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Mommy Must-Haves

Mommy Must-Haves

Learning Toys for Toddlers

August 28, 2018

My girls just started preschool last week and I’m not going to lie, I am VERY excited they have started this transition! I can just tell they’re at the point where they need constant interaction with other kids their age. I also feel like a structured learning environment will be really beneficial for them. They have late summer birthdays and are the youngest kiddos in their classes so we started working over the summer on basic learning tools I thought they should know to help prepare them for preschool. So far I have found these toys to be the best learning toys for toddlers.

 

I love this one because there are so many different ways for them to learn. They can count the number of chocolate chips on one side of the cookie and the number on the other side helps them with number recognition. The cookie jar also talks and asks that they find different numbers to put in the jar, if they find the wrong one the jar will ask them to try again.  Finding the correct way to place the cookies into the jar also helps improve their fine motor skills. There are a few different types of these on Amazon, this one is our favorite and is currently priced at $19.99.

 

One of my daughters in particular is obsessed with Mega Blocks. Mom loves them too because it keeps them entertained for long periods of time and they are fun to do together. I find that it also helps improve their team work because they have to work together to make sure their “castle” doesn’t fall over. Carefully stacking the blocks also helps improve fine motor skills in toddlers.

Mega blocks run around $15 to $20 at most retailers, we purchased ours on Amazon.

 

Creativity through art is a big part of preschool and this double sided multi-purpose easel is great for displaying all of the girls art work. They can hang their pictures on it or color with chalk on one side and with the dry erase markers on the opposite side. It’s a major bonus that both kids can use this easel at the same time on different sides without anyone fighting for space to color! This one is currently on sale for only $62.99.

 

These magnets helped my girls learn the alphabet at a very young age. We practiced putting the different letters on the boards and worked on learning colors. We are just now starting to get into spelling as well. They also have animal magnets which helped them learn the names of all of the animals and made going to the zoo so much more fun since they immediately recognized the names of all of the animals!

The animal magnets in the picture above are currently on sale for $10.64.

The number and letter magnets are $18.69, this package also includes addition, subtraction and multiplication math signs that can be saved for when the kids get a little older. 

 

Similar to the magnets my kiddos love spelling out different words in the bathtub. These letters stick to the wall in the bathtub and float in the water. This is such a great and educational way to spend tub time! The ONLY thing I do not like about these is that the foam letters absorb water like a sponge and over time water collects and attracts bugs to the tub – yuck! We occasionally set ours outside to completely dry in between usage. These foam letters are less than $15 and this set includes a bath tub toy organizer. 

 

This one is a little advanced but it’s great for kids who LOVE puzzles like mine do. It’s nice that each word is only three or four letters long so they don’t get overwhelmed trying to figure each one out. This puzzle helps with cognition of spelling and words, it’s also great for improving their attention span and concentration because they have to work until each individual puzzle is completed.  The Learning Journey Match It Puzzles run around $10 on Amazon.

 

You can’t go wrong with some old fashioned flashcards! These are wonderful because similar to the counting cookie jar there is a number on one side of the card and the same number of pictures for them to count on the other side. The bright pictures on each card also helps keep them stimulated. We were given these flash cards as a party favor at a birthday party about two years ago and the girls still love playing with these! Such a perfect idea for a party favor!

 

You can get several packs of numbers, letters, colors, and shapes cards for only $14.95 on Amazon. This pack also includes a dry erase board to practice writing. 

 

This one was recommended to me by another mom, I just ordered it and am so excited for the girls to play it. The point of the game is to be the first to fill your log with all of the different colored acorns for the squirrel. This game reinforces color learning and the development of strategic thinking because you can spin to pick an acorn or lose an acorn in the game. It also helps emphasize turn-taking which is something my girls definitely could use some practice with! The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is less than $20 on Amazon.

 

I try to keep two of these in the car for the girls to look at with while we are running from place to place. This book in particular has over 100 words and 12 different interactive pages to keep them engaged. Most books like these also include music and touch and teach quiz games to help with word association. There are lots of interactive books like this but this one is currently one of our favorites.

