You’re half-way through summer. The kids have been busy running through the sprinkler, swimming in the kiddie pool, and washing the dog. The bubbles have been spilled, sidewalk chalk broken (probably because someone stepped on it), and the wagon has some serious miles on it.

And now the kids are bored and asking, “What next, Mom?”

bored child

Summer is a great time to create unforgettable family memories, but it can be challenging for parents and caretakers to find free summer activities for toddlers and young children.

You want to keep everyone busy, but you don’t want to break the bank.

We always want to facilitate activities that keep our children learning and busy, and during the summer we want these activities to happen OUTSIDE where that merciless mess can remain.

Are you exhausted? I know I am. Let me help you out with some ideas for free summer activities for toddlers and young children.

Free summer activities for toddlers in your own backyard

1. DIY water table

Fill some buckets or plastic totes with water for a DIY water table and bring out some stuff to throw in them.

I get out utensils for scooping such as kitchen ladles and spoons, measuring spoons and cups. Bonus points if you have a whisk or turkey baster.

I also put in things to scoop or wash such as those plastic balls we seem to always have around, toy farm animals, dinosaurs, or Fisher Price Little People figures. Anything you have around the house that can get wet will work perfectly! There is no right or wrong.

There are some cute water tables on Amazon, but to be honest, they don’t really jazz me. To me, they’re way overpriced for you what you get. Plus, I am always concerned about water toy issues and safety (but that’s another story you can read about here.)

For me, I’d rather do it on the cheap with these easy-to-clean Boon boats or these awesome jumbo eye droppers (which are easy to take apart and clean) and some bucket or large container I already own.

2. Pass the water

My toddler boys love transferring things from one container to another, so a sponge squeeze water transfer is a guaranteed win. I fill one bucket with water and give them a few sponges. They soak up the water and then squeeze it into an empty bucket until all the water is transferred.

Bonus points if you have the energy to create an obstacle course between the buckets with tips from Pre-K Pages.

3. Sponge balls

I’m not a big fan of water balloons because of the waste, cost, and mess of cleaning up rubber bits afterward. I am, however, a HUGE fan of reusing and repurposing stuff that would otherwise be thrown out.

So what I do instead is make reusable sponge balls from old sponges. I run my old sponges through the dishwasher to sanitize them, and then cut them into strips and bind them together in the middle with a zip tie to form a ball. (Hair ties and rubber bands work too but aren’t as durable.)

These sponge balls can be used for the sponge squeeze water transfer in #2 or as a stand in for traditional water balloons. Plus, you can throw them back in the dishwasher if they get dirty outside and reuse over and over again.

AND I’m not in my backyard trying to pick up all the water balloon scraps before my dogs (or children) eat them.

4. Scoop and dump

Similar to the sponge squeeze water transfer, we also love a water scoop and dump. The idea is the same. Fill a bucket with water and give the kids something to scoop it into another container with. Put the buckets across the yard and let them transfer the water from bucket to bucket until the sun goes down!

Depending on age and dexterity, you can make this more or less difficult by choosing different scoops. This is a fun way to practice balance and fine motor skills.

For older toddlers or young kids, try using an upside-down frisbee! Wide, shallow “scoops” are harder to control and take more concentration to balance without spilling.

5. Fill your bucket

Fill your bucket is a fun summer toddler activity classic. Give your little ones a bucket and have them fill it with whatever they want! Grass, flowers (OK they’re called dandelions), pebbles, dirt, leaves, sticks… whatever they can find! (Keep in mind, the bigger the bucket, the longer this activity takes! 😉

After they fill their bucket, they can dump the contents and have a nature sort. Sort by type, color, size, or shape. You can make this into whatever kind of sorting activity you want.

Sometimes we like to sit down in a circle and talk about all of the finds. This is an easy way to learn about nature and nourish appreciation for our local flora.

6. Messy play day

**Save this one for a day you’re feeling particularly caffeinated.

Let the kids just make a big huge mess.

This is the free-est free summer activity for toddlers. It’s also one of their favorites because let’s be honest: our kids are always wanting to make a mess, and we are usually trying to stop them. Being outside during the summer is the best time to let them really get into it.

Toddler with paint on hands for free summer activities for toddlers

Get out the slime, Playdoh, glitter and all the things you’ve been hiding from your toddlers, or get a bucket of water and let them make mud pies until their hearts content. The best part about this summer activity: you can just hose them off in the backyard!

7. Science experiments

Speaking of making a big mess, summer is a great time to make baking soda and vinegar explosions with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.

This science fair classic is a lot of fun, and doing it outside really cuts down on the mess. Just remember: vinegar tends to kill any plants it comes into contact with, so this might best be carried out in the driveway.

8. Bug hunt

Go on a bug hunt. This can be a great way to teach little ones about insects. What makes an ant different from a butterfly? What can be touched and what should be left alone? Where do worms live? I am always looking for fun opportunities to teach my kids about the world we live in.

Check out this free printable bug hunt checklist from My Mommy Style along with other bug-themed activities for kids.

*Invest in a bug barn and net for extra-close bug inspection. We like this bug barn from Melissa and Doug and these nets because they do double duty for the DIY water table in #1.

9. Make your own flag

Round up an old t shirt, tablecloth, sheet, or whatever fabric you have lying around and let your kids decorate a flag to hang in the backyard or in front of the house.

This craft can be very simple with just cutting an old white t shirt into a rectangle and letting your kids decorate it with markers. Of course you can always spice it up with fabric paint, glitter, or whatever else you can find in your craft cabinet.

10. Compost

Make a compost pile or bin and search for worms to add. Here is another great opportunity to teach kids about the cycles of nature and reducing waste.

compost for free summer activities for toddlers

With all the fruit consumed in my house in the summer months, I could probably feed every worm in my neighborhood. After we have our bananas or watermelon, my kids love taking the scraps out to the worms.

