The Journey to Baby Number Two: Being Pregnant with a Toddler and Introducing a New Sibling

Written by Daphne

Thinking about having another baby? Worried about being pregnant with an active toddler? Expecting and terrified of the thought of going through the newborn phase all over again? About to have two kids under the age of two? Well, you’re in luck: I am living it right now (I have a two month old son and a 22 month old daughter). I won’t lie. It’s craziness, it’s chaotic, but it’s also pretty amazing and totally doable. And I’m here to tell you how my family made it work.

park-3089907_1920.jpg

Pregnancy & Toddlerhood

Being pregnant is tough enough as it is, but throw in a toddler and it’s really exhausting -- especially during the first trimester (hello nausea and fatigue!) and the third trimester (hello more fatigue and general immobility due to your huge belly!). Key tips? Nap when your toddler naps (hopefully it’s still at least once a day). Get as much rest as you can. Don’t underestimate the power of being outdoors, for you and your toddler. Getting some fresh air can be energizing and it allows for your toddler to run around and burn off some energy as opposed to being cooped up at home. Do not hesitate to ask for help or get help; there is no shame in this. This is a skill that will even carry you through postpartum.

Preparing our First Born

Our family spent a lot of time talking to our daughter about the arrival of a new sibling. We constantly talked about the growing baby in my belly, read books about being a big sister (my favorites are My New Baby by Rachel Fuller and I am a Big Sister by Caroline Jayne Church), and had Daniel Tiger’s “The Baby is Here” episode on replay. We let her play with and touch my growing bump, and eventually she understood that there was a baby in there; that something exciting was about to happen to our family. We also got her familiar with all the new and old baby gear that was showing up around the house.

Introducing the New Sibling

Teacher Mireille gave me some great practical advice when it came to introducing our daughter to our newborn son. On the big day, we made sure he was in the bassinet when she arrived (as opposed to holding the baby when she came into the room). We had a photo of her in his bassinet and a gift ready for her (which we said was from the baby). She was cautious but curious and the introduction went smoothly. After settling home, we let our daughter be the big helper when it came to diaper changes, keeping her as involved with him as possible. They are 20 months apart so the gap isn’t big and so there’s less she can do versus older kids, but we definitely tried to make her feel like she was involved in the whole process. What really helped throughout this big time of change was to ensure that very little of her routine was disrupted. She still had one on one time with each parent and still went to all her activities. It was extremely important to us that she had a strong sense of consistency in her life during this time. Change is inevitable but we definitely felt that having her grounded in her routine has helped weather this transition.

sisters-3464608_1280.jpg

Your New Family Unit

There will be an adjustment period; accept and embrace that. Things will be chaotic and getting out of the house will take longer than before, but you will find your new normal as I am doing now. Get help if you need it, whether it’s in the form of a nanny or daycare, or friends and family. Remember that none of it lasts forever: they don’t stay little for long as you probably realize. Enjoy the newborn snuggles, load up on coffee, let the laundry sit till tomorrow or next week, and watch your first born grow into their role of older sibling. And when your toddler gives their little brother or sister a kiss for the first time, tell me it wasn’t worth it.


Daphne has two kids: Penelope Lee, twenty months; and Spencer, a newborn. They are a returning family to Little Wonders and Daphne is grateful for the advice and support she has received with her daughter and looks forward to experiencing this with her son as well.

Five Rainy Day Activities at Home - With Things You Already Have!

Written by Elisa

Fall is flying by and with winter around the corner, it is as good a time as any to be thinking about what you can have ready in the house for when the weather does turn. Here are five fun, creative activities that will keep you and your little one busy on a rainy day. And better yet, we are sharing these activities because, most likely, you have everything you need to do these!

bowling-1834968_1920.jpg

Indoor bowling at home: If you have pins, great! If not, think of what could be substituted for bowling pins. You could stand up paper towel rolls or use empty bottles (plastic ones, of course) or milk cartons. Whatever you use, you can set them up in the hallway and use any ball you have to roll the ball down the hallway and bowl!  

Cardboard boxes and imagination: Yes, all it takes is a good cardboard box to occupy children and their imaginations. A box (or boxes) can become anything. With big boxes, you can draw and decorate them to be a car or different compartments of a train. Smaller boxes can turn into airplanes or birds or animals. Some of them could turn into houses. Use your imagination. Having a few of all different sizes helps to create different things.

Indoor mazes: Using nothing but tape (we like the blue paint tape that easily removes from any surface with no damage), you can create different patterns on the floor for your child to walk through. Think of it as a maze that helps promote coordination as they learn to walk in between the lines or jump from one thing to the next. They can walk forward and backward too.

Edible jewelry making: Have some string on hand or, even better, some pipe cleaners. Using what you already have, you can teach your toddler how to put Cheerios (or other round snacks you might have) on the string or pipe cleaner. They can tie it into a bracelet and enjoy.

jump-1283915_1920.jpg

Puddle jumping: We are saving the messiest for last. You probably have a raincoat on hand, some boots (or shoes you don’t mind getting wet), and an imagination. Take your little one out during a break in the rain. You can explore the puddles - which ones are big and small. You can jump in them and see how big the splash is. You can hop from one to the next, or you can bring some bath toys and see how they float in a puddle.

These are some ideas for activities using what you might already have in the house. Of course there are more activities you can do - some of them requiring a bit more planning (and shopping), whether it be cookie baking and decorating or making homemade play dough. And, of course, there are the out-of-home activities too! On a rainy day, you can take advantage of drop-in classes at children’s gyms or free activities like story time at the library. We would love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite activities to do with your little one on a rainy day?


Elisa and her first child, Andy, are new to Little Wonders. When not at work, Elisa can be found with her husband and son - possibly hiking, walking around the neighborhood, or at a park with their dog. If she has any free time on top of that, you might find her swimming, baking, or reading.

