Fall has arrived and Hallowe’en is just around the corner. For this year’s Hallowe’en party, I went with an easy, DIY sushi costume for Bean (partly because I love food-themed costumes). If you’re interested, the steps are below!
2 A3 sheets of thick orange felt
1 A3 sheet of thick black felt
1 A3 sheet of thick white felt
Cotton / polyester stuffing
Pencil (to trace)
(1 A4 sheet of thin light pink felt and light green felt for wasabi/ginger headband (instructions not featured in this post))
1. On the two pieces of A3 orange felt, trace the desired shape (I chose prawn, but regular rectangular salmon sashimi works as well). Cut the shape out. Trace the shape onto the A3 white felt. Cut out “v” strips from the white felt shape and space them out across the orange felt shape, like so:
2. Glue (or sew) the white strips onto one of the orange felt shapes. Leave to dry.
3. When the glue has dried, sew the two orange felt pieces together, leaving a 10cm opening at the bottom to place the stuffing in.
4. Insert the stuffing into the sushi shape. I used just enough to have it look “padded”.
5. Once the stuffing is inside, sew the bottom opening shut.
6. This is what Bean’s sushi shape looked like after it had been sewn shut. (You can also opt to sew the shape inside out so that the seams are hidden).
7. Now for the Nori band! Cut the A3 black felt into two wide strips. One will be for the back of the sushi (wound around Bean) and one covers the front. (I found it easier to do the band with two strips rather than one).
8. Sew one side of the black felt strip to one side of the sushi shape. Leave one side open for a fitting with your child.
9. After you have the rough measurements for the strip (I did a fitting with Bean the next day), cut the strip to the desired length and sew the other side onto the sushi shape. Now you have the band that fits around your child.
10. The final step is the band that fits across the front of the sushi shape. Cut the strip to the desired length and sew both sides on.
11. And there you go! A prawn or salmon sushi outfit! Bean’s is worn with a white long-sleeved shirt and tights, which serve as the “rice”. I also made a ginger and wasabi headband (seen in the first photo of this post) to complement the sushi.
The Montessori method encourages the fostering of independence from an early age. This is achieved by creating an environment that is age-appropriate and accessible for the child, and that grows with them. With Bean. this meant finding ways for her to gain personal autonomy through her daily routine and beginning with basic chores so that she felt more included in the day-to-day of our household. For this post, I have shared five ways in which we have made our house easier to access for our pint-sized human.
Bean’s age: 23 months
1. Stepping Stool and Meal Prep
This handy wooden stool from IKEA was initially bought to be a multi-purpose tool around the house. It turned out to be the perfect height for Bean to use, and is extremely stable due to its wide base. It is placed in the kitchen during meal preparation so that Bean can help out.
2. Stepping Stool and Bathroom
The same stepping stool is also used in our bathroom. The sink is just the right height above the stool, and Bean can reach for her toothbrush when it’s time to brush her teeth, or wash her hands using the soap dispenser and tap. We also added a small mirror over the sink so that she can see herself.
3. Low Coat Hooks
Bean has two low hooks beside her drawer of the shoe cabinet in the hallway. She can easily hang her coats, hats or scarves here after placing her shoes into the lowest shoe drawer.
4. Toddler Wardrobe and Mirror
IKEA Trofast shelves are very versatile, doubling as clothing and toy storage in Bean’s room. Her clothes are sorted in four main drawers that she can pull out and take clothes from. The mirror was mounted on one of the shelves at toddler height so that she see her outfit or groom herself – it swings out on a hinge to reveal a section of clothes on hangers.
5. Toy Storage
The easiest way to clean up with a toddler, we’ve discovered, is to have designated boxes to pile everything back into at the end of the day. Larger boxes hold toys that have many pieces (Lego Duplo and her train set) whereas the smaller boxes are rotated with activities such as Play-Doh, puzzles and Kinetic Sand. At the end of the day before bedtime, Bean stores everything back into its proper box (most of the time).
As we move quickly move through summer (it’s always too quick!) I found that certain parenting books have made my reading list. As Bean grows older, our concerns and the issues that we choose to address change, and so I compiled a (short) list of the books that I found most compelling regarding parenting. They are by no means meant to dictate a specific lifestyle to others, but were chosen due to their controversial nature (books that cause a stir are always interesting to read) or because they examine ideas that we consider worth exploring.
1. “Dirt is Good” by Jack Gilbert and Rob Knight
Focus: Germs and Hygiene
GERMS! EVERYWHERE! Dirt is Good explores the importance and necessity of exposure to different microbiomes in order for our littles (and big!) ones build a stronger immune system and resistance to full-blown infections. As someone who regularly reaches for hand sanitizer after using public bathrooms, Gilbert & Knight differentiate between situations where parents can rest easy, versus those where germs are not beneficial.
2. “What I Told My Daughter” by Nina Tassler
Focus : Inspirational Life Lessons
Whether you have a daughter or not, What I Told My Daughter is a compelling compilation of empowering and moving lessons female leaders – across all fields – have passed onto their female offspring. Whoopi Goldberg, Nancy Pelosi and Mia Hamm are amongst the story tellers in Tassler‘s book, sharing their experiences living as a woman in a “man’s” world, and how this helped them cultivate success and strength.
