GIFTING EXPERIENCES INSTEAD OF THINGS

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!
Jillian

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HOW YOUR MARRIAGE AFFECTS YOUR CHILDREN

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HOW TO RESPECT YOUR SPOUSE AND IMPROVE YOUR MARRIAGE

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SHOW AFFECTION TOWARD YOUR PARTNER IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN

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!
Jillian

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MAKE EXTRA MONEY FOR THE HOLIDAYS

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. ūüėČ
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!
Jillian

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HOW YOUR MARRIAGE AFFECTS YOUR CHILDREN

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!
Jillian

 

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HOW TO RESPECT YOUR SPOUSE

To restate the old colloquialism: marriage is hard work.

Great marriages don’t get thrust into existence magically. Great marriages are built, fixed, improved, and cherished. They are curated, changed, and strengthened over time. If you are called to marriage (not everyone is), being in a successful marriage is one of the most meaningful, fulfilling, and treasured experiences in life. On top of that, having a strong marriage is an amazing gift to your children. But you cannot have an enduring marriage without respect for your spouse. It is absolutely a key factor, and everyday there are opportunities to show respect to your spouse. Of course on the flip side of that, there are also many ways we inadvertently disrespect our partners. Read on to learn the importance of spousal respect, and how to respect your spouse including practical, applicable, and meaningful ways to improve and strengthen your bond with your partner.

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

What NOT to do when showing respect for your spouse:

1. Do not show violence toward your partner.

This is doubly important if you have children. Your behavior is a model for your child’s behavior, and no one wants their child to be violent or think that violence is acceptable even in jest (play fighting, slapping, etc.).

2. Do not make sarcastic or passive aggressive comments.

Instead, say what you mean. If you have something to say or something you want them to know: say it. Don’t wait for it to come up in conversation. Don’t wait for them to magically guess it. Tell them. Put your adult pants on and deal with the problem actively. No digs. EVER.

3. Do not build yourself up by cutting your partner down.

In a marriage, you should want you partner to succeed. If you’re rooting for them to fail in order to make your success look more impressive, that is a problem.

4. Do not use hyperbolic statements during an argument such as “You always….” or “You never….”

These types of statements are almost never completely true. There are very few things people ALWAYS do or NEVER do. If there is a behavior your spouse tends to repeat that upsets you, communicate your needs and feelings to them in a logical and realistic way.

5. Do not throw the past in their face.

Forgiveness is a choice. You must actively choose to forgive someone for their wrongdoings. Forgiveness doesn’t just happen after time or come from thin air; you create it consciously and consistently. Part of choosing to forgive someone is accepting that the mistake happened and cannot be undone. If you forgive someone, you cannot come back later and use their mistake as ammunition. That is not what true forgiveness means.

6. Do not gossip with other people about problems in your marriage.

The exception: if¬†you are in an abusive situation,¬†please absolutely speak to someone about it. (You can find information about domestic violence here). But for everyday marital issues (arguments, disagreements, sex, etc.), don’t pour over every detail with your mom or your best friend. There are many aspects of marriage that are private and should be kept and communicated about with your spouse or trusted therapist only. Speaking about shortcomings in your spouse, arguments, and sex is gossipy and disrespectful.

7. Do not make insulting or passive aggressive comments about your spouse to your children.

This is hurtful on so many levels and is truly unhealthy for your kids. Children learn by observing, and if parents are disrespecting each other in front of their children, their children will learn to show disrespect toward their parents and others.

How to show respect for your spouse:

1. Follow through with what you say you’re going to do.

I am a big fan of “under-promise and over-deliver.” Don’t agree to things or make commitments if you aren’t serious about seeing them through. When you say you will do something: do it. If you think it’s possible you may not be able to get it done: don’t commit to doing it. Following through shows your spouse that you respect your promises and teaches them that you are reliable.

2. Acknowledge your own mistakes and short comings and ask for forgiveness.

EVERYONE make mistakes. Admit when you’ve done something wrong. Be up front, and tell your spouse about your mistake before they discover it for themselves. Apologize and take responsibility for what you’ve done.

3. Maintain your respect independently from your spouse’s.

We are all human, and most people occasionally say things or react in ways that are less than ideal when we are cranky or in distress. If your spouse makes a less than kind comment, don’t respond in the same way. Try to reset the conversation by remaining calm and respectful.

4. Be a champion for your spouse.

Sing their praises far and wide. Broadcast their accomplishments. Point out their strengths to others. Compliment them publicly. And most importantly: stand up for your spouse. Don’t let other people trash-talk your spouse ever. Be their champion like you would want them to be yours.

5. Be on time.

Being late is one of the best ways to show disrespect. When someone shows up late, they are broadcasting the message that their time is more valuable than yours or that there was something more important than you that kept them. Most people are late once in a while for reasons beyond their control. But being consistently on time shows your spouse that you are reliable and you value your promises and commitments to them enough to responsibly manage your time.

6. Accept your partner for who they are without making them feel embarrassed or ashamed.

Being in a marriage allows you access to all the cooky, intimate, and sometimes just weird details of someone else’s personality. This is a gift! If your partner is allowing your to see their strange side, it means they trust you enough to let you in. Accept and love all the strangeness because it’s what makes your person YOUR PERSON.

