How to DIY a First Birthday Photoshoot

A first birthday photoshoot is not something I did with my first two sons. My first son got an intimate music themed party and all the attention being the only kid there. My second son got a full blown wild one birthday party that we all loved.  They both had a cake smash at their parties, but not great pictures of it because they were shot in the midst of the festivities.

first birthday photoshoot, DIY 5 Steps

I always saw cake smash photos on Pinterest and loved them, but assumed they had to be professionally shot. While many are, it is actually pretty easy to set up your own! With my third son, I knew that this was something special he could have that his brothers didn’t. That has been my theme with my third, make sure he doesn’t look back and think he got nothing special being a third baby. 

Even writing this post and looking at these pictures again, it reminds me how truly fast this time goes. So enjoy the photoshoot and the time with your baby. They will soon be running around (if not already) and getting into full toddler mode. 

Related Posts: Daily 12-18 Month Schedule for a Happy Toddler, 10 Simple Finger Food Meals for One Year Olds

1 year old photoshoot background and props

Gather Inspiration

Decide what kind of look you are going for. Browse Pinterest for ideas. There are tons of great cake smash photos out there. Pin all of the ones you like to a board and then look at them collectively. Choose the features you want to use in your own session. Pick a color scheme or theme and work from there to plan your adorable one year old photo shoot. 

What day are you planning on having your cake smash session? If you are also having a birthday party, consider having the cake smash on a day prior. Having multiple events can be overwhelming and lots of people around may make it difficult to take all of your shots. 

one year old photo shoot cake smash

Plan and Shop

After you have an idea of what you want, start planning and gathering materials. I knew I wanted a blue and silver theme with a touch of royal. I looked around for what I could put in the background and found this balloon arch on Amazon. It was a perfect background, as it filled up the space and I didn’t need anything else. Balloons are inexpensive and can be find in any color combinations you want. Other cute ideas I have seen are “Happy Birthday” banners, or just a decorative banner with paper triangles or pompoms. I’ve also seen some beautiful flower backgrounds you could make with some silk flowers.

After I chose the balloon arch, I decided I wanted to make him an easy felt crown that I had made my other son for his first birthday and got a cute outfit to round it out. Finally, I found the “One” sign prop on Etsy and cut up some paper circles for the floor. 

first birthday photoshoot set up

Background and Location

Decide where in your house, yard or other location you are going to have your one year old photo shoot. You want a place with as much light as possible. Rhys’ birthday is in February and we live in Chicago. Outside is not an option so I cleared the space in front of our sunniest window and set up on the floor. The background is a long white paper roll from Michaels. I taped it down to the wall and the floor. Then we taped the already assembled balloon arch to the area around the paper, because we didn’t want it to accidentally tear.

Only downside with the paper is that when it gets dirty with cake you can see the paper color getting darker. Putting a piece of glass or clear vinyl on top would have been a good way to avoid this, but I did not have one on hand! Other options could be a long white tablecloth that you clamp down over furniture. I’ve also seen someone hang fabric off their kitchen island and put their baby on the floor in front of the fabric. 

Props and Decor

The focus of a 1st birthday photoshoot is of course your baby. Props and decor can be minimal. Also, consider if items will be distracting and take their attention away from the cake that you want to be the highlight of the show. I liked the pictures when Rhys was messing with his “one” sign so I let him go for it. He ended up being into smashing the cake with the sign. You never know how they’ll be! 

We set up the balloon arch with the background and then I played with the position of the “one” sign and decorated the floor with paper circles that I had cut out ahead of time and some silver confetti that came with our balloon arch. 

1st birthday photoshoot cake smash

Cake

The cake should be small and basic for a first birthday photoshoot. You can bake it yourself or buy one almost anywhere. We ordered ours at our supermarket bakery, where I’ve gotten most of my boys’ birthday cakes. They are delicious and a good price. It is an 8 inch round cake and I matched the frosting to the theme. I got vanilla because I thought chocolate would be too much in this whole scene, but it would probably pop really nicely in photos. We also got a slightly bigger cake for his big brothers and family to enjoy. 

Outfit and Accessories

There are lots of cute outfits out there for first birthday cake smash sessions. Some dress their babies up a lot, and others go bare bones with just a diaper. There are tons of cute dresses or shorts with bowtie combos.  We’ve done a lot with bowties so I was looking for something different. I instantly fell in love with these overalls, they were minimal but added a cute look to his day. 

Just remember that whatever they wear will be filled and covered with cake. You’ll have to get all of that out somehow.  I was also filled with cake afterward from interacting with him and picking him up after. So keep your outfit in mind as well! 

Day of your First Birthday Photoshoot

Set everything up ahead of time. Make sure you take some test shots of the scene before you bring out your baby and the cake. Adjust any decor or props as needed.

Check your camera or phone to ensure the battery is fully charged and you have enough memory to take tons of photos!

Dress your baby shortly before, but maybe give them 30 minutes to get used to any accessories that they may not be used to. I love the felt crown because it is one of the only things any of them would keep on their head as one year olds.

Finally, remember it’s a 1 year baby photoshoot. They do not always know what is going on and can get easily overwhelmed. Give it time, take lots of pictures, make them laugh, and put on their favorite music. We had a lot of family around and in retrospect I would have take some just me and him and then brought them out for the end, because he kept looking at all of them instead of looking into the camera.

Don’t worry. He did cry, but he also laughed and had fun. he actually did not like the cake! We ended up putting strawberries and these organic baby puffs he likes so he would try it. Lol. I guess we don’t have a sweets guy on our hands. But that could all change.

1 year baby photoshoot angle cake smash

Get down to the floor to get eye level action but also move around. You can get lots of vantage points and decide after which were your favorite. Take some shots from overhead, zoom in on their face or their hands or feet. Let them play with props or make funny faces to get new reactions. 

We got lots of fun active shots and I’m so glad we planned out a cake smash session at home. Would 100% do it again, except I’m done having babies so maybe I’ll just help a friend out with theirs. 🙂

1 year old photoshoot birthday cake smash

The Absolute Best 2 Camera Baby Monitor

You’re about to find out which is the best 2 camera baby monitor on the market! Save the headache of buying the amount of monitors I have, that eventually all give out. Even if you only have one child, you can use it with just one camera, or get a second for a playroom, or already be prepared when you have a second baby! You buy the monitor with one camera and add a second (or third or fourth!) separately. Yep, up to 4.  Seriously the best. 

Our Baby Monitor Journey

Ugh.  I haven’t had a bunch of baby video monitors because I love buying them and go on wonderful shopping sprees. They just stop working or aren’t user friendly. My family consists of 3 boys. I have an 11 month old Rhys, he’s my third boy.  My older two sons are Miles who is 5 and Ellis who is 3 and 1/2. Ever since I was pregnant with Ellis (4 years ago), I started researching, and then purchasing video monitors that could have 2 cameras.  A 2 camera baby monitor was and is important to me. I can see the nursery and toddler room simultaneously but only carry around one monitor receiver. 

At this point, I think we’ve gone through 4 or 5 different monitors since our very first one when Miles was born. It’s beyond time I share my experience with you all, and tell you the absolutely best one.  Because you’ll save money not having to re-buy the same product 4-5 times like I did.  

We started with video monitors from the beginning.  And audio monitors to bring on trips or have as a back up. It’s comforting to be able to see your baby in their room.  Hearing them sleep in the beginning, to seeing what they are up to in their crib later on, and finally to see if they are getting out of their toddler bed after transitioning.

Even now, my two older boys share a room and if one of them has a bad dream or has wet the bed, we know because of the monitor.  Yes, they are old enough to get up and walk to us. Sometimes it’s nice to hear them having a hard time and meet them where they’re at. It’s also super convenient to hear and talk to them through the monitor.  For example, their brotherly interactions while in bed are adorable to hear, but I can also press the microphone and tell them it’s time to stop telling jokes and go to sleep.  At night, I have the monitor set up to switch back and forth between their room and the nursery. 

Which Baby Video Monitors Did Not Work?

These are my experiences, but I also have a lot of mom friends and my history is not unique.  Our first video monitor was a Motorola MBP36S wireless video monitor, and it is capable of having multiple cameras.  It worked okay at first, but after a short time- it would always lose the signal and beep obnoxiously.  We lived in a small condo at the time. Even though it claims to cover a 590 feet, we never experienced that to be true. 

Since we had already purchased it, we decided to keep trying to make it work.  Like positioning the monitor closer to the room to keep the connection, even though that kind of defeated the purpose of having a baby video monitor in the first place.  Then, it finally gave out- when it started losing its’ charge quickly or not charging at all when plugged in. 

