Do you suffer from parental boredom?

Do you suffer from parental boredom?
On most days, I’m on top of my parenting game: I read with my two-year-old, help him make crafts from Pinterest, and encourage him to help me cook in the kitchen. On those days, I’m an A+ mom.

Then there are the other days… the days where I can only take so much of repeating the same answers, fiddling with a puzzle over and over, and watching my toddler play with crayons and dominoes. Days like these, I’m ready to conk out and can even feel my eyelids drooping, with of course a list of tasks I still need to do running through my mind.

In short, sometimes I get bored. Never mind that all my energy comes zooming back the minute my toddler is down for the night. Some days, parental boredom takes over and I’m doing my best to keep from falling asleep while we’re lounging on the floor talking about the same things over and over.

During the days when I’m sadly bored out of my mind, I try to follow these tips:

  • Participate in activities you actually enjoy. I’m not a rough housing kind of parent. I dread when my toddler wants to play hide-and-seek or run under my legs. On the other hand, I can get down with some pretend play, so my toddler and I will often sit at his little table cooking and eating pretend food. Find the activities you like and stay away from those you don’t. Thankfully my husband will gladly fill in and play chase and hide-and-seek with the little guy.
  • Let him play by himself while you do something else nearby. When I’m ready to go bonkers from boredom, I’ll often pull out a book and read near my toddler. Or I’ll take notes or write in my journal. I’ll even do the dreaded chores. I’m perfectly content with letting him play independently and doing activities that I not only need or want to do, but are good for my toddler to witness (e.g. so that he knows adults enjoy books too).
  • Find kid-centric activities you and your little one can do. When I’m out of ideas, I normally hop online and find activities I can quickly and easily do with my little guy. I tend to stick to one activity per day and keep it simple, whether it’s painting with watercolors or applying stickers on paper. You can even take it further by making an agenda and scheduling in several activities in one day and assign “subjects” like math, reading and social studies. Some of my favorite resources include: Productive Parenting, A Place of Our Own and No Time for Flash Cards.
  • Get out of the house. You know you’re a parent when you go to the grocery just to get out of the house! Groceries or not, getting out of the house can provide you and your little one the break and even fun that you need. Some of the places we’ve visited include: the library, park, beach, mall, garden center, pet store, play dates, and yes, the grocery.

I love parenting. But there are those days where I can’t believe how much of the day has gone by and it seems like we’ve done absolutely nothing. I’ve accepted that, as with any job, there will be bouts of boredom that are perfectly normal and will likely disappear in lieu of more fun and stimulation. In the meantime, I try to stick to activities I enjoy as well as new ones I find online to push the boredom aside.

How do you handle boredom at home? What are your favorite (and not-so-favorite) activities to do with your kids?

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The benefits of pretend play

My toddler has been subjecting Morris the monkey to eat play dough “sweet potatoes,” complete with a bib that he insists the poor monkey wear. He will also tear the play dough into pieces, just like how his mom and dad dice or mash his food for him. And of course Morris’ meal isn’t complete without a cup of milk and water to wash all that play— er, sweet potato down.

With his imagination chugging along, my toddler has entered the world of pretend play, and I couldn’t be happier.

With pretend play, kids are able to act out and therefore better understand events that happen in their lives. For instance, my toddler has since been pretending that it’s time to go to Morris’ house. “What are you going to do at Morris’ house?” I asked him.

“Eat snacks,” he promptly responded. That he continued to act out a situation similar to the morning routines we have of him going to my aunt’s house—with snacks and everything—isn’t too much of a coincidence: he may be acting out a common occurrence in his life and is perhaps starting to grasp why he goes there most days instead of staying at home.

Pretend play also allows kids to regain some of the control that often feels lost in the World of Big Adults. The fact that my toddler can decide what Morris eats and how much, as well as spoon-feeds and offers Morris his cup of water helps him feel like the adult in their play. Now, as the “bigger” person, he has the say on all matters.

On a similar note, pretend play can help kids in situations where they feel particularly vulnerable and emotional. When my toddler had to visit the doctor for a checkup, he was able to switch roles and assume the character of the doctor on his “patients” to ease with the often uncomfortable feelings of being probed and examined, however well-meaning and important the reason. Or perhaps a child going through the difficult transition of moving to a new home will pretend to pack up his belongings to bring it to his new house, a.k.a. the walk-in closet.