Pinterest is chock full of ideas for DIY compost bins from the very simple to very complex. I like this article from Little Sprouts Learning.

11. Outdoor fort

Create a backyard fort with sheets. Kids just love to have their own place to hide. Pull your sheets out and attach them to a fence, tree, clothesline, deck, or whatever you have to create a cozy little spot.

If your fort’s durable enough, leave it out until nightfall and transition into a popcorn-eating, stargazing, flashlight-wielding adventure!

12. Make popsicles

I always forget about the classic DIY popsicles, and I feel like a pure genius every time I remember this classic summer go-to.

Popsicle bags for free summer activities for toddlers

Make popsicles with juice, fruit, applesauce, yogurt, or whatever you have laying around. Kids love to help cook, but this often creates a mess. Assemble DIY popsicles outside using a wide variety of foods you probably already have in your house.

Our favorite way to do this is to use these popsicle bags. I like these because they are easy and can be reused if you feel like washing them. If not, you can dispose them after each use. This set also comes with a funnel which is nice (and fun to use in the DIY water table!)

13. Paint with water

This is my go-to for those days when I am feeling LAZY or just need a very fast activity to redirect my toddlers to avoid a tantrum. This is the easiest of easy activities.

We “paint” on the driveway, sidewalk, fence, patio, or swing set. Simply fill a container with water and give them a paint brush (There is just something toddlers love about having a paint brush!)

The water will change the color of many different surfaces and this free activity can provide hours of creative fun while coming with NO MESS!

14. DIY car track

We all have a bunch of cardboard boxes laying around from those many Amazon deliveries. Why not put them to good use by making a DIY car track?

Simply flatten out your biggest boxes and lay them out on the grass. Draw some basic roads, and let the kids draw in some buildings, trees, ponds, or just scribbles!

Now wrangle up all those Matchbox cars you keep stepping on (they’re as bas as Legos really).

*I love to roll the cars around in the dirt or mulch of the flower bed and then have the kids clean them up in the car wash (AKA DIY water table from #1) before hitting the “road”.

They have a couple of old toothbrushes to scrub with too (just put them through the dishwasher first to make sure they’re free of any bacteria from someone’s mouth).

15. Color mix

Remember these awesome jumbo eyedroppers from #1?

jumbo eyedroppers

These are perfect for a *very scientific* color mix activity. Fill up a bunch of containers with water and color each one with some food coloring.

Give your toddler a clear cup or bowl and show them how mixing colors together creates new colors.

This is a great activity for learning colors (obviously!) but also for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

momming victory for free summer activities for toddlers

I hope these ideas spur your creativity to dream up your own list of free summer activities for toddlers!

I’ve found that as long as I am enthusiastic and positive about a new activity, my kids will get on board pretty quickly. Even the simplest activity can be fun if you approach it with a level of excitement!

After all, what could be better than having these short precious years to create amazing memories and strong bonds with our little ones?!

I you have more ideas, please share them in comments. Team work makes the dream work.

Mom on!

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When choosing the best toys for one year olds, whether they’re for my own children or gifts for others, I am always considering LONGEVITY. I hate buying toys that have a short shelf-life. It is such a waste of money!

the best toys for one year olds

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

So learn from my mistakes and toy faux pas with my three children and their many MANY toys.

Here is the short list of our absolute favorite toys for one year olds that have

  • stood the test of time
  • been enjoyed in the baby AND toddler stages
  • NOT driven me completely crazy with songs and sounds
  • been easy to clean
  • proven to be durable

Baby Einstein Musical Octopus

Our son’s all time favorite toy for 3 years running is this Baby Einstein Musical Toy (now renamed Baby Einstein Octopus Orchestra Musical Toy). Has an off, low, and high volume option and 2 modes for playing. My favorite is the orchestra mode where your baby can turn different instruments on and off during the song. This helps baby recognize the sounds of different instruments and make unique combinations of sounds. Perfect for the musically-minded baby!

Oombee Cube

Love this little cube! We purchased 3 of these from for our son and a couple of friends’ babies. This is great for that manual dexterity and fine motor development. Also great for teaching shapes and colors, and you can throw the whole thing in the dishwasher (top rack)!

I love that each shape is tethered to the cube with a short string. Shapes do tend to get a bit tangled during play, and younger children will need help untangling them. However, for older toddlers, the tangling provides a good problem-solving challenge.

Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog

We love Spike! This toy is excellent for fine motor skills (go figure!) but also a couple of other things including hand-eye coordination and color/pattern/number recognition. This toy has SUPER longevity. Our 2 and 4 year old sons still love to arrange the spikes in rows of patterns and put a particular color spike in a particular number hole. Now that the older one can can pop the “shell” part of Spike off, he loves to push the spikes out from the inside (ingenuity!). And the baby just loves to hold and taste the spikes (perfect size for tiny hands). Again, this can all go in the top rack dishwasher for easy sanitizing.

Fisher Price Piggy Bank

We have a thing for Fisher Price toys in our house, and this piggy bank is one of our most favorite. MY favorite thing about this toy is that my baby can play with it and have a great time with NO SOUNDS. It’s just as fun to put the coins in and take them out 1000 times without sounds as it is with. Great for when mommy needs a little quiet! This toy also hits the mark on fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and color/number recognition.

Fair warning: these coins fit REMARKABLY well in those tiny slits of the heat register covers. Ask me how I know.

Washable Stacking Cups

I mean just check out the Amazon reviews on these stackable cups. You can’t argue with that! I have purchased at least 6 sets of these for my own kids and for gifts. EVERY baby shower gift I give comes accompanied by these stacking cups. All 3 of my kids have enjoyed them, and my oldest still loves to play with them in the bath tub. (Read more about bath tub toy safety here). These are great for the bath because they have holes in the bottom and are super easy to clean.

