Monday, 9 October 2017

Baobao's Activity Time: Our Week With Tod

No affiliate links, just activities that we love to attend ourselves

Have you ever attended Toddler Sense sessions? They are the follow on from Baby Sensory, designed for busy, active toddlers, and are by far Baobao's favourite toddler group to go to week on week. 

One of the key parts of each Toddler Sense session is Tod. Each week, children complete a task with him - recent activities have included building a rocket out of megablocks and riding a night train. 

We were lucky enough to be allowed to take Tod home last week. Here are some of the things we did:

He rode the bus with us
And shared a bed (we are a bedsharing family after all)
Baobao built a space rocket using Tegu
He shared our meals
We even took him out into nature
Then just before he left, Baobao drew Tod a picture
He took it with him when he left

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Our British/Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

Today we are celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhōngqiū Jié), the Chinese Moon Festival. All around the world today, families will be gathering together, eating mooncakes and moon gazing. 

Here are some of the things we have done to celebrate:

On Saturday, we got dressed up in special clothes...

Xiaobao and Baba
Baobao making a Chinese medicine shop
And doing some drawing
and celebrated with our family by making mooncakes

Yeye, Gunainai and Baba making mooncakes
Yeye using the moon cake mould
Baobao made her own mooncakes using baozi dough
Our raw mooncakes
and cooked mooncakes
We also ate baozi, mochi and fruit - all round foods - as well as duck, which is always brought out by my parents-in-law for family occasions.

This week we learnt more about Zhōngqiū Jié. We read a story book about the festival.

and then made our own paper lanterns

Baobao painted an autumn picture
She cut some lines. She did all of her own cutting, cutting carefully along the lines I drew for her.
Then she stuck the lantern together. I helped her to form it into a lantern shape. She also stuck on the handle
Baobao's finished lantern displayed on our autumn nature table

What are you doing to celebrate Zhōngqiū Jié? 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Toddler Autumn Winter Capsule Wardobe (Dress Heavy)

Over the last 18 months or so, we have significantly reduced the amount of objects we have in our home. We're far from being minimalists. We really still have a long way to go. At the same time, the amount of things we have on our own has significantly reduced since then.

At a year, Baobao had at least 30 outfits, and yet she usually only wore the same 10 or so, over and over. These are the same ones that I have kept for Xiaobao, that she is wearing now.

Baobao now has around 14 outfits in her wardrobe. With a recently potty trained toddler, I feel like this is a a number that means she always has spare outfits just in case, but is small enough that I can keep on top of washing easily. We try to buy clothes that can be used for multiple seasons and so choose things that we can layer.

Baobao loves wearing dresses, so her wardrobe is tailored around that, while still having a variety of colours to prevent it from being too pink. We also try to focus on high quality, ethical fashion, although that's not always possible on our budget. The one thing I have found about minimalism, is that by having fewer things, those few things we have can be higher quality.

Baobao's wardrobe:
  • 9 dresses (6 long sleeve dresses + 3 short sleeve dress and long sleeve top sets)
  • 4 top and bottom combo (3 tops and skirt combos + 1 top and leggings sets)
  • 3-4 cardigans
  • 6 pairs of knee high socks
  • 3 pairs of normal socks
  • 6-8 pairs tights
  • 2 fleeces/hoodies
  • 1 rain coat 
  • 1 pair of waterproof trousers
  • 2 hat/scarf/glove sets
  • 3 pairs of shoes (1 trainers 1 boots 1 wellies)
  • 4 pyjamas + 4 pairs of fluffy socks
  • 10 vests
  • 7 pairs of knickers 

What else would you add to your toddler wardrobe?

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The 30 Day Slow Down Childhood Challenge

Last month, I stumbled across The 30 Day Slow Down Childhood Challenge, a parenting challenge run by Nicolette of Wilder Child. The idea is to take life a little slower and through that connect more with your children (and hopefully reduce stress). 

