5 Holiday Gifts Ideas for Your 1-Year-Old That Will Grow with Them

Babies grow out of things so quickly–including toys! It can be hard to figure out what to get her that she won’t toss aside after a couple months (or even a couple uses!).

So to kick off this holiday season, here are five parent-tested gift ideas for your baby (boy or girl), that you have a good shot will engage him for at least a few years to come:

hapekitchen1) A Play Kitchen.  This worthwhile investment has created hours upon hours of fun in our household from age one to age four. There are many nice options out there, but Hape makes a great one: Playfully Delicious Gourmet Kitchen.

2) This Melissa & Doug Shopping Cart. It starts as a nice push toy for new walkers (it’s not the most stable, so make sure you’re little one is decently steady first), and will grow into a favorite toy for pretend play.

3) A Tea Set. I’ve never met a toddler that didn’t love a good tea party (boys and girls!). It’s a fun way to pass the time and promotes fine motor skills too. All it takes is a small pot of herbal tea, and a side of cookies or dried fruits, and most toddlers will be in heaven. Any cute set will probably do, but if you’re looking for a nice one, latchescheck out: Fruit Garden Tin Tea Party Set for Kids.

4) The Melissa & Doug Deluxe Latches BoardThis puzzle-like activity grows with your child. They can master different latches at different ages and the surprises behind the doors never seem to get old.

5) Finger Paint.  Early on this activity can be messy, but no matter what age, finger-painting always seems to be a big hit with young children! Try: Crayola Washable Fingerpaints for painting success that’s also super easy to wash off.

For more great educational toy recommendations, check out expert Lisa Schiavoni’s Mamajamas List.

What Are the Best (and Worst) Ways to Stimulate Your Baby?

Best (and Worst) Ways to Stimulate YourWe all like to be entertained, and babies are no exception. But there are some “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to stimulating your baby’s brain.

The best thing you can do for your infant is simply interact with him. You are your child’s first teacher. It’s your job to show him the ropes. Developmental School Psychologist and Early Interventionist Lisa Schiavoni says it’s important to talk to your baby. Sing to him. Read to him. Play with him. Make him part of your everyday activities. Try singing silly rhymes, talking about what your child is seeing while driving, labeling body parts during diaper changes and bath times.

Not long ago, you could plunk your baby down in front of the tube, put on a video and have some much needed mommy time. But the thinking has changed. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends no screen time whatsoever for babies until the age of two. Studies show that engaging with electronics at an early age has an impact on attention span and concentration and may delay cognitive development. And it doesn’t matter if he’s watching “The Good Wife,” “Sesame Street” or Baby Einstein videos. Television is two dimensional. Too much screen time builds a different kind of brain in children, one that is lacking dimension. Think about it this way — if a baby sees a ball on TV, it looks round, but it feels flat. If they hold a ball, however, they understand it is round and it has texture and it rolls away if they don’t hold onto it.

Children learn by touching, feeling and exploring. The best way to learn is always by doing, not watching.

Of course most of us can’t live our lives without our cell phones, tablets and TVs. If your baby happens to glance at it while he is breastfeeding or having tummy time — it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure you try to limit overall exposure. For those of you with older kids, it’s probably best to limit screen time to less than forty-five minutes a day. According to Dr. Robert Pressman from the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, “Across the board, there is a steady decline in emotional strength and educational performance after forty-five minutes of daily screen use.”

The best kind of stimulation toys for your baby are black and white board books, wrist rattles, infant play gyms and anything musical. Lisa Schiavoni recommends Mrs. Mustard’s Baby Faces Stroller Cards because the focus is on faces of babies, which other babies love. She also recommends Lamaze Wrist & Foot Rattles. Avoid toys with electronic components such as lights and sounds since they don’t encourage sensory motor and language. And never underestimate the value of making silly faces. It’s free, fun and effective.

For More educational toy recommendations from Lisa Schiavoni, check out her Mamajamas List.

And the Winner of the Breast Pump Hackathon Is….

photo (6)Mamajamas sponsored the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon this past weekend out of the MIT Media Lab.

Teams worked all weekend to innovate what has come to be regarded as themost archaic, dread-provoking piece of new mom equipment: The Breast Pump. (For those who haven’t heard or don’t get it, you can read about one mother’s painful pumping journey here.)