When older sibling goes back to school

Written by Fiona

We love September when we can enjoy the last bit of the summer sunshine and welcome the fall breeze. It is also the time when our family needs to adjust from a relaxing summer schedule to a busy fall schedule. Our older son, Julian, goes back to school and starts both after school and weekend activities. In some ways, it’s a relief! Don’t get me wrong, I love having both my boys around and had a fantastic summer when my older one had a break from school. But with Julian back in school, I now have more bonding time with my younger son, Alan. However, it also means that there is an adjustment to Alan’s daily schedule. Moreover, with Julian back to school and Alan left at home, it has led to some deeper upset in the house. Siblings took up a large portion of each other’s time/place during summer time, so this was a big change and needed an adjustment period. Here are some ways to make this change easier:

picture-108539_1920.jpg

Read a few books about school with both kids before school starts

The series, Miss Bindergarten by Joseph Slate & Ashley Wolff, is a good option for kids getting ready for school. For example: Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten has bright illustrations, fun rhymes, and introduces young children to kindergarten. They are also nice books to read to younger ones with nice animal characters. Reading time is a good moment to prepare the siblings for the changes that arise with the first day of school.


Plan more one-on-one activities with the younger sibling

With an older sibling around, Alan does not get all my attention. Now finally, here is the time I can spend with Alan before picking Julian up from school in the afternoon. After waving bye-bye to his brother, Alan and I enjoy going to the park or to a kid class together. There are many good options for us to have precious bonding time in the morning. This also gives Alan the opportunity to get used to having time with other kids his age. Here are several options:

Little Wonders certainly fulfills my goal to learn and develop with my child. More importantly, I get to commit that two hours each week with Alan.

MyGym is a place Alan enjoys every week. We like how they change the activities and settings each week, but there are still regular routines such as warm-up/separation time which kids are used to.

Peninsula Music Together has different locations and schedules. Alan loves the class because he gets to listen to music and move with it.

My First Art Class is usually offered in recreation centers. It creates art experiences for kids. I myself even learn a few projects that I can use at home with my boys.  

San Mateo County Libraries always offer great experiences. They include not only storytime, but a variety of different projects or activities for younger kids like crafts, Lego Club, and board games.

child-613199_1280.jpg

Try to plan activities for both kids to enjoy

Now that the school year has started, there are a lot of after school activities for the older siblings. When the regular sports season starts, soccer is a good activity to bring both kids to the field. Usually when the big brother plays, the younger one can observe. It is also a good time to practice a toddler's gross motor skills.

Make pickup time fun

One of Alan’s favorite things is to pick up his brother from preschool. Everyday he is very excited to go to Julian’s school (it is probably the easiest time to buckle his seatbelt). Alan loves watching other kids play while waiting for his brother. It is a great moment to have them share with each other about their day, especially the school-aged child can show what they did in the school. When they are both in the car, I usually put on a CD from Alan’s music class. The older sibling won’t feel they missed out on the class and Alan loves to show his brother what songs he listened to during the day.

childrens-eyes-1914519_1920.jpg

Talk about their feelings

It is important for toddlers to recognize their feelings at this age. Talk to them about what is going on and what upsets them. It is important to show them that we understand and accept their feelings, and we are here to support them and also shift their focus to more pleasant things.

Have some independent time for each of them

Although we still have our younger one watch his brother during soccer practice during weekends, we try to give them some independent time as well. We take one for some errands while the other one stays at home. This reinforces the idea: it is ok without your brother around and your brother will be back soon!

What tips and tricks have you used to prepare your younger child when the older one is going back to school?


Fiona has two energetic and sweet boys: Julian, nearly four years; and Alan, almost eighteen months. In her spare time--usually after the kids are asleep--she enjoys reading and watching movies of the mystery genre. She also loves yoga and Barre exercise.

Introducing the 2018-2019 Blog Team!

The new school year has started and the Little Wonders blog team is busy researching topics and writing new posts. Here is a little about each of the writers you’ll be hearing from over the next 8 months.

Daisy

Daisy is a work-from-home mom, trying to juggle all things. She is blessed with two kids: Sean, aged three; and Daphne, aged one. Sean is a cheerful, content guy who makes anything into a toy. He plays with the same thing in a million different ways. Daphne is an active, ambitious girl who can not quite walk yet, but definitely climbs. Though she can not talk, she is capable of expressing herself until she gets what she wants!

On weekends, the family enjoys a myriad of activities including soccer, Little Gym, playing at the park, going to museums, community events, visiting friends, church, cooking, and eating out. Her family is new to Little Wonders and is looking forward to Daphne coming out of her shell and feeling comfortable meeting new friends. Daisy herself looks forward to spending time with old and new friends alike. She could not have made it through the parenting journey without friends, and hopes to be such an encouragement to others.

Daphne

Daphne and her husband Jordan recently welcomed their son Spencer to their family at the end of August. They have been settling into life with a newborn and parenting two kids under the age of two. Their first-born, Penelope Lee, is twenty months old.

They are a returning family to Little Wonders, having started at the beginning of this year in Teacher Mireille's Spring class, and continuing in her Summer Class. Now they are back for a full year starting this Fall. The changes to the family have been a little crazy, but Daphne is grateful for the Little Wonders family and the advice and support she has received from the community. She has seen her daughter grow and blossom and she looks forward to seeing this with her son too!

Fiona

Fiona has two energetic and sweet boys: Julian will soon be four years old, while Alan is almost eighteen months. She enjoys learning about parenting and reading related topics. Thus she likes to share what she learns from others and her experiences with her two boys. In her spare time--usually after the kids are asleep--she enjoys reading and watching movies of the mystery genre. She also loves yoga and Barre exercise.

