Month: November 2019

  • 2019 Holiday Gift Guide–Kids Bath Time

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission if you choose to purchase something through my link.

    Baths for us are a very simple way to entertain the kids for a decent chunk of time. I have always found that adding water (in any form) makes for a happier kid–and therefore a happier parent! Baths are a great way to relax and unwind, especially with the stress of the holiday season. Below are some of my favorite bath time gifts.

    These make great stocking stuffers, secret Santa gifts or gifts for holiday gift exchanges as they are affordable and will be used and loved by little kids of all ages.

    1. Boon Stacking Boats–Simple but always engaging. Pouring water is one of the most universal forms of play. These stackable boats are perfect for babies through preschool aged kids.

    2. Boon Cogs Water Gears–These cogs and the pipes (listed below) are two of our kids favorites. They have gone from simply pouring water into them to make them spin, to setting them up so pouring water on one turns the gear of another to make them spin–it’s so cool to watch them try to figure out how to interconnect them so that they all work together.

    3. Boon Pipes–Another favorite that really keeps the kids entertained forever. They love to find ways to connect the cogs and pipes to see how they can get the water to flow.

    4. Haba Bubble Bath Whisk–This adorable whisk is a fun way for kids to enjoy a bubble bath! The motion of turning the handle is also good for fine motor skills development.

    5. Oli & Carol Origami Boat–This silicone origami boat is all one piece so it won’t get moldy and is easily washed.

    6. Plui Rainball–My kids are obsessed with running water but I refused to just keep the bath water running throughout the whole bath. This toy is the perfect solution.

    7. Kyte Sea Sponge–While this is not a toy (tell that to my 3 year old) I do think it’s a great gift idea for bath time. I really appreciate a more natural option vs a loofa–and love that this thing makes some serious suds.

    8. Little Unicorn Hooded Towel Set–I don’t know about you but I always had a difficult time finding simple hooded towels for baby and kids that weren’t $50 plus dollars. I love these for their whimsical and classically beautiful patterns that are for children but not childish.

    9. CaaOcho Bath Animals–This brand made a few of these fully closed (aka no mold) bath animals. They are adorable and would make a great stocking stuffer!

    10. Boon Jellies–These are just too cute not to add. These little suction cup jellies are fun to stick on the walls or onto each other. They are also easy to clean which is a plus.

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  • 2019 Holiday Gift Guide–Baby

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission if you choose to purchase something through my link.

    This holiday season I am working hard to be more mindful of what comes into our home–we are going to do a big purge and donate gently used toys to make room for a few new things, we will be asking for non-toy gifts from family and friends, and hubs and I will be sticking to a more minimal gift approach for each of our little ones.

    I wanted to pull together a simple holiday gift guide that focused on more open ended toys that are suitable for a variety of ages, as well as promote more active play. So without further ado, I bring you my very first holiday gift guide.

    1. Grimm’s Small Set of Bowls— Classic wooden nesting bowls in beautiful rich colors. Perfect for stacking, nesting, color recognition, size and shape understanding. These are a definite must have for babies!

    2. Grimm’s Small Rainbow–Similar to the nesting bowls. I love the Grimm’s rainbow, in fact we have it in multiple sizes, because it will be used for years to come. Babies love the bright colors, they are non-toxic for little gummy mouths, and encourage open ended play.

    3. Plan Toys Matching puzzle–Simple wooden puzzles with large handles are great for little babies to begin learning about early math concepts such as shape recognition and fractions, it also helps build patience and concentration.

    4. Slumberkins snuggler–Who doesn’t need an adorably snuggly soft lovey in their lives. These little Slumberkins are just too cute.

    5. Haba Rainmaker— A rainmaker is a great sensory experience for little ones. They can work on their grip, shake this to make noise and watch the little balls move around–helping them begin to develop a sense of cause and effect.

    6. Plan Toys Bell Rattle–A classic rattle made from wood and very muted colors is a must have gift for little babies.

    7. Haba Roly Poly Giraffe–This little guy is just too cute. Babies will enjoy nudging this little guy who will wobble but not tip over. Includes two teething rings and makes a soft tinkling noise for a multi-sensory experience.

    8. Haba Frog–This frog doubles as a grasping toy and a teether. Love the adorable little frog face!

    9. Grimm’s Grasper Beads–Another awesome grasper toy. Babies need multiple opportunities to practice holding objects that are a variety of shapes and sizes.

    10. Grimm’s Wobbly Stacking Tower–Another classic toy that helps babies develop an understanding of math concepts such as shapes and size. Opt for this over the plastic ring tower for a beautiful and non-toxic addition to your space.

    11. Haba Happy Block Set— These soft blocks are a must have for little ones to shake and stack. Each blocks also makes it’s own little noise.

