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Best Phrases/Words for a Toddler – Teaching Patience Early On

2 May

Our toddler is not one to mince words – it is just that she doesn’t have many words to mince with 😉  In the course of raising two precocious daughters there are a couple of phrases/words that I have to admit came in really handy (although I seem to end up loudly saying some of them over and over again – still useful nonetheless).  The earlier they understand these words or phrases and follow-through, the earlier your life gets a little easier.

  1. Stop, instead of NO – I usually use this in heart-attack situations – I find this useful when I need her to freeze (i.e. almost touching something hot, picking up something on the floor and en route to mouth etc.)  I find that having them freeze for even a couple of seconds gives me time to rectify the situation.
  2. Only One – Used to express a limit – when snacking it sometimes helps to not have our kids try to ram a whole fistful of goldfish into their mouths, or when someone offers something in a bowl/tray – it makes us look less like neanderthals when our kids are able to only grab one piece rather than the usual fistful with the inevitable piece or two falling on the floor.
  3. Wait – This is a great exercise for patience and delayed gratification  – especially with all these research and articles coming out about the benefits of teaching patience and delayed gratification (like this article from the New Yorker ) almost everyone is familiar with the ‘marshmallow test‘ – well for us it is also a sanity saver – I don’t need to live with children that whine to get something NOW NOW NOW!  Our older daughter is a little more adept at waiting, while our younger one is a little more challenging.  What we’ve done is teach our toddler the right ‘posture’ for waiting – so she holds her hands together and sits – it’s really quite cute 🙂 and it also works.
  4. Gentle – LOTS of places to use – when playing with smaller children, when in highly fragile places or stores, when playing with someone else’s toys or touching a pet animal.  I find that when they learn this word they immediately know that they need to slow down or change how they handle things.
  5. Clean-up! – I know… hahahahaha but for the really younger ones this still holds some cache – especially when sung like Barney 😉  Another version for older toddlers is to ask “Where does this go?”  This works for us when our 28 month-old is done with her snack and give us the wrapper.  We ask here where the wrapper goes if she’s done with her snack and she knows to put it in the trash can – longer, but better method than telling her to put it in the trash or always doing it for her!  Makes her think rather than mom or dad barking orders!

Here is a caveat — the fact that your kids know and understand these words/phrases doesn’t mean that you can yell it across a room and hope for the best (as I’ve seen other parents do) at the same time something said a thousand times also loses its effectiveness pretty fast (like the word ‘STOP’)  I find that standing by them and calmly saying the phrase is what makes it work better.


Building a Child’s Independence Part 2 – In the Kitchen

10 Apr

Working on building independence in our kitchen is always a tricky affair – especially having a 5 year-old and a two year-old – what the 5 year-old is able to do is not always what a 2 year-old should be doing.  But we’ve found some ways to balance both.  There are three things to think of when planning kitchen independence:

  1. Access – what should the kids have access to?  This also includes items they can help unload and put away from the dishwasher, as well as items they need to eat or drink.
  2. Capability – Can your child operate the toaster?  Can he/she make their own sandwiches, or pour milk to drink or for cereal?
  3. Responsibility –  Part of this is the ability to clean up after themselves (unfortunately spills will happen A LOT – so they need access to rags/paper towels) , as well as what expectations you have – are your kids responsible for setting up the table?  Then they need access to plates, napkins and utensils etc.

Here are a couple of things we’ve used or done —

My then 2 1/2 year old on our learning tower cooking fun!


We love our learning tower!  It actually can support both our kids (although shoving does happen).  This tower enables kids to stand at level with kitchen counters.  They love watching me cook – it does teach self-control as well – since my kids know they can’t be touching and moving everything when I’m cooking.  They have helped me chop vegetables, stir batter etc. on this.  I’ve also placed this by our island so they get to work on puzzles or color while I putter around… The tower has 4 levels so you can adjust as your child grows.  My kids have slid in and out of this and it has proven to be pretty sturdy.