There were many great Pump innovations that came out of the event, but ultimately, first prize ($3,000 and a trip for two to the Bay Area!) went to these folks.

I love that you can wear the “Mighty Mom Utility Belt” under clothing and pump while you’re on the go without folks noticing. It will also be nice to have data as to how much you’ve pumped on each side, when you’re most productive, etc. (I still think they should have taken my idea of including an optional back massager….)

See the full results, all the designs, and videos from each of the teams here.

Congratulations to all those who participated! And thank you on behalf of new mothers everywhere. I really hope this spurs innovation that ends up on the market!

Summertime Means Travel Time: 5 Must-Haves for Vacation-Bound Babies

design_3It’s finally summer time. And in our family, that means it’s travel timel! We took our first trip across the country when my son was just six weeks old to see my in-laws. I must have spent hours thinking about what I was going to pack. I was petrified to get on that plane. Of course, he was so little he slept the entire flight. Thinking back to those days, it seemed like it would have been enough to just bring some diapers, wipes, a muslin swaddle blanket, and a nursing cover.

As time has passed, travel has gotten MUCH harder. My son is three now, and since we travel quite a bit for work and family, he’s become a bit of a pro. But I’m definitely still that parent who asks the flight attendant for a third bag of animal crackers to keep him busy just a little bit longer.

As a result of our jetsetting, I’ve also tried out a lot of different baby travel gear. Here are five of my absolute favorites:

6-12 months

41fdyJM+beLRhino Toys Oball Rattle: This simple ball would keep my son entertained for hours on a flight. As soon as your baby learns to grasp, I’d recommend getting one of these.

Booginhead PaciGrip Pacifier Holder: For any baby that takes a pacifier, these are a must-have for a plane or car ride, or you’ll spend half of the time looking for their pacifier and wiping the grime off of it.

 12-24 months

Munchkin Travel Booster Seat: This is the best portable high chair! I alstravel boostero love that it has ample storage underneath for things like bibs, dishes and spoons.

Summer Infant Tiny Diner: When your baby gets to the stage where they love to eat food themselves, but haven’t mastered the art of using a plate at a restaurant, these little mats are amazing. They stick onto the table with suction cups, and catch a lot of the mess before it hits the floor. They have made many a restaurant meal with our baby significantly less stressful!

Fisher-Price Travel Doodler Pro: This is a light and great toy for the plane or car, and always keeps my son’s attention for quite awhile.

And of course, check out my Mamajamas list for a more extensive list of travel “must-haves” as well as “don’t bothers”.

Good luck with your summer travel. And just remember, it may be a bit chaotic, and it may not necessarily feel like a “vacation,” but you’ll get there eventually, and it will most likely be quite an adventure!

The Children’s Book Everyone Should Have

No offense to all the friends and family who gifted us a mountain of cool baby gear, but it was shocking how few books we received. I always thought of books as a classic present – with all the trappings of a great gift: timeless, personal, re-giftable, the gift that keeps on giving, etc. etc. And mostly unique! When the books did start to roll in over the various holidays, I began to worry about the health of the children’s book landscape. We received five gifts of ‘Goodnight Moon’ and re-gifted the lastcroc three copies of ‘Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site‘. ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?‘ I see you in the home of everybody.

Not that I have ever worried about diversity of book options – there are endless fabulous books for kids out there! But I worry about the monoculture of ‘bestsellers’ saturating the few remaining outlets we have for book buying. Leaving the literate starving for variety. I have often witnessed parents scramble to write down the name of a book recommended by another parent with a focus and speed typically not displayed by the sleep deprived. And recently I found myself in the same position where the sight of a few books I have never seen before sent a rush of adrenaline through my spine to quickly devour them. It was as if I’d been fed only hamburgers for weeks and was just seeing my first grilled chicken salad. I needed to own them, and read them to my children tonight!

Of coursethose who frequent their local library may not feel the pinch that the rest of us feel (though if people stop buying books, publishers will stop printing books, and libraries will go the way of bookstores). But for the rest of us, with the bookstore desert that is sweeping our landscape, where do we turn but to each other?

I am launching a call to parents – go to your bookshelves. Find the most tattered, chewed upon, food sticky, well-loved book that your child demands be read over and over again. And post just the title and author on whatever social media outlet you prefer: Facebook, Twitter, spam your email contacts list, text your favorites, call a few friends on your landline, or have a face to face interaction with another human being.  Let’s spread the good word.

