Tag Archives: toddler

Making the Most of Winter Break with the Kids

winter-break

Doing a stay-cation this winter break?  The thought of a week or two at home with the kids need not instill fear in your heart.  With a little bit of planning, you can take advantage of the great opportunity the break affords to spend some great quality time together as a family!  Here are some ideas for making the most of your time together — keep it handy and pull it out over the break whenever you need some inspiration!

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Gift Guide for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

Gift Guide for Babies, Toddlers, & Preschoolers

Note: Check out the latest (2016) version of this gift guide here!

Looking for the perfect holiday or birthday gift for your little one, a grandchild, or a family friend?  Here are our curated lists of age-appropriate gifts that are proven hits.

If you’re planning on buying a toy, see also our Buying Guide: Baby Toys & Books for info on buying safe/non-toxic toys.

0-6 months

6-12 months

1 year olds

2 year olds

3-4 year olds

All ages

  • Clothing: For a classic holiday gift, how about some snuggly jammies?  Our top picks are the organic sleepers and two-pieces from Hanna Andersson — they’re  fantastic quality and last forever!  The rest of the year, nice pieces from top brands like Baby Gap, Mini Boden, Tea Collection, etc. are always Mom favorites.
  • Looking for something handmade? Check out our top picks for baby goodies on Etsy
  • Experiential gifts: Trip to a local farm or zoo; hike at a local trail or park; a train or bus adventure; or an afternoon of art, cooking, or some other creative activity with gift giver (see also our Pinterest board for great baby & kid activity ideas)
  • Free and fun: Don’t forget the big cardboard boxes and discarded wrapping paper that all those presents come in!

Any other favorite gift ideas for little ones? Let us know in the comments!

Note: All featured products and brands are editorially selected by our editors; we do not accept compensation in exchange for coverage.  This post does contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small proportion of any purchases you make after clicking on them (at no cost to you); thanks for your support!  See our full Editorial Policy & Affiliate Disclosure here.

The Lunch Box Cheat Sheet
(You’re Welcome!)

School lunch cheat sheet

First day of school: Prosciutto and mozzarella sticks, sauteed vegetables, fruit cut up into adorable little animal shapes, and homemade yogurt smoothie.  Plus a cute little note and/or artwork to let them know just how much you care.

By mid-October: PB&J and string cheese.  And a napkin.  If they’re lucky.

Amirite?

Lucky for you, we’ve pulled together a lunch box cheat sheet to pull you out of your mid-school year doldrums.  Organized by food group, it will not only remind you to pack a balanced lunch each morning, and will hopefully also give you some ideas for injecting some new foods into your repertoire.  Consult it for inspiration before your weekly grocery store run.  It is equally valid for babies eating finger foods, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age kids.  Click for a printable version that you can hang up on your fridge.  Enjoy!

Lunch ideas PRINTABLE

A few quick pics for inspiration below.  We’re no professional food bloggers (or photographers), but you’ll get the idea. 🙂

Also check out our recent blog post on preschooler lunch gear (including the bento stuff used to make some of the animal shapes shown below).

Tortilla, ham, and Babybel cheese roll-up; cheddar pigs; roasted corn nuts; strawberries; and cucumber slices
Tortilla, ham, and Babybel cheese roll-up; cheddar pigs; roasted corn nuts; strawberries; and cucumber slices
Salami, cheese, and crackers; mandarin orange wedges; sunflower seeds; and edamame
Salami, cheese, and crackers; mandarin orange wedges; sunflower seeds; and edamame
lunch5
Tula salad animal pouch sandwich, cucumber pigs, pear cubes, beet chunks
lunch4
Meat & cheese sandwich on pita bread, cheese dolphins, cucumber penguins, grapes
lunch3
Monkey sunflower butter & jam pouch sandwich, corn, string cheese coins, strawberry chunks
lunch2
Graham cracker dippers with cream cheese & applesauce dip, salami & cheese pigs, grapes, red bell peppers
lunch1
Ham and cheese pig on grains w/ veggies, cheese mini-pigs, raspberries
max shopping cart
The best way to get your customer interested in whatever you’re serving for lunch: take him or her along to the store!

