Monday, October 20, 2014

Room Time Setup

I had a reader with a great idea for a blog post. She wanted to know how I had Brinley's room set up for room time. I took some pictures to give you an idea of what she has access to and sees when she does room time.

Remember I am not huge on "baby proofing"--I am a "house proofing the baby" type. With that said, I like to remove real dangers from the room since she is in there unsupervised. What I don't do is remove inconveniences for me. That means there have been days I have gone in to get her and found she has strewn the wet wipes around the room. Not fun. But it is a good learning moment for her. I have also gone in to find clothes all over the floor. Again, not fun. But it is a moment to say, "Brinley, we don't make a big mess when we play in our rooms" and have her clean it up. 

Conversely, I have walked in her room to find her in the middle of picking up her toys because they get a sense of time and can tell when it is about over. Brayden did this about daily. Kaitlyn and McKenna were never much into cleaning up without being prompted. On to the photos:

Here we have the closet. There are many toys she can reach in the closet. There are also a few up on the shelf out of her reach. You can see that better in the photo below.

The toys being on the shelf are an easy way for me to do a mini toy rotation with her toys. Rotating toys is a great way to keep kids interested in their toys. Rotating toys down is like having a birthday or Christmas. New toys they forgot about suddenly in reach.

You can also see that she can reach her shorts and pants that are folded up on the shelves in her closet. This has been a problem a couple of times, but that is it. It really is an easy way to work on teaching your child to not ransack rooms when playing. 

This is a view a little removed from the closet. She has her changing table there. The bottom of the changing table has toys for her to play with. The middle shelf has two baskets. One is her hamper. The other is a basket with wet wipes and diapers. Again, there have been a couple of times she has gotten into those, but not often and it has been a good learning opportunity for her.

The top of the changing table has some diaper ointment, gas drops, sometimes Tylenol...once she was tall enough to reach those things, I have to move them at Independent Playtime (room time). I don't mind her learning on shorts or wet wipes, but I don't want her learning on medicine of any sort. I keep those things out of her reach.

If you turn around at the closet, you will see her crib and reading corner. Under her crib, I have stored some more toys. This is another good "toy rotation" storage solution. I get those toys out every so often for a fun new toy time.

I only keep books that are baby safe in her room during room time. Well, I only keep books that are baby safe at all times because I don't want to forget one in there. You never know when a toddler will decide to experiement with ripping pages out of books. I am willing to refold laundry or put wet wipes back in the container, but I am not willing to destroy books. The books are a favorite thing for Brinley during Independent Playtime.

Each day at room time, I put the ottoman you see in Brinley's crib. I don't want her accidentally pinching her fingers on it. So that goes up for safety. The dresser was never a problem with McKenna, Kaitlyn, nor Brayden. Brinley has recently started opening the bottom two drawers to explore contents. That is our new thing to work on not doing during Independent Play.

For more on Independent Play, see:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Break 2014!

We are having fall break here, so I am taking the day off! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Musical Activities for Toddlers {Guest Post}

by Claire 

This past summer I accepted a small position teaching a few music classes at a playschool each week.  Although I have experience with children from 1st grade all the way up to seniors in high school, teaching music to 2-4 year olds was going to be a new challenge!

I wanted to compile a small list of a few specific ideas for those of you that are at home and would like to involve music into your toddler's life.  Simply singing together is great, but it may be helpful to have some additional ideas as well.

1.  Sing books.  Some of my favorites are The Wheels on the Bus, Snuggle Puppy, The Fox, A-Hunting We Will Go, and The Three Little Kittens.  We even add melodies to books that aren't technically supposed to sung.  Children love hearing our voices. 

2.  Play instruments.  Purchase some cheapy instruments (jingle bells, shakers, rhythm sticks, sandblocks, etc.) or just make your own.  Turn on some music and let your toddler go to town.  If you want to do something more focused with it, then try keeping a steady beat with the instrument.  Or play different instruments with different sections of the song.  This can be as non-structured or as structured as you want it to be.