Elisa

Elisa joins Little Wonders with her first child, Andy. She and her husband are excited to meet other parents and children in the area and are especially excited to join the Little Wonders family. When not at work, Elisa can be found with her husband and son - possibly hiking, walking around the neighborhood, at a park with their dog, or at an activity with one of her seven nieces or nephews - all who live within blocks of each other. If she has any free time on top of that, then you might find Elisa swimming, baking, or reading. She is looking forward to connecting with other parents and having the time with Andy at Little Wonders.

If there is a topic you’d like to see on the blog, send an email to publicity@littlewonders.org.



Welcome to Little Wonders!

The beginning of each school year brings much excitement. First-time families wonder how everything works and how their children will respond to this environment. Returning families may worry about juggling schedules with other siblings. On top of all this are the general challenges of the parenting journey!

Our staff and board members have worked hard over the summer getting ready for this coming year. I’d like to welcome back our tiny but mighty staff, Teachers Suzanne and Maggie, whom I feel so blessed to collaborate and teach with. Welcome to our new group of board members, as well. These dedicated and enthusiastic parents face the challenge of continually enhancing the Little Wonders experience, and their efforts are very much appreciated.

Out of a strong desire for inclusiveness and community, our Board and Staff have chosen the theme of “Creating a Culture of Kindness” for this school year. Aristotle taught this concept centuries ago, “We become good by doing good.” It seems this is a real struggle in today's culture. As a parent, I have struggled with how to encourage good character traits in my own children and now here at Little Wonders we have parents of very young children questioning how to help their little ones develop kindness and other moral traits. We hope to explore how to become good “character coaches,” starting with our classroom communities, emanating into our families and the greater community. We are our children’s first and potentially most powerful character educators, and we look forward to infusing our already rich curriculum with even more great strategies for your toolbox that will help you support your children’s overall development and create a culture of kindness and respect that will make our world a better place.

Mireille McKee

Program Director

Parents’ Favorite Tips

In July we shared some favorite articles of our Little Wonders parents.  For our final post in this series we’re sharing favorite tips and tricks our parents mentioned during our last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year.  

Here is the list!

  • Make masking tape your best friend, it can be used anywhere and anytime. Some examples: ripping, sticking, and tearing while on a plane or somewhere where children need to be confined. Makes great race tracks or roads for little cars and trucks. Great to help teach boundaries.

  • Warnings and choices can truly help with transitions.  “We are going to leave in a bit, so pick one more thing you want to do before leaving” or “we are going to leave the park now, do you want to carry the lunch bags or my keys?”.

  • Notice and encourage curiosity.  One of my favorite ways is through cooking. The learning tower is useful tool!

  • When early in potty training, use sticky notes over sensors on public toilets so kids don’t get scared at the flushing sound when they get up from toilet.

  • Remember to wait a bit when asking children to do things. It takes 15 seconds or longer for a child to process and action a request. Be patient!

  • Let people help you -- it is not a sign of weakness and allows others to feel good by helping.

  • Take a few minutes of time for yourself when your child is pushing your limits. Learning to stay calm and not get upset at your child will go a long way.

  • Get on your child’s level. This removes the power over issue and helps you connect with your child when you need to correct him/her. Connect then redirect.

  • Understanding that each child is unique.

  • Find your community - the people who support you and lift you up.

We hope you’ve found a new favorite article, tip, book, etc from the last few posts.  We are so happy that you have started your parenting journey with Little Wonders and that we are a part of your community.

Parents’ Favorite Articles

Last month we shared some favorite blogs and websites of our Little Wonders parents.  Today we’re sharing some favorite articles that parents mentioned during our last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year.  Here is the list!

Emotion Coaching: One of the Most Important Parenting Practices in the History of the Universe

No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)

10 Reasons Your Toddler's Tantrum Is Actually a Good Thing

What I Learned About Working Parenthood After My Kids Grew Up

Lucie's List Behavior Series: What’s Normal for a One-Year-Old

Phases and Moments

50 Easy Ways to Be a Fantastic Parent

Do you have a favorite article to share with us?  Leave a link in the comments so we can check it out!  And come back to read our next post where we’ll share some great tips that our Little Wonders parents love!

Parents’ Favorite Blogs & Websites

The last discussion of the 2017-2018 school year the Little Wonders Teachers asked parents to come to the table with their favorite parenting resource and boy did they ever!  Today we’re sharing some of the blogs and websites that our parents are finding to be valuable as they continue on their parenting journey.

Scary Mommy started out as a way to document Jill Smokler’s stay-at-home days with her kids, it has transformed into a huge community of millions of parents “brought together by a common theme: Parenting doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Aha! Parenting  is Dr. Laura Markham’s website where she “creates Aha! Moments for parents of babies through teens.  She has a blog and has written a few books.

LuciesList-logo.png

Lucie’s List is useful from setting up a registry to postpartum tips to gear guides, Meg tries to “make the kind of site I would have found useful as a clueless new mom”.

National At-Home Dad Network provides support, education and advocacy for fathers who are the primary caregivers of their children.

Kelly Mom provides evidence-based information on breastfeeding and parenting.

Cat and Nat’s mission has always been to bring laughter and a sense of community to women and moms.  They also have a website.

Respectful Sleep Training is a Facebook group that is a “safe haven from shaming and fear-mongering surrounding sleep training”.

sf dads group.png

SF Dads Group is a Facebook group that connects fathers in the SF Bay Area through meetups, blogs, workshops, and more.  Check out their website for more information.

Screen-Free Parenting Community is a facebook group where members can get support and ideas for handling technology in the family setting.  They promote screen-free or screen-limited for the first few years of life and regular family conversations, monitoring and age appropriate limits for pre-school age and older.

Please share a blog or website that you find yourself going back to again and again.

Stay tuned for our next post where we will share some articles that our parents have found to be valuable while they raise their little wonders.  

Goodbye from the 2017-2018 blog team!

Thank you so much to the 2017-2018 blog team!  We've had a lot of fun this year and each writer has shared about their time at Little Wonders below.


