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.
“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
We’re back in the kitchen! 5 more things that you and your toddler can do together while preparing meals.
Bean’s age: 22 months
1. Food Name & Feel
We have a basket that is always filled with fruit and vegetables. When mom has to do something that requires hot oil or boiling water, Bean stays occupied by feeling the textures and smelling whatever is inside the basket. Lay out a clean cloth and place an assortment of fruits and vegetables. Bonus : get them to name them!
2. Peeling Onions
As with garlic, Bean loves peeling the dry, crackling skin off onions. While she hasn’t tried cutting them yet – the tears that arrive when she stands next to me have made her reluctant to any cutting of onions – she is always eager to peel. Removes one step for mom!
3. Preparing Chicken Fillets
Hammers and toddlers go so well together. After placing a layer of cling film over our cutting board, Bean enjoyed smashing the chicken almost flat. She needed a little guidance as to how vigorously she should hit it, and it is a tangible application of the hammer and block toy she enjoys playing with.
4. Cracking Eggs
One of Bean’s favorite activities is to crack eggs open. After watching mom and dad do it, she quickly learned to firmly tap the egg on a hard edge before prying it open at the crack. There is some fishing out of egg-shell involved, but practice makes perfect!
5. Whisking Eggs
One of the tools in Bean’s kitchen arsenal is her mini whisk, which she has used for everything from mixing cake batter to preparing omelets. A deep, metal bowl provides stability and avoids any spillage. An easy and fun way for the kiddo to help out and manage hand-eye coordination.
Summer thunderstorms are rolling in and this means more indoor playtime. Here are even more – 5!– activities to entertain the kiddo while you have to finish that last batch of laundry or prepare luggage for your summer holiday.
Bean’s age: 22 months
Most of us have spare locks and keys lying around – whether for luggage or drawers – and they can be put to good use! We placed three different locks and their respective keys on a tray and just let Bean figure out what to do. She returned to the tray several times – and although she still didn’t have the strength to twist the lock open, she managed to match the keys to their respective locks and place the key all the way in. For older kids, try combinations locks.
Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles! German children’s brand Haba makes age appropriate puzzles starting from toddlerhood. Available in several themes (Zoo (pictured), Construction, Farm Animals, Professions, and Vehicles), every box contains thick, sturdy cardboard pieces that range from two piece-puzzle to four-piece. Bonus: also travel friendly!
Upcycle empty kitchen or toilet rolls by fixing them to a flat surface with scotch tape and letting the kiddo drop colored balls or pompoms through them. We put bowls at the bottom to save ourselves too much of a mess. This can also be used as a color-sortingactivity and is extremely easy to put together.
Messy play! These non-toxic IKEA Mala squeeze paint bottles are perfect for little hands. The tops can be easily unscrewed (though I haven’t decided if this is a blessing or a curse) and the paint is easy to squeeze out. Great for making bright art pieces, these bottles come in a pack with neon orange, neon pink, neon yellow, bright green, bright blue, silver and gold. Bonus: The paints are water-soluble and very easy to remove from non-textile surfaces.
The paint is fun to spread around on a long or large piece of construction paper…
…or create hand print art with! Bonus: once the paint dries, hand prints can be used as a keepsake.
Parents travel a whole lot more than they used to – many families and friends are spread out across the world, and air travel has made reaching certain destinations easier. Yet when you travel with a (small) child, the luggage seems to multiply exponentially – car seat, travel cot, stroller, in-flight entertainment, the list goes on. From short haul to long haul flights, whether you are travelling solo with your kiddo, or with your spouse, partner, family member or friend, here are 5 travel essentials that we’ve found have made our travelling with a little one much, much easier (read: bearable!). We’ve personally found these items useful and highly recommend them due to their light weight, compact, collapsible size, and user-friendliness.
1. Plane Pal Inflatable Cushion
Oh, cramped airplane seats. The bane of every economy-traveller’s (or long-legged person’s) existence. For adults, sleeping can be challenging enough – but what about the smaller adults? Having travelled with Bean multiple times, I learned quickly that if she doesn’t sleep, I don’t sleep. Enter Plane Pal. Almost identical to Fly-Tot, this nifty contraption fits into a small pouch with a portable pump, which you then use to inflate the cushion on board. It fits snugly between the child’s seat and the one in front, and forms an extension for the kiddo to place their legs on and – wait for it – sleep on. It works from baby up to 7 years of age.