3.  Sing songs with movements.  Add movements to the songs you're already singing to your child.  A specific kind of movement you can do would be to mimic the instruments that you hear.  If you hear a violin, then play your pretend violin.  Or just focus on the songs that have built-in movements already - If You're Happy and You Know It, Hokey Pokey, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Deep and Wide, etc.  It's a great skill for them to be able to sing and move.  

4.  Play games with songs.  Turn on some music, have your child move/run around, and when you pause the music, have them freeze.  Toddlers love this kind of activity.  (And it burns off some energy for naptime, which we're all fans of!)  Find some songs that vary in tempo (fast and slow) or dynamics (soft and loud) and assign different movements to each one.  For example, run when it's fast, walk when it's slow, stand tall when it's loud, sit down when it's soft, etc.

The only goal is to encourage your toddler to enjoy music.  If you're having fun, they will too!

Claire is a mom of two and blogs at My Devising.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Poll Results: Blanket Time

This is the results for the Blanket Time poll. There were very few responders, so not a lot of data!  But here it is.
  1. Did you do blanket time with your child?
    Yes: 3
    No: 1
  2. If you did blanket time, what age did you start?
    From Birth: 1
    9 Months: 1
    11 Months: 1
  3. Did your child ever fight blanket time?
    Yes: 2
    No: 1
  4. If yes to 3, what age? How did you approach it? And how long did it last?
    Took a break, tried later: 1
    Took a break, still on break: 1
  5. What length of time did you start with for blanket time?
    5-10 minutes: 2
    30 minutes: 1
  6. What length of time did you ultimately stick with for blanket time?
    30 minutes: 1
    20 minutes: 1
  7. What time of day did you do blanket time?
    After lunch/before nap: 1
    Randomly: 1
  8. Any blanket time testimonies or tips?

    "Switch out the toys, leave the dogs out if they are behaved, mine loves to play with the dogs on the blanket along with her toys!"

    I think it's an awesome tool and teaches skills that they don't learn with roomtime only (staying within boundaries that are not as defined as walls). My little girl is so busy and runs around the house constantly, from one activity to the next. Surprisingly, she LOVES blanket time and I think it is because she can actually focus on a couple toys. One tip I would have is to use a kitchen timer - both for her sake and mine (so I don't forget to get her off in good time). Also, use special toys that aren't available at other times of the day. "
Feel free to add comments in the comment section below!

See Also:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Planning a Successful Class Party

The class party time is upon us! Class parties can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a lot of work. I have been involved in class parties since Brayden (now in fourth grade) was in Kindergarten. Here are some tips to help you have a successful class party. You might want to mix up the order of steps, but consider each step in your planning process.

1-Remember Kids Have Low Expectations
While you have known about the game of tic-tac-toe for about the last 30 years, these children are just discovering it. We often make things bigger and grander than they need to be for children. Children are okay with simple. They enjoy simple. 

I look at this as a "good, better, best" situation. Is it best to make your first graders class party have an appearance worthy of Pinterest, or are there other things you can be doing with that time that are actually "best"? Children are thrilled with the simple, so don't make it harder than it has to be (and this really applies to pretty much anything you plan for kids, from family vacations to birthday parties to daily summer activities). 

2-Divide the Time
The first thing to find out is how much time does the teacher want you to take for the party. Most teachers at our school like us to take one hour (one I have had goes longer). With one hour, I plan for 3-4 activities (usually 3). We divide the class into 3 groups and have each group be about 20 minutes long. How many groups you can do will depend on how much help you have. You will want an adult running each station, so if you have 4 helpers, you can have 4 stations. 3 means 3 stations. 

Once you know the time and how long each station will be, you know how long each activity needs to take. This will help guide you in choosing activities. 