Unexpected Relationships

I decided to join Little Wonders last year because I wanted my daughter to have a chance to be around other kids, and I looked forward to the chance to socialize with and share ideas with other parents. We definitely have enjoyed those aspects of class! What I didn’t fully anticipate was how wonderful it would be for my daughter to develop relationships with the other adults, and for me to be able to share time with the other kids. My daughter now has not only a wonderful group of toddler playmates, but also a cohort of other adults whom she recognizes and trusts. I not only had the chance to meet and learn with the amazing other parents in our class, but also the privilege of spending time with the other kids - seeing them learn and grow and demonstrate their emerging personalities. It's incredible to be part of a community in which all of the children are cared for and adored. I’m so grateful to Teacher Maggie for facilitating such a welcoming environment and to the other parents and kids in our class for the friendship and support they have offered to my daughter and me. Little Wonders is such a special place!

-Emily Melahn

A Graduating Family

We are finishing up our 3rd and final year for our family at Little Wonders. (1 year with my older daughter, and 2 years with my younger one). I am going to miss it so much.  As Teacher Suzanne says, it is the cheapest therapy you will find! This could not be more true. The support and knowledge I received while here is unparalleled. Everything I know about parenting a toddler is from Little Wonders. I am so glad that I came back and did the afternoon class with my younger daughter. Its amazing how far the kids have come. When we were starting the program, I never would have believed my daughter would be able to watch and participate in teacher-led science experiments by the end! Little Wonders is the perfect first school experience for both parent and child. Little Wonders has the best teachers, the best toys, and the best Halloween party around! I am so grateful for our experience.

-Sandi Arata

A Supportive Community

We are so glad we found Little Wonders. We were recommended by a friend and I am so glad we joined this awesome community. This was our 1st semester and we're already looking forward to Summer classes & Fall. I've enjoyed seeing my daughter blossom in class - Teacher Mireille has been a joy! I love the parent discussions and hearing how in many instances I am not alone in my challenges as a parent. Teacher Mireille has always been so helpful and insightful with her advice and I've always felt reassured when I bring forward my concerns about parenting my 16 month old. We've also loved the events that Little Wonders organizes, which allows us to connect with other families and spend quality family time together with fun activities for our littles. So thankful for this little school! Can't wait to come back.

-Daphne Howe

A Working Parent's Perspective

What a year this had been! Although it was our first and only year at Little Wonders (since my twins age out of the program this summer), it has been such a joy to be part of such a wonderful program even for a short time.  I had always heard amazing things about Little Wonders, and when I found out that there was an option for working parents such as myself, I was thrilled to be able to join the Wednesday evening class. Over the year my twin boys have learned so much through Teacher Mireille’s carefully planned science experiments (look at all the different seed sizes!), art projects (mixing red and yellow paint makes orange!), and from playing and socializing with other kids their age. As a parent, I have loved the discussions, especially the ones about being a “good enough” parent in this world of ever-increasing parental pressures, and about all the ways we can encourage our kids to take healthy risks. It has also been wonderful to connect with our fellow Wednesday evening families socially, from Moms’ and Dads’ Nights Out to whole family meet-ups at Off The Grid. The connections we have made with Teacher Mireille and with our classmates will stay with us for years to come, and we will always treasure the memories of this amazing Little Wonders year.   

-Katie Jay


If you want to check out Little Wonders for you and your little one, please email preview@littlewonders.org or click here to schedule a visit.  The summer session starts the week of June 11th and the fall session runs from September to May. The class schedule can be found here.

Family Game Night!

I loved playing games with my family and friends when I was growing up.  I had high hopes when I became a parent for family game nights. Like many of my expectations, I had to adjust them when reality hit. Rather than taking turns and having fun, we had meltdowns and quitting over not winning. Sigh

However, my disappointment was replaced with excitement when another parent mentioned cooperative board games in class one day at Little Wonders. I had no idea this concept even existed before that discussion. I only knew of games where there was a winner and a loser and my kids are not currently able to enjoy that. With cooperative games my mind was opened to a whole new world and it has been wonderful for our family! Basically all the players work together for a single purpose so, rather than being pitted against each other, we are all on the same team.  This Wikipedia link explains cooperative games in more detail, for those that want to learn more.

The game we have tried is from a company called Peaceable Kingdom. They have several different games appropriate for 2 and 3 year olds, as well as older children. We have played Count Your Chickens and had a blast with our 3 and 6 year old. In this game everyone works together to bring baby chicks back to the coop. We have a much better time when we cheer each other on, rather than have a single winner. 

bunny bedtime.jpg

There are games to suit many different interests. There’s a game called Chugga Choo for train lovers and Feed the Woozle for monster aficionados. I am seriously considering trying Bunny Bedtime. The description says it focuses on getting a bunny ready for bed. Some help with the bedtime routine? I would never say no to that!  I also think that Stack Up sounds like a fun time. This game allows kids of different ages to play at their own level during a single game.

race to the treasure 2.jpg

 

There are lots of other options for slightly older kiddos also. Mermaid Island sounds like it would be fun for the 5 and older set. Players work together to get all the mermaids returned to Mermaid Island before the witch arrives. Or Race to the Treasure where players strategize to build a path to and collect keys to unlock the treasure before the Ogre gets it.  Sounds like we can have fun with cooperative games for several years to come.

We are so excited to bring back family game night with this new cooperative twist!

-Sandi Arata

Parenting Book Recommendations

Sometimes it can help to consult outside sources to find new ideas for working through the challenges that can come along with parenting our little ones in the early years. Here is a list of some of my favorite parenting books, along with recommendations shared by our Little Wonders teachers.

Read More

Introducing your little one to your dog

When we first brought our baby home, we were excited to introduce her to our 2 year old dog.  After a year, our toddler and dog are the best of friends and great playmates for each other. Introducing the new baby to the family dog requires patience but it can be done. It definitely is more beneficial if your fur baby is properly trained and listens to commands – this makes for a smoother transition and for more control over the situation.