Next, we had the Summer Infant Video Monitor.  Which worked fine, until it didn’t.  I replaced the power cord more than once.  Eventually, it stopped turning on completely. Now that I have a camera that works well, I realize it didn’t have that long of a reach either before the connection would get lost.  Finally, my parents got a different monitor to have when we visited.  That one had a terrible image resolution and died within the first year as well.  Even without consistent use. 

When I was pregnant with my third, I was super annoyed that I was shopping for a monitor again.  I did tons of research and wanted to get one that would actually last me until I didn’t need a monitor anymore.  I wish I knew about it earlier!

This post contains affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information. 

Okay, okay. I’m sure you’re anxious for me to tell you about the monitor I actually LOVE.  After tons of research, we landed on the Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor.  The reviews alone will tell you how amazing this camera is. Now that I’ve had it almost a year,  I want to give you the real mom reasons why this should be your first choice from the beginning.  

Absolute Best 2 Camera Baby Monitor 

Best 2 Camera Video Baby Monitor The Camera

The Infant Optics DX-R Video Baby Monitor initially stands out for a variety of reasons. One feature is that it’s one of very few baby monitors that has an interchangeable lens.  Based on the room size or the position of your camera, you can choose the original lens, a zoom lens or a wide angle (sold separately). The original lens zooms in even without the special zoom lens, and it’s also capable of panning and tilting very far angles either up and down(120 degrees) or side to side (270 degrees).  See my sons’ room below. This is pitch black at night when they are sleeping.  I can span over to each of their beds, depending on who I need to check on. 

2 camera baby monitor night veiw

baby monitor at night

As you can see on the pictures above, the cameras also pick up the temperature in the room. This was so useful for us when we moved into our new house! The air and heating system was not working evenly, but we were able to make sure our boys’ rooms were okay via the monitor reading. 

baby video monitor interchangeable lensRight now we have two cameras. (The second camera is bought separately) One set up in the shared boys’ room and the other in the nursery. We have contemplated adding a third in the basement.  This baby video monitor can add up to 4 cameras. The boys often play in the basement, while I can’t be there. Either I’m making dinner or doing other things around the house.  Right now the 2 oldest are fine alone, but one day my youngest will start joining them. It will give me peace of mind to peak in on them if I am cooking dinner or other household chores upstairs. 

The Monitor

baby monitor camera viewThe Infant Optics video monitor has an excellent picture quality.  I can see the rooms clearly and the picture quality at night is great.  My baby Rhys likes to play a little before falling asleep, and sometimes he gets fussy before falling asleep. Lately, he’s been sticking his leg through the crib, and I can see that clearly in the monitor. I’ll go in and help him adjust, while if he was just playing and nothing was wrong, I’d leave him alone.   

The range has proven to be excellent.  It’s listed as a 700 feet range on the website, but all I know is that I haven’t lost the connection. We live in a 2 story house with a basement.  All the bedrooms are upstairs and my husband and I often watch a movie or hang out in the basement after the boys are all asleep.  The monitor does not lose connection at all, which is super important because I can’t hear the rooms well from the basement at all.  We also have a yard and I can go out there with the older boys while the baby Rhys sleeps.  I’ll put the monitor on the deck while I play with them. It doesn’t lose the connection even though it’s outside of the house! 

Waking up and playing after nap.

Many baby monitors have a 2 way communication talking feature, but it’s a feature that has proven to be necessary as babies become toddlers. Young babies will find your voice comforting, giving you a minute to make your way to their room.  Or you can remind toddlers to settle down into sleep. Most times that is all my boys need to hear- I’ll tell them really quickly through the monitor that it’s time to stop talking and get some rest.  Other times, I’ll go in there also- but it works enough that I always use it first. 

I usually keep the power cord in our room when I take the monitor downstairs, because I rarely need it to keep the monitor on.  I have it in battery saving mode the majority of the time which is about a 10 hour battery life in power mode or 6 hours when fully displayed. It’s a lifelong rechargeable battery, not anything you have to repurchase. It will make a loud annoying beep before it runs out of battery and turns off. Which is good so you know it’s turning off, even if it’s not in eye sight. 

Scan mode switches between the two rooms.  You can’t have both rooms showing at the same time, but I don’t mind this. For that to be possible, you’d have to choose a room to have sound for and the other room to mute.  When it scans, the monitor goes back and forth between seeing and hearing each room. 

Possible Cons

One con that other parents have mentioned is that the monitor only comes with one camera, and you have to buy the second and subsequent cameras separately. The good thing is that it makes a good monitor for people that only want a one camera video baby monitor, it’s not just great for the multiple camera features.  And as your family or needs grow, you can get buy the separate camera units. 

Other reviews have mentioned interference with cell phones near by, but I have not had this problem.  This could have been an issue with older models, since I have my phone and the monitor right next to each other on my nightstand every night. It does not use wifi, which means there is no app but I also believe this is why the connection and range are great and remain consistent. 

Finally, this isn’t the cheapest 2 camera baby monitor, but it’s also not the most expensive.  It’s exactly what you need. The fancier models have more features, they might be nice to have but you don’t need to spend the money if it’s not in your budget.  And the cheaper models I’ve already described. They tend to break often or have inconsistent performance.  Not worth it when you think how long you’ll use the baby monitor, especially if you have to keep replacing them. 

Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments! 

35 Baby Christmas Gifts Most Loved by Moms

The best toys aren’t always the ones with the most commercials, or in every Walmart or Target catalogue.  While we have  (and love) our fair share of toys that are purely bright and have cheerful music, some of the best baby toys aren’t the most obvious. Babies are learning through play and they are hitting developmental milestones at lightening speed. So there are some toys that help them reach those milestones just by playing! When I think about baby Christmas gifts- I focus on durable toys that help babies work on specific skills or on classic toys that are most loved by parents.

This post contains affiliate links, please refer to my disclosure policy for more information. 

Related: The Ultimate List of Preschool Gift Ideas and The 31 Best Toddler Gift Ideas

The following gifts are organized into age range from 0-12 months.  If you are looking for older children,  check out the toddler gift ideas for 12 months-3 years old or the preschool guide for 3-5 year olds. 

Baby Christmas Gifts for 0-6 Months Old

  • Hand- Eye Coordination- Rattles & Teething Toys

    Some of the best toys for 0-6 month babies work on hand-eye coordination. They are pumping their arms and legs, reaching out for things and slapping stuff away. 

    Hand Eye Coordination Toys for 3 Month Old Babies

      • A great colorful teething and rattle toy.
      • Manhattan Rattle and Teether Grasping Toy– made with sustainable wood and natural materials is a great alternative to the plastic teething toys. 
      • Wooden Montessori Styled Baby Rattle– If you are looking for a more green toy this is a great start- organic wood, sanded and sealed with a mixture of organic coconut oil and beeswax, all natural pieces and colors.
      • Icy gel teether keys teething may not start until 5 months, but it can be as early as 3 months. 
      • Baby wrist rattle and foot finders are fun additions to help them find their hands and feet during mat play.

    Language Development- Books

    Books for 3 Month Old Babies

      • Board books make great gifts for this age. Books help with language development and bonding. They will have a vast extension of words that you may not use in your ordinary speech.  
      • Soft interactive books or this pack of 6 books can withstand teething, bath time and rough play. These serve a double purpose of play and language.  

    Interacting with Others

    In the same fashion they are learning to absorb language, babies are working on other modes of communication. They are interacting with us by observing our movements and mocking our facial expressions. 

    Toys for Babies 0-3 Months

      • Tummy time floor mirror gives a perfect view of themselves while also practicing motor skills. Looking at themselves will help your baby learn all the different human expressions

    Muscle Development: Playmats & Tummy Time

    Those initial baby push ups are so incredibly adorable to me.  After being able to push their head and chest up with their arms, they begin to roll over.  Your baby may accomplish this in month 3 or later.  But these playmats are perfect gifts for young babies. 

    Playmats 3 month old baby toys for muscle development

      • Tiny Love Magical Tales Mat Extra large mat for your baby as he grows and rolls around the space. 
      • Music playmats are a lot of fun! They get a real kick out of playing the piano with their feet. Pun intended. 😉
      • Lovevery Play Gym– Organic accessories, sustainably harvested wood. Water-based non-toxic finishes. This one is pricy but the materials used are all completely natural and it has suggestions for how to use it through the toddler years. 

