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Parenthood related topics written by the founders of charlotte+asher.

Filtering by Tag: Toddler

Giving back at all ages

Chantal Standafer

Gaby showing her jar of "money for the kids"

Gaby showing her jar of "money for the kids"

One of our family values is to be outwardly focused (and part of our company mission). Last year I shared how we were starting to teach our daughter Gaby about being grateful for what she had. And we continue to read books with those themes. But now she’s three and teaching her has grown beyond talking about being thankful. She has started giving to others intentionally.

One of the biggest instances of her giving began over the summer.  We bought floaties to use with the kids in the pool. When we opened up the packages, my very curious little girl asked me about every single piece of information that came along with them. As we were looking through it all, she became fixated on one piece. It was a glossy picture of kids. Unknowingly we had purchased from a company that partners with Operation Smile, an organization that provides free surgeries for children around the world who have cleft lip and cleft palate and other facial deformities.  

Gaby was so fascinated. She kept asking about the kids, who she referred to as “the kids whose lips hurt.”  This was the best way I thought to explain their condition to her. And when we told her that people donate to Operation Smile so the doctors could fix the kid's lips, well she wanted to give to the kids.

But the girl doesn't make money yet. So where did that leave us? My husband and I got to thinking and came up with a couple of solutions. The first is whenever we go out for a treat, we give her the option to get her own or to share. If she splits it, she gets to give the money we would have spent on the treat to the kids. She has a special jar to keep the money in. And so far every time we bring it up, she jumps at the chance to share and give the money away. Our other thought is to come up with a list of extra tasks around the house she can do to earn money. But we have yet to come up with a chores vs extras list. That will come soon though.

Giving resources is not the only way to give to others. Sharing our time can be just as valuable as giving money. There are many opportunities to prepare and serve meals at shelters. Or spending time with an elderly neighbor who doesn't have family around. The act doesn't have to be huge. Need ideas? Check out this month long calendar with a small way to give back to others every day.

How are you sharing with others this season or throughout the year?

 

New sibling introductions

Chantal Standafer

After Gaby was born we were so excited to get to know her. It really wasn’t much different after Boyd was born, at least at first. But then visiting hours began and it wasn’t just the two of us bonding with our newborn anymore. We were eager to introduce the siblings to each other.

We prepped Gaby for her baby brother’s arrival as best as we could. At twenty one months old, we knew there was a limit as to how much she would understand. But she expressed excitement and wanted to talk to her brother in my belly. She also loved reading her big sister books and asked me to read them over and over again. So maybe my hopes were a little high for what would happen when she met him at the hospital.

When Gaby arrived at the hospital with her aunt and grandmother, my husband went out to get her and bring her in. We wanted to have some time to introduce the kiddos to each other before the rest of the family came to meet the little guy. While I expected her to smile and want to engage him immediately, that is not at all what happened. She stayed in her daddy’s arms, staring at her brother who was resting in the bassinet. They began chatting about baby and she perked up when she heard that he was “baby Boyd,” since we had been talking about him, by name, for months.  She accepted the offer to touch him, and then really just wanted to play.

We made sure to have some special things for her that day. I had packed a new book of stickers for her, since at the time she absolutely loved stickers. We also shared some of our snacks that we had packed in the hospital bag. I asked her grandmother to bring some of our favorite books. So we spent some good time together snuggled on the bed reading those books, both just the two of us as well as with baby brother.

As the day went on, she would pop up by the bed or bassinet from time to time to say hi.  She decorated his hat with the stickers we gave her that day. And by the end of the afternoon she was asking to hold him. Which only lasted a few seconds before she was ready to bounce off the chair and play something else. But before doing that she would tell us who would hold him next.

So while the day did not go exactly as I had planned, it went well. Gaby had some time to meet her brother first before the rest of the family and friends came to visit. She was able to take some time to play and adjust to having him in the room. And when she was ready, she was able to hold him, with our help!

How do you anticipate the sibling introduction to go? What was your experience like?

