Top 5 Toys We Actually Use: 0-7 Months

Can we just pause for a minute and reflect on how much baby stuff is out there… it is actually out of control! When you are a first time mom, like me, I am sure you also felt like… “ok but what do I ACTUALLY need? What will my baby ACTUALLY be entertained with?” Now obviously every baby is different but here are the top five things that I found effective! If you can borrow these from a friend or get them used… all the better, because as you will see most of the stuff is only used for a limited time period! If you go onto pinterest or google there are tons of great tips on how to clean used/borrowed gear!

When H was new all she needed was some cuddles and maybe the occasional bright light to check out… things have changed rather quickly! Here are the top 5 things I cannot imagine not having!

Tummy time mats/ baby active gyms (whatever you want to call them)… You can go all out with these. While they are the greatest things in the moment they really only use them for a short time. If you want to go all out have at it, but if you want to get a more budget friendly version that is fine! I really liked that mine came with a tiny crescent shaped pillow… it helped for tummy time when she got a bit stronger (similar found HERE). We have put ours away in storage since she was about 5 months… but I cannot imagine not having had one! Also our cat George was a huge fan.

Foam letter mat… I randomly picked this up on sale and now I understand why everyone has them! As H has learned to roll she would sometimes bring her head down rather hard, and our house has hardwood… having a little padding has made me and her feel better about some of her “thunks”! It is also great for when she has a little spit up, rather than spitting up on the rug! And finally she loves to destroy it (hence me considering it a toy!). She figured out how to pull out the letters surprisingly quickly and finds this endlessly entertaining!

Exersaucer… known in my circle of friends as “the circle of neglect”. This again is one of those toys that at the time I could/can not have lived without… but it only lasts a few months. We were lent two from different friends (thanks!). We started with just a few minutes and have slowly built up her time in it. Often she will be having a blast in her circle while N and eat dinner… one of them has some music button so we often refer to her as our DJ (similar here). She is not out of it just yet, but I have a feeling that time will come soon… and that will be unfortunate!

Jolly Jumper, again I had a great friend who let me borrow hers. We have an older model that clips onto a door-frame. This works in our house, but if you live in a newer home you will want to get one with an independent stand. H Loves this! She gets a big crazy sometime jumping and yelling and just having a ball!

Some sort of Chew toy – Sophie The Giraffe (or something similar) has worked great for us. She loves chewing on the poor giraffes face, as well as its legs, and ears. The squeaking has also caused a few giggles! Along with Sophie, H loves her vibrating raspberry! When she bites down it vibrates and she goes nuts! If you find safe chew toys that are wood… this seems to be what H and her baby friends are starting to really love … more on that in the future!

Ok and one more… O’Ball Rattle. A random, cheap item, we picked up that H just loves! It was one of the first things she could pick up independently. Another popular toy with both baby and cat! haha sharing is caring!

Good luck sorting through all the stuff!

 

Top Five Must Have Board Books

As an elementary teacher literacy is a huge deal… They can never be too early to start a love of reading in my books (see what I did there… haha). I was so excited the day H actually looked at the pages of a book I was trying to read to her! When she was a newborn I would actually read what I was reading out loud to her… it kept us both entertained! I still do this once in awhile actually! But now she is getting a bit more into books… don’t get me wrong I am still fairly sure she would rather be eating them, but she tolerates my reading a bit more these days!

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“Thanks for all the great books mom!”

There are so many wonderful books out there but these are my 5 absolute favorites! These are the books that come with us on our travels!

5. Sing a Song of Mother Goose by Barbara Reid – I have been a fan of Barbara Reid for a long time… this book was actually given to me by my Dr. and I love it! It contains a bunch of classic rhymes, amazing images (one of the major reasons I am such a fan of Barbara Reid), and it is the type of book you can flip to any page and read… so if you just need something short it’s great or you can read the entire thing!

4. Your First Word Will Be DADA by Jimmy Fallon – H got this for N for his birthday… it is a super cute, quick read with adorable illustrations! This book is great for exploring (you can talk about what the animals are, what they say, what the babies are called, etc.). I must admit sometimes when I read it I say mama instead of dada… shhh.