 

I am sure there are more things that could be added to these lists, and there are likely things that are not on here that are important to your spouse. The best way to make sure you know how to respect your spouse is to ASK THEM. Open the lines of communication and find out what is important to your partner specifically. Ask if they have ever felt disrespected by you. Ask if there is anything you could do to be more respectful. Getting information straight from the horse’s mouth is always your best option, and after all, communication is key to a strong relationship.
Mom (and wife) on!
Jillian

 

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HOW YOUR MARRIAGE AFFECTS YOUR CHILDREN

HOW TO MAKE EXTRA MONEY IN ONE WEEK

SHOW AFFECTION TOWARD YOUR PARTNER IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN

THE WEIRD EARLY PREGNANCY SYMPTOM NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

HOW TO PREVENT TODDLER TEMPER TANTRUMS

TODDLER ROAD TRIP ACTIVITIES

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.

BABY REGISTRY TIPS FROM A SECOND TIME MOM

Every expecting mom loves planning for their baby’s arrival. Getting a baby registry together with all the items you’ll need is a fun and exciting way to prepare for your baby. Read on to find my top baby registry tips from a second time mom who’s been there and done that.

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

What you really don’t need and won’t use:

Wipe warmer

Hear me: YOU DO NOT WANT YOUR BABY GETTING ACCUSTOMED TO WARM WIPES. Trust me on that. This will cause all sorts of fun changing-room drama when you’re out and about and dare to put a room-temperature wipe on your little one’s butt. DRAMA. No thanks. My babies both survived on room-temp wipes (shocking, I know) and your baby will, too!

Bottle warmer

Bottle warmers are super aggravating to me. They take up valuable counter space and they really are not worth their weight. The thing I disliked most about my bottle warmer was that it took a ridiculous amount of time to heat up the bottle to the “perfect temperature.” It also made the outside of the bottle pretty warm. Too warm, in my opinion, to put near my infant. I ditched the bottle warmer fast and never looked back.

Diapers

SAY WHAAAAATTTT? Yes, I am telling you not to buy diapers. Don’t register for diapers. Don’t have a “diaper party.” I hear you. You’re saying, “Why in the hell would I not stock up on those expensive little disposable butts????? Do you know how much those things cost?!?!?” Yes, I know. I have 2 in diapers right now. I KNOW. HOWEVER….. diaper allergies are a real (and extremely unpleasant) thing. You have no idea whether your child will have an allergy or sensitivity to certain kinds/brands of diapers until they’re here and their little butt is in them.
Also to be honest, different babies do better in different types of diapers. Some babies tend to constantly pee through or poop-explode (that’s a real thing; prepare yourself) out of certain types. There’s no way for you to know this in advance.
Yes, you can usually exchange unopened boxes of diapers from the store at which they were purchased. I had to do this, and the aggravating part of that is that you might not know where they were purchased. Most stores carry different count boxes of diapers. For example: there are certain count boxes sold only at wholesale clubs, drug stores, grocery stores, and big box stores. It was not fun going to multiple stores trying to return one package of diapers only for every customer service person to scan the UPC and then tell me, “We don’t sell that pack here. You could try ___________ store.”
Bottom line: buying a bunch of diapers in advance can turn out to be more trouble in the long-run. Instead, ask for gift cards for diapers. My suggestion would be Amazon gift cards because I like to use their Subscribe and Save on diapers and other baby products.

Formula

Even more than my (excellent and convincing) reasoning above for diapers, do not buy formula in advance! Formula allergies and sensitivities are even more prevalent than diaper allergies and sensitivities. I don’t even remember how many types of formula we tried with our first son before settling on the only one he would tolerate: Enfamil AR. We threw out A LOT of basically full containers of formula because our son couldn’t eat it and we didn’t have anyone to give them to. Luckily we found that our pediatrician had sample cans of a bunch of different formula brands and types and would give us one to try so we weren’t constantly buying cans to try and then ultimately throw out.

Crib bedding and bumpers

Don’t do it! Babies should sleep alone in their crib without crib bumpers/pads, bedding of any kind, or stuffed animals. The American¬†Academy of Pediatrics guidelines say a baby should be in a crib with a firm mattress and well-fitting fitted sheet ONLY. NOTHING ELSE!!!! I know crib bedding and bumpers are adorable and can make the nursery look just so, but the beauty of it is not worth the risk to your baby.
I see gorgeous nurseries on Pinterest and in magazines all the time with bedding and bumpers. I see crib bedding and bumpers in all the baby aisles. But I have never owned any and never will. God forbid something terrible ever happen, I would never forgive myself. The potential risk is far too great for me to even consider using any of these products. I have adorable fitted sheets, and that’s perfectly good for me.

Things people commonly say you don’t need but I say you do:

Diaper Genie

I’ve heard people say you can just throw diapers in the garbage. That is absolutely true, but if you don’t want to live in a house that smells like baby poop 24/7, I highly recommend making the small investment into a Diaper Genie.
These things really do contain the odor (and I don’t even use the odor-neutralizing pouches). Plus they have a small footprint and are easy to use. Replacing the refill bags is super easy and if you have a BJ’s membership, you can almost always get at least a $4 coupon off the refills.
This is something with a relatively low cost that is worth every single penny. That coming from a mom with 2 babies in diapers.