    Sense of Touch- Toys with Texture

    Another big work for babies at this age are appreciating touch and the sensorial experiences of toys with different textures.  Your touch will always be number one- but having a variety of toys that are soft, hard, fur, crinkly, felt, terrycloth will stimulate your baby’s developing sense of touch.  Most of these toys fall into the categories above- as playmats will have a couple and rattles come in different materials.  

    best toys for 3 month old babies that aids development

    Large Motor Skills

    These toys may be more appropriate for your baby at 4-6 months. They need to have strong head control before they can be placed in any jumper or exersaucer.  

    But they are game changers! The level of fun and activity they have in these things is phenomenal.  I felt like it led to better sleep and engagement, because it’s such a good workout and stimulation. 

    toys that aid large motor skills 3 6 month old baby toys

      • This jumperoo was the BEST purchase we made at this age! All three of my boys loved this thing and had some super exciting jumping times. And it lasted perfectly through all 3 as well. 
      • Evenflo Exersaucer– another great option for sitting and bouncing play. 
      • We had this infant seat at my parents’ house and it was a great option for this age range before they can sit up on their own. 

    Entertaining Toys

    entertaining baby toys music development

      • Anything like this lil’ critter that is soft and cute with music can leads to endless fun.
      • Oball classic ball– play lasts well beyond 3 months as they change the way they play with it.
      • Baby Einstein Music Explorer Toy– music toys have always been a hit.  We started with toys like this and moved on to play guitars and microphones as the boys got older. 
    •  

    6-9 Month Old Babies

toys for 6 month old babiesBall and Drop Swirling Tower

Cause and effect toys like these ball roll slides are awesome for developing problem solving skills and learning the reactions of their actions. 

bath toys for 9 month old babiesBaby Shark Bath Toy Set

Bath toys– like these adorable baby sharks, because sitting up in the bath means play time!

activity cube for 7 month old baby toyVTech Busy Learners Activity Cube

This cube has lots of interesting things to fiddle with and figure out. Lots of motion sensor activities and melodies to enjoy during play. 

soft blocks gifts for babiesSmall World Toys Knock Knock Blocks

Soft blocksfor stacking, throwing, chewing and exploring the various colors and pictures.  I love to grab some of these in the diaper bag for travel. They are so light and soft, so fun to bring out at grandma’s house or a hotel room.  

baby christmas gifts music cubeMozart Magic Music Cube 

Babies can touch different buttons on this cube, each one symbolizing various instruments. Together, it can play 8 different Mozart compositions.  Perfect introduction to music and sensory play. 

6 month old baby gifts tobble towerFat Brain Toys Tobbles Neo

Babies work on motor skills, spatial reasoning, coordination and sensory exploration while working on stacking, spinning and toppling this tower toy.  Made with quality materials and made for lots of open ended play. 

car stroller for 6 month old baby giftsStep2 Whisper Ride II

This car is a fun alternative to the stroller when going to the park or taking walks.  Both my boys love it!

 

9-12 Month Old Babies

9 month old baby giftsVTech Sit to Stand Learning Walker

Sit to Stand Learning walker -5 star rating on Amazon after 4k+ ratings. It is a classic, tried and true toy to practice pulling up, walking and a big plus is the tablet in the front that can be separated for its’ own toy.

push and pull 10 month old baby toyWooden Push and Pull Cart Toy

Push and pull toys like this wooden tray are a lot of fun for early or developing walkers. This one in particular has quality wood craftsmanship and sustainably sourced materials.  It offers open ended play but also years of play based on the quality.

musical instrumentsMelissa & Doug Band in a Box Instrument Set 

Musical Instruments, you can start here but the possibilities are endless. We have tons of instruments and the boys have a lot fun with them still.

baby christmas gifts for 10 month old babiesMelissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Pounding Bench

Pounding bench wooden toy, helps work on fine motor skill, color identification and just plain banging fun. Again, I love the solid wood construction on this one. 

Grimms Toy for 9 month old baby gift

Grimm’s 6-Piece Rainbow Stacker

This toy is worth the price. The way your baby and then toddler plays with it will change and evolve, which is exactly what you want.  Their imaginations soars with this toy by stacking or making them into houses or tunnels during pretend play. 

sitting to standing activity cube

EverEarth Garden Activity Cube

Tall wooden activity cube that babies can play with while sitting but also encourages pulling up to standing. Has lots of interactive play without the batteries. It’s a durable classic toy that is proven to be loved time and time again. 

Subscriptions

A more recent trend for kids and toddler toys has been monthly subscription boxes.  We’ve explored a few of these with my two older sons and just started MontiKids for my youngest Rhys.  It can seem pricy- but I have a promo code you can use! And you get your money’s worth.  They use the best materials, align to your baby’s developmental milestones, arrive at your doorstop without additional thought and provide instructions for extending play. 

best subscription boxes for babies

      • MontiKids– Use promo code URBANMOM to save $30 & receive free shipping! My oldest is in a Montessori school and I love that I can start that kind of education at home. You don’t have to do a lot of research and decide what you need for each age. They have done that for you and provide the resources you need to understand the materials and how your kids can enjoy them. 
      • Lovevery– the same company that makes the play gym listed above also has a monthly subscription.  A bit more economical than MontiKids, because you can do it monthly while MontiKids is billed every 3 months.  They are very similar concepts and toys though. A lot of parents love this subscription. I would look through both websites and decide which is a better fit for your household. 

Best Toys for 3 Month Old Babies: Aligned to Milestones

When your baby turns 3 months old, it’s a perfect time to think about what toys will aid their development.  Hand-eye coordination is developing rapidly, as well as the ability to recognize objects and people.  Your baby may start turning to you and babbling when he hears you talk! One of the sweetest milestones during this age range, as they have mostly just been looking around up to this point.  My third son is almost 4 months old, and we’ve tried a variety of toys after three kids.  These are some of the best toys for 3 month old babies.

Related: 3-6 Month Baby Activities and Sample Schedule

To make it on a list for best toys for 3 month old babies, the toy has to correspond with babies’ big developmental milestones.  Babies and young kids learn through play, so toys are essential in aiding their growth in these areas. 

Even though it may seem like they are not doing much, babies are constantly learning and developing at an incredibly high speed.  For example, simple play with a rattle is part of developing hand eye coordination. 

On the other hand though, there are also some toys that they find incredibly entertaining.  I don’t completely disregard having a couple of these on hand. A combination of the two is what we have gone for.  They do not need a lot of toys and stuff.  One or two from each category should suffice all their needs.

This post contains affiliate links, please read the disclosure policy for more information.

Hand- Eye Coordination- Rattles & Teething Toys

At 3 months, your baby is able to bring their hands together and close their fingers around a toy.  Some of the best toys for 3 month babies work on hand-eye coordination.They are pumping their arms and legs, reaching out for things and slapping stuff away. Oh, and also grabbing chunks of hair really tightly- watch out for that!

Holding out a toy for them to grasp is a perfect way to practice this milestone.  Or setting them up on a mat with a small rattle or teething toy. Bringing the toy to their mouth works on hand-eye coordination as well.

Hand Eye Coordination Toys for 3 Month Old Babies

    • A great colorful teething and rattle toy.
    • Manhattan Rattle and Teether Grasping Toy– made with sustainable wood and natural materials is a great alternative to the plastic teething toys. 
    • Wooden Montessori Styled Baby Rattle– If you are looking for a more green toy this is a great start- organic wood, sanded and sealed with a mixture of organic coconut oil and beeswax, all natural pieces and colors.
    • Icy gel teether keys– teething may not start until 5 months, but it can be as early as 3 months. 
    • Baby wrist rattle and foot finders are fun additions to help them find their hands and feet during mat play.

Language Development- Books

Speaking to your child is the most important aspect of helping them learn language.  Describe what you are doing during grocery shopping or while you are changing their diaper.  It’s also never too early to start reading to your baby.  Books will always have a vast extension of words that you may not use in your ordinary speech.  Exposure to as many words as possible makes a profound impact on babies and toddlers.  

Books for 3 Month Old Babies

    • Board books are the natural starting point.  
    • Soft interactive books or this pack of 6 books can withstand teething, bath time and rough play. These serve a double purpose of play and language.  

Interacting with Others- Mirrors and Facetime

In the same fashion they are learning to absorb language, 3 month babies are working on other modes of communication. They are interacting with us by observing our movements and mocking our facial expressions.  Making eye contact and showing them your facial changes will not only help them developmentally- but the big huge grins they will give you in return will surely tug at your heartstrings.  

Mirrors where they can look at themselves and even some facetime with grandparents will help your baby learn all the different human expressions.

Toys for Babies 0-3 Months

    • Tummy time floor mirror gives a perfect view while also practicing motor skills. 
    • Car mirrors are great for your baby and for you to see them as you drive. 

