Browse Category: Kids

Denver Attractions, Memberships and Tips for Little Ones

Denver has so much to offer for little ones. Since summer is coming up, I thought I would put together a list of the more popular Denver attractions, membership options and tips for visiting with little kids.  Somehow we have managed to become members at just about every place in town ūüôā  This post is geared towards little ones 4 and under since that’s what I have experience with.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

If you are going to get a membership somewhere, this would be my recommendation.  It opens at 9am every day except Christmas.  We go at least once a week.  I love the museum because I can get in and out really easy – sometimes we go for just an hour.  They have planned all their exhibits really well for little kids.

Membership:  We started with an individual membership when the kids were under 3 since they could get in for free. With the individual version, I was the only named member and I would take the kids with me.  We upgraded to a family membership after my oldest turned 3 and now I can take the kids solo or we can go as a family without having to pay for my husband separately.

Tips:

  • Get to the museum right around the time they open (9am) because parking will fill up.
  • The welcome booth near the front of the museum has tons of hand stamps.  Kids get to pick the stamp they want (t-rex, wooly mammoth, etc.) but you typically have to ask the volunteer about it.
  • The Planetarium has a show daily at 10am called “One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure” and it’s so cute.  My kids all sat through the entire thing and wanted to see it again afterward.  It’s $5 for adults and $4 for kids 3 and up.  Under 3 is free.
  • The animal halls (2nd and 3rd floors) are so awesome and are rarely busy even if the rest of the museum is packed.
    • Check out the “fish pond” on the 2nd floor – this is a great place to let your kids play while you regroup.
    • The 3rd floor has a giant (fake) snake and toy alpacas (?) to ride on.
  • There is a new coffee shop on the 2nd floor right next to the middle elevators that has surprisingly good coffee and tea.  I love grabbing one of their chai lattes and walking around the animal halls.  They also have nitro coffee and other goodies.
  • During the week there are a ton of volunteers in the Dinosaur, Health and Space exhibits (and sometimes the animal halls).  Talk to them!!!  They are so helpful and my kids have learned so much from them.  A few weeks ago my toddler learned all about trilobites and today we all learned about tree rings.
  • There is a fun little play area (Tykes Peak) in the Health exhibit geared for kids 5 and under.  It is small and completely enclosed so I just send the kids in and stand at the entrance with the baby.  It’s a good break.
  • The Space exhibit has a really cool play area for little kids (under 5) where they can dress up like astronauts.  This typically gets really busy so I would recommend going there early in the day.  This is also a place that is enclosed with good visibility to I just stand at the entrance with the stroller and watch the kids inside.
  • The Discovery Zone is an area completely geared towards children.  Honestly, we only go to this occasionally because the kids enjoy the other exhibits so much.  It is really fun, but with multiple kids, I find it really difficult to manage on my own because they can run in so many directions.  If I was just taking one kid, we would definitely spend a lot of time in this exhibit.
    • In the back room kids can pet a hissing cockroach (with a volunteer’s help) which is pretty cool.
    • There is a great family restroom in the back with a small toilet for little kids.
  • The elevators at the front and back of the museum tend to get really busy.  I use the ones in the middle of the main hall and in the Leprino Family Atrium.

Denver Zoo

We love the zoo!  It has so much to offer and we really get a lot out of our membership. When it’s nice outside, we go to the zoo once a week.

Membership:  We started with the individual and guest membership so I could go with the kids and whoever I wanted (husband, mom, etc.).  Once my oldest turned 3, we moved to the family membership where my husband is the other named member but we received several free passes so I can bring other guests occasionally.

Tips: 

