Non-Plastic Toys Kids Actually Like

I’ve read enough granola-mom blogs and books to know how much hip parents love “handcrafted” wooden toys that are “simple” and “curated.” And listen, I am all for eliminating as much plastic from my house as possible. The more I read about plastic, the more I cringe. But finding non-plastic toys my kids actually like playing with is harder than it sounds.

When Nolan was 8 months old and we celebrated his first Christmas, I bought these adorable plain wooden teething toys on Etsy. They were not cheap. He did not play with them once, but my dog enjoyed chewing them, thereby creating dangerous splintered wooden weapons which had to be tossed.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve rounded up some of my kids’ favorite non-obnoxious toys. No plastic, no batteries, no earplugs required.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Stacking Blocks – I love that these nest and don’t take up a lot of space when they’re all together. They aren’t made of the thickest cardboard in the world, so if your kid steps on them they could bend, but we gave them to Will for Christmas and he still absolutely loves them.

Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacker –  Nolan received this as a gift when he was a toddler and now Will loves them too. I find it therapeutic to put them together!

Plan Toys Shape and Sort It Out – this is good for the 1-2 year range. Again, I like that everything can be kept in the box and Will likes that the pieces are very loud when hurled across the room.

Hape Alphabet Abacus – the description on this toy says it’s for 3-5 year olds, but I found it was popular from about 8-14 months and then again at age 2 or 3 when Nolan started recognizing letters and sounds.

Hape Fix It Toolbox – I’m cheating a little here because I think the little screws are plastic. Huge hit with Nolan when he turned 3 and he still plays with it today.  Now Will plays with it sometimes too (read: throws the screws under the couch).

What are your kids favorite toys? Share them below!

Sanity Saver: The Purgatory Drawer

When Nolan was a baby, we did a pretty good job of preventing his stuff from taking over our house. We kept it mostly contained in a corner of the living room and hidden away in a built-in cabinet. Fast forward four years, a new house, another baby, and our house looks like a Target toy department after it has been picked over on Black Friday.

As he approaches five, Nolan’s memory has sharpened to a fine point, and I find removing stuff harder and harder. “Where is the purple paper I drew a pattern on last August? It was right here on the far corner of my dresser six months ago collecting dust.”

I'm worried he's going to end up like this kid!
I’m worried he’s going to end up like this kid!

I’ve recently created The Purgatory Drawer (a kitchen drawer he never opens full of pots). Right now it’s mostly used for school papers and projects I’m fairly sure he won’t miss. Some old toys go in there too, though, and after a week or so if he hasn’t asked about them, into the garbage they go.

What are your tips for tackling the STUFF?

 

A Year with Will

It all started when I thought I peed my pants. It turned out to be my water breaking and a few hours later, Will was here. I’ve written about his birth story and Design Mom was kind enough to share it on her site. Now, we’ve had a full year with him and it has been nothing short of joyful.

IMG_3906This kid. What can I say? He loves EVERYTHING. If I had to make a list of his favorite things (aside from his family members), I would probably narrow it down to:

  1. closing doors
  2. touching the toilet
  3. putting things in the garbage
  4. eating leaves
  5. playing with (tormenting) Baxter

IMG_3930After a cranky first month or two, he has been a total dream. I’ve done things I said I’d never do like co-sleep, take selfies with him, and neglect to document any of his milestones (#secondchildproblems), but all in all, it has been a great year.

IMG_3898 One of his most remarkable qualities is how well he entertains himself. This time around we invested in a baby jail. It is multi-colored plastic and pretty much takes over our entire living room, but it’s worth it. There are times he plays by himself for over an hour in there.

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Even though the month leading up to his birth was marked by moving, unpacking, finishing renovations, and starting Nolan in a new school, his birth and my time in the hospital was actually really peaceful.
IMG_4256It was totally wild weather with torrential, hurricane-like rain as we drove to the hospital, and then unseasonably freezing temperatures during my stay and release. It was in the 20s when we headed home!

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I was lucky that I didn’t share a room for most of my time in the hospital. I have vivid memories of being alone with Will in the early morning, looking out the window at the beautiful treetops of Huntington Bay.  I can’t say enough how lovely everyone at Huntington Hospital was.
IMG_4471The hospital food? Not lovely.  Matt kindly brought me lots of my local favorites and now every time I eat those foods, I fondly think of Will’s birth. Not to make my son’s birthday sound like a Yelp review, but get yourself a Sausalito sandwich from Sapsuckers, a cappuccino from Southdown Coffee, and a chocolate croissant from Fiorello Dolce. You won’t regret it. IMG_4518

So back to Will. Smiley doesn’t begin to describe how joyful he is. Snuggly, affectionate, giggly, and so loving. Everything Nolan does makes him laugh. If he’s cranky or crying, Nolan can make a silly face and all is forgotten. If that fails, we bring him over to Baxter and Will happily “pets” him while Baxter looks at me pleadingly. IMG_4594

Seriously, couldn’t you just cuddle that all day?? I know I could! Because I have! IMG_4608

So cheers to our little one. And to another year ahead filled with his laughs and smiles. Cue the onslaught of happy baby pictures (and one crying picture)!
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Do iPads belong in a library?

How much screen time kids get is among the top hot-button issues in the parenting and education worlds. I have thoughts about screen time (so many thoughts!) but I’ll save those for another post. Today, I’m really curious to know your thoughts about computers and iPads in libraries, specifically in the children’s section.