As a sort of pre-challenge to the challenge proper, we have been asked to journal about our reasons to join the challenge and what we hope to achieve from there challenge. So here are my thoughts:

What inspired me to join the challenge?

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting as much recently. I haven't really posted about it here (or even online very much) but I was diagnosed with post natal depression a few weeks ago, although the issues have been going on for a while. One of my symptoms is becoming overwhelmingly cross at tiny little things, something that goes completely against everything I believe in as a gentle parent. This of course leads to guilt, which I then focus on in minute detail, fuelled by the depression. 

This challenge popped up in my inbox, while in the grip of one of these moments of overwhelming guilt. While waiting for a CBT appointment, it seemed like something I could do to be a better parent to the girls. In the midst of struggling, slowing down could help?

What do I hope to achieve by joining the challenge?

So what do I hope to achieve? I suppose to connect more with my girls. I can see Baobao struggling as I struggle. She gets angrier and tantrums more, as I get cross over tiny things. She acts out more as I struggle to give her the attention she needs. A child acting out for attention isn't a slight on the child, it's a cry for help and I need to be there for her. I hope that, alongside the CBT, it can be a first step on the road to recovery. 

Maybe I'm putting too much importance on this challenge, but it's something I have to try.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

When Modelling Is Enough.... Thoughts On Please, Thank You and Sorry

This morning, Baobao swung her hobby horse and it hit Baba in the leg. He cried out, understandably, because being hit in the leg with a wooden stick hurts. Baobao looked at him apologetically and said "I'm sorry Baba for hitting you in the leg"

I'm sorry Baba for hitting you in the leg

No prompting, cajoling or asking her to say something she didn't understand or mean. Just a heartfelt apology from a place of being truly sorry that she had hurt her father.

We've never told Baobao to apologise if she hurts someone. I would often apologise on her behalf, if she had hurt someone, because I was sorry that she had, but the responsibility had to be hers. I didn't want her to parrot it or learn that it would get her out of trouble. I knew she wouldn't say it until she understood it this way, that it might take her longer than other children that we knew, but in my role as her champion (as part of the gentle parenting seven Cs), I knew that it was ok to wait and that she would get there eventually.

Recently she has also started saying please. It is interesting because her whole demeanour will change, from shouty and demanding, to calm and sweet. I know though that she means it. She understands that other people respond better to requests with the word please attached and in her own time she has learnt to navigate some of the social niceties that make society run more smoothly. We have never withheld anything from her until she said it. Never demanded she said it. Just modelled and remodelled her sentences for her from time to time.

We are still working on thank you. She'll often say 'You're welcome' instead. I blame Maui from Moana, but at 2 years and 7 months, I'm happy to see the direction she is travelling in, all on her own steam.

So if you're worried about your child not being polite enough yet, please don't be. Consistent modelling really is enough. They will get there, when they are developmentally ready and for all children that day is a little different. For us it came today. For you it will too.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Gentle Parenting? What is it and why are we doing it?

I have a confession to make. We are gentle parents. Some people don't really like to be labelled, but we quite like this one.

So what is gentle parenting? 

Sarah Ockwell Smith wrote on her blog that it is parenting with empathy, respect, understanding and boundaries.

Empathy - Being understanding of your child's feelings and using that empathy to decide what to do in each situation. It's so much easier for them to learn empathy (when it is developmentally appropriate) when they have seen it modelled to them their whole life.
Respect - Treating children like real people and offering them the same respect you would offer another adult. If they have respect modelled to them, then they will respect you in return.
Understanding - Understanding that children are going through a lot developmentally at any given time, understanding that children's behaviour is often a result of something they are trying to communicate and understanding of what is appropriate developmentally of a child at any age, be that in relation to sleep, sharing or even self-control.
Boundaries - Just because you are empathetic, respectful and understanding of what your child is going through, doesn't mean that you just let them do anything they want. Everybody needs boundaries. It's just that in gentle parenting we try to make sure that those boundaries are developmentally appropriate.

So why do we do it?

Because gentle parenting is the same as authoritative parenting.

