Showing posts with label Activities. Show all posts

Getting Chores Done with a Toddler

I have two facts for you today:
  1. 1. Chores are REALLY hard to get done when kids are awake and generally being kids.

  2. 2. Toddlers LOVE doing what adults are doing.
So let's take advantage of these two facts, get some quality one-on-one time with your kiddo, and teach a bit of responsibility and/or life skills while we're at it.

The way we split up our household duties, I generally have the most Sisyphean of tasks: dishes and laundry. Forget any old gender-normed jokes - anyone doing a family's dishes can safely be called Dishyphus. Anyway, their frequent repetition (and in the case of laundry, spread of the task throughout the day) and extreme similarity from day-to-day makes them great places to solicit some toddler help.

Why have your toddler help? Won't that just make moderately unpleasant tasks unbearably sloowwwwwwwww?

Yes, it will be slow. Of course, just about anything your toddler does is slow, so this isn't really much of a change. But, more importantly, this is a key case of "compared to what?"

Can you empty the dishwasher by yourself in less than an hour? Of course, but do you want to spend your precious time when the children are asleep doing it? Or, more realistically, you can now spend their sleeping time doing the inevitable additional dishes (there are always more dishes), but with a much smaller stack.

And even if it does take an hour to do "together," so what? My daughter pretends in her ever-elaborate toddler ways to do the dishes anyway. Why not at least play together and wind up with some clean real dishes at the end?

Also, of course with practice, they'll need less supervision and be faster. Continuing with the emptying the dishwasher example, we've approached a speed pretty close to having me do it alone, but with all the benefits of having her help too.

How about just playing with your kids? 

So first, who says that play and chores aren't the same thing? But even if I accept the premise, kids and family and chores and everything else live in the real world. Dishes and laundry and grocery shopping and cooking and all the other things have to get done. I'd much rather live in a world where we have a good time doing these things together than have the weight of the list on my shoulders while Trying Very Hard to HAVE FUN and then having a million things to do after bedtime and no time to relax. Less anxious parents are also better parents.

PLUS... the line between play and work is pretty fine for kids of this age. Left entirely to their own devices, kids playact the things they see in their lives. Just today my daughter has, when playing, pretended to cook dinner, wash dishes, bring all her dolls to the bathroom, and have them line up for the potty just like they do at daycare.

And if that wasn't enough convincing (and let's be honest, anyone who knows me knows that I don't understand the concept of "enough convincing"), experts and even science agrees with me. One-on-one time, even when done as a joint project, or smooshed into other activities gets the approval of Dr. Harley Rotbart (of No Regrets Parenting, a book I haven't read, but have heard of) and this New York Times article. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal cites multiple studies, scientists, and experts who find kids who do chores (and start them earlier in life) are more empathetic as well as more able to be self-sufficient.

So let's give this a shot, what kinds of activities do you do? How do keep it useful, safe, sane?

Laundry

From about when she could walk, our daughter was interested in watching and helping with the laundry. Given that it's a long series of small tasks, it's pretty easy to find something for almost any age kid to do for at least part of the cycle.

Sorting

  • * Do they know clothes types? "Put all the socks in this bin," since they're all washed warm anyway.
  • * Do they know their colors? "Help me find all the white shirts and put them in this pile."
  • * Working on shape recognition? Learn the laundry symbols together! "Can you count the dots or lines on this tag?"
  • * Early reader? "Can you find the word 'Warm' or 'Cold'?"
  • * Plus a dive or two into a pile of dirty clothes is admittedly pretty fun, and no grosser than anything else they'll do.

