Our Favorite Toys for Toddlers, 18-24 month edition

When I went to the big twins club re-sale in 2013, I had a very specific list of items that I knew our 5 month old babies would need in the short term. When I saw the huge area of big toys, I froze. I tried to think about the next 5-6 months and what the babies would do or learn or want or play with. And I had utterly no idea what, say, a 9 month old could use.

So I figure that as I go along, I’ll keep track of the toys we use in age-ranges of our babies, in hope that someday, another parent will find it useful! This isn’t an official review or sponsored post, it’s just what our babies have liked and used a lot. Amazon links are affiliate.

(Previous gear lists: Pregnancy, New Babies part 1, New Babies part 2, New Babies part 3 Toys for 3-6 months, Toys for 6-12 months, Toys for 12-18 months)

Also, FYI: Baby Cheapskate does an annual roundup of “Toys that get played with” for all age ranges, based on reader polls/surveys. Here’s the 2013 list for 13-24 months. You should follow them on Facebook--they find and post tons of deals on baby gear every day!

Things they’re still loving from last time: Water Table; Learning Towers, baby broom

Tricycles!

The Radio Flyer Fold 2 Go Trike is perfect for younger toddlers, because it’s a little smaller. I think our boys started riding them before they were 18 months, actually. (Read the post about it)

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Haba Blocks: We got some of these from a friend, and the dudes love them! The duplos still got good use too. The wooden Haba blocks don’t stick together, but that means that they can build tall towers and then knock them over. And what’s more fun than that? 🙂

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Play Kitchen: We received one when they were about a year old, and kept putting off putting it together until they were a little older. We finally did it when they were 23 months, and oh my goodness, THEY LOVE IT. I’d meant to move it upstairs to their room, but they play with it just about every day here in the living room. They LOVE it. And they probably would have loved it just as much a few months earlier! It is so much fun to watch them play pretend, and it’s so freaking adorable I can’t even stand it.
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Spoons, empty containers, dried pasta or beans: Part playing pretend, part sorting and pouring, and part percussion practice. We have a bunch of empty oatmeal canisters that they can play with, and we give them real spoons and Pyrex bowls, and they “stir stir stir” and scoop and stir. If they have some they can pour and scoop and move between one place and another–water, dried beans, dried pasta–they will play with it for a loooong time, very happily.

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Push toys: When we go out on walks, they still love their push toys! We have the musical one musical one (we call it the “jingly walker”), the wooden one (“clacker”), and until recently we had this Fisher-Price Mower. (It finally broke and they got a newer, more realistic looking one for Christmas.)

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The umbrella strollers work very well too!
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Basketball hoop and other athletic stuff: The basketball hoop is a lot of fun, but even when that’s not out, they’ve enjoyed played with the mini basketball and a couple other balls we have. They figured out kicking and dribbling balls, so the soccer ball was a good addition. I also had two cheap frisbee-type things, which they love to play with and throw.

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Buckets/containers:

Good for headwear, beach trips, and generally collecting things. Gathering and unpacking is a big thing for them.

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Baby Guitar/Ukulele: Our nanny (who is in a band) sometimes brings her ukelele and sings to them, and lets them play with it. They will happily sit on their baby couch together, strumming and swaying back and forth. They never ever want to stop playing, and anytime it’s been here, they ask, “More le-le?” over and over again.
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Mama’s wallet:

This is my secret weapon toy. If I need them to chill out/I’m out of ideas/they’re stir-crazy, they get to play with Mama’s wallet! They methodically take all the cards out and then play with putting them back in and handing them back and forth to each other. I don’t get it, but I’ll take it!

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Rocks:

Every toddler’s favorite!

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I’d love to hear what your young toddlers love to play with–leave a note in the comments!

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Our Favorite Toys for Babies, 12-18 month edition

When I went to the big twins club re-sale in 2013, I had a very specific list of items that I knew our 5 month old babies would need in the short term. When I saw the huge area of big toys, I froze. I tried to think about the next 5-6 months and what the babies would do or learn or want or play with. And I had utterly no idea what, say, a 9 month old could use.

So I figure that as I go along, I’ll keep track of the toys we use in age-ranges of our babies, in hope that someday, another parent will find it useful! This isn’t an official review or sponsored post, it’s just what our babies have liked and used a lot. Amazon links are affiliate.