 

  • Board Books

The director of the girl’s preschool told me that the best thing I can do for them at this age is to read to them and I really could not agree more. Reading helps them learn in so many ways, and it’s such a great way for them to bond with mom or dad before bedtime. I really like the board books because they don’t get ripped when the girls want to touch the pages and hold the books themselves. A few of our favorite bedtime reads are Good Night Moon, Guess How Much I Love You, and any of these Sesame Street Board Books. 

Which toys have helped your child learn? Please feel free to share your comments below or by reaching out to http://makingmemorieswithmyminis.com/contact/.

Mommy Must-Haves

20 Creative Summer Play Date Ideas

June 4, 2018

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy” – HA! Unless you’re a momma of course! I am ALWAYS searching for ways to entertain my two little ones, especially in the summer when their usual activities are over for the year.  Here are a few creative summer play date ideas we have enjoyed lately and a few other activites we are planning to try out later in the summer.

1. Berry Picking

We went to a blueberry farm first thing in the morning and wore hats and sunscreen so the blazing sun would be tolerable and the girls ended up having a great time! I also brought along these water spraying fans to help cool us all down and they were lifesavers!  This is a fun and very affordable activity year round because depending on where you live you can pick strawberries in the spring, blueberries and blackberries in the summer and pumpkins in the fall. The girls really enjoyed picking all of the blueberries and eating blueberry muffins and pancakes throughout the week.



2. A trip to the Pet Store & Fish Gallery

This is a dangerous one – pretty much every time we do this my poor husband gets a phone call at work “Can we PLEASE get this pet (kitty, puppy, bunny, fish, pig, etc.)” LOL! But, it is a lot of fun to go visit them at the store even if we can’t take them all home! Some pet stores even allow you to take the animals out of their cages to play with them. We also frequent a fish gallery by our house that provides tours for the kids and allows them to touch some of the sea creatures at the store. They even have a giant fish bowl for the kiddos to climb inside (see below).

3. Ice Cream & Popsicle Shops

Since I’m preggo and it’s hot as can be outside we’ve been doing this one a lot!!! Pop Bar is a new favorite place & luckily more shops like Pop Bar are popping up everywhere (no pun intended). Gourmet ice cream trucks  & snow cone shops are also a savior for us in the hot Houston heat!

4. Church Playgrounds

The best thing about these is that they are usually very clean and always free which is wonderful! Everyone is welcome to the indoor church playground and some of them are extremely impressive. Check out this massive one in our area! There are usually designated times for the public to attend that don’t interfere with private schools or church gatherings so be sure to check the available times before you head out.

5. Trolley, Train & Water Taxi Rides

If any of the above exist in your area I definitely recommend doing this with the kiddos! My girls LOVE Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood so as soon as I found out we had a free neighborhood trolley service I knew we had to go for a trolley ride.  I wasn’t sure if this would be exciting enough for them but they absolutely loved it & still talk about it all the time (it’s the simple things). We paired this activity with a picnic in the park to stretch the morning out.

6. Library Events

This may seem like a no-brainer but I was actually shocked to learn about all of the cool events our library hosts, especially in the summer! In addition to their usual toddler story time our library offers visits from therapy dogs, a snake and wildlife encounter and they even have an outdoor maze with book statues. Seriously, libraries are underrated!!! Check with yours to find out what activities are offered this summer, most events are FREE!

7. Fly a kite

We saw a few kids at the park flying kites and my daughters were extremely interested so we thought, why not? We ordered this rainbow kite on Amazon because it’s a great beginner kite for kids.  I didn’t think it was going to entertain them for that long but they actually loved it! We took turns holding it and of course mom and dad had to do most of the work but this was a fun activity for all!

8. Nature Walk

We are lucky enough to live right next to a forest so we do this one pretty often! Here is a cute nature walk check list to bring along on your next hike with the kiddos. 

9. $1 Summer Movies 

I could not love this idea more, a cheap place to take the kids with buttery popcorn and lots of air conditioning to soak up – sounds like every pregnant momma’s dream! The price is also great because if the girls can’t focus and sit still during the movie it’s no big deal if we decide to leave. Info here on Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse.

10. Build-A-Bear Work Shop 

We went to Build-A-Bear for the first time yesterday and the girls had an absolute blast! I can already tell we’ll be back several times this summer. The employees are great with getting the kids involved in the process of making their bear (or lion, unicorn, tiger etc). The kids get to pick out which animal they want and what sound they would like for it to make, they then help push a lever with their foot and watch a machine add stuffing to their animal. The add-ons for these are endless you can add different smells, clothes, additional noises, and they even have mini hair brushes and hair dryers available for the animals 🙂 Each one also gets a birth certificate to commemorate it’s birthday.