    12. Jellycat Stuffed Animal and Activity Book–Jellycat stuffed animals are the ONLY brand of stuffed animals we own. They are literally the softest, most adorable things ever. They also have such an amazing variety of unique animals. These little activity books are great as busy books for car rides.

    13. Little Rawr Silicone Pacifier Beads–This is just too cute not to put on the list. Little Rawr also makes some great teething rings that are beautifully made of wood and silicone.

    14. Haba Teether Cuddly Rainbow— An adorable toy for little ones that has a mirror, bells, teethers, and crinkle tags. So many little things to keep little hands and mouths busy.

    15. Haba Rainbow Fabric Ball–A fabric ball that includes eight colorful sections with different textures and sounds that provide so much sensory stimulation.

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  • 2019 Holiday Gift Guide–Toddlers

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission if you choose to purchase something through my link.

    This holiday season I am working hard to be more mindful of what comes into our home–we are going to do a big purge and donate gently used toys to make room for a few new things, we will be asking for non-toy gifts from family and friends, and hubs and I will be sticking to a more minimal gift approach for each of our little ones.

    I wanted to pull together a simple holiday gift guide that focused on more open ended toys that are suitable for a variety of ages, as well as promote more active play. So without further ado, I bring you my very first holiday gift guide.

    1. Grimm’s Rainbow Friends– These adorable little wooden people allow for endless creativity and pretend play. They can be used for dollhouse play, block play, color matching and sorting games. Using peg people instead of regular action figures allows kids to use more of their imagination as they have to envision the whole character vs being given a complete visual representation.

    2. Wobbel Balance Board– This is an extremely versatile “toy” that kids of all ages can play with. Whether its baby using it to practice pulling up or low height climber, toddlers using it as a bridge, a tunnel, a surf board or a seesaw. The possibilities are endless. This one of my must haves for gross motor development.

    3. Piklar Triangle– This is another must have for gross motor play. This climber can be used by a variety of ages and is the perfect way to give the gift of appropriate risk taking to your little one.

    4. Silks– The ultimate in open ended play. My kids use these to build forts, as superhero capes, props for dancing, as blankets for their dolls, they ball them up and pretend they are garbage to be cleaned up. These are played with daily.

    5. Grimm’s Geo Block Set— This beautiful heirloom quality block set is a classic that should be a staple in every playroom.

    6. WAYTOPLAY roadway— This flexible road is a must have for any vehicle loving kid. They even have expansion sets so your little one can build an epic track to race cars and trucks.

    7. Tegu blocks— The perfect mix between classic blocks and our beloved Magnatiles. These are a must have for any child who loves to build. Another early STEM toy that will be loved for years to come.

    8. Haba Roll n’ roll track— A ball run that will help little ones learn cause and effect. It’s also a multi-sensory experience as while the ball rolls it high fives the little people, chimes a bell and rolls over a texture track.

    9. Haba Butterfly Threading Game— This is perfect for any crafty child who loves nature. Threading is an amazing activity for fine motor skill development. This also makes a great travel toy and something to encourage quiet playtime when your toddler begins to drop a nap or is going through a sleep regression.

    10. Grimm’s Slimline Cars–Ditch all the plastic and matchbox cars in favor of this adorable gender neutral car and truck set that makes a perfect gift for vehicle loving kids.

    11. Kid O Magnatab— A modern day Etch A Sketch that is another must have for quiet play or travel. This encourages kids to draw, create patterns, or practice writing letters or numbers. The little magnetic balls also provide a multi-sensory experience for kids when the push them back into place.

    12. Plan Musical Toy Set— This all in one music toy is a perfect way to incorporate music for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. I love this one because it combines multiple instruments into one toy which helps reduce clutter.

    13. Cuddle + Kind Doll— Buy a beautiful handmade doll for your little one while also donating 10 meals to children in need. What could be better than that. These whimsical dolls are loved here and with so many adorable choices it will be difficult to choose just one!

    14. Maileg doll (pronounced my-lie)- These beautiful heirloom quality dolls are made of natural materials and will make an amazing addition to any doll collection.

    15. Ostheimer Wooden Animals— Add of a few of these handmade animals to your gift list. Animal figures are a must have for kids for pretend play. They have some really unique options like a hedgehog, a Bernese mountain dog and a unicorn.

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  • Reggio Emilia — A Child Centered Approach to Learning

    Reggio Emilia inspired learning

    This article includes information from Lee Longo, the director of Sound Beach Day School.

    Reggio Emilia is a philosophy of early childhood and primary education that dates back to right after World War II–created by Loris Malaguzzi in the villages surrounding Reggio Emilia, Italy.