Even if these are not destined to become bath toys, they will still be hours of fun on dry land. Flip them over to stack up a tower, or nest them down as shown in the Amazon photos. Each cup also has a number on the bottom and holes of different shapes. That makes these great for color/number/shape/size recognition along with the fine motor skills needed for stacking and nesting.

Mom on!

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Showering a mom-to-be with gifts is a tradition that dates back to ancient times. In modern culture, the baby shower is a staple for a first-time-mom. Though recently, some millennials have started throwing diaper parties for dads. As with all things related to gifting and soliciting gifts, this begs the question: Is a diaper party tacky? Should I have a diaper party, and if so, what is the accepted etiquette?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Is a Diaper Party Tacky

What is a diaper party?

A diaper party is a new social gathering gaining popularity among young parents. The goal of a diaper party is to stockpile diapers by requesting each attendee contribute a case of diapers. Diaper parties are typically for men only.

I’ll make no bones about where I stand on this issue. A diaper party is tacky.

First, stockpiling diapers before your little one is born is not beneficial, and you can read all about that here.

Second, soliciting gifts from and friends is never a good look. Society is shifting such that more people are becoming increasingly centered around themselves and meeting their own needs. This shift has become so pervasive and widely accepted that people behaving in this way don’t see themselves as acting selfishly because it has become the norm in some circles.

Having a diaper party or having a raffle-style donation at a baby shower is like asking people to buy you more gifts.

Many people love to give gifts, but that quickly vanishes when the person receiving the gifts seems greedy, ungrateful, or expectant. Giving gifts is an act of love, not an act of obligation. If someone wants to gift diapers, they will. And if they don’t, it is in poor taste to conjure up a situation in which they are expected or outright asked to gift diapers.

The very worst thing you could do is throw a diaper party for yourself (or your dad-to-be).

This feels icky just writing about. It would be like throwing your own birthday party or baby shower. It is just tacky. There’s no way around it.

If someone offers to throw the dad-to-be a diaper party, there is a lot to consider.

Can you politely decline and explain your reasons for not wanting a diaper party? (Try “That is such a generous offer! We are actually going to hold off on stockpiling diapers until we can see which ones our baby tolerates the best.” Or, “That is so thoughtful! We are so overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family who have already showered us with gifts for our baby, and we cannot possibly accept anything more!” Or, “The most important thing to us is having loving family and friends to support our baby! Instead of a diaper party, let’s have a gathering once the baby is born, so everyone can spend time together and get to know our new little bundle!”)

If there is no way to politely decline the offer of someone else throwing your dad-to-be a diaper party, you must consider the guest list. Just as with a baby shower, you should invite only close family and friends with whom you normally exchange gifts (birthday gifts, holiday gifts, etc.). And of course, be sure to follow all of the standard party etiquette below.

If you have a diaper party thrown in your honor

  • keep the guest list small
  • make it clear on the invite that diaper donations are much appreciated but not expected
  • convey your sincere thanks at the party to each guest who attends
  • send hand-written thank you notes to each guest who attended regardless of whether or not they gifted diapers

What can be done instead of a diaper party?

  • Encourage the new dad to have a celebration with his friends that would have attended the diaper party. They can trade advice or funny stories about being a dad.
  • Have a small party after the baby is born so family and friends can meet them. If people are organically moved to give a gift, they will give one.
  • Use the opportunity to promote the idea of time over money. Start expressing to friends and family early that you value them spending time with your little one over giving them material gifts.
  • If the new dad feels excluded, throw out the the idea of a female-only baby shower and have a unisex baby shower instead.

I hope this helps you navigate the difficult social waters surrounding gifting!

Mom on!

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When considering toys to buy for my kids, I am constantly considering safety and longevity. Toys for the bath tub are no different. There is an underwhelming regard of bath toy safety from toy manufacturers and retailers which puts an extra burden on parents to inform themselves about what is safe and what is not.

While you read, keep in mind that manufacturing companies and retailers do not do a parent’s job, and they certainly don’t have a parent’s discerning skepticism and desire to protect fueling their business models. Their job is not to keep tiny humans safe. Their job is to make money. Just because certain toys are still sold does not mean they are safe for children (just look at how many companies still produce and sell crib bumpers which the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American SIDS Institute issued strong warnings against in 2016). As with all products, particularly those for children, be sure to always do your homework!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Alright now that my cynicism and distrust has been aired, another factor that’s not always considered when purchasing toys is longevity. Will this toy grow with my kids, or will they tire of it after a few months? Is the quality such that it will last? Parents often fall into the trap of buying something their child wants NOW. But sometimes, even though that toy is enjoyed in the moment, the draw quickly fades and the toy ends up in the bottom of the toy box or donation bin.

Over the past few years I have focused on only purchasing toys with longevity, and I have found a lot of success and undoubtedly saved a good amount of money.

Read on for more info on bath toy safety and reviews of several bath toys so you can decide what’s worth your money and what’s not.

Bath toy safety

Safety concerns

  • Choking
  • Harmful ingredients
  • Mold

Bath toys NOT to buy

Toys that squirt

Do you remember back in 2016 when parents across the US and Canada were discovering mold in Tommee Tippee sippy cups? The issue was that there were parts of the valve that could never be completely dried and constant moisture causes mold to develop and grow.

Two years ago, I cut open one of our soft rubber water-squirting bath toys similar to those pictured below, and guess what I found: mold. The mold wasn’t there because the toys were never cleaned but because the insides could never dry. The tiny hole in the bottom that squirts water also prevents airflow, traps water, and doesn’t allow the toy to dry. Water and moisture are constantly sitting in there breeding mold and the worst part is you can’t see it!