3-Gather Help
The next thing you will want to find out is how much help you will have. Ask the teacher if she would like to be over a center or if she would like to roam the room. I have had teachers go both ways, though I would say even the teacher willing to do a center loves to be able to go all around the room and observe the party as a whole. Consider how much time you have, how many students you have, and how many centers you want to have. I like to have 3-4 groups, so that means there needs to be 3-4 moms there helping.

I find as a general rule, parents are more eager and willing to help in younger grades than in older grades. In a child's Kindergarten class, there will easily be 6 moms there to help. In the third grade class, it can be work to scrape together 3 moms. And some of my kids classes just have more people willing to help than others. For example, last year, Kaitlyn's first grade class had a lot of moms who wanted to help, while another first grade class at the same school literally had one mom doing every party. 

4-Gather Ideas
Now that you know how much time you have and how much help you will have, you can gather ideas. Sometimes I gather ideas before getting help. For example, this year I knew that in McKenna's Kindergarten class, I would have no trouble getting help for the party. I gathered my ideas and chose the activities before asking for help. That way, when I asked someone to help, I could say, "Would you be willing to run the painting pumpkins station?" Some people are happy to help but intimidated by planning the activity.

There is no better resource than Pinterest for finding fun ideas. Trust me, I have done these parties before and after Pinterest and Pinterest makes it a ton easier. Search "Halloween games" or "Christmas craft" or "Thanksgiving treat" and you will find a lot of ideas. There are also blogs dedicated to class party plans. Room Mom 101 is a great resource. You can find ideas I have pinned on these boards:
5-Choose Activities
I like to break the activities up into categories. I go for a craft activity, a game, and a treat the children can assemble. You can also do another game or craft and just have a treat for them to eat at the end. 

There are some things you want to keep in mind when choosing activities. One is paint. Paint takes time to dry. If you are doing the party at the end of the day, you might want to have all of the children do the painting portion at the same time at the beginning and then break up into stations so the paint can dry while before it is time to go home. Another option is to talk to the teacher ahead of time and plan to let the project stay over night and the children bring it home the next day. Glue is similar--it takes time to dry. 

Just be sure the activity you plan can be accomplished in the time you have. 

You also want to be sure the activity is in general age-appropriate for the class. I have at times prepared an activity before hand and taken it to the teacher to see if she thought it would work for the class. I mostly have had this uncertainty with Brayden since he is my oldest and I am not as familiar with what children of that age in general are capable of.

5-Prepare Activities
Once you have activities chosen, make sure you give yourself enough time to prep the activity. Have everything for the activity read to go. If you need copies, most teachers are willing to do the copies for you or will allow you to go to the workroom to make them yourself. 

Bring everything you need to set up the activity, do the activity, and clean up after the activity. Will you need napkins, wet wipes, soap, etc?

Another thing to plan for is a way for kids to get these things from the party home if needed. Not all will eat the treat. Some will want to take it home. Baggies can be good for that. Grocery sacks can be good for taking home painted or glued project without getting it all over the inside of the backpack.

6-Bring Books
Sometimes the activity you plan will go faster than you think it will. I always bring about 3 books per station so I can read a book to them if there is extra time. I bring books that go with the theme of the party, so Halloween books for Halloween party.

7-Go a Bit Early
You know the party is from 2-3. Find out what time to go to set up. You don't want to show up at 2. You want to be ready to party at 2.

8-Be a Sport
Get involved and have fun with the party. This is a party! I always dress up for Halloween parties. I try to be festive and have fun with the kids. 

Do you have any questions, comments, or ideas for class parties?

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is the Hand that Rules the World {Quotable Mondays}

William Ross Wallace wrote a beautiful poem that outlines the significance of the role of a mother titled The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand that Rules the World. The title of the poem says it all. Mothers have a significant positive impact on the world. Not just our individual children, but the world. 

While this is a sentiment dear to our hearts as humans and perhaps even something we will quote with warm fuzzies, how much is it truly believed by society as a whole?