Baby Breeza

It’s expensive. I’ll give you that. But the convenience cannot be matched (especially at 3am). I am an enormous fan on my Keurig, and the Baby Breeza is basically a Keurig for babies. It has a water tank that keeps the water constantly heated to the perfect temp for bottles, and it has a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 ounce setting. You can put the powdered formula in a reservoir in the top, and it will mix the right amount of formula and warm water and pump out the perfect ba-ba. You can also use spring water or filtered water if you don’t like using tap.
To be honest, I don’t put the formula in mine simply because I don’t feel like cleaning it. We use our Baby Breeza just for the perfectly warm water on demand. This means no waiting for tap water to heat up in at 3am in the dead of winter, no microwaving spring/filtered water, and no bottle warmer. It is absolutely fantastic, and if you can afford it or are lucky enough to receive it as a gift, you will love it, too.

The A List. My absolute favorite things: all the things I will never not have again.

Halo Sleepsack

There is a reason they give these out in hospitals and you hear parents raving about them: they are fantastic! With my first baby, I used a different brand which I liked, but after trying the Halo, I am officially converted. This sleepsack is amazing quality and most importantly: helped my infants sleep!
There are many things that contribute to great infant sleep and this is definitely one of them. Everyone knows swaddling babies helps them sleep better, but blanket swaddling takes some skill, and even then babies tend to wiggle their little arms and legs out. The shape of the Halo is perfect for keeping tiny limbs contained (which also helps calm a baby’s startle reflex), and the Velcro is plentiful and high quality. I have washed all of my sleepsacks a million times and they hold up perfectly.
These are also made in a variety of materials so you can get lighter or heavier weight fabrics depending on your climate and needs.

Halo Sleepsack Wearable blanket

I feel very strongly about abiding by¬†The American¬†Academy of Pediatrics guidelines¬†which state you should not put anything in baby’s crib including blankets. However, we live in a cold climate and I am always worried about my baby being too cold.¬†
This wearable blanket is the perfect solution. It is just like the Halo Sleepsack but without the swaddle. When your baby starts rolling, you don’t want to swaddle them anymore because it could pose a risk of suffocation. However, once you ditch the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle, you lose all of that comfiness and warmth it provides. That is always the point at which we switch over to the wearable blanket.
It keeps them nice and cozy warm and is available in different fabric weights just like the swaddle. It’s the perfect balance of safety and comfort.

Amazon Echo Dot

I know, right? What I am doing putting the Echo on a baby registry list? I haven’t lost it (completely); stick with me on this: My husband and I formula fed both our babies (the first one due to breastfeeding impairment because of my epidural) and we took shifts switching on and off to feed the baby overnight. Now let me tell you: when you are an exhausted, EXHAUSTED new mom and you get a few hours of sleep in a row because your amazingly fantastic, dedicated (and hot) husband is getting up to feed the baby, you do not want him waking you up to ask the time of the last feeding. And really, he doesn’t want this either because tired new moms can be cranky to say the least.
Our Echo Dot was an amazingly accurate, convenient, and accessible tool to track our feedings. We used the Alexa Skill called Baby Stats to track everything. Put the Echo somewhere convenient either in the kitchen where you make the bottles, in the baby’s room, or next to where you will be doing your feedings. Then you just ask Alexa to add a feeding or ask her when the last feeding was. It tracks it to the minute.
You can also track wet/dirty diapers, pumping sessions, sleep, and a whole bunch of other things you can read about here. Plus, if you get an Echo before your baby arrives, you can use it to track kicks and get weekly pregnancy updates tailored to your due date.
I hope these tips help you craft the perfect registry for your baby!
Mom on!
Jillian

More articles for you

EPIDURAL BIRTH STORY: WHAT I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IN ADVANCE

HOW TO MAKE EXTRA MONEY IN ONE WEEK

HOW YOUR MARRIAGE AFFECTS YOUR CHILDREN

THE WEIRD EARLY PREGNANCY SYMPTOM NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

HOW TO PREVENT TODDLER TEMPER TANTRUMS

TODDLER ROAD TRIP ACTIVITIES

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.

THE WEIRD EARLY PREGNANCY SYMPTOM NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

There are a whole lot of commonly known pregnancy symptoms, but with all of my pregnancies, I have had one weird early pregnancy symptom no one talks about.

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

During my first pregnancy, I noticed very early on that I constantly had this horrible metallic taste in my mouth. Whether I was eating or not, this taste just would not go away. It was extremely similar to the bad taste you get when taking certain antibiotic medications like Flagyl.

Actually it tasted like pennies. The only thing I can think to compare it to is if you soaked a boatload of pennies in water for 4 years and then drank the water. It is seriously gross and VERY distinct.

I learned with my first pregnancy that this is a lesser-known symptom in early pregnancy called DYSGEUSIA.

Medical professionals suspect that dysgeusia is caused by early hormonal changes in pregnant women. And while for me the taste was unmistakably metallic, for others, it can present as a bitter, salty, or just plain bad taste that isn’t improved by eating or drinking.
This was tough for me because it made it very difficult to drink water. Every time I drank water, it just tasted absolutely horrible. I had to force myself to constantly sip water throughout the day so I could make sure I was staying hydrated. After all, we all know staying hydrated is so important especially for pregnant women.

For me, nothing improved my dysgeusia except for chewing mint-flavored gum.

When I wasn’t eating, I was constantly chewing gum to mask the nagging metallic taste. While that was the only thing that gave me relief, I have heard other suggestions for masking the taste such as:
  • drinking lemonade or other acidic juices

  • eating foods with high vinegar content (such as pickles….. double pregnancy win!)