 

 

 

New Beginnings: Preparing a Toddler for a Sibling

Laura Hahn

D and his best bud, Daniel Tiger.

D and his best bud, Daniel Tiger.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second, I knew that one of the biggest things I’d need to prepare for before her arrival was getting my son acclimated to (and hopefully excited about) the idea of becoming a big brother. Each child reacts differently, but the age at which they become an older sibling seems to make a difference as well. Younger than 2 may be a bit young for them to get a full grasp beforehand of what’s about to happen, but since I knew my son would be 2.5 years old, we’ve been able to prepare him for months, and as of now (a couple weeks pre-baby), he seems to be getting it and has even expressed excitement! Here are a few things we’ve done to help prepare him for the big day:

  1. Give him books about becoming a big brother. He got three big brother books for Christmas, and we’ve been reading them to him consistently. We like the ones we’ve chosen for him since they are practical--they give a glimpse of what life will be like when the baby comes home, and we’ll be able to refer back to the book if/when a similar situation occurs.

  2. Show him the Daniel Tiger episodes when he becomes a big brother. I don’t know about your kid, but mine is obsessed with Daniel Tiger. He listens to his songs before bed (available on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon), has a few of his books, and went to see Daniel Tiger Live a few weeks ago as a special treat for his last days as an only child. He loves relating to Daniel and talking about what he does in the episodes, and seeing him become a big brother has definitely helped him grasp the idea of what that means. Darian even exclaimed, “I’m going to be a big brother soon!” while watching an episode. We’ll most likely be singing Daniel’s jingles non-stop once his sister comes, including, “you can be a big helper in your family” and “there’s time for you and baby, too.”

  3. Talk to him about his sibling, being a brother, and being a big helper. Repetition is key in getting a child to understand something, so we’ve been talking for months about Darian becoming a brother and asking him where his baby sister is (“in mommy’s belly”). He has come to many of my OB appointments, where he helps out by putting the doppler on my belly and checking his sister's heartbeat. He also claims he’s a big boy rather than a baby when we ask him, so hopefully this distinction will keep his jealousy at bay since he’s a big helper and can do lots of things babies can’t do. Some friends have attested that stressing the “big kid” aspect has helped tremendously. 

  4. Test run his reaction by holding a friend’s baby. While at a play date, I held my friend’s baby in front of D to see how he would react. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to mind at all! I talked to him about it and he knew that I was holding a baby, and that he had to be very gentle. However, on a different occasion when I was playing with another child around his age, he became very jealous and acted out. I’m hoping this is a sign that he sees a baby as non-threatening since she’s not his peer, and that he’ll view her from the older caretaker side. I’ve heard this to be the case for kids a bit older as well, especially since they’re into specific things and baby toys aren’t really appealing to them.

Of course, all of these things are abstract until the day he actually becomes a big brother, so we’ll see how much they helped when the day finally comes. When he visits us in the hospital, we'll be sure the baby will be in the bassinet instead of one of us holding her, so he doesn't get possessive. His sister will also “give” him a present so they start off on a generous foot. Thankfully, the first few weeks we’ll have grandparents in town, so he will have undivided attention from an adult through the transition.

For those with multiple children, how else have you prepared your children for their new siblings?

 

 

The 25 Best Parent Hacks

Laura Hahn

An example of a onesie with an envelope neck. 

An example of a onesie with an envelope neck. 

Whether you're a first time mom or a seasoned parent with multiple children, we can all benefit from a few parent-related hacks that can make our lives even a little bit easier with kids. I scrounged up the best tried-and-true tips I could find from parents who use these daily (they start from infancy and go toward toddlerhood). Add yours to the comments! 

1. The onesies with a wide envelope neck are designed to be pulled down over your baby's shoulders and off their body in the case of a diaper blow out, so you don't need to pull soiled clothes over their head. 

2. For newborns in a baby bathtub: put a towel behind them and roll both sides lengthwise to act as a buffer (looks like the baby is a hotdog and the towel is a hotdog bun). The towel prevents them from sliding and holds heat against them.