(Previous gear lists: Pregnancy, New Babies part 1, New Babies part 2, New Babies part 3 Toys for 3-6 months, Toys for 6-12 months)

Also, FYI: Baby Cheapskate does an annual roundup of “Toys that get played with” for all age ranges, based on reader polls/surveys. Here’s the 2013 list for 13-24 months. You should follow them on Facebook--they find and post tons of deals on baby gear every day!

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Activity Table (until 15 months or so) and Exersaucer: Yes, they just kept playing with these! I was really surprised. I suppose because they make noise, and have things that can be moved/pressed/manipulated.

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Books: Obviously. Lift-the-flap books have been especially fun.

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Broom and Mop: It was only after they started playing with the full-size broom and swiffer in the kitchen that we realized we should get them some kid-sized ones. They still prefer the big ones, but will happily play with the little ones most of the time. Of course they fight over who gets the broom.

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Balls: They love watching people play soccer and basketball, and they love trying to throw and catch. Or just holding them.

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Mega Bloks: Our twins received a set for Christmas, when they were 13 months old. I figured they wouldn’t be able to use them or interested in using them until they were at least 18 months old. But I was totally wrong–they started playing with them right away and quickly seemed to understand what to do! And they’ve only gotten better since, so it’s great they started kind of early. It’s got to be great for motor skills and spatial reasoning!

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Toy Shopping Cart, wagon, horsey, stroller: These are HUGE hits in our house. Our twins would probably be psyched if they could push the shopping cart around for most of a whole day. When we go outside for a walk they fight over which ones they get, and they always want something to push.

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Charley Harper Flash Cards, Clif Bars, anything with smaller parts inside a box: Take them out of the box, put them back in the box, throw them around. Good times!

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Water Table: Apparently we got this for them in April and they loved it immediately. They played all spring and summer.

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Train table (at the bookstore): I think we discovered this by accident, but what an amazing accident. They are OBSESSED. Sometimes I wish we had a big basement play area so we could have one of our own, but then I think it’s nice that it’s out of the house, so that it’s a rarer experience and therefore more special.

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Learning Towers/Kitchen Helpers: I would see people posting about these on Facebook, that they were super awesome for little kids. I also noticed that they are WAY EXPENSIVE. Especially the idea of two of them.Then someone in a group posted that her husband was making DIY versions. I waffled for a bit and then decided we should go for it, and get two. It was totally worth it and I’m so glad we did. There are posts all over the internet about how to make the DIY versions (here’s one), so ask around for someone who might be handy. Even paying them to do it will be worth it. (And PS, since I’m finishing this so late, I can tell you that we’re still using these after they turned two!)

IKEA Table and Chairs

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Not exactly a toy, but they do really like their little table and chairs, just the right size for them!

What do your littles this age love to play with? Share in the comments!

One good thing about me

If I am out with other people at a restaurant and the server asks about dessert, I will always immediately say, “Yes.” Many women hesitate and waver and make excuses and apologies and justifications. Not me–I raise my hand as a proud dessert-haver. No excuses, no guilt. JUST DELICIOUS DESSERT.

So if you’re out with me, you never have to worry about the dessert question, you never have to worry about having a reason. We will have dessert, we will enjoy it, the end.

Life is short, people. Cake does a body good.

Note that this post is tagged with “advice” and “health.” On purpose. 😀

PS: After I drafted this, I found this link snippet on Joy the Baker: “Eating: A Manifesto: Hey ladies, we can stop torturing ourselves about the brownie and just eat the brownie.  My goodness the way we torture ourselves.” AMEN.

Before and After Baby Tips

What I’m glad I did before babies were born:

Joined the local twins’ club (the classified section was a huge help; we got to shop early at the club consignment sale; we got to meet other new and expectant twin families in town)

Took photos every week to document my belly growth (see them here!)

Shopped at the big consignment sales (got tons of stuff for a fraction of the price!)

Got a new car (originally we thought we’d wait til about a month after they were born. Thankfully we came to our senses!)

Prenatal chiropractor (I could hardly walk for weeks, with this weird back/hip thing causing me to limp like an elderly person. My OB referred me to a prenatal chiropractor–I had no idea that was a thing! But thank god it is! My chiro was so friendly and she FIXED me!)