3.Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill – my mom gave us this book because as a kid we would take it out of the library and I could not get enough! It has flaps that can be lifted and so many different animals… so cute!

2. Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt– Ok not exactly a board book, but close enough. This is such a classic! I remember loving this book as a little munchkin myself!

1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown– I remember being read this as a kid (a theme? Perhaps!) and now I read it to H every single night. Depending on the night it might be the last book or the only book, but it is always read!

Honorable mention:

Feel like you need a good sentimental cry? The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown is such a lovely book, but totally makes me cry

Need a giggle? The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee… based on a true story?! haha

Need baby to have a giggle? Bunny Love to Play by Parragon Books (or similar), you put your finger in the bunny like a little puppet and as it wiggles watch your baby giggle along! H finds it very funny!

Need baby to stay focus? Any book with baby faces! We have Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children… but really any book with photographs of other babies your munchkin will love!

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Have fun reading!

How To Swim With A Baby

One of the activities that baby H and I have been really enjoying is swimming. In fact she enjoys it so much that dad takes her to swim lessons on the weekend, while I do aquasize during the week. It doesn’t matter if she is hungry, tired, grumpy… she gets in the water and is so happy! Also her naps after swimming… awesome!

Aquasize means that everyone puts their babies in a little boat… so stinking cute! The cute factor can actual be a bit of an issue as we are often distracted and miss what we should be doing! We do laps with them, jump around, all kinds of water exercises… it’s a ton of fun. If there is a class nearby I highly recommend giving it a go with a little one! If you have another kiddo they actually have a little shallow swim area right beside the big pool where they get to play in the water with a lifeguard… those kids are always having a great time! Swim lessons generally consists of songs and some dunking (they aren’t ready to work on their front crawl just yet!

We found a great pool nearby that is boarder-line a hot tub, if you ask me. The average temperature… 34 degrees (93 Fahrenheit for my American friends). This pool also has many programs for people with a variety of disabilities so in the change room are large padded benches… perfect for changing a squirming baby! Once your baby is changed you can put them in these chairs fixed to the wall, that you clip the little ones into. There is an open swim before aquasize and you always hear giggles and oohh’s as everyone sees the babies in their little swimsuits. I don’t care who you are… it’s like a parade of cuteness!

A few things to consider when bringing baby swimming:

  •  Personally I wouldn’t rush to put a baby in a pool too soon because of their sensitive skin
  • Your peanut will need decent head support to sit in one of the little boats for programs like aquasize (we started at about 4.5 months)
  • Some babes, even when a bit older, have sensitive skin so you might want to space out when you go (we go on Wednesday and Saturday for this reason)
  • You will want to rinse your babe off as soon as you are out of the pool, which can be a bit scary for your wee one at first (exposure to a shower has really come in handy when we were in a pinch for a bath in Hawaii!)
  • If you have a wiggly one try to be as prepared as you can be when you are getting dressed so you don’t have to continually ask your neighbor to make sure your baby doesn’t roll away on you! Depending on the lay out of the change room if you can leave out babies towel, lotion, clean diaper and clothes you will be in great shape (if not have them ready to grab!)
  • You might want to consider the outfit your munchkin is wearing to make changing easier (we like H to be in her PJ’s! One piece and your done!)
  • If you find that your little one does have skin sensitivity (H does!), really make sure to shower baby off very well and apply lotion ASAP!
  • At 6 months we started bringing a sippy cup for H… because the pool is so warm I feel this helps keep her hydrated and I prefer her chomping on this rather than another random toy the pool provides

Gear we actually use (rather than bring our diaper bag we have a backpack set up to grab and go on swim days):

  • Weleda cream – seriously this stuff is AWESOME!
  • towels (if you can splurge these ones are amazing)
  • swim suit (honestly this isn’t necessary, but they are just soooo cute!)
  • plastic bag for wet suits and towels
  • clean diapers and wipes because you never know!
  • Plastic swim cover (most pools require this but also will sell this to go over the swim diaper). I know many baby boutiques also sell them… I am working on finding one that has adjustable legs as this one, from the pool, is a bit tight on little H!
  • Swim diaper (this is really only to contain solids hence the additional plastic cover above): we used  Huggies Little Swimmers… and now have this reusable one (purchased at a local baby store). The reusable one works great. I love that it has numerous snaps so it will lasts a really long time! This being said I do always have a back up diaper because if there is a poop… well I think you know where I am going with this.
  • Baby boat: if you are going to be swimming on vacation these are the boats we use, I would highly recommend getting one with a canopy for extra sun protection!