3. Change the nursery lights to work on a dimmer, or use an LED candle you can turn on and off for middle of the night feedings or diaper changes.

4. Use a mobile app like Total Baby or BabyConnect to keep track of feeding, sleeping, diapers, medication, and more. This is especially handy the first few months when the pediatrician asks about timing and how many wet diapers the baby has a day. If you’re nursing, it also tracks which side you last nursed from so you don’t forget. You can also track doctor’s appointments, milestones, and more.

5. Throw away poop diapers in grocery store produce bags or dog poop bags to keep the stink at bay in your trash can. You can even place a bunch of the bags in an empty wipes container for easy access.

6. Make a portable changing station with diapers, wipes, cream and a foldable changing pad in a basket so you don’t have to go to baby's room every time to change a diaper.

7. DIY crib protectors for teething babies are super easy and sew free--cut a piece of fleece and tie together between the slats. Instructions here.

8. If your kid loves keys, go to the hardware store and ask if they have any messed up keys they were cutting, or get a few uncut keys (to reduce the number of sharp edges). Get a ring to hold them together and you have another set for baby without worrying where your real keys are.

9. Attach a plastic hook to the back of the highchair to hang bibs for immediate access before meals.

10. Use lanolin as chapstick or on dry/chapped skin.

11. Instead of microwaving your coffee every hour (because who has the chance to drink it all in one sitting?), keep it in an insulated travel mug so it stays warm for hours.

12. Use a mesh laundry bag when washing baby socks to prevent losing them.

13. Keep 2 tupperware bins in your child’s closet, one labeled for outfits too big, and one for too small. When an outfit is outgrown, throw it in the “too small” bin and see if you can replace it with one from the “too big” bin. Items in the “too small” bin can then be given away or labeled by size for future use with another child!

14. Use an over the door shoe holder to organize hats, leg warmers, tiny shoes, and other accessories. You can also use a smaller holder in the car to hold wipes and toys.

15. Use a pizza cutter to quickly and easily cut your child’s food.

16. Use binder clips to keep bibs fastened to prevent kiddos from pulling them off.

17. To prevent your toddler from falling asleep in the car or stroller (so you can make it home and put them down for a real nap instead of a 20 min power nap and then them never sleeping again), give them a small Dum Dum lollipop to keep them awake.

18. Color in the white scuff marks on your kid's shoes with a crayon or sharpie. 

19. Use coffee filters to hold dry finger foods/snacks at home. You can buy a ton for cheap and it's super easy clean up! Works especially well when you have multiple children.

20. Turn a used lotion bottle into a faucet extender. Directions here.

21. If your toddler is starting to pull off his diaper, put him in a onesie to prevent access to it. If you don’t have anymore onesies in his size, duct tape the tabs together to keep it closed.

22. Speaking of duct tape...before they play in the snow, use it to keep your toddler’s mittens and coat sleeves together to prevent them from falling off. It’s also waterproof!

23. For girls: 4T shirts function perfectly as 2T dresses. Get some extra wear out of those clothes!

24. Cover a play table in Glad’s Press-n-Seal to protect the table and for easy clean up after arts and crafts.

25. For parents of potty trained kids, leave post its in your bag and use one to cover the toilet sensor in public restrooms so it doesn’t flush suddenly and scare your child.

Have more you want to add to the list? Write them in the comments below!

Teaching thankfulness to the kiddos

Chantal Standafer

As time passes and we quickly approach Thanksgiving (how is it only a week away??), we’ll continue with our thankfulness theme. Having previously looked at having our own thankful attitude and finding your best mom friend, this week we’ll look at teaching gratitude to our little ones.