Muscle Development: Playmats & Tummy Time

Those initial baby push ups are so incredibly adorable to me.  This is evident when you look through my phone and see how many pictures I have of my kids during this age and developmental milestone.  It’s a new vantage point for them also, so my boys were always super excited when I plopped down on my stomach and hung out with them. 

After being able to push their head and chest up with their arms, they begin to roll over.  Your baby may accomplish this in month 3 or later.  But they’ll start working on it at this age. To encourage rolling over- you can place them on their stomach and put a desired toy to one side that they are leaning towards.  

Playmats 3 month old baby toys for muscle development

    • Tiny Love Magical Tales Mat– Extra large mat for your baby as he grows and rolls around the space. 
    • Music playmats are a lot of fun! They get a real kick out of playing the piano with their feet. Pun intended. 😉
    • Lovevery Play Gym– Organic accessories, sustainably harvested wood. Water-based non-toxic finishes. This one is pricy but the materials used are all completely natural and it has suggestions for how to use it through the toddler years. 

Sense of Touch- Toys with Texture

Another big work for babies at this age are appreciating touch and the sensorial experiences of toys with different textures.  Your touch will always be number one- but having a variety of toys that are soft, hard, fur, crinkly, felt, terrycloth will stimulate your baby’s developing sense of touch.  Most of these toys fall into the categories above- as playmats will have a couple and rattles come in different materials.  

best toys for 3 month old babies that aids development

Large Motor Skills

These toys may be more appropriate for your baby at 4 months or close to. They need to have strong head control before they can be placed in any jumper or exersaucer.  But it has to be mentioned here- my boys were all starting to use it at the end of their 3rd month.

They are game changers! The level of fun and activity they have in these things is phenomenal.  I felt like it led to better sleep and engagement, because it’s such a good workout and stimulation. 

toys that aid large motor skills 3 6 month old baby toys

    • This jumperoo was the BEST purchase we made at this age! Both my boys loved this thing and had some super exciting jumping times. We just assembled for the 3rd time for baby Rhys. 
    • Evenflo Exersaucer– another great option for sitting and bouncing play. 
    • We lived in a small condo until recently, so just stuck to the jumperoo as our main “sit in” toy.  We had this infant seat at my parents and it was perfect for this age range before they can sit up on their own. 

Related: Encourage Brain Growth with these 50+ Gifts for Babies and Toddlers

Entertaining Toys

We have toys with music at every age.  The boys have all loved them.  They aren’t  necessary, and there are a lot of toys out there with excessive noise and features.  Decide what works best for you- we’ve always had a few of these that were well played with.

entertaining baby toys music development

    • Anything like this lil’ critter that is soft and cute with music can leads to endless fun.
    • Oball classic ball– play lasts well beyond 3 months as they change the way they play with it.
    • Baby Einstein Music Explorer Toy– music toys have always been a hit.  We started with toys like this and moved on to play guitars and microphones as the boys got older. 

Subscriptions

A more recent trend for kids and toddler toys has been monthly subscription boxes.  We’ve explored a few of these with my two older sons and just started MontiKids for Rhys.  It can seem pricy- but I have a promo code you can use! And you get your money’s worth.  They use the best materials, align to your baby’s developmental milestones, arrive at your doorstop without additional thought and provide instructions for extending play. 

best subscription boxes for babies

    • MontiKids– Use promo code URBANMOM to save $30 & receive free shipping! My oldest is in a Montessori school and I love that I can start that kind of education at home. You don’t have to do a lot of research and decide what you need for each age. They have done that for you and provide the resources you need to understand the materials and how your kids can enjoy them. 
    • Lovevery– the same company that makes the play gym above also has a monthly subscription.  A bit more economical than MontiKids, because you can do it monthly while MontiKids is billed every 3 months.  They are very similar concepts and toys though. A lot of parents love this subscription. I would look through both websites and decide which is a better fit for your household. 

Enjoy your fast growing baby. Most of these toys will be well loved beyond 3 months, well into 4-6 months. 

What You Really Need to Buy New for a Second Baby

My third baby boy is officially 2 months old.  It’s been a whirlwind of course, because life with newborns is just that. Finally, we have a rhythm to our days and our 2 year old is adjusted to having him around.  Since I am in the trenches of the newborn phase for the third time, these are my recommendations for what you need for a second baby. There are many essential items that can be reused, but also others to buy new.

It’s somewhat easier to prepare for baby #1 because you create a registry, and have a baby shower to supply most or all of the items.  You kind of know you need everything. When you are expecting your second (or 3rd, 4th..), it takes some thought to decide what you still have and what you need. Hope that this list helps you out!

What you really need to buy new for a second baby, items to re stock and things to definitely reuse. Related Posts: 8 Tips to Prepare your Toddler for a New Baby

Related Post: Newborn Sleep Training & the Most Important Tip for Good Sleep

This post may contain affiliate links, please read the disclosure policy for more information.

Before we dive in to what you really need for your second or third baby, remember that you can still make a registry.  I wish I had thought of this, because there are people that still want to buy you a gift. Most times they want suggestions, so pointing them to the items you need is helpful for both of you.  Amazon has a great baby registry that can be emailed to your friends and family, or added to a digital “welcome baby” card. 

What to Get if You didn’t the First Time

Baby Carrier

There are some items that just become more useful as you have more children. Good baby carriers was one of those things for me.  I used one sparingly with my first, but when I had a toddler to take care of- having hands free became even more crucial. 

I love the Baby K’tan for newborns and the Ergo 360 for 4 months and up.  If you aren’t sure which one you want, go to a store and try some on. There are lots of different kinds out there- it’s one of those things that needs to be comfortable so you’ll actually want to use it. Target and BuyBuy Baby usually have some in stock. 

Baby Video Monitor

To be even more specific- a double camera video monitor is LIFE. Even if your little ones will share a room at first, they may transition to their own later.  Or you can set up one in the playroom for when you are soothing your baby to sleep. It gives you peace to have eyes in different places.

From someone that has gone through SO many monitors, anticipating in advance and investing in a new one is worth it. My oldest is almost 5, but he shares a room with his 2 year old brother.  So they still have a monitor, not sure when I will actually take it out. Maybe 12, maybe 16 :-).   I have one that switches back and forth with the baby’s nursery to not lug around two screens. 

The Infant Optics DXR-8 video baby monitor is (in my humble opinion) the best one.  We went through the Motorola and Summer Infant ones that died on us way too quickly.  I know it seems pricey, but it’s cheaper than having to re-buy a new monitor every year. And it lives up to the cost. Additional cameras are sold separately, but you can connect up to 4. 

Carseat and Other Gear

Depending on how long it’s been since you had your first baby, you want to make sure your carseat hasn’t expired.  If it hasn’t, maybe your first is still using it. Instead of getting a new infant carseat, you can get a convertible one for your older child. The Diono Radian is amazing- you can fit 3 across the back in a Sedan. Not saying that you’ll also have a third like me, but if you do- you’d be ready! 

Related Post: Get a Simple Newborn Baby Schedule

What to Buy Brand New

Double stroller

I put off this purchase at first.  Thought I could wear the baby, while my oldest was in the stroller.  It worked at first, but those babies really start to get heavy! Some days, he’d be sleeping in his carseat and I just wanted to click him into a stroller versus taking him out.

We ended up getting the Baby Jogger City Select.  It’s big, but rides really well. And now we have the kickstand on the back where my oldest can stand.  Many people love the Uppababy Vista and I would have gotten that one if I didn’t find such a good deal on the prior.  We knew we were going to have a big family and I wanted this to be our one investment piece. So glad I did! 2 years later we are still going strong (and I bought it used). Other great options are the BOB double stroller or Joovy

  • Diapers and wipes– just in case you get pregnancy brain like I did. Obviously need more of these.
  • Burp clothes and wash cloths– bonus burp cloths that double as bibs for later!
  • Baby wash, shampoo and lotion
  • Pacifiers– no need to re use these. 
  • Nose Frida– I bought a new one with each of my three babies.  There will possibly be more germs, especially if your older child is in school or daycare.  Stock up on Boogie wipes and medicine also. 
  • Bathtub– depending on how it looks. Some of the baby bathtubs can fall apart easily and they aren’t too expensive to buy again.
  • Swaddles– A couple more of these was essential with my second. With my third, I had plenty. Velcro ones, sleepsacks or loose blankets. 
  • Sleepsuits and clothes– Think about what season it was when you had your first and the difference this time around. If it’s the same- lucky! If not, you may have all summer outfits for your newborn clothes and need winter items now. Or vice versa. A new going home outfit is nice to have for your second– so their life won’t be completely hand me downs. 
  • Breast pump or replacement accessories– hopefully you kept your breast pump and don’t need to buy a new one. If not, try and get one through your insurance if you didn’t the first time.  When I had my second son, I bought replacement parts for the pump I already owned. 
  • Lanolin cream, dry nursing pads, and soothing gel pads– you’ll never know what will come in handy! These are my best friends during that first week at home. 
  • Bottles– If they are still in good condition, just get new bottle nipples and a washing brush. 
  • Sheets and nursery accessories- I kept all the nursery furniture for all 3 of my kids. They used the same crib and glider, but I changed the themes with sheets and decor. This is more of a nice to have, if your sheets are still in good condition- you don’t have to buy new ones.

