Today’s Hint: The “Dream Toy”

Today’s Hint: The “Dream Toy”

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband tiptoes into our sleeping daughter’s room each night around 9:30 p.m. and sprinkles extra pacifiers around the crib.

He does this “Dream Paci” to make it less likely our 20-month-old tot (a pacifier addict) will wake up in the middle of the night and cry because she can’t find a pacifier.

Well, recently, my husband added a new element to his nighttime ritual, a trick that is today’s hint. Now, in addition to dropping off the pacifiers, my husband leaves a different stuffed animal in the corner of the crib each night (think a penguin one night and a cat or monkey the next).

The purpose: So my daughter will be pleasantly surprised when she wakes up each morning and have something to play with until it’s time for her to wake up (i.e. until her “tot clock” alarm sounds).

So far, the “Dream Toy,” as we’re calling this strategy, seems to be working. With the help of our “frugal tot clock” and the stuffed animals, we don’t hear a cry from our daughter until her alarm goes off at 6:20 a.m., a much more civilized wake up time than the 5 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. wake ups that led my husband and I to begin employing our clock and toy approach.

Why don’t we just leave a stuffed animal in the crib with our daughter when we say goodnight? Not only would that eliminate the element of surprise for our daughter each morning, but there’s also the chance that playing with the toy could perhaps interfere with her falling asleep (she already plays with her loveys for a good 15 minutes each night before falling asleep).

We’re not the only parents who do a “dream toy” approach of sorts, and you don’t necessarily need to leave stuffed animals. Other items work just as well.

When we were complaining to friends about our daughter’s early wake up times, a number of friends recommended that we leave books at night in the crib for our daughter to find when she wakes up. My husband says he prefers stuffed animals to books because he doesn’t think our daughter will be able to “read” the books in the early morning darkness.

Meanwhile, the sites Mamapedia, Today’s Parent and What to Expect share similar strategies for dealing with early morning wake ups. Elsewhere, if your child is in a bed, the site DisneyFamily.com suggests putting a box of toys next to your child’s bed after he or she goes to sleep, rotating what’s inside so “there’s always something new and interesting in the box.”

To be sure, as The Baby Sleep Site points out in a nice roundup of crib toys, you’re not supposed to put soft toys in the crib with babies. As BabyCenter notes, such items can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and pose suffocation and strangulation risks.

So, don’t try this “Dream Toy” trick unless your child is at least age 1 and out of the highest risk stage for SIDS.

In addition, Ari Brown, M.D., coauthor of Baby 411, shares some helpful tips over at Parenting.com regarding what kind of stuffed animals and toys to allow in the crib – think small stuffed toys with no removable eyes or buttons and fabric books. And as The Cleveland Clinic points out, you’ll want to avoid leaving extra-large stuffed animals that your child could use to help him or her climb out of the crib.

What do you think of the “Dream Toy”? What are your tricks for keeping little ones entertained, or sleeping, until you’re ready to wake up?

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Today’s Hint: A Very Easy Toddler Activity (Think Box & Crayons)

Today’s Hint: A Very Easy Toddler Activity (Think Box & Crayons)

The Internet is chock full of toddler activity ideas. However, many of them involve significant prep time and or special materials.

While I’d love to be able to try them out, as a working mom, I just don’t have the time (and I’m not sure I’d have the time to devote to such activities even if I was a stay-at-home mom). Rather, I like toddler activities that take only a minute (or more accurately, a few seconds) of prep time and are easy to do with items I have on hand.

That’s why I so love the easy toddler activity idea I learned from Jessie Stansberry, who blogs at Berry Sweet Baby. It’s a simple trick to keep toddlers occupied that is today hint. [Read more...]

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Today’s Hint: Use Your Stroller as an On-the-Go High Chair

Today’s Hint: Use Your Stroller as an On-the-Go High Chair

It’s a dilemma we’ve all faced: you’ve arrived at the restaurant and they don’t have any high chairs available for your little one to sit in.

If you don’t have a travel high chair handy (like this $20 one that fits into diaper bags), then you’re out of luck, right?

