A Little Genius Game to Enhance Color Learning

There’s no better way to learn something than through play, as the great Comenius said in the 17th century… There are numerous games and didactic toys out there, especially now when home schooling is becoming mainstream and future genius production seems to be the way a woman can make a mark in this world (you ARE taking these words with a few pinches of salt, aren’t ya? 🙂 ).

I have discovered a neat little company out of Poland while looking through children’s books at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. GRANNA company has very nice didactic table games for children and families, most can be adjusted for different ages. The boxes alone are really attention grabbing, but the Rainbow game immediately caught my eye, perhaps because I am secretly a gypsy caught in white chick’s body – at least when it comes to clothes and color perception.

The game is really easy and you can play it with very young children – the play board is sturdy and the little play pieces with colorful pictures are not small enough that a 2-year old could swallow them. The objective of the game is to place photos of different objects on the play board according to their color. There is also a die with colored sides, but you can leave it for older children to play a different version of the game. 

Here are the sweet little tokens with beautiful photographs:

Aditya at 2 years made sense of the game truly fast and was able to play with the pieces all by himself, just being observed. In reality this means that children will be attracted to the game more often, because there will be no frustration.

We have also been using the reverse side of the board for different activities – find the objects from our tokens, find all purple (yellow/ green…) objects, name this thing etc. The game has proven to be a hit for both, color learning and expanding vocabulary.

If you’re crafty, you can surely make a similar game at home yourself (send me links if you do! I bet your versions will be creative and amazing!), but if you want it pronto, Amazon (as always) is here to the rescue:

http://amzn.to/2dXlTfQ

This post may contain affiliate links (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for your support by reading and commenting🙂

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What One Mother Told Me about Breastmilk Is MAGIC!

One conversation with a stranger can change your life. (When your life is changed, you can change the lives of those around you.)

We have been recently visiting my family back in Czech Republic and took a trip to ČeskĂ˝ Krumlov (a UNESCO Heritage town, a must visit if you ever get to go in that direction 🙂 . We stayed in a small B&B and one day when my toddler took longer to wake up, I waited for him to finish his breakfast while others went to get ready for the day. We were the only people left in the kitchen aside for the “breakfast lady”. So we started talking. About kids, obviously, that’s what mothers do (here comes a stereotype, but let’s face it… that’s what mothers really do 😉 ). She said she had three kids, but then added something that sounded a little strange. Something along the lines “We had only two kids, but then fate wanted us to have the third one.”

And I had to take a sip of tea, you know, that sip you take when you’re having breakfast with a stranger and they say something you need to replay in your head without them knowing you are hitting the rewind button. That sentence could have meant so many things…

She must have sensed what was going through my mind and asked: “Did you breastfeed?”

“Well, yes, we’re actually still breastfeeding. My family is making fun of me, that I will have to follow my son to his university, so he could get his daily milk!” (Aditya is more than 2,5 years old.)

“I breastfed my first child for 1,5 years, but with the second one I got some nasty infection and had to be on a course of antibiotics, so I had to stop breastfeeding when he was less than one month old. By the time I was off antibiotics, my milk has disappeared,” she continued. (She was about my mother’s age and from what I remember my mother telling me about her pregnancy and the times when I was a toddler, women didn’t have access to breast pumps and other things that would have taken care of the situation now.) Very sadly, she continued her story: “He used to get sick a lot, but it wasn’t suspicious until he was about 3 years old, when doctors diagnosed him with some rare blood disease. He had to get lots of blood transfusions and spent lengthy time in various hospitals, doctors weren’t sure, how long he had to live. When he was almost 5 years old, the doctors lots all hope and told us, he had about a year, maybe a little more to live, but he wouldn’t make it past 7 years of age in the best predictions…”

By this time I was hoping for a happy end, some miracle, if you understand.

“Someone told me, that breast milk might make his condition better. But where to get it from? So me and my husband decided to try for another baby and God granted our wishes and I got pregnant with our third baby. When she was born, I breastfed her and then our 6 year old son, too. It was very weird at times to nurse such a big boy, but I saw it as the only option.”