Day Trip: To Lake Louise

How quickly time passes… I feel like it was only yesterday that we were taking a tiny baby H to the mountains for the first time! We decided to head back to Lake Louise to get a photo of baby H at 31 weeks old… to compare with my 31 week belly shot! It turned out to be a slightly different trip than last time.

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Packing up our gear we headed off… right at H’s nap-time… did she nap… eventually. It did take a certain amount of singing and my arm reached around, so she could hold a finger, before she passed out! We stopped in Banff at our absolute favourite restaurant for a great lunch. It was busy and it was baby H’s first time in a restaurant high chair… she rocked it! I had brought a little dish of baby food (spinach, pears and strawberries), which I added a little bit of baby oatmeal cereal to and then realized… I forgot a bib! So I tucked a little washcloth, I had in my diaper bag, under one of her many chins… and we were good to go! She ate like a champ… sure it took a while, as she needed to smile at everyone who passed her… but she was awesome! After so much action in the very full restaurant munchkin passed right out!

 

Our next stop was Lake Louise. Arriving at the Lake we bundled H up in her little bear suit and I decided to wear her in our carrier and off we went. The amounts of comments we got was fairly ridiculous… but she was bloody adorable, so I don’t blame anyone for the need to oooh and ahhh over the baby bear. It was then time to get the baby bear home before she turned into a grumpy bear. She was rather loud on her the way back, chatting up a storm, trying to play peek-a-boo through her mirror at us… but finally she had another nap and we made it home just in time for dinner, a little play and bed!

What we learned:

  • Take your time! Seriously I learn this every time I go somewhere new with babe… but it never gets less important! Whether it is time to feed, change or simply get the little one out of the car seat it is so important to not be in a rush.
  • It is important to figure out what makes your munchkin calm down (even for a moment) while still in her car seat. Sometimes you just can’t stop right at that exact moment… but your little one may be losing it… with baby H singing her “high chair song” or lately playing peer-a-boo or sometimes just giving her a finger to hold onto
  • Be flexible… if H had fallen asleep right when we wanted to go for lunch we might have done things a little differently. She is still in the car seat that clips into her stroller so we would have probably tried to get her to her stroller and then gone somewhere a bit calmer.

Gear we actually used:

  • plastic baby spoon and dish (we had her food in a glass Tupperware dish that we used)
  • diaper bag
  • car essentials
  • baby carrier (more about my carrier to come!)
  • bear suit: clearly an essential! haha… similar sold HERE (on sale!)
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Why do they even make baby outfit without ears?!?

Car Essentials (for baby)

Whether it be for a road trip, going to one of our fun activities, visiting friends or simply trying to get baby H to sleep… I have found it is very handy to have a few essential items in my car at all times. I talked about how to survive a big car trip in previous post (Road Trip to my Homeland and First Trip most notably) but here are my day to day essentials!

Great we actually used:

  • Diaper Bag (even if you think you are just popping to the store… just bring the bag!)
  • change pad
  • wipes (for more than just baby… you never know when these come in handy!)
  • diapers (just 1 or 2 for day trips that you aren’t quite prepared for!)
  • extra bags for diapers, dirty clothing, or whatever!
  • stroller (There have been so many times I didn’t think I would use it and ended up using it) alternatively if you have an awkward stroller a carrier (will be writing a post about carriers soon) would work in a pinch!
  • Mirror for the back of the seat to see baby and so baby can see me! (great when you aren’t 100% sure if she is sleeping or eating her shoe… again)
  • Extra clothing for you and baby… this isn’t a totally necessity but it can come in handy when we go on a day trip and we don’t pack enough extra stuff
  • My vehicle has sun shades built into the doors but if yours doesn’t I would include that in your car essentials