Toys with tubes/small crevices/hard-to-clean areas (and batteries??)

The issue with the tubes, small crevices, and hard-to-clean areas follows the exact same principals mentioned above for toys that squirt water. But who thought it was a solid idea to make bath toys battery powered?? Is that really necessary? My kids are in the bathtub for all of 15 minutes, and I am certain they can survive 15 minutes without an electronic toy.

Bath products with harmful ingredients

There are definitely people who have accused me of being uppity and paranoid for the way that I choose what products are acceptable for my children. That’s all fine, and I understand all parents have different views. So I won’t get on my soapbox (tub joke!) except to say that I urge you to read about the ingredients in the following bath products and make sure they’re up to your standards before using them with your children.

  • bath paint/crayons
  • bath bombs
  • bubble bath, shampoo, body wash, soap (generally speaking, the cheap brands and novelty bottles are the worst offenders)
  • color-changing tablets.

Now that you know what to be on the lookout for, let’s move on to the good guys!

Bath toys that are good in my book

Stacking cups

I have gifted these with every baby shower gift I’ve attended over the last three years and recommended them to all of my parent friends. This set of plastic stacking cups is a great Montessori toy for endless scooping and dumping both in and out of the tub.

They are made of one solid piece with no crevices for mold to grow in. My only suggestion is don’t nest them together after bath time. Instead, I throw them separately into our little toy net so they can dry. If you nest them down together while they’re wet, mold will start to grow. Remember: the name of the game is letting toys dry out completely.

I throw them in the dishwasher every couple weeks to keep them clean. I also have a couple sets we take camping because cleaning them is so easy. My kids have played with these consistently from infancy through toddlerhood. They stack, they nest, they clean well, and they’re cheap. What’s not to like? Check them out on Amazon. 

Boon Jellies suction cup toys

From the makers of the ever-popular Boon Grass, this set of bath jellies is a kid and parent win win. These colorful jellies are fun, safe, and easy to clean.

My kids love sticking them to the shower walls, underwater on the bottom of the tub (swimming jellies!), and to each other to create little jelly towers. My toddler likes counting and sorting these by color, as well as creating shapes and patterns by sticking them on the shower wall in different groups, and my infant can easily hold, splash, clank, and gnaw them. AND they come in a set of 9 so there are enough to go around when I’ve got both kids in the tub. Plus the bright, jewel-tone colors look really neat when wet, and they’re just plain cute.

Another super fun Montessori toy for the tub (and maybe the pool once summer hits!). Check them out on Amazon.

And that’s it! We have had other bath toys that have not stood the test of time. These boats were easy to clean but really hard for little hands to connect plus they sank easily). My kids are super happy with these two sets of bath toys and are always coming up with new, imaginative ways to play with them.

Above all, just make sure your kids’ bath toys are not harboring mold. If you aren’t sure, cut the toy apart and check the inside. Or just toss them and invest in something new that you know if safe and will stand the test of time!

Mom on!

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Welcome to the second post in our Minimalist Pregnancy Prep series. If you missed the first post of the series, click here to read about what you ACTUALLY need on your baby registry. Let’s discuss all the details of preparing disposable diapers for baby and all of the diaper don’ts.

Here’s a thought to get us started: Would you order a year’s worth of coffee you’ve never tried just so that you didn’t have to be bothered to buy coffee for a year? Of course not. Substitute any important product into that scenario and you’ll likely come up with a similar answer.

The bottom line is: most of us would not stockpile products that we are unfamiliar with. Things we stockpile tend to be items we love and things we know we will use. Usually, the reason for stockpiling is that you come across a fantastic bargain on a product you love at an abnormally low price, so you buy a whole bunch. This makes sense because you’re saving money on something you would buy and use anyway. Or maybe there is a specialty store that you don’t visit often, so you stock up on their items a few times a year. This makes sense because you’re saving yourself time and aggravation by preventing the need to make an extra trip out of your way. But creating a stockpile of items you’re unfamiliar with and are easily obtained (can be purchased at most grocery, pharmacy, and big box stores) isn’t an efficient task.   

Minimalist Pregnancy Diaper Don'ts

Diaper Don’ts

Don’t stock up on diapers or create a complete “diaper stockpile” before your baby is born. I have seen countless articles and infographics on Pinterest advising you on how many of each size diaper you need to stock up on before your baby is born.

That is not sound advice for every mom

I don’t believe that that there are moms out there purposefully passing on bad information. Things probably went smoothly for those moms and their babies, so they aren’t aware of the issues other babies and moms face with diapers. This is great for them, but not great for the mom who may spend hours couponing, shopping, stacking, and organizing a year’s worth of diapers because someone promised her that diaper stockpiling was a genius idea only to find out those carefully prepped diapers won’t work for her baby.

What IS sound advice for every mom preparing for a new baby is to keep your options and your mind open. Wait to see what products will work for your baby before purchasing anything in bulk.

Downsides of diaper stockpiling

Fits of different brands or different product lines of the same brand might not work well for your baby. In general, all diapers have give and stretch to them. But some have more or less stretch, some fit higher or lower up back and belly, and some have more or less room built in for expansion of the hydrogel.

Also your baby may grow out of sizes quickly or stay in some sizes longer than the average baby. In which case someone else’s chart of how many of each size diaper worked for their baby will be completely different for your baby. No one’s baby is average in any way. Certainly there is a general growth curve that most infants follow, but by no means does every baby grow at the same rate. This makes it difficult to accurately predict how long your baby will be in each weight range for diaper sizing. There is also an average amount of wet and dry diapers that babies tend to produce by age, but you might have an above average producer of dirty diapers (congratulations!).