  • eating spicy foods or foods with very bold flavors (my stomach could NOT handle any of that!)

The good news is with each of my pregnancies, dysgeusia disappeared for me sometime around the second trimester. Good bye and good riddance! (Just another reason why the second trimester is the best).

I am not sure if certain people are prone to dysgeusia, but it was actually my tell tale signal to take a pregnancy test with my second child.

After trying for a few months to get pregnant, one day out of the blue I noticed the metallic taste. Immediately after, I took a pregnancy test and the saw most beautifully faint line on the test. I was pregnant!
I had the same experience with dysgeusia in my second pregnancy and again, nothing seemed to help except for minty gum.
Next time I should try to muddle some mint leaves in my water and see if that makes it easier for me to stay hydrated! Has anyone tried that? Did it work?
All my prayers for you and your pregnancy! If you’re currently suffering from dysgeusia, it will get better!

 

Mom on!
Jillian

 

More articles for you

EPIDURAL BIRTH STORY: WHAT I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IN ADVANCE

BABY REGISTRY TIPS FROM A SECOND TIME MOM

HOW TO MAKE EXTRA MONEY IN ONE WEEK

HOW TO PREVENT TODDLER TEMPER TANTRUMS 

TODDLER ROAD TRIP ACTIVITIES

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.

THE DARK SIDE OF EPIDURALS

I would dare say almost every adult person in Western civilization has heard the word epidural. And while most probably don’t know a lot about it, I would bet most everyone would say it is used to relieve pain during childbirth. This seems to be common knowledge. But there is a dark side of epidurals that seems to be much less common knowledge. It seems to be the kind of knowledge you need to actively seek out because people hardly talk about it.
I am not trying to convince anyone to use or not use an epidural. That is a decision only you can make for yourself. I am simply putting my experience out there in hopes that it will help you become more informed so you can make the best decision for you and your baby.
The proceeding information is my own knowledge and personal experience. I am not a doctor, so please consult with your own doctor before making any decision regarding your labor and delivery!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The first time I was pregnant, I was pretty sure I was going to get an epidural. I had no adversity to using the miracle of modern medicine to relieve the excruciating pain of natural childbirth. All along, my plan was to continue through labor as long as I felt able, and then request an epidural when things became too painful.
Months before my due date, I went through the childbirth preparation class that my hospital offered. Among other things, one of the topics covered in the class was pain relief options available during childbirth. The options that were offered at my hospital at the time were epidurals and Nubain.
Nubain is an opiate narcotic pain reliever that is administered through an IV. It falls in a class similar to Morphine and Demerol. It seemed like most people in the class had not ever heard of Nubain, so the instructor spent some extra time talking about it. Some of the things we learned:
  • Nubain does not stop pain as an epidural does. Instead, it takes some of the edge off to make it more tolerable.
  • Nubain can cause unwelcome psychological effects on the mother such as dysphoria, increased anxiety, and confusion similar to being intoxicated.
  • Nubain should not be administered if you are close to pushing as it has serious side effects on newborns such as complications with breathing, central nervous system function, and neurological effects.
None of those things sounded appealing to me, and as a person who suffers from anxiety anyway, I did not need anything else to be anxious about. I didn’t need to have anxiety about possibly having anxiety, and especially didn’t need anxiety about potentially putting my baby at risk. I decided then that Nubain was not going to be an option for me.
We also learned about epidurals and how they block pain via medication pushed through a catheter inserted into the epidural space in your spine. Some of the things we learned:
  • Your husband or support person will have to leave the room while the anethesiologist is placing the epidural
  • It is not uncommon for women to experience intense headaches after having received an epidural
  • Once you get an epidural, you will be required to stay in bed and will not be permitted to walk around or birth in any position except on your back
  • You will receive fluids through an IV if you get an epidural
At this point in the class I was thinking: yes. Yes, please. None of that sounded as bad as the Nubain and definitely not as bad as what I was imagining natural childbirth pain would be.
I had a birth plan, a hospital bag check list, I attended the childbirth and breastfeeding classes, I read labor and delivery stories, and watched childbirth videos. In my mind, I had a plan, and I was prepared to see it through.

*Insert laughter and head-shaking of moms everywhere*

After my water broke (while I was eating dinner in a crowded restaurant on a Friday night), I went to the hospital and was induced with pitocin. After 18 hours of labor, I was ready for the epidural. I had to wait a while for the anesthesiologist to get to me because he was called in to an emergency C-section. When he arrived, my husband was asked to leave the room (which we were told in advance was going to happen).
The nurse had me sit on the edge of the bed with my feet on a stool and then asked my to reach down and hug my legs. This is obviously challenging for an enormous pregnant person with a huge round belly to navigate around. As the anesthesiologist inserted the needle into my spine, I heard in my ears the most distinct, unforgettable crackling, crunching sound. To this day, I have no idea what that sound was or if it is normal, but it thoroughly freaked me out then and still does now.
After that joyous experience had come to an end, the nurse had to insert a urinary catheter which was just the icing on the cake. After a while, it was evident that I could no longer feel my contractions on the left side of my body, but could still feel them on the right.

FUN FACT! It turns out that it is possible for epidurals to affect only one side of your body.