Filling the machines

  • * Living on one floor, with hardwood floors, and with low-friction laundry baskets, our daughter started insisting on dragging the (lighter) hampers to the laundry room on her own before she was two.
  • * She's also found great joy in me turning the hamper on its side, her crawling in, pulling out a few items, and placing them directly into our front-loading washer. It's slow as hell, but my back has also found great joy in this too!
  • * If she can put them in the washer, she can take them out and hand them to me to put in the dryer (stacked way too high for her at this point). My back thanks her again.
  • * Like all modern washers, ours has a multitude of buttons. For now, I do all the setup, but she knows where the start button is and when to press it. She's also getting the hang of the soap dispenser; she's not quite ready to empty soap into it or pour from the bottle (though she offered this morning). Depending on your interface, you may have other buttons or knobs that you can use to match the laundry labels or practice some reading.
  • * While I haven't done this one yet, I remember the first thing my parents had me help with is cleaning the lint trap. I think I'll wait until she stops sucking her fingers before teaching her this one...

Putting away clean clothes

This may be something you only want help for the kids' loads, but it's another great way for them to take some ownership of their lives and to give you a hand.
  • * Sort the clean clothes into what goes into the closet vs. the drawers
  • * Sort own clothes from any applicable siblings
  • * Learn to fold pants
  • * Match socks!
  • * Or even just hand you one item at a time to hang, again helping out your back.
We just lowered the baby's crib, so maybe this back thing is just me...

Dishes

Just because you're doing chores,
doesn't mean you can't wear a fun hat!
Obviously the dishes present more safety challenges than the laundry, but there's still plenty to do. First, and most important, we put her cups and bowls in a bottom drawer of our pantry so that at mealtime, she can get her own things out and help us set the table.

Because of this, our first stage of helping with the dishes was putting away her own clean plates, bowls, and cups (after washing her hands, of course). I'd take them out of the dishwasher and put them somewhere she could reach (first placing them out one at a time, and then later in a stack). Busying herself running back and forth to the pantry one plate at a time bought me lots of time to empty out the rest of the dishwasher.

Next, she's started helping put away all the silverware, which is frequently all I have left after the time she spent putting away her own things. After I first put away all the knives, she sits in one of our high stools and matches forks and spoons from the dishwasher basket to what's in the drawer. As of right now, she still doesn't have much intuition for what goes where, but it's a great opportunity for me to suggest she "run a experiment to see where it fits."

With that under her belt, she became more interested in how things get put into the dishwasher. So now, when I start loading the dishwasher (usually while she's still sorting cutlery), I set aside two piles:
  1. 1. I place all the dirty cutlery (except knives) on the open door of the dishwasher for her to place back into the basket once it's empty and returned to the dishwasher 

  2. 2. Her plates/bowls/cups for her to place where I point to in the dishwasher.  

Other household tasks you can do together

  • * At the grocery store, help steer the cart (this also helps them stay close with a hand on the cart).
  • * Also at the grocery store, carry the box/can/etc. to the cart and place in or hand to another adult. Helping at the grocery store is also a good way to keep little bodies active and little minds from getting bored enough to start causing mischief.
  • * Help set the table for dinner. Even if you don't want her carrying your fine china (you don't), she can place napkins, bring over her own plates and cutlery, and as you trust her more, carry small containers of food or toppings/condiments to the table. 
  • * And as you loyal readers know, they can help cook!

Carrying cheese home from the grocery store

The Caveats

Ok, so, after all that discussion of my amazing help with chores, I have to remind you, this is the real world with a real kid. 
  • * Some days she disrupts my ability to get anything done. She's a toddler, and like all parents, I do some combination of roll with the punches (preferred), fume (acceptable backup plan), and actively get frustrated at her (we all do it sometimes). 
  • * Some days she has no interest in helping and prefers to play by herself while I get some things done. This is obviously fine and the fact she can articulate her preferences and feel confident playing alone is great! 
  • * Some days she will want to help with one step of the process but not others. That's fine too; we're still too young for these to be chores/responsibilities and we're not forcing her to do any of it, so if she wants to help sort but not fill the washing machine, that's great. I got help sorting!
  • * Something will get broken at some point. Life will happen.
Regardless, the final upside to all this is that my child has some basic understanding of what it takes to run a household - clean dishes and clothes don't just appear out of thin air, and neither do groceries or dinner. In our house, they take work. At this age she can help or she can entertain herself while that work happens. Either way, she sees that the world doesn't entirely revolve around her moment-to-moment desires.

