“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.
As Bean gets older, she wants to imitate mom and dad more in the kitchen. We put together her own set of toddler-sized and friendly tools, in addition to the vegetable knife and egg slicer, to let her explore more skills in the kitchen.
Bean’s age: 21 months
Clockwise, from left: Silicon mini whisk, small vegetable peeler, mini ‘retro’ colander with handles, ceramic mortar and pestle, egg slicer / cutter, vegetable cutter with wide handle.
1.Vegetable Peeler (with wide handle)
The wide handle is perfect for a toddler’s hand to grip, and it took a few tries before Bean realized which direction to pull away from. Carrots are an ideal vegetable to start with as they are easier to hold onto.
2.Removing Mushroom Stems
No tools required! Pulling the stems off mushrooms.
3.Mini Colander with Handles
This colander is a dream. We’ve been showing Bean how to rinse her own small fruits (blueberries, strawberries or grapes) for breakfast or her midday snack. The handles are just the right distance apart for small hands (and arms!).
4. Scooping Yoghurt
The Montessori scoop and transfer with marbles / nuts translates well to scooping yoghurt. We use a small spoon – expect a mess at the beginning!
Unsolicited advice- whether useful or critical- is one of the byproducts of becoming a parent. One such source is the multitude of parenting books that adorn the “family” section at the bookstore. Weaning, sleep training, potty training – the list goes on. Having waded through our fair share of “must-have” parenting books, I realized that the ones I found the most useful were the ones that (surprise!) didn’t tell you what to do, but the ones that explained unfamiliar situations in a matter-of-fact, observatory way. Whether you are a new or seasoned parent, here are 5 titles may be worth your reading list.
1.The Wonder Weeks
You know how one book can change your life? For me, it was this book. Written by two paediatricians, The Wonder Weeks outlines every developmental leap that your child will go through (whether mental, physical, or both) and explains each leap in terms of “periods”, which can range from days to weeks. The reason I found this book amazing was that whenever Bean would suddenly become crankier, whinier and fussier, it would line up with a “leap”. And leaps end at some point – so there was a light at the end of tunnel! This book may just be the holy grail of parenting texts.
2.French Children Don’t Throw Food
Oh, the French. This book has dog ears from the number of times I have reread it. Witty, funny and enlightening (!), Druckerman pens her observations of French families and their dynamics as an American living in Paris. There is no one-size fits all solution, as we find out, but an emphasis on adaptability, consistency and patience. Bonus! Druckenman also includes several easy-to-follow recipes at the back.
3. Parenting without Borders
If multiculturalism were a parenting book, this would be it. Gross-Loh travels the world to learn more of parenting styles. From China, to Sweden, to France (surprise!)) and many more, each observation she makes prompts reflection. Although this book is written to contrast American parenting styles to those of other countries, it does not stray into judgemental territory. Easy to read, and full of insight.
4. The Danish Way of Parenting
There has admittedly been an uptick in interest regarding Scandinavian culture. Scores of books on “Hygge” line book store shelves. Parenting books follow not too far behind. Peppered with anecdotes, Alexander and Sandahl indulge curious readers about the workings of Danish – and to a greater extent, North European – parenting. From the explanation behind leaving a sleeping child parked in a stroller outdoors in winter, to how to foster a simple, optimistic outlook on life, this book leaves any reader feeling contented and enlightened.
5.And Baby Makes Three
In And Baby Makes Three, the Gottmans focus on the parental unit specifically, rather than the child. Parenting is daunting and challenging, and becoming a parent for the first time is never an easy task. Written in an extremely easy-to-follow format, this text reaffirms the importance of maintaining a strong foundation between a child’s parents, and in turn, how this can greatly benefit the child themselves.