Category Archives: Family Life

Stocking Stuffers for Babies and Toddlers

This time of year, I’m always looking for great gift ideas for Buddy. Stocking stuffers are especially difficult for little ones because anything too small can be a choking hazard. But there are still a lot of great things available for stocking stuffers for young kids.

Buddy was 8 months old at his first Christmas, and a year and a half at his second Christmas. This year he is two and a half. Below is a list of things that I’ve gotten  for his stockings. I’m also including a few of our favorite travel toys that we got at a different time of year, but that would be great in a stocking.

*Disclaimer – I have included affiliate links for your convenience.  Should you choose to purchase a product through one of these links, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting my family*

Great for Both Babies and Toddlers

  • Bath Toys – I got the Munchkin Barnyard Friends bath toys for Buddy’s first Christmas, and we still play with them. This year I bought the Munchkin Fishing Toy to go in Buddy’s stocking.
  • Balls – I bought the Bright Starts Activity Balls for Buddy as an infant, and they were a favorite for a long time. We throw beach balls around all the time at our house, and that would be great in a stocking. Koosh balls are also lots of fun.
  • Pull back vehicles – I got a pull back James train last year and it is by far the best pull back toy I’ve ever seen. Buddy didn’t even know Thomas and Friends at that time, and now that he’s obsessed with trains, he loves it even more.
  • Cars – Buddy got O’Ball Go Gripper cars last year. This year I have a small Lightning McQueen car for him.
  • Small board books – As an infant, Buddy loved small finger puppet books. We have also done Indestructible books in stockings, and they are so great because they take up no space! The dollar store also has nice, small board books.
  • Snacks – Puffs, yogurt melts, fruit snacks
  • Small stuffed animals
  • Toy phone or remote – Buddy got this Fisher Price phone in his stocking as an infant and this VTech remote last year. This year we got a Thomas the train “phone” that makes sounds for a small board book.
  • Finger puppets
  • Mittens and mitten clips
  • Ornaments – This year I bought a firetruck ornament for Buddy on one of our trips this fall that will be in his stocking.
  • Small instruments – kazoos, egg shakers, or other small instruments. Buddy loved this musical instrument set as an infant (his favorite gift on his first Christmas.) Some of them are too big for a stocking, but several would fit well.

Baby Stocking Stuffers

  • Teethers
  • Rattles
  • Bibs
  • Pacifiers

Toddler Stocking Stuffers

  • Two piece puzzles – We got a great one from the Target dollar spot. This one is similar to one I made for Buddy.
  • Crayons – We love Crayola triangular washable crayons. Our current set is well loved and it will be nice to have a new box.
  • Color Wonder markers – We have one book (Thomas – of course) but it only comes with a few markers. Buddy will find more in his stocking and extra Color Wonder paper later on Christmas day.
  • Card games – Buddy is just starting to get into games. We have a family memory game made on Shutterfly, this Go Fish animal game, and an World of Disney Eye Found It card game for his stocking this year.
  • Thomas the train minis – I bought one set of these minis before a trip this year and Buddy LOVED it! I’m excited to give him some new ones with some of his favorite trains.
  • Stickers – Puffy ones are our favorite, and right now there are some great ones at our dollar store. Party stores also have great stickers for cheap.
  • Duplo animals – Buddy is obsessed with Duplos. We got him this animal set earlier this year. I found some small bags with a mystery animal and a few squares at Toys R Us that we will put in his stocking this year.
  • Colorforms – They are reusable stickers that are so travel friendly. We love them! Here is a link to some great ones from Frozen, but you can also find them sometimes at the dollar store.
  • Fun Band-aids – Buddy wants Bandaids all the time. I’m sure he’s not the only toddler who would find this fun.
  • Play doh and tools – Last year I wanted some small tools that we could use on a plane. I found these dough tools from Caryko that are great!

I hope this helps with your holiday shopping! Please add a comment if you have a great stocking stuffer that I’ve missed!

Cooking With Kids: Baked Ravioli

Buddy and I recently made baked ravioli together. I was looking for an easy recipe to try with Buddy, and I realized ravioli would be good to try. We used this recipe from Betty Crocker.

First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and greased a glass baking dish. Then, I pulled out the ravioli, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and a large spoon.