  • If you have little kids, don’t try to see everything in a single visit.  My kids can’t make it more than 2 hours at the zoo, so we just focus on a few exhibits with each visit.
  • Definitely bring a stroller!  The zoo is huge and requires a ton of walking.  My kids usually start off walking and by the end of the trip they are riding in the stroller.
  • The Lorikeet Adventure is really fun even for little kids.  You walk around an enclosed area with Lorikeets flying around.  You can buy nectar to feed the birds for $2.  It’s pretty tough for little kids to actually do the feeding, but I usually feed the birds myself and the kids really love watching!  If you go right when they open at 10am, the birds are super hungry and will tend to flock over to people with food.
  • They currently have a DINOS! exhibit which features animatronic dinosaurs.  There is one near the new EDGE Tiger exhibit.  In July they are going to have some special nights where kids can visit with all 21 dinosaurs – see http://denverzoo.org/dinosexhibit for more information.
  • The Explore the Shore Play area is great for little ones.  There is a sand play area that is open all year.  In the summer, there is a water play area that’s pretty enclosed.  It’s a great spot to take a break, however, I would recommend bringing a change of clothes because my kids tend to get pretty wet!
  • On your birthday, kids can get into the zoo for free.  They also receive a souvenir button, small ice cream cone, spin on the carousel and discount at the gift shop.  Even though we are members and don’t need the free admission, we still went for my son’s birthday and he thought the other extras were SO cool.  He still walks around with his souvenir button ūüôā  They have a limited number of “birthday slots” each day so you need to signup online beforehand here: https://tickets.denverzoo.org/DateSelection.aspx?item=1148 
  • Check out the new baby giraffe (Dobby).  He is so cute and just in the main giraffe exhibit.
  • There is also a new baby gorilla in the gorilla exhibit that’s super cute!

Butterfly Pavillion

Membership:  We have a joint family membership between the Butterfly Pavillion and Children’s Museum.  It was cheaper than buying separate memberships to each one.  The Butterfly Pavillion isn’t huge, but my kids absolutely love it.  We can easily get in and out in 90 minutes so it’s a great option for a quick outing.

Tips:

  • Make sure you see Rosie the tarantula!  Kids over 3 can hold her and they receive a sticker afterward.  My kids think it’s the coolest thing!
  • In the aquatics section, kids have the opportunity to touch a horseshoe crab and a starfish.
  • In the butterfly exhibit, don’t miss the turtle!  Sometimes the turtle is walking around the exhibit and other times it is hanging out in a little house which you can see from the walkway.
  • There is a play structure in the last room that is pretty well contained.  We spend a lot of time in there.
  • In the last room, there is also an interactive digging activity.  It’s not always staffed, but you should take advantage of it when an employee is there.  Last time my kids dug for beetle larvae…and don’t worry there is a hand washing station close by!

Botanic Gardens

Membership:  We have a family membership and I can bring up to 6 people per visit with me.  This is super nice because I could go with the kids and my parents without having to pay for additional tickets.  We primarily go to the York Street location but have been to Chatfield a handful of times.  The tips below only apply to York Street.

Tips: 

  • Check out the Mordecai Children’s Garden at the top of the parking garage.  We typically just spend all our time in this part.  The entire exhibit is devoted to kids!  During the warm months, they have a water activity area so bring a change of clothes!  This is my favorite place to take the kids over the summer.
  • Try a Seedlings class! The classes are for 18 months – 6 years old.  You can sign up for an entire session or just drop in for a single class – they are so flexible!  The classes are $10/each for members and they are completely worthwhile!  Each class is different, but they typically read a book, do 1-2 crafts, have an outside activity and participate in some sort of sensory activity.  I’m amazed at how much they pack into a single class and how age-appropriate the classes are!  I honestly can’t believe they pack so much into each class! You can sign up for classes here: https://www.botanicgardens.org/program-series/seedlings

Children’s Museum

Membership:  We have a joint family membership between the Butterfly Pavillion and Children’s Museum.  It was cheaper than buying separate memberships to each one.  The Children’s Museum is awesome, but I would recommend more than one adult to watch the kids because it’s a sensory overload type of place.  I took the kids by myself over spring break and let’s just say I’m still recovering from our trip ūüôā

Tips:

  • Over the summer, they have a huge water play area outside.  They also have a giant sandbox and other play areas outside.  It’s awesome!  My kids want to spend most of their time in this section.  Definitely, bring a change of clothes for the water area in addition to water appropriate shoes.

Downsides:

  • The museum doesn’t open until 10am!  My kids go down for a nap right after lunch around 12pm so it’s really tough for us to squeeze in a trip.
  • The museum always seems really busy… like I feel as if I’m going to lose my children.

Aquarium

We do not have a membership to the Aquarium, but it is a great place for little kids.  I don’t have any tips, but just wanted to acknowledge it as a good destination.