Back to (Pre)school: Backpacks, Lunch Gear, and Nap Mats, Oh My!

Top picks for preschool backpacks, lunch gear, and nap mats | TotScoop

Time for your little one to leave the nest and fly, fly away to preschool?  Dry your tears and check out these ideas for top-rated preschool gear.

Contents:

Preschooler backpacks

You’ll probably need a small bag to send along an extra layer, a change of clothes, etc.  I’ve seen plenty of parents just use a plastic bag, but if you want something sturdier or that your preschooler can carry him or herself, check out these adorable preschooler-sized backpacks. (Note: Make sure to inspect your kid’s cubby to make sure you buy something that will fit!)

Skip Hop Zoo Pack

Skip Hop Zoo backpack

These adorable and ubiquitous Skip Hop Pack backpacks ($20) are a parent favorite.  They’re compact, roomy, and come in a wide range of designs (which coordinate with the rest of the Skip Hop line).

Sugarbooger Zippee! Backpack

Sugarbooger Zippee backpack

If you want something a little different, check out the Zippee! Backpack ($25) from Sugarbooger.  Its boxy shape fits well in most preschool cubbies.  Note that it’s a few inches taller than the Skip Hop.

Pottery Barn Kids pre-K backpacks

PBK dino backpack

PBK also carries a wide range of preschooler backpacks (from $29.50), including this cute dino pack ($36.50).

Preschooler lunch

Lunch bags/boxes

Sugarbooger Zippee! Lunch Tote

sugarbooger zippee

The Zippee! Lunch Tote ($20 at Amazon) worked great as our primary lunch box last year and is still going strong, so I’d recommend it to anyone.  Not only are the designs cute, but it’s insulated, very roomy, and machine washable.  Sugarbooger also makes a cute reusable lunch sack if you prefer that style.

Dabbawalla Lunch Tote

Dabbawalla

Dabbawalla lunch totes ($28) get high marks from parents.  They are made of a neoprene-like material and feature a preschooler-friendly handle.  They are machine washable and come in a range of cute designs with preschooler appeal.

Built NY Big Apple Buddies Lunch Sack

BUILT NY lunch sack

These Built NY lunch sacks ($11-15 at Amazon) boast the design and function you expect from Built NY, all in a kid-sized package.  They are made from Built NY’s signature neoprene material, and are lined with an insulating material.  It is smaller and slimmer profile than some other lunch bags.

Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie

Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie

If you get one of Skip Hop’s backpacks (above), you may not be able to resist getting a matching Lunchie ($14 at Amazon).  They’re adorable and insulated, but in my opinion a little too small to hold a full preschool lunch (including drink, etc.).  We have one, but mainly reached for the Zippee.  Still, could be a good choice if you just need to send snacks, or don’t need to send a drink.

Food storage

Yumbox

Yumbox 4-compartment

The Yumbox Panino ($30) is our all-around favorite for hassle-free preschooler lunches.  It’s compact, yet fits a ton of food.  The divided compartments remind you to pack a variety of foods for a healthy lunch, and are (drum roll please) even leak-proof (!!).  We used our Yumbox as our primary food storage solution for preschool last year and loved it.  For most preschoolers, I recommend the Panino model featured here, which has a single large compartment that is more versatile (can accommodate a sandwich, bagel, etc. if needed).  For toddlers or younger preschoolers, however, the original five-compartment Yumbox may be a better choice.  TIP: The Yumbox’s Tritan tray is microwaveable, according to the manufacturer.  However, if you prefer not to microwave plastic, just use a silicone baking cup as a liner and your child’s teacher will be able to easily pop it out and microwave the contents.

