Showing posts with label Clothes. 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.

Bibs for eating out (aka limiting the grossness in your diaper bag)

A couple months in your parenting gig you may feel like you've more or less gotten it together.  In fact you may get so cocky that you start venturing out to eat in places that are not your house.  You may even consider bringing your baby to these places... your baby who may be eating food him/herself by this point.  Woah!

You'll want to be prepared for this and bring along some things to make it easier for both of you -  such as a cup they're used to using at home, a small toy, and of course, a bib. We've covered our favorite bibs on this blog before, but we quickly noticed with our oldest the following sequence of events when eating out:
  1. 1. Bib goes on baby.

  2. 2. Baby smears food all over the bib.

  3. 3. Bib gets folded yucky side in and placed in the diaper bag.
Eons of time pass
  1. 4. Bib gets discovered in the diaper bag after a geologic age has passed.  It is now super gross and has fostered new life.
Having gone through the experience described above several times we hit upon a solution one day when out for breakfast at a local diner. We noticed another family was eating with their toddler but the child had on a disposable bib. I don't know why we'd never seen such a thing, but we immediately accosted the family and interrogated them to soak in their wisdom. Since then we've been keeping a couple of Disposable Bibs by Mighty Clean Baby in our bag (in the interim, Munchkin Disposable Bibs has come out with their own version that we haven't tried yet, but has great reviews).

And we've never again had to reach into our diaper bag only to realize we are touching week old banana that's been smashed into a bib... and we've all lived happily ever after!

First shoes for babies

Babies don't need shoes.  Everyone will tell you that!

"Great!" you'll think, "that's one less thing I need to worry about picking".

Hanging out, eating a Starbucks card... like you do.
Then you'll go merrily about your life... until your baby starts cruising (i.e. standing and walking holding on to something). Suddenly, those adorable footie pants seem like a slippery death device strapped to your baby's feet.

"Lies!" you'll scream in frustration, "babies need shoes!... How in heaven's name to do I pick shoes for a baby?!?!?!"

In all seriousness, this is something I found really stressful because I have often been the victim of uncomfortable shoes in my life and at 8 months, I couldn't exactly ask my daughter which shoes were comfy.

Hanging out, demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of "eating"
Thankfully we found our way to Robeez crib shoes (also available at Zappos) fairly quickly. These shoes are soft and easy to put on.  Best of all, they have a non slip sole that works great on hardwood floors.

The brand makes lots of different designs to fit any taste and they come in a variety of sizes too.  In fact my two and a half year old still uses (a much larger) pair as slippers to be worn inside the house in the winter.


Boy, Girl, or Just Baby - Gender neutral clothing options

If you've spent even 5 seconds in a baby store you may have noticed something disturbing.  All the clothing, from premature baby sizes on up is neatly divided into "boys" and "girls" sections.  What's even weirder about this abrupt line is that eyeing the sections quickly will reveal that girls get one color (pink, with the occasional purple accent thrown in) and boys get all the other colors.  This is so incredibly limiting to both genders, but especially to girls.  There is a lot of science on how adults interact differently with babies and kids if they believe the child to be a boy or a girl (regardless of the truth).  Obviously, we don't "hide" the gender of either of our children (I'm not sure how that would even work). But we do want them to feel free to pick anything off the buffet of options that life has to offer.  You may think that dressing your daughter exclusively in pink isn't a problem as long as you get her blocks to play with (hey! they even make pink ones of those too... gag).  One problem with that, among others, is what happens when she encounters non pink toys and decides that they aren't for her.  It is this subtle segregation of kids by gender role that rubs me very much the wrong way. By the way, if you think "it's always been this way, why make waves?", I'm here to tell this is not true.  Toys are way more gendered now than they were 30 years ago.

Finally, if I haven't convinced you yet of the value of dressing all children in all the colors, then consider the following. Buying more neutral clothing is practical if you want to maximize the number of hand-me downs available for any other children in your future, whether they be yours or those of friends and family.  Finally, here is a great blog post on this whole topic from another mother.