Downside: Paid parking

History Colorado Center

This is another good option.  We don’t personally have a membership but my in-laws do and have passed along several guest passes.  Also, kids 5 and under are free so if you have little ones then a single visit won’t cost much.

Tips:

  • Check out History Colorado Story Time to learn about farms, cowboys, and animals and have playtime before the museum opens!
  • Try the sky jump simulation in the A-Z exhibit.  My kids keep talking about it!
  • They have a specific play area devoted to kids on the main level.  I’d suggest visiting this last… we had trouble getting our kids to leave!

Downside: Paid parking

If I had to rank our memberships, I’d put them in the following order:

  1. Denver Museum of Nature & Science
  2. Denver Zoo
  3. Botanic Gardens
  4. Butterfly Pavillion
  5. Children’s Museum

– Anna, Life with Little Ones

Independent Activities for Little Kids (2-4)

I’m always looking for activities to keep my kids busy while we are at home. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with my kids but sometimes I need a break to do something else…like laundry for 5 people ūüôā I’ve outlined some of¬†their favorite activities below that require little to no adult involvement – yay! I’d say these are good for the 2-4 age range.

Wooden Beads & Pipe Cleaners

My boys love using wooden beads to create bracelets and necklaces! This is a great activity to improve fine motor skills. You can find supplies at a craft store and I even spotted some at Target the other day.

Creative Puzzles

My boys received shape puzzles for Christmas this year and they love them!  My 2.5-year-old really likes this simple shape puzzle by Melissa & Doug: http://amzn.to/2myF0Rb

My nearly 4-year-old likes this more complex shape puzzle from Melissa & Doug: http://amzn.to/2mNMgcH

Forts

My kids love to make forts. ¬†I help them make a fort under the kitchen table and they can play in it for hours. ¬†It’s awesome. ¬†They will also try to make a fort with the couch cushions but ofter get frustrated when the cushions fall over. ¬†If found that throwing a few sheets over the kitchen table works a lot better for them.

Lacing Games

My nearly 4-year-old has this Melissa & Doug lacing set that he really enjoys.  This is a little advanced for my younger son.

Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/2n3XImB

Dot Painters

Dot painters are the best. ¬†It’s like painting but without all the mess ūüôā ¬†I think these are good for 2 and up. ¬†Here’s a link to the set we have on Amazon:¬†http://amzn.to/2mNFTWJ

The kids can use these on blank paper or do activities.  There are lots of activity books made specifically for dot painters.  Also, I  have drawn things on blank paper for them to trace Рlike their name.

Dry Erase Activity Books

These are a great way to help kids practice pen control and they aren’t messy! ¬†Here are some good options for books:

I’d suggest buying a few extra dry erase markers – we always seem to misplace our¬†markers!

Oobleck

We’ve been reading the book¬†Bartholomew and the Oobleck, and just started making¬†our own oobleck. ¬†You can find the book on Amazon here:¬†http://amzn.to/2n3X74y

Oobleck recipe:
  1. Start with the water in a bowl and add the cornstarch a bit at a time
  2. Stir until it has a gooey consistency – I have the kids use their hands for this part
  3. When the oobleck is just right, slowly add food coloring, if you want.
  4. Play!

Warning: This is definitely a messy activity, but really fun!  When the kids are done playing, you can save the oobleck for a few days to play with again.

 

Building Toys

There are so many options for building toys.  These are some of my favorite toys because they really encourage creativity.  I keep our building toys in separate bins in our toy closet so the kids can easily access them.

Tinker Toys РWhile my 2.5-year-old plays with these occasionally, they are very popular with my nearly 4-year-old.  Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2nexf6l

Bristle Blocks РThese are great for 2+.  They are so easy to build with and cause minimal frustration.  Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2mNQReS

Duplo Legos РWe have multiple sets of duplos.  We started with just a basic set and then added a few more based on the kids interest in superheroes and construction.

Magnetic Tiles – We don’t personally own these, but my kids use them at preschool and the museum. ¬†We are getting some for my 4-year-old’s birthday and I’m so excited to play with them myself ūüôā

Here’s a link to a basic set on Amazon:¬†http://amzn.to/2mU2WRm¬†From what I’ve heard, there are a lot of brands (Magna tile, Picasso tiles, etc.) and they are all very similar and can be used together.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully, it gave you a few new ideas.