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What I wish I had done before babies were born:

Taken more time off (I only ended up with one real day off. There wasn’t much to do even when I was working, so I should have just let myself relax more.)

Gone swimming like everyone told me to (I didn’t have a swimsuit and I couldn’t shave anything. Dumb excuses that I should have worked through and figured out.)

Bought and worn more/better clothes (I had one nice pair of maternity jeans, plus maternity leggings, and a handful of maternity tops. But especially toward the end, I was in a maternity tshirt and sweats, and looking back, I looked so sloppy. I wish I’d enjoyed some more ‘real’ clothes a little more often.)

Prenatal massage (because duh.)

Did less stuff (I should have slept in more often.)

Done professional maternity photos (I couldn’t afford to do both maternity and newborn…but maybe I could have gotten a package deal. Above is one of my DIY maternity photos.)

Journaled more (Because I have the world’s worst memory, and blog posts don’t tell the whole story.)

Taken more regular photos (and videos!) of me and us, out and about with the belly (I wish I’d done more of my whole self, of the both of us. I did make sure to take a bunch on our cross-country road trip!)

 

What I’m glad I did after babies were born:

Had our first few days be just us (I didn’t want anyone else around while we got to know our new babies. I wanted us to be a family and focus on the four of us. No extra noise, no extra personalities, just us. Later on we had visitors and that was wonderful–made even better because of our just-family time at the beginning.)

Did professional studio photos of babies (They were so very tiny. We had no idea. I knew in theory they would change and grow a lot, but man, it happened so fast! We have a storyboard (three 8×10 images on one print) up in our room and we just treasure it. The babies themselves even like looking at it.)

Bought a new bra, undies, and jeans (This was probably my favorite thing I did. Two months post-partum, I went to Target and got some new, non-maternity jeans that actually fit properly. Same with a new bra and underwear. I knew that none of these would fit for very long, but I had been haaaaating wearing all the ill-fitting, loose and baggy everything. I seriously felt like a new person with clothes that fit my current body! Truly, it was amazing, and the cost wasn’t very prohibitive.)

Bought new socks (Just because all my socks are years old and I decided to just treat myself to brand new ones. Plain white ankle cut, 6 in a pack, nothing fancy at all. But soft new socks are such an inexpensive delight!)

Went out for groceries and Target by myself (I started doing this after the first month or so–I would go late at night, like 10 or 11pm. It was so nice to get in the car by myself, and be invisible, with nothing/nobody else to carry. It was a little melancholy, but it was such a relief too.)

Took a shower regularly (it felt great to be clean (and be off the couch), plus it was a good place to cry in private)

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What I wish I had done after babies were born:

Eaten more (It probably would have helped take the edge off a bit–physically and emotionally. I wasn’t actively hungry until about a month post-partum. I knew that I should be eating, but with our ridiculous schedule, I just couldn’t work up the energy enough to care, let alone the energy to find something to eat and the time to eat it. I should have done it, or I should have prepared my husband to make me do it.)

Rested more (after the first week or so, I started moving/lifting more because I felt bad about my husband doing everything. I shouldn’t have, and should have stayed more sedentary when it mattered.)

Had a post-partum doula (It was expensive, my husband had paid paternity leave, my mom visited a few times, and my husband’s parents visited for a week. So I/we had help. But it might have been a little different/better to have a third-party helper come in and help us out too.)

Made a list of chores for visitors to help with (Although really, who cared. I certainly didn’t. I thought that I *should* care if the house was a mess. I’m a terrible grown-up that way.)

Called/emailed people who reached out (I didn’t know how; I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling. I couldn’t articulate much. I really appreciated the reaching out and I wish that I had just picked up the phone and done something.)

Had my husband take more photos of me and the babies (I have ONE good photo of me with the babies, when they’re about a week old. [Which I had to ask him to take for me.] None from the hospital. I have lots of phone shots, mostly selfies of low-quality shot in the horrible lighting in our living room. I hate asking people to take pictures of me, because it’s annoying. But I always love to have real-camera shots, and I should have just asked more. I would treasure them. There is no such thing as enough good quality photos of a mama and her baby/babies!)

What about you? What are the best things you did or wished you did before and after you had a baby/babies? Please share in the comments!

