Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Favorite Books - 18m - 2yrs

Continuing the previous posts, here are some of my favorite books for kids 18m - 2yrs. Early toddlers all of the sudden catch a sense of humor. They "get" that something is funny, or sounds funny, or rhymes (or doesn't). Some of the early Seuss board books (not the regular Seuss yet), Doreen Crownan, and Laura Numeroff are all good authors for this age group. For "stories" keep them short (a few words per page) and feel free to condense the story to keep up with your toddler's attention span. Toddlers are increasingly able to learn by example at this age, so keep an eye on what behavior the books are modeling (and whether you are ok with that as a parent). At our house we love some Mo Willems books, but NOT "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" because we felt like it didn't show a behavior that we wanted Tot #1 or #2 to mimic. This is purely a personal choice and we may very well be reading too much into what they can pick up from a book, but it is something to think about as you choose books for this age group and beyond.

Some are still board books, but we're starting to dabble in "real" books. The decision of board book vs. hardcover vs. paperback it totally up to you, but be aware, the board book versions of regular books (such as the Dr. Suess books) are condensed versions of the full stories.

Here are some of my favorites:

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Favorite Books - 12 - 18m

A continuation from the last post, here are some of my favorite books for kids 12 - 18m.

For the 12-18m set, my favorites are all books that encourage curiosity, language and parent/child interaction. Board books with basic vocabulary and big, clear pictures are always a big hit. These are all books that they may still be reading when they're two or three - they will just be getting something different out of it at that age. As with any tool, you are going to get as much out of it as you put into it. The more repetition and interaction the faster their little brains can build the association of the sound of the words you're saying and the pictures. As much as you can, stick to board books for this age group, since the lack of fine motor control can lead to a lot of ripped pages otherwise. All of my favorites (except the last one) are still board books.

Here are my favorites:

My Favorite Books - 0-12m

As the holidays roll around and I start planning gifts for friends and family, I've been thinking about my favorite books for different age groups.

For the 0-12m set, my favorites are all board books or cloth books. Minimal words, lots of touchy-feely things. If you've ever tried to read to a very young baby, it's not all that exciting. If your lucky they'll sit there while you turn the pages. If you're unlucky, they'll just cry the whole time. Giving them something to do while in between turning the pages (like touchy feely bits, textures, etc.) makes everything go a lot more smoothly.

Here are my favorites:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brr! It's getting cold outside!

Ok, so up until today (which is 63 degrees) it has been getting progressively colder in NYC. It was cold enough that last week I broke out the winter gear - hats, mittens, boots, coats and "bundlers." This week is devoted to some of my favorite winter gear.

As a bit of background, I'm originally from Minnesota so a New York winter is a little bit like a really cruel joke. It gets good and cold, snows a little and then it rains and rains and rains. So not only are you cold, but you (and everyone you're toting around) are good and wet. Because cold, wet moms, babies and toddlers are so much fun. Really.

So let's be realistic. A snowsuit in New York City is overkill. It rarely gets cold enough to warrant having one take up that much storage space in your front hall closet (that is if you're lucky enough to even HAVE a front hall closet). Also, if you're going outside you're probably not going to be out long enough to need it - a quick walk here or there and then back home. But you do need something - because they'll kick off that stroller blanket lickety split as soon as you step out the door and they figure out that you're going to put the rain cover on. That's were the beauty of the Urban Bundle Me comes in.

This is one of my all-time favorite baby gear items. The simple elastic and velcro closures on the back enables it to works (with a little creativity) with almost every car seat and stroller out there.

There is plenty of room for an extra blanket (or snow pants) inside if you need it. Also, the top "blanket" of the BundleMe easily zips off for warmer days. But that zipper also ensures that on cold days you can zip it right up to their chin and (until they figure out how to do zippers) they're bundled in all snug and all warm.

Oh yeah, and it goes in the washer AND the dryer.

You can usually find it for less than $40 - $70 on JJ Cole Urban Toddler Bundle Me">Amazon.com - especially if you're flexible about color.

A great tip - skip the infant size and go for the toddler size. At most, you'll only use the infant size for a year, but you can tuck the extra fabric from the toddler size in and get 2-4 years worth of wear out of it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Quick Favs - Travel Changer

The Pronto Travel Changer is the very best changer I've come across. Compact enough for a diaper bag/backpack/stroller, just enough pockets for the essentials (wipes, diapers, etc.). Perfect for changing in the park, in the airport, or - God forbid - an airplane bathroom. At $30 it's a little expensive, but totally worth it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Alert! $10 Pajamas at Gymboree!

OK - I'll admit it. Occasionally... once in a while... indeed very, very rarely, I am a sucker for a sale. Usually the same sale.

About 3-4 times a year Gymboree has their big baby sale. Everything over $20 is marked down to $20. Everything $10 - $19.75 is marked down to $10. Plus you get Gymbucks which are always fun.