РAnna, Life with Little Ones 

 

 

Potty Training Lessons Learned

I’ve mentioned before that potty training is my least favorite part of parenting so far. It’s a frustrating and all-encompassing moment in life. My oldest was challenging and potty trained at 3.5 years and my middle potty trained at 2.5 years and was much easier. ¬†Below are some lessons we learned along the way. ¬†See my previous post for the potty training gear we used.

Embrace interest in the potty, even if it’s inconvenient.¬†Both kids showed interest in the potty before age 2, but with my older son I brushed it off because I felt like it was too early or inconvenient. Oh, you want to try to pee in the public restroom at the grocery store? Mmm, can you just go in your diaper? With my younger son, I embraced these moments. ¬†Before age 2 he had successfully used the potty a handful of times and in the months to follow it happened more frequently.

Potty training is for them, not for you. ¬†With my oldest, we ended up pressuring him into potty training early on even though we¬†weren’t trying to. ¬†I was saying things like “Wow, mom is so proud of you!” which seems harmless but¬†it makes using the potty a way of pleasing¬†me. ¬†Once I started saying things like “Wow, I bet you are so proud of yourself!” or “You must feel so much better.” it put things back into his control. ¬†He would use the potty because it made him feel good, not because I wanted it to happen. ¬†It’s a subtle change, but it made a big difference for us.

Don’t get visibly upset when accidents happen.¬†¬†Accidents will happen and it can be really frustrating. ¬†Don’t let that frustration show. ¬†This gets back to my last point. ¬† ¬† I learned to just say things like “oh, that looks uncomfortable” in a completely normal voice. ¬†This put the ownership back on the kid. ¬†Eventually, they realized that it was really uncomfortable to have an accident.

Show by example.¬†Neither of my kids liked constant reminders to use the bathroom. ¬†I think this gets back to pressuring them into using the potty. ¬†Instead of reminders, we would just try to show a good example. ¬†Before we left the house, Tim and I would both loudly exclaim “Oh, I’m going to use the potty before I leave.” and then afterward¬†we would¬†say “Wow, I feel so much better!” ¬†It was strange to narrate our actions like this, but the kids would often follow suit. ¬†It worked!

Pull-ups may hamper potty training. For my kids, pull-ups were helpful in the early stages of potty training but eventually, we had to ditch them. ¬†I think they are a good transition to allow for occasional potty use, but they don’t encourage consistent potty use because having an “accident” isn’t uncomfortable. ¬†Once my kids clearly demonstrated the ability to use the potty, we¬†put them in undies.

The first day may not go well. ¬†Neither of my kids did well on their first day in undies, but after the first day, it got better. ¬†With my oldest, we tried a couple times for a day here and there and when it didn’t go well, we went back to pull-ups. ¬†I think we gave up too early.

Read books, lots of books. Books really helped peak interest early on and kept the ball rolling.  Here are some books that we really liked:

#1 and #2 are not the same.  Both my boys had early success with #1, but #2 was challenging. Instead of telling us they needed to poop, they would often just hide in a corner and let us know they had an accident afterward.

  • We learned to recognize the signs that they needed to poop and intervene. ¬†I try to play around with it like flying them to the bathroom or reading books on the potty.
  • We also learned not to let the kids get constipated because that just made the situation worse. ¬†If they didn’t have a day went by without a poop, we would start giving them small quantities of MiraLax (or similar supplement) to encourage the process. ¬†NOTE: you should talk to your Pediatrician before you introduce a supplement.¬†
  • When we could tell that one of the kids needed to poop, instead of saying “You need to poop.” we would say “Hmm, looks like your belly hurts. ¬†What do you think would make that feel better?” ¬†This gave them control rather than forcing them to use the potty.
  • If pooping becomes an issue, we really liked two of the books I mentioned above:¬†It Hurts When I Poop! a Story for Children Who Are Scared to Use the Potty¬†and¬†I Can’t, I Won’t, No Way!: A Book For Children Who Refuse to Poop.

Night time potty training is very different.¬†We didn’t potty train at night right away with either kid. ¬†We kept them in pull-ups until they seemed ready. ¬†Since they were in undies all day, they would ask why they couldn’t wear undies at night. ¬†We would tell them they could start wearing undies at night when their pull-up was consistently dry in the morning. ¬†This was motivating for both of them.

