Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Our Bedtime Routines (at Home)

Routines are extremely important for babies, because even though they don’t understand time, if they have a set of clear routines, they know what to expect.

Most kids are opposed to sleeping, especially napping, because they are missing out on playtime, on being with mum and dad, on all the fun stuff (doing dishes and laundry, hurray!). That’s why it’s important to make the routines before nap or bedtime as pleasant as you can! That way, they have time to wind-down, relax, enjoy themselves, and get rid of the extra wiggles.

If you have bedtime routines, you probably know that it can be hard to be consistent and stick to them every single day. E. now falls asleep at 19.30 - 19.45, and that means that only one of us can leave the house after that, or we need a babysitter. It’s extremely inconvenient when our friends finish work at 18.00 and want to meet for dinner at 18.30.

But it’s definitely worth having routines! In time, these help your baby develop sleep cues.E. knows that our routines are different for napping and sleeping at night, so although she wakes up at night, she goes right back to sleep.

Most of the books I’ve read about sleep recommend starting the routine 15-60 minutes before bedtime, and 15 min before a nap. Try to have the same order of activities each night, so your baby understands what’s coming next through the predictable pattern.

Our evening routine goes like this:
18.30 She eats dinner (solid food)
18.40 - 19.15 Takes a bath, then we change her diaper, massage her with some cream, put on pajamas, dad says goodnight
19.15 I breastfeed her, sing a song, cuddle her and say goodnight

If she doesn’t seem tired after the bath, we can play quietly before I feed her. But most of the times she falls asleep easily in the evening and shows us she’s tired by rubbing her eyes and by yawning. The evening routine always takes place in her room (where she sleeps), because it helps her feel comfortable there. We have a night lamp with orange light and that is on only after bath time – that way she knows that it’s night – and we pull the curtains at that time, too. Now that it’s summer, light invades her bedroom until

We (my partner and I) take her out before that. We either go out for a picnic (we play on the blanket), or to a park, or just for a walk in the pram/carrier. Then one of us has dinner with her, and the other gives her the bath. Sometimes we do it together, but it can be overstimulating if she’s already a bit tired.

Before a nap, we have a short routine: diaper change, breastfeed, song, cuddle.

These are the routines that suit our family and E.’s appetite. I know some babies eat every 3.5 – 4 hours, but she often prefers shorter and smaller feeding sessions. You can adjust your naptime routine to include other activities, such as reading books, using white noise, singing lullabies, or quiet play. I’ve noticed that E. prefers reading during the day, when she is fully awake and can interact better with the books, can lift the flaps, and turn the pages. Your child might be different, so do what’s best for you and your family.

What other activities would you include? What has worked for you and your baby?

Monday, 1 July 2019

Why We Chose To Use a Montessori Floor Bed

When I got pregnant, my partner and I decided that I will sleep on a floor bed in E.’s room for the first six months (until the risk of SIDS decreases), while she will sleep in her crib. After that, I’d move her to the floor bed, and I’d sleep in the bedroom. That way, she’d get adjusted to sleeping in her own room from the start.

Of course, things you think about before the baby arrives rarely go the way that you planned. That was our case…for the first 2-3 months, she slept only on my chest or with me and we hardly got any proper sleep. Bed sharing is not recommended, I know, but a horrible case of colic and other things made it impossible to get some sleep any other way. Usually, after she fell asleep, I’d slide lower on the bed, so that if I rolled over in my sleep I wouldn’t do so too close to her face. But now she’s finally at the stage where she sleeps on the floor bed on her own. We have a spare crib, just in case the montessori floor bed will end up not being a good option after she starts crawling, but for now it is great!

Here are a few reasons why we decided to have a montessori floor bed for her in the first place:

Firstly, I like the fact that it nurtures independence, and once she will crawl, she will be able to safely explore her environment, go choose some books, play a little, and decide when to go to sleep on her own. This will hopefully instill a positive attitude towards sleep in general.

Secondly, it makes breastfeeding, reading together, and cuddling so much easier. If you nurse in a side-lying position, this is easy when you have a floor bed. However, if your baby is bottle fed, you should avoid feeding her in this position, as it might cause an ear infection. If you have a crib, you can cuddle the baby in your arms, then place her in it. But the floor mattress has the advantage of being large enough to fit both of you, or even all three.

