Marianna will be three next month, which means several wonderful years of parenthood are already under my belt. Over that time I've kept my radar on the lookout for little tips, ideas, tricks of the trade, if you will, that I've seen or heard about that might work for our family. One thing is for sure: I wasn't inherently wired with all the creativity, know how, and genius it takes to be a great mom. But I quickly found out that no one is. Just as in the case of recipes, it's okay to borrow and trade parenting tips! In fact, my life would be a whole lot harder if I hadn't.
I'm dedicating this post to highlighting a few things that make my life as a parent a whole lot happier!
I'll start with my most recent discoveries involving the baby items that have WORKED big time for Adrienne.
First item on the list is this lovely swaddling blanket by swaddledesigns. My sister-in-law picked this up for me right before we brought Adrienne home, and she hasn't slept a night without it. Let me tell you, this thing has been a miracle worker. I wrap Adrienne up at bedtime, and she is almost instantaneously out. She sleeps cozy as a bug all night. I also discovered that it was the best cure for fussy moments. A good wrap in her blanket did more than any amount of rocking, strolling, patting, or any other soothing method I could think of! I recommend this for every new mom.
Another thing I got this time around was a baby sling. Mine is a hot sling, and while I don't use it on a daily basis, it's been extremely practical for some outings. Anytime when a stroller isn't necessary, the sling has been a great, comfortable way to carry Adrienne around, and now that she's old enough to sit up, she likes it even better.
This next one is for both girls. Someone several years ago told me about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, which is a non-profit dedicated to increasing literacy. Basically, you can sign your children up, and at no cost, you receive one hardback book a month until the child is five years old. We have literally built Marianna's library in this way, and the books she gets from this are among her very favorites. I just signed Adrienne up, and theoretically, she will get a different set of books. It's really a neat idea, and it's one of Marianna's highlights to go out to the mailbox and pull out her new book.
I had heard amazing reports about a Leap Frog DVD called The Letter Factory, so when Marianna was 18 months old I got it. This DVD goes through the alphabet and teaches the sounds for each letter. Marianna loved it immediately, and by 20 months old, she could go through all 26 letter and their sounds. It's really an amazing teaching tool, and what this DVD did in an entertaining way in just 8 weeks would have taken me months.
Going along with this electronic theme, I have found our little portable DVD player that we got last year for $50.00 to be a life saver. Our car doesn't have a built in player, so this has been perfect for any long car trips! Also, I've found that if I know I'm going to be in a place where Marianna needs to stay quiet for awhile, whether I'm going to a meeting or something else that isn't kid friendly, we just pack this DVD player, and she is quietly entertained. So as it turns out, it's portability makes it better for us than a permanent one.
Something that is a very important part of each day is craft time. Marianna love to express herself with art, and so I've found some items that are excellent and come with less mess. First of all are the Crayola Twistables, crayons that don't have paper that will inevitably be torn or eaten off! They are a little pricier than the regular crayons, but worth every penny. I've also discovered that Marianna enjoys watercolors just as much as the messier versions of paint. Everything washes out, and she can stay busier for an hour easily. And they're cheap! It's hard to go wrong with Crayola, and I learned the tough way that permanent staining items don't mean more fun--just more mess.
Recently I've discovered the benefits of an old fashioned timer. Instead of telling Marianna that she must immediately stop doing something (whether it be color, dress up, do puzzles, or whatever) I have started setting a timer to tell her how much time she has left. This has been especially effective at bed time! She has time to gear up, and then when the timer goes on, she is a whole lot more ready than when I just lay it on her.
Something that I love doing is saving money on the expensive clothes I see in catalogs or clothes shows by sewing them myself. I've discovered that pants and dresses like these are super easy to make, and besides saving big bucks, sewing comes with the added benefit of a sense of achievement of being able to do it yourself! I still buy the basics, but as time allows, I try and make 5-10 outfits each season. Most of my patterns come from the Children's Corner, and I can promise you that everything I do requires a very low skill level! It doesn't have to be hard to be cute.
I have a friend who just recently recommended a book for Marianna called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I was skeptical. But Marianna started showing interest in the beginnings of reading, so I thought it couldn't hurt to try. When I got it I was instantly puzzled by the lack of brightly colored graphics usually found in preschool books, but we pushed through a few pages anyway. It only took one lesson for me to be very interested in the approach, and now, already 8 lessons into it, I think it's really a great starting place for teaching her how to read. I expect some of it to get beyond her ability, but already she can sound out a few two and three letter words, so in my book, it's a winner.
Last, but certainly not least among the sanity savers in the list, is Oxi Clean. Up until last week, I wasn't sold on any particular spot cleaner--I indiscriminately sprayed all variety of cleaners on my stains and hoped they would come out in the end. Then my friend told me about Oxi Clean. Of course I knew the name, but I had never given it a try. I tested it on an item that spray and wash wasn't able to handle, and when Adrienne's outfit came out clean, I became a believer.
These are definitely some of my favorite things. I'd love to hear yours!