The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water‘ by Gemma Merino

By Kathryn Grantham
lead_granthamKathryn has a passion for health and an activist’s fervor for the environment, and a track record of social entrepreneurship. In 1999, at the age of 22, Kathryn founded Bluestockings, an independent social justice-themed bookstore in New York City. In parallel, she was discovering the world of natural health and its connection with the health of our planet, at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She sold the bookstore in 2003, attended Harvard Business School (MBA ’05), and launched Roots Remedies, a locally-sourced herbal products company in 2008. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and two young sons. 
For more Unique Children’s Book REcommendations from KAthryn, Check out her Mamajamas List Here.

For Toddlers and Tough Transitions: Try Sand Timers

I can’t remember precisely when it happened, but at some point around the early twos, our son started having a tough time with some every day transitions. Time to start the bedtime routine… protest. Time to get out of the bath… whine. Time to nap… cry. We soon realized that if we gave him some notice, in the form of a countdown or number of minutes, he seemed to accept these transitions a little better because he knew they were coming. But even with a warning, things weren’t perfect. My two year old had no idea what 5 minutes meant, for example, so he would stress about when the 5 minutes would be done. That’s when my husband had this brilliant idea.

He ordered some Tea Timers. They came in a pack of three: one for 3, 5 and 7 minutes. They have colored sand which falls down so my son now has a concrete visual indication of how much time has passed and how much is left.

Now we let our son turn over a timer for each tough transition. They have worked like a charm! They work especially well for bath time. He used to protest the end of bath time like crazy (can’t blame him really–baths are great). Now we use the three minute timer when we want him to get out. He likes turning it over, can see the green sand falling down, and after it is done, he has no problems climbing out and getting his towel.

We also invested in a bigger hourglass. We got a 15 minute one to use during rest/nap time. We allow him to turn it over once or twice for each rest time and after it is done, he can get up. He watches as the purple sand falls down, and more than often, he’s asleep before it finishes. It has been incredibly helpful, especially since my son is now 3 1/2 so his naps have become less consistent. But at least now, we have a way of ensuring he gets in a good 15-30 minute rest every day.

I’ve noticed with parenthood, sometimes it’s little things that make a big difference. This is one that has helped us tremendously during the toddler phase. I’ve added the tea timers to my Mamajamas list. I hope your list will eventually help you share with your new parent friends some little things that have helped you along the way.

Your Toddler Will Make a Mess: Two Amazing Tools for Cleaning Up After Them

I just added two cleaning devices I wouldn’t want to live without onto my Mamajamas list.

As my child has gotten older, the idea that I own a cream colored couch seems more and more preposterous. Granted, I got it on Craigslist, but it’s a nice Pottery Barn Sectional, and I’m attached to it. But let’s be honest, with a toddler around, my poor couch takes a real beating.

61tnMB2GtLL._SL1500_ 2

So I originally looked into upholstery cleaning services, and they are not cheap! I’d be spending a fortune trying to keep up with all of the dirt and food stains (and coffee and wine stains–okay, so I can’t completely blame my toddler). Instead, I found my new favorite cleaning product of all time, the Bissell Little Green ProHeat Multi-Purpose Cleaner. This little guy steam cleans all my couches and chairs no problem and also the rugs. It’s pretty much a miracle product.

It’s a little annoying that they make you buy their cleaning solution for the machine, but I do appreciate that they offer a green cleaning product (although I can’t vouch for how “green” it actually is).


Second, if your child is like mine, they have gone (or are going to go) through a very long phase of messy eating. Whether it’s unintentional spillage, or the dreaded “dropping and throwing food to see what will happen” stage, keeping my kitchen floor clean is a constant struggle (and the only time I’ve seriously considered getting a dog).

At first, I was using the swiffer wet jet, and it worked okay, but it felt really wasteful with all those disposable pads, expensive (because you had to buy your pads and their brand of cleaning solution), and their cleaning solution was really stinky and toxic smelling.

In searching for an alternative, I discovered the incredible Rubbermaid Microfiber Spray Mop.

You add your own cleaning solution (I just use vinegar!) and it comes with two washable pads. Problem solved. I love this thing.

Parenthood is messy. The need for me to constantly be cleaning up after my child was one of the life changes I most underestimated before having a child. I would have never appreciated these products pre-kids, but now I’m so grateful for tools that can make my life just a tad bit easier!