Countdown Calendar for Out-of-Town Parents

My husband travels quite a bit for business, but it’s usually only one or two nights once or twice a month. This past week, though, Dada went away on a week-long “man trip” to hike and mountain bike in Utah, and I was worried about how  little Tommy (23 months old) would handle it. He LOVES his time with his daddy and has certain routines that revolve around their time together, so I knew that 7 nights with just mommy would be a challenge. T will ask for Dada every night when he expects him to come home from work and then again in the morning when my husband routinely gets him out of his crib and changes his diaper while I slowly drag myself out of bed.

In an effort to help T understand that Dada was going on a trip, I brought him to the airport with me to say goodbye and send him off. I explained to him that Daddy was going on an airplane and would be home in seven days. He said his goodbyes and seemed okay with it, and I realized that he did understand that Daddy was traveling when we were out later that day and he kept pointing at airplanes in the sky and saying “Dada! Dada!”

But when we were at home later that night, he started looking around the house for Daddy and getting upset. I knew that there had to be a better way to help him understand that Dada would not be home for a few more days, but that he would indeed come home eventually. So, I decided to make a little countdown calendar.

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I just drew a simple calendar with the days of the week from the day Daddy left to the day that he would return (Monday through Monday). Then, rather than listing the actual date, we counted down the number of nights left until he would return. On the final day, we pasted a picture of Daddy. Then, each morning when T woke up, we would go to the calendar and put an X through the previous day. Any time during the day that Tommy asked for Dada, I would take him to the calendar and point to the number and ask him “How many more nights until Dada comes home?” and he could look at the calender and tell me.

After the second night with the countdown calendar, he understood what was going on and stopped looking for Dada at bedtime and in the morning, and instead would tell me “Dada airplane” or “Dada bye bye” or “See you soon Dada.” It made him excited to see the days getting crossed off and was a great visual to help him comprehend that each day that passed was getting closer to the day when he would get to see his daddy again. On the final day, he kept shouting “One day Dada home!” to all of our friends and neighbors.

We will definitely be doing this from now when my husband goes out of town, and it would also be a great idea if we ever get a chance to go on a getaway together and have to leave him overnight with a babysitter or relative. It could work, too, for a little one with a sibling going away for summer camp, or even to look forward to an event, like a countdown starting the week before grandma comes to visit or a birthday countdown.

Do your little ones have a hard time when a parent goes out of town? What are some tips that help you pass the days? Share in the comments!

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10 Must-Haves for Flying with a One-Year-Old

Flying Essentials- Toddler_textFebruary was unusually cold and snowy in North Carolina this year, and my little Tommy was starting to go stir crazy from being cooped up indoors… so, we decided to take a little trip to sunny Florida to visit our cousins! We knew that sunshine, beautiful beaches, and great company would await us when we arrived, but you know that saying that “getting there is half the fun?”… well, I can guarantee that whoever came up with that definitely had never traveled alone on an airplane with a one-and-a-half-year-old!

Living across the country from all of our family, our little guy has taken quite a few airplane trips. It takes a bit of planning to get the right mix of items to entertain a squirmy toddler who will be stuck on your lap for hours, and I know that mine refuses to sleep on the plane. So, (besides the obvious diapers, wipes, medicine, ID, and change of clothes), here I have my list of 10 must-haves for flying with a one-year-old:

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1. Baby Carrier: I can’t get through the airport without my Ergobaby Original Carrier. It allows me to have my hands free to deal with checking bags and baggage claim, it keeps Tommy strapped to my chest and not running off to another terminal or eating food off the ground, and TSA lets you keep the baby carrier on (with the kid still in it!) when you go through security, which saves the hassle of folding up a stroller while simultaneously trying to hold on to a runaway toddler. It’s ergonomic design is easy on my body and Tommy’s, it has a convenient front zippered pocket to hold my driver’s license and boarding pass, and it’s the only way that I can get down the aisle on the plane walking to my seat without the little guy trying to make a break for it.

