Screen-free ideas for at home activities with a 3 year old

I haven’t written a post in a really long time because I got a new part-time job and have been really busy. We are also expecting a new baby in a few weeks and I’ve been so tired and had a complicated pregnancy. I’ve been making a list of things to keep our son occupied while I’m breastfeeding the new baby, and here are some of my ideas (I’m sure they will each occupy him for about 10 minutes and then I’ll be back to square one in half a day!)

Hape lacing vehicles toy

Screen-free ideas for at home activities with a 3 year old:

  • Make a necklace with the lacing vehicles toy (this is great for fine motor skills too, and has been a surprising hit for my son starting at age 2.5)
  • Build a house with pillows on the bed
  • Play with a sticker book (we got this train one since Jack is obsessed with trains)
  • Use a coloring book
  • Throw a birthday party for a stuffed animal (wrap presents in scrap paper, make a cake with wooden food)
  • Paint with watercolors
  • Cut scrap paper
  • Play with playdough
  • Sensory play with beans, ice cubes, nuts etc
  • Write our own “book”
  • Color with water (these water wow books have been a big hit for us)
  • Play with stamps
  • Do a montessori-inspired activity like transferring pom poms with tongs or play this cute apple game
  • Play a cooperative board game like this one about chickens which Jack doesn’t really understand but likes to play with
  • Play with a flashlight (shadow animals, or trying to catch the light)
  • Set up an easy obstacle course and count how many times he can do it

I hope I have an easy recovery from childbirth because I’m worried about how I will get through the post-partum period with 2 kids. My husband will be home for about 2 weeks, but my son almost always would rather be with me, so I think it’s going to be a challenge.

Non-toxic Car Seats

orbit nontoxic car seat
Jack in our orbit baby car seat

This article was updated on February 20, 2016

I’ve spent hours and hours looking into this, and I was surprised to find that there are NO organic car seats for sale! In fact, most car seats are sprayed with carcinogenic flame-retardants!

The best option I was able to find was the only Oeko-Tex certified car seat- the Orbit line. I emailed Britax and they said they are “reducing or eliminating all chemicals containing bromine or chlorine” from their products. It’s better than nothing, but Orbit has none of those chemicals, and who knows what they mean by “reducing.”

orbit nontoxic car seat baby
orbit baby car seat

The orbit car seats are Oeko-Tex certified which guarantees they don’t have many toxic chemicals. They do testing to make sure there is no lead, arsenic, or mercury on their seats (see here). The upholstery of the seat is made of polyester which is not great, but sadly there are no better options right now. They also use no flame retardants on their fabric, but sadly as of 2014 they started using foam with flame retardants like all the other companies. They are still the most non-toxic option however.

People also like the Clerk Foonf convertible seat. It fits 14 pounds to 45 pounds rear facing so it’s great that you can keep your child facing the rear which is safer for longer than most car seats. It’s also recycleable. However, the fabric is only Greenguard Select Certified which tests only for gasses coming from the fabric (VOCs) and NOT heavy metals or PVC or pesticides. Another thing I was not a fan of about the Clerk seats is that you can’t remove the fabric, and you can only spot clean it. With kids, throwing up at some point is inevitable in the car, or having a potty accident, so I’ve been thankful to remove the Orbit fabric a few times to clean it.

foonf recyclable carseat
Foonf convertible car seat

If you can’t afford the expensive Orbit line, you can try to look up HealthyStuff.org since they tested many car seats several years ago. However, they tested store models, which is why some like the Orbit tested positive for things that did not come up in new products. Also, many models they tested are from years ago and no longer available. If you are trying to save money, one option is to borrow or buy a cheap infant car seat (Orbit’s infant one is from 4-30 pounds) and in a few months buy the Orbit toddler seat (15-65 pounds).

Another option is to buy an organic car seat cover. This blog has a nice review of some of those options. We didn’t do that because it might interfere with the car seat safety and can also be expensive. Also, keep in mind that there are likely flame retardants in the foam of most car seats, so that can get through a cotton cover.

It’s hard to make a good choice if you have limited funds though! Especially since you aren’t supposed to buy car seats used since you don’t know if it was in an accident.