When I was a senior in college, I had some professors who really were encouraging me to go on to get a Master's Degree. Let me say, this is without a doubt a dream of mine. I love school. I love learning. I thrived in a university setting. I was named the most outstanding graduate in my department. 

While one professor was very encouraging and respectful of my decisions, another one completely scoffed at me.You see, my goal was to be a stay at home mom. My professor made it clear that she thought I would be completely wasting my talents and abilities to "only" be a stay at home mom. 

But I believe, as Wallace did, that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. And frankly, even if I thought I would only impact my children and no one else, I would have no problem being a stay at home mom. When I say that, I in no way am trying to put down mothers who work, I am simply saying that I do not feel I wasted my time, talents, abilities, or education by being a stay at home mom.

We mothers have enormous capability to impact the world by our influence on our children. I have heard countless stories from people in their biographies of the mother being a supreme influence in the life that person. I imagine that all people, if they were to write a biography, could pinpoint significant moments from their mothers that brought them to where they are today. 

The next time you are feeling like your role as a mother is insignificant, remember this poem. You are influencing the world. Make it a good one.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mama's Healing Touch Soothing Postpartum Herbal Bath {Giveaway}

After I have a baby, I am quite consistent about the stitz bath. I make sure I get that in each day for at least two weeks so I can speed up healing and comfort. For that reason, I was excited to find out about these herbal baths from Mama's Healing Touch. These baths are organically made from 5 herbs used for healing and antiseptic qualities. You can see the ingredient list in the Etsy store. You can use the herbs in a bath, stitz bath, or squirted onto a pad and frozen (she calls it a "padsicle").

You are entering to win 4 tea style bags. Each bag is good for one bath or 2-3 stitz baths. 

I obviously am not postpartum right now to be giving it a try, but I tried it out anyway and liked it as it was. It smells nice! I would definitely use this if I were postpartum.


"Thank you to all the Babywise Mom readers who are joining the raffle. Even if you aren't the lucky winner I'm happy to give 2 extra bags with your purchase of Mama's Healing Touch on my Etsy store
Just mention Babywise Mom after you purchase and I'll give you 2 extra bags for being a loyal Babywise Mom reader :)
Mama's Healing Touch"

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check each winning entry to make sure it was valid.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight October 17, 2014.
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dealing with the 45 Minute Intruder

Today I am posting at The Journey of Parenthood on dealing with the 45 minute intruder. The highlights are:
  1. Try to figure out why
  2. Know the heirarchy
  3. Honestly look at self-soothing ability
  4. Give baby time to go back to sleep
  5. Know you will make mistakes
  6. Accept and don't stress
Head on over to read the details.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Heartbreaking Sorrow Strengthens Us

image source

October is officially National Pregnancy Baby Loss Awareness Month in the United States. I typically only write on the topic in April since that is when I lost my baby boy, but I felt compelled to write this month as well.

Losing a baby is nothing short of heart breaking. Soul breaking. It really just kills you. As a mother, you wonder what you did wrong to cause this to happen. I know moms who still blame themselves 20 plus years later. We women are hard on ourselves and when it comes to protecting our children, we have a hard time ever forgiving ourselves even if there was nothing we could have done to cause the problem or to prevent the problem. 

I remember when we lost our baby boy, my husband commented that he felt like someday, we would know why it had happened, but that we wouldn't know for a while. I can think of lots of reasons the experience has strengthened me, but I do feel like the greater purpose of it all is still unknown to me. 

I also remember the utter fear I had while pregnant with Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn came after our baby Braxston. She is my rainbow baby. I feared for her life in earnest for many years after she was born. I spent her newborn months positive she would die at any moment. I spend several years of her life with every fever sure it meant she was about to die. 