I scooped a few large spoonfuls of sauce into the bottom of the pan. Then, Buddy used the spoon to smooth it out.

Next, Buddy and I put a layer of ravioli on top of the sauce. We used the fresh packaged Buitoni, but I have also done this with frozen ravioli. We ended up using two packages so we could have enough for company and another night of leftovers.

Once we put down the ravioli, we covered it with a layer of sauce and cheese. Buddy is getting better about sprinkling out the cheese evenly instead of throwing down clumps of cheese.

After that, we repeated the steps with another layer of ravioli, sauce, and cheese. We also added a little Parmesan cheese to the top.

We covered our pan with aluminum foil and baked it for 40 minutes. Then we took the foil off and baked for another 15 minutes.

This ravioli was so easy, and so delicious! Buddy’s Nana and Great Aunt were visiting us, and they were so impressed that Buddy made our dinner! We all loved it, and Buddy’s asked for ravioli several times since we made it. I would highly recommend it as an easy and fun recipe for kids.

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Easy Chores for a Two Year Old

I think it’s important for kids of all ages to have chores and responsibilities. That’s why I hire students to do various jobs in my classroom. And that’s why Buddy has had chores since he was  one.

I blogged about Buddy’s chores as a one year old here. At that time, Buddy was 21 months old, and his chores were: putting away toys and books, putting clothes in hamper, dusting, cleaning up food messes, and helping with laundry. Now that he’s two and a half, I’ve expanded the types of things I ask him to do at home. Buddy loves helping, and he enjoys doing all of these tasks.

Carrying Mail

Buddy and I get the mail together after school every day. Some days, he wants to carry it all. Other days, he only wants one or two things. Carrying the mail makes him feel very important, so he loves to do it.

Pushing the Trash Bins

Buddy thinks pushing the trash bins is so much fun. We have to do it together because, clearly, the trash bins are way too big for him. But I enjoy the help. Together, we make a good team.

Throwing Out Trash

It was an exciting day in our house when Buddy figured out how to do the step lever for our trash can. Now he can actually throw away his trash without any help from me. This is particularly helpful when I’m busy with something else. For example, tonight I was cleaning up our dishes, and I asked Buddy to pick up some food from the floor and throw it away. And he did!

Picking Up Ice

This is my favorite thing Buddy does for us. Our refrigerator randomly spits ice out on the floor, and it’s so annoying to stop what I’m doing to go pick it up. Buddy loves running to get the ice and throwing it into the sink.

Wiping Tables

Buddy and I have been cooking a lot together recently, and he’s great at wiping up the table when we’re done. I also ask him to wipe up his little table when he gets crayon on it or after we play with Play doh.

Unloading the Dishwasher

Since Buddy loves to help, he’s always eager to get into the dishwasher when Hubby and I are unloading. And unfortunately, everything is just too high for him to put away much by himself. I’ve read some mom blogs that said they had the kid dishes down low so the kid can put it away. That didn’t work for me though. I like how my kitchen is organized, and I didn’t want to change that for the sake of having Buddy help.

Then a friend of mine posted a picture similar to my one above of her elementary school age kid unloading the silverware. Her point was to point out how funny it was that her son felt the need to sit down while helping. But for me, it was a great source of inspiration. Buddy is great at sorting, and he loves sorting the silverware. I always put away the steak knives, but Buddy can do the rest himself. He is so proud, and I’m so thankful that he’s no longer underfoot while I’m unloading the dishwasher.

Washing the Windows

Yes, I make my two year old wash the windows. And it’s amazing. Washing the windows was on my summer bucket list, and I told Buddy he could help or play by himself. Of course, he wanted to help. So I sprayed the whole window with cleaner, and then I wiped the top half and Buddy wiped the bottom half. He really enjoyed the whole process, so we’ve done it a couple times since then.

I’m so proud of Buddy for being willing to help me around the house, and I hope that doesn’t change for a long time. If you have any other ideas for good chores for young children, please share in the comments.

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Cooking With Kids: Delicious Drumsticks

Last week, I wanted to find a new recipe to try with Buddy. He really loves cooking, so I want to give him new recipes to try. I found a recipe for Delicious Drumsticks in a cookbook from my childhood (Alpha Bakery Cookbook– affiliate link). It sounded like an easy, fun meal that Buddy could make mostly on his own.