Thirdly, E. started rolling over in her sleep when she was four months old, and at first that wasn’t a problem, because I was sleeping with her – I would just roll her back whenever she did that. But after we went through sleep training, I moved to another room, so I couldn’t go roll her onto her back every time. We just placed an IKEA folding gym mat (PLUFSIG) next to the floor mattress, in case she rolled off the bed at night. As long as a baby can roll both ways independently, you can let her sleep on her tummy if she has rolled onto it herself. You should be careful about placing pillows or other soft things on the floor next to the bed, because of the risk of suffocation – the baby might roll on them in her sleep and not be able to breathe, or even get stuck in between the pillows and the floor mattress.

Furthermore, an IKEA crib is not expensive, but a good floor mattress is even cheaper. Of course, you can buy a cute house or tent frame (which I think we will do later, when she’s old enough to appreciate it), but that’s optional. Your baby will be able to sleep in the same bed also after she grows up.

Lastly, we also play on the mattress, especially in the morning when dad is sleeping. I place some toys on her mattress, while she’s sitting on the gym mat, that’s lower. That way, she needs to kneel to grab the toys that are farther away – so this position encourages her to rise to a tall kneel (with bottom off of heels). At the moment, the fact that we also play there hasn’t affected her sleep. I know that there are a lot of people saying that it’s better to separate the play area from where a child is sleeping. If later it will affect her sleep, I will probably move the play area in the living room and leave just lovies and some books there.

One important aspect you need to consider when having a floor mattress is baby proofing, once your baby is crawling. Sure, during the day you might keep a close eye on your baby all the time, but at night you never know what she’ll do while you are sleeping. I found this article extremely useful.
I’m planning on printing some realistic photos of a fox, a bear, and a hare to hang over the toy shelf, but that’s still. work in progress.

Read more about how we use our gym mat here.

I’ll be posting some cute ideas for discovery baskets for babies and some things about our evening routine. I hope you’ll stop by Grumpy Dumpling to read more about that!

Friday, 17 May 2019

Creating a Play Area for Your Baby (If You Have Limited Space)

It’s not easy to have a 3-room apartment and a 6 month old baby. Creating a play space in every room might seem like a good idea, because it gives you some freedom to move around the house while still keeping an eye on the baby, but then you barely have room to walk. So why not create a play area that you can move around in a few minutes?

I’m sharing these tips for a non-mobile baby (who doesn’t crawl yet), because it’s totally different after that (I’m a bit excited, but also terrified about the crawling phase). E. is extremely curious and constantly wants to explore but doesn’t crawl yet, so I need to give her things to keep her engaged.

It’s a wonderful experience to play with your baby, but sometimes the baby needs some time to play on her own. Or you need some time for yourself (while still being able to keep an eye on her). if you are always there to hand her everything, she won’t be motivated to develop her gross motor skills.

So…here are a few tips to create a play area.
  • Decide where in the room/s you want the play area to be. This depends on what you usually do there, also. For example, if the kitchen is connected to the living room and you need to cook, you should choose an area that you can see from there.
  • Find the right surface. A blanket is also fine, but if your baby hasn’t mastered tummy time yet and sometimes drops her head, I suggest using a mattress. This one from IKEA is cheap, firm, smooth, but at the same time soft enough to protect your baby from bumps.
  • Choose 4-5 toys and place them on the surface. I usually rotate the toys, and if I still notice that she is bored with them, I bring some stuff from the kitchen. Even with all of the cute and colourful (and expensive!) toys that we buy her, she still prefers kitchen utensils and random objects, such as parchment paper, spatulas, and empty baskets.
  • Once she will be able to crawl, I intend to place her toys (still rotate them) on the open shelves, so she can have access to them. At the moment I have a few on the shelf (the ones that I might choose for morning play), then the rest are all in a large box. That way, I can take the box to different rooms and choose a few toys from there. Cleaning up is also much easier like that.
  • Place your baby in the middle. You’ll see that it will take about half a minute for her to roll onto her tummy and pivot in a circle to try to grab her favourite toy. I suggest placing her favourite toys or new toys slightly out of reach, to motivate her to move around.
  • Once your baby can sit independently, you can introduce work shelves and busy baskets.
  • If you have the room, create the play area in front of a mirror – this will encourage your baby to imitate and play more. 
I hope these tips will help! Have fun playing!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Our Favourite Toys at 5 Months