The Mama Matters

I’m in a lot of online groups, and many of them revolve around parenting or babies/kids. Often there are posts from moms who are exhausted and frazzled and emotional. I never have much actual advice, but I like to chime in and say something like, “Your mental health and sanity is really important. You matter too, mama!”

A few weeks ago, it hit me like a brick: I’ve been talking to myself.

*I* matter. My subconscious has been hard at work trying to convince me, all this time.

The first few weeks (months? I have no idea) of life with twins, I cried about many things (though I did my best to do it quietly or out of the way. It wasn’t all the time or anything. I don’t think?). I felt frustrated at many things, and I was trying really hard to do All The Things. I kept trying to make my husband take it easier, or not do as much–like go take a nap, or watch some extra tv or something. And he never listened to me. Which I found (and still do find) extremely, extremely frustrating. He would say something about me taking a nap or taking some time ‘away’ or whatever, and I would say, “No, I don’t matter.”

And then I would tear up or actually cry. Because at the same time, I felt two conflicting emotions: that I and my needs truly did not matter, and that it made me fucking sad that I thought I didn’t matter.

Now, my husband was and is pretty much the best partner in this baby thing as anyone could dream of. It’s never been a question that he does the babycare/parenting work. He’s not a babysitter or an “involved dad”; he’s just a parent. No question. So even though we have twins, which is fucking hard, our twins have been good babies, and I’ve had it really pretty good. We got a nanny two days a week when the babies were 2 months old, mostly so that I could do things like take a nap and go outside by myself. Seriously, I have nothing to complain about.

But those first few brutal weeks, I still felt like I didn’t matter. That I was not important, unworthy. The least important person in the house. I stopped saying it, because it made my husband upset (rightfully so!), but I continued to feel it.

Once a new baby arrives, all the attention is directed there. When new twins arrive, there is lots and lots of attention! Not just out at the grocery store, but at home. And not just between the nuclear family, but also the extended family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, everyone’s so excited and thrilled about the adorable squishy baby! And well they should be–babies *are* exciting! (Well, more in theory than in practice; generally they just sit there.) But the parents–especially the mother, I think–get lost in the baby shuffle. Nobody  pays attention to the new mom.

Plus there is or was some remnant in my head of the idea that anything the dad did, was extra, bonus, not to be expected. So I felt guilty, and extra grateful, and extra dependent, and extra beholden. And I was beholden–I physically needed him to do a lot of work those first days, as my body recovered from the c-section.  But I also didn’t want to put him out too much. I didn’t want to be helpless.

Listen to me: I didn’t want to put him out too much? Like I would have to tiptoe and hope and beg for such a favor as to please change diapers today because my torso was sliced open a few days ago and my drugs aren’t doing enough?

There’s a lot of culture at play here–I would have sworn I was immune to this patriarchal nonsense. But look at these words coming out of me without even realizing it! It’s a real thing that women, especially mothers, do and want to and should (????!!!) put themselves last. Because they don’t matter. Or because what their kids or spouses want is more important, and the mom has to make sure to accommodate all of that and mitigate all of that, because her own needs have to take a backseat.

It’s hard to really see and escape this kind of thinking that’s embedded in our society. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get political, but it’s kind of really the core of the issue here.

I didn’t think I mattered.

If that’s not something to make you/me tear up, I don’t know what is. It’s heartbreaking! But apparently it’s taken me this long, and the impartiality of a social network screen, to learn the lesson that I matter. That I was and am an important person, not just for the sake of my children, but for my own sake, as a fully functioning human person. I’m not a vessel or a robot. I’m allowed to have space, time and opinions of my own. (How very 20th century of me!)

So, listen. No matter what: YOU MATTER, MAMA. Always. Along with your partner, you are one of the two most important people in your new baby/ies’ life. Of course your baby needs a lot of attention, and grueling, tedious attention it is for the first few endless weeks. (But you’ll also get to snuggle with your sweet new baby!) Parental needs get pushed to the back burner for awhile.