Who knew? Not this girl.
Yep. I had no idea that was possible. You would think maybe if you were only feeling contractions on one side of your body that would mean you’re experiencing less pain. False. That was actually much worse for me. On top of being in pain, I was confused about what was happening with my body. I had a million thoughts racing through my head: What is going on? Is this normal? Is my baby OK? How is this affecting my baby? I am not going to be able to do this without pain relief. Of course all of that caused my anxiety to escalate.
The anesthesiologist came back and removed the epidural and placed a new one. Which was the same song and dance as before except I was in so much pain at that point that I was shaking uncontrollably. My body tensed with every contraction. The nurse and anesthesiologist reminded me 400 times to try to stay still and finally it was done.
Not long after, I finally had some relief. Thank you, God. My contraction pain had basically disappeared, and I thought to myself: Awesome. I can rest a little bit, try to get myself back together, and proceed with getting this baby out.
Less than an hour after the second epidural was placed, my nurse came in and had me lay on my side. She said they were seeing some concerning numbers with my baby’s heartbeat on my fetal monitor. Shortly after that, an incredible number of people came rushing in to my room. I was immediately scared and had no idea what was going on. An oxygen mask was urgently placed on my face, and I remember staring up at my bewildered husband who was searching the room of frantic nurses and doctors to figure out what was happening. Someone in the room stated that I was being taken back immediately for an emergency C-section. Nurses started disconnecting cords and moving my IV pole to wheel me to the OR.

That was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.

I knew something bad was happening, but I didn’t know what. Something was wrong with my baby. Something extremely serious was happening, and my husband and I were powerless to stop it.
After what felt like an eternity, things in the room calmed down a little and I heard someone say “It is bouncing back. Let’s give it a minute.” At this point, there was still no time for anyone to explain to me or my husband exactly what was happening. The nurse flipped my on my other side again and then it seemed the danger had passed.
The nurse explained that my blood pressure had suddenly plummeted and my baby’s heart rate slowed significantly. Apparently this is a very common side effect of epidurals that I was completely unaware of.
After that, the doctor turned my epidural off, and I was thrust into the next terrifying situation: I had to deliver my baby with no pain relief and was completely unprepared to do so. Remember when I said my plan all along was to have an epidural? That was true. So I never looked into natural birth. I did not research coping mechanisms, tips, or anything at all regarding birth without an epidural. It was NEVER part of my plan.
Not researching all options was my biggest mistake. I didn’t think my epidural plan would fail, so I never prepared for a back-up plan.

HUGE ROOKIE MISTAKE.

After several more hours of labor, I was in rough shape. I was in excruciating pain, exhausted, and terrified. I was begging – literally sobbing and begging to anyone who would listen – for a C-section. The good news is that while I was in absolutely miserable shape, my baby was doing well and all of the numbers were steady. Over my sobbing, begging, bargaining, and screaming, my husband and nurse reminded me that I did not really want a C-section and there was no medical reason to have one. I was going to have to ride it out.
After realizing that despite how much I pleaded I would not be getting a C-section, I begged for pain relief. I was in such bad shape that despite my previous terror about taking Nubain, I begged for the Nubain. BEGGED.
The nurse gave the Nubain through an IV and I kept waiting and waiting for it to have some effect. My contractions were horrendous and there was almost no break in between. I would barely catch my breath from one to the next. I remeber screaming that it was not working and I was still in extreme pain.
Less than 30 minutes after, (felt a lot like 3000 minutes), I had an unstoppable, unmistakable urge to push. It was truly just my body tensing and pushing almost completely on it’s own. I thought about the Nubain because I knew it had been only a short while since it was injected. I screamed that I was pushing and the nurse told me to stop immediately. There was no stopping it.
My nurse said that my doctor was not there yet and all of the hospital doctors were in other deliveries. She checked my cervix and announced that the baby was crowning. She then told my husband that it was likely she and him would have to deliver my baby without my doctor.

Enter even more terror.

One nurse held one of my legs, my husband held the other, and my nurse stood ready to catch my baby when my doctor and the NICU team came running in. Three pushes later my baby was out, and I was waiting to hear that beautiful newborn cry that signals everything is OK. My baby was taken immediately for evaluation because he was slightly premature and because I had been given Nubain too close to delivery. Thank God he was perfectly healthy and did not show signs of respiratory, neurological, or central nervous system distress.
I have almost no memory from the birth until the following day. Now thinking about it years later, and after having gone through a second birth with no pain medication and no Nubain, I strongly feel the Nubain was the reason for my almost complete memory loss.
Another issue we suffered through after delivery was problems breastfeeding. Impaired breastfeeding is another side effect of epidurals that I was unaware of. I attended breastfeeding classes while pregnant, and I was determined to make it work. The issues started immediately when my baby would not latch during the Golden Hour after being born. It continued to be a problem during our stay at the hospital. We met with lactation consultants regularly but finally had to give my son formula in a dropper to supplement because his latch was almost nonexistent.
After bringing him home, we visited our local lactation consultant’s office (which was a 50 minute drive from our house) almost every day. Nothing seemed to help. I took supplements, I avoided certain foods, I pumped after breastfeeding, drank tons of water, bought Mother’s Milk tea. I did absolutely everything I read about online, and followed the advice of others. Nothing helped. Meanwhile we continued to supplement formula with a dropper which was an exhausting task because our son just did not want to eat.
Meanwhile, our baby was not working back up to his birth weight as expected. This meant taking him to the pediatrician everyday so he could be weighed and checked. This was obviously an extremely stressful time for my husband and I. First time parents, not getting much sleep, constantly trying to work any small amount of food into our newborn, driving to the lactation consultant, the pediatrician, and me trying to nurse and pump. Actually I want to cry now just thinking of it. On top of all of that I was experiencing a shocking and difficult bought with postpartum anxiety.
After 3 weeks of miserable stress for all involved, I finally stopped trying to nurse. It was a weighted, difficult, and heartbreaking decision for me. I felt like a failure. A failure as a mom, a failure as a woman. I was devastated, but I could see it was not working despite every possible effort.
The fantastic news is that my son eventually started eating well from a bottle and began to grow as expected. He is now almost three years old and thriving. He is an amazing, joyous, sweet boy that I thank God for everyday.
I love my son more than life itself, but I have serious regrets about his delivery.
I don’t blame you if you skimmed a bit through that long story. To recap everything and to help you understand why I made the decision to go all natural with my second pregnancy, here’s the short version:

Side effects I experienced from pain management medications:

  • Epidural placement sound (very disturbing to me…. has anyone else experienced this?)
  • Inadequate pain relief of first epidural (worked on only one side)
  • Enduring a second epidural placement
  • Hypotension (serious drop in blood pressure)
  • Baby’s heart rate slowing significantly (due to hypotension)
  • Close call with emergency c-section (due to the above)
  • Inadequate pain relief from Nubain (had no notable effect)
  • Memory loss from Nubain
  • Impaired and ultimately failed breastfeeding (common epidural side effect)
And on top of all of that, the pure mental trauma that experience left me with. I deeply regret that I had not done more research on epidurals. I also should have read more women’s stories who had an epidural birth, and I wish I would have put in the time to become more informed about the potential side effects of epidurals.

My biggest mistake was not formulating a back-up plan just in case.

That entire experience affected me so much that when I became pregnant with my second baby, I went though with natural childbirth free of any pain relief medications. I did not have an epidural or Nubain. I would not consider it. That turned out to be a much better experience all around. I now have enough information on both experiences to say going without the epidural and Nubain is absolutely, unequivocally the best choice for me.
I hope this helps you gain some real-life insight on experience with pain medication during childbirth. Above all else, remember: you’ve got this!
Mom on!
Jillian

 

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HOW TO MAKE EXTRA MONEY IN ONE WEEK

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TODDLER ROAD TRIP ACTIVITIES

HOW TO PREVENT TODDLER TEMPER TANTRUMS

Toddler temper tantrums are ROUGH. Us moms, we are superheroes. We have that little sensor that goes off when we can tell the shit is about to hit the fan with our toddlers. YOU KNOW WHEN A TANTRUM IS COMING. You have an inkling when your child is tired, hungry, or over-stimulated and his or her behavior is probably not going to be ideal.
Usually when this happens, you will rearrange your schedule, cancel activities, drive right past the grocery store you were planning to stop at. But what do you do when you know a tantrum is coming and you really need your toddler’s cooperation for a small amount of time?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Before we get into this thing, let’s set some realistic goals. As moms, we are not going to stop every tantrum (and we shouldn’t). Your child is still going to have the occasional full-blown tantrum and you’re not always going to be able to stop it. There are, however, some key steps you can follow to put the brakes on most toddler temper tantrums.

DO NOT yell.

(Unless there is a safety issue). Remember: it is always important to model the behavior you want your kids to adapt to. From your child’s point of view – if Momma handles stressful and upsetting situations by becoming demanding, bossy, rude, and cranky, then I should handle those situations by becoming demanding, bossy, rude, and cranky. Save your yelling voice for dangerous situations only so your child has a firm understanding to stop what they are doing immediately when you raise your voice. Also stress begets stress, so if you are immediately pushed over the edge by your toddler’s behavior, they will likely be pushed over the edge by of yours.

DO NOT freak out.

Every parent has felt the stress of a toddler temper tantrum inevitably creeping up on them at the most inopportune time. Your emotional control is leaps and bounds above your toddler’s, and if you can’t keep your cool, how on earth could you ever expect your child to? Remember: you’re the adult here, and you need to keep it together. You have an opportunity to be the strong role model mom who can handle this situation like a boss, or you can show your child that they have the ability to take the reigns from you if they behave a certain way. You and your toddler can get through this unscathed. Take a breath, remind yourself what’s what, and proceed calmly.

DO ask yourself what your toddler’s underlying need is.

Is she hungry? Is she tired? Both? Formulate a plan to remediate that underlying issue ASAP. This method only works for preventing toddler temper tantrums for a limited amount of time. You can buy yourself maybe a half hour or so, but you need to have the end goal of meeting your toddler’s underlying needs (usually food or rest). I am not telling you it is possible, or even a good idea, to stave off your toddler’s temper tantrum long term.

DEFINITELY give your child a job.

