a word about toys

Sheesh. Toys are coming out of my ears at the moment. I remember feeling this kind of tightening, icky type of stress when I was pregnant. An I-Must-Get-Rid-Of-Everything-Around-Me-Until-This-House-Is-Virtually-Empty type anxiety that seemed to blow up and magnify every corner of our house that was filled with things. A few years ago I used to look around my house and see my own junk. Nowadays I am looking around and seeing toys.

TOYS.

EVERYWHERE.

This amazes me as we have been quite particular about the things we do and don’t give to N to play with. Musical CD players and things with buttons that scream at us are whisked away almost as soon as the present giver is out of sight. (Sorry). I have felt terrible about taking certain toys away, and very awkward when things are given as gifts that are larger than life and loud and gawdy and just aren’t our thing. I have often felt like a big mama-prude when for reasons unknown to me, these things just didn’t sit right, didn’t feel good.

I have become more comfortable over the last year about making choices about play things that I now know are good for my girl, despite what other’s might say or think (mainly those of the older generation and/or friends and family who don’t have children.) I used to think I just needed to loosen up, but then I made some careful observations of N in different environments. When she is surrounded by a lot of things/toys/stuff, and you actually take the time to sit down and quietly watch, it’s amazing what you see. She is like the tassie devil, going from one thing to the next, not really engaging in anything in particular. I have often seen her flinging things over her shoulders, discarding things where she stands as her eyes are already launching onto the next object.

Maybe this wouldn’t bother me so much, and I’d just put it down to ‘toddler behaviour’ if it weren’t for the fact that I have also quietly observed her with just a few simple toys around her – either at home, or at Montessori where there are plenty of other children around to distract her. I have seen her selecting one thing, sitting down and quietly engaging with it for a good amount of time. Yesterday she was playing with some small bits and pieces I had put in a wooden bowl – a gumnut, a stick, some finger puppets and some little wooden dolls. She pulled out the stick and was looking at it for a little while before saying, “Look Mummy, it’s an em-oo!” And yes, indeedy, that stick certainly did resemble an emu. She then spent time bopping it along the table and getting it to say hello to this and that. I think the emu even got to share her lunch and have a little drink of water.

I have been reading Simplicity Parenting recently, a book I bought ages ago but have never had the time to sit down and read properly. The bits I have read, I love. In it, Kim John Payne talks about “the power of less” and states, “A smaller, more manageable quantity of toys invites deeper play and engagement. An avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelm.” And, I might add, a gigantic mess for mummy to trip over, clean up, step on, argue with toddler about.

The storage of toys is also a constant dilemma in our relatively small house. It’s becoming even more of an issue now that we have two kids, and we are being given toys for the baby too. I was looking at all our toys today, and realised they are now found in almost all rooms of our house in some shape or form – bath toys, special toys in the cupboard, a box of toys in the back lounge, outdoor toys on the deck… it’s amazing how fast we have accumulated so much. I think this weekend could be a good time to start going through them and simplifying what we have.

That and all the sewing projects I want to get done, cooking for the week, gardening, book reading, coffee drinking, washing, park playing, dog walking…

Uh… maybe I should rethink the to-do list…

Happy Saturday!

can you play with me, mama?

If I got a dollar for every time I was asked, “Can you play with me, Mama?” by a certain 2 year old, I would be one very rich lady.

Trying to gather some activity inspiration, especially for those times when I am physically bound up with the baby or just exhausted, I asked some of my mama friends yesterday what types of activities they are doing at home with their toddlers. I wondered if I should be doing more beyond the endless books, puzzles, pasting and drawing to entertain her and provide her with structured things to do. We were TV-free until she was about 2, which was a lot easier when there was only one kid! Now we watch a bit of telly, often just so I can have a rest, but I hate relying on it too much.

Turns out, the other girls seem to be doing much the same as me, with the main structured activities including drawing, books and so on, but, like us, it’s the incidental things that happen in day to day life at home providing the most entertainment – folding the washing, helping to wipe down surfaces, feeding the dogs and the bunny, sweeping with the dustpan and brush while mummy has the broom, and so on.

I love the independence of the toddler age, it’s so great to slowly watch the big girl become more able to do things on her own, to have conversations (albeit repeated many times over: “Mama, can you play with me? Can you play with me, Mama? Mama, Mummy, Mum, can you play with me? Can you play with me at home Mum? Can we play Mummy?”), to understand instructions, to be able to help out a bit with little things and enjoy it – like going to get a face washer, or helping change the baby’s nappy. It’s easy to feel inadequate though when reading blogs and seeing amazing craft activities and so on that some amazing parents are doing with their kids. When it takes half an hour to set up an activity for five minutes worth of concentration, it is pretty hard to conjure up the motivation!