Since E. has started using her hands and exploring the environment more, things have changed a lot. Now she is able to play on her own (although she still likes having me just next to her) and is curious about everything. She loves putting everything in her mouth…and I mean everything: nappies, TP rolls, wooden spoons, and toys. She is constantly moving, licking objects, and looking around.

We bought a Pilates ball when she was just 2 months old, because she hated tummy time and we were looking into ways to make it more fun. But we didn’t get to use it until recently, because she disliked it. Now she has fun going forwards and backwards, left and right, or bouncing on it, while on her tummy. I sing to her while holding her, or just describe what she’s doing.

We also have some wonderful wooden toys that she enjoys playing with: the wooden rainbow wheel is my favourite, but to be honest she prefers the one on the right. It’s easier to grasp and shake. When we first got it, she didn’t have the motor skills or hand eye coordination to bring it slowly to her mouth, so we needed to be extra careful that she doesn’t bang her head with it. Phew...that’s over now.

She also likes the wooden car, because she can hold it in her hand well and lick it. I guess it will come in handy once she sits without support, because she can push it back and forth.

Ever since she was 2 months old, she has loved rattles and toys that make sounds. Here are two of her favourite toys. The one on the right is nice because she can hold it easily, but she loves sucking on the first one while on her tummy.
As I mentioned before (check out this other blog post about baby toys), scarves are great to have! They provide endless opportunities for play. Peek-a-boo is the perfect game to play with any baby. She now got to the stage where she takes the scarf and puts it in front of her, then takes it away and smiles.

We bought these cute animal socks and wrist rattles when she hadn’t discovered her feet yet. Now she doesn’t really need them anymore, but I still use them as hand puppets and the monkey always makes her smile.
Our montessori puzzle ball finally arrived. I was extremely enthusiastic about it, but E. isn’t a big fan. I hope she’ll change her mind later on, because it’s a great toy: the shape makes it easy for her to grab, it has the perfect size, and it stimulates both fine and gross motor development (she uses her fingers to pinch it, and her hands and feet to lift it).

We got an Oball (rattle ball) for the pram and it has kept her engaged on our walks. It’s easy to grasp and hold. She also likes playing with it while sitting, so it motivates her to do that.

Ever since she was 3 months old, E. loves the wooden drum. I used to sing songs and fool around with it, but now she can hold the stick and hit the drum (when she doesn’t chew on the end).
Blocks are always a great toy to have. These are soft, the colours are wonderful, and they are easy to manipulate. We use them to learn animals and fruit, but she also enjoys it when I build towers and she breaks them. These also have numbers, +, -, =, and shapes.

But somehow, I feel that toys are overrated. At this age they are curious about everything around them, so you can give your child almost anything (safety first!) to explore.

For tummy time I made this calming down bottle. I bought the small plastic bottle from H&M. Then, I left some gel beads to grow in water. I put those later in the bottle, then added a bit of water and some baby oil. I used a glue gun to secure the cap. When she is on her tummy in the evening, I place a flashlight behind the bottle, and she likes staring at it.
A TP roll can be fun too: you can talk through it, cover the other end, or look at your baby through it.

E. also loves parchment paper. It makes that loud noise, it’s big, but light enough for her to lift above her head.

Try to choose toys that your child will be able to use for many years to come, or toys that are versatile and good for open ended play.

If you are interested in where I got these toys, just leave a comment and I'll post the links.

If you liked this post, you might also like:
Tips for a Relaxed and Fun Tummy Time
Toys for Babies

Friday, 19 April 2019

Ice Cream Menu for Pretend Play

Here's a fun way to practice colors and numbers! Create an ice cream stand, where children can pretend to sell and buy ice cream.