2. Backpack: I would be a total mess without my Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack. It has a zillion pockets inside to keep things organized, and the sturdy shape doesn’t tip over or cave in on itself, allowing me to see everything inside without having to hold it open. It has a zipper closure to keep the contents from falling out, a clip for my keys so I don’t have to dig around for them, and two exterior side pockets- perfect for a sippy cup for T and water bottle for me. I love the fold-out changing station in front with a detachable changing pad and easily accessible pockets for diapers, the included wipes case (that never lets the wipes dry out), and a tiny pocket perfect for storing hand sanitizer or diaper cream. The glazed canvas material is so great because it’s waterproof and can easily be wiped clean and looking new. And what makes it most essential for me at the airport is that it can be worn not only over the shoulder, but also as a backpack, which allows me to rush through the airport with Tommy on my front in the Ergobaby and the diaper bag on my back. Amazing!

3. Hand Sanitizer: If I don’t have hand sanitizer close by while traveling, I get a little paranoid. Airports and airplanes are so full of germs, and nobody wants to get sick at the start of a vacation. I love my Bath & Body Works Pocketbac Sanitizing Hand Gel that my cute husband put in my Christmas stocking this year. The 1 oz size is perfect for travel, the Pink Chiffon scent smells incredible, and there’s even a little glitter in it. I use it on both Tommy and me to clean hands after touching tray tables and window shades and before eating snacks.

4. Individually Wrapped Snacks: It always takes a while for the flight attendants to come around with the little packs of peanuts and pretzels, and, when Tommy is hungry, it’s like a scene from those Snickers commercials with Roseanne Barr if he doesn’t get something to eat right away. To avoid the screaming and kicking, I like to have a variety of individually wrapped snacks on hand, like Motts Fruit Snacks, Honey Maid Graham Crackers (he loves the cute minion shaped ones), and Clif Kid Z Bars. I stopped bringing plastic snack containers on the plane because they are too easy for him to knock off the tray table and we kept losing the lids. Instead, I put a few different individually wrapped snacks inside of a Ziploc bag. Then I can just throw the snack wrapper away when he’s finished, and if he doesn’t eat all of it, I can keep the leftover bits in the Ziploc bag so they don’t get crumbs all over.

5. Sippy Cup: My little guy is constantly asking for “wawa” (water), so I have to have a sippy cup close by at all times. I like the Munchkin Click Lock Insulated Straw Cup and he loves that this one has Elmo and his Sesame Street buddies on it. This is the one sippy cup that I have found that doesn’t leak, holds enough water that I don’t have to refill it constantly, and really keeps the water cold. I bring it empty and then fill it up after we get through security. If we have time to stop and grab a bite to eat, I ask someone to fill it with ice water for me from the soda fountain machine. If not, I fill it at a water fountain and add ice on the plane.

6. Sticker Book: Stickers are a great way to keep my little guy busy while keeping the mess to a minimum. I’m a big fan of sticker books because they have all of the stickers together in one place with cute scenes to stick them to so there aren’t a bunch of loose sheets getting crumpled up in my bag.

7. Touch and Feel Books: I like to pick books for the airplane that keep my busy boy’s hands occupied. Books with flaps to lift and different textures to feel are great because they keep his hands on the book and off of the tray table, window, arm rests, and other germ-infested spaces. Playtime Peekaboo is one that we love. For ideas of other books to pack, check out our 20 Favorite Board Books.

8. Tablet with Kids Apps & Videos: I have a screen on my iPad full of apps and videos just for Tommy. With just the iPad, he can pass hours playing games, doing puzzles, coloring, watching movies, and reading books. (Check out our Favorite Art, Shapes, and Colors Apps for Toddlers, our Favorite ABCs & 123s Apps for Toddlers, our Favorite Puzzle and Sorting Apps for Toddlers, and our Favorite Games & Video Apps for Toddlers.)

9. Pacifier Clip: Dropping pacifiers on the floor is so gross, especially in high-traffic places like airports and airplanes. With a paci clip, I can clip it right onto Tommy’s shirt when we are on the plane so that we have it close by to soothe him if he starts to whine. I love Ulubulu Pacifier Clips– they are durable and the clip stays put, the patterns are adorable, and there is even a place to write your little one’s name in case it accidentally gets left behind (great for playdates and daycare!)

10. Pacifier: During take-off and landing, since T is still too young to chew gum, sucking on a pacifier is key to helping with the change of air pressure so it doesn’t mess with his ears. It’s also a quick way to quiet him if he starts to scream. I love these cute Ulubulu Orthodontic Pacifiers with funny sayings on them. He always gets a lot of compliments on them, and since he was about 4 months old this has been the only brand of pacifier that he likes.