Here is the recipe: 

I started by preheating the oven to 425 degrees. Then I measured the dry ingredients, and Buddy dumped them into a large bowl. (1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.)

Once they were in the bowl, Buddy mixed them up with a spoon. Buddy loved the word “paprika” and kept repeating it with delight over and over!

I melted half a stick of butter in the microwave in another small bowl. Then, I found a large spoon to help with the coating in the butter bowl and the flour bowl.

For each drumstick, I put it in the butter bowl first. Buddy used the spoon to help coat the chicken in butter. 

Then, I moved the drumstick to the flour bowl.  Buddy used a spoon to help coat the chicken with the flour mixture. Once it was coated, I moved the drumstick to a glass pan. (I used an 8×8 one as suggested in the recipe, but it was a tight squeeze to fit all six drumsticks.) 

Buddy loved using the spoon to scoop the flour mixture! He wanted to keep playing even after we had finished coating all of the drumsticks. So I let him scoop and dump for awhile as I cleaned up the rest of the kitchen. Then I asked Buddy to help me wipe up the flour when he was done.

This was a fun and easy recipe for kids, and everyone in my house enjoyed eating our delicious drumsticks. I’m sure we’ll make chicken drumsticks again soon.

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Cooking with Kids: Stromboli

I’ve been making Stromboli for a long time. It’s easy to make, and is a fun variation on pizza. I don’t remember where I found the original recipe, but I’ve adapted it to make it easier. Since I’m always trying to involve Buddy in the kitchen, I thought this would be a great recipe to try with him.

To make Stromboli, you need Pillsbury pizza dough (the kind in the tube), pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, pepperoni, basil, and olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 425. Spread out the dough on a baking sheet. Mix a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with basil, and brush it on the dough. Buddy really loved using the basting brush for this part. 

Next, cover half of the dough with pizza sauce. (I actually forgot to do just half this time. It’s ok to cover the whole dough too.) You only need a few tablespoons of sauce. I usually use spaghetti sauce and then use the rest of the jar later in the week with pasta. In the original recipe, the sauce isn’t used until the end for dipping. You can serve it this way if you prefer.

Cover the sauce with mozzarella cheese. This was Buddy’s favorite part! We like a lot of cheese in our Stromboli, so we used the whole bag. 

Next, put a layer of pepperoni on top of the cheese. You can sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on top of the pepperoni if you wish. (I usually do.)

Fold the dough over so that the edges meet. Use your fingers to press the loose edges together. Buddy decided to give the whole dough a few pats, but that isn’t necessary.  

Bake the Stromboli for 20 minutes. It should be a light brown when it’s done. Then you can slice  and serve it. My whole family loves Stromboli, and it’s so quick to make. Buddy had a lot of fun making the Stromboli, and I’m sure he’ll be involved the next time I make it as well.

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Cooking with Kids: Easy Zucchini Bake

My family is looking for easy, healthy dinner ideas. When I was searching through some of pinned ideas, I came across a recipe for Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake from Mom Endeavors. Buddy likes zucchini, and I was happy to find something easy to make with him.

I started by cutting up five zucchini into small slices. I did 1/4 – 1/3 inch thick, but the next time I make it, I will do thinner slices. Then, I put the slices into a large bowl. I set the slices out on the counter along with a greased 9 x 11 glass pan, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and a bag of shredded mozzarella. Once everything was set up, I had Buddy come over and stand in a chair.

Buddy was beyond excited to help make dinner. And this recipe was so easy, he was able to do most of it himself. To start, I had Buddy made a layer of the zucchini on the bottom of the pan. He kept saying “zucchini” and “I did it myself” over and over again. It was so cute. 

Next, I covered the zucchini with some of the spaghetti sauce. Then, Buddy helped me put  some of the mozzarella cheese on top. 

After that, we repeated the same steps to do a second layer of zucchini, sauce, and cheese. I chose to add some parmesan cheese and basil to the top for a little extra flavor. 

The zucchini baked in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. It was still a little crunchy, but thinner pieces of zucchini would be more like pasta. Here is our final product. 