I have to say that I am very fortunate that baby H gets a big smile and often starts giggling when put in her car seat! I think this must be in part due to the fact that from a very young age she has been going on almost daily adventures in her carseat. This isn’t to say that she hasn’t had her fair share of freak outs once we are on the move. Car freak outs can be the worst… is she hungry, dirty diaper… do you stop or push it… traffic, stress, crying baby… AGH!! Realizing that there is never somewhere that I need to get to so urgently that I can’t stop has been a very important shift in my mindset. I HATE being late, but sometimes it is going to happen and it’s ok!!

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Baby H chilling on the road (Don’t be fooled the sunglasses only lasted for the photo)!

How to Choose Child-Friendly Accommodation

Now that you have figured out where you are going it is time to sort out where to stay exactly… Choosing the right place to stay on a vacation, be it for two weeks or one night, can make or break a trip in my opinion! Here are a few things I have found helpful to think about. I am going to use an apartment as my example, but these thoughts can totally be applied to hotels, hostels, camping… whatever! If you choose to rent an apartment my favourite websites are listed at the bottom with a few more tips.

  1. Location, location, location… take some time to research the exact area that you want to spend your time in and then book a place there! This will allow you to really make the most of your vacation. Having a little one you never know when you will need to make a quick trip “home”! Being close to your home base allows you to come and go as you will. I like to take note of parking options (if you have a car) and/or access to public transportation. You would be shocked at how much parking can be sometimes and if you are staying somewhere for a while it is nice to be near public transport! In Europe I have noticed that not all public transportation is created equal. You may need to lug a stroller up and down stairs… so be prepared!
  2. How much space do you and baby need to sleep soundly? If you have a sensitive munchkin you might put the most emphasis on this, or if not this might not be a big deal. For me I have a very hard time sleeping beside H… I wake up to every sigh, peep and squeak. This doesn’t necessarily mean we need to have a separate bedroom for baby H, but we do require a large enough room that she is not right beside my head! Having a separate bedroom for naps is glorious. Also having a separate bedroom for when the little one goes to bed early is nice (so that you don’t have to hide under the covers watching Netflix with earphones). Depending on your little one, splurging on having a bedroom can make all the difference or, if you are really lucky, maybe it doesn’t matter as your babe can sleep anywhere!
  3. Safety… I have noticed looking at many apartment photos that some people just really love to decorate… this can make a place look far more inviting, eclectic or sometimes a bit odd. An apartment’s decorating style is something that takes on a whole new level of importance with a little one. If you have a curious munchkin seeing a thousand knick-knacks might now be a good idea. If there are numerous open fireplaces with massive pointy coffee tables… perhaps this will be an issue for your family. Are their stairs in very inconvenient locations? These are all things to consider… None of these things would necessarily sway me away from a place, but if there were a place next door that didn’t have these issues why wouldn’t I book there instead?
  4. Cleanliness (floors in particular). After our house in Hawaii I realized once H was mobile I would need to pay more attention to the floors… seems a bit funny but with a little person crawling around and sticking everything she can possibly get into her mouth, floor cleanliness takes on an entire new meaning.
  5. What extras does the apartment come with? Not necessarily a make or break, but something that might just sway you on one place over another. For our France trip I made sure that each place we are staying at has a washing machine. Sometimes places will specifically list that they have things such as cribs and high chairs, which can be totally awesome! As I mentioned in my previous post (about choosing a destination) if you don’t want to bring things with you, renting is also an option. I found that if baby things were not listed, if you ask, often places would still provide them! If you are staying in a hotel you will want to ask them as well. Something to keep in mind is that some cribs/high chairs or whatever might not be in the best condition. At the bare minimum I always like to bring my own sheet for baby H. Also, most likely there won’t be any crib bumpers or anything like that. I always have in the back of my mind that if something looks REALLY not clean or safe enough for me I can always either make H a bed in a bathtub, or N and I have even discussed how he can sleep on a pull-out couch and I can sleep with baby H… you can always figure something out!