Not necessarily, according to Keryn Means, the travel expert behind the site Walking On Travels. I recently learned an on-the-go high chair trick from Keryn that is today’s hint. [Read more...]

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Today’s Hint: 4 Ways to Make Cleaning Pump Accessories Easier

Today’s Hint: 4 Ways to Make Cleaning Pump Accessories Easier

When I think back on the year I spent breastfeeding and pumping, many of my memories involve standing by the kitchen sink and cleaning my pump supplies. Why? I spent a lot of time washing pump accessories. I washed them using hot water and dish soap after each pumping session, and also sterilized them at least a few times a week using Medela’s microwaveable sterilizing bags.

But now, as I’m starting to think about going through this whole pumping process again eventually, I can’t imagine spending so much time again on part cleaning. So I turned to an expert — Charity Pitcher-Cooper, a lactation consultant and nurse at my pediatrician’s office – to find out if there are any tricks for cutting down the time involved in pump accessory cleaning. The tricks I learned make up today’s hint. [Read more...]

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Today’s Hint: Drink From Your Child’s Straw Sippy Cup

Today’s Hint: Drink From Your Child’s Straw Sippy Cup

One evening about three months ago, as my friend was washing the straw sippy cup his 1-year-old daughter had used that day, he noticed that the straw wasn’t fully secured and hadn’t been all day.

“I thought to myself, ‘I wonder if that affects suction,’” he says. So, he took a sip from the straw and sure enough, no liquid came through.

Turns out, his daughter had been drinking nothing from the cup all day, since the straw hadn’t been fully hooked up. “I thought she was drinking happily, but it turned out she wasn’t getting a drop. It was an a-ha moment,” says my friend, who remembers thinking “Oh, this is why she’s been crabby all day!”

So since then, my friend and his wife have implemented a strategy for making sure their little one’s straw sippy is properly functioning, a tip that is today’s hint. [Read more...]

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Today’s Hint: 5 Ways to Use Up Leftover Baby Cereal

Today’s Hint: 5 Ways to Use Up Leftover Baby Cereal

Note from Hint Mama: I have three full boxes of baby cereal sitting in our pantry (see above), leftover from days long ago when my now 19-month-old daughter would eat rice cereal or oatmeal at least once a day. However, it pains me to think that this cereal, which expires later this year, will just go to waste. Luckily, new Hint Mama contributor Laura Grice (aka Mamahacks), a Toronto-based mother of a 1-year-old son and a former communications professional, has five clever ideas for what to do with all that old cereal. Here’s her first hint.

Packaged cereal is a favorite first food for many babies, and continues to be a staple for most as they make the transition to finger foods.  But as we all know (or will soon learn), once our little food critics decide they don’t want to eat something anymore, there is little we can do to convince them otherwise – unless we want to end up wearing it!

So, what to do with all that extra unused baby cereal sitting around in your pantry before it expires?  Regardless of whether it’s rice, oatmeal or another variation, don’t throw it away! There are lots of ways you can use up that cereal and save a little money while you’re at it. Today’s hint is five such ways. [Read more...]

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Today’s Hint: Dress Your Baby & Toddler in Too-Big Clothes

Today’s Hint: Dress Your Baby & Toddler in Too-Big Clothes

My daughter is only 19 months old, yet her closet is already filled with size 3T as in 3 toddler. This isn’t because my daughter is really big for her age. She’s not.

Rather, it’s because buying and outfitting my little one in too-big clothes is one way I’m cutting down the cost of new little clothes, a money saving strategy that is today’s hint and that I mention over at U.S. News Money’s The Frugal Shopper blog in a post on 3 ways to save on new clothes for babies. [Read more...]

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Today’s Hint: How to Store Baby & Kid Clothes (& Gear) for Future Use

Today’s Hint: How to Store Baby & Kid Clothes (& Gear) for Future Use

Note from Hint Mama: Our garage is filled with cardboard boxes and plastic bins stuffed with my daughter’s old clothes. Meanwhile, tons more outfits that my little one has outgrown fill up drawers in her closet, waiting to be packed away in the garage. I hope to one day pass these clothes down to a future child, but I have to admit that my process for storing them has been very haphazard and disorganized. Luckily, I now have the hint below from Hint Mama contributor Crystal Sabalaske, a mom and professional organizer, to help me. Turns out, I’ve been doing the storage thing all wrong.