She nursed her son together with her small daughter for nearly a year, and within that time his blood test were coming back better and better! By the end of that pivotal year, his condition improved so much, that the doctors always took his blood for testing twice – they couldn’t believe in such turn of events and were astonished by the reason behind his betterment. He continued to improve and by the time he was 18 years old, he didn’t need any transfusions and special medical treatment any more. Breast milk was the miracle that saved this mother’s son’s life.

She smiled finishing her story: “He’s in his thirties now and has a family of his own. Sometimes he tells me ‘Mom, I remember how you were breastfeeding me’. It still feels incredible we saved his life by having another baby.”

I Love This! No, actually I hate it! The Difficult Life of a Toddler

Let me tell you about a person in my life. Somebody I have to deal with every single day. This somebody is not an easy person. In fact, this someone drives me crazy every now and then. One day this person loves some food and the next day we can’t serve it, although that’s what we literally lived off for a week. There are days when the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner is OK, and then there are days when searching for the good-enough food is fruitless (pun intended)…

There are days, when it seems like this person’s drawers are full of cool clothes; then this closet that’s bursting on the hinges has nothing to offer and no shoes are not good enough, all outer layers are horrible and we just need to go shopping.

Sometimes going to the park seems like the best idea ever, but the next day it’s too cold/hot/noisy/quiet… the complains don’t stop once they start!

Sometimes any book will do. All the pages are so colourful! So beautiful! Sometimes a library won’t have a single sheet that could satisfy the moodiness…

Shall I go on? You get the idea. By now you think you know who I’m talking about. I bet I know who you’re picturing right now. You think I am describing my toddler, right? Right? Well, I have just described a full grown adult. This is me. Totally me.

Not an easy person. Opinionated, yet lost at times. Sometimes I just know what’s planned for the day ahead and then sometimes I just can’t manage what was supposed to be done quick… Sometimes I crave a food that I normally dislike. There are moments when a certain dress is fabulous and then I want to toss it in the bin. We all have moods, tastes and thoughts that change with outer (and inner, let’s not forget inner 😉 ) influences.

Now imagine the toddler you thought I was talking about. He has good days and not so good days. But he can’t always decide what he would do, eat, wear, because he doesn’t have the experience and the abilities… and that’s just the beginning. His problem is that he can’t fully express himself yet. Even if he could say a few words, even if he could sign, he wouldn’t be able to tell me exactly how and WHY he feels in a certain way. Again, even we adults aren’t always able to do that – why else there would be help lines, shrinks and group therapies? And BFFs? And …. well, even Sigmund Freud was a big boy when he was trying to get into our heads.

It’s a difficult world out there. It’s a VERY difficult world inside too. Every time I am about to get mad, because this little man is acting up, not eating, not “cooperating”, I have to remember how much effort it sometimes takes me to be a big girl. How much effort it sometimes takes to control myself and reason with my inner alter egos.

I have to remind myself of something I read once: that this beautiful person, that my toddler is, is not GIVING me a hard time, he is HAVING a hard time. And I am here to help him, guide him and teach him how to be a big boy. And by doing that I am helping myself, guiding myself and teaching myself how to be an adult.

Come here, Aditya! Mommy needs a hug!

Lice Removing Treatment That Will Nourish Your Scalp and Hair

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After the flu season there’s the lice season… it’s getting warmer and all sorts of animals are waking up from hibernation and multiplying. And if you or your child ever has had lice, you know that these little things are banging good at it (no pun intended 🙂 ). A few of my friends whose children go to school or kindergarten have already posted some teary notes about it.

My little one hasn’t caught them yet, but seeing how little kids, once they learn to walk and run, really rub the elbows (and heads) at the park and the sand pit, I wouldn’t be surprised that one day instead of the old ladies oohing and aahing over Aditya’s hair, it would be an alpha louse: “Oh, look at all that hair! What a jungle gym! That would be a great place to raise a family!”

So before a lousy louse catches a ride, here is a recipe for a preventative spray:

  • 10 drops Tea Tree essential oil (a.k.a. Melaleuca Alternifolia)
  • 10 drops Lavender essential oil 
  • 8 oz spray bottle, filled up with filtered water.

