Five simple tricks to keep you and your sandbox happy

How to keep bugs out of your sandbox and other sandbox tips!

I have mixed emotions about sandboxes.

They keep my son occupied for long periods of time. He is so happy slinging sand around.

They are also very messy. Sand sticks to everything and magically spreads throughout the yard.

Not to mention that sandboxes attract bugs.

I am not sure if I love or hate our sandbox but it sure makes my son happy.

Here are few tips that will help you and your child enjoy the sandbox more this summer:

Tip #1:

How to keep bugs out of your sandbox and other sandbox tips!

Fight bugs by mixing cinnamon into the sand. I was happy to hear that bugs hate cinnamon, which will keep the insects at bay. I bought an industrial-size bottle for a few bucks and poured it in. Not only does it help keep bugs out, it may keep them away from the perimeter, too. Afterwards, my son used the cinnamon container as a sand toy. Win-Win.

Tip #2:

Choose your sand wisely. Play sand is specifically cleaned for children. We almost bought the run-of-the-mill sand at Home Depot until we were warned against it. Play sand is softer and nicer, and it doesn’t have carcinogenics that may be present in other sand. Read the package, do your homework and make sure you are getting the sand you want.

Tip #3:

Keep baby powder on hand. Is sand stuck to your kid? Feet? Hands? Arms? This magic powder will get it right off.

Tip #4:

Don’t forget to keep it clean. Take out any stray plants or other flotsam that has migrated into the sand box. Keep it covered when not in use.

Tip #5:

Change out the sand every year or two. We won’t need this reminder because we lose sand daily. There is something about flying sand that delights a kid! However, it’s good to keep track of how old your sand is.

My favorite tip is adding cinnamon to our sandbox to keep the bugs away. It smells great too.

Any more to add to this list?

Note: There may be affiliate links in this post to help with the costs associated with this blog. All opinions are my own.

Thank you “Llama Llama” for helping us transition to preschool!

Llama Llama Misses Mama: Great for transitioning to preschool!Starting preschool can be hard stuff for some toddlers. I had no idea it would take this long to adjust!

ZJ started daycare/preschool in March and it’s still difficult for him. He had to leave a babysitter who loved him dearly and gave him tons of personal attention and is now in a room full of two-year olds with a few very sweet teachers who don’t have the time to hug him all day long.

I don’t blame him. Heck, what toddler wouldn’t want to be hugged all day long?

We’ve had our ups and downs. I can tell he genuinely enjoys the school but the evenings have been hard. Sometimes he acts out because he is so tired. Or doesn’t eat.

One thing we found that helps a lot is talking to him. I explain where we are going. When I will pick him up. That I will miss him, but he will have so much fun.

My husband and I are good at managing expectations for each other, and we want to do the same for him.

For this reason, our family loves the children’s book Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney.

The book is about a toddler llama starting preschool, not wanting to get involved because he misses his mama. The book goes through his day — from hanging up his coat in his cubby to lunchtime and playtime. Then, mama picks him up after the day is done.

Of course, the little llama finds that he can love both school and mama.

My son loves that this book mirrors his day. I often find that he is better at school if we read this to him often. We always read this to him on Sunday nights before bed.

I highly recommend Llama Llama Misses Mama, especially before transitioning your kid. to preschool or daycare. We didn’t read it until after he started school but it still helps!

If you want to see how the story ends, this YouTube video says it all.

Can’t stop scratching that mosquito bite? Here is a simple trick that actually works

Can't stop scratching that mosquito bite? Here is a simple tip that actually works.

 

Our yard is a haven for mosquitoes, and unfortunately the first of these wily insects hit us this week. The other night I found two mosquito bites on my leg. Arghh!

During the offseason, I read about this hack to stop mosquito itching. It was so crazy that I had to try it.

Just apply deodorant to the bite.

I felt a tad silly putting deodorant on my leg, but it actually worked! The bites stopped itching immediately. It was an hallelujah moment.

I used powdered deodorant, and I would be a little hesitant to use a gel variety. But who knows? That may be effective, too.

I love this very clean and simple way to address summer bites. Safe for my son to use as well.

This is definitely my favorite hack so far for the summer!

Travel tip: Check out a few books online from your library before your trip

Travel tip: borrow books online (for free) from your local library

Many of you who enjoy reading may already know this, but I figured it was worth writing about because I love this trick so much:

You can check out e-books online from your local library.

Free.

From your home (or anywhere). 

Okay, I can’t vouch for every library in the country but it seems to be a trend to offer e-books for library card holders that you can download to your e-reader.

I recently went to Seattle for a girls weekend, and it was going to be a long flight. ZJ wasn’t with me so I knew I’d have time to read. Before I left, I went through dozens of books on my library’s website that I could easily borrow and read if they struck my fancy.