Planetbox Rover

Planetbox Rover

The granddaddy of preschooler lunch boxes is the five-compartment Planetbox Rover ($50 for lunch box only, $62 including carry case and magnet decorations).  We love that it’s stainless steel, so no worrying about any nasties leaching out of plastic.  Unfortunately it’s not leakproof (either the outer box or between compartments), but two small leakproof containers are included.  A great option, though, if you don’t anticipate sending a lot of liquidy foods to school.  Visit planetbox.com to customize your lunch kit (including carry case, magnet decorations, ice packs, water bottle, etc.)

Wean Green Lunch Bowls

Wean Green Lunch Bowl

If you want to send foods that will need to be warmed in the microwave, glass is the safest choice.  We love Wean Green for their baby food storage solutions, and they also make this larger Lunch Bowl (13oz, $16) — it’s leak-proof and is perfect for leftovers, soups, etc.

Bento & accessories

Many parents of preschoolers choose to pack “bento-style” lunches: including small portions of lots of different foods encourages your child to try new things and eat a balanced meal; also, presenting his or her lunch in an attractive (read: animal-themed) way often increases the likelihood that your child will actually eat it.  Here are some tools to make your bento lunches easier to make and more fun to eat.

Food dividers

Silicone baking cups

When you need to sub-divide larger food compartments(e.g. to separate wet and dry foods), silicone baking cups like these are a mainstay solution.  TIP: Measure the height of your food container and look for baking cups that are the same height.  Otherwise, food will spill over when your lunch box inevitably gets turned sideways or upside down.  ANOTHER TIP: These are also great for isolating foods in a larger lunch container that need to be warmed, so your child’s teacher can easily pop them out and microwave them.

Sandwich cutters

CuteZCute animal friends

CuteZCute makes a wide range of food cutters, including these awesome Animal Friends sandwich cutters ($9).  These work great with bread, cheeses, and non-striated meats.  We also love their Panda Pocket Sandwich Kit (especially for messier fillings like PB&J; $8).

Tovolo Sandwich Shapers

Tovolo Sandwich Shapers ($5-8 each) are whimsical and practical (as they use up almost all of the bread).  Also check out the similar Munchkin Silly Sandwich Cutters ($8).

Veggie cutters

Veggie cutter

Small vegetable cutters like these animal-themed ones are perfect for veggies, cheese, and thicker meats like salami.  They’ve been just the ticket for us to get our little one to eat at least a few otherwise unappetizing looking veggies with lunch.  Here are also some more practical ones if you aren’t into animal-themed everything.

Utensils & food picks

Sugarbooger utensils

Sugarbooger makes a great, flat stainless-steel silverware set ($4-9 at Amazon) that comes packaged in a travel case and fits well in lunchboxes.

cutezcute food picks

If you’re just packing fruit or something that doesn’t really require a full-on set of utensils, consider getting some food picks that you can just tuck into your food container.  They make eating more fun, and you don’t have to worry about the utensils getting lost.

Insulated drink containers

Thermos Foogo

thermos foogo

If you need to send milk to school, you probably want to invest in an insulated drink container.  The Thermos Foogo straw bottle  ($12 at Amazon) has worked great for us. It keeps milk cold until lunchtime and is the perfect size for preschoolers (10oz.).  It’s also leak-proof (when closed; it doesn’t have a valve) and is relatively easy to clean.  TIP: Throw the container itself into the fridge for a few minutes before filling it with milk, for extra staying power.

Nap mats

Note: Not all preschools require nap mats!  Check with yours first before buying.

Urban Infant Tot Cot

Urban Infant Tot Cot

We heart this modern and functional cot cover ($35-40 at Amazon) from Urban Infant. It’s a lightly quilted cot cover with attached lightweight fleece blanket that is designed to be used on top of a cot or mat.  Note that it doesn’t provide much padding, so is not designed to be used on the floor.

Olive Kids Nap Mat

Olive Kids Pirates Nap Mat

If you need a bit more padding, the Olive Kids Nap Mat ($37-57 at Amazon) is a great choice.  Designed like an open sleeping bag, it has a cotton/poly exterior and boasts a 100% cotton flannel interior.

