Saturday, December 2, 2017

The ONLY gifts for babies & toddlers you'll need this Christmas!

I've had lots of people ask my opinion about kid's toys and Christmas gifts.  I'm not sure I'm the most knowledgeable source on the topic but I do know two things:

1- I know that I (and most parents) don't want a billion toys lying around the house. They get left everywhere and more importantly, kids don't really care about most of them.  This brings me to my next point...

2- I know what toys my kids like.  Every kid is different but I think there are general types of toys that seem to be "winners" across the board.  There are also toys that are good for kids because they teach life skills, motor skills and encourage imaginative play.

[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links pays me a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me to continue bringing you new blog posts & stay home with my babies. Thank you for your support!]

Gifts for Babies:

{Photo credit: Shania Bordner}

Let's be real.  Babies don't need a lot, but everyone insists on buying them things anyways.  Put these items on their Christmas list and make everyone happy.

1. Wood Blocks

This is #1 on my list for a reason. These blocks are perfect for little hands to pick up, roll and stack. They are made of a soft wood and safe paint so baby can chew on them.  They come with multiples of each letter and number so baby can learn and you can use them for photo props! Blocks are also a Montessori type toy so your baby isn't going to "grow out of" playing with it for years and years. Similarly, Stacking Cups are perfect for helping babies learn colors, shapes and fine motor skills- and they cost less than a cup of coffee.

2. AlphaPup

This toy is a little more electronic without being too stimulating for little minds (read more about delaying screen time here). It's also a personal favorite in my house. My son received this for his first birthday and 2 years later STILL loves it! My 9 month old is currently obsessed with it. Why do I love it? Alpha pup is teaching letters and sounds without any electronic visual stimulation.  It's also says very cute things ("E is for Elephant *elephant sound* Elephants have a funny bark!") and can be pulled behind your child like he is being walked.

3. Books

I am a big believer in the power of books. Reading to your child from the beginning is critical for language development, exposes them to visuals, encourages imagination and is a perfect opportunity for snuggles! Although all books are good, I've become obsessed with Usborne Books, (link to my consultant's wesbite who I buy from) especially for little ones. Their "That's not my" books are the best sensory books out there because the "textures" are LEGIT.

4. Clothes & other things they "need"
{Get matching clothes to make it even more fun!}

Some people *cough cough my dad* can't help themselves and buy toys even when told not to. However, babies are the ideal age for this because they don't realize what this whole "gift" thing is all about. Seriously, my 3 year old enjoys opening gifts but still said that all he wanted for his birthday was "candles" (on the cake) Take advantage of this while you can. I'm putting a fitted sheet on my daughter's Christmas list.

5. Basic puzzles.

Hear me out: I'm not talking a 20 piece puzzle here, I'm talking a Melissa & Doug Mini-Puzzle Set (we have a few of these, they are our personal favorite) or something similar. Something that baby can easily pick up and learn the animals, shapes, etc. and start to practice hand eye coordination. They also come in a great storage box that travels without spilling!  Magnetic Puzzles are also awesome for babies & toddlers and can become a "refrigerator" toy too! Disclaimer: Both puzzle suggestions have small pieces so babies do  need to be supervised when using them.

Gifts for Toddlers:
{Photo Credit: Shania Bordner}

1. Books

Do I need to repeat myself? Besides the obvious classic reading books, search and find books are awesome because they get your child thinking, are perfect for car rides or other times that you can't be reading to them and I like to use them to prompt my toddler to make up his own story using elements from the page. Very First Book of Things to Spot is my personal favorite for this age group (links again to my Usborne Consultant's page) If you have an older toddler or one who loves to learn, you can't have enough Preschool Activity Books. Just pick up a handful of them (only a couple bucks each) and stock up!