Other things that might make a difference if you have a particularly fussy little one: noise level of the area, what sort of blinds do the rooms have (is it going to be dark enough for babe to sleep) and heating (in colder months some European houses really have poor insulation)!

I love booking accommodation with airbnb.ca and vrbo.com. I have used both of these sites and have never had issues with either. Make sure you don’t forget to look at the cleaning and service fees. Sometimes the cleaning fee can be significant and then other times it is nothing! It is worth noting that with airbnb you can have rates in Canadian currency, and with vrbo the rates are in American dollars. Also don’t be afraid to branch out and try other sites depending on where you are going. When we were in the Cinque Terre, Italy we found an individual website for what turned out to be a really wonderful apartment (most of the rentals in this area at that time had personal websites and were wonderful)! The key is to do a little bit of research to make sure it is legitimate but sometimes you can find some hidden gems!

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My computer screen when searching for the right accommodation!

How to ‘Hike’ With an Infant

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With baby H at just 3 and a half months, myself and 3 of my mommy friends (babies in tow) decided to attempt our first hike… how Canadian are we! We packed into two cars and headed for the mountains… to Canmore to be specific. We decided to hike up to Grassi Lakes. We knew that there were two route options so we could decide how we were feeling and what things were looking like when we got there. I must admit I am using the term hike slightly loosely here; it was a slightly more of an steep walk!

Once in the parking lot we decided to take the wider trail up because we were wearing backpacks and babies! I was wearing my Bjorn carrier and the other mommas were rocking out in their Ergo carriers (I have since purchased a lillebabe carrier). All of these carriers have been great, just depends on what you want. I will be sure to post more about carriers at later date! It was very fun to see everyone’s expression as they saw these four moms walking along with their babes! We received countless smiles and positive comments.

It was the perfect temperature for our first hike as it wasn’t super warm (having those little heaters on your chest can get a bit toasty), but not freezing cold. We made sure to choose a hike we knew and dressed in layers! I think these were key elements in making it a successful day.

Once at the second lake I thought I thought I smelt something slightly suspicious coming from my sweet baby H… sooo all moms on deck and it was diaper changing time. I there down a change pad on a bench, got out the diaper and wipes then it happened… like something from a movie… just as I was taking baby H out of the her carrier she spit out her soother. Simultaneously all of us moms cried out “no” and reached out. The soother happily bounced along, under a root and plop… right into the lake!!! All three moms turned to me with the most sympathetic looks… but I only had a smile… Mom win… I had an extra soother with me! Mom win!

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Feeling rather proud of ourselves, we decided to go crazy and try go out for lunch. We went to one of my favourite restaurant, The Grizzly Paw, in town. Being that it was mid week and later the afternoon, there was lots of room for us. I would not recommend doing this during the weekend or at any peak time. We literally took over the upstairs! It was rather funny that 4 ladies with 4 babies would take up so much room. It was a great lunch! We all managed to eat without inhaling, had some great laughs and didn’t have any meltdowns (fresh air for the win!). At one point we had one baby sleeping in her car seat, one mom changing her baby in a booth, another feeding her babe a bottle and another snuggling her little one.

Setting off for home we were feeling rather smug… look at us spending the entire day doing things we would do without a baby… then Karma hit. I forgot the golden rule… taking my time. Baby H was not a happy camper on the way home. I had a feeling she would need to be fed but instead I thought I would push it… oops! Fortunately I had a very understanding mom and babe with me so it took us a rather long time to get back home, but we made it and despite the tiny blip heading home, it was a wonderful day!

Gear we actually used:

  • baby carriers (I was using the Bjorn and my mommy friends the Ergo 360)
  • car seat
  • change pad
  • diapers and wipes
  • EXTRA SOOTHER!! Haha
  • Burp rag
  • Baby toque (winter hat for the non Canadians out there)
  • Change of clothing (shirt for me, sleeper for baby H)
  • Mirror on the back of the seat to see little baby H when she was freaking out!
  • Layers for me (I actually wore N’s zip-up sweater as a coat… covered me and baby H)