But, please please remember: You are a person too. You are not just a feeding/diapering machine. You have wants and needs, and you are allowed to have them. And! you are allowed to get them. Sleep is a biological need, not a selfish want. So naps aren’t indulgent, they’re necessary! You deserve to be at your struggling best–you probably need some rest, time and space away for a few minutes. Away from everything and everyone, blessed quiet for your frazzled new-mama mind. It doesn’t have to be a day at the spa (though you certainly deserve a massage at the least!). Just a few minutes to breathe. A few minutes to take a shower, walk through the grocery store aisles, feel the sun on your face–all without a tiny person all up on you, demanding all of your attention and energy. A few minutes to be YOU.

Maybe that means your partner hangs out with the baby/babies solo for awhile. Maybe it means that your free time is only in the evening. But go find that time. Ask for it, demand it. Figure out a way for each of you to get some naps, some alone time, to get some you time, to get that space and that silence. It is so, so important.

You’ll feel better, and you’ll be a better parent for your sweet new baby. Your baby deserves healthy, rested parents

YOU MATTER.

How We Keep Our House Clean

Hang on a sec, let me finish laughing.

Hahahahaha. “Clean.” Hahahahaha. That’s hilarious.

We are kind of slobs. Wait, that doesn’t sound right; we aren’t dirty or living in filth or anything. We just get lazy about things like vacuuming and dusting. It’s not a priority for us. And I’m hoping that we’re not the only ones. 🙂

But here’s what we do to keep a semblance of clean…ish.

1. After the babies were born, I kept noticing that the upstairs bathroom counter was in need of cleaning. But the cleaning stuff was all downstairs. I would think briefly about going to get it, but almost immediately dismiss the idea. And then by the time I got back downstairs, the idea about cleaning stuff had gone clear out of my little head. Partly due to baby-fog, no doubt, but also because I’m just forgetful.

But one day I finally realized that I needed to bring the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak. I got a spray bottle and poured in some all-purpose cleaner from the bottle downstairs. I grabbed another roll of paper towels, and set both of those to live on the back of the toilet. So all the cleaning stuff is RIGHT THERE, making it no excuses and really fast and easy. (I now wonder if this is just What Adults Do and I never knew?) And now I’m pretty good at seeing when the counter is starting to look a little icky, and taking the sixty seconds to wipe everything down. I do that a little more than once a week.

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2. I can handle things like dust, because it’s small and it doesn’t get in my way. And I make a lot of piles of things, which then can become “invisible.” But if there’s enough clutter in the way of things, I get all hand-flappy and just can’t take it.

When we rearranged the living room, we had a big empty space for baby stuff. (We call it the Baby Carnival, because originally there were several “stations” of baby activities to rotate through.) And when we put the babies to bed upstairs, all the stuff was…still everywhere. I hated it and it felt suffocating. So we started piling things/boxing things/moving things around so it wasn’t everywhere.

Our system now is great. Every night after baby bedtime, we put away the baby carnival: We have a bin where all the books go. We have a bin for small toys (stacking cups, rattles, that kind of thing) and a bin for bigger toys (the bubble mower, the clacker walker toy, the musical drums). There are two smaller bins for the two kinds of blocks. So everything gets thrown (sometimes literally) back into a bin or container during the bedtime routine or right after the babies go up to bed. The exersaucer moves out of the way, the foam mats moves off to the side, the baby corral gets folded up.

All of this takes maybe five minutes, and we both work on it together. It feels SO much better. It’s like a physical demarcation between baby/family time, and grown-up/relaxing time. I swear, I take a nice happy sigh every time, because the floor is CLEAR and the clutter is out of sight! Or at least off the floor. (Well, that particular clutter, anyway.)

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It all gets set out again later at night to be ready for the morning, so one might argue that it’s a bit pointless to put it away for a few hours. But it really does make such a difference to see a clear floor, if only for a bit.

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3. We finally made ourselves a chore chart. Like we’re little kids who need a sticker or something. We listed out all the chores that need to be done in each room/area of the house each week, though some we specified bi-weekly or monthly. (Note that this does not include extremist shit like wipe down baseboards and other craziness.) There is a column for each week, to put checkmarks when the chore is completed. Now….the most we’ve ever done is probably 90% of the weekly list. And…that is not the norm. Did I mention that we’re kind of lazy?

However, I do like having: a) a visual reminder of what needs to be done and b) the satisfaction of checking off an item. The list has definitely encouraged a lot more to be done than would have done otherwise. Plus it helps equalize the work.

