Children’s toys are both blessing and a curse. They clutter up the house, make annoying noises and empty the wallet. At the same time, they occupy children when we are trying to make dinner, do chores and enjoy down time. I want my kids to get something out of their toys. I wrote a previous post on toys that inspire responsibility. I am also passionate about toys that inspire learning. My kids go to a little Montessori school in town and I love how focused they are with their “work” and decided to bring it home. The attention to detail, engagement and most of all of sense of pride for solving problems warms my heart. I recently bought a few for the house and not only are they occupied, our quality time spent together has increased.
A few of my favorites:
Wooden Math Station. This toy aims to teach the basic concepts of counting and math while promoting hand and eye coordination.
Phonetic Reading Blocks. Gain experience with words and rhyming. These interactive blocks help children see the connection between words.
Pattern Blocks.Great for building early shape, color and number recognition. Inspires creativity and artistic exploration.
Cutting Fruit Set. Not only will your children be able to learn more about different types of food but also the concepts and whole and parts.
For more information on bringing Monetessori practices into your home, I highly recommend “Teaching Montessori in the Home” by Elizabeth Hainstock. This bestselling book helps parents connect with their children while utilizing Maria Montessori’s tools. The Montessori Program inspires discovery and awareness.
My 3 year old already has his first “job”. We drive around our neighborhood picking up electric scooters to charge at home. He loves going on the scavenger hunt with me and asks daily if we can “Go hunt for birds”. When we get home he is in charge of making sure the scooters are plugged in and the red charing light comes on. The red light always gets a standing ovation by him. I pay my son a few cents commission that goes straight into his piggy bank. The pitter patter of his feet as he sprints to his piggy bank warms my heart every time. I deposit the rest of the earnings directly into his college fund. It’s not about making enough money to send him to college (that would take hundreds of thousands of birds), it’s about setting a foundation of responsibility, commitment and drive to succeed. Plus, we spend a lot of quality time together doing it too.
As the holidays are approaching, I have been thinking about what presents I will get him. He wants a bike which we will get him no doubt. I like to get practical gifts that are educational and create time for us to spend together.
Here are a few gift ideas that are fun, educational and instill a foundation for #adulting down the road.
The classic piggy bank. Nothing is more rewarding than dropping in a shiny, new quarter and shaking the bank to hear all the money jangling around in song. I enjoy rewarding my son for a job well done. He enjoys cleaning up his toys, washing the dishes, emptying the bath, and folding laundry. After a job well done, he gets a few coins to save up for the next trip to the donut shop. When we pay for the donut he picks out all on his own, it’s a ritual for him to hand the owner the money all by himself. Talk about being proud for his hard work.
Watch. Like father and mother, like toddler. Every toddler wants to be just like their parents and having a watch teaches important life skills. In addition to reading numbers, it teaches our little ones a sense of control, patience and time management. They look pretty adorable wearing one too.
Tool Set. I prefer wooden toys over plastic if possible. Longer durability. My little one follows me around the house fixing things with me. The helper mindset goes along way and having a mini handy person around the house is too cute.
Broom Set. When my little one isn’t hammering away he’s helping me sweep. Hand this kid a broom and he is thoroughly entertained for 30 minutes. Before I got his own broom, he’d get upset when he saw me sweeping and didn’t have his own. Now we each have one and everyone is happy. Cuts down on my sweeping time too. Win, win.
Gardening Tools. Nothing gives me more joy than quality time with my little ones outside on a nice day. Last weekend, I had hours of yard work to do and enlisting my son to be my assistant was not only rewarding for me but the highlight of his day. He helped me to dig up weeds, carry sticks to the compost and beautify the flower beds.
Bottom line, toys aren’t just dolls and trucks that clutter up the home. Toys can be practical. It’s our job as parents to raise our kids to be self sufficient, resilient and contribute to society. Teaching life skills from the moment they can hold a toy garden shovel will pay off in the end.
The golden question most mothers ask themselves daily is “Am I a good mom?”. Am I great if my son is satisfied even if he’s sitting content with a pile of leftover Halloween candy before dinner? Am I great if I got him to brush his teeth against his own will but at least the dentist is happy? The daily struggle of parenting greatness is exhausting.
There is no doubt, my kids come first. For me to accomplish greatness in the Mom Department, I center my focus on taking care of *ME* from time to time. If my focus is clear, my heart is open to fill up.
Between errands, shuffling kids around, working and being a wife is a juggling act. Here’s how I get back down to planet earth.
Breathe. Deep breaths. Nothing is a quicker mood changer like a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Not just a regular deep breath. The kind where you breath in so deep you can’t take in any more oxygen. From there, exhale until you are empty. Not only is your physical body cleansed, your soul is too.
Essential Oils. To make deliberate breathing even more relaxing, try diffusing essential oils. I put a diffuser in my bedroom, living room and office. There are a lot of fancy oils out there. I prefer to stick to the basic headache relief combo, peppermint and lavender. The oils I find on Amazon do the trick. However, if you want the best of the best in essential oils, Young Living is superior.
Daydream. Anytime I get overwhelmed with the work day, I take 3-10 seconds to reminisce on a funny memory of my family. It’s amazing how the quick escape level sets the positive momentum of my day. This goes both ways. If I’m bogged down at home, I think about a great meeting I had earlier that week. Constantly check in with your well being even if it means hovering in a daydream state from time to time.
Hug. Both of my sons love to hug. The power of a hug does wonders on the soul. How did I get them to be huggers? I hug them ALOT. Hugging our loved ones is one of the most powerful signs of community. Count how many times you hug in a given day. Now double it.
Read for improvement. I don’t always read to learn new parenting tricks. There are times I read parenting books to validate what I’m doing is right. It feels good to know I’m not totally screwing it up. Parenting books didn’t exist a thousand years ago and miraculously our ancestors succeeded. We can too. If you do decide to read any book the hot topic of parenting, read How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It’s easy to digest and makes parenting feel “doable”.
Read for fun. Reading is a great way to escape reality, learn a little, enhance your vocabulary, gain different perspective and seek entertainment. If you are like me and find it hard to sit down with a hardback book, Audible is second best. Admittedly, I prefer the satisfaction of turning physical pages, but with Audible I can listen in the car, while I workout and get ready for work. Sign up for a trial that includes 2 free books.
Bottom line, there is no way to know if we are crushing it in #parentlife. All we can do is stay laser focused on balancing self preservation while we take care of our families.