Don’t go overboard on rewards. ¬†With my oldest, we were desperate to get him potty trained in time for preschool that we started incentivizing him with large prizes when candy and stickers didn’t seem to work. ¬†While this did get him to successfully use the potty, it wasn’t sustainable.¬†We had to back-track to regular rewards (which didn’t initially go well). Eventually, we settled on one Tic Tac for each time the kids used the potty. ¬†This was enough of an incentive for them, but also small enough that¬†my oldest eventually forgot about them and naturally transitioned to using the potty without them.

I hope some of these lessons we learned may help with your potty training adventure. Good Luck!

– Anna, Life with Little Ones

Kid storage by the front door

We don’t have a mudroom or much of an entry way in our house. ¬†With kid shoes, hats, etc. it’s important to stash things somewhere close to the door.¬†I have tried a bunch of different storage solutions that didn’t work and I finally found something!

Our front door basically opens directly to our living room.  See my recent post about our living room transformation here for more photos of the complete space.  I found this storage bench that was really inexpensive and fits the space perfectly.

The whole bench and baskets cost me $100! ¬†And I love that there is a basket for each kid. ¬†The kids can easily access their shoes…which means there is no excuse for leaving them on the floor ūüôā

Click to View Bench

Click to View Baskets (On Sale!)

Target has a bunch of different baskets that work with this bench so you could easily pick a different color or style.

– Anna, Life with Little Ones

 

 

 

Grocery Store Roundup – Best Places to Shop with Multiple Kids

Grocery shopping with kids is a drag, but sometimes it is unavoidable. ¬†I try to get as many kids as possible in the shopping cart so I can move quickly and avoid tiny hands grabbing unnecessary things. ¬†Here’s a roundup of my favorite and least favorite places to shop with kids and my strategy for each.

Note: Many of these stores are specific to the Denver area, but some are national chains. 

King Soopers

King Soopers has standard shopping carts  (small basket on top with kid straps) and carts with a car seat holder on top.  In our local store, they always set aside the car seat carts so they are easily accessible.  They used to have shopping cars with a little car on the front, but I think they have completely done away with these РI have checked multiple stores!

My Strategy: Since I have one still in an infant seat, I use the car seat cart and typically put my 2-year-old in the large basket.  I try to shop here while my oldest is in school so I can avoid taking all three of them.

Tips:

  • Avoid peak times because they are often under-staffed at checkout.
  • They have free cookies in the bakery for kids, but sometimes our store runs out so don’t promise your kid one ūüôā
King Soopers Cart with a Car Seat Holder

Sprouts

Sprouts has standard shopping carts and compact shopping carts.  They do not have car seat holders.

My Strategy: Since we have a baby who can’t sit¬†on her own, I wear her in a baby carrier and put one or both my other kids in a standard shopping cart. ¬†My 2-year-old goes in the small basket and sometimes my 3-year-old goes in the larger basket (depending on his mood).

Tip: If you order sliced meat from the deli, they will typically give kids a free slice or meat or a string cheese.

Standard Shopping Cart at Sprouts

Target

Target has a great setup for kids.  They have standard carts, carts with a car seat holder and carts with an extra two seats for kids.  I can easily fit all three kids in a shopping cart Рit is awesome!

My Strategy: I put the two older kids in the kid seats and put the infant car seat in the main shopping cart.

Target Shopping Cart with Extra Kid Seats

Whole Foods – My favorite!

This is my favorite grocery store to shop at with little kids! ¬†They have special shopping carts with a little car on the front that can seat two children with two separate steering wheels. ¬†My kids LOVE this. ¬†Also, the car positions them really low to the ground so they can’t see much – which means they don’t see things and start begging ūüôā ¬†The car is basically the same size as a standard shopping cart so I don’t have trouble¬†maneuvering around with it.

My Strategy: I wear my youngest in a baby carrier and have my two older kids ride in a car shopping cart.