Shake before application. Apply a few sprays after washing. Lice are deterred by the smell, your kids will on the other hand love it.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, so let’s not pretend that any “whatever”-proof spray is 100% effective… sigh… I know, the lice made it! Well, don’t hang your head down yet (oops, another pun???) and make this LICE REMOVING TREATMENT!!! (Yes, I’m screaming it)

Combine:

  • 1 table spoon of jojoba or olive oil
  • 5 drops Thyme essential oil
  • 5 drops Rosemary essential oil 
  • 5 drops Lavender essential oil 

Massage the mixture into the hair and scalp before bedtime (nap might be too short for this to work completely, but do it if you must at first sighting of lice). Wrap head in towel and leave it on overnight or as long as possible during the day. Repeat until you are sure there is no more sign on the little freeloaders.

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Lice are killed by the essential oils and the carrier oil will suffocate the eggs, but all ingredients are excellent as a scalp nourishing mask. Keep brushing lice out daily and you will get rid of them naturally knowing your child’s skin will not suffer (or your own, lice are actually quite non-judgmental when it comes to age).

And where to get essential oils? I prefer and recommend Young Living Essential Oils, especially around children, because of their wonderful guarantees. You can get the oils here.

Oh and one more thing. Don’t reuse that towel…. (and treat your bedding with some heat in your dryer).

Happy lice hunting!

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How To Clean House with A Toddler (And Have Fun Doing It)

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I have an album on Facebook called “Let me help you, mommy!” and, well you guessed it, it’s not really about my toddler helping me ;). Every now and then the mess he manages to create is so epic, I have to take a picture, so I can shame him at his 18th birthday party! Just kidding. Or not. 😉

He gets to make mess and I get to clean up. But I don’t want this to be like that forever. You know, one day he will have a dorm room and I don’t want him to be that messy, that even his roommates would call and beg me to come and pick up after him! I thought I should start teaching him how to arrange his toys till he still thinks it’s all part of the fun. So I make him a part of the cleaning process. I don’t leave clean up or putting toys and books away for the time he’s asleep. I clean up with him. He’s watching and lately he started helping me. He hands me things, puts books in the bookcase, stuffs kitchen towels back in the drawer. No, he can’t fold towels and the books are not arranged very well, but I have a feeling that he’s doing a much better job than even some teenagers.

We turned the tidying into a game, that develops mathematical thinking and expands vocabulary!

While we are clearing up mess, we pick up things and talk about them (ok ok, I do the talking). We count toys and books that are being put away, another time we pick them by size – I take the big ones, he takes the small ones. Another time, we arrange toys by colour. Or by shape (is it just our house, or does your child have more than 4 balls too?). There are limitless variations to the game and if you make it part of play early enough, there is a chance your child will connect cleaning with play. Priceless, if you ask me! Maybe, just maybe, in some parallel crazy universe, when playing this game, you will wish there were more things to mess up, so you can play longer… no… I didn’t think so either. Just an attempt at a joke.

Happy cleaning!

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Raising a Multilingual Baby

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I’m sure this happens to all mothers (and fathers) on a regular basis (since we were pregnant, as far as I can recall): a perfect stranger tells you how to raise your child…

I often hear people’s opinion on which language I shall speak to my own child! “Don’t you think we should understand what you’re telling your child?” Well, sure. In case you are included in our conversation. Otherwise, I am speaking to my baby. Stop listening. Am I too harsh? I think somebody telling me how to teach my baby to speak is harsh!

I would like my baby to understand his own family – I am Czech and most of my family doesn’t speak or even understand English. My husband is Indian and most of the elders in his family speak Hindi. And me and him communicate mostly in English (if you don’t count that hybrid language of ours as a separate newly invented tongue:). So if we want our child to speak to all his relatives, he will have to learn our native languages. And English will come naturally, it is all around him including our home. Are you skeptical, just like that lady know-it-all in grocery store? How did you learn your language? By listening and looking around! Now it makes sense, doesn’t it?