And, of course, we get to spend some great one-on-one time that fills her need to feel like a big girl and my need to have clean pants for work.

Less messy art supplies for toddlers - creativity I can live with!

I may have mentioned once or thirty times on this blog that I have trouble doing art projects with the kids. Part of this is because I am not an artistic person myself and found art projects boring as a child. But if I'm being honest, much of my hesitance stems from not wanting to spend an hour trying to get paint out of all the floor cracks.  It's not that I'm neurotic or own priceless artifacts, it's mostly that I'm lazy.

But of course kids probably need some art supplies (right?). So here are products we've found that are at least somewhat entertaining to children and don't cause you to have to declare your place "condemned" and just move out. As a bonus, art supplies that aren't too messy are usually good for travel, so that's win.
  • Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow Books. Of all the things in this post, these have got to be my favorite.  These are special books that come with a plastic tube that you fill with water.  The child then uses the tube as a pen to reveal the colors in the picture.  When the water dries, the picture goes back to blank/white - reusable products for the win!.  The only possible mess is the spilling of water, which is awesome.  There is very little fine motor skill involved so it's great for even the youngest toddlers.  Plus, these books are amazing for travel since they're compact and can be brought through airport security because the pen can be emptied and refilled. Melissa & Doug have about a billion versions of these, so you can keep a stack and rotate to eliminate boredom.

  • Crayola Color Wonder Markers. These look like regular markers but they are not -  they only work on special Crayola Color Wonder Paper. On the one hand, toddlers love to draw on anything but paper (hello grandma's couch!) and this way, they can't. On the other hand, this can be a downside, since you have to keep buying the paper (or coloring books) only from them. I personally think this product is sheer genius. Coloring is one of those activities that should be quiet unsupervised play time for kids, and now it can be with peace of mind. The only limitation of this product, as far as I'm concerned, is that the child has to be fairly confident holding and pressing a marker. Also the color only shows up once the marker dries so there is a several second delay between making a mark and seeing it. It's not a problem once the kid gets used to it but kids younger than 2 are probably going to get frustrated.

  • Crayola Washable Triangular Crayons. These make excellent starter crayons for kids.  The large triangular shape makes them easy to hold and they won't roll away when set down.  Their washable nature makes for easy clean up.  These are a great tool for even the youngest budding artist.

  • Magnetic Tins for Pretend Play. Ok so this is not, strictly speaking, "art supplies" in the classic sense of the word. However, it is a versatile toy that allows for expression of creativity and open ended play.  There are many different versions of this toy out there, including character based and dress up doll varietals. These too are perfect for travel, doctor's offices, and restaurants since they are quiet, non messy, and self contained.

  • Do A Dot Art in action
    Do A Dot Art! Washable Paint Markers. These markers are something between a marker and paint.  They are are definitely messier than a crayon but less messy than full on water paints. There is no potential for spilling with these guys but there is definitely ample room for adding flair to your curtains. Parental supervision is heavily advised, but they are so easy to use that they are a more fun art supply for producing bold creations.  We can confirm the paint came out of a tablecloth in the washing machine. Proceed with caution, but overall a thumbs up.
   

Tales from the Trenches: Day Care - I love you so!

When you're pregnant, people feel like it's their job to ask you inappropriate questions. When I had the joy of fielding them while carrying my first, I riddled off the answers on autopilot by week 3 of my second trimester.
"June 7th," I'd smile and say. 
"My husband IS excited it's a girl, thank you for your concern" I would mumble, rolling my eyes internally. 
"Yes I'm sure it's not twins," I'd growl while visualizing unleashing the full extent of my pregnant lady wrath.
Occasionally, someone would run out of inappropriate prenatal questions to ask and would move on to questioning our postnatal plans. Suddenly, everyone was interested in what we were going to do for childcare.