Tips: 

  • They usually have multiple car shopping carts that they try to keep separate near the store entrance. ¬†If you go at a non-peak time you shouldn’t have a problem getting one.
  • At their customer service desk, they will give away juice or snacks as part of their “Kids Club”. ¬†This is usually near the exit.
Whole Foods Car Shopping Cart

Costco

Costco is¬†nearly my favorite grocery store with kids – it was a close second. ¬†I really like their oversized shopping carts because I can fit 2 kids in the small basket on top. ¬† Also, they have samples to keep my kids happy ūüôā

My Strategy: I put the older two kids in the small basket on top.  I either wear my youngest in a baby carrier or put the entire car seat in the large basket.

Costco Oversized Cart

Tips:

  • Avoid the center section of Costco because that’s where they keep all the toys.
  • I like to go later in the morning (close to lunch) when they have samples out because my kids love trying them!

Trader Joes – Least Favorite

Trader Joes has two types of shopping carts Рstandard shopping cart and a car seat holder version, but they are both slightly smaller than a typical shopping cart.  This is my least favorite store to shop with all my kids because I can only fit one in the cart and it is always super busy no matter what time I go.  I prefer to shop at TJs without my kids.

My Strategy:  Shop alone!

Car Seat Shopping Cart at Trader Joe’s

Please note that the statements made in this post are based on my own personal experience at these grocery stores and may not apply to other chains.  If I got something wrong, please contact me and I will update the post. Thanks! 

– Anna, Life with Little Ones

Advice for Spouses of Residents (with Kids)

My husband Tim is a physician in residency.  We met in undergrad while he was studying for the MCAT.  We were married during medical school and had our first child a few months before he graduated from medical school.  Tim is 3.5 years into residency and we now have three kids.  Here are a few things pieces of advice that I wished I had known when we first started out.  Most of this specifically apply to families with kids, but some points are universal.

Shifts don’t end on time

Every shift has an end time, but that literally means nothing. ¬†Tim is responsible for notes that can take him hours after his shift ends. ¬†If he tells me that he is going to be home at 7pm,¬†I usually add at least an hour in my head so I’m not disappointed when he isn’t home on time.

Don’t¬†have high expectations post call

This was probably the biggest thing I learned during residency: post-call is such a crapshoot. ¬†Sometimes he gets a decent amount of sleep and is excited to dive into family activities and household projects, but most of the time he is really tired and barely functional. ¬†I have really low expectations post-call so if he is rested then that’s a nice surprise ūüôā

Make your own plans & follow your own schedule

Schedules in residency are crazy. ¬†It’s really difficult for Tim to guarantee that he will be home by a certain time. ¬†He is often pulled into a consult right before he is going to walk out the door or gets slammed during his shift and spends hours working on notes afterward. ¬†His schedule also varies a lot based on his rotation – some months are better than others.

Before we¬†were married, I learned that I needed to make plans on my own. ¬†I worked a normal job where I had the weekends off, but this didn’t necessarily align with his schedule. ¬†Just because he was working on a Friday night didn’t mean that I couldn’t have fun. ¬†I hung out with girlfriends a lot and also hung out with couple friends¬†even though I was solo most of the time.

Once we had kids, scheduling became really important. My oldest always wants to know when we are eating dinner, what we are doing on Saturday, etc. ¬†I¬†like to keep the kids on a very consistent schedule and if Tim can participate, that’s great, but if he can’t then it’s not the end of the world. ¬†I have dinner at exactly the same time, because if we waited for Tim to come home then we might fall asleep waiting (literally!).

We go to birthday parties, holiday celebrations, trips, etc. without Tim, and that’s ok. ¬†I constantly respond to invitations with me and the kids as “yes” and Tim as “maybe”. ¬†Tim is 100% invited to anything we do, but I don’t want the kids to be disappointed¬†when he can’t join us for something. ¬†I tell the kids “We are going to the museum today.” rather than “We can go to the museum if your dad gets home in time.” ¬†We don’t rely on Tim to get out and do things, but we are really happy when he can join us.

Parenting will not be 50/50

I wish we could both give 50/50 to parenting and divide household responsibilities equal.  Both of us wish that was possible, but at this season in our lives, Tim is giving most of his time to residency.  We both signed up for this and we have to push through.

He typically¬†leaves for work before the kids wake up and he¬†comes home around bedtime (if not after). ¬†He isn’t there for the morning routine. ¬†He is rarely around for school pickup, dinner, and bedtime. ¬†He is absolutely invested in our children and would like to participate more, but the reality is that he has very little flexibility with his job and just can’t be around enough to divide things 50/50.