We (well, really “I”) have definitely gotten better with the frequency of things like sweeping the kitchen, though vacuuming is still not done very often. (But I can say that when we FINALLY got a grown-up vacuum, it made a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. It’s a Shark from Costco and it pulls up so much! It’s very satisfying (if a little gross)!)

When we lived in NYC, we were better about doing chores more regularly and more purposely–we would designate a day/timeframe to do the cleaning, and we would both work on it at the same time. However, now there are two more small people in the house with us, and it’s not at all easy to do most cleaning with babies around–they try to chew on the broom, they were afraid of the vacuum cleaner for a long time, etc. So the cleaning has to happen either after baby bedtime, or one person cleans while the other supervises babies. But our “free” time sans babies is so short, and that there are much better things to do during that time, such as eat dinner, take a shower, watch tv and read the internet.

So now things are a little (okay, a lot) more sporadic. We’ll get better again, eventually. Probably.

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4. Tools:

For awhile we used Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner, but a new bottle had a new, terrible scent that I hated. I switched to the orange-flavored Method all-purpose cleaner and like that a lot.

We are (well, I am) definitely a fan of cleaning with vinegar.

OxiClean is fucking amazing. Baby clothes get a lot of stains, as you can well imagine. Soaking them in OxiClean makes the stains gone. LIKE MAGIC.

I was AMAZED when I finally tried Magic Erasers in a bathtub. But OxiClean is just as good, and without nearly as much physical effort/scrubbing. BECAUSE IT’S MAGIC. Like vinegar, you can use it everywhere.

We use swiffer cloths to ‘dust’ and sweep bathrooms. Not even on the swiffer pole handle thing, we just hold the cloth in hand. We get the big box of them from Costco and they live in the hall closet, right next to the upstairs bathroom. Easy to grab, pulls up lots of dust nice and quick.

I recently realized that cotton burp cloths (the plain Gerber ones, which are seriously the best burp cloths ever) are also great for drying and ‘polishing’ surfaces like the sink and the stove. That helps get rid of the last bit of moisture and residue, and makes everything shiny.

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5. Good inspirational reading can put you in the mood to clean!

I love Unfuck Your Habitat — it’s simple, no-nonsense, and generally encourages you to just do it already. Some good specific cleaning tips can be found there too. The 20/10 idea plus “no marathons” are great too. And after scrolling through the befores and afters, I almost always go clean or tidy something. I have the app, too, but don’t really use it. (Because I’m lazy; the app itself seems great.)

For something a little more tasteful, Unclutterer is a good resource. It talks more about methods, options, upcycling/reusing materials, and other thoughts and resources for staying organized. Plus hilarious “unitaskers.”

Last year sometime I found this blog to read occasionally, called I Heart Organizing and I kind of enjoyed going through her posts about challenging herself to do some more detailed home cleaning chores.

Also, apparently, writing about/thinking about cleaning puts you in a mood too! The night I drafted this, I did some kitchen basics later that night, and the next day did a whole bunch of cleaning I’d been putting off. I felt good and excited to make some spaces shinier and cleaner, and then of course I got to check a bunch of things off the chore list! (The problem is that I will probably never re-enact that happy daytime cleaning bug. Oh well. Gotta strike while the iron is hot! Oh that reminds me, I have some ironing that I’ve been putting off….wonder when I will get to that.)

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Child labor:

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So what are your favorite little tips to make cleaning faster/easier/better? Any websites or apps that you like for some cleaning inspiration? Or just tell me that we’re not the only ones who let dust accumulate. 🙂

Our Favorite Toys for Babies, 6-12 month edition

 When I went to the big twins club re-sale last spring, I had a very specific list of items that I knew the babies would need in the short term. When I saw the huge area of big toys, I froze. I tried to think about the next 5-6 months and what the babies would do or learn or want or play with. And I had utterly no idea what, say, a 9 month old could use.

So I figure that as I go along, I’ll keep track of the toys we use in age-ranges of our babies, in hope that someday, another parent will find it useful! This isn’t an official review or sponsored post, it’s just what our babies have liked and used a lot.