 

More ideas we are planning to try this summer:

 

11. Check out this sidewalk chalk paint and glitter chalk  – we have regular chalk of course but we’ve never tried chalk paint, especially not with glitter! My girls will not be able to resist this!!!

12. Visit a splash pad – This one is a given but there are so many in our area we haven’t even been to half of them yet!

13. Visit a board walk – We will likely take the kids for a trip down to Kemah this summer. Kemah has a huge boardwalk and tons of kid-friendly restaurants including The Aquarium with no shortage of things for them to see and do. I feel like kids of all ages will enjoy this!

14. This Inflatable Backyard Bowling – The girls played with this at a friend’s house and absolutely loved it! We are going to have to order one this summer!

15. Outdoor Concert – Luckily our area offers a lot of these in the evenings throughout the summer and most are completely free! Check with your local city or township to find out about concerts in your area.

16. Get a manicure/pedicure – I cannot wait to bring the girls with me to do this! 

17. Feed the ducks – This is fun to do if you live close to a pond or lake but beware – some ducks get aggressive when they see bread which can be scary and overwhelming for younger kids.  

18. Make your own ice cream – We definitely want to try this one! I found this ice cream maker on Amazon that has high ratings and is under $25.

19. Throw an ice cream party play date – Clearly I’m preggo and cannot stop thinking about ice cream LOL! But, I think this would actually be a lot of fun! Here are some cute ideas for an ice cream party or play date.

20. While we’re on the topic I’ve never met a kid that doesn’t love these ice cream cone cupcakes! So simple and fun for the kiddos!

 

I would LOVE to hear about your summer plans/kids activities! Please add to this list by commenting below 🙂

 

Mommy Must-Haves

8 Father’s Day Gift Ideas

May 29, 2018

I feel like buying anything for my husband or dad is always a challenge because what do you get the man who already has everything??? When I ask either of them for ideas the usual reply is “I don’t need anything.” Obviously they are still getting something so I tried to get creative this year and put together a list of father’s day gift ideas that both dad & grandpa would appreciate. My hubby isn’t allowed to look at this list because some of his gifts are on here. 🙂

1. Pottery 

Something handmade from the kids is obviously a great go-to for gift for relatives. This year the girl’s helped decorate this plate for their dad since he loves to grill out. We went to a local paint and pottery place and although momma did most of the work the girls still had fun lending a hand print to make these. 

2. Beer Cake/Tower

I feel like you can never go wrong with getting any guy beer, right??? My husband loves his craft brew so I had this made last year for his birthday although I think it would also make a great  father’s day gift! He probably wouldn’t even mind getting this gift more than once! HEB put this one together for me. Pricing depends on the type of beer you select and on the quantity, they can do as much or as little as you want.

 

3. Golf Tee Holders

Tell dad or grandpa that they are tee-rific with some golf tees holders. My dad is an avid golfer so this is something we will probably get for him. I found two different kinds of these on Amazon, both at very good price points!

ProActive Sports Golf Tee Holder with Ball Markers and 12 Tee

On Par Golf Leather Organizer in Presentation Gift Box – Divot Repair Tool, Ball Marker, Scorecard, golf tees

picture courtesy of Amazon

 

4. Trump Mug

I know, I know… I just couldn’t resist! LOL This is a great, great mug, really terrific, everyone agrees. 🙂

There are several different types of these on Amazon, I found this one for only $11!

5. Breakfast in bed

Ummm who wouldn’t want breakfast in bed???  My hubby loves banana pancakes so that’s what he’ll be getting, with fresh coffee in the Trump mug of course. 🙂

 

6. Brief Case/Weekender Bag

I splurged on one of these from Pottery Barn for a Christmas gift one year and I’m so glad I did because it gets used ALL the time! This style of bag is so versatile it can easily be used as a weekender bag, briefcase, a carry on bag for the plane, nice gym bag, etc… I found a few very reasonably priced bags like this on Amazon – links below.