Overall, here are some pros and cons about our Orbit which we have used for 6 months now:

Pros:

  • Oreko-Tex certified
  • No flame retardants
  • Good-quality foam makes it very safe
  • Egg-like shape protects baby well from sides
  • Soft handle is slightly easier to carry
  • Has a nice sun shade
  • Has a circle-shaped dock that snaps in easily and pivots
  • You can remove the fabric to clean

Cons:

  • Expensive!
  • Too heavy for me to carry
  • I have a Toyota Corolla, and it just fits in the back seat, so it’s hard to unwedge and remove. (Not  a big problem for me though since I always babywear)
  • Not organic fabric (polyester)
  • Separate base is expensive! (for husband’s car etc)
  • You have to lift baby up over the side to get him in, so it’s hard for me not to wake him up while doing that

 

DIY natural toothpaste for kids

My 2 year old and I have a constant up and down relationship with toothbrushing. At the moment he has been letting me brush while I count to 10 and he watches a video, and it helps that I let him put the toothpaste on his brush himself. However, he likes to eat more toothpaste than I would feel comfortable with so I decided to make my own using natural ingredients. We had a strawberry natural toothpaste before which he liked, so I looked for the closest recipe I could find and ended up making my own version. It ended up being a big success luckily! He helped me make it and loves licking it right out of the jar. Because our house is warm I store it in the fridge so the coconut oil doesn’t melt, and he rubs his toothbrush on it (or licks it out of the container).

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil (I didn’t melt it because it was already half melted in our warm house)

2 tablespoons baking soda

2 tablespoons xylitol (I bought it from whole foods and blended it in a coffee grinder first because the crystals were too big)

10 drops of orange essential oil

a few drops of natural orange food coloring if your child likes colorful toothpaste

 

you just mix it together and then taste a bit to see if you need more xylitol for sweetness or more orange flavor

 

Montessori Activities for a 2 year old

2.libraryI’ve been reading about things to do with my 2 year old to start focusing on learning during the day since we aren’t doing preschool until he’s 4. I’ve gotten ideas from lots of Montessori blogs, but some of it is just normal toddler activities. Here are some things he’s been enjoying and others that I hope to try in the future:

  • Playing with stamps. We have letter stamps from Michaael’s and I draw something with the letter and he stamps near it
  • Matching activities. I took photos of lots of his toys so we do matching of animals, trains, blocks, etc. We have done item to picture and picture to picture since I printed doubles
  • Using tongs to put pom poms in a silicone ice mold
  • Doing wooden puzzles
  • Using beans to count on a few pictures I drew that have different numbers of circles
  • Using paper “number rods” and putting them in different spots and running to each number
  • Trying to “sew” with paper by threading it through a folder I cut slits into
  • Making and playing with play dough
  • Using scissors and tape

Things we plan to do include:

  • Throwing balls at a target
  • Making stamps out of potatoes
  • Making our own paint
  • Growing a carrot top in water
  • Making a teddy bear parachute
  • Playing a game where we run around and when I say “stop” we have to run somewhere specific

Comparison of types of child Soft Star shoes

IMG_20150209_090840009

We are obsessed with Soft Star shoes at my house, and have tried a number of different styles. I thought it might be helpful to do a comparison post in case people are curious about differences between the shoes. The ones we have tried are the Classics (both with velcro like the brown one above and with laces), the rambler (blue one above), and the sandal with elastic (black one above).

Overall, our favorite has been the classics with velcro. They open up really wide so they are the easiest to get on. The ramblers open using elastics but they require a bit of a squeeze to get on, at least for us. The sandals are probably in the middle in terms of ease of putting on. Our 2 year old can’t put any of them on by himself though.

We also like the classics because they prevent sand from getting inside since they are closed all the way around. the Ramblers actually have an open slit along each side. We greatly prefer the velcro opening over laces because it’s so easy to close. The laces are a lot cheaper, but you have to tie them each time which ends up being a pain on a wiggly toddler.

In general the shoes are expensive, but they last us a long time and don’t look worn out. They are also easy to clean with a damp rag, and look as good as new even after a hike.