All of us loved this dinner! Buddy even asked for seconds and thirds! He was also happy to eat the leftovers, which isn’t usually the case with zucchini. This easy zucchini bake was definitely a recipe we will make again.

If you have any other easy kid recipes, please leave a comment. I want to do several other recipes with Buddy this summer.

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Twelve Things I Love About Being a Mom

In honor of Mother’s Day, this week I want to reflect on my favorite things about being a mom. It’s hard work being a parent, and it’s not always fun. But the last two years that I’ve been Buddy’s mom have been my favorite years of my life. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. Unconditional love – The love I feel for Buddy is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I can’t imagine life without him.
  2. A stronger bond with my husband – I love watching Hubby and Buddy together. Hubby is a great dad, and that makes me love him even more. We also are a team who support each other as parents. Buddy brought us together as a family, and he has changed our relationship in wonderful ways.
  3. Reliving my childhood – It’s fun to be a kid. And as a parent, you get to relive a lot of the fun things again. Right now, we spend a lot of time drawing with sidewalk chalk and playing with bubbles. I didn’t do those things as a childless adult, but now I do them all the time.
  4. Lots of hugs and cuddles – We have a family hug almost every morning before Buddy and I leave the house. Buddy gives lots of hugs throughout the day. Sometimes we rock and cuddle before naps on the weekends.
  5. Being someone’s whole world – Buddy needs me. Even though there are times when I’d like a little more distance (Really? You’re going to cry because you’re playing with Daddy and I need to get something downstairs?), it’s flattering. A hug or a kiss from me can fix a boo-boo or help Buddy if he’s nervous. It’s amazing to be loved so much.
  6. Lots of music – I’ve always loved singing and music, but I never did it as much as I do now. Buddy’s on an “Old MacDonald” kick, and we sang it today going up and down the aisles of Walgreens.
  7. Reading kids books – I love reading, and it’s a lot of fun to share that love with Buddy. We sometimes reads old books from my childhood, but we also read lots of new, fun books as well.
  8. Being silly – It’s so much fun making Buddy laugh. Being a mom gives me an opportunity to be silly and playful.
  9. Making new friends – I have made a couple great new mom friends, which is so fun. Adults don’t often make new friends, and it’s exciting to have friends that I can socialize with while our kids play. If I wasn’t a mom, I wouldn’t have ever made these friendships.
  10. Creative activities – I love finding new fun activities for Buddy. We have so much fun together doing arts projects or sensory activities. I wouldn’t do nearly as many creative projects without Buddy as I do now.
  11. Spending more time with family – Hubby and I both have families that live out of state. Before we were parents, we saw our families once or twice a year. Now, we see them much more often. Buddy is a perfect excuse for us to visit or for them to visit us. I love our families, and it’s great seeing them more often.
  12. Seeing the world in a new way – There are so many things that I notice that I wouldn’t have before Buddy. He loves it when I point out trucks or construction equipment as we drive around. We spend time watching birds and people walking their dogs. There are so many exciting things in the world when you are two – it’s fun to find them.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my readers! And thanks for reading.

Cooking with Kids: Easy Ham and Cheese Sliders

Buddy is very interested in trying to imitate others and being a “big kid”. As a result, I look for ways to include him in my daily routines around the house. I’ve already blogged about many of these chores in this blog post, but recently, I’m trying to include Buddy in the kitchen as well.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to try out this recipe for ham and cheese sliders. I realized that it would be easy for Buddy to help, so I let him.

I cut apart the Hawaiian rolls an put the bottom part in a glass dish. Buddy helped me put the ham and cheese on top of the rolls. Then, I put on the top part of the roll. I melted butter, and Buddy helped me brush it on the top of the Hawaiian rolls. Finally, we put the rolls in the oven at 350 degrees to bake for 20 minutes.

The ham and cheese sliders were delicious and took less than 10 minutes to put together. Buddy was so proud of himself for helping make dinner.

I’m hoping to find some other easy recipes to try with Buddy. If I find anything I’ll like, I’ll share it here. I’d love suggestions if you know of some good recipes for kids.