If you're thinking that this is all very noble but highly challenging, then you are correct. For starters, well meaning people in your life will buy you whatever they feel like (especially as new baby presents).  The difficulty increases as you start to leave baby clothing. (At least some baby clothing is less gendered, due to the fact that a portion of people wait until the baby is born to find that out.)  Obviously, it's nearly impossible to control what other people do, but where does one buy clothing for one's own children to balance out the onslaught of frilly pink dresses? Here are some tips and brands we've found that present great options in this dimension (scroll to the end to find out how to make this affordable).

Brands that sell non-gendered clothing 

  • - Zutano: Available directly from their site, as well as on Amazon and Gigglethis brand sells really high quality clothing, with fun designs, that will definitely survive multiple children's antics.

  • - Magnificent Baby: This is a really wonderful brand (see their Amazon store) that sells clothing with magnetic closures (these are particularly awesome when traveling and trying to change a diaper in a bathroom on a moving train or airplane).  It's true that their clothing are all labeled "boy" and "girl," but we can look past this sad state of affairs due to the fact that the actual designs are really adorable and not actually gendered.  

  • - Boden: You may have seen their adult clothing line at Nordstroms or a British high street.  Their children's clothing, however, available here, is particularly excellent.  They sell a single line for babies under 3.  While the mini line (starting at one and a half years) are also divided by gender, most of the pieces are easily appropriate for all kids.  (Note to watch: the "boys" clothing runs a bit bigger so pay attention to the size chart when choosing which size to get).

  • - Polarn O. Pyret: This is a Swedish brand that sells fantastic clothing for active play, including great outerwear.  They even have a line called "uni" that is specifically not targeted.  You can buy it at their site or on Amazon.  Word of caution: their sizes run huuuuuuge because apparently Swedish children are giants in the making so pay careful attention to the size chart.

  • - Gap:  Ok so this one is a bit of a stretch.  Their clothing is most definitely gendered.  That said, their "playroom" line is really appropriate for anyone.  Absolutely a good option, that's obviously easy to find everywhere in America.

  • - Just buying clothing and putting it on your children.  Who said that trucks and flowers are just for half the children?

Oh My God! I just spent a king's ransom dressing my child!

Some of the above brands can absolutely run very expensive.  We are in no way advocating that you spend $24 on a t-shirt that your toddler will grow out in 4 months (or cover in escalator grease... that said, if they do cover it in escalator grease, here are some cleaning tips).  Here are some ways you can buy clothing that fit with your world view without breaking the bank.

  • End of Season Sales - You, as a member of modern society, are aware of how calendars work.  When all the high end brand websites and stores are clearing out their winter clothes, it's time to go to town on sizes that will fit your kid in 6 months.  This is the perfect opportunity to buy winter coats, sweaters, and pants at half off or more.  (Conversely, the end of August is great for buying bathing suits which are also really expensive for kids if they have a built in diaper.)  Sure, storage space at your house is probably at a premium, but this is the kind of thing that can get put in a bin that goes in that impossible to reach corner of your closet.

  • High end children's second hand stores.  Most major metropolitan areas have one (Fancy Pants is an example of one in Boston, The Second Child is great in Chicago).  All the high end brands we described above make clothing that way outlasts one child.  We bought an excellent Boden coat in one for $10.  The coat then went on to another child.  I'm sure that coat originally retailed for at least $50.  Plus, buying high end brands means you can often resell them to these very same stores, thus making back some of your investment (assuming your kid stays away from the escalator grease at least some of the time). If you don't have one of thoes places local, you can always try out threadUP, either to buy (Shop thredUP's Designer Looks Section Now!) or sell (Clean out your Closet with thredUP

  • Amazon Mom sales - Once you've signed up for Amazon Mom, keep an eye out for emails and coupons from Amazon with periodic sales as well as using their advanced search to find deeply discounted items.

This seems like a lot of work... is it worth it?