3. “Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue” by Christia Spears Brown
Focus: Gender and Parenting
“Boy or girl” is a question that almost all expecting mothers are asked. The “allocation” of gender begins even before, and is most visually represented by the stark division of boy “blue” and girl “pink”. However, as Brown discusses in her book, our preconceptions and expectations go beyond mere color-coding. From everyday gendered comments to career choices, this book addresses the need to give children – regardless of gender – the opportunity to explore all choices and opportunities, and see beyond the veil of gender.
4. “Glow Kids” by Nicholas Kardaras
Focus : Screen Time
Technology, and by extension, screens, are part of everyday life. Kardaras, a psychologist by profession, makes the case against excessive screen time and how it affects brain development amongst children and adolescents. Moderation and delayed exposure is important, he argues, and examines the troubling new phenomenon of “screen addiction”, spurred by video games and social media, particularly in teenagers.
5. “The Collapse of Parenting” by Leonard Sax
Focus: The Need for Boundaries
A highly controversial book – and therefore delightful read – Sax attempts to tackle the issue of the blurred lines between ‘parent’ and ‘friend’ that define more and more families today. Set against a predominantly American setting, each chapter is titled with a question, ranging from “Why are so many kids on medication?” and “why are so many kids fragile?” to discussing “the culture of disrespect” that can flourish when parents lack parental authority. A recommended read, if not just for the dramatic title.
Oh Germany! What an abundance of high-quality, sturdy family games that are both simple yet innovative. Starting from 18 months to adulthood, German company Haba offers a wide variety of board games (amongst toys, furniture, dolls and play rugs) that can be played alone, in pairs or as a group. To be honest – I did not expect that board games would be available for Bean until she was at least 4 or 5 years old, save for memory games and color sorting, until a friend showed me Haba’s threading game for toddlers. I was hooked – and expanded Bean’s board game collection. All of these are available in different languages – here are 5 that we love to play with Bean.
1. Bärenhunger (English version : Hungry as a Bear)
Currently one of Bean’s favorites, this nifty game requires players to “feed” the cardboard bear whatever food appears on the dice. The game is great for hand-eye coordination and recognizing different foods – blueberries, spinach, strawberries, carrots, potatoes and rice. The game ends when the Bear is fully “fed” and the plate is empty.
2. Fische Angeln (English: Here Fishy, Fishy)
Remember those old-school battery-operated rotating fishing games? Well Haba made a durable version for 2+ years old onwards that is not a choking hazard. The game has several components that build on each as the child grows older. With a roll of the dice, you fish differently colored items out of the box, aiming to complete a puzzle where each piece corresponds to one type of fish.
3. Tier auf Tier (Animal upon Animal)
A balancing game available in four different versions, ranging from toddler to adults, Tier auf Tier involves stacking different animals Jenga-style until the tower topples over. We have the travel (pictured above) and original version, and both are equally fun with the kiddo or after a dinner with friends. Bonus: great for learning animals too!
4.Fädelspiel(English version: Threading Game)
Any game that can be converted to a travel one is okay in my books. Haba‘s threading games come with little pouches that make the game easy to carry around – whether in transit or at your destination. Available in themes ranging from ‘My Favorite Toys’ (pictured) to ‘Zoo Animals’ to ‘Construction’, the colorful wooden pieces, thick string and accompanying puzzles make this an ideal introductory game to 18 month olds and above.
5. Die Post ist Da! (English version: Mail for You!)
This game gave me a serious hit of nostalgia – mainly because so much communication takes place over social media and email, rather than letters. Consisting of a cardboard house, a yellow wooden post truck and colorful little envelopes, the objective of the game is to deliver the right mail to the right ‘house’, denoted by four different colors. What I enjoy about this game is that the mail has two sides – it can be delivered to the house according to color, or according to the objects found in the various houses!
What happens on a flight that is long enough to cross time zones but is short enough that it is not a red-eye, nor does it cross into sleep time? We are about to embark on a daytime 8.5 hour flight – so this is what will be inside Bean’s inflight backpack! Here are 5 more activities that should keep mom, dad and the toddler entertained on short to medium haul flights where sleep may not be an option.
1. Memory Cards
Available in different designs and colors, memory card games are easy to pack, to use, and even DIY. Younger kids may be content with matching pairs and naming, whereas older kids can play an actual memory game, matching the cards while face down.
2. Kinetic Sand (Travel Size)
Kinetic sand is available in pocket-sized containers shaped like a castle, making them ideal for playing with both in-flight and at the destination. Easy to mould and clean up (!!!) as well. It can also be made at home with corn starch, craft glue and fine grain sand.
3. Caterpillar Color Game
A straightforward game, it can be played by 2 or more people, and involves a race to see who can create a full caterpillar using the color discs available. A toss of a the die determines which disc is to be placed to form the caterpillar’s body. It can also used as a color or counting activity.