I checked out books on history, home organization and other topics, just in case. I like to have reading options while traveling. I love to skim non-fiction books, many of which I don’t want to own.

If the book is popular at your library, it could take a while to get access to it. The library has the same system with e-books as it does with real books — they only have a limited number they can loan out a time. Sometimes I on a waiting list for a month or two before I can check out a book. I can never tell when these books will be available either. That’s the downside.

To ensure I got the fiction book I wanted for the plane, I bought an e-book from Amazon:  Voyager (the third Outlander book).

I have also checked out audio books online.

This electronic option is fantastic for when we’re traveling. Of course, I still believe nothing takes the place of a physical library or a paper book. However, this is the next best thing.

 

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

 

Along with cutting toddler fingernails, shoe shopping is high on our list of things we don’t enjoy doing.

We did what many parents do: we braved the crowded mall on a Saturday and had our son’s feet measured at Stride Rite.

It was a zoo, but I felt confident we left the store with the correct sized shoes. What kills me is that we could have bought a similar shoe for less online, even with the sale at the store.

My husband and I had been talking for a while about buying a shoe sizer. Wouldn’t it be great to measure your kids’ feet at home?

Last week I read about the Squatchi Kids Shoe Sizer, and  I immediately ordered it from Amazon. It is a nice blue, sturdy sizer.

After using it, I realized that ZJ’s shoes should probably be retired. Not only that, but we needed to go up an entire size. We bought him shoes this weekend. Easy. His new size 7.5 shoes fit him perfectly.

From now on, it will be easier to buy shoes online for our son.  Or, I can buy him shoes in the store WITHOUT him being with me.

A note: the shoe sizer is not perfect. You need to account for size variations among shoe brands. Also, my son wears a wide width and the Squatchi doesn’t measure width.

However, it’s already been worth the money I paid for it. If only, to keep me out of the mall on a Saturday!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

 

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

It’s raining. Or cold. And you’ve been inside your home with your kids for way too long. What do you do?

Our son, ZJ, is two and exerts more energy in one hour than I do in a week. He is a runner and I am usually exhausted by the end of the day.  But it’s so important that we give him time and space to run and play.

This winter has been cold and rainy, which has severely limited his outside time. Spring is almost here but that promises more rain.

So, we’ve been forced to be creative.

Our criteria for a rainy-day activity is that it be relatively inexpensive and not too far away from our home. Our son needs a large space to explore, and ideally we want him to be exposed to new things.

Here are few of the places we took our toddler this year so far, which we highly recommend:

1. Pet store.

Take your kid to look at the fish and birds and reptiles at your local pet store. The pet stores near us don’t sell dogs, but many have pet adoption days. On one hand, it’s great because your kid gets to directly interact with the dogs who are up for adoption. On the other, if you are not careful, you may walk out with a new dog in tow!

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

2. Local hotels and convention centers.

We have found a hotel that is perfect for our two-year old. We recently went to the Washington Gaylord Hotel, which has water fountains, tons of tall staircases and beautiful views of the harbor nearby. We even ran into the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders! You need to be choosy which hotel you take your kid to, but they generally have plenty of space for roaming, especially if it’s also a convention center.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

 

3. Bookstores and libraries.

Take advantage of bookstores and libraries, which often have book readings for young kids. Or, kid-size tables to explore new books. Our local Barnes and Noble has occasional book readings on Saturday mornings. Our library has readings too, but usually during the week when we work. It’s pretty easy to find these schedules online. The bonus part: If we are at the library, we always come home with new books!

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

4. Museums.

We are lucky to live near Washington, DC, where all the Smithsonian museums are free. This winter we’ve gone to the Museum of Natural History (to see the larger than life mammals on display) and the Air and Space Museum. We arrive right when it opens and he is tired after an hour of exploring. Aquariums are also great places for young kids.

If you don’t live near free museums, many throughout the country have a free admission day sometime during the month, or you can find various discounts through your library or city.  Most areas have children’s museums but look further to see what other museums your kid may enjoy.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

5. Airport.

Warning, not all airports are suitable as a rainy-day alternative. Our nearest airport is clean, near by and has a lot of space before the security check-in. He can wander around (as it’s usually not overwhelmingly crowded in certain areas) or stand by the windows where he can see dozens of airplanes coming and going. Yes, this usually requires a parking fee, but it has been worth it.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

6. Your local in-door playground.

I can’t cover them all here as every community is different, but a quick search will show you what indoor gyms are in your area.