I’m a big fan of¬†Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, however equal division of parenting responsibilities is really difficult when you are married to a resident. ¬†Tim always jokes that we can divide things 50/50, if I¬†take the first 9 years ūüôā

Try to keep your spouse involved virtually

I send Tim photos and videos of the kids throughout the day so he can keep updated with what is going on.  He will send photos and videos back that I can show the kids too.

We FaceTime with Tim during bedtime. ¬†He can’t always answer the phone, but we try. ¬†I typically text him a few minutes before we call so he can try to make time. ¬†If we can’t get ahold of him then we make a quick bedtime video to send him.

Long shifts for them = longs shifts for you

If your spouse is working a long shift or series of shifts, then get ready for¬†a grueling schedule as well. ¬†Tim just finished working 2 weeks straight which meant that I was solo-parenting for 2 weeks. ¬†I’ve learned that these long stretches are something that you both need to prepare for. ¬†I often drop off the kids at my parents for a few hours here and there so that I can get some sort of a break.

Remember that you chose this path, but your children did not

Even though you aren’t in training, you signed up for a grueling¬†few years when you married a med student, resident, etc. ¬†I remind myself daily that we both committed to seeing this through, but our children were just born into this crazy routine. ¬†We attempt to shield them from the stress that comes along with this lifestyle.

We try to make it as “fun” as possible. ¬†Sometimes I take the kids to eat dinner at the hospital cafeteria, not because their food tastes particularly good but because otherwise, we wouldn’t have a family dinner. ¬†If Tim is really tired post-call, then I’ll primarily do the bedtime routine but have him swoop in and do a really special book or story so it seems like he was involved with bedtime. ¬†Our kids are young and we employ a lot of smoke and mirrors to hide the long hours and stress…I hope we are doing an ok job with it ūüôā

Conclusion

Medical training is a long, hard road. ¬†It’s definitely more difficult with kids, but I don’t know if there is a good time to have kids. ¬†Does that even exist?

Remember that the bright, energetic person you married is still there, but there are dimmed by hours of exhaustion and stress. ¬†Push through and keep looking forward. ¬†I’m told that it gets better ūüôā

– Anna, Life with Little Ones

Valentine’s Day Activities for Little Kids

I like to get the kids involved in holidays, but I try not to go overboard. ¬†I don’t want to set the expectation that every holiday is like Christmas ūüôā ¬†I spent a whopping $20 (if that) on Valentine’s Day for the kids this year.

Books

I like to read books with the kids to help them learn about the holidays. ¬†Leopold (3) is starting to remember traditions around the holidays, but just barely. ¬†The boys love the book¬†Clifford’s First Valentine’s Day. ¬†We have been reading it over and over again.

Here are a few other good books for the 2-4 age group:

Handmade Valentine’s

At 2 and 3, the boys are just starting to like crafts but I have to keep them simple. ¬†I took the kids to Michaels a few days ago and let them pick out some special paper to make Valentine’s cards. ¬†We ended up with some themed paper…and also some Spiderman paper and Ninja Turtles stickers ūüôā ¬†Sure, why not?

During naptime, I cut the paper up into hearts.  I also cut apart the spiderman paper into individual comic scenes.

I had some regular construction paper in red, pink and white already at home so I cut that into large hearts and folded some blank cards. ¬†I set out some large glue sticks. ¬†Here’s a photo of the setup before the kids got started (stickers not pictured):

I gave each of the boys a glue stick and just let them make whatever they wanted. ¬†I was around to help give them suggestions, but I didn’t make the cards for them. ¬†At school, Leopold gets a lot of instructions during art projects so he can learn to follow directions, which is really good but at home, I try to give him room to be creative – I think both are important!

Here are a few finished cards. ¬†I’ll help the kids address them before we give them out to family and friends.

Actual Valentine’s Day Celebration

I bought the boys really small heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. ¬†I think there are 4 chocolates inside. ¬†Instead of just giving the boys the chocolate, I’m going to do a small game with them.

I’m going to hide paper hearts around the house and once they find 10 hearts, I’ll give them their “prize” – chocolates. ¬†This will help reinforce counting in addition to (hopefully) being fun.

How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day with your kids?

