Monday, 27 October 2014

Best Books for 1 - 2 Year Olds

Toy Story Board Book Set (similar), My First Animal Sounds, Baby Faces

Thoughts on the books
That boxed set of 12 board books has been read many times at our house. We have the Toy Story set, but this Sesame Street set is the exact same format.

I found a preloved copy of My First Animal Sounds at a children's book share, and was so excited to bring this home and read it with S. I remember having a copy of this book when I was little.

I know there is a board book copy of Go Dog Go, but we love the full-length version best.

Between 1 and 2, Seb loved "dictionary" type books just full of pictures of objects with the words underneath. We have a few different versions, but a simple My First Words book was his favourite.

Mama Loves Me (and similarly, Daddy Loves Me) are great books for this age because it's simple, repetitive, and highlights many activities toddlers do with their parents at that age. Super cute:)

Finally, despite some arguments believing this book somehow encourages child violence towards fathers, we love Hop on Pop. Isn't one of the important lines from the book, "Stop. You must not hop on pop??" Anyways.....

You can see that our stack is well-loved. So much so that our copy My First Words was taped and retaped so many times that it eventually had to be thrown out and replaced with the First ABC book.

Do you have any other books to add to this list? I'd love to hear them!


Monday, 20 October 2014

Les petits plaisirs - Sugarfina

Have you heard of Sugarfina? It's a gourmet candy shop out of California that started after a couple went to see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on a date. After watching the movie, they decided it would be wonderful to start a candy shop for grown-ups, and so Sugarfina was born.

I've always wanted to try out some of their candies, especially their gummy ones. Then one day recently when I was browsing on the Chapters website, I noticed that they are now selling a selection of Sugarfina boxes through Chapters online! In the name of blog research, I though it was important to order some and try them out :)

I haven't been disappointed! They're many of of my favourites from when I were little but with an adult twist. There are the Champagne Bears that come in brut and rosé flavours, the Apple Frogs that have a hint of vanilla, or the Peach Bellinis (inspired by the standard fuzzy peaches). There are also  new flavours like Apricot Hearts or Berry Vanilla Pies. Last night Rob, Seb, and I all tried the Cuba Libra flavour...think spiced rum and cola.

If you're really yearning for your childhood, you can also try out one of their large bento boxes. See the pic below. The packaging is so impossibly cute!

You can shop the selection of Sugarfina goods at Chapters here. If you're in the US, you can order directly from the Sugarfina website.

Bon appetit!

If you want to see more things that make me smile, check out other little petits plaisirs here.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

3 Books for Mamas, 1 Blog Birthday, and a GIVEAWAY!

It's no secret that I love the Rookie Moms. They were the first blog I ever started to read regularly, and they are the ones who inspired me to start my own blog. Now one year later, here we are. Technically my blog's first birthday was Monday, but it was Canadian Thanksgiving, and I was spending the day with family. One of the many things for which I have been grateful this year is the support, encouragement, and kindness I've felt from so many of you. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. It means so much to me to hear other mamas or women having similar challenges, or hearing that something I've shared has been helpful or resonated with you in some way.

To add to my list of resources, here are 3 more parenting books that you may want to check out. Two of them were written by Heather and Whitney over at the Rookie Moms blog.

The Rookie Mom's Handbook, Heather Flett and Whitney Moss
So you know what newborns don't do? Wake up and say, "Hey Mom. Let's grab a latte and go shopping." This book is specifically designed for first-time mamas and includes 250 fun activities for you to do with (and sometimes without) your baby. I LOVE this book. My own personal copy was left out in the open so often, I once discovered S chewing on it instead of using his teething ring. I previously posted about My Year of Rookie Mom Challenges. All 52 of the activities S and I did during those challenges are listed in this book like go to a mom and baby movie, get your baby's feet painted, or launch Camp Grandma.