We had always intended to send our progeny to day care.  I don't remember why we had assumed this, but a nanny never seriously entered the discussion.  As such, we dutifully and proactively toured a couple well regarded centers in our area and got our names on the waiting lists for ones we liked. Well, it turns out that sending your kids to day care is perceived in some circles as being just shy of leaving them in the crib all day with a water bottle and an open bag of Cheetos. Day care, it seems, has a bad rap.

Three years and two kids later, not only do I have no regrets about group child care, I could not be more pleased. I know there are many fantastic nannies out there, and it's a great choice for some two-working-parent households, but I am here to speak up for day care and write it the love letter that it so thoroughly deserves. So without, further ado...

Reasons why I   day care

I don't want to have employees

Adding children to a family is already logistically difficult and comes with tons of paperwork.  Not having to add payroll into the mix is a huge win.  I know lots of people pay their nannies in cash, but that's not something I could really see myself doing.  If I was going to hire someone, I would want to give them benefits and pay taxes and do all sorts of other formal things I don't know how to do. I know Care.com has recently started advertising that they'll help you set all that up, and that's great but it still seems daunting.

Not only that, but having interviewed and hired people in my professional life, I know that not every employee turns out awesome.  Some have trouble showing up on time, some seem like they are going to be far more competent than they turn out to be, and some end up being jerks. Given that I needed childcare from the time both of my children were 3 months old and thus couldn't speak up for themselves, the idea of leaving them with an unsupervised stranger sent my first time mom fears into hyperdrive.

Day Care teachers are professionals

It turns out that people who dedicate their professional lives to taking care of children are on the whole amazing souls. They definitely don't do it for the money (as shockingly expensive as day care is, the teachers are grossly underpaid in my opinion). Sure, the skill and dedication is true for many professional nannies as well. This point, however, is largely directed at the lady who once said to me that "obviously all working moms feel really guilty about not staying home." Well, I would like to tell her, with as few choice words as possible, that I sure as heck don't. I love and miss my kids, but I like to work and I know my children are in excellent hands.

Not only have all the teachers we've encountered been kind, friendly, and amazingly loving towards our children, but they also know what they're doing.  They were able to get my daughter to nap in a stationary object, they taught her how to dress herself and drink from a cup, and they've had tons of suggestions for us as parents for things to try at home.  It's almost as if they have a degree in this stuff and do it for a living or something... crazy I know!

I send my kids to school so my house can remain intact (somewhat) 

I am not the kind of mom who can craft and get messy with her kids. If you can stay sane while your kid redecorates your house with paint, chalk, or glitter I say "Respect!" I just can't do it. My toddler and I cook together, both my kids spend tons of time playing outside with me, my husband takes them to music class, we have a great time.... but we don't do art projects.

The great thing about sending my kids to "school" is that they are equipped to let the little monsters be "creative".  The lovely teachers are willing to set up for, and clean up from, 7 toddlers using finger paint and play dough - bless their hearts.  They also have lots of great big toys like a water sensory table and a huge play kitchen.  Those are fantastic things for kids to play with, but I live in a condo that feels filled to the brim even without those behemoths.  As a result, I get the best of all worlds: children who have a wide variety of play experiences, a house that one can walk through while only tripping on a couple toys, and I don't have to scrape paint off the ceiling... win, Win, WIN!

They get all those diseases out of the way

Kids being sick all the time is a common concern voiced by "helpful" strangers (ok... and also my mom) about group child care.  And yes, their first year in day care was constantly full of runny noses and mystery rashes. But, keep them home until preschool, smugly proclaiming how healthy your kids are... And it turns out science says, they'll just get all those same diseases their first year of school. There's just no way out of the cesspool of disease that is early childhood. I figure since no one expects anything out of you when you're a new parent just back to work, you may as well cash in on those low expectations and stay home with your constantly sick baby then.