Five Easy Chores That a One Year Old Can Do

My students have jobs in my classroom, and I love their help. They earn extra credit, build responsibility skills, feel good about helping, and I have less work to do. Now that I have student helpers, I can’t imagine doing everything by myself. Even though Buddy is much, much younger than my middle school students, I still want to do a similar system at home.

I have seen many lists of kids’ chores online, but every one I’ve seen starts at age two. In my opinion, one year olds are capable of helping out around the house. Just like my classroom, my end goal is to have less work for myself. At this point, these chores are about giving Buddy opportunities to help. Yes, it will be faster for me to do them on my own, but eventually, he will be able to do more independently. And Buddy loves being my helper.

Here are the five chores that Buddy does in our house. Buddy was a very late walker, so he started doing all of these chores before he could walk. Now that he’s walking, he’s even better at these chores.

Putting Away Toys and Books

We started making Buddy put toys away around 10 months old. Most of his toys are thrown in the bins that are on the lower part of the bookshelf pictured above. Around 12 months, we started expecting Buddy to put books on the shelf correctly. He knows which part of the book is the spine, and he knows that he needs to have that part face out.

Some days, Buddy’s very willing to help pick things up, and some days it takes a little more effort. Giving options (“You pick up one, I’ll pick up one. Which one do you want?”) and counting (“Let’s see how many toys you can put in the box.”) are my best ways to encourage Buddy on days that he’s not interested in picking up.

Putting Clothes in the Hamper

Buddy started putting clothes in the hamper at 17 months. This one doesn’t happen that often right now. I usually undress Buddy on the changing table and throw his clothes in the hamper as I change him. But there are times that we ask Buddy to put things in his hamper. We talk about playing hamper basketball, and he loves it!

Dusting

This one is my personal favorite. I hate dusting, and Buddy thinks it’s so much fun! He has a great time cruising around our coffee tables with the duster. I do have to do the very center once he’s done. I have also walked around with Buddy and held him up to dust higher objects. Buddy started dusting after he became confident in cruising, which was around 16 months.

Cleaning up Food Messes

One of our house rules is you make a mess, you clean it up. When Buddy started on solids, he had a lot of problems with throwing food. Hubby and I decided that if Buddy threw his food, he would have to pick it up. If that food is sticky, Buddy also has to wipe the floor with a wet paper towel. Making Buddy clean up after himself helped quite a bit with the food throwing. We started this chore around 14 months.

When Buddy is at daycare, he has to wipe the table in front of his space when he’s done. He loves to wipe now, so we let him do that as much as possible. (It’s also a great way to help Buddy wait in a waiting room or when we’re going out to eat. We give him a napkin, and he starts wiping the table.) I also have Buddy wipe the table after he’s been coloring to clean up the crayon mess.

Laundry

I know that some people think I’m crazy for having a one year old help do his laundry. But I don’t want to do Buddy’s laundry for the next 17 years, and it’s easier for him to learn now while he’s interested. I’ve had Buddy help with every part of the laundry process. When I’m loading the washer, Buddy will hand laundry up to me so I don’t have to bend over. Then he pushes the power and start buttons. When I switch things to the dryer, he helps me push in the wet laundry and put in the dryer sheet. He also helps with the power and start buttons on the dryer. When everything is done, Buddy helps put the laundry into the basket.

While I’m folding, Buddy will go through the basket, pull out the socks, and put them in a pile. Sometimes he can do this well, sometimes it’s just laundry everywhere. In the last few weeks, Buddy has started to put things away in low drawers like socks, bibs, and washcloths. Buddy’s favorite part of the laundry process is when we’re done, so he can play with the laundry basket. (Read more about some of our laundry basket fun in this blog post.) Buddy started helping with laundry around 15 months.

Other Ways to Help

I wouldn’t classify these as chores, but I like to give Buddy every opportunity I can to “help”. He loves it!

  • Turning on/off the light
  • Closing a drawer or door
  • Bringing something over to me
  • Carrying something so I don’t have to carry it
  • Putting trash in the trash can
  • Pouring or stirring when I’m cooking

As Buddy gets older, I plan to increase the amount of chores he does independently. Hopefully, Buddy will become confident in his independent skills and be willing to help our family. If you have any ideas for other great chores for toddlers, please leave them in the comments.