Another diaper variable is that certain brands are better than others for your baby in terms of absorption and containment. Blowouts are inevitable, but some babies constantly blow out in certain brands but not others. I believe this is probably all tied to the fit of the diaper on your precious individual’s bottom, and whether your baby tends to hold it all in and go at once or go frequently in smaller amounts. You won’t know this until you meet your little pumpkin.

A less likely downside of diaper stockpiling is that your baby could be allergic to a certain ingredient in disposable diapers.

Ingredients in diapers that can cause an allergic reaction on the skin (diaper dermatitis) or other irritation:

  • diaper fibers (although cotton-specific allergy is rare)
  • hydrogel (absorbent gel used to soak up liquid – also goes by the names Super Absorbent Polymer [SAP], sodium polyacrylate, Absorbent Gel Material [AGM], and others)
  • plastics
  • dyes
  • fragrance
  • preservatives

A baby’s symptoms of a diaper allergy can include redness, swelling, itching, pain, fussiness, raw skin, and general discomfort. Allergic reaction to ingredients in disposable diapers is not very common. However, in some ways it mimics the symptoms of diaper rash which can make it hard to identify. A process of trial-and-error with different brands usually takes place until a non-allergy-inducing brand is found.

More likely than a full-blown allergy is just the simple fact that different brands work for different families, and you will very likely find a brand that you love that works better for your baby. And you probably won’t know what that brand is until you’ve tried a few different ones.

Exchanging and returning diapers

Most stores will exchange unopened diapers if you need to swap out sizes. For this reason, I never open a box of diapers until I’m ready to use it.

Some stores will offer store credit if you return unopened diapers without a receipt. The tricky part here is that you often need to know what store the diapers were purchased from. Grocery stores, pharmacies, baby stores, big box stores, and club stores sell different pack-ups of diapers. For example, you might only find a 236 count box of size 3 Pampers Baby Dry only at Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club or similar club stores. (Also you usually need a membership to exchange merchandise at a club store). Target might only sell Pampers Baby Dry size 3 in boxes of 180 or smaller. Store will not take a return or exchange unless the item is absolutely identical to the item they sell.

Being stuck with boxes of brand new diapers you can’t use or exchange is a real bummer. Diapers are expensive! You don’t want your hard-earned money or someone else’s sitting in a box in the closet waiting for your guilt to dissipate enough to donate them. 

If you are trying to return or exchange diapers that you received as a gift, you could try downloading an app like ShopSavvy which allows you to scan the barcode and then lists a number of online and local stores that sell the product. I have found that this is not reliable 100% of the time, but it does work to some extent.

More products to hold off on stockpiling:

  • diaper cream
  • lotion
  • baby wash or shampoo
  • healing balm
  • wipes
  • baby’s laundry detergent

It’s very likely that you will identify your favorite products for you baby through trial and error. Don’t invest yourself heavily into a ton of product you may end up not using. 

HOWEVER, I am not an unrealistic person. I realize that you both want and need to be prepared.

My suggestion is to buy a small pack of size 1 diapers in a brand that is sustainable to you (cost-wise). Don’t buy a small pack of the most expensive organic, environmentally friendly diapers to try out if your budget won’t allow you to continue to buy that brand. Buy ONE each of the items above (diaper creams, laundry detergent, etc.) and then wait and see how your baby reacts to it. Use it and see if it’s effective and if you like it. THEN after the brands have passed your scrutinizing mom test, go ahead and stock up to your heart’s content!

Many people want to have every. possible. thing. ready for their baby, and that is fine. Just be sure you’re not setting yourself up for more aggravation down the road! 

Mom on!


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What is castile soap, and why should I care?

People in the US are becoming increasingly more discerning and aware of the ingredients in everything from food to beauty products to cleansers to clothing. This is a material society, and we have been conditioned to think we need to buy a million products to be truly clean. We need shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, face wash, hand wash, body wash, and bar soap to clean our bodies plus laundry soap, fabric softener, scent beads, liquid bleach, and stain remover to clean our clothes. We need toilet cleaner, surface cleaner, glass and window cleaner, antibacterial cleaner, dusting and furniture polish, dish soap, dishwasher soap packets, scouring powder, and carpet cleaner to clean our homes. AND we need air fresheners, aerosol sprays, fabric refreshers, candles, and wall plug-ins so our houses smell clean. The list is dizzying. The cost is staggering. And if you stop to think about every ingredient in each one of those products, you might really start to question what you’re spritzing, spraying, and scrubbing on every surface of your home and yourself every single day.

Now with the “Why should I care?” question answered, what is castile soap?  

What is castile soap?

Castile soap (pronounced cast-eel not “tile” like the tile on your kitchen floor) is a type of soap that is

  • vegan (vegetable-oil based and contains NO animal products)
  • nontoxic
  • biodegradable
  • natural (meaning it doesn’t contain synthetic ingredients)
  • versatile
  • most commonly liquid (but can also be found in a bar soap)

A Brief History of Castile Soap

Castile soap originates from the Castile region (central) Spain and the Mediterranean as far back as the year 300. This type of soap was made primarily from olive oil and laurel oil (laurel leaves are commonly called bay leaves and are used as seasoning for soups and stews). See there. I told you it would be brief. 

How Does Castile Soap Clean?

The principal of how exactly soap cleans stuff (chemically speaking) is largely the same over most different types of soap, castile soap included.

Soap molecules have one end that is attracted to water and one end that repels water (but is attracted to dirt, grease, or other non-water soluble atoms or molecules). Think of the molecule as a tug-of-war: one side trying to get to the water, and one side trying to get to the grime. This “pulling” action is what loosens and removes grease and dirt from surfaces (clothing, skin, countertops, dishes, etc.) Once the grime has been removed from the surface, it is trapped in the soap molecule (like a snow globe). Since the tension on one side of the tug-of-war has stopped, the end that’s attracted to water takes over and joins together with H2O molecules. Now the grime is suspended in water and can be easily washed away. 