At the root of pretend play is the robust imagination that kids come very well-equipped with. For my toddler, his desk has morphed into a rocket, apparently the same one that the bear from one of his favorite books Mooncake takes to zoom to the moon. Encouraging pretend play boosts and reinforces their imaginations, so much so that a desk converts to a rocket that zooms, a playground into a house, or Legos into pasta (apparently the large green piece is lasagna).

And just a few minutes ago, as my toddler protested against taking his nap, did pretend play come in handy. As he sat crying on my lap with Morris in tow, I asked him, “What do you think Morris wants to do right now?” And he responded, “Play in the living room.” We then held a conversation with Morris, with me explaining how sad Morris must feel that he can’t keep playing in the living room, but that resting makes him stronger. Better yet, once the nap is done, both Morris and LO can resume their game.

My toddler sat listening to me explaining why “Morris” had to nap and only then calmed down enough to agree that maybe a nap will be okay, especially since Morris gets to play right after. He was able to channel whatever frustrating emotions he felt in a play scenario and share the burden with his fellow toys.

I’m excited to witness my toddler begin to develop pretend play and channel his emotions and strengthen his imagination. Plus, it’s just so darn cute watching him “talk” to his animals.

How has pretend play helped your kids? How do you encourage pretend play?

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In praise of the family dinner

In praise of the family dinner
How often do you eat together as a family?
For those of us with young ones, eating with our kids is most likely a necessity rather than an ideal. After all, babies and toddlers still require a bit of supervision while eating, never mind that they still can’t fetch their own food from the fridge or serve themselves from the stove top. But the more my toddler has improved his self-feeding skills, the more I find myself stepping away to wash the dishes, or sneaking a peek on my iPhone.

It’s times like these that I remind myself to be fully present, particularly at the dining table. Even before we had kids, my husband and I decided that family dinners need to be a priority in our home. Neither of us grew up with an established dining routine—I remember eating with my family earlier on, but as we grew into middle and high school, we often had the TV on, or one sibling would be in another room doing homework, or each family member would grab his or her own food at different times of the night. I wanted something different with my husband and toddler, and so far, eating together as a family—with attention completely on one another—has garnered so many benefits for my toddler, including:

  • Improved vocabulary and social skills. By eating in the presence of adults, kids are able to eavesdrop on words and conversations they otherwise aren’t likely to hear. Because of topics my husband and I discuss with one another, our toddler has picked up a few “real life” words he wouldn’t normally find in children’s books. He is exposed to the art of conversation as well: turn-taking when talking with others, eye contact, and asking and answering questions.
  • A healthy relationship to eating and food. We take our time when we eat and appreciate the different tastes our dinners offer us (as well as the effort made in preparing them). Hopefully our toddler will grow up learning that food is delicious and enjoyable and not something to be denied, hoarded or gobbled up.
  • A chance to build a stronger family unit. Because dinner happens at the end of the day, we often discuss what took place while we were at work or while my toddler was at my aunt’s. We’re able to unwind from stress, laugh about funny episodes at work, and ask our toddler how his day was going. Some of our best memories happen at the dinner table and it’s no coincidence that a ton of videos I take of my toddler took place during dinner time.

With time as a premium, whipping up a dinner and getting everyone to sit at the table takes a bit of effort in our busy lives. And with a husband who works the most irregular 9-to-5 hours ever, many dinners often consist of just me and the little guy. Still, as much as we can, we try to eat together without disrupting LO’s routine, and always make sure that he has company for every snack and meal. How exactly do we make this happen? Below are several ideas we’ve implemented to spend quality time together around the dinner table:

  • Prepare quick and easy meals. Long gone are the days we cook lasagna and home-made gnocchi—now we are all about recipes that can be cooked in an hour or less.
  • Cook the night before. Leftovers can pale in comparison to freshly cooked, but you can save a ton of time by cooking the previous night. Unless both my husband and I are home, I usually reserve cooking for after our little guy is down for the night and reheat the next evening.
  • Take your time and talk. Isn’t it crazy that for working parents, we often see our coworkers more than our own families? For me, breakfasts and dinners tend to be the times of the day where all three of us are together, so we use those moments to talk and laugh.

We may not always be able to eat together, and sometimes I’ll slip and sneak a peek on my computer during dinnertime while my toddler isn’t looking (shame on me!). But I’ll always be a fan of the family dinner and all of its far-reaching benefits.