Leather Weekender

Leather Overnight Weekender Bag

Handmade Genuine Leather Weekender Luggage

 

7. Docking Station

I love this multi-purpose wooden docking station, this one is only $28! It can easily hold everything in dad’s pockets and will help keep him more organized! This is another style of docking station on Amazon for only $28. 

 picture courtesy of Amazon

 

8. Engraved Beer Mug With Kid’s Birthdays

How cute is this etched glass beer mug??? I’ll definitely be ordering one of these for my hubby next year after our third LO is born! I found this mug on Etsy from a shop called Black Rock Engraving for only $13.68 plus shipping!

 picture courtesy Black Rock Engraving

Want to add to this list??? Please comment below! 

 

 

Mommy Must-Haves

Baby Products for Newborn Twins

May 15, 2018

Becoming a twin momma will turn your world completely upside down! I felt like I was basically transformed into a vampire slave for two adorable tiny humans who depended on me for EVERYTHING! I don’t remember too much from the dark days of twinsanity but what I do remember is that my husband and I were more than happy to accept any and all help from family and friends. There were also certain baby products we used on a daily basis that we pretty much would not of survived without!  I polled several twin mom friends to help me compile this list and these are the top 10 best baby products for newborn twins:

1. The Boppy

Boppy pillows were the number one answer from twin moms across the board! These lounging chairs for newborns are so versatile they can be used for many different things; tummy time, feedings, and just for chillin’ out in the living room.

  

Why they’re great – Our girls LOVED lounging in these while holding their toys and the propped-up position gives them a pleasant view of what’s going on around them. When they were super small they could even fit in the same one, (pictured above) although be sure to keep an eye on them while doing this. It’s also easy to simultaneously feed twins their bottles while they’re propped up in Boppy loungers which is an amazing time-saver for mom!!! A single Boppy Newborn Lounger runs around $30 at most retailers. There are a TON of cute patterns and colors to choose from!

 

Another great style is the Twin Z Pillow (pictured above). This allows your twins to be nestled side by side and helps support tummy time. They will also really enjoy interacting with each other by being positioned so close. The Twin Z Pillow found HERE runs around $100 and is available in about 5 different colors. 

 

2. Rock N Plays

The smiling twins in the picture below are clearly feeling relaxed in their Rock’ N Plays.

 

Why they’re great – So many notable features about these; for starters, they play music and vibrate which is perfect for lulling a baby to sleep. They are relatively small so two will easily fit right by your bedside. They’re also very light weight and can be effortlessly moved to wherever you need in the house for the day. I’ve also been told that the slight incline in these helps comfort a baby with Colic. Rock ‘N Plays come in a broad range of styles and pricing can be anywhere from $40 – $100. The Fisher Price Sweet Surroundings Monkey Deluxe Auto Rock N Play Sleeper from Target costs around $72 and has high customer ratings & a cute little monkey cushion.

 

3. Bottle Dryers

You will be bottle poppin’ all night with new born twins and sadly I’m not talking about the fun bubbly! We went through sooo many baby bottles in such a short amount of time, it’s a challenge to stay stocked up with clean bottles ready for the next feeding when you’re constantly providing for two hungry newborns.

Why they’re great – I purchased two different types of bottle dryers and we used them both for the entire first year of twinsanity. My girls are now 2 ½ years old and I still use the Munchkin Sprout Rack for their sippy cups (pictured above). It definitely serves it’s purpose, frees up counter space and it’s very easy to clean! Bottle dryers come in a wide range of styles and prices. The Boon Grass Counterop Drying Rack costs – $13, Munchkin Sprout Drying Rack – $19 on Amazon.

 

4. Baby Brezza Bottle Maker

Several people told me about this miraculous baby Keurig of sorts – I have never personally used this, but I can definitely understand the appeal.

 Picture courtesy: Target

Why it’s great – The Baby Brezza not only measures and mixes the formula for you it also heats the formula to the proper temperature and pours it straight into the bottle. That’s a lot less steps for Momma to take! If we end up going the formula route for baby number 3 this will definitely be on my wish list! This Baby Brezza Formula Pro is from Target, they can also be found at several other retailers, this particular brand runs right at $180.

 

 5. Click-and-Go Car Seat/Stroller Combination

 No one wants to wake a sleeping baby, EVER and click-and-go car seats/strollers are perfect for swiftly transporting the sleeping newborn while causing as little disturbance as possible. 