Congratulations! 

I know it can be daunting, but there were a lot of things I found easier my second time around. Parenting can be a crazy ride at times, but there are some pretty awesome things along the way if we slow down to enjoy them. Hope this list helped clear up what you need, so you can focus on the sweet new addition to your family. 

 

 

Cholestasis of Pregnancy and a Positive Induction Story

My third pregnancy was vastly different than my first two. Even though I was having a third boy. There were new challenges that I hadn’t experienced before.  First, nausea took over my first two trimesters, and fatigue seemed stronger this time around as I mentioned previously in my first trimester reflections.  And of course, I was taking care of a 4 and 2 year old. For a while, I thought my life in general was the likely cause of being more tired this time around. As I was diagnosed with Cholestasis of pregnancy at the beginning of my third trimester, all of the symptoms started to fit together. cholestasis of pregnancy, pregnancy induction, positive induction story, 37 week induction, rhys' birth story, icp

On the plus side, I was more active- I continued to walk and attend my favorite cardio classes about twice a week. My weight was more maintained  than my second pregnancy where it skyrocketed (and never fully went back 🙂 ). I was proud of myself for this part because it’s something I have struggled to do in previous pregnancies, and I thought it would help me have an overall better pregnancy.  And it did, until life had other plans for me. 

As I transitioned into the third trimester, the nausea hadn’t diminished completely but it wasn’t as frequent.  I never fully felt the second trimester wave of energy and to be honest- I started to feel really low.  It’s hard for me to be so tired, constantly sick and raging with all the hormones. I started to worry how it was affecting my household,  myself,  my kids and my marriage.  Which just made me even sadder, but the fatigue was so strong that I could only cry and do the best possible. All of my routines were off and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on any of it. For someone that thrives on routine, it was really hard for me to accept and not feel guilty about. 

The Itching Started

I remember the night I started itching very well. I was 32 and 1/2 weeks pregnant. It was my birthday weekend and my good friends cooked a dinner for me (that was absolutely amazing by the way).  The friend that hosted knew how bad I had been feeling. Being surrounded by friends and feeling understood for all my rollercoaster feelings was definitely something I needed.

Earlier that day, I had been pretty itchy all over.  At first, I thought it was just another “fun” pregnancy symptom.  But then I had to apologize to my friends for constantly reaching into my shirt to scratch my stomach and arms during our conversation. It was nonstop that night and just intensified as the hours passed.

Around 1am I had been in bed for a couple hours, but I hadn’t slept at all. My husband had to help me scratch as I was miserable. The itching was now most intense on my hands and feet. It felt like an army of fire ants was on them.  That is the only way to describe how much more intense it was than just regular pregnancy itching.  It was unbearable.

In my state of insomnia and between scratches, I got on Google. Naturally. I was initially just looking for ways to get some relief. I had already pulled out the cortisone cream and any lotions I could find.

That is when I found out about Cholestasis.  I had never heard of it before but what sent the alarms off in my head was the number one symptom is itching. And not just regular itching- but specifically in your hands and feet. I described it to my husband and we decided to call my doctor.

Right when I told her where the itching was, she told me to come into Triage that day.  Thankfully it was a Sunday, so Jordan stayed home with the kids. I had barely slept so I practically dragged myself there.  

On the way, I texted my mom and sister the page I found on Cholestasis and told them that I was pretty sure I had this.  I’m not the kind of person that diagnoses herself quickly, but it sounded exactly like my experience had been.

The other symptoms were dark colored urine, which I had just mentioned to my doctor at my previous visit. Fatigue, nausea and depression are the other signs.  Hello! I  had all of this! But any of those can come around in pregnancy, the itching is what set it apart.

What is it?

The scariest thing you will find when you look up Cholestasis are the risks.  Fetal distress, preterm birth or stillbirth.  Exactly. The last things you want to hear while pregnant. My mind started spinning and I probably got to a point where I read too much about it and too many real stories.  That is how I work though, I want to know as much as possible about things. But I read the good accounts AND the bad, which to be honest was scary. 

Cholestasis happens when the liver slows down or stops the flow of bile. When bile acids build up, it can spill into the bloodstream. There aren’t concrete causes for it yet, but some general associations. Most women are diagnosed in their third trimester when the pregnancy hormones are elevated the most. So there is a direct correlation with elevated hormones and the onset of the disease.  It also has genetic links and environmental factors that contribute.  

Bile acids in the bloodstream can cause stress on the baby’s liver, which is what makes it so serious.  It also affects their breathing. .

I found it interesting that I never heard of this or that it is not routinely tested for during pregnancy. Why do we get routinely tested for other things that can occur in pregnancy but Cholestasis can go unnoticed and undiagnosed if someone is not familiar with the symptoms?

In Triage

They attached me to the baby monitor immediately. He was active and the heartbeat looked good. Then they did an ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid, which was also where it should be.

Blood tests were then done- as they are the best source at diagnosing Cholestasis. The first one tests your liver enzymes and results are given within the hour.  The second is the most important. It tests your bile acids, but you don’t get the results for a few days.  

One of my liver enzymes was slightly elevated, which wasn’t enough to diagnose me. But purely on my symptoms, they started me on the medication for Cholestasis. Urso maintains your bile acids and helps alleviate the itchiness. There would be no harm in taking it if I didn’t have it. 

Waiting Game

The “normal” range of bile acids in a pregnant woman are 0-10 and anything above that would diagnose me officially with Cholestasis.  A few days passed and I got a 10. Which was annoying. I’d rather it be a 2 and not have it, or above a 10 and have it. Right on the border meant more waiting and more tests. My doctor retested me the following week and my acids had elevated to a 13.  And this was after I had already been on the medication for a week that helps regulate bile acids.  

So after a couple weeks of all this- I was officially diagnosed.  Beyond the medication I was already on, they induce women with Cholestasis early because the most danger to the baby happens in those last weeks.  We scheduled my induction for 37 weeks and it was a whirlwind wrapping my head around the fact that my “deadline” for getting ready for this baby just moved up 3 weeks.  

I had really wanted to go into labor naturally and I worried about my baby coming out earlier than he was supposed to.  But this is what was best for him now.  And that is really all that matters at the end. 

They also prescribed me non-stress tests twice a week in addition to my regular OB visits. They check on the baby’s movement, heart rate and amniotic fluid.  Every SINGLE doctor constantly told me to regularly count kicks and movement. And to make sure I came in if there was any decrease in movement.  Do you know how scary it is to hear that over and over again?  

I became a little obsessive. If he was sleeping, I would freak out and shake my belly to move him and make sure he was still good.  It was stressful, emotional and overwhelming.  Finally, I tuned in to his patterns more and made sure he was moving at his usual times instead of constantly poking my belly around. 

Talking About It

The worry was always in the back of my head. It was hard for me to talk about it all beyond my inner circle. 

I’d casually mention I had to be induced early but probably left many people confused because I wouldn’t really explain why.  When I had to explain what Cholestasis was and the risk it could have for my baby, my eyes would instantly tear.  So I probably appeared flippant in responses, merely because I didn’t want to go into detail and get emotional.

I read so many heartbreaking real stories that I couldn’t confidently announce that this baby was definitely coming on this date etc. Not until he was in my arms. 

Induction

My last OB appointment was at 36 weeks and my cervix was absolutely nowhere near ready for labor.  It was early after all so that made sense.  My doctor moved my induction to the night before I was set to arrive.  These extra hours I was given cervidil to prepare my cervix before I was officially induced in the morning.  

Yes, there were more worries!  I was worried I wouldn’t progress- that it would lead to a 3 day induction or c-section.  I worried about him- that he would need intervention being so early, that maybe he wouldn’t be big enough or developed enough yet to come out. And of course- the biggest worry still loomed over all of that.  That my body was attacking him and this early induction could still end up not being early enough.