4. Nesting Puzzles
Haba and Goki both make sturdy, travel-sized, wooden nesting puzzles which are about the size of a paperback novel. Different themes, including life cycles of plants and animals, offer both fun and educational options. Definitely a neat and compact way to bring puzzles onboard – especially if your kiddo enjoys them!
5. Search & Find Book
Great for around 2 years onwards, search and find books not only help build vocabulary, but are also entertaining to play together, offering a more structured version of eye-spy for younger kids.
Okay so we survived the 17 hour outward journey, and the 18.5 hour return one. Travelling long-haul flights with a small child is by no means an easy feat – and even less so when travelling alone – but it is doable! After 27 flights, Bean has grown accustomed to the strange noises and lights inside the plane – and yet she still has the occasional meltdown or blowout. So here are 5 things mom picked up to make travelling alone with a toddler more manageable.
1. Pack Light
Diapers, change of clothes (for both the child and the parent), wipes, snacks and entertainment – the luggage increases exponentially when traveling with children. One thing I tell myself when packing for a solo trip, however, is whether I can carry everything AND a sleeping toddler at the same time, while holding the passports and boarding passes to pass through immigration and security. Now, I have just the GB Pockit+ (featured on a blog post 5 Travel Essentials) which folds and fits easily under the seat in front of me, and my trusty Fjallraven Kanken backpack. That’s IT. Whatever you pack will fill the space you place it in – limiting yourself to 1 roomy backpack will help you pack only the essentials needed onboard.
2. Seating, seating, seating.
When you travel with an infant below the age of 2, most airlines will a) automatically allocate your child as “an infant travelling on lap” and b) try to assign you a bassinet. For children just over the age of 1, this may still be feasible. However, although the roomiest of bassinets can support up to 15kg, toddlers close to 2 years of age may not (willingly, if at all) sleep in the bassinet. Whether you are travelling with your toddler on your lap, or with their own seat, the best, best seat I’ve had with Bean was the aisle and window seat right at the back of the plane. 3 reasons:
a) The seats do not usually recline, which deters other passengers from reserving them – the chances of the one next to you being empty is higher.
b) Newer planes have a 2-3-2 seat configuration for the very last row, so you will not have to share the row with any other passenger. Ideal for a fussy or mobile toddler.
c) If the kiddo refuses to sleep on time, or at all, the galley is located at the back of plane. On red-eye flights, our experience has been that the crew mills around inside waiting to be called by passengers and have been more than happy to entertain or give snacks to Bean. Food is also served FIRST to children – and with the proximity to the galley….need I say more?
Bonus: Bathrooms are also located at the back, and often times are the ones with diaper changing facilities.
3.Invest in a Travel Pillow
With a multitude of child travel pillows available, ranging from Plane Pal to Fly-Tot, a travel pillow can go a very long way in ensuring you get rest when travelling alone. Acting as an extension to the seat itself, it offers more room to play, a place to rest legs, and a bed to sleep on. Approved by 30 international airlines to date, travel pillows are to be used only against the window seat, or the middle seat of the middle row for safety reasons (airlines include this in their safety guidelines). Our Plane Pal takes about 1 minute to inflate with a hand pump, and less than 5 seconds to deflate, fitting neatly into a small pouch with the pump itself.
4. Travel Red-Eye
Airplanes are super interesting and there’s nothing that Bean loves more than to explore all the lights and buttons and seats around her. Yet at some point, especially on long haul (anything exceeding 10+ hours for us), she will fall asleep whether peacefully or otherwise. The alternative is flying a long-haul day time flight (though most will cross into nighttime regardless) and having to entertain and watch her. I sleep when Bean sleeps, no matter how tempting it is to watch that film I’ve been dying to watch. Surprisingly, it has worked out reasonably well, and mom can still average 60-70% of sleep on the flight.
5. Use Entertainment Sparingly
For both the outward and inbound flights, I only had to offer Bean her “entertainment” about 60% of the way into the flight, since she was either a) eating, b) sleeping or c) pressing the buttons of the console in front of her. Her compact ‘activity bag’ fit inside my own in-flight backpack, and comprised mini play-doh, a water coloring book and packs of textured sticks with a note-book, amongst other things. The temptation to hand her the bag itself was strong, but mom resisted! Rather, by spacing out each option, we had already landed before using even half of the things I had packed.
Remember that you know your child or children best, and that the plane will reach its destination at some point. No stress – you can do it!
“What do you pack for Bean when you travel with her?” is a question I’ve been asked a lot. Having family spread across the world requires plane trips now and then – including dreaded long-haul red-eye flights. Our next flight will be 17-hours with one stop over – and for this one, mom is going solo again. However, have no fear – entertainment is here!
Bean’s age: 22 months
Bean has a small backpack that we fill with an assortment of activities, including things she can do on her own, and things we can do together. For this trip, we’ve packed (clockwise from far left):
1. A Board book on Zoo Animals 2. A Usborne Pop-Up Book on Dinosaurs 3.Water Wow! Vehicles 4. 3 Vehicle Figurines 5. 2 Mini Play-Doh cups 6.A Toddler Fidget Cube 7. A Calculator 8. 2 Circle Sticker Sheets 9.A Packet of Post-Its 10. Assorted Lego Duplo pieces