(Previous gear lists: Pregnancy, New Babies part 1, New Babies part 2, New Babies part 3 Toys for 3-6 months)

Also, FYI: Baby Cheapskate does an annual roundup of “Toys that get played with” for all age ranges, based on reader polls/surveys. Here’s the 2013 list for 6-12 months. You should follow them on Facebook--they find and post tons of deals on baby gear every day!

I’m calling this 6-12 months because it’s a nice round number, but honestly, the babies are still playing with almost all of these toys at 14 months!  Also, they aren’t walking yet, so they’re not taking advantage of those kind of toys yet.

Also note that I got almost all of these things from craigslist or consignment sales. Baby stuff can get expensive, and secondhand gear is often just as good for the wee ones, but way better for your wallet! 

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Activity Table (ie, crack table) Man, did they love this! We called it the crack table because it was like a magnet–if we turned it on in an adjacent room, the babies would come crawling! And they would just keep playing with it, so when it was time to wind down at the end of the day, we’d have to move it to the kitchen to ‘hide’ it. I could see them practicing their gross and fine motor skills with all of the different ‘activities’, and I really think this helped them develop their standing stamina, too. Thankfully, the intensity of their love for this toy finally dimmed a bit. It’s still in our kitchen, and they still play with it a bit here and there. The Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker would be a good alternative to this–I’m not sure if both would be necessary.

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Riding toys: like our horsey that I found at a resale for eight bucks (newer version on Amazon) or a wagon. We have a vintage Fisher Price wagon (from a different resale), which I love for its simplicity.  Here’s their ‘new’ version, with lots more crap on it. These seem like they will continue to be played with for quite awhile.

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Anything to bang together (measuring cups, bottle caps, wooden spoons, plastic blocks, giant pasta shells)

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Musical toys: The babies seemed to love the music aspect of the kick n play piano mat, but I hated that there were only four keys and that you couldn’t just play a note. Any time you hit a key, it made a note but then also a jingle. I wanted some kind of musical toy/piano that is JUST MUSIC. Well, those pretty much don’t exist anymore. Everything sings and talks, plus does the ABCs, or talks in Spanish, or counts numbers. I just wanted them to push a key and hear a single note! Happily, I found one of these piano/xylophones and a teeny cheap little keyboard at the local Value Village for around ten bucks altogether. Some bleach and some qtips, and they were good to go! They don’t play with these a ton, but I like that they have the opportunity to “play” “music” with their own little hands, and I hope that they will keep playing with musical toys as they get older and more coordinated.

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Bins of things: (books, toys, linens). I like the 56-quart clear bins from Home Depot or Target. We keep the baby books in one of these bins, and it turned out to be a perfect size for climbing into and on top of. 🙂

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Exersaucer/Jumper: (to sit in or to stand on the outside of). We had one of each before they were six months, since there were two babies that needed activities to rotate through. One was borrowed and one was from craigslist–we could not have afforded both otherwise! The babies LOVED the jumper for a long time but kind of got over being in the exersaucer sooner. However, it’s on my list because we still have it in our living room–they still like going over to it and playing with a few of the toys, especially the one where you push a button for some music. They start bouncing their little legs and smile. 🙂

Rattles We like to put popcorn kernels in empty containers and let them shake shake shake.

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IKEA Foam blocks/wooden or plastic blocks: Self-explanatory, I’m sure.

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Stacking rings (plastic or wooden) and stacking cups from IKEA (see above re: banging things together): I always heard these were good toys for babies but they seemed so boring! I have been proven wrong–the cups in particular were an instant winner for our babies. They’ve gone through different stages of playing with them: first to eat, then to bang together, then nesting together, and attempting to stack them. I’m telling you, three bucks, endless fun and entertainment.

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Shape Sorter Bucket: The pieces can be used for chewing and banging together first, and then the babies will learn about dumping out and putting in again. Good times! It’s also an excellent hide and seek ‘mask’, according to Emmett.

Sharky brush: Teether/toothbrush that the babies love to chew on!

Foam playmat: We keep this on our living room rug to cushion falls and tumbles, and to prevent messes from getting to the carpet. It does trip them up sometimes when they’re pushing the riding toys.

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Bath letters:  Who doesn’t want fun bath toys to chew on and throw over the side?

Touch and feel books, lift-the-flap books. They love lifting the flaps so much that they rip them right off!

I’d love to hear your additions to this list–what do your 6-12 month olds love to play with?