1cm is what I came in with Monday night at 7pm and what I still had Tuesday morning when they took out the cervidil at 8am. But my cervix did cooperate and get softer. I was mentally prepared for a marathon though.  Even when everyone confidently said that third babies come quickly.  At this point, it didn’t seem like it would be going that way. 

9:30am they started pitocin.  I was getting contractions but not anything I couldn’t talk through. They put in a foley bulb around 10:15. It is a balloon type thing that would help get me to 3cm.  Around 11:50 it had done it’s job and came out.  They had also slowly risen the amount of pitocin given every 30 minutes to an hour. 

Contractions came every 2 minutes but I could still talk and walk through them.  My husband and I went for a walk in the halls- while dragging the IV drip behind me.  We may have gone too far and gotten in trouble-lol.  Didn’t know I could only walk in the little hallway in front of my room until my nurse came after us that she had lost signal for me.  Whoops.

Then I sat on the birthing ball- bouncing and stretching.  Anything I could think of. I sat on it through my liquid lunch while my husband had real food- still hospital food so I wasn’t too jealous. They kept asking me for pain levels but I was still comfortable. I knew from experience that you are not in active labor until you become uncomfortable. 

My doctor came back around 2pm and said she thought it was time to break my waters and move this along.  She warned me that contractions would probably get a lot stronger and be ready to ask for the epidural if I wanted it.  I wasn’t in pain yet at all so I said okay, but in my mind thought it was going to be a while before it actually happened.

By 2:30pm I was in crazy pain! The contractions were so strong and frequent that we started the process of getting the epidural.  Low and behold, they weren’t available when I requested it so I had a good 45 minutes of super painful contractions before the anesthesiologists came in. 

My doctor kept coming back to check on me. She confidently said we’ll have this baby by midnight.  As she came back to check again at 5pm, she moved the time up even more.  I was actually progressing! Hallelujah! I was 5cm at this point. cholestasis of pregnancy, pregnancy induction, positive induction story, 37 week induction, rhys' birth story, icp

He’s Here!

Things moved quickly the next couple of hours.  Around 7:15 she asked me if I was ready to push and in a daze I agreed. She paused for a minute and asked if I was okay. I was a little shell shocked- the worries were still looming.  But I snapped out of it and said let’s do this. 

We’re gearing up for this crazy pushing phase.  Some back story- I pushed for almost an hour with both of my two older boys. The second one hurt like heck so my husband and my mom- who were there for those also- got into position- ready to cheer me on and motivate me through this final phase. 

Guys, I pushed less than 10 minutes.  Maybe 4-6 times and he was out.  The world finally decided that the extreme nausea, Cholestasis and fears for my baby were enough. Hours of pushing would just be overkill.  Thank you!

I burst into tears. He was perfect.  7 pounds, 7 ounces- even at 37 weeks. Who knows what he would have grown to if he cooked longer! The anxiety I was holding in my body finally released into a pool of tears.  He wasn’t tiny or had trouble breathing from being early as I had feared (lungs are one of the last things to develop).

There was a healthy baby boy in my arms. All the feelings of love and relief were incredibly intense. Everyone told me how happy I looked in the pictures we shared after. Letting go weeks of fear created a purely euphoric feeling. cholestasis of pregnancy, pregnancy induction, positive induction story, 37 week induction, rhys' birth story, icp

Reflecting Back

In many of the stories I read about Cholestasis, many women were shrugged away about their itching. Told to get some benadryl and they’ll be fine.  Or not prescribed the right medicine. I am so grateful for how my doctors handled my symptoms, and took me seriously enough to prescribe me the medicine right away.  They had a sense of urgency that should be there for something that can have such a fatal result.  The problem seems to be that there isn’t enough knowledge, even among doctors in the field. 

Follow your instincts. With itching or anything else.  This website ICPCare.org was an amazing resource for me. They have accumulated medical research, real stories, and outreach programs about this disease and what is needed for treatment. cholestasis of pregnancy, pregnancy induction, positive induction story, 37 week induction, rhys' birth story, icp

Encourage Brain Growth with these 50+ Gifts for Babies and Toddlers

Babies and toddlers learn through play!  When we use games that target developmental skills- It’s a win win. I’m not saying we don’t have the flashing Paw Patrol toys, but it’s essential that I have at least some open ended and educational toys. For Christmas and birthdays, I love to focus on the gifts for babies and toddlers that help them with their developmental milestones, like fine motor skills or inserting objects into another. The toys that  work on skills for our babies’ continued growth.50+ gifts that are developmentally matched to encourage brain growth AND hours of fun! Perfect gifts for babies and toddlers, from 0 months to 2 years old. Gift guide for babies, gifts for toddlers, one year old birthday gifts, two year old birthday gifts, christmas gifts for babies and toddlers

If you want to read more about developmental milestones, head over to my routine main page that links to daily schedules from newborns to 2 year olds. They include everything about that age group (also listed below!). Lastly, there are some gifts that are just amazing for parents because they keep our kids engaged or calm, so they had to be mentioned.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience, meaning I make a small commission to at no additional cost to you!

Related: The Ultimate List of Preschool Gift Ideas

Toys for 0-6 Months Old

Newborn and 3-6 month schedule

  • This swing is amazing for new babies, so a perfect buy for anyone that is having or just had a baby.
  • Best teething and rattle toy.
  • Playmats for lots of engaging tummy time and stimulating play.
  • Music playmats are a fun addition to typical tummy time mats! They get a real kick out of playing the piano with their feet. Pun intended. 😉
  • This jumperoo was the BEST purchase we made at this age! Both my boys loved this thing and had some super exciting jumping times (4+ months)
  • Soft interactive books, like this adorable Peekaboo Forest
  • Baby wrist rattle and foot finders are fun additions to mat play- and helps them with coordination!
  • Anything like this lil’ critter , that is soft, cute and plays music is a must!
  • This infant seat is great- especially for this age range before they can sit up on their own to see what is going on with everyone.

6-9 Month Old Babies

6-9 Month Baby Schedule

  • Cause and effect toys- like ball roll slides.
  • Bath toys– like this adorable octopus, because sitting up in the bath means play time!
  • Activity cubelots of interesting things to fiddle with and figure out.
  • Soft blocksfor stacking, throwing and if we are honest- chewing.
  • Discovery booksinteractive stories with activities.
  • This car is a fun alternative to the stroller when going to the park or taking walks.  Both my boys love it!
  • Sit to Stand Learning walker -big plus is the tablet in the front can be separated for its’ own toy.

9-12 Month Old Babies

9-12 Month Baby Schedule

  • Push and pull toys– This one is a plus because it has a shape sorter activity included.
  • Musical Instruments, you can start here but the possibilities are endless. We have tons of instruments and the boys have a lot fun with them still.
  • Pounding bench wooden toyfine motor skill and banging fun.
  • Stackable block towersthey may not get great at these until later, but helps them learn to put blocks on top of one another and size differences.
  • More bath toys
  • Tall wooden activity cube– encourages standing and has the interactive play without the batteries.
  • Sit to Stand learning walker– if you still haven’t gotten this walker- you won’t regret it.

Toys for 12-18 Month Old Babies

12-18 Month Happy Toddler Schedule

  • This singing and dancing robot doll was so fun for both my boys! Now I buy it for a lot of my friends and their baby’s first birthday.
  • Shape sorters– lots of shape practice this age.
  • Beginner puzzles-great introduction to puzzles!
  • Make believe toys, really big for this age and going forward- doctor set, cars, dolls, or dress up clothes.
  • Pretend kitchen
  • Pretend cleaning set (My son loves this broom! I’m hoping it turns into a passionate desire to help me around the house.  A mom can dream!)

18-24 Month Old Babies

An Essential 18-24 Month Toddler Schedule

  • A make believe hide away like this playhouse tent is one of my favorite toys for this age and going forward!  Magical spaces can really bring out your child’s imagination and they’ll have fun for hours.
  • Your toddler is really working on hand eye coordination and this basketball hoop is a fun way to work on it!
  • Mega blocks– pre lego age but ready to start building with blocks.
  • Next step puzzles– after your little one has mastered the matching puzzles, they can advance to building a picture with pieces.  These Begin Again puzzles are beautiful and durable- the lightweight puzzles seem to get torn or eaten by the dog in our house.
  • Other make believe toys- doctor set, cars, dolls, pretend kitchen, and pretend cleaning set
  • Perfect addition to a large playroom.  I’ve also seen them set up with a ball pit at the end- hours of fun!  And really, who doesn’t want a slide?
  • Grab some more musical instruments!
  • Riding toy– we don’t have a playroom right now, so my sons chase each other around the kitchen island with theirs.  As long as I’m not doing something in there, they have a blast!