So in terms of parenting styles there are usually three types

  • permissive parenting - parenting with no boundaries and low expectations
  • authoritative parenting - parenting with realistic boundaries, respectfully enforced and age-appropriate expectations
  • authoritarian parenting - parenting with strict boundaries, enforced with punishments, and behaviour expectations that may not be age appropriate
There are a million reasons to be an authoritative parent - or gentle parent from now on. Here are some of our reasons:
  • We want Baobao to have the words to explain her own emotions and to be able to eventually regulate her emotions. We don't want her to suppress them, as encouraged by time out, but we don't want to explain them away either. 
  • We want Baobao to have a growth mindset, so rather than focusing on the outcome, offering huge amounts of praise or rewards, we focus on the joy in the process and how hard she has worked to get to that point. We use specific praise, rather than a generic "Well done!"
  • We want Baobao to be independent. We hear quite often that children need to be independent, so we should move them to their own room or leave them with other people as soon as possible, but attachment theory proves the opposite is true. In order to be truly independent, you must first have a secure base attachment. I am happy to be Baobao and Xiaobao's safe place until they are ready to fly.
  • Most of all, to us it just makes sense. (It's that simple)

Thursday, 14 September 2017

3 Low Resource Sociability Activities For 6-9 Months

Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.

Around 7-9 months, babies first begin to realise that if she cant see you, you're not there and so they are likely to begin to experience separation anxiety. Babies also begin to learn about and experience a range of emotions, including joy, anger and frustration, and begin to take more notice of other babies.

Feet and Toe Songs

Feet and toe songs, such as 'This Little Piggy' and 'Wee Wiggie' are good for sociability. Singing songs while in physical contact builds friendliness and humour, as well as talking and imitation.

Hand and Finger Songs

Just like feet and toe songs, hand and finger songs, such as "round and round the garden" and "tommy thumb" are excellent for improving fine finger movement, coordination, humour, friendliness and communication skills.

Baby Massage

When Baobao was little, we did baby massage on a weekly basis. I haven't really been able to do it with Xiaobao as part of a class, but we have always done a little at home after her bath. We did this because for a newborn baby touch is as vital as vitamins, hence skin to skin being encouraged. It's not just for milk production. As babies get older you can name body parts, vary the types of strokes used and vary the pace at which you massage, teaching baby about fast and slow. In terms of sociability, baby massage helps with forming relationships, learning to trust and being responsive to others, as well as helping baby to relax of course. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

6 Low Resource Fine Motor Skill Activities For 6-9 Months

Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.

Learning to sit up securely (around 5-7 months for most babies), babies have a secure base from which to work on their fine motor skills. Passing objects from hand to hand, as well as reaching for something she can see without watching her hands are two of the things she will be working on during this time.

Clap, clap clap

Around 5-6 months, you can begin to introduce clapping games, such as pat-a cake. Just like all rhymes, clapping games improve memory and speech, as well as, hand-eye coordination and bi-manual coordination. They also encourage babies to participate.

Build it up and knock it down

This is also around the time that you can begin introducing bricks and blocks. Younger babies can hold bricks, exploring different shapes and textures. Later, she'll be able to bang them together or knock down a tower that you build for her. This will lead to baby eventually being able to build a tower themselves (around a year).

Music Making Fun

Once baby is sitting independently, you can begin to introduce musical instruments. While we have a few, such as drums and a xylophone, nothing quite beats a wooden spoon and a pan for good old fashioned noise making. Making music improves hand-eye coordination, grasp, strength, creativity and listening.

Sorting and Matching Games

Around 7 months you can begin to introduce sorting and matching games. This can be as simple as pointing out similarities and differences between animals in books or everyday objects or giving baby objects of different shapes or colours to explore and eventually match. Matching socks is a brilliant example of this. 


Self-feeding, as part of baby led weaning or traditional weaning, is an easy and cheap way to practise fine motor skills. Generally it works on hand-eye coordination and hand-control, first working on whole hand grasp and then pincer grip. 