IMG_20150209_090849979

IMG_20150209_090858993

Child spacing and attachment parenting

1.20

I haven’t written on here in a while but I have a good excuse- I’ve been really tired going through the first trimester of pregnancy :) Now I’m finally in the second trimester and the need to nap every time Jack is asleep has finally mostly passed, so I feel like I have some free time back. I’m so excited for the new baby due this summer and for Jack to have a sibling, but I think it will be a big challenge trying to get everyone’s needs met once the baby arrives.

We thought a lot about how to space our children ideally and tried to balance the fact that having a sibling close in age would be nice later in life with making sure that Jack is independent enough when the baby comes that he can take care of some of his own needs so that he doesn’t get neglected. I think that having a 2.5 year gap will work out really well for our family. Since Jack turned 2 he has been so much more independent and communicative, and his sleep has been pretty great. I think it will be a lot easier to be an attached parent with one of the kids already usually sleeping through the night, that way waking with just the baby won’t feel as tiring. Of course Jack might regress in his sleeping, but he’s also old enough to be put back to sleep with a book and songs, so my husband can always help with him (which wouldn’t have worked 6 months ago).

Some things I’ll try to do to set us up for success once the baby comes:

  • Transition Jack to sleeping on a floor bed in our room, so the baby will have some space but we’ll all be together and Jack won’t feel abandoned in another room
  • Read books about babies once we get closer to my due date, and practice things with his stuffed animals like changing diapers or baby wearing
  • Make sure I have a few baby wearing options for the baby as well as Jack who I’m sure will want to be worn as well
  • Set up some special toy baskets that Jack can play with while I nurse
  • Get Jack involved in helping as much as I can
  • Teach Jack a few more skills like putting on his shoes and pants if possible so he can be more independent
  • Get Jack a special present from the baby

Toddler toothbrushing success! (at the expense of my ideals)

eating plain sugar while baking is great for my teeth, right?

eating plain sugar while baking is great for my teeth, right?

Well, I finally have been able to consistently get Jack to brush his teeth twice a day as well as let me brush them a little too, and all I had to do was bribe him with videos… I always hoped to not let Jack watch TV much or at all for as long as humanly possible, but I was so worried about his teeth getting cavities since he eats dried fruit and gummy vitamins and cookies (but they are all organic!). So we decided that dental hygiene was more important than brain development I guess and now he watches a few video clips in the morning and evening. He even asks to brush his teeth often, because he is sadly super addicted to watching videos now! It’s pretty depressing to me that no other strategy worked, but it’s also nice to have a few minutes to get things done while he is transfixed by the screen. I totally understand how people can put their kids in front of the TV for hours now, it’s like free babysitting! I can actually clean something without Jack simultaneously making an additional mess elsewhere, or I can sit down for longer than 2 minutes at a time and write an email or make a to-do list.  The other positive thing is that now on our upcoming 5-hour flight to Pennsylvania we can have the videos as a backup in case Jack gets restless. I have been trying to make myself feel a little better about it by showing him only videos in Portuguese so he practices his other language, but then his dad showed him “the wheels on the bus” song in a cartoon and he is obsessed with that. We also found a youtube channel called TuTiTu that has super boring (aka not ADHD-causing) videos about making different things like a fire truck which Jack likes.

So there you go- my embarrassing secret to how my 2 year old brushes his teeth…

Soap for Goodness Sake shampoo bar review

It's kind of sad that this is the best picture I could find with my hair down

It’s kind of sad that this is the best picture I could find with my hair down

I didn’t get paid to write this or anything, but I wanted to share a new product I’ve been using for several months now and loving! I got the tea tree oil Soap for Goodness Sake shampoo bar because it had a 0 ranking on the EWG’s skin deep list which means no bad chemicals. I ended up loving it for many reasons!

  1. You can use it as shampoo and as a soap bar so it eliminates needing separate shampoo, soap, and even conditioner!
  2. It makes my hair less frizzy (I have really curly hair and believe it or not is used to dry way frizzier than in the picture above which is how it looks now with no product)
  3. I find I no longer need conditioner, so that eliminates a step in the hair washing process
  4. It works as well for dandruff as chemically other shampoos
  5. It’s a solid so it’s easy to take on a trip and won’t spill in your bag. It also isn’t problematic for taking in a caryyon bag since it’s not a liquid
  6. It’s on amazon which is convenient

A few things that aren’t the best about it: it seems to take more effort to wash completely out of my hair, and it does sting your eyes if it gets in them which is not uncommon for shampoo, but is still a con. It also takes a bit longer to lather into my hair rather than squirting a liquid shampoo into it.