2 Year Old Toys

2 Year Old Sample Schedule

  • Beginner’s tricycle
  • A large train set really leads to hours of play- with setting up the tracks in lots of different ways and then playing with the trains.
  • Magna tiles– they are all the rage and for reason! Higher price than other toys but we have built some pretty amazing structures with these- there are really endless amounts of possibilities so it helps your 2 year old use various skills at one time.
  • Tool set– a continuation of getting them pretend toys to use so they can “help” you around the house or on projects.  My son always feel so important when he grabs his broom to help sweep (by messing up all the piles, lol) or getting his tool set to help on a project.
  • Fireman suit or Princess dress– Now that they are better at dressing themselves, adding dress up to their pretend play adds an extra layer of fun!  I’m all about toys that are open ended and can lead to years of play instead of something they’ll get tired of.
  • Lego duplo– start building lego houses and villages.
  • An easel is a great way to spark creativity and easy for you to help your toddler draw shapes or letters.

Happy gift giving and if there are any other gifts you love that I didn’t mention- please add in the comments!

Ramblings about my Third Pregnancy and Feelings about Gender

There are some aspects of my third pregnancy that have been pretty magical, especially my oldest being aware of what’s happening. And then there are some symptoms that are still incredibly real and heightened miserably- especially with two toddlers running around.

As I write this, I’m entering my second trimester and already feeling the symptoms of the first trimester fade away.  Thank goodness. I feel very optimistic of what’s ahead. This post is purely a capture of everything I have experienced and felt so far in this journey- not just physical changes but also feelings on finding out the gender of our third baby.

The Good

Older Kids More Excited

When I was pregnant with my second son Ellis, my first son Miles was 22 months. He was unimpressed, lol.  The whole idea was just over his head at that age.  This time around, he just turned 4 and is so adorable. He understands that we are expecting a new baby and says things like, “I can’t wait to meet him!”,  “So when the baby is done growing in your belly, he’ll be born and then grow bigger like Ellis and I?” and also some wonderings, “When you eat then, you share your food with the baby?”

It’s pretty special to share this experience with one of your children and have him actually take interest in our growing family and ask such thoughtful questions. Ellis on the other hand is 2 and said, “I don’t want to be a big brother, I want to be Ellis!” That response is soo him.  He will be almost 3 when the baby comes and is a really loving kid so I’m sure he’ll be enamored as well.  The abstract concept will probably not connect with him though until he meets the new addition.

You know what to Expect

This isn’t my first rodeo.  There is peace in having experience. That can’t be denied. I don’t constantly research every feeling or symptom.  I know what symptoms are serious and which ones are “normal”. This helps to give myself a little more slack. I was anxious about my first doctor’s appointment to get a confirmation of the little baby that was in there. But now, I’m trying to just take every day one at a time.

The Not so Good

Very Aware and Sick

I’ve read other third pregnancy accounts where moms have said that it was just flying by and they didn’t have time to even think about being pregnant.  Not having time is very true.  I am chasing two active toddlers around and it’s very difficult to only focus on being pregnant.  But I have been the sickest this pregnancy and that makes it really hard to forget I’m pregnant.

With my first, I maybe threw up once. I would always have crackers on my nightstand, and eat a couple in the morning before getting up. That worked beautifully. Same with my second pregnancy, a little nauseous in the morning but then it would go away. This time I threw up probably Every. Single. Morning for at least a month.  And then also many afternoons. The grand finale was having to tell a cab driver to pull over so I could get sick on the side of the road.  I always thought I’d be drunk and leaving the best party ever if that happened to me.  But no.  That was not the case.

So yeah, it’s hard to “forget” you are pregnant when that is happening. Especially when my oldest would  ask me every morning if I was going to throw up before we left the house. That’s how used to it he was.

Fatigue

The exhaustion is still very real.  I was staying up after the kids went to bed to work on my blog and other work I had.  That ended really quickly after I got pregnant. By the time we put them down, I was just sooo tired.  Also, there was a fear I’d get sick again if I stayed awake so it was just safer all around for me to go to sleep.

As I write this, I am officially 14 weeks tomorrow. I haven’t gotten sick in a week and I’m already feeling a little more energetic.  It feels good to be more productive again, because even if I try to remind myself that I am pregnant and it’s part of growing a human- the to do list doesn’t go away.

Conflicting Emotions

Initial Gender Discovery

This is probably the hardest for me to write about.  But if you are in my inner circle at all, I wasn’t quiet about what I wanted. After two boys, I wanted a girl.  Actually I’ve wanted a girl from the beginning, but since this is planned to be our last baby- I really wanted a girl this time. The feeling was heightened and combined with pregnancy hormones.

My pregnancy being so different this time made me feel like I was maybe having a girl. They say you are sicker with girls, so of course! Also, everyone around me was convinced we were having a girl also.  I’ve realized now that’s a societal expectation- everyone will say you are having the opposite of what you already have.

I am 35 so had my genetics test done around 12 and 1/2 weeks.  They give you 7-10 days and call you with the results.  If you choose to find out, they’ll let you know the gender.  Of course I wanted to know.  They called me on day 7 and confirmed this baby was ALL MALE.

I cried. A lot. And you know what- I’m not going to say I feel guilty about it.  Because human beings are complex.

Emotions are complex.  You can feel differing emotions simultaneously.

I needed the space to mourn the idea of mothering a girl. It was an idea and a dream that I’ve wanted for so long and it was officially never going to happen. And it’s not just about frilly dresses, I wanted the experience of raising both genders and what it would be like for me- and my husband- to parent a girl.

Those feelings don’t mean that I wasn’t grateful for the little boy growing inside of me. Or grateful that I could have another healthy baby. Or happy that we were blessed with this family.  Because all of those feelings were still there.

Many women have these feelings and they feel guilty because gender can seem very petty and superficial in the grand scheme of things. And sure, maybe it is a little bit. While it may seem trivial, we all have dreams and vision of what our family will look like. Experiencing the loss of a dream are still valid feelings to work through.

I gave myself time to have those feelings and talk to my husband and family about it.  After two days, I was ready to move on. I read a few other posts about gender disappointment and it really helped me process my feelings and move past them. This is one of my favorites where she writes a letter to her daughter, saying goodbye to the vision she created of her.  I cried ugly tears reading this,  since I found it that first day and it really spoke to what I was feeling. As I read it again, this paragraph stuck with me and kind of created a basis of moving forward.

And because of that, it is with a tear filled face but excitement in my heart that today I say goodbye to the dream you were. You hold the dreams of my past and to hold on to you any longer takes moments away from my precious boys. At this point to want you here means one of them would not BE. And as I anxiously await the arrival our newest, and our last little I cannot imagine life without ANY of them. They are each so special to me and I love them beyond imagination. And you see, they deserve all of me, not just the broken pieces. And I deserve to have complete, whole happiness in each of them. From this point forward I am all in. They are each the dreams of my present, and the dreams of my future.

Dreams of our Future

I started to imagine what my family IS going to look like. And get excited for it. What my future has in store for me and my amazing little boys. While I have 3 sisters and 1 brother, I grew up with 2 sisters.  And I am close to both. We did so much together like choreograph dances, sing all the songs to Grease, play dress up– and we were truly a little tribe. My 3 boys can totally have that similar experience. Whatever that will look like for them.

There are so many benefits to having a 3rd boy- let’s not forget how much money we will save. I would have most definitely gone overboard on the girl stuff, clothes and all the things. I started to imagine this little baby boy and what he could be like and my love has only grown. And that doesn’t mean that the love wasn’t already there or that I want to replace him with a girl.

If you are having similar feelings, know that it won’t last forever. From what I’ve read, it’s lasted throughout the whole pregnancy for some, but right when they met their little baby- the feelings diminished.

My advice is to let yourself feel. When you feel guilty and suppress your emotions, you aren’t giving yourself the space to fully deal with them. Working through those thoughts lets you go to the other side. Where you start rejoicing and planning the family you were MEANT to have.

Excitement!

Here are my two boys announcing their baby brother. Aren’t they adorable??? It’s going to be pretty cool to see what this third little guy brings to the mix.

third pregnancy, third boy announcement, gender disappointment, three brothers, pregnancy announcement

Mothering Two: Acknowledging the Bad and Celebrating the Good

Motherhood can be tough! Going from one to a mom of two is definitely an adjustment. There are truly lots of positives of becoming a mom the second time around, as I mentioned in things that are easier with your second baby.  Those are still very true.  But there are also lots and lots of new situations and personalities to adjust to. Mothering two kids or becoming a mom of two is tough and exhausting work. Thinking about the best moments siblings have together helps celebrate the joys of motherhood and acknowledge what all this hard work is for.