We are fortunate to live down the block from a wonderful library. The children’s section is large with two huge wooden trains that the kids can climb in and play on; there is a spacious area with blocks and other quiet toys, and obviously there are tons of books. There is also a large bank of computers, which recently was replaced mostly with iPads mounted to the table. The iPads are equipped with different children’s games and apps. When Nolan was younger and would ask to play on the computers or iPads, my standard response was, “That’s not what we come to the library for.” That seemed to satisfy him and he would happily play with something else and look for books. Now that’s he’s four and a half…it’s not enough.

My stock answer isn’t cutting it anymore because he doesn’t use one at home either. I know I’m fighting off the inevitable, but we have thus far kept iPads and computers out of the mix for him. It’s not that I think they’re evil, but I know what’s coming down the pike. Schools are being outfitted with iPads and Chromebooks, and many districts have one-to-one programs where the kids are in front a screen most of the day. I wish I were exaggerating.

Yesterday we visited the library and as I poked around in the Thanksgiving section, I could hear him a few aisles away talking to another child and chatting with a librarian. Then it was quiet for a minute or two and I headed over to find him. Where was he? Furiously tapping away on an iPad, trying to figure out a Cat in the Hat game. I let him play for a minute or two and then said, “Ok, let’s go now.” Fast forward a few minutes and several persistent directives later and he is now whining while angrily stomping behind me and has lost the privilege of going to the movie section to pick out a DVD. He would not pry himself away from that damn iPad.

So my question is this, why are there iPads and computers in the children’s section? In a culture where screens are EVERYWHERE, isn’t the library a place we can go to avoid them?  I would love to know your thoughts on this! Do you think libraries are just keeping up with the times and trying to bring kids in? Should libraries be screen free? Is playing a game on an iPad the same as playing with blocks? Please leave a comment below!

Image Credit

The “Logic” of Baby Sleep

Unless you’re one of the lucky elite whose children started sleeping for twelve uninterrupted hours practically at birth, you have probably felt the maniacal desperation of wanting your kids to please. just. sleep. (If you are one of those lucky elite, you should probably maintain your distance from me, for your own safety.)

In the confused early moments of the morning, I find myself trying to assign logical reasons for why the baby didn’t sleep well that night. When I put my theories down on paper (computer screen?) ,I see that they sound like the musings of a lunatic, but that aptly describes most parents of young children; therefore, I present, Reasons My Kid Didn’t Sleep:

  1. The room was warm.
  2. The room was cold.
  3. He had socks on.
  4. He had no socks on.
  5. He had one sock on.
  6. I fed him a big dinner.
  7. He barely ate dinner.
  8. The white noise machine was a little loud.
  9. The white noise machine was too quiet.
  10. The nightlight was too bright.
  11. The room was too dark.
  12. He had only one pacifier in the crib.
  13. He had half a dozen pacifiers in the crib.
  14. He had a blanket on.
  15. He didn’t have a blanket on.
  16. I put him to bed.
  17. My husband put him to bed.
  18. A grandparent put him to bed.
  19. A babysitter he has never met put him to bed.
  20. A hobo off the street put him to bed.

The sad truth is I HAVE HAD ALL THESE THOUGHTS (okay, not #20). On the flip side, after a great night of sleep, I also search for a reason. Now I present, Reasons My Kid Slept Well:

  1. See above list

Tell me I’m not alone here, and that there are crazy reasons you make up??

 

 

More Chats with a Four-Year-Old

A while back, I shared some of the darling nuggets Nolan has said recently. Well, the list continues…

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He doesn’t quite understand the concept of secrets just yet. (See also: he hides in plain sight during hide and go seek.)

Me: How was school today?

Nolan: Not good…

Me: Why? What happened??

Nolan: Well, I can’t tell you.

Me: What can’t you tell me?

Nolan: Well, I can’t tell you that I had to go sit at the table because I was playing too rough with Ethan.


Nolan: Guess where I’m going with Daddy?!?!

Me: I don’t know, where?

Nolan: I’ll give you a hint! (Now shout-whispering in my ear) THE HOCKEY RINK!!!


On this day, Nolan demonstrated why the money spent on a kids’ art class is money well-spent:

Me: What was your favorite part of art class today?

Nolan: When I ate my granola bar.


One day in art the kids used Q-tips to trace designs in their paintings.

Me: Tell Daddy about what you did today in art.

Nolan: I used ear wax to make designs!


While eating a burger, he shows that nutrition is of paramount importance to him:

Nolan: Well I’m not liking this part. (He points to the burger.) I’m just liking the ketchup, the cheese, and the bread.


Nolan: Miss Michelle doesn’t eat meat.

Me: Oh, is she a vegetarian?

Nolan: No! She’s a teacher!


Me (pointing to some guacamole): Do you want to try some of this?

Nolan: No thank you. I don’t eat broccamole.


Even at the ripe old age of four, he sometimes has trouble keeping different body parts straight.

Nolan: Why do I have this nipple on my leg?

Me: Um, excuse me?

Nolan: This nipple, here, on my leg.

Me: The word for that is freckle.

 

 

Will’s Birth Story

I’m so honored and excited that my birth story is featured on Gabrielle Blair’s blog Design Mom. Gabrielle is a rockstar in the blogging world and a mother of six (!!!!!!). She also recently published a lovely book called Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide. It has tons of wonderful ideas and strategies for keeping a house kid-friendly while still being beautiful and functional.

Back in 2011, she published Nolan’s birth story, and last week, Will’s made its debut! Will’s birth took a completely different route than Nolan’s did, and you can read all about it here.

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