When I was pregnant with Katilyn, my amazing doctor was kind enough to do an ultrasound on me any time I wanted to. I could walk on in and he would do it. In the early weeks, he monitored me weekly. One week I went in and Kaitlyn hadn't grown at all in the last week. That is a bad thing. I went home a complete mess. I prayed to the Lord and let Him know I was not strong enough to experience the loss of another baby. I don't think anyone is strong enough for one loss of a baby. My heart aches for mothers who lose baby after baby. The strength they possess is nothing short of a miracle. It is only through the Lord that we can make it through these times. To finish my story, when I went in the next week, Kaitlyn had doubled in size from the previous week. She did two weeks of growing in one. Obviously she made it through (though she had a rough start to life. She went to the NICU shortly after being born. It seriously shot my nerves). 

I love this quote:

"...there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before."

Times of trial and difficulty usually result in one of two ways--you either become stronger in your faith or bitter in your faith. I pray you will turn to the Lord. I pray you will allow this sorrow to strengthen you rather than tear you down. With the Lord, you can do it. 

October 15 is a day set aside for grieving parents to come together. At 7 PM in your time zone, you light a candle and leave it burning for one hour. The idea is that if everyone does this, a wave of light goes around the Earth. See for more. I love this because I think it is important for us to speak of and support those who have lost a baby.

See Also:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Brinley Toddler Summary {26 Months Old}

Brinley came in dressed like this. I said, "Hey
Brinley!" She replied, "No, I Super Why." Ha!
This is a summary for Brinley from 25.5-26 Months old.

Sleeping was pretty good. There have been no more disrobing and removing the diaper incidents. Hallelujah. I seriously don't think I could handle a time walking in to poop smeared on anything. All of you moms who have endured such an event are rock stars in my book. (Knocking on wood here!).

She did get into a pattern. We had put her to bed one night and she started to cry. My husband went in to her and determined she was in pain. She said it was her tummy. So he gave her some gas drops, rocked her, and put her back to bed. Everything was fine.

The next night, we had a repeat performance. 

And the next.

I think she started out truly having pain, but then quickly caught on to the pain equaling visit from dad and she started claiming pain when there was none.

Finally one night, I got on the monitor and talked to her rather than going in. I told her it was time to go to sleep. She did, with no trouble. She didn't try her tactics the next night or since.

This is totally how Brayden was and is to this day. We still have the once-a-quarter time when he gets out of bed every night for several nights in a row until I threaten (with real intent) to take video games away for a month if he keeps getting up. Then he stops. Brinley has always reminded me a lot of Brayden in her personality, so it doesn't surprise me for her to be doing the same things at bed. The funny thing is that they are both extremely obedient people by nature. 

Eating was good. Brinley got impatient with being done and waiting to get down. My husband started a "put your hands in the air" thing when she is done so she doesn't throw her food on the floor or smash it up while waiting to get down. Much nicer. 

She also is wanting to not sit in a booster seat for meals. She wants to sit like a big kid. So we are phasing out of that.

Playing has been really cute. With the kids in school every day, I have been taking her for a walk each day. At home, she now puts her babies in her toy stroller and pushes them everywhere she goes. I think it is cute to see her imitating me. 

Brinley isn't really a very "good" tantrum thrower. She isn't very loud and she gives up quickly. She had a tantrum at the library. She placed herself carefully on the floor and had her tantrum. It was quite funny. Here she is:


8:45 AM--Wake up/Breakfast
9:15 AM--Get ready
9:30 AM--Walk
10:30 AM--Outside Time
11:00 AM--Independent Playtime
12:15 PM--Lunch
12:45 PM--Learning Activity
1:00 PM--Sibling play with McKenna
1:30 PM--Nap
5:00 PM--Free Playtime
5:30 PM--Dinner
6:00 PM--Family Time
7:30 PM--Get Ready for Bed
8:00 PM--Bedtime

Monday, October 6, 2014

Favorite Toys 2014

I have compiled many lists of favorite toys we have over the years. Each Fall, I like to add to those lists with new toys we love.