I speak to Aditya exclusively in Czech, even in public. I don’t want to make exceptions, because then they become a habit. If somebody speaks to the baby or me in English, then of course, I reply in English. The rest is between my baby and me. My husband had to be reminded at the beginning, that he should speak to him in Hindi – he felt like I should understand everything he says. Now he gets it and actually enjoys speaking to Aditya in his native language. And I am learning Hindi like never before! See, two pupils instead of one;)

I think it is important that if a family lives in a foreign country, parents speak to their children in their native language. Around myself I see stories of regret:

One of my friend’s parents came to America from Cambodia and wished for their two daughters to speak good English, fluently and without an accent like themselves. Their daughters have been born here and only learnt English. When they were teenagers, the parents wished they spoke Cambodian at least a little, so they signed them up for classes – they still don’t speak almost any Cambodian. Every Sunday these two daughters join their parents for a lunch. They don’t talk very much – the daughters don’t understand everything their own parents say and the parents’ English isn’t good enough that they would understand everything their daughters talk about…

And another story: My grandmother’s parents worked for a few years in Canada where they learnt English. When they had an argument, they fought in English, so their daughter (grandma) wouldn’t understand. Until today she’s sorry they didn’t teach her English. She feels like her opportunities in life could have been different.

And then I see stories of success:

A Slovak friend living in India has two kids. They both speak English, Hindi and Slovak without problems. I saw their younger one when she was learning to speak. She had a cup of tea and told her mother in Slovak “hot, hot”, but her mother didn’t hear her at that moment, so she turned to her father and repeated in Hindi “hot”. Even at that age she already knew which language to use while communicating with her parents! (This is to those who say, that my child will be ‘confused’.)

I grew up in Czechoslovakia, which is now separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Each of the countries, even in union, used a different language (Czech and Slovak). Growing up, we spoke both languages. They were all around, TV was bilingual. We never considered ourselves bilingual, now I know we were, because kids who grew up in Czech Republic after the separation, don’t understand Slovak well anymore. It was easy and natural that we acquired both languages.

Babies are little geniuses when it comes to speaking. If you start early, they soak up all you offer!

There are, however two different approaches to raising bilingual/ multilingual children. You either are or are not a native speaker of the second language you want to teach your child. You can teach your child a language that is not your native, your child can actually learn a language that you don’t even speak. It’s all about the approach, but I have to stress here, if you are planning to raise your child bilingual, you will be more successful with a plan.

There are several myths about bilingualism, let’s have a look at some.

A child will become “confused” and mix languages if he learns more than one at a time.
>> Mixing is normal, just like kids like to mix games, stories and food, they will be mixing languages if they know more than one. This can actually add to their vocabulary later in life and it will definitely amplify their fantasy!

Bilingualism leads to language delay.
>> This was one I was told most about, but I never really worried. It seems like kids need to figure things out before they try them and sometimes they take longer (some kids learn to walk by trying and falling, some kids take more time and then all of a sudden start cruising along furniture; same applies to learning other things including language). Maybe your child won’t say much at first and then just spit out a whole sentence, who knows. And he doesn’t even have to be bilingual. Anyway, no scientific research actually confirms that bilingualism leads to language delay.

You have to be fluent in languages you’re trying to teach your children.
>> Even monolingual parents can raise their child bilingual. You can hire a foreign nanny, enroll them in a language program or learn a new language along with them. The key is consistency and commitment (consistency is the main reason I speak to my child Czech in nearly ANY situation).

Children just absorb language passively.
>> This is a dangerous myth, if you are really trying to teach your child a different language. To learn a language fluently, brain needs a stimulating environment, so just playing French radio will not “teach” your child French. How many times have you encountered an expat living in a foreign country for years and still barely understanding the native language? A simple immersion doesn’t mean that somebody will learn a language. Participation in the language is stimulating and only then appropriate synapses in brain can be formed.

If a child is not very intelligent, he cannot speak more languages.
>> A baby’s brain is created to learn ANY language in the world and learn multiple languages if you start early and right.

If a child doesn’t speak English by kindergarten, she or he will have difficulty at school and will have problems to read.
>> Children take much less effort to learn new things, including languages, than adults. While it is best teaching language skills before the age of 3, children are capable to adapt and learn languages well beyond 5 years of age. At that time it might be more dangerous letting your child concentrate on one language only (the official school language) and not supporting vocabulary development of the other languages your child was speaking and hearing until then.