2. Imaginary Play Items.

This can be superhero costumes (inexpensive and tons of options), Workbench & Tools (under $20 for the whole thing!) or the favorite at our house, a Play Kitchen *this is not the play kitchen we own. My husband DIY ours. I'll link the post as soon as I write it up! But this one has great reviews!*

Let be elaborate on the play kitchen. It is THE. FAVORITE. TOY. in our house. It is played with by my 3 year old and 9 month old constantly through the day. I love watching my son play out things he sees us doing in the real kitchen (he washes his grapes in the sink y'all. And pretends the water is too's adorable.) I also love that you can have one stationary item full of other smaller items. It allows for lots of different play with one big storage box for it all! My favorite play kitchen items that I would recommend are the Melissa & Doug Grocery Cans (way more sturdy than any others I've seen), the Melissa & Doug Cutting Fruit (or really any of the food that "cuts" apart), the Melissa & Doug Stand Mixer the Melissa & Doug Stainless Steel Pots and Pans and the Melissa & Doug Ice-Cream. Uhh, I didn't realize that all my favorites were M&D until just now. I might have an addiction. 

Learn how to DIY a custom apron for just a few bucks & in just a few minutes in this post.

3. Little People

It doesn't matter which ones, they are all amazing. The size is perfect for their hands and they open themselves up to a whole world of imagination and story telling. Some of my son's favorites are the Camper, the School Bus and the Photographer & Police Officer people. But we also have barns and tractors and a few dozen animals that he loves as well.  Bonus: Babies love these too so if you have more than one kid- dual gift!

4. Anything Creative

Some kids like drawing, some like painting, some like directing stories, some like creating music. Whatever your kid is into- find something that gets them involved in that creatively.  If they like to draw or paint, pick up an Easel (3 in 1) or simply stock up on Markers (40 pack!) and paper. If you're feeling creative, make a DIY Dry Erase Table! If they like creating stories, get them a Puppet Theater of their own!  If they like creating music, start them out with their own Toddler Drum Set, or Keyboard Playmat.


There are lots of random toys I could tell you about but nobody wants me chattering on and on and on and on and... oh- what was I saying? Really though, this Christmas (or whatever holiday you might be buying for) consider getting toys that aren't just going to wind up in the never-ending toy pile. Find items that the child isn't only going to play with but something that will help them learn and grow, use their minds and imagination, interact with others and learn about who they are and what they like. That is the best gift you can give a child.

I hope this list was helpful for those who have wanted my opinion. If you or your kids have a favorite toy or gift, share in the comments below!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Thanksgiving DIY Hand Print Shirt

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, I want to share one of my favorite holiday DIY's with you.  I love the idea of preserving my child's sweet little hand print for years to come but it seems that paper crafts get stuck in the memory box never to be seen again.  They are also less likely to hold up over time- that's why I love working with fabric! Although my son can't wear this shirt year after year, I know that for years it will be as perfect as the day he wore it and when he gets older and I have a t-shirt quilt made for him, I get to include this shirt on it.

[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing products through these links does not cost you any extra.  Thank you for supporting my blog through your patronage and through affiliate links!]

{My sweet boy at the tender age of 1}

Here's what you'll need:

Blank T-shirt (I personally like this brand. They also have a variety of colors and short & long sleeves options)

- Felt (This is a great price for a bundle. You can also buy individual sheets at a craft store)

- Thread (If you don't already sew, buying a  assorted collection like this is much cheaper if you need multiple colors)

- HTV & Silhouette or Iron on Letters

- Scissors and a Needle

- Paper & Pencil

Here's how to make it:
I didn't take step by step photos since I made this a couple years ago but it's so easy you wont need them.

[Step 1] Trace your child's hand on the piece of paper.  Cut around the outside of the design and then cut the "fingers" off (keep them in order so you remember which is which!)

[Step 2] Using the paper hand/fingers that you just cut as a pattern, cut a hand from brown felt and fingers from the colored felt.  This will be the body & feathers of the turkey.

[Step 3] Hand stitch the turkey parts onto your shirt.  This takes a little longer but I like the look of it over machine stitching for this craft.  I recommend using thread that matches the felt for each piece.  I do not recommend using heat-n- bond or fabric glue (non sewing alternatives) with felt.

