by Earth Mama and this one by Motherlove. I prefer not to use lanolin. Also, have your doctor call in a prescription for APNO (all purpose nipple ointment) because this is something that’s better to have just in case. Your OBGYN or midwife should know what this is and where to call it in for you.

    For some great breast feeding tips check out this article.

    For bottle feeding: I would highly recommend you use glass or stainless steel bottles. Even BPA free plastic is not ideal, especially if you are using it for warm liquid. I like the Pura Kiki stainless steel bottles and the Dr. Browns glass ones.

    You do NOT need a bottle warmer…

    Cleaning and drying bottles (and beyond): Having a dedicated place for bottles and eventually cups is a nice to have, and a bottle brush is a must. I love this one by OXO–it has lasted us through three kids and is still going strong and used every day for holding cups, reusable straws and pouches.

    Burp cloths: I mean regardless you’ll probably get baby spit up pretty much everywhere but on the actual burp cloth, that said, it’s good to have a few for good measure. These are the only ones we have and I love them. They are super absorbent, big and drape nicely over your shoulder.

    Sleeping

    My first piece of advice is to do some reading about infant sleep PRIOR to having baby. You will have way more time now then you do once baby arrives AND it will give you time to process and prepare to help set your little one up for healthy sleep habits from day one. There is a science to sleep and knowing a little about that can help you in the long run. A good book to have on hand for baby’s first year is The Science of Mom by Alice Green CallahanBassinet, Crib, or Playard: I am obsessed with the Halo Bassinet. It swivels to basically rest on your bed, you can gently rock baby to sleep by literally jiggling the bassinet with one finger, it has a built in little light which makes feeding and changing in the middle of the night super easy–it’s awesome. If you would rather a multi function playard I would stay away from the pack and play–I hate them. They are heavy, bulky and a pain to open. I would get either the 4Moms version (if you want to use for very small infants because it has a bassinet space) or the Guava family Lotus which is made from all non-toxic materials. We kept our babies in our room for a little while and then moved them to a crib (Pottery Barn is my go to for all things kids furniture).

    Swaddle: Babies have spent the past nine months squished up in a warm dark space with limited mobility. Then they come into the world and it’s overwhelming AF. They crave closeness and the security of pressure. Hence the swaddle. You should have two types of swaddles. Some babies like arms in and some like arms up. Some people say their baby hated being swaddled but it’s often because they just wanted to have their arms up. The Woombie is hands down the best swaddle for arms in. Don’t even bother with anything else. No velcro, no wrapping. Just put baby in and zip that straight jacket up. It unzips from the bottom to make night time changes easier (yes you should keep them swaddled while you change and feed–this will make it easier for them to fall back to sleep afterwards). If you find that baby is really trying to get their hands by their face, then they may prefer hands up. We will only use the Love to Dream–it allows baby to have “access” to their face but still stops their moro reflex (a big reason why babies have a hard time sleeping if not swaddled)

    Playing

    Babies don’t really need toys. The best thing you can do is to carry your baby in a wrap or carrier to allow them to feel day to day motion and see things around you. Keep in mind that little babies are very quick to become overstimulated which can lead to sleep issues. Narrate everything you’re doing during the day. Lay them on a flat surface for them to begin exploring their body and own movements. We love the DockaTot for lounging, our Ruggish play rug for a soft place to put baby down.

    In general I try to stay away from stuff that contains babies–but it is nice to have one spot to put them aside from the floor. We got rid of every single “bouncy seat” except for the Baby Bjorn mesh bouncer and toy bar. I like this because it’s soft enough to not cause a flat spot and is super easy to move around–I would often shower with this in the bathroom and could move it one handed with ease.

    You do not need exosaucers, bumbos, walkers, sit me ups or ANY type of thing that puts babies in an unnatural position (a position they can’t get into themselves). Being in these types of gadgets hinders development, costs extra money and take up tons of space. The best thing for your baby to develop properly is to be worn and to be on the floor. Learning to sit, crawl, walk…it ALL starts from the floor.

    Play gym: I love wooden toys for many reasons and this Haba one is beautiful, or this one from Plan Toys, I also love this one by Skip Hop.