 

Happy preschooling!  And don’t worry Mom, you’ve got 15 more years before your little one actually leaves the nest. 🙂


Note: All featured products and brands are editorially selected by our editors; we do not accept compensation in exchange for coverage.  This post does contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small proportion of any purchases you make after clicking on them (at no cost to you); thanks for your support!  See our full Editorial Policy & Affiliate Disclosure here.

Our Favorite Baby & Kids’ Clothing Brands

Meet our seven favorite baby & kids clothing brands for stylish, high-quality pieces at non-astronomical prices!  (Note: This is NOT a sponsored post.  We just call ’em like we see ’em!)

Baby Gap

baby gap

Baby Gap will hardly be a new discovery for most shoppers, thanks to its ubiquitous retail presence, but it’s such an important cornerstone of the American baby clothing market that we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it.  It churns out a wide range of good quality, well designed staples that consistently deliver.  Look to Baby Gap for everything from layette basics and toddler activewear to sleepwear and special occasion outfits.  They regularly have sales of 30-40%, so be patient with that itchy trigger finger.

Baby/Mini Boden

Mini Boden

This British import creates high-quality clothing with indubitable style. It is sold at select retailers (e.g. Nordstrom) and can also be purchased directly from the Boden website. We particularly love their print/applique graphic tees, baby jeans (so easy to pull up and down), and adorable sweaters.  We regularly salivate over their collections, and always make sure to load up at their regular sales.  (If you’re new to Boden, also don’t miss their women’s collection!)

Hanna Andersson

Hanna Andersson

This Swedish brand is synonymous with unbeatable quality.  Their clothing is engineered for performance and comfort and washes extremely well; pieces often still look practically new when outgrown, and are often handed down through multiple children.  Over 60% of Hanna’s products are Oeko-Tex
Standard 100 certified, meaning they are free of any hazardous substances.  Hannas are also backed by an unconditioned guarantee, and can be returned at any time.  Hanna makes our absolute favorite sleepers/pajamas and training pants/underwear, and is also a great choice for layette items and playwear.

Zutano

zutano

Zutano, one of our favorite brands for newborns through toddlers, offers cute basics and prints.  Their basics (e.g. tops and pants/leggings), hats, and booties are favorites for newborns and infants.  Note that sizing runs small.

H&M Baby/Kids

H&M

For fast fashion for the tiny set, look no further than H&M.  Swedish brand H&M offers a nice range of clothing — including basics, some organic cotton choices, and on trend pieces — for newborns through big kids.  And all at very reasonable prices!  We scoop up their 100% organic cotton basics (like bodysuits and leggings) by the armful!  If you don’t live near one of their retail locations, you can also shop their website.

Zara Mini/Kids

zara

Spain-based Zara Mini/Kids offers a different twist on fast fashion, producing a more classic feeling collection (mostly solids, in a more muted set of colors) at great prices.  They also offer a selection of organic cotton pieces at impressively low everyday prices.  If you don’t live near a Zara retail store, you can also shop online (free shipping over $50).

J. Crew Baby/Kids

jcrew

We adore J. Crew’s in-house Baby & Kids collections, which sport signature J. Crew style, as well as their curated selection of third-party brands (e.g. aden+anais, Nature Baby, Petit Bateau, Baby Oeuf).  (The cashmere pieces aren’t the most practical we’ve ever seen, but most everything else is both adorable and machine washable.) Kids styles (2+) are available in selected J. Crew stores; Baby styles aren’t available in most stores, but shipping is free on all online Baby orders.

WEAR ALL THE BABIES!!!
(An introduction to babywearing)

An introduction to babywearing from TotScoop. Includes babywearing basics, top carrier picks, and online resources for buying carriers and learning more about babywearing.