[Step 4] Using thread, make legs, a beak and an eye.

[Step 5] Using your Silhouette machine, cut out your child's name and the year (or age) out of HTV.  Don't forget to mirror it before you cut when working with HTV!  If you don't have a cutting machine, iron-on letters (link in 'materials') will work just fine!

That's it!
Every time I see this shirt I think back to the first year he was able to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast and how much fun he was to watch! Those little hands have grown but he'll always be my baby and I'm so glad I have this memento to keep forever.

Friday, September 15, 2017

National Baby Safety Month TIPS + Giveaway

As a mother of two, I am constantly trying to keep up with baby safety, whether it's about safe sleep, car seats, nutrition, or more.  It seems like the game is always changing on us so I look for brands that are trusted and work to keep our little ones safe and comfortable. I also love when we get little "cheat sheets" that help us along the way.

[Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Opinions are my own but safety and product information is being redistributed from the #NationalBabySafetyMonth posts.  Giveaway products are sponsored by MAM and ergoPouch but the giveaway contest is being run by Cut, Craft, Create.]

That's why I wanted to share this information for #NationalBabySafetyMonth (September) and I hope that you'll share these tips with any new (or "veteran"!) caretakers you know.  Psst: we're giving away AWESOME BABY PRODUCTS at the end of this post so stay with me til the end!

Safety Tips You Need to Know

September is #NationalBabySafetyMonth, sponsored annually by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). This month-long event increases consumer awareness of baby safety issues and the safe selection and use of baby products. For the past 40 years MAM’s top priority has been the development of products for the well-being, safety and health of babies that make life easier for parents and allow them to focus on the joy of family. 

As parents, nothing is more important to us than the safety of our MAM babies. In observance of #NationalBabySafetyMonth @MAMbabyUSA is posting safety tips to help raise awareness of key things we can all do to protect our babies.

  • Strap in for Safety.  Did you know that falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in children ages 0 to 19? Daily about 8,000 children in the US visit the emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. This September, JPMA is focusing on strap safety! Safety belts and straps should always be used when available, whether it’s on the go, in the car, and even at home. Visit to learn more about how to create a safe environment for your child!

  • Always place baby to sleep on their backs.  A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that about 2 in 10 babies are placed to sleep in incorrect positions that greatly increase the risk of SIDS.

Babies should *always* be placed to sleep on their backs. Placing babies to sleep on their sides is just as dangerous as placing babies to sleep on their stomachs, since they are likely   to roll over on to their stomachs while sleeping.

  • Consider pacifier usage when placing baby down for sleep and remember that the pacifier may not be reinserted once baby falls asleep.Pacifier use is shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. MAM supports the AAP published guidelines for pacifier usage. Check them out here:
Read more here if you’re interested in more information about pacifiers and how they reduce the risk of SIDS:


  • Before placing a pacifier in baby’s mouth, check to see if there is any damage or signs of weakness. Pull the nipple in all directions and throw away the pacifier at the first sign of damage or weakness. Pay extra attention to your child’s pacifier as teeth emerge, which can occur as early as 1 month. Be sure to replace your baby’s pacifier frequently – once a month or every two months.


  • Always monitor your baby’s body temperature. Your baby could be too hot if you notice sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash and rapid breathing.  One of the best ways to ensure your baby can regulate their body temperature while they’re asleep is to dress them in natural fibers like cotton, bamboo and merino.

ErgoPouch (pictured) is a great choice when it comes to correctly dressing your baby for sleep. The correct, tog (warmth)-rated swaddle or wearable sleep bag/suit will allow you to not use blankets, which can place babies at risk of SIDS. You can see the complete ergoPouch collection at

  • Ensure that your baby’s crib meets CPSC standards and that everything in your nursery is free of harmful chemicals and toxins. Check that the crib of your choice is not on the CPSC recall list, here: Just as important is ensuring that your baby’s crib is placed away from (1) windows, where drafts and sunlight can put your baby at risk, and (2) drapes/blinds, which are strangulation hazards.