It sounds like it is no easy feat to teach your child multiple languages, but don’t be hard on yourself. Think of  a plan and then just flow with it. Remember, you need to work smarter, not harder – it takes a village. Find a foreign language play group, hire a foreign nanny or enroll into a childcare facility that has foreign language programs or has foreign language speaking teachers.

Make it a point to get together with your foreign friends more often and let them talk to your child in their language. Let their children play with your child, they will be learning without even knowing it. Employ your language-talented family members for babysitting or find some smart programs that help children acquire richer vocabulary.

One such program, that we’re using at home, is Little Reader – your child can learn vocabulary in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Thai or Chinese (traditional or simplified), other language versions will be available with time. Although this program is made to teach children read, smaller kids will still benefit by learning new vocabulary (and learning a new language if you opt for non-English version).

What do you think? Are you going to try speaking another language at home or send your child to a language class? Give it a go, you can’t turn back time!

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How to sign up for Young Living Essential Oils

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If you clicked here, it means that you are probably interested in trying essential oils. I have spent a few months researching different essential oil companies and found the best quality and customer service in Young Living.

You can get them for 24% discount (wholesale pricing) when you enroll as a Wholesale Member. If you enroll as a customer, you will pay full retail prices. As a Member you will get access to wholesale pricing and a discounted starter kit (this is the only way to get the kit).

When you enroll as a Member, you are becoming a member of a discount club, it’s similar to being in a buying club like CostCo, Sam’s Club etc. Although this type of account is sometimes referred as “Distributor Account”, there is absolute no obligation to become a distributor of the product. You don’t even have any monthly minimums like lots of clubs or distributor based companies have. To keep your Member account active, you only need to spend $50 worth of products a year; in my experience, most Members spend more than that with their first purchase – there, you’re set for the whole year!

Once you experience the oils, your friends and family might want to try them too. If you decide to share them with others, this gives you an opportunity to earn commissions. But that is up to you. If you do not want to have anything to do with the distributing side, you can always refer your friends to this page. I can help them with any questions and setting a new account.

If you’re ready to start, click on this enrollment form (if the page isn’t loading, try this link).

Make sure that you select Wholesale Member.

Check that number 2422698 appears in both Sponsor ID and Enroller ID boxes (if not, please type it in). If you don’t enroll with my number, I won’t be able to give you access to my support and help you with questions or training how to use the products.

STEP 1 – fill out your personal information and set your account username and pin.

STEP 2 – select your starter kit. I recommend the Premium Starter Kit, because that is the only one that gets you 11 oils (!!!), diffuser AND samples of oils and Ningxia Red, plus educational materials to start with. Hands down best value. You can choose between home diffuser kit and bamboo diffuser kit (that one is $10 more expensive, but the bamboo diffuser is a looker:).

STEP 3 – Essential Rewards… you can skip this step for now, although I’m sure you will want to read on about it a bit later. Essential Rewards are a way to earn free oils and products 🙂 Some basic information is right here.

With your first order, you are already getting so much! But you can still add other products to your order. You will have a chance to review everything before finalizing your purchase.

To learn how to start with your brand new box of oils, I will be here for any questions and as a support. I can also add you to a private FaceBook group, where oil users share their tips, recipes and more. You can search, ask questions and interact as much or as little as you wish to.

Here is also access to a free Essential Oil Starter Guide.

If you ever decide to try the “business side” of oils, I will be with you 100% of the way providing training, free marketing materials and much more to set you up for success. But wait first when you try the oils – you will fall in love! Consider this a fair warning 🙂

So what are you getting in the Premium Starter Kit again?

  • The whole Everyday Oils Collection (10 oils, as a collection available for $170.72).
  • Home diffuser (separately sold for $83.88) or Bamboo diffuser ($111.51).
  • Bottle of Citrus Fresh blend.
  • Samples of Lavender, Peppermint, Lemon, Thieves and Peace & Calming oils.
  • 2 samples of Ningxia Red drink.
  • Brochures with information about the oils in your kit, Young Living company and more.