In honor of International Babywearing Week (Oct. 5-12, 2014), today on the blog we’re featuring some babywearing basics, our top carrier picks, and the top online resources for buying baby carriers and learning more about babywearing. 🙂  We are passionate babywearers, so whether you’re an experienced babywearer or just babywearing curious, our goal is to help you discover at least one new thing to help you to wear your little one just that much more comfortably or for just that much longer. <3

Why babywear?

For those who are not yet sold on babywearing, the answer is, in a nutshell: because it’s awesome!  Your baby will love it, because it will enable him or her to stay closer to you.  Studies show that babies who are carried cry less and are healthier than babies who aren’t.  And you’ll love it too, because your arms won’t fall off, and you’ll be able to keep your hands free for other things — so you can actually GET. STUFF. DONE.

Not yet convinced?  Check out these articles on the benefits of babywearing from Babywearing International, Dr. Sears, and La Leche League International.

What type of baby carrier is right for me?

There are a ton of options available, so selecting your first carrier can be a bit daunting.  Here is an overview of some of the main types of carriers from Babywearing International (BWI), to help get you oriented to the basic lingo.

In general, the best type of carrier for you will depend on both your baby’s age and your personal preferences.

For newborns (birth to 4-6 months or so), your basic options are a wrap (either stretchy or woven), a sling or pouch, or a newborn-friendly soft carrier (e.g. mei tai or Soft Structured Carrier/buckle carrier).  Newborn-friendly soft carriers include both infant-sized carriers (which are sized for smaller babies) and one-size carriers that can easily adjust to accommodate smaller babies well (for example, the base might cinch or snap in, or an integrated infant insert might be included).

For the baby stage (approximately 6 to 18 months), your best options are woven wraps (stretchy wraps will no longer be supportive enough) or a standard-size soft carrier.

For the toddler stage (approximately 18+ months), woven wraps and toddler-size soft carriers are your best bet (the latter will have a wider base and higher back to better support your child as compared to a standard-size carrier).

In general, if you want something that’s easy to learn to use and/or want to be able to pop baby in and out frequently, a soft carrier is probably a better option for you than a wrap.  Wraps are infinitely adjustable, but have a much steeper learning curve and can be challenging to put on in places like parking lots.  Also, if you have shoulder or back problems, avoid one-shouldered carriers (such as ring slings/pouches).

Our top picks for baby carriers

We’ve spent hours upon hours researching and testing out baby carriers for our upcoming baby carrier buying guide.  It hasn’t been published yet, but we’re happy to be able to share with you here a sneak peek of our absolute favorites.

Top newborn carriers (birth to 4-6 mo.)

Boba Wrap

The Boba Wrap ($38 at Amazon) is a favorite for newborns.  It’s similar to the popular Moby, but features a more stretchy, airy fabric (due to its 5% spandex content) which bounces back and is more forgiving to tie (though you need to be extra sure it is tied securely).  It’s also more reasonably priced, and less toasty than the Moby in hot weather.

boba wrap

Sakura Bloom ring sling

Ring slings are some of the easiest carriers to get in and out of.  Sakura Bloom ring slings are stunning — they’re definitely pricey ($88-198), but they’re gorgeous and incredibly luxe.  Both linen (sturdier) and dupioni silk (lighter weight) versions are available, and in both single (lighter) and double layers (more supportive).  If you’re looking for something cheaper and easier to care for, also check out the Maya Wrap Baby Sling ($80 at Amazon).

sakurabloom_black

Beco Gemini

Sized smaller than most Soft Structured Carriers, the Beco Gemini ($130 at Amazon) is a fantastic option for the first 10 to 12 months.  It accommodates a newborn with no insert, has an adjustable crotch width, and features a substantial padded headrest that provides excellent head and neck support.  The Gemini is more versatile than most carriers, allowing four different positions: front-facing-in, back, hip, and front-facing-out.  The only thing about the Gemini we don’t like is the safety buckles, which sadly are a two-handed operation for most people.

beco_gemini

Boba 4G

The Boba 4G, described below, is a standard-size Soft Structured Carrier that also elegantly adjusts to fit newborns well.