Here are some tips we found helpful when we introduced our dog to our newborn. I am by no means a pet behavior or pet training professional but I found these tips helpful for our family:

BABY-GEAR-ESSENTIALS-YOU-NEED-IN-THE-FIRST-YEAR-2.png

Get your dog used to the fact that a new arrival is about to come

  • Change is always stressful so try to make this time easier by getting your dog used to the fact that there will be a little human around.
  • Let them smell all baby related items, like diapers and baby clothes, bottles. If you intend to allow the dog into the baby’s room, let them sniff the crib, the toys, blankets, car seat, blankets, swaddles, swings, bouncers and other baby paraphernalia that will be lying around the house. This way the barrage of baby items doesn’t dumbfound your dog.
dog-sniffing-baby-toes.jpg

Make the introduction slowly

  • When we first brought our baby home, we let our dog sniff her and her swaddle. He was curious and interested but don’t worry if your dog isn’t interested or is cautious.
  • If they are curious but excited, temper their energy. Asking them to sit while you let them smell baby slowly. Remain calm and maintain a gentle, relaxed energy as dogs can definitely sense when you’re tense or anxious.
  • If they are uninterested or cautious, leave them be. Don’t force the introduction or rush it, let it happen on its own when the dog feels relaxed and at ease. You want to make this experience a pleasant one for both the dog and you and, of course, baby.
  • Don’t be discouraged if your baby and dog don’t do well with each other. Sometimes it takes time, not all dogs and babies have the right temperament for each other and it may take longer for them to get used to each other. Use your best judgment and be patient.

Encourage interaction

  • Depending on your comfort level of how involved you want the dog to be with baby, encourage interaction but also ensure boundaries are established. Your dog still needs to be able to listen and obey your commands when you give them while they are around baby. Safety is of upmost importance!
  • For example, we did not want our dog to lick our newborn on her face so we had to constantly reinforce that behavior to make sure he understood that it isn’t acceptable. Consistency is key.
  • It goes without saying: always make sure any interaction between dog and baby is supervised. NEVER leave a baby unattended with a dog, no matter how good the dog is with kids.
16143157_l.jpg

Teach both the child and dog to be gentle with each other

  • As your baby gets older and more interactive, it’s important that they learn how to be gentle with your dog.
  • Similarly if your dog wants to play with your child, teach them to be gentle and less rambunctious than they would play with you.
  • Teach them to pet your dog gently by demonstrating. Use a soft, gentle voice while petting the dog gently.
  • Allow them to participate in basic pet care like brushing or feeding. Use your discretion if your dog is sensitive or has issues with food guarding.

Hopefully these tips are helpful as you help build a wonderful friendship between your dog and your baby. We love watching our dog and toddler interact and are constantly amazed at how good they are with each other. She now has a built in playmate and furry best friend for life!

-Daphne Howe

 

Children’s book recommendations

Spring is here - a great time for new beginnings, new adventures, and maybe some new books? Here are some well-loved favorites as well as some newer releases, all perfect for your developing little bookworm. If you’re not shopping locally, don’t forget to use the Amazon links to support Little Wonders while you shop!

moo-baa-lalala.jpg

Books for younger babies:

Look! Look! by Peter Linenthal - This high contrast black and white board book (along with others in the series) will grab your little reader’s attention.

Hello Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam – Another series of high contrast books (with some sparkles just for fun) that is sure to be one of baby’s favorites.

Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton – Sandra Boynton’s cheerful rhyming books are fun for parents and children alike.

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman – The beautiful language and illustrations make all of Nancy Tillman’s books a joy to read.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle – This well-loved book has stood the test of time, as have all of Eric Carle’s classics.

guess how much i love you.jpg

Books for older babies:

Colors ABC Numbers by Roger Priddy – This series of oversize board books features colorful pictures and corresponding words that are perfect to support language development.

Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino and Steven Kellogg – A sweet little llama searches for a llama mama in this fun-to-read rhyming book.

The Little Airplane by Lois Lenski – Pilot Small is off on a flying adventure in this board book that’s perfect for any plane-loving little person.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney – A sweet book celebrating the love between parent and child, this is a much-loved classic like many of Sam McBratney’s books.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss – A true classic, this rollicking rhyming book is as fun for parents to read as it is for children to enjoy.

The Kissing Hand.jpg

Books for toddlers:

All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund – Deb Lund’s fun-to-read books (including Dinotrain, Dinosailors, and Dinoplane) feature dinosaurs going on all sorts of rhyming adventures.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker – The perfect bedtime story for any truck-obsessed toddler, these trucks have worked hard all day and are ready for a good night’s sleep.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty – Perseverance and creativity are the order of the day as Rosie learns to celebrate her ingenuity with the help of a famous great-great aunt.

Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney – A little excavator discovers that sometimes being small is just what’s needed in this fun-to-read rhyming book.

Journey by Aaron Becker – The first in a trilogy, this beautiful wordless picture book follows the journey of an adventurous little girl who discovers the importance of friendship.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn – Chester Raccoon needs a little extra reassurance when he goes to his first day of school.  Perfect for separation anxiety and transitioning to pre-school.

We hope you enjoy these books as much as we do! Happy reading!

-Katie Jay

 

Free & low cost activities to do with toddlers

We live in an area of seemingly unlimited activities for kids. Museums, indoor play structures, gyms; classes are everywhere.  However, most of these things cost money, which for most of us is not unlimited. And sometimes you need a break from the park!  This is my list of go-to free (or low) cost activities to do with littles. Sometimes you just need to get out of the house!