I LOVE the Gymboree pajamas. They are 100% cotton, super soft and they wear well (wash after wash after wash). At $10 a set ($8 if you remember to bring that 20% off Gymboree coupon you got in the mail) you can't beat the price. In fact, stock up for winter because you won't find a better price (until the next time they run the Baby Sale).

They also have some other really cute things for fall. Like this great little fleece-lined faux fur bunny jacket ($20 or $16 with the coupon).

They also just launched a monkey collection for little girls (3m - 5T). The colors are classic adult fall colors (burnt orange, yellow)...that is to say they are ugly, but they'll hide a lot of fall playground grime. The monkeys are pretty cute and Tot #1 pretty much refuses to wear anything else.

Good tip - if your local Gymboree store is out of stock on the size or style you want, ask them to order it for you from the warehouse. After about 5 minutes on the phone, they will arrange for it to be sent directly to you and you won't have to pay shipping (if you mention that you got the direct mail piece they'll give you the 20% off as well).

Quick Favs - High Chair to Go

Hands down my favorite travel/spare highchair. It actually folds even more compactly and one of the straps becomes a handle. Great for playdates, keeping in the trunk for restaurants, or for Grandma's house - especially if she lives in an apartment or just doesn't want the enormous highchair kickin' around her kitchen when you're not there. We often take this out to restaurants for our 9m old Tot #2 to use since it gives the back support (and security) that the restaurant high chairs seem to lack. Tot #1 also loves to sit in it to eat, draw, play playdoh or watch Grandma bake. Oh yeah - it's also $19.99!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Favorite Books - Slide and Peek! by Amazing Baby

The tots both love this book. It is fun to read and easy for big chunky fingers to move since the sliders go in a circular pattern instead or up/down or side/side. Unlike most of the other touchy-feely baby books, it is almost indestructible. Now I just have to keep Tot #1 from stealing it out of Tot #2's book basket...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Quick Favs - Oh my achin' knees!

If these bath kneelers EVER come back in stock on Amazon (I've been waiting for my 2nd set for the in-laws house for 2 months) order them!  They are the best ones I've tried.  They are extra cushy and even have a removable insert in the upper part so you can use on a tub with sliding doors.  They come in 5 colors (the four shown plus graphite).  They are totally worth $35.

Quick Favs - Travel Bouncer

I LOVE this travel bouncer from One Step Ahead.  It has all the features of a regular boucner (vibration, music, etc.), easily folds/unfolds, stows in a handy carrying bag and is light enough to schlepp to a playdate a 1/4 mile away (or throw in the back seat of your car).  This was key for Tot #2 at Tot #1's playdates.  Also, at $39.95 you can't beat the price!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Review: Boon Squirt feeding spoon

Ah, Boon.  Beautiful contemporary design.  Continued botched execution.  Ok, so that could be the review right there.  Here is the long version.

The Boon Squirt spoon is a great concept.  A spoon that self fills so you don't have to keep dipping it into the baby food jar.  Brilliant!  

Except: a) you need two hands to unscrew it or fill it or take the storage cap off the spoon part, b) you can only fill it with very smooth foods (i.e. 1st foods), c) you need to use a spoon to get the baby food into the Squirt, and d) if you're serving cereal you'll need to mix it in a bowl with a spoon then load it in the Squirt.  When you have a hungry baby howling for dinner a) and b) are deal breakers.  Also, if you do the math, c) and d) just made more dirty dishes for you. 

Again, it is always easier to find faults in something versus design it perfectly.  I just wish Boon would put these concepts or models in front of a focus group of moms before they bring them to market so they could engineer around these pitfalls.  Then what was a great, innovative concept could really be a solid meal changing invention (no pun intended).  Instead it is just another baby spoon in the back of the drawer.

Review: Phil&Ted Wriggle Wrapper

The Need:  Something small enough to fit in a purse/diaperbag that can substitute for a highchair.

The Solution: The Wriggle Wrapper 

(no, that's not me in the photo, this is stock footage)

I just ordered the P&T Wriggle Wrapper and LOVE it.  It is a simple, compact solution for wrangling a squirmy baby/small toddler. This is a great solution for when a kid who is too small for a high chair, no high chair is available or when the high chair in question is, well, questionable. 

We used it in a restaurant for breakfast, in an airport lounge, sitting at the table reading the paper and just about anywhere else we could think of.  For all the on-lap applications it was great.  Easy to put on (even one handed), easy to adjust, comfortable for the tot (who is psyched to be sitting on your lap AND at the table) and easy to wipe clean.