Even with the most careful preparation, flying with a toddler can be rough. We had a full flight coming home, and the little monkey did NOT want to stay on my lap. The best advice that I can give you if there is open seating on the plane is to sit in a window seat (so there is one side with no people to bug and a view to look at), and to try to sit near other kids. People with kids won’t mind if yours is fussing because they will understand. And, if you totally luck out like I did, you might have an angel grandma take pity on you and actually switch seats to sit next to you and offer a helping hand and an extra lap to climb on.

What are your must-haves and tips for flying with your little one? Share in the comments!

And if you have any long drives coming up, check out our 10 Must-Haves for a Road Trip with a Toddler!

Adventures at Best Buy

Maybe you are lucky and the local groundhog predicted an early spring, but here in North Carolina, it is definitely too cold to play outside right now. This winter has been very hard for my little man, as he LOVES to be outdoors. At some point every day, Tommy will grab his shoes and coat and start banging on the door to the coat closet where I store his stroller, shouting “WALK! WALK! WALK!” If my keys are left within his reach, he will snatch them up and run to the front door, standing on his tiptoes to try to unlock it. A meltdown always follows when I regrettably tell him that today will be yet another “inside day.”

So, we have had to get creative to find indoor places to pass the time without breaking the bank. Tonight we discovered that a stroll through Best Buy can be a fascinating adventure for a toddler!

Tommy LOVES to ride in shopping carts, so that in itself was an exciting start. And, like most kids, he is attracted to expensive, breakable things like a moth to a flame. So, while restrained by the lap-belt of the shopping cart and under direct supervision of both parents, we felt that it was safe to let him explore the wonders of technology. The little guy was in heaven, surrounded on every side by touch screens, buttons, and other high-tech gadgets and flashing lights.

But, the most intriguing thing he encountered was the HP® Sprout. I don’t even know how to describe this space-age contraption, but it sure was fun to play with!

IMG_2228He could take pictures of his hand, snap some selfies, and rotate, manipulate, and decorate the photos with cute little images. I love seeing the excitement in his eyes as he interacts with new technologies. I can’t even fathom what other kinds of amazing innovations he will experience in his lifetime, but one thing is for sure- familiarity with technology will be necessary for this generation of children.

So, go to Best Buy! Play with some cool new devices. Marvel at the big, shiny curved, smart, and 3-D TVs. And, if you still have a few hours to burn before bedtime, let them pick out a fun new DVD or Blu-ray to buy so you can go home and snuggle up with some popcorn, a warm blanket, and enjoy the rest of your “inside day.”

Then, come back here and post a comment to tell us about your adventure 🙂

Welcome to Make Learn Go!

As a mother to a VERY busy little boy, I have found that boredom is a luxury that our family cannot afford. If I fail to provide him with an activity to keep him occupied, he will put his mischievous mind to work and find something to do… which usually involves climbing on, tasting, or throwing something that he shouldn’t. While my first impulse is usually to scold him for misbehaving, I have often found myself impressed by his curiosity, determination, and ingenuity. I have witnessed him discover gravity by tossing pasta high into the air and watching it crash onto the carpet. I have watched him exercise his problem solving skills as he rearranged blankets, pillows, and furniture in order to climb on top of a table to reach my can of Diet Coke. I have seen him exhibit patience, courage, and humor as he hid behind a curtain of cardigans in my pitch-dark closet waiting for me to find him so that he could pop out and say “Boo!” And as he engages in these “naughty” behaviors, I have seen a variety of looks on his face ranging from pride to wonder to sheer delight.

I have learned that for us both to get the most out of our days together, I need to train my brain to work more like his. I need to think creatively and find the excitement in the things that he does. While setting appropriate boundaries for his safety (and my sanity), I need to encourage him to explore the world around him in a way that is exciting for him. So, any time that I see him beginning to get restless, I know that it is time for us to do one of three things: 1. Make something, 2. Learn something, or 3. Go somewhere. I have learned that it really doesn’t take a lot of fancy tools or special skills to make him happy and help him grow and learn. All that it takes is for us to work together to keep our days creative, fulfilling, and active. Because sometimes, a toilet paper roll is more exciting than a $30 toy with lights and sounds.

I hope to be able to share some of our adventures with you and that you will share yours with us.

Ready? Make, Learn, Go!

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