Give and Take Games

Around 7 months you can begin to introduce give and take games. This involves giving baby a toy or object and then encouraging them to give it back to you, sometimes by gently taking it, and narrating what you are doing the whole time. This helps to work on grasp refinement, as well as sharing and observation. We tend to do this as a part of baby groups, such as baby sensory, but is easily done at home as a cheaper option.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Our Joint Montessori Inspired Toddler And Baby Shelves

 Xiaobao is a real mover. She's in to everything. She loves opening drawers and emptying boxes and just exploring everything. I love watching her need to explore. Her curiosity knows no bounds.

This curiosity does have some pitfalls, however, Baobao is becoming increasingly frustrated.. She has been hugely into doing large floor puzzles recently and Xiaobao finds the pieces fascinating, which is obviously a huge clash point. A huge frustration for me, has been Baobao's organised shelves being destroyed.

I asked around on a couple of Montessori Facebook groups, and a solution that called to me was joint shelves. Out shelves had previously been seperate, with a shelf for toys, a shelf for more Montessori inspired work for Baobao and a shelf for Xiaobao. I pushed them together and got to work.

Top: basket of ribbons, skwish, egg and cup, basket of balls
Bottom: hologram pictures, mini rolling wheel, basket of things to bite

Top: basket of fabrics to explore, push car, black and white animal art cards
Bottom: rainbow, stacking boxes
I tried to curate a mix of toys and work on the bottom shelves that both children could use and explore differently. All the items are safe for Xiaobao to mouth, as that is her number one way of exploring things. The baskets of fabric, balls and ribbons are currently the most popular. Xiaobao enjoys chasing the balls across the room and exploring the different ribbons and fabrics. Baobao rolls, throws and tries to catch the balls, wraps things up in the fabric and uses the ribbon for dressing up. The only limit is their imagination and stage of development at this point.

Smelling jars, bunny dress up puzzle, set of four 12 piece puzzles

sound jars, animal matching game, cat puzzle
Have I mentioned that Baobao is obsessed with puzzles and matching at the moment? She always wants us to match - be it cutlery, plates, clothes, food.... everything! I've tried to cater to that interest in her current shelves. Puzzles that she finds just a little bit tricky and a few sensorial matching activities. The most important part about her shelves however, are the fact that these are the activities that aren't really suitable for Xiaobao to have just yet and so, they are up on the shelf that she cannot reach.

This change has certainly made Baobao feel calmer. She now happily takes her work up to the big dining room table (Xiaobao gravitates to the toddler size table) and takes it back to the top shelf when done. Interestingly she doesn't with the bottom shelves. She feels as if they have different rules and I suppose with Xiaobao accessing them they do, because I am constantly tidying them up to model it to Xiaobao.

How do you handle joint toddler and baby spaces? Do you have any suggestions on how I can combine their space more effectively?

Monday, 4 September 2017

Zero-Waste Week 2017

It is Zero Waste Week, a campaign to raise awareness of the impact of waste, as well as empowering those who take part to reduce their own waste. We have been trying to reduce our waste for a while, beginning with cloth nappy use and then taking part in Plastic Free July this year.

I wanted to take this week to take stock of how far we have come and the changes we are planning to make over the next year.

Here are some of the relatively simple changes we have made since July:

  • Stopped buying drinks in plastic bottles, replacing it with reusable bottles that we carry with us
  • Stopped buying coffee in takeaway cups, replacing it with a reusable cup that we carry with us, or drinking in
  • Refused straws at restaurants
  • Switched from liquid hand soap to bar soap
  • Switched from liquid shampoo and conditioner to solid shampoo and conditioner (and cut my hair so that I use less)
  • Avoid lightweight plastic bags by using canvas tote bags that I keep in my bag.
  • Reduce the amount of takeaways we have and asking them to use our own containers where we can
  • Avoid using plastic food wrap by storing leftovers in jars and containers
  • Switch from using plastic toothbrushes to  bamboo toothbrushes
We obviously have a long way to go, but these changes have been relatively simple. Here are some o the changes we plan to do this week or over the next few months as things run out:

  • Make our own cleaning products to reduce the amount of cleaning products we buy
  • Move away from disposable wipes and replace with flannels and reusable wipes.
  • Replace plastic items as they break with plastic free options - such as brushes, cups, plates etc.
  • Switch to shopping at the local market, butchers and fishmongers, as opposed to a supermarket.
  • Only give plastic free gifts and wrap using newspaper or playsilks for the children
What are you doing for Zero Waste Week?