All the kids have working parents

Finally, all the children my children interact with live in households with two working parents. From before they could remember, Mom and Dad took them to school and then went to work.  There is no confusion as to why Mom and Dad can't stay and play with them.  They don't go to playgroups with a nanny where other children came with Mom or Dad. I'm sure at some point when they're older they'll ask why we have to go to work, but given how normalized it is in their world I'm guessing it's going to be a lot later. Frankly, my almost 3 year old has "why" and "what" on repeat already, so if we can cross one off the list - score!

I have a nanny/am a SAHM/have magical children who sit quietly while I work... Are you judging me?

Nope!

If you found a child care situation that works for you and your family I salute you because this stuff is HARD no matter how you slice it. I know that when we're being honest with each other, we've all had the experiences so universal, they are cliches. Like... wanting to run away from our children and join the circus when the toddler has spilled her third full cup of milk in one meal despite repeated warnings to be careful, or when you've bounced the baby for 2 hours to finally have him blissfully drift off to sleep only to start howling because someone rang the door bell and woke him up. Conversely, I know you've stood in your child's room watching her sleep at night, shedding a tear at the thought of how fast she's growing.

So no, if you love and care for your children I have no grounds to judge you no matter how you do it. Just know that day care is not an "only if you must option" for child care.  It is, in fact, a great option for many families.  As for my family, it will forever have a special place in my heart as the place that loved and cared for my children for those hours of the day that I could not.

Put your toddler to work! (i.e. how to cook dinner with your toddler) - Guest Post

I am thrilled to introduce today’s guest blogger - Miranda. Recently, we’ve started cooking with our toddler and Miranda has given us some great tips on gear, safety, and of course fun! We thought we’d share her wisdom with you too.  Though she is not a city dweller, this blog welcomes good ideas from all sources. And with that, take it away, Miranda!

 ____________________________

First off, I want to thank Dina and Lee for letting me to contribute to their blog. I’m so excited to be able to share some thoughts on cooking with toddlers!  Although, to be fair, I have only ever cooked with one toddler, my 2.3-year-old daughter, Mabel.

Why cook with your toddler?

First, it must be said, she does not make cooking easier. I do not ask her to cut the mushrooms or beat the eggs so that I can simultaneously perform some other task. I
ask for her help and then guide her, sometimes more than others, as she takes 100 times longer than I would have.  Cooking with Mabel is messier, slower, and a lot more complicated than cooking alone.

So, if it’s such a hassle, why do I bother to include her? For one, she loves it! She’s at the age where she wants to help with anything - the more grown up, the better. Involving her in cooking dinner also lets me cook while she is awake and reserves precious nap time for other things. Including toddlers in cooking is also widely thought to help with picky eating.  I am, so far, blessed with a child who will eat most anything (fingers crossed, knock-on-wood), but it still pleases me to no end when she tastes each ingredient in a dish and declares “Mum!” (i.e., yum).

How to make cooking with your toddler pleasant

I try to strike a balance between including my child to the fullest extent possible, keeping her from harming herself, and producing an edible meal. Between her continually developing skill set and my recognition and accommodation of those skills, no two dinner preparations are the same and what works for us may very well not work for you. I do, however, hope that the following thoughts provide some direction or at least a jumping off point for your own adventures in cooking with your toddler.

Plan ahead

In order for the actual cooking to go smoothly, I usually have to do a little game-planning ahead of time. I might knock out a couple of tasks that she definitely can’t help with and I know will bore her. I might assemble needed ingredients and tools so I don’t have to leave her alone for significant periods of time. Mostly, I try to make sure I am confident in my grasp of whatever we’re making so I can be relaxed while we’re cooking together.  Stressing about getting a recipe right while engaging with a toddler is, for me, impossible.