Apparently you can also use it alone on a chair or as a substitute for a crib/bedrail, but we haven't (and probably won't) test those options out.  For the "hand's free" option alone it has more than earned it's keep.  I would put this on my "must have" list for parents of 2 under 2.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Get your ass to the gym! (just kidding)

So almost every mom I know (and a lot of dads) are struggling to get back in shape after having a baby.  I should preface this with the fact that I don't love the gym.  Not bad, just expensive, time consuming and impossible to do with kids (unless you have a gym with kid care and even then, ew....).  I figured for the $150/month that I saved in dropping my gym membership, over a few months I could get some great gear to stay in shape.  Here's the short list of what I bought and love.

In addition to having a great back story about how the company came about and excellent customer service, they have a great product.  It is basically a pedometer, but it judges your distance based on the number of times your stroller wheel rotates.  It gives you just the right number of stats - speed (current, max, ave), trip distance, trip time, daily mileage, temp and time.  Its a great incentive to walk a few more blocks to hit that next mile.  Its also rewarding at the end of the day to realize how far you walked.

This was a reco from my husband's trainer who uses this with clients in the park or at the gym. It is a great one piece "gym" that you can use any where and fits in a 9" x 5" bag that you can throw in the closet.  All you need is a solid door that closes, backyard swing set rig, big tree branch or pull-up bar in the park.  The workout is simple enough for beginners and adjustable for someone more advanced.  Plus you can do a little and still feel the results.  Or do a lot and be very, very sore.  Great for a mini workout while the tots nap.

If you've ever taken a Pilates class this is a great primer/refresher.  With ratings on each pose from Beginner to Very Advanced it is easy to find something that will work for you.  It is meant to be done as a longer sequence of poses, but it is a great book to keep around the playroom so you can get a few poses in while you play with the tots.  It asks for a good degree of body awareness and visualization which is fantastic for true fans of Pilates, but if you're truly a beginner this might not be a good choice for you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Adventures in Potty Training: Part 2 - Potty To Go

Ah, every parents' favorite words 5-10 minutes after you leave home (or 5 minutes after the plane takes off)..."need to go potty!!"  Unless you're traveling in an RV - and even if you are - this poses a problem.   You can either ignore it - at your peril - or find a place for them to do their business.

Oh, but what about a potty seat?  Do I put it in my trunk and haul it around? No.   Here are two great options for potty-on-the-go.
At under $9, weighing less than a pound and folding small enough to fit in your diaper bag (or handbag) this is a great potty seat.  Folds down to about 5" x 6" x 2" so fits easily in a gallon size plastic bag with none of the "dirty" side touching the "clean" side.  If you rejigger your Skip*Hop Pronto changer you can put this in the mesh section, diapers/pull-ups in the zippered section, and a small pack of wipes in the outer zip pocket, a Charmin mini-travel toilet paper in the mesh toggle pocket on the outside and you've got a full changing/potty kit.

I also like that this has handles in the front for those times when the tot needs something to hang on to or brace on (preferable not the edges of the dirty toilet seat).  This is my favorite for size, weight, price and ease of use.  All you need is a toilet.

So what if you don't have a toilet - like if you're in a park or on the highway or find an extraordinarily long line for the one working toilet at a rest stop (which looks disgusting)...here is a full potty-to-go ("flushing" included).

For $16, including 3 liner refills, you have an instant potty.  No toilet needed.  Refills are about $0.50 a piece so you don't want to make this your everyday potty, but if you find yourself without a toilet you - and your little trainee - will be glad you had one.

If you're in the park (or by the side of the highway) and are pretty sure that the tot is only going to make #1, then you can skip the bag altogether.  Double bonus - you can flip the legs out and it become a toilet-top potty seat.

I keep this in a Skip*Hop Saddlebag on the side of my double stroller just in case we need a potty at the park. 

Just like any potty chair it can be difficult from some kids to get used to a new potty.  I would recommend a daily in-home test drive for a week or two before you travel just to get everyone comfortable.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Adventures in Potty Training: Part 1 - My Big Girl/Boy Potty

So we're in full potty training mode at our house.  It all started so innocently about three months ago when Tot #1 was 18m old and came across a copy of Alona Frankel's classic "Once Upon A Potty."  After initially skipping through most of it, all of the sudden Tot #1 got REALLY into it.  We had to read it every time she took a nap.  And every time she went to bed.  I'll admit we - as parents - got a little into it too.  We used some WiteOut to replace the name with our daughter's and to fix the terms to be those we use (I just never grew up saying "pee-pee" and didn't really want my daughter to...).

This of course, means new gear...

We started with the classic.  This is a great, basic, easy to clean potty chair.  Not too high so it's not scary - at just 20 months, Tot #1 can sit down by herself on it.  The "bowl" lifts out so you don't have to carry the entire chair everytime they go.  It also has a nice high back so your tot can sit back while you all wait for his/her moment.  

We keep our potty on a plastic drop cloth that we previously used under the highchair.  Even with the best intentions sometimes you just make a mess.