I try to have a few special things for her to do while I’m breastfeeding. Often she’ll just climb up next to me and pretend to breastfeed one of her teddies or dolls. This afternoon she crammed herself up as close as she could get to me while I was feeding, saying, “I’m just giving you some space Mummy.” Thanks for that! Other than trying to get as close to me as she possibly can, she has a sticker book, special crayons and textas, marbles and a few other things that come out of the hat at baby snack time.

What do you do at home with your little kids?

little changes

It’s a very useful thing to have a husband who works as a school teacher. Single ladies, take note. Although on school holidays the house can become quite a shambles, the good thing is, I have him at home and certain wonderful things get done. Like the painting of Baby’s room which has been on the to-do list since last September when we painted the kitchen and lounge room. While I was at work last week, Prince Charming got down to business.

Here are some before and afters.

And voila!

I made the most of the opportunity and did a huge cull of stuff. There was stuff everywhere in this room. Even though it looked kind of neat, stuff lingered everywhere. Some of it has been moved to other rooms, but a lot of it has gone to the op shop. I am feeling the need to clean out our life and rid us of all this stuff. I love driving to the op shop and handing it all over. It feels good.

I also used up some material I had lying around and made Baby a new doona cover and two pillow cases.

I’m really happy with how it has turned out. I’m also really happy with the fact that we didn’t buy a thing. The paint was left over from last year, and everything else we already had. This was more a process of letting things go. This is a good thing.

mooshy belly bunny :: tick!

Last week I mentioned I was making a mooshy belly bunny from Chez Beeper Bebe for Baby. There really are some great tutorials there so I suggest you check her out!

Well, here is another project completed, ticked off, done. I think next time I need to add some more stuffing and I definitely need to work on my embroidery skills. Nevertheless, Baby seems happy… and so does the bunny.

This really is a very simple project to make for your baby or as a gift, and it uses material from old t-shirts so you have the material lying around in your house already. Bonus!

You should give it a try, you really should!

toys, toys, toys.

We have a lot of toys. A LOT. It seems crazy to think about the volume of things we have been given during the course of Baby’s short life. Out of all the toys she has I can remember buying her just two of them, when I had a moment of weakness in our local Steiner toy shop. Everything else we have been given, minus a few random things I have bought from the op shop like the wooden bowl you can see in the picture above.

Over the last 18 months we have done a great deal of organising and learning, about the things that we want Baby to play with and be surrounded by, and the things that we don’t. The toys we decided we are happy for Baby to play with we had arranged on the bottom two shelves of the book shelf in our lounge room.

After a while though I could tell that Baby was bored and when she did have play time in the lounge she was just ripping things off the shelves one after the other. This equalled a huge mess for me but I also found it somewhat unsettling seeing her surrounded by millions of toys and not really engaging with any in particular because there were TOO MANY.

We get a weekly organic box of fruit and veg and since downsizing from the family box to the couples box we have been receiving the weekly food in a cute black cardboard box with a green labelled lid. I saved up some of the boxes instead of recycling them and covered their lids with part of an old sheet. I separated toys into categories (eg. soft toys, wooden toys, books, blocks, other) and then spread these out over the three boxes so there is a bit of everything in each box. There’s also a few out in the open as you can see, and a basket full of soft toys.

Now at playtime I just pull one box off the shelf and rotate through these. Much less mess for me and I appear to have a more content baby.

a teeny weeny pocket baby

I have been religiously reading the recently discovered (by me) Grow Mama blog, have you? Anissa has been hosting a series of creative mamas from all over New Zealand which has all been an absolute joy to read. Lots of very inspiring and imaginative women to read about folks.

I was especially excited to win a tiny yellow knitted pocket baby made by Sam from Forest Folk who was one of the creative mamas interviewed.

Our little pocket baby friend arrived on Friday and although I thought I’d have to put it away for a while until Baby was old enough, it has proved a hit. She has been carrying the little baby around chanting “Bubba, bubba, shhh. Bubba, bubba, shhh.” Pulling the little baby in and out of its knitted bed. It’s very sweet.

Thank you Sam and Anissa!

a play dough kind of day

I made play dough for the first time the other day. It wasn’t amazing, and I only had wholemeal flour which is why it is a tad on the lumpy side. But no one here seemed to notice the disfigurements and we had a dandy time. For about three minutes. Now the play dough is in the fridge… apparently it will last in there for a few months!

Here is the recipe I used… (please note, this recipe in full would make HEAPS. I used half the quantities and it made… HEAPS. Enough for three children I would think, but then again, I only have one, so I don’t really know for sure):

Mix together and dissolve:

3 cups salt, 2 tbs cream of tartar, 6 cups boiling water, food dye of your choice.

Add half a cup of oil plus 6 cups of flour and mix.

Hopefully it will entertain your child longer than the three minutes we had here. I think it is a bit beyond our 16 months. Will try again in a while!

P.S. Please note my vintage sheets drying in the background for the vintage sheet fat quarter swap!!