Brayden--9 Year Old Boy
Snap Circuits Jr.. Brayden has LOVED this. It is a toy that allows your child to explore how electronics work. I think most kids have a fascination with how things work. Brayden is especially inquisitive about things like this. It is a lot of fun. This kit is labeled for 8-15 years. Brayden is smart and I worried a "jr." kit would be too juvenile too soon, but he has had it for about six months and still enjoys experimenting with it.

Kindle. Last Christmas, we got a Kindle for Brayden. We both love reading on our own Kindles and find we read a lot more on a Kindle than a book. I am shocked--my husband had to talk me into getting one because I was adamant that I wouldn't like reading it unless it was a book. My husband has the Fire and I got the Paperwhite because it needed to be like a book. I love it! Brayden has also loved his. If you have a reader, this is a great gift. 

Kaitlyn--7 Year Old Girl
Klutz books. If you haven't heard of Klutz, you really should check them out. They have all sorts of books of instructions on how to do things, from making clay charms, elaborate paper airplanes, pipe cleaner, face paint...lots of fun things. She got the Friendship Bracelets book. 

Rainbow Loom. You have probably heard of the Rainbow Loom by now. This is a huge passion of Kaitlyn's these days. She loves making these bracelets for just about everyone she can think of.

McKenna--5 Year Old Girl
VTech - Brilliant Creations Advanced Notebook. I did a lot of research before settling on this for McKenna for Christmas last year. She still loves it to this day. VTech is a great brand and this computer is no different. It is realistic looking and it is full of educational games. I like that it is something she can do with an "electronic" without it being something super expensive (like an iPad or Kindle) and also without it being something connected to the Internet or my files that can be accidentally deleted (like my computer). 

Frozen Anything. Anything Frozen related is a big hit with McKenna right now. Books, dolls, and dress up are at the top of her list. The Disney Frozen Complete Story Playset is a fun one for playing with the whole cast. The Frozen Read-Along Storybook and CD is very well done. The Butterfly Craze Girls Snow Queen Costume is a great hit (though after I read the reviews, I made sure to be positive you are buying from Butterfly Craze when it is in your cart). The Frozen: The Essential Guide (Dk Essential Guides) is another great book. The DK books are always fun if you child has a passion for the subject.

Brinley--2 Year Old Girl
VTech - Learning Tunes Karaoke. Brinley loves to sing. For her birthday, I was trying to think of what I could get her that would be in line with her love of singing and I thought "Karaoke!" After some looking around, I found this machine. She loves it. I love that it is kid-safe. It has lots of fun settings and lots of fun kid-tunes. 

VTech Touch and Teach Word Book. This book is great for independent playtime. You touch a picture and it tells you what the word is. You can also go into quiz mode where the book says a word and you touch the correct picture.

Balance Bike. The balance bike is actually not something Brinley has any real interest in at this point, but we have a neighbor boy two weeks older than she is who is crazy for his balance bike, and he is amazing on it. He moves so well. So I think it is something to be considered for this age group. I have heard good things from people with a balance bike so far as being good to do instead of a bike with training wheels. 

Related Posts/Blog Labels:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Time Change Reminder

image source
We are approaching it. That time of year when we are on the count down to the time change. The time change will be November 2 in the USA. You can easily "google" what the time change would be where you are. I have several posts on the topic--see the list below!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Surviving Traveling

The holidays are coming up and with that often comes lots of travel. I recently asked on Facebook for ideas on how people survive traveling with children. Here are the ideas!