Understanding the principal of how soap works will make it clear why using antibacterial products is unnecessary and may give you more confidence in using milder cleansers.  Soap REMOVES grime, grease, dirt, and germs. Killing something that is going to be removed is redundant and unnecessary in many cases. I agree that there may be a time and place for bleach and harsh cleansers, but I don’t think it’s nearly as often as we are lead to believe. 

What can I clean with castile soap?

  • hands and body
  • hair (with a caveat to not use castile soap on color-treated hair or without conditioner)
  • clothing
  • produce (washing your fruits & veggies)
  • dishes (also effective on greasy things: stovetops, microwaves, mechanic’s hands)
  • pets and all of their stuff (beds, toys, harnesses, etc.)
  • sinks, bathtubs, toilets, floors, surfaces
  • minor cuts and scrapes
  • makeup brushes, soft-bristled hair and beard brushes

What NOT to do with castile soap:

Don’t combine castile soap with vinegar or lemon. Even though there are many recipes on Pinterest for “castile soap this that and the other,” do your homework before deciding to use someone’s recipe! You should never directly mix castile soap with an acidic agent because it leaves a very stubborn, noticeable white residue. Castile soap newbies often fall into this trap set by well-meaning yet uninformed authors and then fall off the castile soap bandwagon for life thinking its a bunch of crunchy hoopla. I repeat: don’t mix castile soap with vinegar or lemon (or lemon essential oil), or you will end up making more work for yourself! 

Don’t ignore the type of tap water you have (hard or soft). Hard water contains minerals that leave a white residue when combined with castile soap. Know your water first so you can better understand how to use castile soap most effectively in your home. 

Is castile soap baby-safe?

Yes. Castile soap is baby safe. The nontoxic and mild nature of castile soap makes it a good choice for sensitive skin. Almost all castile soap brands offer an unscented option. Unscented is a smart choice for babies since some scent agents (usually essential oils) can cause irritation for some little ones. Dr. Bronner’s offers a line of castile soap especially for babies

Castile soap use in hospitals

Many hospitals purchase individual castile soap packets and provide them in patients’ bathrooms for use during their hospital stay. Unscented castile soap is hypoallergenic, nontoxic, extremely versatile, and cost-effective. It’s the perfect choice to for an inexpensive, gentle clean. To me, this is a huge vote of confidence for the safety and effectiveness of castile soap use on the body. 

Castile soap, kids, and mom life

I never gave much thought to the cleaning products in my house until I had kids. Once I had a tiny human to care for, I started to wonder if spraying his high chair down with harsh chemicals was a great idea. That was the very beginning of my product and ingredient awareness. Since then, I have made many changes regarding what kind of products I use in my home and around my children. 

You can’t beat the peace of mind that comes with using nontoxic products. Plus, the list of products I spend my hard-earned money on has really dwindled. Finding safe products that serve many purposes is common sense! It helps my budget and relieves the aggravation of fitting 59 bottles of cleansers in the cabinet under my kitchen sink.

Another amazing benefit that never occurred to me until my son was older is that I have no worries about letting my kids help me clean! I know the products I’m using are safe for me, my kids, and my pets.  So yes, my child, grab that rag and help momma clean!


Alright time for me to get off my soap box. Oh my gosh I ended with a soap joke!!!

Mom on!



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Minimalism is all the rage these days, and many people are wondering how that idea fits in with the holiday gift-giving season. This year, my family is focusing on gifting experiences instead of things.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

We have two December birthdays in our house. Once you throw Christmas in there, December turns into a homier version of Toys R Us. And the thing is, my kids don’t really need more stuff. They have a bunch of toys they love. They have more clothes than they actually wear. As a family, we are sort of drowning in material items. This is actually true of our whole extended family. We always have a hard time choosing gifts for people because we all have what we need. We don’t need any more stuff. So this year, my husband and I are focusing on gifting experiences more than things like toys, gadgets, and clothes.

Family & Kids Gifts

  1. Family zoo or aquarium membership or passes
  2. Swim/dance/gymnastic/karate lessons
  3. Theme park tickets or season passes
  4. Disney theme park tickets or annual passes
  5. Concert/theater/orchestra tickets or local events (Disney On Ice, Paw Patrol meet and greet, etc.)
  6. Online or in-person classes and courses (sewing, painting, pottery, photography, graphic design, MasterClass, etc.)
  7. Camping reservations (we use Reserve America)
  8. Sporting even tickets or season passes
  9. Laser tag/mini golf/roller or ice skating rink passes
  10. Kids’ gym/bounce house passes
  11. Movie theater or drive-in tickets
  12. Local children’s/science/art museum or conservatory memberships
  13. Kindle gift card (you don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books – just download the free app on any smart device)
  14. Weekend trip to a local indoor waterpark
  15. Local tour passes (get to know your community!)
  16. Adventure/Escape room tickets
  17. Helicopter/railroad tours or skydiving
  18. Netflix subscriptions
  19. Summer/adventure camp certificates
  20. Go kart track passes

Adult Gifts

  1. Winery/brewery/distillery tour passes
  2. Local food tour passes
  3. Couples massage
  4. Ghost hunt tours
  5. Consumable gifts such as wine, coffee, tea, spirits, or food
If you want to know what’s available in your area, search for “Things to do nearby” in an app like TripAdvisor or Yelp. That should help get the creative juices flowing!
I hope this helps you come up with some fun and meaningful ways to gift experiences and memories this holiday season! Merry Christmas from my family to yours.
Mom on!