Stuff Every Mom Should Know, Heather Flett and Whitney Moss
Want to know how to survive a children's birthday party? Need a list of awesome comebacks for unsolicited parenting advice? Or learn 6 toys that can be found in any house (painter's tape? - check!). You'll find that and more in Heather and Whitney's second book - Stuff Every Mom Should Know. What is so great about the way Heather and Whitney write is that when you read their books, it just feels like a good friend is talking to you and sharing her tips.

How to Con your Kid: Simple Scams for Mealtime, Bedtime, Bathtime--Anytime!, David Borgenicht
The title makes it sound like this is just another joke parenting book, but I just finished reading it, and I was surprised to see it was full of really practical and useful tips for getting your little one to comply. It's probably most useful for children between the ages of 2-7. I'm totally going to start using some of their "get your kid to go for a haircut" cons with S like practicing on some of his favourite toys at home or bringing snacks to the barber shop. I also really like the "get your kid to brush his teeth" and "get your kid to help with chores" sections. I didn't really think that there were "chores" for a 2-year-old, but S can totally put his own clothes in the laundry hamper or bring his plate to the sink.


To celebrate my blog's first birthday, I have two prize packs full of goodies to giveaway (including Heather and Whitney's Stuff Every Mom Should Know book). One prize pack is more mama-themed and the other I hope anyone would enjoy. Each prize pack will arrive in one of these adorable Bear Hugs pouches that I just couldn't resist when I was at Chapters last week. Thanks again for all of your support over the past year as I started this new venture. I look forward to what the next year will bring us :)


This giveaway is open worldwide. All entries will be verified. Giveaway closes Sunday, October 19th at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 6 October 2014

Local Love: Maternity Leave in Toronto's East End

After living and/or working in the east end of Toronto for over a decade, I've fully fallen in love. I couldn't imagine living in another part of the city. There are so many families here and almost everything I could ever want or need is within walking distance from my house. Our friend Jim maintains that you can physically feel the "cool factor" rise as you take the subway across the Don Valley Parkway. I agree.

I had a generous 16-month mat leave after Seb was born. And because I had a rule that I had to get out of the house every day at least once, I banked a pretty healthy list of great places to take babies and young toddlers. If you're on mat leave in Toronto anywhere east of the DVP, check out some of these places.

1. East End Children's Centre - (0 - school age) There are 2 locations for the East End Children's Centre, but we always go to the Kimbourne location because it's closest to us. A massive church basement full of toys for babies, toddlers and young kids of all ages. Rob loves taking Seb here on Saturday mornings, so I can get a few things done around the house. They provide snack, circle time, and have crafts, a climbing structure, a train table, a sand table, a play kitchen, puzzles etc etc etc. Cost - $1 donation.

2. Playground Paradise - (cruising babies -12 yrs old) The hours here are a bit all over the place, and it can get filled up quickly on weekends, so I found the best time to go was as soon as it opened in the morning. There are slides, a ball pit, large foam blocks, and a few fun toddler play structures for little ones. There are also lots of activities for older kids and a splash pad outside.

3. Oaks 'N Acorns - (0 - 6 yrs) Another stay and play café on the Danforth. It can also get pretty busy, but it's bigger than Lil' Bean N' Green. I've been here for a birthday party too which was super fun, and they're always having lots of great themed workshops for young kids. They also offer classes, but I haven't tried any of them either.

4. Baby and Me Fitness/Stroller Fit - (0 - 12 months ish) You can find Stroller Fit classes all over the city, but this is the one I took and really liked. Fresh air and a bit of a workout in the summer did us both some good.

5. Gymboree Play and Learn Classes - (0 - 5 yrs old) Seb and I practically lived at Gymboree for the first year of his life. We loved their Play and Learn Classes and, although it's one of the pricier baby activities, I felt it was really worth it, especially on days when the weather kind of sucked.
Just a note - you can claim the cost of Gymboree Play and Learn classes on your taxes under the Children's Fitness Tax Credit.