  • Visualize: A method I have used for a lot of years is to visualize as I make my packing list. What will I do there? Day one, what will I do? What types of clothes and shoes will I need? Where will I sleep? Where will I go? Thinking through it like that really helps me to be less likely to forget something.
  • Try to Not Stress About Forgetting: My husband often reminds me that in most cases, we can buy most things we forget. If you are going somewhere near stores, you can usually buy something you have forgotten. 
  • Pack Medicine: I don't know why, but I have often had my kids get sick while we are on vacation. We rarely are sick enough to need any sort of medicine, and it seems most times we do, it is when we are not home. Last summer, McKenna got an ear infection. I have lots of things at home to help ear infections, and some of them can only be found at certain stores. It wasn't fun to drive around a strange place I didn't know hoping to find some herbal remedies while McKenna was in pain. I never did find them. My policy is now to bring those things with me! Even something like IB Profen is handy. If your baby spikes a fever at midnight, you might be able to drive to walmart, but do you want to have to? 
  • Fitting it All In: Laura has a great method for fitting everything she needs into her carry on:

    "On bringing enough diapers for a day and supplies on board in case something happens, I vacuum seal them in food saver bags and put them in the bottom of the diaper bag (back pack is best for traveling imo)"
  • Keep a List: Jennifer says she keeps a master packing list on her phone. If she ever is on vacation and thinks, "I wish we had this!" she adds it to her phone right away. I think this is a great idea. I keep wanting to have just one list to pull from instead of "Reinventing the wheel" each time I pack. 
  • Spread Out the Packing: Jennifer says she likes to spread out the packing time over a week instead of cramming it into one day. She even shared her list. Here it is:

    ""The week before (one per day):
    1. Borrow Mom's travel bed(s). Plan the sleeping situation: who is sleeping where and in what.

    2. Decide on what time to leave, and think through what stops you want to make. (Meals, bathroom, gas, also factor in traffic, construction, etc.) Make sure you both know the plan beforehand.

    3. Wrap presents. There's plenty to do the night before without doing that too.

    4. Think through the food plan and purchase groceries you need. (NO BANANAS, they make everything smell & taste like bananas.) Going grocery shopping the night before a trip is unnecessary stress. Make sure G has plenty of dairy free snacks and food. (Also check your diaper and wipes stock.) Bringing drinks and sandwich stuff on the road is a big time money and time saver. Bake some cookies or muffins and freeze them to bring on the road. Saves even more money and is yummy!
    (It is less stressful to have breakfast on the road. It sounds nice to have breakfast at home before we go, but it works out more stressful because of the mess. Plus the less time the kids are up before we go, the better. It's best to pack the car night before and just get up and go.)

    5.) Pack the kids' toys. Maybe get a couple of fun dollar items, but no need to go overboard. Also, fill the Nalgenes with water.

    6.) Check car:
    -current insurance card in glovebox
    -Toll Tag
    -wash & vacuum 
    -oil change?
    -fill 'er up

    7.) Pack meds & vitamins

    8.) Bake & freeze bread loaf so you'll have bread when you get home.

    The day before:
    1. Pack up except for morning-of items. At the same time, lay out clothes for the next day.
    2. Collect all the trash and take it to the dumpster.
    3. Fill up the water as late as possible. Don't want to return to an empty tank!
    4. Try to make sure you get dishes and laundry completely caught up on and put away. Shine the sink!
    5. Help kids pack a few things they'd like on the road. Let them know the plan for the morning, and make sure they know what they'll be doing while parents load the car (movie, room time).
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  • Don't Try to Entertain Your Kids: Katie said they regularly drive 12 hours straight to see family--and she doesn't turn on movies until the last two hours! I am seriously impressed with this. She pointed out that older kids don't really need TV to entertain them and babies don't pay attention to TV long anyway.

    I think she has a great point here. I grew up doing frequent long road trips, and we really had nothing to entertain ourselves other than the view out the window and the music coming out the speakers. We didn't get to dictate the music, either. Dad got to choose since he was driving. Some of my favorite memories in life are from our road trips. Other readers commented on how they limit the TV time, also. Here is Katie's comment:

    "We regularly drive 12 hours straight to see family. I think IP at home has actually been key. We do very, very little to entertain the kids in the car, although they do get to watch movies for the last 2 hours of the drive. There are a few snacks, a few toys, some conversation, and just general looking out the window."
  • Don't Sweat the Crying: Sometimes kids will cry while you are traveling. It is a hard thing for them to be short on sleep when they aren't used to the sensation of feeling tired. Katie also said:

    "I think my biggest travel tip is not to get too worked up about some crying if you have kids under 3. Especially in the car. Our 3rd kid is a noisy kid all around. We have listened to hours of crying in the night in hotels when she was OT. We have listened to crying in the car. Etc etc. We all just learn to live alongside it while either she works it out, or if someone is able to distract her, that's great too. "
  • Have a Routine on the Road: Children thrive on routine and you can have a routine on the road, also. Katie also said:

    In the car, we rotate: breakfast, drink, toys, snack, drink, toys, snack, drink toys. When nothing works, it's "naptime" "
  • Be Prepared for Messes: Dana suggested you have a kit for cleaning up the car in case someone gets sick. Such great advice! No one wants to be in the middle of nowhere with puke in the car and nothing to clean it with. Nope. You can extend this advice to other types of messes, too. Plastic bags and wet wipes can often come in handy.
  • Limit Toys: Dana says they limit each child to two toys in the car, even for long trips. Otherwise things get dropped and people get upset. 
  • Pack Meals for Car: Dana packs lunch and dinner and people can eat as they get hungry. This saves time since you don't need to stop for food. It also saves money and you aren't living off of fast food the whole time. 
  • Snacks: Snacks can keep people occupied. It can also be a novel thing if you don't typically have snacks in the car. Dana says they like crunchy snacks to keep the driver awake; their favorite is baby carrots. 
  • Car Seat Trays: Jessica suggested using car seat trays so the kids can color. I also have these and find them handy. However, don't feel like the official tray is necessary. You could use a cookie sheet or a "tv tray" as well. 
  • Contain Things for Kids: Jessica also had a great idea for making sure the kids can reach their things:

     I also put a laundry basket in between the seats so they can reach stuff themselves."
  • Stop for Breaks: We all want to make it there fast, but a lot of people found it helpful to stop somewhere and let kids play for 30-60 minutes mid-way. It gets hard to sit still for so long! You might get there an hour later, but you probably will get there happier.
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  • Divide and Conquer: I love this advice from Caitlin:

    "If there's 2 adults, have a plan when it comes to boarding. I would leave the toddler with hubbie while I boarded first, set up everything how I want it, bags in the right spot, amusements accessible, etc. so by the time they had boarded, the toddler has burnt off more energy, less time spent confined, waiting for take off, and I was cool, calm and collected so hubbie could take a minute to get comfy too."
  • Flying Alone: Jessica says when she flys alone, she gets new, cheap, novel toys for the kids.I remember my mom doing this for flights and I found it really excited!

    "Flying with 2 kids alone, use a stroller, buy a bunch of dollar toys, magnet play things, and snacks. If the youngest can be in a mobi wrap or whatever, do that."
  • Bring a Change of Clothes for Kids: Jessica also suggests you bring a change of clothes for each child (which is really a good policy for a lot of places you go!).
  • Skip "Rules:" This is specifically talked about in the Babywise books. We all have technology rules and limits, snacking rules and limits, etc. But when you are crammed in an airplane with a load of strangers, it is a moment it is perfectly acceptable to allow more screen time than you might or allow more snacking than you might. 
  • Bring Lysol Wipes: Laura shared the idea to bring Lysol wipes to clean the seats and everything around it since children touch everything.
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  • Embassy Suites: Alena says she survives the hotel by always staying at an embassy suite because there is always a closing door between the spaces. I am definitely willing to spend a bit more money in order to have better sleeping accommodations. I know we will all be happier if we sleep better. We want to enjoy our vacation.
  • Get Creative for Sleep: Steffi points out that you can get creative with sleeping arrangements. She says:

    "If you can't find an embassy suite at a hotel, put the p'n'p in the bathroom ..We've done it before and our LO hasn't shown any damage so far"
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