So I guess this depends on your outlook on life.  This seems worth it to me.  It's really important to me that my children know that they can climb any play ground structure, play with any toy, and try any new thing they want.  I never want either of them to think that their gender has anything to do with those decisions.  Clothing may not seem like a big deal, but it's amazing how small attitude changes affect children.  We let our toddler pick her clothing out every morning.  Some days she picks the fire truck shirt and other days the frilly dress.  Either way, for now, she knows that she can do anything!

Heaven help us - we're talking about mom clothes again

Dr. Crusher - inspiration to moms everywhere.
My new baby spits up.. a lot... all the time.  As a result I find myself having to change clothes much more often than I did when my daughter was a baby.  So I thought I would try ordering some clothes from Milk Nursingware.

I am sorry to say I was very disappointed with the result.  Unlike the Momzelle breastfeeding friendly postpartum clothing I wrote about here, these are decisively not friendly to the postpartum figure.  The fabric is plastic-y and clingy in places you do not want to be clung to.  The nursing design is also much less convenient.  It's almost as though the designers saw a picture of a nursing shirt and put no more thought into the design after that.  All of the shirts I ordered are basically just 2 layer shirts instead of one shirt with a clever opening - thanks guys, I could have just figured out to wear two shirts myself.  I was looking for something with a bit more style.


Here I am pictured in the least bad shirt I received (I suppose it's more of a tunic).  I can only guess the design was inspired by Dr. Crusher's Star Trek uniform, complete with the diagonal cut and blue and black color scheme (it didn't quite look like it on the website).  Hilarious opportunities to dork out aside, ordering clothing from here is definitely not worth it in my opinion.

Jackets - your kid won't wear them, but you'll feel better if you own some

2 year old in styling rain coat.
When I was a teenager I refused to wear a coat on a regular basis, despite the fact that my family lived in the mountains of northern PA and not San Diego.  I had assumed that I would pass on this or some other annoying habit to my children, I just didn't expect it to manifest quite so early.  I am sad to say that we have begun the coat battles already.  (I know you're thinking that I should just let her not wear a coat and wait until she tells me she's cold.  However, she is very stubborn and has literally had her lip turn blue and hasn't asked for a coat.  I'm not waiting until the hypothermia kicks in).

10 month old in raincoat.
Anyway, if you live somewhere it rains periodically, your kid will need a good rain coat.  We've had a really great experience with Hatley Raincoats (Amazon) or Hatley Kids (Zappos).  Not only do they come in all sorts of adorable patterns, but they are super practical as well.  They have a soft terry cloth lining that feels good to the kid and provides some additional warmth for those days when it's raining AND 35 degrees out.  They are generously sized so we have been able to use the same coat for both spring and fall of a given year.  And they have lovely hood (tip: use a hair clip to keep the hood on your child's head if you live in a windy city).

While it's true that they can be pricey, you can often find them at "end of season" sales either in brick and mortar establishments or on Amazon.  Because of the generous sizing, you're likely to be able to guess your kids size (we already have our 3T coat ready for next spring).  Also, many of their designs are quite gender neutral and the coats are quite durable so if you do have multiple kiddos this is a great candidate for hand-me-downs.

Excited your kid walks everywhere? Live somewhere it snows? You need footwear!

Boots

So maybe this is just the PTSD talking from having survived Boston in February 2015 (that picture was only after the first storm), but boots really are a necessity if you're going to keep walking, taking the bus/train, and living your life in a northern city. When our eldest was a baby, some fancy designer boots were a fun gift to get, but now that she's 2, going on 22, waterproof, warm, and easy to put on is a must.
Toddler, scared of walking on snow after the 1st storm.

We've had a great experience with Bogs Baby Boots (AmazonZappos) (which are a misnomer as the sizes really run all the way up to adults practically). All of them are quite appropriate for boys and girls. Styles are available that will satisfy everyone from the non-conformists to the folks out there gunning for more gender targeted products. The pair modeled in the picture are the "indigo" variant of the Flower Stripe boot. That link takes you to a search for all the various styles and colors.

