Saturday, 27 July 2019

What We Have in Our Travel/Mystery Bag

It’s not easy to be stuck in a car or travel with a baby. They need to be active, move around, and explore…how do they have so much energy?! My little one loves waving at random people on the metro at 6 in the morning (which is bad, because then people also notice me looking like a zombie).

But still, it’s nice to take your baby to different places, or sometimes there’s no other choice. That’s why you need to make the best of it. A travel/mystery bag will keep your little one occupied while you go bouldering, wait for your coffee, or you’re stuck in the car/on the bus.

Just choose some items or toys that the baby might be interested in and put them in a textile bag.

When choosing them, take into consideration that they should:
- be small, so they fit in the bag and don’t take too much space in your pram
- be easily washable, because the baby might drop them or throw them (Indestructibles books and wooden toys are great)
- be changed regularly - rotate the items, just as you would with other toys
- be different: take a few books, some toys (a puzzle, rattle, anything that your baby enjoys playing with), collect items from nature (shells, rocks, twigs, pine cones, leaves – depending on your baby’s age). You can even add some kitchen utensils (wooden spoon, silicone spatula, cups, empty containers). Open ended toys are a great option, because you/your kids can improvise and not get bored.

This is E.'s mystery bag this week. We use it quite a lot, especially when we go bouldering.

The number of items depends on your trip and on your baby’s age. Try not to overstimulate your baby, but take the amount of toys that would keep her busy.

At kindergarten we used to take our song bag with us on road trips. Check out how I made it here. You can also use one with your baby, but it implies that you will need to sing and keep your baby entertained.

Do you have something like this when taking trips with your baby?

Friday, 19 July 2019

Our Daily Routine (4-8 months)

Now that E. is eight months old, she had dropped a nap, so our daily routine changed a little. We finally managed to move bed time around 19.30, which means that we wake up earlier in the morning (around 6.30).

I’m a morning person and this schedule suits both of us, but maybe a wake-up time between 7.00 and 8.00 would be ideal. Ah, what can you do? I can’t complain. She is an awesome little dumpling and I can’t wait to start a new day with her.

Although she doesn’t nap at the same time every day, the sequence of events is the same. The reason for this is that she might nap 30 minutes or 1.5 hours…it depends on how tired she is and her mood. But after three hours of awake time she usually shows signs of tiredness and I put her to bed.

So, this is how our day goes:

6.30 We wake up. I usually feed her (bf), then we read a book in bed. After that, we go to the bathroom, brush our teeth (she has no teeth, but I give her the wet toothbrush to play with, while she watches me brush my teeth), take our vitamins (vitamin D for her), change her diaper, put some lotion on her, then sing a song and talk about the poster she has on the bathroom wall.* (I’ll write about this a bit at the end of the post.)

She then plays in her room while I grab something quick to eat next to her. If I’m in the mood to cook something or prepare something that takes longer, I just take the laptop with me into the kitchen and check on her on our video camera. Her room is baby-proofed and safe.

After I finish eating, we get ready to go out. We usually go grocery shopping in the morning if we need something, but most of the times we just visit parks near our house, take nature walks, go to the beach. She loves swinging at the moment!

When it’s almost time for her nap (approximately 30 minutes before), we go inside and play or read a little, then I change her diaper and put her to bed. While she sleeps, I make lunch and put the dishes in the dishwasher.

This routine is the same after each nap, but instead of just breastfeeding her, she eats solids also. It goes like this: wake up, eat (bf, then solids), play time (inside and outside), then diaper change and nap.

I usually eat with her at the table. She has a feeding chair. I usually give her something cooked (oat porridge, steamed salmon and sweet potatoes, vegetable and chicken soup, avocado pasta…) and some veggies or fruits on the side (so that she can eat those independently). That way, I can help her put the food on the spoon, but while I eat, she can grab an avocado stick, a piece of banana or raspberry. She is quite independent already, but I scoop the food with the spoon for her.

Of course, what she plays with and what we do outside is different. Indoors, I just follow her lead. She chooses what she wants to play with from her shelf. Unfortunately, she can't tell me what she wants to do outside yet. When it’s nice outside, we love having picnics. We read and play on the blanket on the meadow. Occasionally, we go out with other mommies and babies or to play areas in malls.

Dad finishes work in time for our walk in the evening, then I feed her and he gives her a bath (or the other way around). He then says goodnight, and I stay with her, feed her and cuddle before she falls asleep.

After 19.30, my partner and I have some time to catch up on the latest John Oliver episodes, talk, play board games, and enjoy some quiet time – if I don’t fall asleep at 20.00!

If you want to read more about our bedtime routine, check this post.

What does your daily routine look like? I guess it’s much more difficult if you have more kids and different ages and interests to take into account.

* I made some posters for some of the songs that we’ve been singing, so she can also see what the songs are about. They are printed and laminated, but I’m considering reusing plastic pockets in the future, to avoid the waste. After her diaper change, she loves standing and looking at the posters. I explain what’s in the pictures and sing the song. I change these regularly, so she doesn’t get bored. Her favourite poster seems to be “Old MacDonald” – it has pictures of a cow, a dog, a cat, a horse, and a pig.

This poster is for the song "If You're Happy, Happy, Happy" (a simplified version of "If You're Happy and You Know It")

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