What job? Any job. Feeling helpful makes children feel better. Is there a job that you actually need your toddler to do at this exact moment? Probably not. But find something for them to help with.
  • Can you tell me if you see any lettuce around here? (Even better if you’re standing right next to the lettuce)
  • Will you help me find my sunglasses, please? (Even better if they’re on your head)
  • I forgot what momma’s favorite color is. Can you help me remember?
  • Hey, do you remember how many brown doggies we saw on the ride here?
  • Will you find a piece of paper for momma, please?
Really any easy job will do. I ask for things that are near. I ask for him to find things that I know he know’s the location of. If I am not at home and I can’t employ those options, I will just keep asking questions like the ones above.
Notice: the key here is really distraction. Distraction is paramount to preventing toddler temper tantrums. I’ve seen well-meaning parents kneel down to their child and launch into the long-winded explanation of why their behavior is inappropriate, what they can do instead, what the consequences will be if they continue their behavior, why it is upsetting to the parent, etc. etc. That sounds really good to our adult ears, but in the moment, a two-year-old is not going to understand the message. The longer you go on and on about the current situation, the more engrained the tantrum-inducing trigger becomes. Instead, turn quickly on your heels, and divert, divert, divert in another direction.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have age appropriate talks with your toddler about their behavior. I’m suggesting it is better done at a time when the child is calm and not on the brink of complete toddler meltdown. My results have always been better if I wait. This also goes a long way in helping prevent future toddler temper tantrums because it gives the parent an opportunity to clearly set boundaries, expectations, and consequences in advance.

Here’s an example for you:

My toddler is getting hangry, but my infant needs a quick bath and then a nap. Part of being a mom to multiple children is learning to prioritize their needs. Who needs what most and at what time? Who needs immediate action, and who can wait? In this situation, even though my toddler probably wants to start acting out because he’s hungry, my infant’s nap, if not addressed, could raise some holy hell on the entire household and everyone in it. So here is what I would do:
Tell my toddler exactly what is going to happen: we are going to give your brother a bath, put him down for a nap, and then eat lunch. Then I would tell him what his job is going to be. “I need your help getting your brother’s bath tub out. Can you help momma get the tub, please?” We do this bath time assistant routine often, so he knows exactly what to do and is thrilled that he has mastered the drill. Then I would ask him to help get the baby’s towel, rinse off his brother, hand me the soap, wash the baby, rinse the baby, hand me the towel, empty and put away the bath tub. I don’t bark orders or using a demanding tone. I keep my tone pleasant and always say please. The thing is, I have kept him so busy with small jobs that he has switched his focus from being hangry to being helpful. We get the baby dressed and down for a nap, and then proceed with getting some lunch into my hungry toddler.
After lunch, I will tell my toddler how impressed I am with his behavior. “I am so proud of you, bud! You were super hungry, and you wanted lunch, but you were so sweet to help momma give brother a bath. I appreciate you!” Followed by hugs, hugs, hugs, kisses. Let your child know that you noticed they were in a rough place emotionally. Tell them you noticed how well they were able to get through it. This helps them build confidence in their emotional regulation skills and strengthens their ability to navigate independently through challenging situations. And to a toddler, being hungry and not eating at that exact moment IS a challenging situation to them. It’s all in the perspective.
Keep going, momma. You’ve got this!

 

Mom on!

Jillian

 

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TODDLER ROAD TRIP ACTIVITIES: FIVE WAYS TO KEEP A TODDLER BUSY IN THE CAR

HOW TO MAKE EXTRA MONEY IN ONE WEEK

HOW YOUR MARRIAGE AFFECTS YOUR CHILDREN

EPIDURAL BIRTH STORY: WHAT I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IN ADVANCE

THE WEIRD PREGNANCY SYMPTOM NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

BABY REGISTRY TIPS FROM A SECOND TIME MOM

TODDLER ROAD TRIP ACTIVITIES: FIVE WAYS TO KEEP A TODDLER BUSY IN THE CAR

Planning a road trip and need some quiet time in the car? Check out my five toddler road trip activities to keep your toddler content, quiet, and busy.
Sitting in a car with a busy toddler for hours on end can be an anxiety-inducing thought. This is exactly what happened to me moments after booking the Great American Family Vacation. I was sitting at the computer with a hot(ish) cup of coffee daydreaming about my two sweet boys playing together in the sand and uninterrupted, quality family time for one whole week.
I finished up booking our hotel room for the week long stay, and no sooner did I get my confirmation email did a terrifying thought cross my mind: I just committed to spending hours in the car with my toddler and infant. My mind started racing through a list of possible toys and activities I could pack to keep my two year old busy.
My main criteria to consider when choosing toddler road trip activities:

Quiet Toys

I don’t think I need to explain why this was extremely important. No one wants to listen to electronic toys repeat the same song over and over and over and over (if you have a toddler you know that continues about 400 more times). Additionally, we were traveling with our 5 month old who obviously needed a significant amount of quiet time for napping. Bottom line: quiet toys are a MUST. Non-negotiable.

Self-Sufficient Activities

I needed to bring the toddler road trip activities I knew my two year old could do on his own. I did not want to spend most of the 15 hour car ride climbing into the backseat to help with complicated toys. This is also the reason I didn’t pack any books for the car. One of my toddler’s favorite phrases “MOMMY READ THIS!” + motion sickness-prone Mommy = bad time for everyone. I knew the best option would be to find things that would hold his interest and allow him to play independently.