– Anna, Life with Little Ones

Toddler and Little Kid Shoes

There are so many options for toddler and little kid shoes that sometimes it is overwhelming. ¬†I’ve gone through lots of different brands with my kids and I wanted to share a few of my favorites. ¬†Since I have three kids, I look for high-quality shoes that can be used for multiple kids. ¬†This often means investing a little more money upfront. ¬†While many of these brands offer boy and girl options, this post leans slightly towards boy shoes since I have more experience with them.

**This post was updated to include sandals.  How could I forget sandals?**

Pediped

I love these shoes for the early stage of walking.  I started my boys in leather sole shoes and then transitioned them to a hard bottom Pediped shoe.  They have held up really well!  They will definitely be passed down to Odette.

Amazon Link to Leather Sole Version: pediped Originals Jake Sneaker (Infant),Navy,Medium (12-18 Months)

Amazon Link to Hard Sole Version: pediped Flex Adrian Sneaker (Toddler/Little Kid),Navy/Grey/Red,25 EU (8.5 M US Toddler)

We loved the Adrian sneaker so much that we have it in two different colors and sizes.

See Kai Run

This is also a great brand for toddler shoes.  The boys have used several of these and they have held up really well.

Amazon Link to One of the Pairs We Have: See Kai Run Dane Hightop Sneaker (Toddler), Gray, 6.5 M US Toddler

Plae

These shoes are really great once kids are confidently walking. ¬†They are extremely durable and they are also really flexible. ¬†We have tried some other brands that seemed really heavy and stiff, but not these! They also have a reinforced toe that is great because we’ve had other pairs of shoes that wear down in the toe quickly. ¬†Leopold has two pairs of these in different colors.

Amazon Link:¬†PLAE Boys’ TY Sneaker, Denim/Navy, 8 M US Toddler

Bogs

I am convinced that these are the best boots, hands down.  We have tried a bunch of different boots and these are so great.  Waterproof, warm and easy for kids to pull on and off!

They have a toddler version of the boots which are shorter and easier for little kids.  Frederick started in the toddler ones (size 7) this year and then moved to the regular kid ones (size 8).

Amazon Link to Toddler Bogs: Bogs Baby Classic Woodland Waterproof Insulated Rain Boot (Infant/Toddler/Little Kid/Big Kid), Navy Multi, 6 M US Toddler

Amazon Link to Regular Bogs: Bogs Classic Handles Waterproof Insulated Rain Boot, Black, 13 M US Little Kid

Leopold and Frederick are both in the regular (little kid) Bogs now. They literally want to wear them everywhere right now and it’s so great because they just slip on!

Merrell Sandals

Keen sandals are really popular and I started off with those for my boys.  I found Keens to be really heavy, and difficult to clean/dry.  Another mom suggested Merrell sandals.  I switched over and have been really happy!  They are lightweight, breathable, easy to clean and dry very quickly.  My boys are also very hard on their sandals and they have shown very little wear.

Amazon Link: Merrell Hydro Water Sandal (Toddler),Navy/Green,7 M US Toddler

If you aren’t sure about sizing, they carry Plae and Bogs in Nordstrom and will help determine a size for your kiddo.

Happy shoe shopping!

– Anna, Life with Little Ones

Growing Kids: Leopold Almost 4

Leopold is almost 4 and he is counting down the days.  He loves birthdays and literally asks me about his birthday every single day.  Leopold is in preschool 5-days a week, but could honestly go 7-days a week because he loves it so much.

Unfortunately, Leopold doesn’t love posing for photos anymore. ¬†This is the most-recent solo photo of him I could find. ¬†It’s from the Stock Show ūüôā

Potty Training

  • Leopold has been doing really great with potty training since he started school (yay!).
  • We started nighttime potty training in November. ¬†He’s had very few accidents – it’s going very well!
  • I’d say we are 95% potty independent at this point. ¬†He still needs reminders and occasionally has accidents, but we are almost there!

Favorite Activities

  • Leopold loves spending time with Odette. ¬†It’s so cute!
  • He really likes building with Legos.
  • He enjoys reading and specifically likes books about dinosaurs, superheros, and the human body.
  • Leopold is a big Star Wars fan…although he doesn’t know what that means ūüôā

– Anna, Life with Little Ones