Of course, your kids are very different. You learn how to mother in a whole new way for this new personality and little being.  And then when they are both toddlers- you learn to mother a relationship amongst the two of them even further.

Being a work at home mom sometimes feels like I’m on this hamster wheel because my home and work life all happen in the same space.  I’m either changing a diaper, making someone food, taking someone to school or kid’s class and then working on my computer day in and day out. Since this all pretty much happens in my living room/kitchen area- it all just blends in together.

If I don’t take time to get off the hamster wheel and look at the big picture- I would go nuts.  Because it can get stressful- regardless of what our motherhood life looks like- work away from home, at home, stay at home mom- you name it.  Even after you’ve established a great daily routine for them- the job doesn’t end there.

There are many things that are tougher with two. The stressors can really weigh you down. At our home and most I assume, the tough moments are ongoing- they will always be there in some way or another.

We consistently have a toy theft situation where both my boys end up in tears. Other times, they have to be told to keep their hands to themselves or think about how they made the other one feel. It’s constant.

So when that happens, I like to think about all of the things they do that are amazing. It keeps it all in perspective of what this journey is all about.

Mindset

I went to a parent night at my son Miles’ school and the teacher was talking about a seminar she attended.  The speaker wrote about what really makes people happy and what in their childhood contributes to that happiness.

Majority of it revolves around mindset.  First priority is to have strong connections with people you love and things you love to do. How you viewed the world was a close second in importance:  being optimistic and celebrating what you are grateful for.Mothering two kids or becoming a mom of two is tough and exhausting work. Thinking about the best moments siblings have together helps celebrate the joys of motherhood and acknowledge what all this hard work is for.

When we talk about and share the things that are good- we are by no means minimizing the tough parts.

It’s exhausting work.  For us and for them. They are learning how to interact with other people in the deepest and most intimate ways.  Mostly because they live there and aren’t going anywhere. 🙂

But man, when it’s good, it’s soooo good. Taking some time each night to think about the great moments or enjoy them with your significant other. It can be really refreshing.

These are some of my favorite moments with my boys. When I’m observing their friendship and bond grow stronger each day.Mothering two kids or becoming a mom of two is tough and exhausting work. Thinking about the best moments siblings have together helps celebrate the joys of motherhood and acknowledge what all this hard work is for.

Best Moments as Bond Brothers

Music is life at our house. They have the best dance parties together. Both running around and dancing in circles. If you follow me on instagram, you’ve probably picked up on that. LOL

Sometimes they’ll get their “instruments” to play along- one on the drums and the other guitar or the microphone.Mothering two kids or becoming a mom of two is tough and exhausting work. Thinking about the best moments siblings have together helps celebrate the joys of motherhood and acknowledge what all this hard work is for.

It’ hilarious when Ellis turns to Miles for the next moves they are going to dance to or imitates almost all of his expressions.

Miles getting hot wheels for himself AND Ellis when getting ready to play. Pretty much any time they share without being asked.

How they look at each other and just laugh and laugh.

How they have their own language at times- repeating random sounds back and forth.

When they share their snacks with each other- making sure each one can reach the bowl or plate.Mothering two kids or becoming a mom of two is tough and exhausting work. Thinking about the best moments siblings have together helps celebrate the joys of motherhood and acknowledge what all this hard work is for.

Developing empathy. Miles can tell Ellis is having a hard time at dinner and says, “Mommy, I don’t think Ellis wants to eat. He’s so tired that he is ready to just go straight to sleep.”

Both of them cuddled up on the couch with me watching a movie- holding their favorite blankets.  One of the BEST feelings and moments.

When Miles goes to “get Ellis” from his nap, which means he puts the ottoman near the crib and climbs in with him to play.

I’ll never get over when they randomly hold hands or Miles leads Ellis down the street on a walk.

How sad Ellis gets when Miles walks into his classroom at school.  It’s so sweet that he misses his playmate for the few hours he’s not around.Mothering two kids or becoming a mom of two is tough and exhausting work. Thinking about the best moments siblings have together helps celebrate the joys of motherhood and acknowledge what all this hard work is for.

Those are so so worth all the craziness that comes in with raising multiple kids.

What are some of your favorite sibling moments?

The Ultimate List of Everything You Need to Make Baby Food

If you are getting started on making your own baby food, I’m sure you are wondering what you need and how to get going.   Seeing the meal plan instructions with all the materials needed may be a little much to take in at one time.   So a good place to start is being prepared by getting everything you need in order. This is an all encompassing list of everything you may need to make baby food. Thinking about making baby food? This is the ultimate list of everything you need to make baby food- lots of options so you can find your perfect tools. things needed to make baby food, tools needed to make baby food, what do I need to make baby food

You do not need everything on this list, but there are options in each category based on different preferences.  For example, maybe you want the most budget friendly option, or only glass containers, etc.  

I’ve listed some of the materials in my baby food prep plans, but I have also discovered lots of new amazing tools. They make cooking baby food even easier and more fun!  

After you are done shopping, you are prepared to get started. Make sure you save the meal prep plan that best fits your baby’s age:

For Cooking

This is a comprehensive list, but you’ll probably have most of the tools already in your kitchen.

Pureeing Tools

For quick prepping, I like to use a combination of tools. My favorites are the ninja and hand blender.

  • Food processor – great for easy chopping but you may need something more powerful for carrots and harder vegetables.
  • Immersion hand blender like this  Cuisinart works well and it’s easily stored.
  • Regular blender like this Ninja blender is perfect because it also comes with individual cups. This is what I initially used because I already had it.   
  • baby bullet is a great option because it also comes with storage containers.

Storage Containers & Freezing

I’m all about making big batches of baby food, so a lot of trays is necessary to get a month’s worth of baby food. I have a variety of ice cube trays and also baby food specific trays.  These are some of my favorites and other great options loved by many moms.

Why ice cube trays?? Each cube is 1 ounce so it’s a perfect amount for baby food. Stage 1:  2-3 cubes per meal, or 1 cube with baby cereal. Stage 2: 3-4 cubes or 2 cubes with baby cereal.

  • You can start with just basic ice cube trays– 4-10 is ideal to freeze large quantities of food at a time, that will produce a variety of recipes.  
  • Ice cube trays with lids– 4 pack. Great for baby food, especially if you don’t want them exposed in your freezer. OXO Tot is a favorite brand for many and they also carry a covered freezer tray.
  • There are a lot of options made specifically for baby food:  Mumi&Bubi – 2 stackable trays with 42 total 1 ounce compartments.  Comes with a lid and more compact than ice cube trays.
  • Kid Simple-Budget friendly version of the Mumi&Bubi trays.

Individual Container Options

Pouch Systems

There are some amazing reusable baby food pouches! You can still have the best of both worlds. The convenience of buying pouches is a common reason many state for not making their own baby food.  This way is healthier, cheaper and just as convenient!

  • Weesprout Food Pouch– 6 pack, 5 fl oz- Great reviews and nice that you can see the inside.  Only downside is the small amount- so these are a good choice if you don’t think you’ll want a lot of pouches.
  • Infantino squeeze pouches– You can get packs of 50 or 100!
  • Infantino squeeze station– No mess here!  They have this homemade baby food pouch thing all thought out.
  • A pack of two infantino spoons that can be attached to the pouches.

Feeding

Many times, you can use one of the baby food storage containers as a serving bowl.  This way- you can put the lid on if your baby didn’t finish.  There are also some specific dishes for babies and accessories you and your baby may like!

Baby Finger Foods

Finger foods are a little bit different in terms of cooking and eating, which is why there are some new unique items for this transition. It’s an exciting phase though, especially when they are fully feeding themselves.  Can get very messy though!

Cooking

  • Regular Muffin Pan
  • Mini Muffin Pan (These are a perfect size for baby and toddler food. But if you don’t buy one, you can use a regular muffin tin and cut them in half)
  • A cookie sheet (2 if you don’t have mini muffin tin)
  • Parchment paper and aluminum foil
  • 2-4 mixing bowls
  • Optional for making bite size meatballs or oatmeal bites- Scooper
  • Plastic wrap and freezer ziploc bags

Storing

Eating

  • Silicone place mats with plates or get this super cute cloud design. They transition perfectly with your child to finger foods and self feeding.
  • Eating on the go: Disposable silicone mats are perfect for restaurants!

Resources & Recipes:

Besides the meal plans featured here, these are a couple great books for more recipes and ideas:

And that’s it! You are all set to get started, just pick the right meal plan for you:

Happy Cooking! Did I miss any of your favorite baby food cooking tools? Feel free to let me know in the comments.