Incorporate Safety

Another thing to keep in mind is safety. I am not an overly protective parent.  I know my child will, at some point, cut her finger, burn her hand, and drop something heavy on her foot. I know this because I have done all these things, and more, many times over.  To some extent, it is just part of cooking. I do try, however, to keep her from permanently damaging herself.

  • - She has been taught, and is continually reminded, never to touch the cutting board while I am chopping (yes, she is close enough to touch the cutting board while I chop).

  • - She needs to ask permission before she nibbles stray bits off the counter (lest she accidentally ingest something like jalapeno seeds).

  • - I never leave sharp knives or hot pans within reach (although the extent of her reach continues to surprise me).

  • - I have found that having an induction cooktop is very helpful to my peace of mind. There is no open flame and nothing gets hot except the pot and the glass directly beneath the pot leaving the rest of the cooktop cool.


Set the Scene

When I began including Mabel in kitchen activities I would lift her up and let her sit on the counter next to me.  This was better than nothing, but not by much. For one thing, we had to have a conversation about how she needed to not wiggle or grab things every time I needed to turn around. It also put her at an awkward height. She could watch while sitting on the counter, but she didn’t want to watch, she wanted to DO.

Next we tried putting her in a clip-on high chair that was clamped to the overhang of the island. (We have an Inglesina Fast Table Chair. The Inglesina is great because the cover comes off easily and is machine washable.) This was a much better solution. She was contained; I could put her in the chair and she couldn’t scoot over to where I’d left the knife. She was also at a good height for seeing and helping. It wasn’t perfect, though, largely because it meant I needed to work while standing next to her at the island. She would get very upset whenever I walked over to the stove to stir a pot.  This was clearly a problem.

The solution was a step stool. You can absolutely use any old step stool but we had the luxury of it being the holidays and grandparents were looking for suitable gifts so we got the “The Growing Step Stool by Little Partners." (I have also heard wonderful things about the “Guidecraft Kitchen Helper” but it just looked too darn bulky for our space.) There are two key features that I love about our step stool. First, it has sides. During the brief period that we were using an ordinary step stool, Mabel nearly fell off the side repeatedly. She would step to the side to be closer to me and step off the edge or she would just lean farther and farther (again, to be closer to me and/or danger) and eventually lose her balance. With the Growing Step Stool, the sides keep her contained. Second, it is adjustable so as she grows we can change the steps to keep her at a comfortable working height. (Note from Dina: we use the strap we discussed in this post to secure our toddler to a bar stool we already had in our kitchen.)

Another thing to consider is clothing protection. I don’t always get out the aprons but I absolutely do when we’re working with something messy or staining. You could certainly use an art smock (I love these from Ikea). But Mabel and I have Mama and Me Aprons and, yes, we’re adorable.

Cooking Tasks Toddlers Can Help With

Here are some ideas of things your toddler might like to help with:

  • - Mixing, whisking, and stirring - You can take turns doing this because if your kiddo is anything like mine, she doesn’t do an adequate job.

  • - Pouring - Anything, all the time, my word she loves to pour!

  • - Scooping/measuring - Sometimes I level off scoops and let her dump them in the bowl. More fun, though, is to put the bowl on a kitchen scale and set her free to scoop until the desired weight is reached. Bonus: lesson in reading numbers with this method!

  • - Cutting - We got her the Curious Chef 3-Piece Nylon Knife Set. Note, toddler knives are not sharp (duh!) so they can only cut some things (ex. grapes, mushrooms, soft-ish cheeses, tofu) and they do not cut cleanly. 

  • - Peeling - Ex. garlic, sticks of butter, onions, hard-boiled eggs.

  • - Washing vegetables - She ADORES operating the salad spinner.

  • - Stripping greens - She can pull and pluck with the best of them, but we’ve also had good luck using a Greens and Herb Stripper.)