    Teething toys:

    Grasping toys:

    Rattles:

    Traveling

    Infant car seat and Stroller: We love our Uppababy Cruz stroller and have used the Mesa car seat and the Nuna Pipa infant seat. I prefer the Pipa car seat but it requires an adaptor for the stroller–both of which can be purchased at Nordstrom. We also found having the infant insert for the stroller was helpful so we could lay the seat all the way back and use the insert vs having to buy the bassinet attachment. Ideally you don’t want baby in the car seat more than they need to be, so being able to use the stroller in multiple ways was great.

    Carrier: The more you can avoid having baby in a “container” like the car seat, stroller, bouncy seat, the better for their development. So having a carrier is crucial to being able to hold them but still be hands free. I have a Tula, an Ergo 360, a Sakura Bloom ring sling, a K’tan and a Lillebaby. So I’m pretty well versed in carriers. If you are new to carrying babies, I would recommend the K’tan for the early months, because it’s a wrap without actually having to wrap. Then I would suggest the Lillebaby as a soft shell carrier for when baby is a few months and big enough for the carrier. I would NOT recommend the Baby Bjorn–it does not position baby in the best way, the wider base of the Tula, Ergo and Lillebaby are preferred and I found the Lillebaby to be the most comfortable for myself and for my husband.

    Diapering

    Diapers: If you choose to use disposable diapers please consider using diapers that are made from more sustainable materials and are more biodegradable than traditional disposable diapers. Each diaper you use takes 500 plus years to biodegrade–you’ll use hundreds, possibly thousands of diapers while diapering your kid(s). And if you’re even remotely interested in cloth diapering (it’s not your grandma’s cloth) read this and feel free to reach out with any questions.

     

    You do NOT need a diaper pail or those little baggies to tie up each individual diaper. Please save the plastic, your planet will thank you.

    Wipes: You need these. Lots of these. People love the Water Wipes but I felt they just pushed poop around–maybe it’s just me. I actually love the wipes from Costco because they are thicker (we mostly use these for on the go) and we make our own for around the house.

    Bum cream: We never had any real diaper rash with any of my kids (one benefit of using cloth) but I pretty regularly use the Natural Boudreaux’s Butt Paste to keep them nice and moisturized.

    Bath and Body:

    Medicine Cabinet:

    For a list of other medicine cabinet must haves you can read this article.

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  • The Ultimate Outdoor Gear Guide

    One of my day to day parenting goals is to get my kids outside, no matter what the weather. I also try to use positive language when speaking about the weather. We don’t sing “rain rain go away” we sing “rain rain come today” and you know what– my kids love the rain. I mean they LOVE the rain. They beg to go outside when it’s raining. And sometimes I have to catch myself when I start to say “ugh but it’s so gross and rainy out!”

    They don’t think rain is “gross” they think it’s amazing. They love catching rain drops in their mouth, stomping in puddles, making mud pies and I’m convinced they sense the thrill of being outside during weather that could be considered challenging. This is the essence of childhood.

    I have found that one of the biggest barriers to getting kids outside in the rain and snow is lack of the right “gear” and as the saying goes, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”

    We know that time outside is necessary for our physical, mental and emotional health and it’s even more so for our children.

    Top 6 Must Haves for All Weather Outdoor Play

    Layering pieces: This is crucial to keep kids warm and dry. We love merino wool for its ability to regulate body temperature an wick moisture away from the skin. Merino wool is naturally odor and stain resistant, as well as extremely  durable. It’s also naturally fire resistant so there are no chemicals applied to make it flame retardant. I would highly recommend NuiOrganics thermals, these Woolino pajamas, and Simply Merino sets. Also, don’t forget good socks! We are obsessed with Bombas and Smartwool.

    A rain suit: There are a few great options for rain suits but our favorite is the OAKI rain suit which my kids wear outside even in torrential downpour and still stay dry. I’ve heard good things about the Tuffo Muddy Buddy. A rain suit will change the way your kid plays outside. They stay so dry it’s amazing. Also, pro tip. You can size up multiple sizes because the OAKI cinches at the waist so it’s a piece you can buy once and use for years.