With a very strong-willed and vocal 2-year-old running around our house, we frequently hear “I want,” followed by more “I want.” Oh, and throw in a bunch of “Mom! Mom!” It’s easy to get bogged down by the demands. (And yes, I need to take my own advice and be thankful that she can express what she wants.) But we’ve found that a great way to break out of the toddler “want” cycle is to teach about being thankful. As we work on instilling this concept in our littles, here are some things we do to teach them:

  • Thankful list: We have been teaching “please” and “thank you” in relation to asking for items, help, etc since before Gaby’s first birthday. And this lay a good foundation for her understanding the concept of being thankful. But now we’re taking it further. Instead of just saying thank you when she receives something for which she has asked, we now engage her in conversation. We ask her what she is thankful for. And oftentimes we get a list of things that are not related to that day’s activities. But that’s okay. We’re getting her thinking about what she’s done and seen during that day (and days prior) and vocalize the good things in her life.

  • Reading books: They love reading, and it’s a great way to keep them quiet and entertained for a bit. Plus, it is a great way to illustrate concepts to little ones. One of our seasonal favorites is Happy Thanksgiving, Curious George, where on the last page George is so excited to share what he is thankful for. While the rest of the book goes over the different things that go into Thanksgiving Day prep, this last part is a perfect illustration of the previous point. It’s a wonderful way to reinforce what we’re teaching and practicing at home.

  • Giving to those who need: Each year, we participate in Boxes of Love, a project to help provide Thanksgiving meals to families in need. This year I took Gaby with me to the grocery store to purchase the items needed to fill the box. As we left to go to the store, I explained to her that we are fortunate to have food to eat, at which point we talked about the snacks she likes. I continued to say that we help others who don’t have as much and need help, in this case by providing food for them. And I got her involved in finding the items in the stores and putting them in the cart (I did have to catch the cans of food that she was pitching into the basket, but well, we’re still working on being gentle). This is one step in helping her think of the positives, of what she does have, and being thankful for that.

In teaching her, it’s a great reminder to myself to practice being thankful. It will take some time for her to fully grasp the concept. But she’s learning quickly and will probably surprise me with her understanding of it way before I expect her to do so. Maybe she’ll even learn to replace “I want” with “I would like”!

How are you teaching your kids to be thankful?

 

 

Best Toys for Kids: Toddlers 1-2

Chantal Standafer

charlotte-and-asher-toddler.JPG

We try to be very selective in our toy choices and not to have too many at home, especially since space is limited when living in the city. Fortunately, Gaby loves copying everything we do and has just as much fun playing with (safe) things around the house as with her toys--at one point anything she was holding became a phone! But here’s a list of toys for 1-2 year old toddlers (and beyond) that we’ve bought or been gifted (or played with at friends’ houses) that we love:

  • Wooden Puzzles: At this age, the large wooden shapes are easy for small hands to grab, plus they can’t be torn apart like cardboard puzzles. They’re good tools for learning colors and objects, as well as developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

  • Blocks: We have so many favorite kinds of blocks, including traditional wooden blocks, nesting blocks, and bristle blocks. All are great for building. The nesting ones also help teach order while the bristle blocks encourage problem solving because they have to go together in certain orientations.

  • Shape Sorting Blocks: Perfect for teaching shapes and colors, as well as working on hand-eye coordination.  

  • Bubbles: These seem magical to little ones, and sticking the wand into the bottle is great for working on hand-eye coordination. They’re also great because it gets us outside even more for playtime.

  • Crayons+Easel: Helps children get started toward coloring and writing, even if nothing they make is recognizable for quite a while. Also, it’s a great way to teach colors, shapes, etc., and it helps develop fine motor skills. We have a table-top easel whose compact size is very convenient to tuck away when not in use. We found that using jumbo crayons helps prevent the tiny broken pieces of the regular sized crayons. If you prefer, you can go with colored pencils, markers, or paint, but the latter two can be a bit messier.

  • Books: We love reading books! They help with language acquisition, plus we can talk about the pictures. Gaby has had many favorites over the course of the year, including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (alphabet), Ten Little Ladybugs (counting), Brown Bear (colors and animals) and Little Blue Truck (animals and sounds). At this age, we still use both board books and paperbacks, with the latter used more under adult supervision in order to prevent them being ripped apart.