Overall I’m thrilled with it and will definitely buy it again. I was looking for a natural shampoo option but didn’t really want to try the whole vinegar wash thing since that seemed like a hassle, so I like that this is natural and also I can just buy it and don’t have to put much work into it. It also lasts for a long time.

Failing at brushing toddler teeth

your diet of 90% refined carbs isn't going to help you teeth situation, Jack

your diet of 90% refined carbs isn’t going to help this teeth situation, Jack

Jack used to love brushing his teeth, but now that he’s almost 2 and has very strong opinions about everything it’s turning into a big struggle. I used to let him do it himself, but then I started doing it for him afterwards but that turned into a literal power struggle with me pinning down his hands which was a disaster for everyone. So now we’re back to letting him do it, but we haven’t been able to find a good way to get him to brush for longer than a few seconds.

Here are some things we’ve tried, and need to try more consistently probably:

  • Getting him an electric toothbrush is the only thing that helped a little. The first few days we got it, he brushed for a long time, but now he doesn’t anymore. At least I think it brushes more efficiently though. I have an electric one too, so he sometimes would try that and seemed to like the feeling of the vibration.
  • Telling his stuffed animals “I have a secret: Jack is great at brushing his teeth!” didn’t work at all, but I have a friend who says it works for her daughter.
  • Singing a song didn’t help.
  • Today we tried watching a tooth brushing video with a song while he brushed his teeth which worked for about 5 seconds.
  • We’ve tried having my husband or I brush at the same time, and seem very excited about it with no success.
  • I’ve also tried rewards like saying he can give the dog a treat which he loves to do after he brushes, and even giving him the reward in pieces during the process but no luck there either.

I think for now we’ll try the video for several more days to see if that works. It’s sad because I actually love brushing my teeth, so I really want Jack to have good associations with dental hygiene as well.

 

Yay, finally some gentle nightweaning success!

1.sleepy

 

I think it’s because at 23 months now, Jack has finally gotten all his baby teeth, because he started miraculously sleeping through the night recently! Just a few weeks ago he was waking up every 2 hours all night, and now it’s often times just 1 wake up, and a few nights ago he slept 11 hours without nursing! I’ve been in such disbelief because I’d basically resigned myself to the fact that I’d have a 4 year old who still woke in the middle of the night and came into my bed.

I have been (kind of inconsistently) using a gentle technique of picking 1 or 2 wakeups and nursing a little less time than Jack wants. He has never been soothed by getting patted or being sung to or anything which is kind of sad for me, so the best thing I tried was unlatching him and just rolling over and pretending to be asleep. He would usually say “more” and fuss for a few seconds, and then would go back to sleep. If it kept going longer than maybe 20 seconds or so I would turn back over and nurse him because I didn’t want him to get too upset and really get awake. I did this most nights once or twice for several weeks and saw no change.

Then one night he woke up 2 hours after bedtime as usual but I was so tired that I didn’t want to nurse and thought I would wait a few seconds before nursing on the off chance he would go back to sleep. He ended up just going back to sleep on his own, and then sleeping for 4 more hours which was a long stretch for him! I tried again the next few nights and for some reason not feeding him that first time seemed to be the key to getting longer stretches all night.

We also got the Nursies when the Sun Shines book which couldn’t have hurt, but it arrived after the longer stretches had already started. The book is really sweet though, and has beautiful illustrations. Jack loves it and likes pointing to the cat.

In general, I think this is more of a “wait it out” success story than any technique because I’m pretty convinced it was the constant teething that was really making nights rough for us. Also Jack is finally eating more solids so that’s got to help as well. But nursing him a little less and seeing if he could go back to sleep on his own seems to have helped too, so I wanted to share in case someone else is in a similar boat.

Hopefully this post doesn’t jinx us for tonight!