13 Toys that Encourage Fine Motor Development

Fine motor skills (or, the skills children develop as they learn to coordinate their hands and fingers with their eyes) are an incredibly important part of child development. Because of this, many children’s toys are created with development in mind. Lucky for the kiddos, these toys are also really fun! Here are some of Little Lion’s favorites, as well as some that are currently on our wishlist and some that I would love to get for him later in the future!

1. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Boppin’ Activity Bugs - I don’t think a generation has gone by that hasn’t had some version of this toy. This one develops fine motor skills and also teaches babies cause and effect!

2. Plan Toy Punch and Drop - This is one of Little Lion’s favorite toys! He figured out how to put the balls in the holes pretty early on, and would push on them until they went in the holes. Later, he developed enough coordination to use the mallet to pound the balls through the holes.

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Kate Spade and Jack Spade for Gap

Kate Spade and Jack Spade have teamed up for a limited edition collection with the Gap that launched today. The signature bright, fun colors that epitomize Kate Spade make this collection perfect for the holidays! I saw it in person last night, and it’s gorgeous — many pieces are already sold out on-line (especially the toddler sizes), so going into a store might be your best best. Most of the items are available in both girl/boy and toddler sizes.

Here are some of my favorite pieces:

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Our Childcare Choices

We’ve gone through several different childcare arrangements with K and D! In summary, we’ve done SAHM, WAHD, Grandmacare, and preschool – although we tried unsuccessfully to find a nanny at one point. Now for the long version:

Back when K was born, I worked full time (outside the home with a longish commute), and took 3 months maternity leave. Since Mr. T worked at home running his company, when I returned to work he took over morning childcare duties. My MIL would come in the late morning to switch with him so he could get some work done. I worked an early schedule (6am – 2:30pm) out of the house before the boys were up, and with traffic was normally home between 3:30 – 4pm. I would relieve my MIL and then have K for most of the evening while Mr. T worked, often late into the night. This worked pretty well, although my MIL sometimes wouldn’t be able to come until the early afternoon, so Mr. T had to always keep his schedule flexible. We planned to enroll K in some kind of part-time preschool after he turned 2, to give Mr. T some more dependable work hours, and to give K the benefits of school (socializing, structure, crafts, etc). D ended up arriving a few days before K’s birthday, so we scrapped those plans as we dealt with other, bigger changes in our life!

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Mom Style: One Outfit, Five Looks

The key to getting the most out of your wardrobe is knowing how to mix and match items to create new looks out of the same pieces. This season, two of my favorite basics are these grey skinny jeans and this chambray button down  – actually, who am I kidding? This chambray shirt is my year-round staple, though fall is probably by favorite time to wear it!

I’ve been wearing these two items separately and together throughout the late summer and into fall, and I thought I’d share some of my favorite ways to style them together. Here are 5 different looks you can easily try with these two basics:

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Raising an Introverted Child in an Extroverted World

Last year, we cancelled Noelle’s 3rd birthday party because she kept shaking her head, saying, “I don’t want to blow out my birthday cake. I don’t want everyone to watch me.” So we stooped down to her level, looked her in the eye, and asked if she wanted a birthday party. She shook her head no, and that was that. It wasn’t going to be a very big affair either way, but we wanted her to feel comfortable and at ease on her special day.  She didn’t want any fanfare, so we obliged.

That is just one example of the introversion that has characterized Noelle since she was born. Not only is she introverted, but she is also incredibly sensitive, keen, and aware – I noticed this even at the tender age of 3 months. She is what can be described as an orchid child.

Orchid children, in contrast, are highly sensitive to their environment, especially to the quality of parenting they receive. If neglected, orchid children promptly wither—but if they are nurtured, they not only survive but flourish. In the authors’ poetic language, an orchid child becomes “a flower of unusual delicacy and beauty.” (source)

I especially love that sentence at the very end. It’s exactly how I see Noelle – as someone with unusual delicacy, thoughtfulness, and grace. I can just sit and stare at her for hours sometimes, observing her gentle, precise movements since she puts obvious thought into every move she makes.

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11 Non-Candy Halloween Favors

I recently learned about the Teal Pumpkin Project from a friend of mine with a daughter with a severe peanut allergies. Mrs. Paintbrush also blogged about the movement, where if you decide to hand out non-candy favors during Halloween for children with allergies, you paint and place a teal pumpkin outside letting families know.

As a mom with a child without allergies, it was very eye opening when my friend told me about the Teal Pumpkin Project, as I never realized how difficult Halloween can be for a child with allergies and for their parents who don’t want to disappoint their children on such a special day. Coupled with the fact that Drake’s school has a strict food policy (no candy, no chips, etc.) and has requested that any favors being handed out during Halloween for the kids adhere to their rules, I thought it might be nice to compile a list of non-food favors that can be handed out to children in schools and homes during Halloween.


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Adventures in Nap Training

I wrote here about our adventures with sleep training. It went incredibly well, and I was shocked at how quickly bedtime got better. I realize that’s not the case for everyone, and for those of you cursing me, here is where you get your retribution. The dreaded nap.

Nap training is a completely different beast. Little Oats has always struggled with her naps; she would only nap on my chest for the first two months, then exclusively in the swing for another 2 -3 months. She has always had a problem joining sleep cycles together, so naps had been exclusively in 40-minute segments. By six months, I could count on my fingers the number of times naps had been longer than 90 minutes.

We decided to nap train at the same time as sleep training; I figured we’d tackle it all at once, and hopefully just have a few awful sleep-deprived days. Like I wrote about earlier, it took about three nights before Little Oats settled into a great bedtime routine, but naps were an entirely different story.

As with night-time sleep training, our schedule looked a little something like this:

1. Notice Little Oats’ sleepy signs (rubbing eyes, yawning, getting cranky)
2. Make sure she’s fed and changed
3. Put her in the Zipadee-Zip
4. Lay her down in her crib and walk away.

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