  • Bath Toys: Bath time is great for so many reasons--contained area for the toddler to play, gets the child clean, plus time to learn about water. There are so many options for bath toys. We love cups or ones with holes to teach the little ones about water flow, as well as animal squirters and foam ones that stick to the wall.

  • Magnetic Letters: These are great for teaching the different letters of the alphabet, plus you can also use these to teach colors. Also, because only one side is magnetic, they force children to work on their problem solving skills. They’re also great for occupying the little one while mom or dad is busy in the kitchen! Some versions repeat the names of the letters, the sounds they make and sing songs. You can’t go wrong either way, the kids love this activity!

  • Play Instruments: A great way to introduce more music into their lives. It’s even possible to teach a few songs since some of them have songs programmed into them or come with instructions for playing simple songs. Most children love music and a play instrument is a great toy to get their creative juices flowing.

Which is your favorite? What other toys does your young toddler love?

 

Flying with Two Kids

Chantal Standafer

On Labor Day I went on my first airplane trip with the two kids--alone. I wasn’t overly worried about caring for Boyd on the plane since we’d already become pretty good at flying with an infant when Gaby was little. But doing most things with two kids is still fairly new to me. I was pretty nervous about how the trip would turn out, and I tried to plan and prepare as much as possible in the days leading up to the trip. So besides my normally stocked diaper bag, here's what I did to help with being stuck on two airplanes with an infant and a toddler for almost an entire day: 

GENERAL

  • Checked luggage. I checked as much of our things as possible, and this included the car seats. And we didn't bring a stroller because my parents have one at their house. I decided that the less I had to keep track of and carry around, the better.

  • Carry-on luggage. I brought my diaper bag and a small rolling suitcase. The diaper bag contained all of my essentials for feeding, changing and entertaining the kids, while my suitcase was stocked with extras of everything, including a change of clothes for myself (you never know when you’ll have a diaper blowout or be covered in spit up!). During our layover I took the time to restock my diaper bag supply of wipes, diapers and snacks, and I swapped out the toys in the diaper bag for ones in the suitcase.

TODDLER

  • Prepped Gaby before the trip. We explained to her that we were going on an airplane to visit her grandparents. We also talked with her about being a helper and obeying when asked to do things. This wasn’t different from what we expect from her on a daily basis, but because we would be out of our normal environment and routine, it was good to have a reminder and establish expectations ahead of time.

  • Snacks. Packed lots of snacks, and a large variety of them. While Gaby usually doesn’t snack throughout the day, travel days are exceptions. She didn’t really have normal meals, and I had to be ok with doling out way more snacks than usual.

  • Drinks. I packed Gaby’s water bottle so I didn’t have to worry about spills. But she loves drinking out of cups, so I got her a cup with a little water in it each time the in flight service was available. She was so excited about this and it kept her entertained for a while each time.

  • Headphones. Gaby loves music (and the occasional TV show), and while she likes the idea of earbuds, she really won't tolerate them. I found some great volume control children sized headphones online. When they arrived in the mail I showed them to her and tested them with one of her favorite songs and they were an instant hit. But even though she asked to use them frequently before the trip, I kept them as something special and told her they were for using on the trip. She was so excited to use them on the plane, and the video and music entertained her for a large chunk of our first flight.

  • Gift wrapped toys. A friend suggested this, and it worked marvelously. It made toys that we already owned and played with special again. Gaby loves opening things, and this made the lifespan of the toys and the excitement last longer.

INFANT

  • Infant carrier. Boyd spent most of the day in the carrier, leaving me with both hands completely free to keep a toddler under wrap, as well as to carry my bags through the airport.

  • Feed during takeoff and landing. Boyd ended up being hungry during takeoff and landing three out of four times, so he nursed during those times, and the other time had his pacifier. This helped him clear his ears as the pressure changed, and he did not whine at all, at least not due to plugged ears. (I know that this is harder for some babies, but this has worked for both of our kids).

Overall the day went smoothly. And while I'm not ready to hop on a plane again tomorrow, I'm confident that the return trip next week will go well, too!

How do you keep your kids busy on the airplane? What other tips do you have?