Easy-to-Hold Toys

Two year old hands can be pretty clumsy, and most toddlers are still working hard on developing their fine motor skills. For this reason, I wanted to make sure I packed toys that would be easy for him to keep on his lap and things that wouldn’t easily fall into the car door/carseat crack abyss. I break this rule for #3 and #4, but I had a good reason.
Fast-forward: I am alive! The whole family survived what ended up being a total of 30 hours in the car. I came away with some solid Mom Points and five winning toddler road trip activities to share with you to help keep your little one happy, busy, and quiet!
This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

1. Magnet Doodle Board

I bought this exact magnet doodle board specifically for this road trip. We had never owned one, but I thought my artistic son might like it. Heck, back in the day, my Wooly Willy would keep me busy for hours. (You remember this thing, don’t you?). So I figured, why not pass the tradition on? Well let me tell you: this is a winner. It now lives permanently in the backseat because my son LOVES playing with it in the car.
I love this one particularly for a couple of reasons: it has 4 color quadrants which encourage little ones to name their colors and think of things associated with that color. For example, I will say, “Let’s draw a tree! What color do you think the tree should be?” or “Can you draw a red circle?” He is so proud of himself when he can remember and identify each color. The other reason I love it is that it’s easy for little hands. It has a wide handle, and the magnetic pen is on the chunky side, so it’s easy to grasp and hold. It’s also attached to the board with a string which is perfect for clumsy hands. The magnetic slider on the bottom is also easy to hold and slide which makes erasing very easy. My son can draw on his own and then erase easily and start over again and again. This means he can spend a serious chunk of time engaged in artistic, independent play.

2. Melissa and Doug Locks and Latches Wooden Activity Board

This is one of my son’s favorite toys at home, and we love Melissa and Doug products, so this was an easy choice for me to bring in the car. This has four compartments that each open and close using a different mechanism. This is perfect for my son’s budding hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Some of the locks and latches are more challenging which is perfect for keeping a little one engaged and interested. Most toddlers have an obsession with keys, and my son is no different. There is a key attached to the board that can be used to open one of the locks. This is PERFECT for the car because THE FREAKING KEY IS ATTACHED. This means it can’t be dropped or lost. I actually just let out a huge sigh of relief.
We play other games with this board as well that target object identification and memory. Once each compartment is opened, there is a unique scene pictured inside. I will say, “Where did that bunny go?! Have you seen the bunny?” He will have to recall which compartment the bunny is in and unlock to reveal it. There is one compartment that unlocks with a combination-style lock, so that also is a great place to practice his numbers. We love this one, and it’s super easy to travel with since all the parts are attached to the board.

3. Stacking Pegs

As you may have guessed, we are fans of Montessori toys in our house which is one of the reasons I love these stacking pegs. They encourage fine motor development, creativity, counting, color identification, understanding and development of patterns, and they are really just good old fashioned fun.
But you’re thinking to yourself: Did you not just say “no toys that are easily dropped”????? You’re right. I did say that. HOWEVER, my reasoning for this choice and my next choice is that with an entire bag of pieces, it takes a lot of dropping before my son is done with the activity. He’s not the kind of kid to dump the whole bag over (they come in a nice carrying pouch), so if he accidentally dropped a few then it was no big deal because there were still a bunch left to play with.

4. Magnetic Blocks

There are lots of pros for magnetic blocks in the car! This is not the exact set we have, but very similar. They come in a little carrying bag perfect for keeping everything together. My son is also able to open the bag and get the blocks out without my help. The size of each piece is perfect for little toddler hands, and the holes in the middle make each one easy to grasp and hold. The magnets are strong enough that he could build structures, and being that they’re all magnetic, it’s not super easy to drop just one piece. They tend to clump together in the bag which means they’re not going to spill out all over the place. My son loves learning shapes right now, and these blocks gave him a chance to practice with his shapes, colors, and fine motor skills. MOM WIN! Quiet, interesting, educational. Boom.

5. Kids Kindle

No mom judgement here. I own a Fire 7 Kids’ Edition Tablet from Amazon, and it is my ace in the hole whenever I NEED to keep my two year old occupied. We have strict screen time rules in my house, so my son only gets to use this about 1-3 times a month depending on what’s going on. This is a win-win because we avoid many of the negative effects of too much screen time, and on the rare occasion we bust it out, my son is completely occupied. I have used the Kindle in restaurants when my little one is fussy and I can tell everything is going down hill, and I have also used it when I take both kids to the doctor’s office. (It’s difficult to be present and engaged with the pediatrician who is asking about my infant’s horrible eczema while I am chasing my two year old around and asking him to stop grabbing all the tongue depressors.) I gave him the Kindle, and BOOM. Sitting in the chair. Occupied. Just like that.
Right away I knew I was going to pack the Kindle for the long car ride and only get it out if all the other toys failed. I didn’t need to use it on the 15 hour ride down. The drive home was another story. My son was tired from a week-long beach vacation and DONE being in the car. I gave him the Kindle and he was a happy little clam. His favorite Kindle games right now are the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Dino ABC’s.
I almost always have the Kindle charged and in the diaper bag in case I need a powerful and quick distraction which doesn’t happen too often, but when you need that distraction, YOU NEED THAT DISTRACTION. I get it.

So I am totally not pretending to be perfect on the first shot.

There were some things I brought that didn’t work out so great, and I will share those with you also. I brought some foam puzzle boards which my son loves to play with at home, but these didn’t work out so well in the car when he didn’t have a solid surface to play on. At home, he will put them on the floor and push each piece down but wasn’t able to hold them upright and push the pieces in while in the car. I also packed this Melissa and Doug bead maze which is another favorite toy in our house. My son had the same issue with this. It was hard for him to hold it and play at the same time. No biggie.
Hopefully these ideas give you some inspiration for your own toddler road trip activites, and if you’re currently planning a vacation just know that I am super jealous but wishing you some relaxation, coffee, and quality family time!
Mom on!
Jillian

 

 

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