Thursday, 24 August 2017

5 Activities For Children In The Sensitive Period For Sound

I have started reading How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way. One of the first things the book covers is the sensitive periods for learning. Children go through periods of great interest and curiosity, which Maria Montessori called sensitive periods, a few of which she identified for ages birth through to around 6 years old.

When I observe Baobao, I can see clearly that she is the sensitive period for the senses. She is especially sensitive to sound. She is terrified of loud noises - building work, trucks going by and hand dryers are current fears - and listens out for even the tiniest sound - she can often hear a siren before I can.

Here are some of the activities we are doing with Baobao:

DIY Sound Jars
These sound jars are one of the easiest DIY Montessori activities. Traditionally they are blue and red, but these Plats salt and pepper shakers from Ikea have black and white bottoms, making them stylish and beautiful. I actually think they are perfect for the Montessori environment. We filled ours with rice, pasta, lentils and rolled up paper, whatever we had in the cupboard really. Baobao will play this game daily when it is out.

Sound Walk
We love going for walks. Being outside really helps Baobao to feel free. She needs to connect with the world and to move to learn at this point in her life. Quite often if she hasn't had the opportunity to be outside in the morning, our afternoons are much harder as a result. It's also good for my mental health.

When doing a sound walk with Baobao, we just take moments in our walk to be quiet and just listen and think about what we can hear, be that sirens or people talking on a busy street, or birdsong in our local park.

Baobao loves poetry. She is especially fond of nonsense rhymes. She loves the silly words, alliteration and rhyme, the way they sometimes make mama or baba stumble on their words. Some days she could read these books all day long.

Sound Games
We got this Janod Sound Game from TK Maxx a couple of months ago. It's perfect for children who are in the sensitive period for sound. You listen to the sounds the animals make and match them to the animal cards. Baobao asks to play this game daily.

Music and Movement
How can I make a post about sound without music? Baobao is enjoying listening to classical music, as well as nursery rhymes and dancing to other children's songs. Nursery rhymes are especially good, because they are usually only written with about 5 notes, which happen to be the first 5 notes children are able to sing.

Another music and movement activity, of course, is playing instruments. As I write this, Baobao is drumming loudly and quietly, learning about the correlation between how hard she hits the drum and the volume of the sound she makes.

Is your toddler or pre-schooler really interested in sound at the moment? What activities are you doing with them?

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

4 Low Resource Movement Activities For 6-9 Months

Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.

Around 7-9 months, strength and muscle control continues to develop, leading at some point to crawling. Some will crawl before and some will crawl later, but for the majority this is the period of time for learning to crawl. Once they are crawling, babies will continue to work on their gross motor skills by pulling themselves up on to furniture.

Bathtime Fun
Bathtimes are the perfect time for gross motor development. Now that Xiaobao is sitting independently, we encourage her to splash in the water and play with objects such as ducks. Baobao demonstrates filling and pouring cups and we're encouraging Xiaobao to join in.

Tummy Time
This is the age when your baby is most likely to learn to crawl. You can't determine when or how, but you can get on to the floor with them and encourage them to use the muscles that they will need to strengthen for crawling.

Floor Flying involves encouraging baby to lift her head and arms while lying on her tummy She will look a little like an aeroplane. This improves neck-strength, head control, mobility and balance, with the ultimate goal to promote crawling
You can also encourage baby to roll towards you or even better roll around the room together. This strengthens your baby's trunk and works on their coordination, other important skills that build up towards crawling.