    The Reggio Emilia philosophy starts with the belief of a strong image of the child. The philosophy encourages a deep respect for the child as a whole person. Children are viewed as strong, capable and driven by the power of wanting to learn.

    In this style of learning parents, teachers and the environment are partners in the education process.

    The Reggio Emilia Curriculum

    In traditional schools’ teachers are forced to align their work with standards or readiness guidelines. In the Reggio philosophy there is no set curriculum. The curriculum is child driven.

    That means that it is constantly changing based on what children are passionate about and what the teachers see unfolding in the classroom. You won’t see a upfront breakdown of themes, or month by month outline of what the kids will be learning and that’s one of the most amazing qualities of Reggio inspired education. The child leads the way.

    The teacher’s role is to guide, stimulate and engage the student in the learning process.  The questions presented to the child, the environment and materials presented facilitate in the learning.

    The Reggio Emilia Advantage

    The biggest advantage of this philosophy is the ownership that the child has in the learning process. When you follow the child’s interests the learning is more meaningful. Children that learn this way develop a lifelong love for learning.

    The Reggio Emilia philosophy encourages a connection with nature. Children should be outside and exploring, getting dirty picking up bugs and playing in mud. When you are an observer in this process you can see the learning taking place.

    Another wonderful advantage is the collaboration among teachers and families. Parents are updated on project work and valued as partners in the learning process.

    The Reggio Emilia Classroom

    This philosophy considered the classroom environment the “third teacher.” The classroom is set up to resemble as close to home as possible. For example. the kitchen area may have real items that resemble what kids see at home–glass objects, a cleaned out ketchup bottle, real plates and silverware. The classroom is designed using more natural materials vs the traditional bold or bright colors. The goal is to create a soft and calming space for the children. Children’s art work is respected and displayed . Overall the aesthetics of the classroom are very important.

    Reggio Emilia Provocations

    This philosophy often references what is called a provocation. This simply means that teachers, after having observed the children, will set out materials that are selected specifically to provoke thoughts and ideas, and encourage creativity. Provocations are meant to compliment what the children are working on and help extend their thinking. They are not overtly teacher led activities, instead they are thoughtfully designed “set ups” that invite children to expand their own learning of an idea or concept.

    Myths about the Reggio Emilia philosophy

    Longo says that she often hears questions like “what are they actually learning in this way?” Because there is no set curriculum, parents unfamiliar with the philosophy are sometimes skeptical. But Longo assures parents that, “Reggio children gain self-confidence, they are respected and encouraged to try things on their own before asking for help. They learn about risk taking, they learn how to self-regulate and develop communication skills, they are truly valued.”

    She reminds parents that the pre-school level is about social emotional development and that these are the skills that will take them through life. They also learn language, literacy, numbers, science, and nature. The learning truly follows the child’s interest and addresses learning in a holistic way.

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  • Importance of Early Childhood Education

    As a public school educator, I’m naturally very drawn to learning about the best ways to educate children. While I don’t believe that one size fits all, I do feel that there are some specific philosophies that really focus on following the child, emphasizing nature, prioritizing outdoor time, encouraging independence and incorporating more sustainable materials into the classroom.

    My top choices for early education philosophies are:

    Many of these philosophies are not considered mainstream–especially in my area of the country where we have some of “the best” schools (aka high test scores) and it feels like families are extremely focused on academics and “school readiness” starting in preschool (and sometimes earlier). My hope is that more and more parents will begin to seek out these types of learning environments for their little ones–and understand that many of the basics of these philosophies can be easily implemented at home.

    The importance of early childhood education

    The importance of early childhood education is well established and reaches well beyond the preschool years. In fact, “early childhood” is considered birth to eight years old–so approximately 2nd or 3rd grade.

    This time period is crucial for children. I’d even go so far as to say more crucial than post secondary education. Why? Because how and what they learn during this time period will provide them with a foundation for the rest of their lives. Education during these early years will help shape social, emotional and physical health, as well as develop intrinsic motivation for life long learning–not just learning to get a grade.

    With that in mind, the basis of any early childhood education philosophy should be to follow the child, to encourage their natural curiosity, to provide them with a variety of opportunities to connect with people, places and things around them, and most of all to allow them to play freely.

    If you have any specific questions about these philosophies (or others you have heard or read about) please feel free to ask ❤️

    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 Power of Play
    The Ever Growing Importance of Outdoor Play.
    Toy for Toddlers: Encouraging Active Play
    100 Simple Things to do Outside with Your Kids
    What is Montessori–Understanding this Early Childhood Education Philosophy
    Reggio Emilia — A Child Centered Learning Approach
    What is Waldorf — A Spotlight on Waldorf Education

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