Top standard (6 to 18 mo.) and toddler-size carriers (18+ mo.)

Tula Ergonomic Baby Carrier

Tula carriers don’t yet have mainstream distribution (you won’t find them on Amazon or at Target), but they are extremely popular in the babywearing world — and for good reason.  They are extremely comfortable for most wearers, and their quality and craftsmanship are undeniable.  The standard-size Tula ($149) fits babies from 15 lbs.; it can also be used from birth with infant insert (sold separately, $40).  The toddler-size Tula ($169) is designed for use from 18+ months (or 32″ tall and 25 lbs.).

tula_blue_zig_zag

Boba 4G

The redesigned Boba 4G ($128 at Amazon) is a great choice that elegantly accommodates newborns through toddlers.  It includes an integrated, two-position infant insert that allows you to wear smaller babies legs-in (one setting is for newborns 7-10 lbs., the other for infants 10-15 lbs.).  After 15 lbs., you remove the insert and wear baby legs out.  Toddlers are also made fairly comfortable in the Boba 4G, despite the fact that the carrier body is not huge, through use of the Boba’s unique stirrups.

boba4g_kangaroo

Top woven wraps (all ages)

Woven wraps come in so many different materials, patterns, and lengths that it simply doesn’t make sense for us to recommend individual products.  So instead we’ll focus on introducing you to just a couple of our favorite wrap brands.  (It’s a slippery slope — once you get into wrapping, you’ll discover lots more wrap brands that are also great!)

Didymos

Didymos is the gold standard of German-style wraps.  Their wraps are somewhat expensive ($130+ for a standard size 5), but are high quality and supportive and have high resale value.  Didymos wraps are available many different designs, including their classic “Indio” geometric pattern as well as various stripes and jacquards.  They also release gorgeous Limited Edition models.  You can’t go wrong with a Didy!

didymos_iris

Girasol

Girasol is a German company that produces wraps woven in Guatemala using the traditional weaving methods of the Mayan Indians. Girasol wraps feature stunningly beautiful designs (e.g. rainbow stripes in gorgeous tones), are thin-to-medium in thickness, are reasonably priced, and require no break-in period — making them a great choice for beginners.

wovenwraps.com baby carriers woven wraps for traditional baby wearing

Best places to buy baby carriers

Buying new

As always, for convenience, and also often price, our favorite online retailer for baby stuff is Amazon.com.

If you want a wider selection and/or a more personal touch, you may find it worthwhile to visit a specialty baby carrier retailer. Their owners are very knowledgeable; many offer free consultations to help you find the best baby carrier for your needs. Some of our favorites include PAXbaby, Marsupial Mamas, Granola Babies, Heavenly Hold, QuirkyBaby, Wovenwraps.com, and Wrap Your Baby.

Some more narrowly distributed brands may be easiest to buy directly from the manufacturer for the broadest selection (e.g., Tula).

If you’re interested in testing out a carrier (or several) before you buy, PAXbaby, Granola Babies, Heavenly Hold, QuirkyBaby, and Tula all offer carrier rental programs.

Buying used

Here are some of the top destinations online for buying, selling, and trading used baby carriers:

TheBabyWearer (TBW) FSOT board (registration required… 30 posts required before you can sell anything)

Facebook B/S/T groups (you must join each one individually…many also have a sister feedback thread that you must join before you can sell anything)

eBay.com

Your local Craigslist board (as always, be wary of authenticity and deals too good to be true)

Where can I learn more about babywearing?

Check out these helpful resources to learn more:


Did we miss anything?  Let us know in the comments.

Hope you got at least one new piece of information to convince you to try something new!  Happy babywearing! 🙂

Note: All featured products and brands are editorially selected by our editors; we do not accept compensation in exchange for coverage.  This post does contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small proportion of any purchases you make after clicking on them (at no cost to you); thanks for your support!  See our full Editorial Policy & Affiliate Disclosure here.