Little Free Library.jpg

Little Free Library

Maybe you’ve seen some of these in your neighborhood. Community members build a small cupboard-like structure, usually located in front of a private home. People are invited to trade books, with Little Free Library’s “take a book, return a book” policy. We love to visit different ones around our area. We borrow a book, return it to a different Little Free Library the next week, and take another book. This is just so much fun. You can search for libraries in your area, here.

Hillsdale Mall Kiddie Kruzzer Strollers

Did you know that you can visit the concierge at Hillsdale Mall and borrow a Kiddie Kruzzer stroller for free? There are several varieties, but my kids love the double fire truck model. My kids enjoyed this long after they had stopped cooperating with traditional strollers. We have spent several afternoons, just doing laps around Hillsdale Mall in our fire truck. Sometimes we will visit Mrs. Fields for a cookie before heading home. The concierge is located on the lower level, near the M.A.C Cosmetics store. 

Construction site viewing

If you have a kid who loves trucks, it can be so fun to go and visit a construction site. I use this website for the city of San Mateo to look for current areas under construction and then we will go visit and just watch for a while.

Duck pond.jpg

Visit the ducks

https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/3334/Bay-Meadows-Community-Park

Bay Meadows Park in San Mateo is best knows for busy soccer fields. There is also an almost hidden pond at the North end, where my kids love to see the ducks. There’s a path around it, perfect for strollers or bikes. This is especially fun in the spring when you can hope to spot some ducklings.

 

 

Trader Joe’s coloring sheets

Trader Joe’s grocery stores are great for families, with lots of family friendly foods available. My kid’s favorite thing about them is the monthly coloring sheets. We will stop in and pick up a new sheet. Later in the week we bring it back colored and they are absolutely thrilled to see it hung up in the front. Usually they are given a lollipop for their efforts. A win for everyone!

-Sandi Arata

Busy Isn’t Better

When I was in high school, I didn’t have time for lunch. By that I don’t mean that I was so busy I spent my lunch period doing homework or other things, I mean that I literally did not have time in my class schedule for a lunch period at all.

busy.jpg

While I think that’s probably an extreme example, and one would hope that none of us are packing our toddlers’ schedules so full that we forget that they need to eat, many of us have accepted as normal a constant state of ‘busy-ness’ in which we feel so pressed for time that we put some of our most basic needs aside in order to keep up.

It can be hard to slow down and let our kids be kids when we are so used to being constantly on the go ourselves. It can feel unnatural and perhaps even cause us to worry.  Will our kids fall behind their peers if they don’t start music lessons and sports in preschool? What will we do with them all day if they’re not in lots of activities? Won’t they get bored? We’re supposed to spend our entire weekends shuttling them to and from various engagements, right? Are there certain activities that are more important than others? How many activities is too many? Too few?

Of course, there is no magic number of activities in which to enroll our kids, no set formula for dividing time between structured and unstructured things. The key is to find a balance that feels right for your family. Here are some things to consider when scheduling your kids’ time:

summer.jpg
  • Respect your child’s need for unstructured time to play. Sometimes scheduling a lot of activities for our kids comes from a desire to make sure they keep up and learn new things. However, research shows that a lot of learning and creativity comes from downtime and boredom. Children need this time to grow.
     
  • Select activities for your kids carefully, and be open to their interests changing over time. Just because you loved soccer or music or dance as a child doesn’t mean that your child will.
     
  • Observe your child and how he or she responds to their schedule. Do they drag their feet whenever it’s time for a particular class, or are they excited to go? Do they seem stressed or anxious? Every kid is different and what might be an overwhelming amount of stimulus and activity to one may not be to another. As in most things in parenting, there isn’t a single right or wrong way to do things. You will always know your kid best.
     
  • Unstructured time doesn’t have to mean chaos. You can still maintain a loose routine for your child and for yourself without falling into the over scheduling trap. 
     
  • Encourage independent play from a young age. For some of us, scheduling activities for our children comes from a desire to avoid having a bored kid or to give ourselves a break from entertaining our kids. If we cultivate our children’s natural curiosity, though, we may find that we are less taxed by unstructured time with them. There are many ways to do this! Parenting educator Janet Lansbury has some great tips for fostering independent play, including in this post. 
     
  • Model the types of behavior you’d like to see from your child in unstructured time. Do you pull out a phone or device whenever you have a free minute? If we want our kids to develop the ability to play independently and to be comfortable with unstructured time, we need to put this skill to practice ourselves and give them the opportunity to observe it in action.

As in so many aspects of parenting, balance is key. There’s no harm in letting your kid try out classes and other activities. But there’s also no harm in resisting the pressure to sign up for everything! Try to trust that the real learning our kids are doing as toddlers does not require they be enrolled in a particular music or sports class. Simply by being in the world and interacting with it and with us, our kids grow and learn. We are enough for them! 

-Emily Melahn

Making the most of "Us" time

Often as parents we find ourselves amidst a myriad of activities for our kids, there are places to go, people to see, things to do, errands to run. As a result, date nights and couple time eludes us. We barely have time for ourselves, let alone to plan a date night! And sometimes, when we do find the time, spending time with our significant other ends up being going to bed early because we're so exhausted from the week or the day that there's no energy left for romance. So with Valentine's Day being around the corner, I thought I'd share some tips on how to make the most of couple time, so that even the most tired of parents can still enjoy a little quality "us" time.

Spend-Their-Quality-Time-Together.jpg
  • It does take effort - Quality couple time takes effort. It doesn't have to be extravagant but it does require some commitment from both parties to make it happen. The truth is, you have to make time for it and that can be done in different ways. Whether it’s committing to 1 date night a month, hiring a sitter for the kids, or trying to come home early from work on Fridays for dinner, this all takes the conscious effort of deciding to make this a priority. Both of you are responsible for this, the intimacy of your marriage or partnership is your responsibility, so take the reins and make it happen.
     