Our friends at Micuna Usa (pictured) offer a collection of safe, stylish cribs made of sustainable materials like solid Beech Wood. Check out their wide variety of cribs here:

  • Place baby to sleep on a firm mattress covered by a fitted sheet that meets current safety standards. Remove ALL soft objects from the crib: bumper pads, blankets, pillows and stuffed toys. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that almost 15% of babies are placed on non-recommended sleep surfaces each night while over 90% of babies have loose, soft objects in their cribs that pose suffocation risks. Please make sure to carefully check your baby’s sleep environment for these dangers to protect their safety.

Looking for a great, breathable crib mattress? Our friends at at Newton Baby (pictured) make Greenguard Gold Certified breathable, washable and recyclable crib mattresses that are specially designed for baby’s health, safety and comfort.  The innovative design allows air to flow freely for optimal breathability and temperature regulation. Check out their awesome products at

  • The SIDS institute says give your baby plenty of interactive tummy time.  This should never be in a bed, a good place for this is on the floor.  Never leave baby on their stomach unattended.  Play with baby as he/she does baby push-ups. 

Gathre offers a great selection of wipeable, waterproof bonded leather mats -- functional pieces that appeal to the modern mom's personal aesthetic.  Choose the perfect mat for playtime with baby at!

  • MAM pacifiers come in four sizes: newborn, 0-6, 6+ and 16+.

Each size was developed with pediatric dentists and developmental psychologists to provide your baby with the ideal pacifier at each age and stage.

These sizes are recommendations for your baby’s maximum comfort and safety; if your baby likes a MAM pacifier that is not the ideal size for his or her age, not to worry! It is still safe to use as long as all other safety guidelines are followed.

{Giveaway Time!}

Now that you're "in the know" on these amazing safety tips, let's help you practice them! One winner will be chosen to win a $40 MAM gift package (which includes the new perfect pacifier, bottles, teethers, drinking cups and oral care items) as well as an ergoPouch ergoCocoon swaddle sleep bag! Just follow the prompts on the widget below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About MAM
MAM combines technological innovation, medical function and contemporary design to develop superior baby care products that support a baby’s development from day one. Since MAM developed its first pacifier in Vienna in 1976, it has evolved to become a global authority on baby care product design and quality. Today MAM products are used by families in over 60 countries and on six continents. To find out more and view MAM’s baby care range of award-winning pacifiers, bottles, cups, teethers, oral care items, coordinating accessories and gift sets visit

About ergoPouch & the swaddle sleep bags
The ergoCocoon ‘no origami’ baby swaddle sleep bags are designed to be both easy to use and difficult to escape from. The simple zip up design will keep baby snug and securely swaddled without the need for complicated wrapping. Made from skin-friendly, breathable organic cotton for superior comfort, the ergoCocoon is acknowledged as ‘hip-healthy’ by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute for its ergonomically designed bell shaped bottom which provides extra leg room for healthy hips. For those bubs that like a little more freedom or are ready to transition out of a swaddle, the ergoCocoon has poppers in the armholes that can be used to convert from a swaddle to a sleeping bag. Tog rated for warmth, there is an ergoPouch swaddle to suit every season. For more information visit

Melbourne, Australia-based ergoPouch was founded in 2009 by Alina Sack.  As a mother, Sack drew on her own personal experiences of sleep deprivation to come up with innovative products designed to help babies and kids get a better night’s sleep.  The award-winning ergoPouch collection includes premium quality baby swaddles, sleeping bags and sleep suits available from birth to 6 years of age sizing.  All ergoPouch products are made with natural fibres including Organic Cotton, Bamboo and Merino.  ergoPouch products offer great functionality and versatility with swaddles that can easily transition to a sleeping bag, and sleep suits that convert from bags to suits with legs for easy use from bassinet to stroller. 
For more information visit