Hailed by multiple mommy blogs, diapers bags need not always be cumbersome and bulky. Available in 45 colors, the Fjallraven Kanken Daypack is deceivingly slim, but actually fits everything you need for up to a long-haul flight. The zippers go all the way down either side of the bag, making searching for items much, much easier, and the handles are perfect when you are unable to wear it on your back. It is also waterproof, making it a great companion for outdoor activities. Created in Sweden in 1978 for schoolchildren, the bag is also designed to be ergonomic, so no shoulder pain! We found this bag so useful we have one in the original size (below) and in the mini, which works for everyday use.
Okay, okay. So this may have been the single, one item I was most excited about. Travelling with an infant capsule car seat is relatively easy – it can be slung over one arm, adapted to a stroller, and you can carry it with your baby inside. When Bean hit toddlerhood, lugging around an 8kg+ car seat made for some tricky travel decisions (read: public transportation with groceries and a cranky child). Luckily, in April 2017, Urban Kanga released their portable (yes, portable!) toddler car seat, suited from 9kg to 18kg – up to 4 years of age. The seat is cushioned, extremely easy to fix into cars, and weighs a cool 3kg. The head rest and strap inserts are adjustable and adapt to the growing child. And since it comes with its own bag, I hang it on the handles of Bean’s stroller when we are travelling.
From the company that brought us the smallest (when folded) stroller in the world, the GB Pockit+ is the improved, reclining model. Weighing 4.9kg and self-standing when folded, this stroller fits under the airplane seat in front of you. Unlike its predecessor, the GB Pockit, this later model offers recline function which makes it ideal for 6months onwards, and can be used up to 18kg, or 4 years of age. It also offers Cybex infant car seat adaptability, rendering it one of the most travel-friendly travel systems for infants as well as a practical travel stroller for toddlers. The downside may be the lack of a substantive sun shade, but we remedied this by finding a collapsible sun shade that can be stored in the surprisingly roomy basket. Easy to fold, easy to carry, and easy to travel with.
The final entry in this list is a solution for when the place you are staying at during your holiday does not offer a travel cot, or the cot does not meet your expectations. It can also be used as a permanent bed at home. We tried several different types of travel beds before settling on the Baby Björn Lite – it not only offers stability, roominess and is lightweight (6kg with the travel bag), it folds up with the mattress. And a reasonably thick mattress at that. Previous pack-and-plays we used also required the mattress to be carried separately – whereas this travel cot and mattress fit nicely into one bag. We even leave the mattress cover and waterproof sheet inside. The travel bag protects it from damage during check-in, and it folds and unfolds easily. Suited from birth to approximately 3 years of age.
Travel can be daunting with a small child. Travel on a plane, however, has its own special set of challenges. You can’t pull over to the nearest road shoulder for a break, or roll down the windows for fresh air, as you would in a car. You can’t let the kiddo run around a wide deck, and within a cabin, as you would on a cruise. Flying has obstacles such as air pressure, needing to remain seated for periods of time, and courtesy towards other (sometimes understanding, sometimes not) passengers. Here are 5 tried and tested ways to entertain the kiddo between meals and sleep time (if any) – all of which fit altogether into a small, compact kiddy backpack.
What? That messy thing? It doesn’t have to be! This kneading wonder can keep a toddler entertained for ages and is readily available in “mini” sizes often used as party giveaways from play-doh. The small size means that several colors can be packed – and colors offer variety. Other play-doh brands work as well – Flying Tiger Denmark offers a small six-color set as well, (bonus: aimed for ages 1+) though not as compact as the play-doh minis.
Now your child can make art on the plane, without worrying about marker stains on the seat in front of you! Both the Aqua Doodle and Water Wow sets are travel friendly with their compact size, and use special pens that are filled with water. The Aqua Doodle is for drawing on a foldable sheet, whereas Water Wow offers coloring pages and connect-the-dots books. Both have designs that will appear when the paper makes contact with water – which then dries up after 4 minutes or so and can be used again.
Usborne offers an amazing series of reusable sticker books for toddlers to older children. Alternatives also include bringing sheets of paper and sticker sheets – from simple round ones, to themed ones, to ones with different textures.
There are several variations of this game – some, as pictured above, have a thread attached to the object that it is threaded to. Others include a separate thread and beads in a box. Either way, threading requires concentration – and also practices fine motor skills – while keeping the kiddo busy until the last hole has been threaded.
The best for last? After finding this toddler fidget cube on etsy, I promptly ordered one for the Bean and it has, to date, kept her occupied on car rides and in the stroller. Handmade and customizable, these compact miracles can also be hung off backpacks as colorful keychains until needed.