  • - Pushing buttons - On the food processor, blender, hand mixer, etc.

  • - Testing for doneness/taste testing (Mum!)

I am also trying to involve Mabel in cleaning up after cooking but that is very much still a work in progress around here. So far, I have found two ways to have Mabel help me clean up. First, I can ask her to put dishes and ingredients away.  Some things are safe for her to put straight into the dishwasher and some things, like baking powder, she can put back in the pantry. This can be a tricky one, though, because most cabinets at her height are toddler-proofed (imagine that!). Second, she loves to wipe down counters. I spray a little cleanser on the counter and then let her have at it with a sponge. She obviously has a limited range and is wildly ineffective at actually cleaning, but see above re: toddlers are not actually helpful.

The Payoff

After all this “helping” Mabel and I both find great satisfaction regaling the other members of our dinner party with all the ways she contributed. The foods we cook together are exactly the foods she will be eating at dinner. There are no special toddler meals in my house, so it’s a great way to remind her of the things she accomplished and of all the yummy foods we used to make dinner (Remember peeling the eggs? Tell Dad about how you cut the cucumbers with your knife. Did you like tasting the cucumbers? I see some more on your plate, have another bite!). Involving Mabel in cooking also helps her understand more deeply that preparing food takes time and effort and, I think, helps her be patient when food isn’t ready yet. And, hopefully, someday, will help her learn to love cooking as much as I do.


    


Miranda is a former librarian, current full time mom, and enthusiastic cook. She lives with her family outside of San Francisco.

Things to do - Music Together

So I played the violin as a kid. I also went to a million concerts in high school, owned too many CDs, and may or may not have used a lot of Napster in college (is that what us 1st wave millennials will say wistfully about college?). Suffice it to say, music is important to me...
That said, I didn't practice the violin, mostly went to radio festivals and other concerts in 1000+-seat auditoriums, and never heard of a band before you did (though my college roommate did, so I was like 6 weeks ahead of all of you on Modest Mouse). Suffice it to say, music isn't that important.

So how to find a good mix of goofy kids fun, some active dance, lots of instruments, and a dash of music theory without devolving into silly songs you'll hate hearing, or kids doing hand motions and forgetting about the music entirely? Alternatively, I don't need to pressure them to Carnegie Hall (ever, but especially in preschool). Music is important, but it's not that important.

Music Together

Music Together fits this niche pretty well. They use a mix of classic and new children's songs, sourced across many cultures, and with a rotating batch of instruments and other activities. The class is intended for a wide age range (6 mos - 5 years) so all the kids get some exposure to kids bigger and smaller and it's easy for siblings to attend together. They give you a CD (and MP3 download access) for all the songs so you can practice at home (or in your car, they say, but whatever). The attitude overall is "anyone can sing, anyone can play, and find fun ways to incorporate music into your life," which seems great to me.

It's not perfect, but my three criticisms are minor. 1) The attempt to be multicultural occasionally feels like it borders on cultural appropriation and/or parody. 2) Someone has clearly decided it's in their interest to tweak classic tunes just enough to make them copyrightable, which can feel a bit ridiculous at times. 3) The whole thing fits pretty neatly into a formula class-to-class and session-to-session, which is great for toddler brains, but I found that I had to take a couple sessions off once in a while to regain my enthusiasm and interest in going week after week.

To their credit, they are extremely welcoming of all sorts of family and work situations. As a Dad who works part-time and thus finds himself often in Stay-at-Home-Mommy-land, a program that expects/welcomes Dads, grandparents, nannies, or whatever other person you have caring for your kid is refreshing. The couple times I've dropped in on a weekend class to makeup for a missed session, it's been a lot of Dads too, which is great.

Music Together works as a franchise, so you'll need to find who operates it where you live. If you're in Boston, it's Groovy Baby Music and if you click through on this referral, it'll even net you a $15 discount.