Tunnels Galore

Once baby is crawling, you can play tunnel games together, by making tunnels using cloth, chairs and boxes. This encourages crawling, curiosity, adventurousness and determination.

Hammer Hammer Hammer

One your baby is sitting steadily, they have the body control to work on their arm control. Hammering pegs on a peg toy, or gold tees into play dough, works on hand-eye coordination, as well as coordination of their shoulder, arm and hand.

Horsey Rhymes

Baobao always enjoyed horse riding based nursery rhymes and games. Place your child on your lap and gently bounce them up and down to the beat of the song. As well as working on their sense of balance and bodily strength, it is also one of the only ways to instil a sense of rhythm at a young age.

Here are our favourite horsey rhymes:

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
She shall have music wherever she goes.
This is the way the lady rides.
Trit, trot, trit, trot.
This is the way the lady rides.
Trit, trit, trot.
This is the way the gentleman rides.
Trit-trot, trit-trot, trit-trot, trit-trot.
This is the way the gentleman rides.
Trit-trot, trit-trot, trit-trot.
This is the way the farmer rides.
Gall-op, gall-op, gall-op, gall-op.
This is the way the farmer rides.
Gall-op, gall-op, gall-op.
This is the way the old man rides.
Hobble-dy, hobble-dy, hobble-dy.
This is the way the old man rides
and down into the ditch!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Baobaos Favourites At 30 Months

None of the links in this post are affiliate links. They're all small shops where we buy our toys from.

Sometimes I am completely surprised at the passage of time. Baobao is 30 months this week - 2 years 6 months - and I am amazed every day at the incredible child she is becoming. She was playing with her Yeye last week, and she suddenly didn't look like a toddler anymore. It was a glimpse of the pre-schooler she will become.

At 30 months, I'm astounded at how kind Baobao is, always trying to take care of Xiaobao, but also at how energetic she is. She loves to find out what her body can do. As such, many of her favourite toys involve her testing just how much she can do - be that in a gross motor or fine motor capacity. She is also very into games that allow her to connect with those around her, so most of her play actually involves being with adults or other children right now.

Here are some of Baobao's favourites at 30 months:

Homemade Playdough | Balls and Beanbags | Creatimber Balance Board
Puzzles | Outdoor Play Equipment (at our local park) | Ikea Plufsig Gym Mat

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Looking Back On Plastic Free July and Looking Forward Towards An Unknown Known

Two weeks ago, we completed Plastic Free July. In a way, it didn't actually involve as much change for us, as I thought it would. I suppose that's because this time around, we only chose to make smaller changes. Other changes seemed too difficult at this time, with two young children, and so we focused on making the changes that we could right away.

Our pledges and changes

Here are the changes that we pledged to make, all the way back at the beginning of July:

  • Avoid lightweight plastic bags, by always carrying reusable shopping bags in the front of the changing bag - We now always carry reusable bags with us. I keep one in my changing bag and Bo keeps one in his rucksack. We put them in the back of the car before we go shopping. If we are out and impulse buy, we always have a bag on hand. 
  • Avoid skincare products containing microbeads, by looking out for polyethylene, polypropylene, polymethylmethacrylate, PET, PTFE and PMMA. - This is a change that we are still working on, as we work through the toiletries that we have from before the challenge began. Our plan is now to go further and try to buy toiletries which do not come in plastic containers at all. During the challenge month, we switched to bar soap to replace body wash, hand soap and facial cleanser as they ran out. So far this month I have also replaced my shampoo with a shampoo bar. 
  • Avoid using takeaway plastic straws, by opting not to use a straw or bringing a reusable straw with us. - We now bring reusable metal straws with us when we go out, and use them at cafes and restaurants instead of disposable straws. We usually order water and ask for it without a straw to be honest, but keep our straws with us for that rare occasion when we might fancy something a little different. It is truly a permanent change made. 
  • Avoid using takeaway coffee cups, by bringing a reusable cup or sitting down and drinking from a real cup in the cafe - I haven't bought a takeaway coffee in a month and a half - I pretty much only drink in now, either at our favourite local cafe or at a local supermarket cafe. It has made for a little stress - its much harder to just leave when Baobao is overwhelmed - but we also prefer it, as we can sit and talk and have a little Mama/Baobao time.
  • Avoid using one-use plastic bottles, by no longer buying soft drinks and carrying a reusable water bottle - Another habit that is completely embedded now is carrying water bottles with us every where we go. 
  • Avoid using plastic food wrap, by storing leftovers in containers and making my own beeswax wraps - We store all leftover food in containers now and haven't used clingfilm in over a month. I'm actually tempted to give the one we have to my mother-in-law who will use it sparingly. 
  • Avoid buying plastic toys, by opting for sustainable wooden toys - We now only buy ethical, wooden/metal/fabric toys and only for holidays and birthdays. We have truly reached a point where we have everything we need toy wise, so can be picky about what we buy. You can read about our toy list here.
  • Avoid using plastic cotton buds, by buying cotton buds with cardboard tubes - We have only bought cardboard cotton buds recently and we have reduced the amount we used. Our next step is to look into reusable cotton buds. Interestingly in China, they use a teeny-tiny scoop to remove earwax, so it's only me and the children using them. 

  • Here are the pledges we have really struggled with and are continuing to work on:

  • Avoid buying new cleaning product bottles, either by refilling at a local shop that offers refills or by making our own cleaners where possible. - We have tried to switch to eco brands of cleaner, but have found that they haven't cleaned as well. A big issue was the dishwasher tablets, which still came individually wrapped in plastic, but did not break down or clean the dishes, so we ended up having to use multiple tablets in the end. Our next step is to look into making our own.
  • Avoid using takeaway utensils and containers, by ordering less takeaway food, bringing our own containers or dining in - We have actually managed to reduce the amount of takeaways we have, but are still having about one every week or two. We have changed now to ordering only takeaways that come in paper, such as going to the chip shop. 

  • Our Future Zero Waste Journey

    Although I can't know where our zero-waste journey will take us, I do know that our lives will never be the same again. We do plan to significantly change our lifestyle over the next year, by making small changes month on month. 

    Here are some of the ideas for changes we can make over the next year:
    • Make our own cleaning products to reduce the amount of cleaning products we buy
    • Move away from disposable wipes and replace with flannels and reusable wipes.
    • Replace plastic items as they break with plastic free options - such as brushes, cups, plates etc.
    • Slowly switch to bamboo toothbrushes over plastic toothbrushes
    • Replace toiletries with zero-plastic options as they run out - possibly making own where necessary
    • Switch to shopping at the local market, butchers and fishmongers, as opposed to a supermarket.
    • Only give plastic free gifts and wrap using newspaper or playsilks for the children
    • Just buy less
    Do you have any other ideas on how to live a less wasteful life?

    Saturday, 12 August 2017

    7 Low Resource Language Activities For 6-9 Months

    Xiaobao turned 6 months old this week. I have been doing little activities with her since she was a newborn (0-2 month activities3-6 month activities). We have found it's a good way to get Baobao involved with Xiaobao and to foster a loving relationship between the two. We're aiming for toy minimalism, so enjoy activities with little or no resources.

    At around 7 months, baby becomes keen to copy sounds. Her understanding also develops more and she'll start to understand single words that you use often, such as "byebye". This is also a great time to introduce baby sign, as babies begin to understand gesture and use it themselves around this age.

    Nursery Rhyme Time

    Children love action nursery rhymes. Baobao is no exception, her favourite currently being Tommy Thumb. Although babies can't join in, nursery rhymes are still incredibly beneficial. In terms of language development, they encourage listening and speaking skills (Baobao's love of Tommy Thumb coincides with her beginning to ask questions) as well as building memory and the anticipation skills.

    Puff and Blow
    Puff and blow games, such as blowing on your baby's tummy during nappy changes, blowing and catching bubbles or humming on to her fingers, are excellent for building feeling, looking and listening skills. As baby gets older, you can encourage them to copy you and blow and hum herself. which helps her to develop the muscles needed for speech.