 

We used infant car seats and boosters by Graco and a City Select stroller. Several other moms I spoke with also went with these two brands. There are several different combinations of click-and-go’s just like this (Buy Buy Baby was super helpful with explaining the different options and helping me find the best one for our needs).  We bought car seats similar to these with a single stroller frame and an additional seat to make it a double stroller, I included both links for these below. 

Side note, just in case you didn’t know –those Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off mailer coupons can also be used at Buy Buy Baby on select items!

 

6. Swings

We cycled through about 6 different swings including a $275 4Moms MamaRoo and surprisingly the lower cost swings were the girl’s favorites! In my opinion you really don’t need all the fancy bells and whistles that come with some of the more expensive swings, just get one that has a few different setting options for speed and motion. Also, a swing that plays soothing music and has a mobile or something for the baby to look at is all they really need!

 

The following two swings have high customer ratings at Target and include mobiles, several different swing movement options and soft music – Graco DuetConnect LX With MultiDirection Baby Swing runs around $120 and Fisher Price Starlight Revolve Swing with Smart Connect costs close to $152.

 

7. Sound machine

A sound machine is a must!!! We used one similar to the MyBaby White Noise Machine for Babies. This is also something I wouldn’t bother to splurge on. Some of the pricier options include projections for the wall and I felt like those only kept my babies awake. A simple white noise machine will cost less than $20.  

Picture courtesy: Amazon

There are also lots of apps you can use that offer white noise sounds if you are traveling with the babies and don’t want to pack the machine too. I use the White Noise Deep Sleep Sounds free app. We still keep a small air filter in the twin’s room for white noise and that does the trick too.

 

8. NoseFrida 

I’ll never forget the first time I saw one of my best friends using this on her 6-month-old I nearly threw up in my mouth and swore I would NEVER EVER have kids (luckily that didn’t happen).

 

Why it’s great – This thing is gross but highly effective. One of our kids had constant congestion the first two years of her life and this was always our go to. I still make my husband do the bugger sucking and neither of the girls enjoy the experience, but it does its job and fully clears out their little noses. We purchased ours from Amazon – Fridababy NoseFrida The Snot Sucker Nasal Aspirator for around $16. You can also find the NoseFrida with a saline spray that costs just under $20 on Amazon – NoseFrida the Snotsucker Baby Nasal Aspirator and Saline Nasal Spray Kit.

Picture courtesy: Amazon

 

 

9. Aden + Anais Muslin blankets, Burp Clothes/Bibs

 I’m not the type of person that needs to have a  particular brand of anything but Aden + Anais is now the only type of burp cloth I will buy! Not surprisingly nearly every twin mom I talked to also recommended it to me!

Why they’re great – Aden + Anais not only has super cute designs, but their burp clothes are extremely absorbent and versatile, these can be used as either a burp cloth or a bib – Aden + Anais Burpy Bib, Safari Friends, $10 at Walmart. 

I also love their swaddle blankets (seen below). These are perfect because the fabric is super soft and breathable. They also have about a million cute design options! Walmart carries these as well as several other major retailers – Aden + Anais Swaddles, Dreamy $20 at Walmart.

 

10. Dual View Baby Monitors

Double baby monitors are a must to keep a constant eye on both of your twins at the same time! We purchased the Summer Infant brand that also offers a talk button that really helps when I’m laying in bed at night and don’t want to walk up the stairs to tell the girls to be quiet. We mounted our cameras on the ceiling to get a bird’s eye view of what those little twinsies are up to and it has worked out great! 

We found the Summer Infant Dual View Digital Color Video Baby Monitor on Amazon for around $262. A warranty is included which did come in handy for us since the one we purchased randomly stopped working one day and Summer Infant sent us a brand new one for free! We still use this with our 2 1/2 year old’s and probably will continue until they are at least 18! 

 

 

 

 

I hope this list of necessities helps ease your early days of twinsanity!!! Please leave questions or comments in the comment field below. Also, please share if you have a baby product that really helped you during the newborn phase and we will add it to this list! 

***Please note that all information in this blog is based on my own personal opinions and experiences as well as the individuals who were polled for this article. I am not paid by any of the above retailers to share my experiences about these products.