We keep a basket of books, Huggies Clean Team flushable wipes, Pampers Easy Ups, and "big girl undies" next to the potty.   More on "undies" vs. pull-ups in a later post.

Next we bought a couple of the these seats to put on our regular toilets to get her used to the concept of going on a real toilet.  The
 hole is very similar in dimension to the aforementioned Potty Chair so the transition between the two - from a tush positioning perspective - is fairly easy.

We recently came across these while on vacation and they were a big hit with the Tot.  Maybe it is because she loves ducks.  Maybe she just associates it with vacation.  Either way, if it makes her want to use the potty we're pretty psyched.  If you can put up with the goofiness factor, it is about $10 cheaper than the Baby Bjorn seat.  You just have to live with a slightly goofy yellow duck in your bathroom (a little more expensive, but it also comes in pink or blue).  But since you end up owning a potty seat either way, does it matter if it's a little goofy?  Probably not.  Besides anything that makes your kids want to use the potty is a plus, right?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Review: Skip*Hop Swipe

The new Skip*Hop Swipe is my new best friend.  I don't know why no one thought of this before, but kudos to Skip*Hop for another product that is not only modern and stylish, but conveniently meets the everyday needs of parents.

With 2 kids - heck, with one kid - I've always hated having to rifle through my diaper bag to get at the wipes every time I need to clean messy hands, runny noses, or miscellaneous nastiness off my stroller.  It is easy to snap on to the handle bar of any stroller, but I love this so much I bought one for each stroller.

It also easily opens you can quickly refill it with your wipes of choice.  No more hunting around for travel-size packs of wipes.  Woo hoo!

My only minor complaint is that it is tricky to get the red button completely closed so if you don't use it for a while your wipes can dry out.  We go through wipes at a fast enough rate that this isn't an issue at our house.  The trick to closing it is to slide the red button all the way down and then gently push it in towards the wipes until you feel a "click."

If you don't own one of these yet you should go buy one (Amazon.com and Magic Beans carry it or you can buy it directly from the Skip*Hop website).  It really is fantastic.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hospital Bag

Ok, so I'm going to break the "strictly baby gear" rule already.  A few of my pregnant friends recently asked me what you need to have in your bag for the hospital.  Here are the essentials.  Pack it at least 4 weeks before your due date.  In fact, while you're thinking about it, pack it now.  Make sure your husband/partner/significant other/labor coach knows where it is.  Maybe just park it by your front door (or toss it in your car).

Small bag for Labor and delivery:

  • Plastic bag of Essentials (copies of hospital paperwork, insurance card, doula/doctor/pediatrician names and phone numbers)
  • Clear hard candies in flavors you like (life savers, jolly ranchers, etc.)*
  • Gatorade (powder mix if you can find it)*
  • Large bottle of water (~1L)
  • Bendable straws
  • Extra hair bands
  • Camera
  • Flip flops
  • Chapstick
  • Magazines, Book or iPod w/ headphones (you could be there a while and might need a distraction)
  • 2 Pillows with COLORED pillow cases
  • Eye glasses (if you have them)
  • Exercise ball and pump (if you’re using one)
  • Gum and bland snacks (for your Significant Other)

* if your OB will let you have them.  Make sure to ask at your next appointment

Small Suitcase for your stay in Maternity:


  • Cardigan or zip hoodie
  • Lightweight cotton bathrobe
  • Medela Comfort Nursing bra (1-2)
  • Underwear (3-4)
  • Nursing nightgown (1-2)
  • Toiletries (shampoo/conditioner, body wash, hair stuff, a little blush + lip gloss for pictures, extra contacts + saline, deodorant)
  • Outfit to wear home (not involving pants/tights/leggings)
  • Balance Bars or some other pre-packaged snacks
  • Cellphone charger

Significant Other (if they are "rooming in" with you during your stay in Maternity):

  • Underwear (1-2)
  • T-shirt (1-2)
  • PJ pants
  • Flip flops


  • Outfit to wear home (sleep suit or similar coverage)
  • Outerwear (depending on the season - a sweater for spring/summer or a jacket, hat, mittens for fall/winter)
  • Carseat

Have Someone  - i.e your parents or a close friend - Bring You:

  • FOOD and SNACKS (hospital food really is terrible)
  • Bottled water (4-6, 20oz+ size bottles are best)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Contractions Anyone?

Ok, so this isn't gear, but this contraction timing tool is fantastic!  Practice a few times before you need it just to see how the tool works.  It will take a little while to get the hang of what a full contraction feels like (beginning, ending), but you’ll catch on pretty quickly.  On the big day, this is best used on a laptop so you can have it at your fingertips.  You can also print out your results to share with your doctor or nurse when you get to the hospital.  So when you say your contractions are now 3 minutes apart, they might believe you a little more quickly...