Do you ever feel like you have more storage space in your home designated for kid items than for your own stuff?  On a daily basis, you likely have to deal with regular child-related paraphernalia such as little shoes, heaps of toys, plastic cups, schoolwork and art supplies.

Then, if you’re like most parents, you have the added burden of managing the stuff your kids are not yet using on a daily basis, the items designated for future use like hand-me-downs you’ve luckily received or that you’re saving for a younger child.  I’m not going to lie.  It can be very time consuming to properly care for and manage items you want to preserve until a child is old enough to use them.

But the good news is that if you plan and invest a little time now, you can minimize both the time and space required to store your child’s items properly, and save money too. You’ll skip having to spend time down the road sorting through messy bins and boxes all filled with random gear, you’ll maximize the storage space available, and you’ll save money by not having to eventually buy replacement items for gear that got stained or moldy in storage.

So what do I recommend doing now? Today’s hint is my step-by-step process for what I consider the best way to organize toys, books, baby gear and clothes for future use. [Read more...]

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Today’s Hint: 8 Ways to Change a Diaper On the Go When There’s No Changing Table

Today’s Hint: 8 Ways to Change a Diaper On the Go When There’s No Changing Table

About a year ago, I walked into the bathroom at a trendy Thai restaurant near our house with my daughter and all of my diaper gear only to find there was slight problem.

There was no diaper changing station in the restroom, and there wasn’t any bathroom surface that I could easily turn into a spot for a quick diaper change.

Sometime while your little one is still wearing diapers, you’ll inevitably find yourself in a similar situation, if you haven’t already been there (and you’re especially likely to encounter this situation if you’re looking for changing stations in men’s restrooms, as Daddy Doin’ Work recently pointed out).

So today’s hint is eight ways to change a diaper on the go when there’s no changing table near by. [Read more...]

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Today’s Hint: Compact & Affordable Gifts for Urban Kids

Today’s Hint: Compact & Affordable Gifts for Urban Kids

Note from Hint Mama: Before our daughter was born, I envisioned that all of her toys would be contained in her play area off of our living room. But despite my best efforts, her toys have taken over half of our living room and part of our dining room. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve bought her a play kitchen, a little table and other relatively large gifts. Next time, however, I’m going to think twice before I buy something big for my daughter. Instead, I’ll consider these compact and affordable gift ideas from Hint Mama contributor Karen Witham, who writes over at Thoughtstream and is sharing hints from the perspective of a mom of a preschooler and a first-grader.

Growing up as an only child in suburban Florida, space was not really an issue.

I had my own room and two closets to call my own, and our house, while fairly small, had a garage and a back yard. However, my parenting experience has almost entirely been in small apartments – and now, a small house – in the San Francisco Bay Area. (My house is less than 1,000 square feet; my kids share a bedroom, a closet and a dresser. Our whole family shares one bathroom.)

Living this way means being constantly mindful of space and clutter. I’ve learned to think twice before acquiring anything new, and I get it why many parents throw “no-gift” birthday parties. In fact, for my kids’ first few birthdays we had no-gift parties — but all that ends once they get older, and they start going to other kids’ parties, and noticing and remembering gifts. So, parents of toddlers, enjoy that ride while it lasts.

There are many things about kid gifting that I wish I’d known as a new parent — and really wish I’d known before I had kids, when I bought some of the no-nos noted below for my friends with babies.

In general, heavy, bulky, or huge is probably not the best choice when it comes to gifts for kids who live in small spaces. No, you will not magically grow new closet space for the giant stuffed elephant that your daughter fell in love with at the store. In fact, stuffed animals are rarely played with for long, and they take up space and gather dust, as other parents have noticed too (like blogger “I gave up by noon”).

I have also noticed that my kids quickly lose interest in the “one-hit-wonder” electronic toys, but they return repeatedly to the toys that grow with them, let them make up their own rules, and use their imaginations.

So what tend to be good gifts for little ones living in small spaces? Here are five urban-friendly gift shopping tips. [Read more...]

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