This all for $150 is a great value, but you can’t possibly put a price on the way this kit alone can change your life, health and values.

If you feel more attracted to the other options of Premium Starter Kits, you can choose the NingXia Red & NingXia Nitro kit or Thieves kit (with amazing cleaning and personal hygiene products).

When you’re done setting up your account, adding other products besides the Starter Kit (if you wish to), you will need to confirm your payment, then you will receive a confirmation email. Congratulations, now sit back and wait for the little box of wonder!

 

PREMIUM STARTER KIT v 2.0

UPDATE 02/02/2016

NEW Premium Starter Kit has a few new oils, even more exciting than the last version! Also check out all the new diffusers you can add to your kit.

2015 PSK v3.0

 

Is My Baby Right-handed or Left-handed? Is Laterality Strictly Hand-related?

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I remember the joy when my son clutched a toy for the very first time. My baby can hold a toy! “Oh wait”, said the voice of anxiety in the mommy head. “Is he right-handed or left handed?” “Come on, it’s too early to tell”, said another voice (I’d like to believe it was the voice of wisdom. Yep, it’s still somewhere there in the mommy brain.)
Of course it was waaaay too early to tell, but as a parent, isn’t it one of the things you’re asking too? My son is now 14 months old. He can hold things in both hands, he can pass things from one hand to another. Yet it’s still too early to tell. And is it that important? Are you going to love your child less if he’s left-handed? Or if you’re left-handed, are you going to like a righty less? Or are you secretly hoping, he or she will be left-handed – a hidden genius and rugged artist with the wildest imagination? Sometimes we just wave the hand and say ‘We parents worry too much.’
Not until the age of 3-4 (some sources say 2-3, as always, babies are individualities) can we talk about absolute laterality. Once babies start grabbing things, they may prefer one hand over the other. But before the age of 1 they actually should be using both hands and experimenting with both parts of their body equally. If they have very strict preference at this age, it could be because the parents hand them objects into one hand only; then it’s good to switch the hands here and there. If this is not the case, it’s good to check (preferably with assistance of a pediatrician) for a possible muscle weakness or underdevelopment.
When talking about laterality, most people think about hands first. But laterality refers to a preference for a whole body side. Humans’ ear and eye laterality should be ideally identical with hand laterality. If it’s not, it could lead to learning problems in the future – it may be crucial in the way a child processes information. So as we, parents, anxiously watch for the “handedness”, we should watch for possible signs where a child is using one eye or ear more when forced to choose.
Breastfed babies are in a slight advantage when it comes to eye and ear stimulation – they get usually fed from both breasts, so primary sound and vision stimulation changes with each breast. Bottle-fed babies tend to be held in the same position when being fed. If you have a bottle-fed baby, you might try to stimulate him in different positions.
The same applies if your diaper changing station is by the wall with a parent changing always from one side. You might consider either changing the side with each diaper change or, which is even better for you and the baby, move the table so the baby’s feet are towards your body and you look at your baby from above. This is by the way the most preferred diaper changing position in Motessori-style upbringing.

How to support muscle development in both hands? Children as young as 10 months can be handed crayons and showed, how to use them on paper. Don’t expect any miracles, your baby will need a few sessions to figure out things (and you’ll need a bit of patience trying to stop her eating the crayons:) ), but you can start with drawing some simple shapes, letting them scribble over them and filling them with different colours. Describe what you’re doing and you have just developed an educational game! Example:
Look, I’m drawing a blue square! Will you help me colour it? Now we’re making a red circle.
You can even make it a pre-diner game when one partner is preparing the meal and the rest of the family is waiting at the table (and you have a brand new family ritual!). While ambidexterity (equal skills with both hands) is very rare, children are natural learners and using both hands for easier tasks is a game for them, so even older children can take part and try drawing the same easy shape with each hand taking turns.

I like these triangular crayons  for the first experiments – they don’t roll away, are non-toxic AND washable. Washable is important. Mark my words…

Just remember – we all are unique and possess individual nervous systems – you cannot change your baby’s laterality and you SHOULDN’T try.