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Once you add a baby to your family, you might at some point start to wonder if you should show affection toward your partner in front of your children. This is a common question many parents wonder about.

In short, the answer is yes. You should absolutely show affection toward your partner in front of your children to a certain extent.

Whether you do or don’t show affection toward your partner in front of your children will affect them not only in the present but also later in life. (Read more about how your marriage affects your children here).You have a lot of control when children are young to shape their behavior and expectations of others later in life. Putting appropriate affectionate gestures on display can teach children about respectful, loving, and fulfilling relationships. What you and your partner model for your children now will be echoed in their own behavior within their marriage and family.

One of the biggest ways children learn is through observational learning.

Observational learning occurs when children witness something, remember it, and call that information up later as a reference on what to do.
For example: a toddler picks up a cell phone (a remote, a toy phone, a banana) and puts it up to his ear. “Hello?” Thank you! OK. Bye bye!” This toddler was likely never directly taught what a phone was for or what to say while talking on it. However, after repeated observation of adults using the phone, the child has now learned what to do with it. This is a prime example of an outcome of observational learning. (Adults commonly practice observational learning as well. It’s the main reason tutorial videos on everything from how to fix your lawnmower to how to write a resume are so popular on YouTube.) We learn best by watching.
In showing affection toward your partner in front of your children, you teach them what a caring relationship looks like. You teach them not to be cold to one another but to openly show your love, appreciation, and respect for the person you care most about. They learn that showing affection for others and others showing affection for you is normal and healthy.

The caveat to this is that you must be conscientious of what is appropriate and what is not. You can set your child up to be a great partner to their spouse and search for a spouse who has positive qualities, BUT you can also do the exact opposite.

Some couples hide almost all affection from their children. They don’t hug or kiss their spouse in public or around their children. Kids who grow up in this kind of environment may think that affection isn’t normal or acceptable, or they may question whether their parents love each other. Later in life they may be uncomfortable showing affection or receiving it. That could pose a challenge in their inter-personal relationships.

Consider what is appropriate.

The caring and loving gestures I am writing about are not sexual. Sexually motivated gestures are inappropriate for display around children. This includes playful sexual comments and actions. Children who witness sexualized behavior are more likely to engage in sexually inappropriate behavior.
Go for respectful, supportive gestures such as (G rated) kissing, holding hands, hugging, compliments, and affirmations.
Don’t teach your children that kissing is “gross.” Kissing is not gross. It’s a gesture that is incredibly ingrained in humanity and one that is important to a healthy relationship. Instead of teaching that “kissing is gross,” have an open discussion about kissing (as is age appropriate). Think about the social structure within your family to determine what is appropriate. For example, some families only hug extended family members and don’t kiss, and some families peck everyone on the lips. Encourage your child’s choice to kiss someone. Don’t ever force your child to kiss family members or anyone else.
Love and affection are basic human needs for almost everyone. Showing affection toward your partner in front of your children can set the stage for successful relationships for your kids later in life and can help develop their social-emotional skills.
Mom on!

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Learn how to make extra money for the holidays starting today! That sounds salesy, but it’s not. This is just a review of my personal experience.
Today is Halloween, and you know what that means….. in a few hours my children are going to be sugared-up adorable little monsters, and also…. the holidays are around the corner! If you’re like me, you’ve probably already started some shopping or at least brainstormed for gifts. The inevitable question is now looming: is there a way to pay for the holidays in cash without putting purchases on credit cards? My answer is yes! In fact, I have made almost $1,000 in the last 2 months with this one simple trick.
Right now I am saving up for the holidays, but you can use this money-making strategy to make extra money anytime of the year.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

How is this possible?

Sell your unused stuff on eBay.

OK stick with me… I used to have very blah feelings about selling stuff on eBay. Of course I always knew it was an option to make some extra money, but I never thought people would pay for my used stuff. I can tell you for certain based on my experience that people will definitely pay for your used stuff… shipping costs and all.

What exactly can you sell?

Stuff that is
  • gently used (not in terrible condition)
  • useful (maybe you don’t have a use for it, but someone else would)
  • collectable
  • rare or difficult-to-find (especially if you can offer international shipping because people outside of the US don’t have access to the same products and are willing to pay to ship things overseas)
To my surprise, I have had great success selling my used clothing. I never thought people would want to buy my used clothes and pay to ship them, but I have been proven completely incorrect. I have sold a lot of gently-used clothing items. The key here is that I only sell my quality, brand name clothing that is free of stains and visible wear. Obviously no one wants to pay for my $4 black T-shirt that I bought from Walmart. However, I am an ENORMOUS fan of Stitch Fix (I am raving-crazy-lunatic-level about it actually), and I have a crap load of cute, quality clothes. These brands sell really well on eBay because most Stitch Fix brands are exclusive and can’t be purchased from other retailers. Therefore people are eager to buy them used on eBay. Some other brands that sell easily are any of the designer brands (Michael Kors, Coach, etc.), LuLaRoe, trendy brands (Lucky, Gap, Banana Republic, J. Crew, etc.). OK so basically anything name brand.
I have also sold a lot of handmade goods (craft items primarily.) I love crafting, so I have a ton of stuff I’ve made that I don’t really have the space or a use for. Also name brand household decor (Yankee Candle, Partylite, Pottery Barn, etc.), electronics (graphing calculators, GPS units, digital cameras), designer purses, toys, books (particularly textbooks), and tools.