Back to the practical, not only are they waterproof, but these boots are machine washable so even the yuckiest of slush is not a problem!

Socks

Ok, even a "normal" winter up here means good warm socks are needed for kids and adults alike. Our winner for the whole family is Smartwool. You can search for Smartwool for everyone here (Amazon) or here (Zappos), Smartwool socks have the feel of something thick and heavy but still fit into most shoes. They breathe pretty well too, so you don't have to talk your toddler OUT of wearing them on a warmer day when she REALLY REALLY REALLY WANTS green socks and these are the only green socks you own. For what it's worth, I also own a Smartwool sweater for the really cold days, so they've got me sold.

Note: This post is footwear focused, but in case you're checking this out in the midst of winter weather before we can write about coats/snowsuits. I'll let you know the snowsuit above (that we love!) is from Columbia Sportswear. Find their stuff on Amazon and Zappos.

  

You've gone and had a baby and now none of your clothes fit...

I'm sure your birth class, know-it-all friend, and every third pregnancy website you visited gleefully told you that you will still look pregnant when you leave the hospital and that you should be sure to pack some maternity clothes.

"No problem!", you naively thought "I can stand to wear my cute maternity dresses for an extra couple of weeks".

Then, suddenly you were 11 weeks postpartum, crying on your bedroom floor, surrounded by your pre-pregnancy clothes (none of which fit) wondering what on earth you were going to wear to the office next week.  Whether you lost your your baby weight by then (all together now... hahahahah) or like me, were still 10lbs+ over what you were just a year ago, it's almost certain that your wardrobe is suddenly much more limited.  Why is this (other than because there is no justice and life is a bitch)?  Your skin hasn't had time to shrink back, and your bones and body have rearranged themselves ('member those birthing hips that helped carry that baby around at 40 weeks?).

So what do you do now?


Well dry your tears, chin up... here is some advice:
  1. 1. Repeat after me "It took 9 months to grow a baby, it'll take at least that long to get my body back."

  2. 2. Go order some clothes from Momzelle (or their Amazon selection).  This is a magical website that will sell you magical clothing that will have discreet openings for you to nurse your baby AND make you look amazing. The company is Canadian and so they delightfully undersell the fact that their clothing is, as they put it, "Designed to flatter the postpartum figure" (seriously, that's like saying that newborns are cute but a bit time consuming). I don't know what these people do when they design their clothes and I don't know why no one else does it, but they will seriously make you look like a person shaped person, even when you aren't yet.

And now, internet, because we've become close friends, I will tell you a not entirely appropriate story to prove my point.  This was my second pregnancy and I became pregnant at 15lbs more than I was before I had my first baby.  Then, when I was 5 months along my husband had a health crisis that
landed him in the ICU.  Needless to say, a toddler, a very ill husband (who is fine now... phew), and a heady cocktail of pregnancy hormones does not make for a calm couple of months.  And so, I made the very rational decision at that time, to eat my feelings.  And the feelings, all of the stressful, heart wrenching, "what will the future bring" feelings, they tasted like chocolate milkshakes.  I then stayed pregnant until 41 weeks, at which point I could have held my own in a seesaw contest with an Orca. Below are 2 pictures of me modeling 2 different dresses.

Me at 39 weeks wearing one of their dresses that is designed to be both a maternity and nursing dress (my daughter was decorating me with stickers)
Me 2 weeks postpartum looking like a person even though I was actually a bag of blubber
Not only will these dresses make you look great, they also have clever openings that make them super convenient for breastfeeding.  Good looking nursing clothes is so hard to find that these are worth every penny.

Also I was recently at a work event where a co-worker complemented me (completely inappropriately... seriously guys, NEVER COMMENT ON A COWORKER'S WEIGHT) for having lost all my baby weight.  Of course... hahahah, definitely had not done that, but I WAS wearing a Momzelle shirt.