6. Kids Fun Town - (babies and up) Kids Fun Town isn't always my first choice because I find it a bit small, but, unlike the stay and play cafés, it's open on Sundays and holidays, so I do love that. There is a large bouncy castle inside, a small ball pit, and a variety of toys.

7. Toronto East/Broadview EYC - (0 - 6 yrs) All Ontario Early Years Centre programs are free (or...prepaid by your taxes if you prefer lol) and until we had a serious nap schedule, we went often to the Broadview Baby and Me program on Friday afternoons. Each week there was a different theme or activity like mommy and baby yoga, circle time, or visits from public health nurses. I really enjoyed this program. Be sure to call and register the week before, as they tend to fill up.

8. EYET Book Corner - (all ages) The Beaches East York site has plenty of similar Early Years programs. We also really like their Book Corner on Wednesdays at 3:00. To encourage literacy at home, you can go and pick up a couple of donated books that are yours to keep free.

9. Movies for Mommies - (0-7 months or so) Miss going to the movies because you've been home every night with bébé? Then this is perfect for you. Seb and I did this once, and I did really enjoy it. He slept in my lap for about half of the movie, but when he was fussing I didn't feel guilty at all because the theatre was full of moms doing the same thing. I think this outing is great until your baby gets mobile, then they may be a little too squirmy.

10. Skyzone - (walking toddlers and up) Skyzone is an indoor trampoline park and on Tuesday and Thursday mornings they have Toddler Time where only toddlers are allowed in to jump. If your baby/toddler is anything like mine, jumping is his absolute favourite thing to do ever, so this is pretty fun. It's also extremely busy so get there early.

11. Swimming Lessons - (6 months and up) This is also something you can find all over the place. I've done the summer outdoor swimming lessons through Toronto Parks and Rec a few times, and also the diaper fit classes through H2O Fit. Diaper and Toddler Fit classes are offered on Saturdays at Monarch Park Collegiate.

12. Monkey Magoo's - (1ish and up) I'd say around 1 is a great age to start taking babies here. It's a big play space with plenty of toys, a ball pit, a slide, and lots of ride on cars etc. They also have complementary tea and coffee for the mamas. Note - on weekends they are almost never open to the public because they do so many birthday parties. They keep their website pretty up to date with birthday party closures, but during the week is when you want to plan to go here.

13. Sprouts - (0 - 7 yrs old) This place is very similar to Gymboree. You can read all about Sprouts on a post I previously did here.

14. Toronto Public Library Baby Time - (0-18 months) Some local branches run their Baby Time program by lottery, so we never got in; however, I'd still try if I was on mat leave again. It's a 45 minute story, rhymes, and songs program. I don't think it runs in the summer. If you don't get in to the sessions, just head to the library anyways. The back corner of the kids' section has 2 bins at the Coxwell/Danforth location is filled with board books, and we often go just play and flip through the books on our own.

15. Living and Learning with Baby Program - This is a free 6 week program offered by Toronto Public Health. Call and register as soon as you have your baby to be put on the wait list for your nearest location. The program is advertised for babies 6 weeks - 6 months old, but the wait list was so long at my location that at 6 months, Seb was the youngest baby in our session. Most babies were 6-8 months old. This program was a really great way to connect with new moms.

From the author of Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends, is also the book, Toronto Fun Places for Families. This 450 page book is full of activities and excursions for families in the GTA. Plus, this book will grow with your family. It's not just for babies and toddlers and includes a ton of things to do with older children as well.

And finally, if you're looking for even more, awhile back I wrote a guest post for the Rookie Moms called Baby Activities in Toronto that has other ideas for things to do all over the city with your baby.

Despite what it looks like, I know this list isn't exhaustive. These are just the places I've personally tried, and I know many new ones have popped up since I was on maternity leave. Add any of your favourites in the comments section.

Have fun mamas!