    Good boots (for rain and snow): We have tried both the Crocs rain boots and the Bogs rain boots. We prefer the bogs because they have a nice liner which makes them easy to slip on and because they are taller and are more flexible rubber. The crocs seemed to get stuck and that prevented them from being able to put their own boots on which was a no go for me. Our favorite snow boots are Bogs. I would recommend either the Bogs “Slushie” Snow boots or the Bogs baby waterproof boot. They are super easy to walk in and really protect their feet from the cold.

    A one piece snow suit: For snow, we are LOVING our Patagonia Snow Pile one piece. For a less expensive option you can get a great Columbia snow suit like this one. I prefer the one piece because it really keeps the snow out.

    Gloves: We have tried a bunch of gloves and really love using these wool Melton Baby gloves underneath these POLARN O. PYRET waterproof shell gloves. What’s nice is you can use both of these separately or together depending on the weather. If your little one prefers a mitten style glove then you can get these waterproof shells and these merino mittens both by Polarn O. Pyret.

    For serious snow play we have been using, and loving, these Stonez Mitts. They cinch at the wrist and elbow and are super warm and SO easy to put on.

    Hats: As for hats I strongly recommend a baclava this like one from SmartWool, or a hat that pulls down over the ears. I also Disana boiled wool hats.

    If you’re looking for more information about the importance of play and tips to reorganize your playroom check out my e-book:

     Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood which you can buy here for only $4.99.

    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:

    100 Things to Do Outside with Your Kids

    The Ever Growing Importance of Outdoor Play

    Types of Play for Development

    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play

    7 Essential Playroom Spaces (and why you need them)

    The Power of Play

    What I’ve Learned about Early Childhood Education

    Read More

  • Toys to Encourage Active Play

    Best toys for toddlers

    When selecting toys for the kids play space I try to be very intentional. I focus on choosing things that are high quality, made of natural and eco-friendly materials, open-ended and suitable for multiple age groups.

    We do try to be more minimalistic in our approach but I have a ways to go before I feel like I can say I’m truly a “minimalist.” I do believe very strongly that less truly is more, especially when it comes to toys.

    As a general rule, I try to stay away from standard plastic (but make an exception for a few items like LEGOs and toys made from recycled materials) and we have zero toys that light up, make noise, or talk to the kids.

    Keep in mind that the more a toy does, the less your kid has to do. You want THEM doing the thinking, visualizing, and creating. Passive play is NOT the play we want to promote.

    Here is a helpful video for understanding what it means to be an open ended toy.

    15 Top Playroom Must Haves

    These are my (and my kids!) favorite playroom items. Everything on this list gets played with and while we are a little heavy on certain things (like trucks!) I do try to purge every now and again to make sure that we haven’t strayed from our goal of having a very intentional and functional play space.

    The Nugget: This amazing foam play couch is perfect for gross motor development and also encourages creativity and imaginative play. It’s super easy to clean and a playroom must have for kids of all ages.

    We just released a Nugget Product Review on our YouTube channel. Which you can watch here.

    Lily and River Little Climber (Pikler triangle): Another gross motor piece that can be used in many different ways. Younger babies can practice crawling and pulling up, and toddlers can climb and jump–all ages benefit from using this piece to develop strength, balance and coordination. Shop it at one of our favorite online stores, The Natural Baby Co.

    Magna-Tiles: These are an absolute favorite with my older one. He loves to build and will spend literally hours playing with these. They are perfect for encouraging critical thinking, hand/eye coordination, spatial awareness, early math skills, creativity and concentration.  I will only order the Magna-Tile brand as magnets are one of those things that can be dangerous if swallowed–and I want to buy from a company I know ensures the quality and safety of their product.

    Blocks: There is a reason wooden blocks are a classic toy that never goes out of style. Simple blocks are a great way to promote creativity, problem solving skills, fine motor skills, language development, social skills….you name it, block pretty much has it covered. We have a few sets including just standard wooden blocks, tunnel blocks, smaller colored blocks that are great for on the go, and Tegu blocks.

    LEGOs: Another classic that ALL kids should have for building. One thing to note is that you don’t need to buy all the pre-designed sets–it’s actually better for kids to just have to good old “regular” LEGOs to encourage creativity.