  • Bigger isn't always better - Don't be fooled that quality "us" time needs to be a fancy dinner date or an exotic weekend getaway, it doesn't always have to involve flowers or gifts. Whatever your style, make sure its quality time. It could be a Netflix movie and ice cream (or wine) on the couch, or it could be a hot date at a hip restaurant in town - the most important thing is that you are spending time together, doing something you both love and enjoying yourselves together, without the kids. 
     
  • Undivided attention - Put away the devices (laptop, phone, iPad) and give your spouse your undivided attention (even if its only for 15 minutes). "Us" time doesn't have to be long either - like in a formal date. Sometimes all it takes to spend good quality "couple" time is sitting in bed, telling each other about your day. One person talks and the other just simply listens, and you take turns. This is sometimes all you need to feel connected to your partner and for your partner to feel heard, especially if they’re having a hard day. Never underestimate the simply gesture of asking "how was your day?" and just listening with an open heart.
Practical-Yet-Productive-Ways-for-Couples-to-Spend-Quality-Time-Together.jpg

Finding time together can be challenging when you're a parent, but don't let it be an excuse. You have to work at it. It doesn't always come easy but think of it as setting a great example for your children. When they see you model a happy, healthy marriage or partnership, you're teaching them important pillars for their future relationships and marriages. It doesn't just benefit you both as a couple but your kids get to see how much you love each other, which benefits them too.

~ Daphne Howe

Encouraging Boredom For Our Kids?

On these cold winter days, when we tend to find ourselves inside due to poor weather, many parents can be struck with a feeling of dread – what can we do today to prevent the big “B” word? That “B” word we are talking about is boredom, and for many parents it is something we go to great lengths to avoid. To keep our children stimulated and engaged, even in these winter months, many parents choose to fill their children’s daily schedule with activities and events.

bored-kids-1.jpg

As well intentioned as this may seem, a recent article by the World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/09/being-bored-is-good-for-children-and-adults-this-is-why?utm_content=bufferb8f6b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) suggests that there is value in letting our children be bored. As the article’s author explains, boredom can be seen as an opportunity rather than a deficit. Boredom helps to prevent the expectation that children should constantly be entertained or on the go. In boredom, we give children the opportunity to create their own pastimes and explore their inner curiosity, perseverance, and playfulness. Plainly put, simplifying our schedules and powering down from the outside world can be a great benefit for our children! As Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D, a developmental and clinical psychologist in Oakland suggests, children need to read, write, think, draw, build, and create. So much structured time does not allow for this to happen.

As Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting suggests, by consciously saying “no thanks” to packed days, parents and children can “gain time, connectivity, security, and ease.” Here are a few tips she suggests for simplifying our family lives:

  • Avoid overscheduling. Moderate your family’s extra activities, focusing on essentials, so that you and your children can function at a sustainable place. 
  • Embrace ordinary days. Not every day needs to be exceptional and our children shouldn’t expect that. Learning to appreciate the ordinary days can build character and encourage creativity.
  • Cut back on screen time. Eliminating screens helps foster children’s interactions with other humans and encourages exploration with the environment.
  • Reduce toys. According to Payne, simplifying play makes parenting easier. She suggests doing this by keeping a small selection of open-ended toys, like blocks and simple dolls. Echoing the same sentiment suggested by the World Economic Forum, Payne suggests requiring children to play outside often and allowing them to be bored. Through boredom, we can help to facilitate basic creativity and resourcefulness.

Here are some additional tips for finding that balance between over-scheduling and boredom:

  • Be a role model. Make sure you enjoy unstructured time so you children will value it as well!
  • Check in with your child and make sure that his/her activities are things they truly like to do.
  • Make time for unstructured family time so that you can create opportunities for bonding, problem solving, and physical activity.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep and create a bedtime routine that works for the whole family.

So here’s to relishing this time of year!

-Genevieve Levin

Tips for Cultivating Family Traditions with Children.

Celebrating holidays with young children can be magical. Witnessing their wonder and joy is truly a gift in itself.

tradition1.jpeg

At the same time, though, many of us feel overwhelmed during the holidays. Between visits with extended family, a desire to create memorable and fun experiences for our children, traveling or hosting family with toddlers, and finding gifts for everyone on our list -- all on top of the day to day work of parenting young children -- it’s easy to feel stressed!

Traditions can be a salve for these stresses -- a way to slow down and focus on our families at a time of year when we are otherwise being pulled in a million directions. We all know how much our little ones thrive on routine, right?  Traditions are really just routines dressed up. Traditions, like routines, help us and our children know what comes next. They remind us of who we are and where we come from, and they give us something to look forward to and to take comfort in. Repeating traditions year after year can strengthen our families and help our children to feel loved and secure.

Below are a few tips for cultivating traditions with your children. I’m also sharing a few of my family’s traditions in the hope that they may spark an idea for you, too:

tradition2.jpeg

Start small. A tradition does not need to be elaborate! Something as simple as reading a beloved story before bed each night can be a tradition.

Borrow and share traditions with other families. A tradition doesn’t have to be invented from scratch to be special. Last year was my daughter’s first Christmas and I wanted to commemorate it in a special way, but couldn’t come up with any great ideas on my own, so I turned to the internet for inspiration. Behold the start of our ‘ornament a year’ tradition: each Christmas, my husband and I pick out an ornament that represents
something important or noteworthy from our daughter’s life that year. I love knowing that every year when we decorate our tree we’ll see the ornaments and remember something about what she was like at each age. I hope that as she grows up she’ll enjoy hearing stories about when she was younger as much as we’ll enjoy telling them. I kind of like the idea that other families may be doing this with their children, too!