 

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for your support by reading and commenting 🙂

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How To Save Money With a Baby – Part 2

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In my last post I was sharing some tips that would save you money if you are trying to keep your costs down after having a baby (or just trying to be a good citizen of the Earth).

Many of us can’t resist a good deal, especially for things that we somehow determined our baby “will need”. If we must, let’s build a strategy! In the light of upcoming Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and winter Holiday sales, here is my way to keep things real:

  • Make a list of things you need. It will keep you in line:)
  • Once you have your list – rework it! Put the ‘needs’ on top and put the ‘wants’ at the bottom. Re-reading your draft will surely reveal some doubles and some non-essential items.
  • Visit shops that carry your items and see them in person (well before the sale and the stampede starts!). Some things look “bigger and better” in a catalogue or on-line. Some items will make you wonder, why they’re on your list at all once you see and touch them.
  • Write down prices and compare them in different stores and on-line.
  • Shop on-line if possible – this is about those big stores where people behave like herds of headless beasts on sale days. Battle for the Middle Earth belongs on your TV screen!
  • If you choose to hit the stores, have a bottle of water and a snack in your bag. I’m serious. It would be worse than a trip to IKEA 🙂
  • Spend your time wisely – don’t waste 3 hours running to 5 different stores to find a $5 toy for $4.50. Your time is also money! Big ticket items are worth more time invested (think a stroller or a car seat).
  • Once you buy, keep the receipts. You will be able to return your purchase if for any reason you decide it’s not wanted anymore – if you find the same item somewhere else for a considerably better price, the size of the clothes you bought is not correct, you decide you have enough stuff already (well done!).
    Some shops have stricter return policies for items on sale or in clearance, so make sure that you are aware of it.
  • Know your budget. Do you really want to run up your credit card debt because of a “great deal”?

Happy hunting!

 

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How To Save Money With a Baby – Part 1

Save money with baby2

Having a baby in your world is life-changing. For some of us, it’s the most important event of our lives, it’s the very existence we have and are… and logically there should be nothing we would spare to make our baby/ babies thrive and make happy. We would bring the sun and moon for them!

But is it always good to give everything? If money is the question – shouldn’t we save some for later as well? If money is not an issue – is it correct to have and give everything the eye sees and the mind desires?

Everyone should have ways to economize, it’s good for our wallets and it’s good for the Earth we hope to give to our children (please no Whitney Houston song here, if it gets stuck in your head, I cannot be held responsible… enough that after typing this, it’s already whizzing through MY head). There are many ways to save money when you have a baby, some are surprisingly easy and simple! The following list is by no means complete and I will return to some points later again,  otherwise this post would go forever, saving you no time;)

1) Buy less

This seems like DUH!, but tell me honestly, aren’t you sometimes really, really tempted to buy that cute dress or that toy on sale even though we have a similar one already?
There are many things we are led to believe we will seriously need by toy makers and big baby stores. Sometimes you just need one of each (hey, that’s not the same as one of everything ;).
Here you have to think about your own setting and situations you will likely find yourself with a baby in. For example if you travel a lot, you might consider buying a travel basinet, but don’t buy a travel bed. They are bulky even when folded and who wants to pay extra luggage fees? You could use a folding bed in your parents’ house, if you plan to visit a lot – it will be out of the way when you’re not there.
Another example are books. I fully support little readers and personally think that teaching your child to love books is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, BUT… does your kid need 15 different lift-the-flap books? Or 5 bathtub books? Or “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” in 3 sizes board book, 2 paper AND a bathtub version? See where I’m going? Some books will be useful only for a short time (i.e. black & white infant books), why don’t you spend your money on children’s classics you will read before bedtime? And make a good use of that library card!
An easy way to save on baby clothes: don’t create a little fashionista! Don’t pretend like your 8 months old won’t wear anything yellow or grey, your child will wear what you put them in… (hello, celebrity moms!). Your child doesn’t need a new dress every Sunday either.

2) Be old-fashioned

Every generation of children has more and more toys, books and hi-tech gadgets. Sometimes it’s worth asking your parents or grandparents what they owned and how they played. Or you can just walk down the memory lane and remind yourself that you were happy with much less as well!
Buy things that are lasting and will become a heirloom, get multitasking toys and learn activities that encourage open-ended play. Teach your children how not to be bored. And get out often!