    We do have a few of the sets (we “needed” some truck parts) but it’s not necessary and I find the kids play mostly with the regular LEGO blocks and just add onto the sets anyways.

    Peg people: Instead of action figures, we like to have peg people. Our favorite are the Grimm’s ones. They are a beautiful wood and stained with non-toxic wood stain. They leave more to the imagination.

    For example. Henry often uses the red peg person as a firefighter. In that he is using more creativity to envision the firefighter than if he just had a little firefighter figure.

    Again, the more a toy does the less your little one has to do. This is a simple way to encourage imaginative play.

    Doll house and accessories: Doll house play is important for girls AND boys as it encourages social skills and allows children to practice real life situations. We have this incredible doll house by Elves and Angels. You can also get a beautiful wooden dollhouse from Plan Toys.

    Silk scarves: These are an absolute favorite in our house. The kids tie them around their neck and pretend they are super heroes, they put them over their head and pretend they are ghosts, they drape them over the nugget to make a fort. The possibilities are endless. We love Sarah’s Silks–they are beautiful dyed and so soft.

    Wobbel board: What looks like a simple curved piece of wood is actually an amazingly versatile “toy.” My kids use this to practice balance, to rock, to slide and to build. It becomes a tunnel, a road, a bridge, a see-saw…it’s a great addition for open ended play.

    Gonge riverstones and hilltops: We love these for making obstacle courses. They are great for climbing, balance, and coordination. Make sure to buy the Gonge version…other versions do not have the rubberized bottom and will easily slip.  You can get the river stones here and the hilltops here.

    Animal figurines: We love to have a decent amount of animal figures for pretend play. We have a mix of wooden Holztiger and Schleich animals. We love the Schleich because they are high quality and extremely lifelike. They are great for outdoor or bath play because they are super durable.

    We invested in some wooden animals by Holztiger because I loved that they a large and easy to stand up and stack without falling over. They have a decent weight to them so they are a good choice if you’re thinking about the tactile aspect of the figurine.

    We also have this amazing animal book that helps the kids make connections between what we read and their play animals.

    Play kitchen and accessories: I think every kid needs a play kitchen–we have this one.

    It’s so important for children to have access to toys that allow them to act out real life situations. This is one place where I often see people buying mass quantities of plastic play food and that’s a big no for me.

    We have maybe 10-15 pieces of food, a set of stainless steel pots and pans, and then I got a few mini kitchen silicone and stainless utensils at Marshalls for under $10.

    We love this Plan Toys Tea set for our playroom “indoor” kitchen.

    *On a side note*

    We love to have this Green Toys tea set which is perfect for our outdoor mud kitchen (another must have!) Our mud kitchen is from Monarch Studio Boston which is a mama run Etsy shop that does incredible work–and she’s just the sweetest to work with.

    They definitely do not need the pizza set, the sandwich set, the salad set, the baked goods set….pick one or two you love (I prefer to stick to basics). We love the fruits and veggies from Plan Toys.

    Cars, trucks and things that go: If you have a kid like mine you probably have one million vehicles. We are currently working on pairing down our stash of cars and trucks to make room for a few higher quality wooden.

    Our favorite vehicles to have on hand would be anything from Fagus, these Plan Toys Wooden trucks and trucks from Green Toys are great for outdoor play.

    This bendable road by WAYTOPLAY is also a MUST for car and truck loving kiddos. We also love this Moover ride on truck.

    Dolls and accessories: Care-taking is another important life skill that begins with play. Girls and boys should have equal access to dolls.

    Our favorite dolls are from Haba and Kathe Kruse. We also love this little beanie doll. My son sleeps with this guy every night–he’s named him Jack.

    Loose parts: This is one most people might think is crazy BUT I promise kids love them. And there is a reason they love them. They are things that can be moved, taken apart, combined, carried, just used in so many different ways.

    There are NO rules to how you play with loose parts. This concept is a huge part of the Reggio Emilia philosophy and encourages creative play helps develop pretty much every skill imaginable. Some of our favorites are rocks, pine cones, sticks, shells, acorns, leaves…..

    You can purchase loose parts from various Etsy shops, but one of the bigger brands that make beautiful loose parts is Grapat. You can find them here -they are made by a small shop in Spain so they go out of stock very quickly.

