When we had my daughter, our first child, we totally fell into the trap of thinking we needed to BUY ALL THE THINGS… We were gifted so many great toys and baby items as well. In retrospect, I realize the baby merch market totally keyed in on our ‘New Parent Anxiety’ and we ended up with so many things that were barely used! Now that we have a better handle on how to keep her healthy and *sometimes* happy (she’s 3, so…;) I’ve started to look at clearing out our home clutter and providing open ended activities, rather than toys. It feels so good to minimize the clutter and not feel the need to buy her every toy we see at friends houses.
Before I was a parent I had no idea the amount of STUFF I would accumulate just by virtue of having a tiny human in the house! I am by no means an expert at minimalist parenting just yet, but we are making our way there and I’ve learned a lot along the way. If you are feeling overwhelmed by toys and are looking to simplify, here are my top 10 toy free activities for the minimalist toddler parent!
Despite our best intentions, 3 years into Parenthood we seem to have acquired an amount of plastic toys, stuffed animals and play equipment that is beyond belief. We didn’t set out to buy all the things, but somehow ended up with more toys than the little could possibly play with in a year. There seems to be a growing movement of young families towards minimalism, however, and it is a really refreshing concept! There has long been a school of thought that children need fewer toys and more opportunities to use their imaginations, the Montessori and Waldorf methods of education to name a few. There was even a nursery in Germany that took away every. single. toy. and the children thrived!
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Whether you have a green thumb or not (and I’m guessing not since you are reading this post;) gardening with kids is such a rewarding activity! Besides the obvious benefits of being outside rather than glued to a screen, gardening can teach both parents and kids so much. It can be overwhelming to start if you have never grown anything on your own, but this list will get you started off small and simple! I have personally tested out each of these plants, (and my plants tend to survive despite me rather than because of me,) so I know anyone can grow them! If you have decided you want to get your hands dirty, read on for the 10 Plants Anyone Can Grow With Kids…
So I admit I have a problem… working at an outdoor retailer for the past 8 years has turned me into a bit of a gear junkie. To your advantage though because it has allowed me to compile this list of the best family camping gear!
Earth Day is Sunday, April 22nd! Kids have an innate love of nature, and helping them learn to be stewards of our planet is such an easy thing to do! There are of course so many scheduled events, check out your city’s homepage or your local neighborhood association for events to sign up for. If a scheduled event doesn’t work for your family though, there are still so many ways you can celebrate Earth Day with your toddler! Get started this Earth Day with these 9 simple and fun ways to celebrate earth day as a family.
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We are deep in the throes of ‘three-ness’ around here. Lots of big emotions and a burgeoning independent streak. I once read a quote about how terrible it is that just as our kids are starting to truly grow into their own personalities (what a wonderful thing!) we call it the ‘Terrible Two’s’ or another equally derogatory name. I’m not saying it isn’t hair pulling-ly challenging, that I don’t want often want to scream/lock myself in my room with my coffee and never come out… but I’m trying to see it in another way as well, and I hope this Visual Packing List for Toddlers is a step in the right direction!
We are fortunate here in the Bay Area to have so many beautiful backpacking spots with short hikes in! I took the opportunity to take the little (then 8 month old) baby backpacking for her second trip when some coworkers planned a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore. There were some key differences between baby backpacking with a mostly immobile 5 month old and a crawling, drooling 8 month old. In this post I’ll share what I learned and some things I wish I had done differently!
In our pre-kid days my husband and I would often head out last minute for a camping adventure. Checklists? Ha! This wasn’t to say that we didn’t forget things… like maybe the tent poles once upon a time… but we were adults and pretty flexible. Fast forward to our first time car camping with a kid? SO. MUCH. STUFF! We went a bit overboard. Now that I’ve created this family camping checklist, though, we have everything we need without hauling any extra gear, free download below!
What do we need for family camping?
A little preface to this list: There is a ‘hassle to comfort’ ratio that is different for everybody. Do what you will be comfortable with! This is especially true with kids. Potty training? If packing a plastic potty will make you sleep better then by all means strap that thing to the top of your car. Does your kid have a blankie/toy/book they can’t live without? Take it! I encourage you to be very selective on the toy type items you bring, but you know what works for your kid. I specifically left a few ‘fill in the blank’ spots on the kids portion of the family camping checklist for you to fill out these things. You will be surprised with how little your kids need when they have the novelty of eating, cooking and sleeping outside to keep them entertained. Not to mention the stars and campfire to watch in the evening.
I hear so many people say they would love to go camping with their kids but are worried about the sleep situation. My biggest advice is this: You are camping to relax! So be flexible with your schedule. Let them stay up late to roast marshmallows and join in the campfire stories. Schedule in time during the day when you can take a family nap if needed. That way you can all get a break if nighttime wasn’t as restful as you had hoped. My daughter has always slept well while camping, although she tends to take longer to go to sleep. The combination of fresh air and slow pace of camping tends to set the right tone for a restful night for kids. Add in the personal nighttime items from the Family Camping Kids Checklist as well as your usual nighttime routines and you should be in good shape!
There is a whole other checklist for your kitchen. Again this is very dependent on your style, foodie or mac n cheese campers will need very different things. For an exhaustive kitchen checklist check out REI’s Camp Kitchen List. I’ve put in the basics into my Family Camping Checklist so that even if you don’t have all the tools of home, you have the tools you need to make most simple meals.
The Family Camping Checklist!
So without further ado, here is the checklist! I printed mine out and laminated it (huge nerd alert haha:) so that I can use a dry erase marker and reuse the checklist. If you have a pre-reader in the house, get them participating in the packing with our Visual Packing List for Toddlers!
Happy (cold) first day of spring! We had a brief break in the rain and put together this spring nest toddler activity to combine some outdoor exploration with some quiet indoor play. Bonus, it uses just the materials you have in your yard and kitchen!
We were inspired by an activity from this book (which is awesome!) where you put materials out in bowls and observe which ones birds choose to use in their nests. Unfortunately the birds didn’t cooperate… and a three year olds attention span isn’t well suited to patient scientific observation;) So we decided to make our own nest! This is the perfect springtime activity, and I love that it incorporates outdoor exploration with some quiet indoor play. We wandered around in the backyard and chose flowers, leaves and twigs while talking about what might make a good nest. I made sure to grab some long twigs that I knew we could weave together, but also let her choose anything that caught her eye.
Leaves, twigs and flowers
Egg (I had some early easter confetti eggs I found for $2 at, Target which were a fun addition, but you could use any type of egg you have on hand)
Scissors/clippers for twigs (make sure to get some green/live ones so that they are flexible)
We simply worked together to twist the sticks, tie pieces together with the twine and weave pieces in and out. E was more interested in playing with the string and exploring the different materials than actually building:) Our spring nest didn’t turn out quite as ‘nesty’ as I was anticipating, but we did have a good conversation about springtime, different types of homes etc. It’s also a good chance to explore which materials work for weaving and which break. We used this tray, which is my new BFF for activities bc it contains the mess (as much as toddler messes can be contained;)
If you’re looking for more natural material ideas for warmer weather, keep an eye out for more posts on creating a backyard playground. In the meantime you can setup your own Easy Mud Kitchen which offers so many options for free play outside! Have fun making your own spring nests:)
If you are like my husband and cringe at the thought of a ‘messy’ anything, fear not! While the littles did need a thorough bath after this messy playdate, the actual setup/cleanup is fairly simple (I wouldn’t have done it otherwise;)
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