3) Buy on sale

There are days on American calendar that are supposed to celebrate important events, but lately became an epitome of shopping sprees. While I don’t support shopping till you drop in lieu of giving an appropriate respect (i.e. recent Veterans Day), but at the same time I believe that if you can buy something 50% off after New Year, why would you buy it full price.
There are lots of websites that offer discounted baby and children stuff all year round: zulily.com, babysteals.com, kidsteals.com, babyhalfoff.com just to name a few.

4) Use memberships and monthly delivery services

Many websites with baby products have member-only services to (lure you in) and to save money. It’s worth discovering sites like Amazon.com (their Amazon Mom program offers 20% diaper subscription and free 2-day shipping, plus other perks like 15% off baby registry items), Diapers.com (subscribe & save programs and frequent sales), Honest.com (the Bundles, like Diapers & Wipes Bundle, save you a lot every month plus the products are absolutely safe and Earth-friendly).

5) Breastfeed

Our whole species survived because mothers did what was natural – breastfeeding. I will never blame a mother who didn’t breastfeed because of a medical issue, but that’s for a different post. Here I am writing about saving money and boy, breastfeeding is actually the most natural way to save while doing the most natural thing for your baby! Have you ever looked at baby food prices? Yes, your baby will become a toddler in a few months and before you know it he or she will be eaten by an omnivorous beast pretending to be that same baby and set on to break your bank in the grocery department. But before all that, you can save a few hundred by not using formula.

6) Reuse and recycle

Some ways to reuse are: using cloth diapers or going completely diaper-free (aka Elimination Communication), using washable breast pads and cloth wipes.
Scour garage sales, bookmark Craiglist on your computer, ask friends with bigger kids if they’re downsizing. Thrift stores have sometimes amazing things and once you’re done with them, you can donate or resell them again. Keep the cycle going. Halloween was a great example in the days just passed by – parents spend high sums for readymade costumes while one trip to a thrift shop could have yielded similar results (no offense, but some ready-made costumes looked like they came out of trash bin already…).
Make your own toys and activities. Make them with kids! Pinterest is an amazing resource; you had no idea what all you can make out of cardboard boxes, fabric scraps or empty water bottles (well, buying bottled water won’t exactly save you money either, get a water filter;). Have you heard of the saying that if you want your child to play, give them the box their toy came in?

7) Support local and handmade

Handmade doesn’t always come cheap, but with a few key items you are getting furniture/ toys/ decor that will last longer then flimsy cheaply made pieces. You’re exchanging quantity for quality and you might be able to resell your pieces well. Or keep reusing with more children. Some one-of-a-kind items can be also of collectors’ interest.
Create a relationship with a local farmer – we keep going to the same stand at a farmers market and the lad selling there already knows us. After exchanging family stories from the past week, we hand him $15 and a bag and he fills it with whatever is in season. We used to pay at least twice that much at the beginning… Making the “I know a guy” work for you!

8) Get one – give one

Babies grow and develop so fast, it’s inevitable that your closet will be soon full, storage boxes overflowing and cleaning after playtime will take longer. You need to clear some space! Get one – give one is just what it says, for every new thing get rid of an old one. Donate or sell old clothes and toys (or keep them nicely organized and stored for your next child). Get rid of broken toys, destroyed clothing and items your child is not using. Donate to a family in need.

9) Take a clue from other countries

In many countries people live with much less. Yet their children are happy, they still become scientists and lawyers and teachers and they find love and have families. Material stuff doesn’t make them happier or more content. Some of the local traditions and habits actually do. Bed sharing, room sharing and eating from one plate are to name just a few.

10) Give what’s always for free

Your baby needs you, your time, your love and affection, your loving touch, your voice, your guidance. All these are already free!

 

Some of the categories definitely blend together and have some points in common. They all could be a version of “Buy Less”! And while trying to live with less, make sure that your family and good friends are on the same boat with you – who wants to fight over presents on a baby’s birthday?

What are your tips for saving some dough with baby?

 

Save money with baby2