Our kid kitchen drawers - plates, bowls, cups, utensils (in their own little plastic container bought at a dollar store)

We’ve moved three times and all three times I’ve been able to find a spot in the kitchen for a drawer or cabinet where the kids can access their own bowls/plates/cups/utensils.  Another plus is they empty the dishwasher and know where they can put their stuff back – our toddler has been doing this since she’s been able to grasp and walk (with varying degrees of success but she does it nonetheless).  I’ve found that the fear of little fingers getting squished to not be an issue.  It is important you show them first how to reach in, where things are and how to close the drawer.  My oldest has never caught her fingers in the drawer and my toddler did it once (and never again, she’s figured to close the drawer with her little belly instead while holding her plate and cup in both hands LOL).  Kids are resilient and rise to the occasion when given the chance.


Stainless Steel Chopper — We’ve used our so much I’m not even going to show a photo of it – mine is Farberware but I can’t seem to find it on their website – But they had it in the Bed Bath and Beyond site.  You can probably find it in any major store.  Our daughters have used this to help me chop carrots and celery.  TAKE NOTE – always attended by me.  I like that they can use both hands to hold on to the handle and chop down.

Kid-sized tools – we were able to buy kid-sized rolling pins and spatulas – surprisingly they are pretty common now – I got mine at Target.  You can also get A LOT of kid-sized tools in Montessori-based catalogs ( — too cute and tempting for me ;o)

In Bed Bath and Beyond they called it the 'bash and chop'

It is important to note that Kitchen Independence does not mean overlooking safety  – we are not advocates of  ‘oh well they get hurt and they’ll learn’ , yes, kids get hurt but it is our responsibility to teach them well, set expectations and guide them.  In many ways the right way to independence (in my opinion) is harder than doing it for the kids or leaving them to fend for themselves (the two opposite ends of the independence spectrum).  It means being watchful but not hovering, guiding but not ordering.  It is a balance that I try to learn/practice everyday.

See Part 1 – Building Independence in the Bedroom and stay tuned for Part 3 – Building Independence in the Bathroom next week!

Back to School Savings Tips

25 Aug

Sharpen your pencils and break out the binders: A new school year has begun. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, parents will spend an average of more than $600 per child to prepare for the upcoming school year. However, with a few tweaks, this number can be slashed without sacrificing anything your child needs.


School Supply Scavenger Hunt:

  • Before you hit the stores for crayons and glue, have your kids search your house for supplies that may have gone unused inside junk drawers, craft boxes, office drawers and even in their own rooms.
  • Make a game of it! Set a timer, and the person that finds the most supplies wins!
  • You will be surprised how many supplies you have around your house that can be directly applied to the needs outlined on school supply lists.


On the discount hunt – from supplies to clothing:

  • Shop back-to-school sales, and watch carefully for one-day sales or even sales that only last several hours. Print out coupons or watch for mailers offering more discounts.
  • Don’t forget “dollar stores” – they can be a great place for basics like pens, crayons, markers, notebooks, etc.
  • Better yet, hold off until after school has started, (around Labor Day) and cash in on even deeper discounts as stores try to move out back-t0-school merchandise to make room for fall products or fashion.
  • Shop throughout the year for staples you’ll need every year. See a deep discount on computer paper or three-ring notebooks? Grab them then and stockpile before the rush.


Don’t confuse needs and wants:

  • Go into shopping with a complete, and firm, list of needs. Stick to your list, and your budget.
  • Purchase only supplies needed, or set a strict limit for each child on fun extras they desire.
  • Use this time to first clean out their closets and drawers, having them try on everything to see what still fits and what needs to be replaced.
  • Create a list of clothing needs, and see what you can skip until later in the season.
  • Reuse items from last year – like backpacks and lunchboxes, if still in good, working order.


Save money post back-to-school rush:

  • After the school year routine has settled in, make sure you’re still looking for ways to save.
  • Pack lunches with non-perishable items. If you’re child doesn’t eat all the lunch, repack the non-perishable items for use the next day.
  • Set out a jar for loose coins, contributions from your children, and other extra money to pay for school fees and other extracurricular costs. Not only with this fund help pay for unplanned expenses, it will also show your children how to save up for needed expenses.
  • Couldn’t bear to buy the latest sneakers in time for school? Use this desire to teach your child budgeting: Have them work for, and save, an allowance to be used towards the purchase of whatever item they desired. This delayed gratification, and willingness to save for a budgeted item, can teach them a lot about future financial decisions.


For more financial tips on how to save on back-to-school expenses, here are a few articles from national news sources for reference: 


10 tips for back-to-school shopping savings


5 ways to cut back-t0-school costs 

Huffington Post:

Back to school Budgeting Tips