Classrooms often use time timers so kids have a visual reminder of how much time is left before transitioning to another activity. I began using it like that so James and Julia would know how much time they had left to play, but they transitioned so well I stopped using it. However, it still has been super useful. When my kids are eating particularly slowly and we have to be somewhere, I’ve put it on the dining table to let them know that when time’s up they have to stop eating. (“Hey kids, you’ve been sitting here not eating lunch for long enough. You have five minutes and when the red is gone we’re leaving for school.”) It also has worked well for time outs.
What it’s been invaluable for, however, is quiet time. No longer do I have kids yelling, “Is quiet time over yet?” Instead, much like a Ronco Rotisserie Grill, I can set it and forget it, and they don’t bother me from my busy schedule of watching What Not to Wear, photo-editing, and checking Facebook. I even bought one for each kid. So worth it!
Similarly each kid has a cheap digital clock in their room so they can look at it instead of calling out, “Is it time to wake up yet?”
Time Timer. $23.99 on Amazon.
The Melissa & Doug chart includes responsibilities that are applicable for 3-year-olds on up to high schoolers. Right now my kids can achieve circles for “No whining,” “Set table,” and “Get dressed,” among others. Effective parenting is supposed to be more positive and reward-based. With the chart I can dangle a reward for them - a circle (yippee!) - so they’ll do what I tell them to. And once they’ve collected enough, they can redeem circles for prizes. Their preschool basically does the same thing - when the kids got enough pretend M&Ms in their jar they chose to have a pajama party.
Melissa & Doug Deluxe Magnetic Responsibility Chart (shown above). $17.99 on Amazon.
(My friend Sara created a version, too: Stinkerpants Reward Chart and Magnets. $12 on Stinkerpants.com.)
My kids (or at least Julia) can’t reach the faucet without dragging over a stool. I got sick of the stool dragging so I had Mark install Aqueduck. Basically it’s a faucet and handle extender. It confuses anyone else who doesn’t live here, but it makes our lives easier and stool-dragging free.
Aqueduck the Original Faucet Extender. $9.99 on Amazon.
Aqueduck Faucet Handle Extender. $15.64 on Amazon.
Potty Seat Overlays
If I had to do it over again, I would skip the little potties and go straight to having the kids use the big potties with stools. The little potties always just cluttered up the bathrooms and were kind of gross since we had to empty them out each time. There are little boy overlays (with splash guard) and little girl ones. And if you’re really enterprising like Mark, you can install a new toilet seat that includes a seat for a little girl.
The First Years Soft Grip Trainer Seat (shown above is the one for boys that we have). $8.80 on Amazon.
BEMIS 583SLOW Round Toilet Seat with NextStep Built-in Potty Seat, Whisper Close (Mark installed a similar one). $44.99 on Amazon.
Sunglasses and Hats
Start putting sunglasses and hats on your kids as early as possible. The earlier you start the more likely they are to wear them. (I wish I’d taken this advice with Julia with regards to pigtails since she refused them until she was four.) Everyone knows why hats are important (UV rays on the skin, duh), but cataracts come from cumulative lifetime exposure. Why not eliminate all those years of exposure from their childhood when they’re outside all the time? (Okay, public service announcement over.)
Make sure you find good quality sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays. I discovered My First Shades and bought those as the kids’ first sunglasses, and there are lots of colors, patterns, and styles to choose from. One option is to have a soft, elastic, adjustable velcro band so the glasses actually stay on the kids’ heads. The band is a little big for two year olds but I just wound it around itself several times. James still wore his until age 4 and he has a gigantic head, so I think you can pretty much wear them from ages 2-7. Recently he graduated to a pair without the band. The velcro strap didn’t work so well with Julia once she started wearing pigtails so I bought her a pair of different sunglasses at REI.