Trust that traditions will develop organically. Think back on your childhood and the traditions that were most important to you. From where did they emerge? The most treasured tradition in the family I grew up in involves getting food from McDonald’s on Christmas Eve. (This was definitely not a tradition my parents intended to create!) December 24 is my oldest sister’s birthday; one year when she was a kid she was allowed to pick a special birthday treat and requested McDonald’s. Nearly 40 years later my siblings and I still make an annual trip to the drive-thru.  Sometimes just going with the flow and doing what works best for our family at any given point will lead to a tradition our kids are excited to come back to year after year.

tradition3.jpeg

Don’t be afraid to adapt or modify traditions as needed. Sometimes it can be hard as young families to balance the desire to continue traditions that pre-date our children with the reality that life with kids is different than life before kids. Maybe we’re not sure how or if we can continue a tradition from the family we grew up in or something special we’ve treasured doing with our partner before we had kids. Creativity and flexibility is key here! Our baking projects may be a little less elaborate when we let the kids help, and family game night might be more Candyland and less Settlers of Catan for a while, but there is still something special about continuing a tradition that’s important to us and letting it change through the years as we go through different stages of life.

Cut yourself (and your kids) some slack. We all know that toddlers can be experts at dismantling our best laid plans. Try to keep in mind the age and temperament of your child(ren) and have realistic expectations before putting too much stake in how a particular tradition or experience will go. Maybe a photo with Santa in which everyone is smiling and in their best holiday attire is not going to happen when your toddler is going through extreme separation anxiety or actively dislikes wearing fancy clothes. It’s okay if things don’t turn out exactly as planned.

Consider creating traditions that are centered around giving. We all want our children to grow up to be generous, kind people. Holidays offer a great opportunity for us to model the spirit of giving and create traditions that bring our family closer together at the same time. Anything from making holiday treats to share with friends and neighbors to donating toys to kids in need can be a great way to spread love to others while also modeling generosity for our children.

Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season!

-Emily Melahn

Modeling a Generous Spirit

I try to model a generous spirit for my children all year long, but it’s especially easy to do this time of year. There are so many opportunities for teaching children about giving during the holidays!

generous-kids-7.jpg

Treats
We love to bake treats and deliver them to friends and neighbors during the holidays. There are many ways that kids can be involved in this, such as:

  • Helping with the baking or decorating of treats
  • Putting stickers and bows on packages
  • Helping with delivery (load treats in a wagon to deliver to your neighbors or have the kids help bring cookies to their teachers when they come to school)

Making Cards
If you have a little artist, have them help with holiday cards.  This can mean they decorate envelopes for your family cards or draw and decorate cards for their teachers or friends.

There is a wonderful organization called Cards for Hospitalized Kids (cardsforhospitalizedkids.com). You can make cards (for holidays or any time of the year), mail them to the organization, and they will be distributed to children who are currently hospitalized.  You can find all the details about where to send them and what to have them say on the website.

Giving Tree  
We like to do a giving tree every year, like the one for Life Moves in the classroom at Little Wonders. With toddlers I find it is hard to have them help with picking out toys for others, but there are always many choices that involve things like clothes and personal items. I like to have the kids come to the store and we talk about how we are giving this to someone who doesn’t have the item and how wonderful it is to help people. The kids can carry the items into the classroom and put them under the tree too.

I have also seen giving trees at the library and in stores this time of year. 

kids-donation.jpg

Various Drives and Donations
We like to bring cans or boxes of non-perishable food to the library when we visit.
Other suggestions:

  • Bring last years winter coats to a shelter, such as Life Moves 
  • Donate old books to your library.
  • Purge toys and clothes to make room for new gifts and donate them to Life Moves.

The important part is to have your children help with gathering and delivering the items and talk about how its important in your family to help, give back, and reduce waste.

Have a happy holiday with your Little Wonders! Here’s to celebrating the real meaning of the holidays this year!

~Sandi Arata

Cold Weather Activities

The holidays are upon us and with the excitement of this fun time of year, we also welcome colder temperatures. Gone are the long days of summer when we could easily bring our rowdy kiddos to the park for hours on end to burn off some of that seemingly endless energy. Since we can’t always venture outside for long periods of time, colder temps and rain usually mean that we have to get creative in order to pass the days with our little ones so that we all end up happy (and with our sanity intact!) by the end of the day. Here are a few suggestions for activities to fill those cold winter days that are coming our way.

Toddler Gyms/Playgroups
Community centers, museums, and libraries are wonderful places to escape the cold while experiencing something new and exciting for the little ones. We are lucky to have many great centers in our local area! Here are a few to add to your list this winter:

cottonball_snowman_step_final.jpg

Winter crafting
What better time to craft than during the holidays! Making ornaments and other holiday art projects is sure to be a hit. Try out these crafts for loads of fun:

  • Cottonball snowman – What you need: construction paper, glue, cotton balls, pom poms, contact paper, and markers.
  • Cut out snowman figures from the contact paper and glue the non-sticky side to the construction paper. Once attached, lift the top layer off the contact paper and let you little one place the cotton balls and pom poms on the paper to make a snowman.
  • Handprint mitten ornament– What you need: construction paper, finger paint, scissors
  • Trace a mitten on construction paper (make larger than your child’s hand). Dip child’s hand in finger paint and place handprint in traced mitten. Let dry and cut out traced mitten. Attach string and hang on the tree!

Baking
Toddlers are a delight in the kitchen and love to help when it comes to baking. If your kids are young enough that this is their first time helping out, here’s a helpful reminder: KEEP IT SIMPLE! Have your little ones help by measuring out the ingredients, sifting flour, icing cookies or dropping sprinkles on frosting. Chances are after a few minutes they will be ready to move on to the next activity so keeping them engaged for a short period of time is all it takes for them to have loads of fun.

Embrace the cold
Get out with the family to participate in winter sports we can only enjoy during this time of the year. Bring your kids to the ski slopes for their first taste of skiing and snowboarding. While you’re in the snow build a snowman and make some snow angels!

Even if you’re not headed to the snow, be sure to enjoy the outdoors locally. Kids love to be outdoors, so just bundle up and head outside!