How often do you eat together as a family? Are mealtimes a pleasant experience, chaotic or a bit of both? What can you do to make dinner time a regular occurrence in your home?

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50 favorite baby and toddler books

50 favorite baby and toddler books
My toddler loves books. He can easily focus on reading for over an hour, contently sitting by himself flipping through pages, once in a while asking questions about the words and pictures. In honor of this constant, favorite hobby of his, I wanted to list several favorite books perfect for babies and toddlers:

  1. Mooncake by Frank Asch
  2. Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
  3. Big Book of the Berenstain Bears by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain
  4. Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton
  5. Daddy’s Lullaby by Tony Bradman
  6. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  7. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
  8. The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown
  9. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
  10. Woolly’s Walk by Stephen Cartwright
  11. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  12. ABC I Like Me! by Nancy L. Carlson
  13. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
  14. The Alphabet Book by P.D. Eastman
  15. Go, Dog. Go! by P. D. Eastman
  16. Olivia Counts by Ian Falconer
  17. Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
  18. Corduroy by Don Freeman
  19. Are You Ticklish? by Sam McKendry
  20. My Friends by Taro Gomi
  21. A Good Day by Kevin Henkes
  22. Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest
  23. The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort
  24. In the Garden by IKids
  25. Daddy and Me by Karen Katz
  26. Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz
  27. My First Signs by Annie Kubler
  28. My Truck is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis
  29. Tugga-Tugga Tugboat by Kevin Lewis
  30. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
  31. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
  32. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury
  33. Potty by Leslie Patricelli
  34. Little Hands Love by Piggy Toes Press
  35. First 100 Words by Roger Priddy
  36. My Mom Loves Me! by Marianne Richmond
  37. The Night Night Book by Marianne Richmond
  38. I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom
  39. My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann
  40. What time is it? by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza
  41. What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Ann Schwartz
  42. Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book! by Dr. Seuss
  43. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  44. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw
  45. There Is a Bird On Your Head! by Mo Willems
  46. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
  47. Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
  48. The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood
  49. The Wheels on the Bus by Paul O. Zelinsky
  50. Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman

How many of the 50 listed here have you read? I know a bunch of you are bookworms, so what are some of your favorite children’s books that I missed? Who are your favorite authors?

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Weekend links and actually doing something I pinned on Pinterest

Weekend links and actually doing something I pinned on Pinterest
One of the boards on the Sleeping Should Be Easy Pinterest account is a “crafts with kids” section, where I pin awesome activities I swear I’ll do with my toddler. Of course I always find some excuse: “But I don’t have tongue depressors handy… I lost the white crayon so now I can’t make the magic letters… He’s too young for that activity…” And so on. But I couldn’t find an excuse for this activity, from the blog No One Has More Fun than the Adams’: fun with pipe cleaners and a colander. After all, I actually had pipe cleaners (who knew they’d come in handy after all?) as well as a colander in the kitchen. So off we go, for our first ever Pinterest activity.

Weekend links and actually doing something I pinned on Pinterest
And what do you know, the little guy loved it. I figured he would, considering he likes figuring out how things work and was just bowled over at the shapes the pipe cleaners were making. I had to help him make poke the first end of the pipe cleaner, but he determined where he wanted to stick the other end to. He kept asking, “What’s this?” with the pipe cleaners, although he must have selective memory because I swear I showed it to him several months ago but was met with a “I’m not interested” shrug.

I liked this activity, however short it was, because we already had these two items and he was able to flex his fine motor skills with all that poking and aiming at the holes. I’m pretty sure he would have kept going if I had given him more pipe cleaners (and another colander).

Perhaps I can go find more orange pipe cleaners while you read a few links below:

  • The The LA Times cites that the U.S. ranks 25th of best places for mothers. The U.S.’s relatively low ranking compared to other developed countries is due to issues like risks in pregnancy-related deaths, child mortality, low political status for women, preschool enrollment and guaranteed paid maternity leave.
  • If that isn’t enough to get you excited about books, SSBE reader Ana from Mommyhood: From the Heart featured a link to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. If your child is between the ages of 0 to 5, he or she can receive one free book a month until they turn five years old. I haven’t signed up for this but Ana has been receiving her free books from this literacy program.

What Pinterest activities have you done recently?

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