This resource contains a menu that can be printed out and laminated for durability. The kids can then use dry-erase markers to circle the ice cream that they’d like to order. If you have a small table and a chair, you can improvise an ice cream stand.

As props, you can use:
  • a table/two tables
  • some chairs
  • small plastic cups (for the cones) 
  • homemade playdough (use food coloring for different flavors) (you can find the recipe here)
  • a spoon or scoopers 
  • red wooden beads or buttons (cherries) 
  • hama beads for sprinkles (keep a close eye on the kids when using these!) 
  • old ketchup bottle (syrup) 
  • any decorations the kids make (buntings, signs, paper money) 
  • a cash register
You can download the resource from my TPT store, Grumpy Dumpling, or by clicking on the picture:


If you want to read more about imaginative play in kindergarten, here's another post:
The Importance of Dramatic Play in Kindergarten

If you liked this article, you might also be interested in:
Fun Ways to Learn with Playdough
Popcorn Pizza and what is it Good for?

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Tips for a Relaxed and Fun Tummy Time

I’ve got a lot of ideas for kindergarten activities. Unfortunately, some take a looong time to craft and write about. On top of that, I’ve been sick and E. has been keeping me busy. I hope that I’ll have some free time soon, but I have to admit that I really love being silly with her and enjoying our lazy mornings together.

That’s why today I’m going to quickly talk about tummy time and leave the other ideas for a different day. Maybe these tips will help your babies. E. hates tummy time even now, after four months of practising…but at least now she tolerates it and has made visible progress. Some babies just don’t like spending time on their tummies, but I kind of understand it: they can see so much more when they’re carried or relaxing on their backs.

Let’s start with the basics of tummy time:

Why is tummy time important?

Because it helps your baby build back, abdominal, arm, and neck muscles. This, in turn, will help her crawl, sit, track objects, and even walk later on.

When can you start?

Well, the sooner you start, the better. You can place your baby on her tummy as soon as you get home from the hospital.

Where can you do it?

I suggest linking tummy time with a daily routine, because that way you won’t forget to do it often enough. For example, after every nappy change or after waking up from a nap. Try not to do it right after a feeding, because the baby might have a hard time exercising on a full stomach. J

How long should tummy time last?

Of course, some babies are fine and relaxed from the very beginning when placed on their tummies, so you can let them spend as much time as they like there. However, some might dread that moment. The main thing is to make it fun and enjoyable for them! Most of the resources I’ve read say that tummy time should be 30 min/day by 3 months, but you should just see what your baby needs.

What will you need for tummy time?

  • hard mattress or surface (the changing pad might be a great place for this)
  • a blanket or muslin cloth – optional, but I recommend it if you want to protect the bed or couch from all that baby drool
  • some toys that your baby likes, especially brightly coloured ones or toys that make noise (rattles, bells, rain sticks, etc.)
  • a positive attitude – it might take a long time until your baby feels comfortable on her tummy, so don't get discouraged

Tips on how to make tummy time more fun:

  • use a Pilates ball with a blanket over it (with caution!) – place the baby on the blanket and slowly move the ball from side to side and back to front. This raises their awareness of the position of their bodies (proprioception sense).
  • if your baby is having a hard time supporting her chest on her arms, use a rolled-up towel or blanket under it. This takes some of the weight off her arms.
  • place toys or yourself at eye level, so your baby has a reason to lift her head. Moving the toys or your face from side to side will help her sight develop.
  • as I mentioned above, have tummy time on a hard surface, so your baby can lift herself by pushing on it. However, avoid very hard surfaces, in case the baby drops her head. 

If your baby hates being on her tummy, use these alternatives:

  • sit down and then place your baby on your thighs (perpendicular). It helps if you place the baby on your lap with one of your legs higher, to elevate her chest
  • lie down with your head slightly elevated, then place the baby on tour tummy. Chat, sing songs, and make funny faces to make things more fun.
  • whenever you carry your baby, use a tummy-down hold – this worked well with E. during the first two months, when she refused to be placed on her tummy.
I think that’s about it. If you have any tips, feel free to share them in the comment section below.

Thanks for stopping by!