  • Local toddler gyms. There are tons of them out there. They often get crowded on rainy days but are loads of fun.
  • Community Centers: Every Friday our local center has a soft-block room available for kids for $1. Check out your local community center to see what it offers.
  • McDonalds or Chick Fil-A Playgrounds: Especially good for roadtrips.

We are always on the hunt for good indoor, rainy-day activities. Please leave a comment if you have any to add!

 

How to save money on diaper disposal bags

petwaste

Here is a way to save a few bucks on diaper disposal bags.

We received a three-pack of Munchkins Arm and Hammer disposable bags for babies at a baby shower. They were great — when we are on the road, we could easily tie up ZJ’s dirty diapers and toss them.

We were running low, and my sister happened to be in town. She owns three mastiffs and had a better idea. Why not buy dog disposal bags instead?

The dog bags were basically the same, and meant for the same purpose: waste removal. They were a little smaller but definitely big enough to handle the messiest of diaper changes.

And here is the kicker: You can often find them cheaper than 3 rolls of bags marketed toward parents.

Ok, yes, these bags are all pretty cheap in and of themselves. But we bought a 10 pack for a few bucks and we’ve been using that same pack for more than a year now.

Sometimes it pays off to stray from the baby aisles!

Create a mini diaper emergency kit for your car

Create a mini diaper bag for each car

Diaper bags are a necessary evil: You never know what will happen when you take your baby or toddler out of the house.

We like our bag but it’s just another thing to carry. We bring our diaper bag when we are going out for an extended period of time. But what about short trips to CVS, Target, getting gas or even the neighborhood playground?

It took me way too long to figure out that I could create mini diaper bags for each of our cars that would permanently live in each vehicle.

Baby Bag to go!

Some baby emergency kits contain everything under the sun. However, I went with these four basics:

1. Diapers

2. Wipes, which can be used not only for changing the baby but for wiping him down or cleaning up messes.

3. Disposable diaper changing pad, or something similar to cover the surface you’ll be changing your child.

4. An extra set of clothes. We use old hand-me downs that aren’t a part of our regular rotation.

You could also include a travel-size Vaseline in each bag.

Make a mini diaper bag for each car

I found these bags at the Dollar Spot at Target. Bonus is that he loves Cat in the Hat!

I made identical bags for each car, and now we rarely tote our diaper bag around.

One note of caution: Check up on the contents of your bag every so often. ZJ is at an age where we rarely need to change him on these quick trips. Sometimes these bags are left unused for a month or two. It’s wise to check that your bag has the right size diapers or clothes.

My first step at decluttering my son’s toys

A few ways I started to declutter all the toys in our houseIt’s a new year, and if you are on social media, it’s hard to miss that resolutions are in full swing. In my feed, everyone is decluttering. There are so many tips and tricks out there that I am having trouble decluttering the decluttering process!

However, I decided to take some of this advice to heart. ZJ’s toys were taking over our living space to a point where we were all a bit unhappy. I definitely had enough.

I would like to think we have an average number of toys — more than some and less than others. My two-year old was still a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of play choices, and they were poorly organized.

How I started to declutter my son's toys!

Help! I am surrounded!

In addition, we were constantly picking up after him. He does understand how to clean, but we can’t expect him to if there is no clear place where to stow his toys.

Since he is still young, we decided it was a good time to clean out the toys.

Here is what I did:

1. We have a toy storage bench in the living room. It works great but we let the toys flow out and take over the living room. I chose his favorite toys and found a place in the bins. Once the bins were full, that was it (for the most part).

Decluttering toddler toys Decluttering toys!

2. I put the leftover toys in a large plastic tub, and brought it to the basement. We also have a few toys in his room. He gets to enjoy them when we are downstairs or upstairs. Every few weeks, we’ll rotate the toys.

3. We put away the toys he has outgrown, or will soon outgrown, or that I simply didn’t like. This includes very loud electronic toys. These are marked to either be used again if we have another child or to be donated or given away.

This isn’t rocket science and this idea is not new. But in the few days since we did this, I can already see results.

ZJ can more easily focus on his toys. I can see a difference in his play and he has a new interest in toys that he hasn’t touched in a long time.

He is even happier and plays better on his own.

We are all happier that our living room is less cluttered.

Everyone has a different philosophy toward children and toys in the house. I’ve seen minimalism work quite well and I’ve seen families work with toys in every corner of the house. We didn’t go gung-ho with this process and kept a lot. We will regularly assess when a toy needs to leave circulation.

But we will keep out only what we have room for.

This one small step is showing us how curating the toys — even just a little — is working for us. And I got part of my living room back!

I found some good tips in these articles:

From one of my favorite bloggers, Janet Lansbury: Play Space Inspiration

Tame the toys: 5 great ways to manage the messes