As hats go my favorite sources are the San Diego Hat Company (often via my mom who goes to their clearance sale near San Diego and scores hats for $5 each), REI, Gymboree, Wiggy Studio, and Hanna Andersson.
|My First Shades|
|Plaid banded bucket hat from Gymboree|
|Wallaroo Petite Nantucket Rainbow Tones hat|
Wearing hats early on and matching Papa: Julia at 1 ½ and James in his first hat at 6 months.
|James at 2 ¼ at Gymboree in one of his San Diego Hat Co. hats.|
|Julia at age 4 in a Wiggy Studio hat (purchased on Zulily)|
|People can always tell my kids are twins - not because they look alike (they don’t), but because they’re the kids wearing the sunglasses and hats. Julia is wearing her rainbow hat and James is in his plaid bucket hat (details for both below).|
My First Shades Ages 0+. $12.95 at Real Kid Shades.com (also carried at Ambassador Toys in Palo Alto)
Plaid Banded Bucket Hat. $5.99 at Gymboree.com
Wallaroo Petite Nantucket 2.5” Rainbow Tones girl’s hat. $20.95 at Swimtowin.com. (We purchased ours at REI.)
What kid doesn’t want a novelty bed? Unfortunately there aren’t nearly as many novelty beds specifically for girls. We got James’s car bed on Craigslist for under $100.
|The official Little Tykes car bed photo. (Not James.)|
|James playing in his big boy bed for the first time!|
|Jumping together on the bed|
Little Tykes Sports Car Twin Bed. $448.95 plus shipping at Amazon. (Get it on Craigslist!)
Kid’s bandaids usually run $3 for 20 of them. At IKEA you can get a box of 50 cool rocket ship ones for under $1!
Patrull bandaids. 50 for $1 at IKEA.
Gerber Training Pants
When you’re starting potty training and about to make the transition to underwear, invest in Gerber training pants. They are much thicker than typical underwear, and if your kids pee in them the pee doesn’t always saturate their clothing. Hanna Andersson sells something similar but you can’t beat the price of Gerber’s.
|We got these blue and pink ones but the prints now are different.|
Modeling training pants while playing Elefun.
|Julia models her training pants around her ankles.|
Gerber Baby-Girls Infant 4 Pack Training Pants. $13.99 - $18.99 on Amazon.
Gerber Baby-Boys Infant 4 Pack Training Pants. $13.99 - $18.99 on Amazon.
Other Gerber training pants options available on Amazon. Prints have changed since ours were purchased.
Kids’ Yoga Videos
It may seem super granola-y but kids’ yoga videos are great, and so much better than cartoons. It’s adorable to see my twins run excitedly to get their yoga mats. The videos help give them body awareness since they have to follow directions on moving their bodies. That’s something that’s not totally second nature at this age, and it’ll be helpful when they play sports. It also encourages mindfulness - good for helping them calm down on their own - and targets their balance and strength. Some nights I have my kids get all ready for bed, and then they do yoga so it’ll relax them before tuck in.
Plus, seeing your kids sit cross-legged saying, “namaste” is pretty ridiculous and cute.
I’ve heard Yoga Kids is a good video. We just use the free Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventures on You Tube. Each video lasts around 15 minutes.
|A typical Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventure complete with Aussie instructor.|
|Doing yoga in pjs|
Everyone loves those Land of Nod Storagepalooza wooden toy storage containers with good reason: they’re attractive and hold a lot. I wasn’t so sure about the $199 price tag, and when I asked around online someone directed me to these cheap knock-offs. Badger Baskets aren’t quite as nice but are a good deal. The only small problems have been the brown screw covers coming off and a little paint melting onto a few toys. (This sounds worse than it is.) Anyway, really I’m writing this in favor of Badger Baskets. Really!
Badger Baskets. $62.00-$71.27 (depending on a 2-bin or 3-bin configuration) on Amazon.
During that first year of potty training it’s good to have a travel potty for when you’re out and your kid suddenly needs to go. It takes a lot less time than finding a bathroom (which they might not get to in time anyway.) Basically you set up the potty so that they essentially pee in a trash bag (which isn’t nearly as hobo-like as it sounds). I was so happy we had this on our drives to San Diego since the bathrooms near I-5 in the Central Valley all had industrial strength hand dryers (which frighten the kids) and long lines.
|Julia happily uses her portable potty outside Children’s Fairyland.|