    You can check out a video about loose parts and more on our YouTube channel.

    Our Favorite Toy Brands

    If you’re looking for more information about the importance of play and tips to reorganize your playroom check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood which you can buy here for only $4.99.

    If you like this post and want to read more like it then check out these articles:Type of Play for Development

    100 Simple Things to do Outside With Your Kids

    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play

    7 Essential Playroom Spaces (and why you need them)

    The Power of Play

    What I’ve Learned about Early Childhood Education

    Read More

  • Mindful Awareness

    Dragon in the Sky

    Guest Post By Jennifer Barrett

    Mother, Yoga Teacher, Mindful Awareness Educator

    When my oldest son was a toddler we loved to find pictures in the clouds.  Sometimes he would get frustrated that I was unable to see his dragon, and I would try to show him my duck. Then of course the clouds would move and change and become something new. That was a long time ago. My boy is almost 18 and I have spent hundreds of hours training, researching, and teaching people yoga, breath work, and other mindful awareness practices. What I knew as a young mom was how right it felt to spend time with my son watching the clouds go by. But why? It is because that simple act of bringing our attention to the clouds as they moved and changed before our eyes was a perfect practice of mindful awareness.

    Mindful awareness asks us to bring our attention to the present moment with curiosity. We can choose to play with different anchors for our attention; our breath, our body, or anything we perceive with our senses. So in that moment my son and I were purposefully directing our attention to the clouds. We looked up, our eyes perceived them, and we got to notice them move and change. We couldn’t hold them or keep them any more than I can keep my son a toddler. By the way life happens just like that. It goes by in tiny little moments whether we are paying attention or not.

    In the coming weeks I look forward to bringing you simple mindful awareness practices you can do with your children. I want to remind you that this first one didn’t come from a book or a training. My boy and I were just playing. So make up your own games that ask you to pay attention to your breath, your body, or what you perceive through your senses. These are your tools, you already have them. Pause, look up from your phone, your computer, in fact stop reading this and look out the window. There may just be a dragon in the sky!

    Here are a few more games you probably already know that help to direct attention to the present moment. You may notice that they ask us to use one of our senses. You see our minds travel to the future or rehash the past, but our senses are perceiving in the present moment. So when we bring attention on purpose to the perception of one of our senses, especially with a sense of play, we are practicing mindful awareness!

    I spy with my little eye- Yes the old fashioned game… just look around you. Notice something with your eyes. And your playmate looks around too, trying to guess what you are looking at.

    How many sounds can your hear? Set a timer for one minute and see how many sounds you can hear all around you. This game is especially rich when done outside. And make sure you are playing right along with your child. You may be surprised at how many sounds are happening around you and even inside you!

    What’s that sound? Yup it’s just like it sounds. Have your child close their eyes if they are comfortable doing so. Make a sound. It can be anything; a zipper, a door closing, a paper bag crumpling, a guitar being plucked… Ask your child to guess what the sound was.

    What’s that smell? Just like What’s that sound only using your sense of smell to figure out what something is. Oranges work well as their scent is pretty distinctive but get creative.

    Mystery object- Give your child a small object and ask them to explore it only using their hands. You can ask questions like is it rough or smooth, cold or warm, heavy or light. They try to figure out what the object is without using their eyes. I have used acorns, toy cars, leaves; really you can use any familiar object. I always start by assuring them that the object is completely safe to touch and has nothing sharp on it.

    Jennifer Barrett has been working with children for over two decades. She is the founder of We Grow Yoga and provides yoga and mindful awareness training to children of all ages as well as to the teachers and parents who guide them. She has designed curriculum for schools such as The Chestnut Hill School in Massachusetts and The Brooklyn Heights Montessori School. Jennifer holds degrees in elementary and special needs education from Boston College. She has a 20 year dedicated yoga practice, and is an active and registered member of Yoga Alliance. She is certified both through ChildLight Yoga and holds a 200 hour teacher certification through Breathe For Change with the lens of bringing yoga and mindful awareness practices to school communities. She especially loves her work as a mother of 3 amazing sons and as a meditation facilitator for The Community Mindfulness Project.

    For more information about We Grow Yoga offerings go to wegrowyoga.com

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