How to sell on eBay

  1. Take a read through the eBay policies and get informed about the cost to sell on eBay. (eBay will keep a percentage of your sale depending on the type of item and other factors. The fee is usually 10% but can vary slightly due to many factors. Read all the info here.)
  2. Take a walk around each room of your house and identify items that are in good shape that you don’t mind parting with.
  3. Check that the item is in good shape, and clean it up if necessary.
  4. Search for your item on eBay, and see if others are selling the same thing and what price it’s going for.
  5. Take quality pictures of your item. (See below for more on pictures.)
  6. Create a listing for your item by starting a new listing or clicking “Sell a similar item” on someone else’s listing (that’s the easier way). EBay allows small sellers to list up to 50 items per month for free. This means no listing fee for your first 50 listings per month. Listing fees are usually $0.35 each) You may need to create a Paypal account if you don’t already have one. (It’s free!)
  7. Decide on the price. You can list your item as Buy It Now which acts just like regular online retail – if someone wants to buy it, they click the button and pay immediately. You can also list your item as an auction lasting up to 7 days. This is the traditional way that most people think of when they think about selling on eBay. Buyers bid on your item over your selected period of time, and the highest bidder gets the item. The third option is to list your item for auction but include a Buy It Now price also. (If I list for auction, I always add a Buy It Now price.)
  8. List the item. You’ll get an email from eBay verifying your post is live. While you’re waiting for it to sell, pack it up to ship so you can ship as soon as you receive payment.
  9. Ship. I recommend buying your USPS shipping labels through eBay (They offer a discount so it’s cheaper than going to the post office, and will automatically link the paid item to the tracking number)
  10. Collect your money. (See Paypal tips below if you’re unsure how to do this.)

Tips for successful selling on eBay

  • Post lots of pictures.
  • Post quality pictures. (Use a plain background if possible; otherwise use a clean, neat background. People don’t want to buy stuff that looks like its coming from a scum house) Also: consider good lighting, and do not include grainy photos.
  • Be honest. (If your item has a flaw, let buyers know.)
  • Ship quickly and put tracking numbers on everything.
  • Don’t get greedy. (Price things to sell, not to sit and wait for the one person on earth who MIGHT pay a higher price.)
  • If you aren’t sure how to price something, list it as an auction vs. Buy It Now.
  • Stay away from selling large items (they are usually too costly to ship efficiently), make-up or beauty products, and medical devices/machines. (If you needed a prescription to get it, you cannot sell it.)

Paypal tips

  • Connect your Paypal account to your checking account so you can easily transfer over the money you’ve made on eBay.
  • Many retailers accept Paypal as an option at checkout, so you may not even need to move your money out of Paypal to use it (depending on how and where you plan to spend it).
  • You can request a Paypal debit card (easily do this online at the Paypal website) and use that to shop online (or in store) at places that don’t accept Paypal. I am mainly talking about Amazon which is one of the largest retailers that doesn’t accept Paypal.
  • If you’re saving, don’t transfer your money from Paypal. You can let your money sit and build in Paypal until you’re ready to use it for your holiday shopping or whatever occasion you’re saving for. In this way, it acts as a separate bank account and you aren’t tempted to spend it on other things. 😉
Because eBay offers free listings 50 times each month, there is nothing to lose by trying to sell your stuff to make extra money for the holidays. I hope these tips help to encourage you to give it a try and make some extra side money! I would love to hear about your success and your experience, so feel free to leave a comment letting me how how it goes!
Mom on!

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This post was written about how your marriage and/or committed relationship with your spouse or partner affects your children. However, there are many aspects that can also be applied to the relationship between any two authority figures living in a house and raising children. For example, a mother and grandmother, aunt/uncle, etc.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

I’m sure you’ve heard the unsolicited advice of many a well-meaning person who has confidentially spoken the words to a newly-pregnant mom, “Well it’s not about you anymore. Now it’s going to be all about them.” **Points to barely pregnant belly.** While there are many levels on which that is an entirely accurate statement, there are some aspects of you that must be maintained and can greatly affect your children. Two of the biggest are the relationship with your spouse and the care of your marriage.

Anyone who’s been married for a while knows that YOU MUST CARE FOR YOUR MARRIAGE. It is like a child in a way. You must nurture it, you must pay attention to it, feed it, and care for it when it’s sick. When you care for your marriage, you not only care for yourself and your partner, but also for your children.

How your marriage affects your children:

You and your partner set the first and strongest model of what a marriage looks like.

Your children see your interactions with your spouse EVERYDAY. Even when you think your child is in their own world and not paying any attention to what the two of you are doing or saying, they are noticing. They hear your tone of voice, and they see your affectionate gestures toward each other (or lack thereof). They absorb the way you communicate with each other, how successful the communication is, and how often communication takes place. And most of all: they notice the respect each parent shows the other.
You can teach your children the importance of respecting people by being respectful of your spouse. Read about the importance of respect and how to improve your marriage through respect here.
Even though you aren’t actively teaching your children about marriage, they are learning about it daily. They are learning about relationships. Eventually, they will model your behavior in their own relationships with friends, relatives, and other people they care about.
You will instill in your child the core belief about how they should be treated in a relationship AND how they should treat their partner. The life-long effect of which cannot be understated.

Your children will learn how to handle disagreements.

If you blow up over small matters or use a harsh tone with less that kind words, your children will likely mimic that behavior when encountering their own arguments. On the other hand, if you’re able to react calmly, you have the opportunity to show your child communication and respect in action. The skill to be able to effectively and diplomatically handle disagreements is a core life skill. It will be extremely important in determining your child’s success in many aspects of life including personal relationships and business.

You can teach your children that marriage is sacred

Regardless of the demographics of the two people involved, a marriage or partnership is a revered commitment that commands and deserves great consideration and respect. You have the opportunity to teach your children the responsibilities and implications of making a life-long commitment to someone. This can set them up for a successful and meaningful relationship later in life.
We all have our less-than-grand moments, but we should always keep in mind the affect of our marriages on our children. If you strive to teach your children through example, it will be a great benefit to your whole family!


Mom on!


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