    Yes and No

    Yes and no games, such as hiding a toy behind your back and asking if you have it then encouraging baby to nod yes or shake head no, are the first steps to intellectual analysis skills. They also introduce the concept of turn taking.

    Laughing Games

    Laughing games, such as fast and slow tickles, raspberries, round and round the garden and poking your tongue in and out, are excellent for encouraging a feeling of security, enjoyment and the interaction of play.

    Feet and Toes

    Feet and toe songs, such as 'This Little Piggy' and 'Wee Wiggie' are good for sociability. Singing songs while in physical contact builds friendliness and humour, as well as talking and imitation.


    Peekaboo games are great at this point in life, to help baby understand that objects exist even when you can't see them. This makes her feel more secure when she can't see you.

    Start with simple games of peekaboo, hiding yourself behind your hands and then saying peekabook when you move your hands away. The next stage is showing baby a noisy toy, such as a rattle and then hiding it behind your back, encourages baby to find out where things go when she can't see them. Then, once baby understands this game, hide the toy under a cloth and encourage baby to find it.

    Read, Read and Read Some More

    We are a high reading family here. Introducing books early, allows baby to work on their concentration, conceptual thinking, cognitive thinking and memory skills, as well as speech and friendliness. 

    Soft books made of cloth, with simple pictures are amazing for this age group. This is also a great time to introduce simple board books. Xiaobao enjoys books with real babies, such as Babys Day, Baby Talk and Global Babies, but now is also a good time to introduce simple stories with short sentences. Family stories, with parents, babies and siblings, depending on your family set up work well. You can even change the names of characters to match those of your own family and pets. This enhances your baby's own self image and her own idea of family.

    Thursday, 10 August 2017

    Using Our Toys List To Maintain A Minimalist Toy Collection

    We've been working towards having less at home for around 18 months now. When I look back on photos of how much we had Baobao's first Christmas, I cringe. It's good to see how far we have come, I suppose, but I still don't feel like we are finished. Our home still feels cluttered.

    The one part of my home I feel we are doing well in is toys. We are at a point where even if Baobao were to tip all of her toys out on to the floor at once, which she never does, we can tidy them all back away within 5 minutes. We don't have to rotate toys anymore. We rotate books, puzzles and games, but not toys.

    I try to make any new toy purchases really intentional. I try not to just buy on a whim, although every now and then I do end up buying something I later think I shouldn't have. Sometimes the prettiness is just overwhelming. On the whole though, we have a fairly small toy collection and try to only add to it sparingly. This also means I can focus on primarily wooden, ethical toys sold by small companies.

    One of those companies is One Hundred Toys. I came across One Hundred Toys about a year ago, and the philosophy of having only a few good quality toys for the first 5 years of life, really spoke to me at a time when I was knee deep in the KonMari approach to decluttering.

    I used the page to make a list of types of toys for each age group, adding things like instruments that weren't on sale on the website, but I still felt were important for that age group. Our own toy list based upon the One Hundred Toys philosophy, consists of about 10-15 toy types per age group. Many of these toys types overlap, meaning a toy that you buy for your 18 month old is likely to still be great at 5. I use this list to keep tabs on the types of toys that Baobao and Xiaobao have and to make sure I'm not adding too much of the same type of toy.

    Xiaobao's Current Toy List (6 months):
    • grasping toys/teether - Xiaobao has a collection of around 5 grasping toys and teethers
    • rattles -  Xiaobao has a collection of around 5 rattles
    • soft balls - We have a small basket of soft balls
    • mirror - We have a small mirror in the calm down area, plus another in the dress up area
    • blocks - We have some large, soft blocks, as well as the smaller wooden blocks from Baobao's collection
    • stacking toys - We have a couple of stacking toys that we have kept from when Baobao was younger, that we will use with Xiaobao once she is ready for them
    • sensory activities - I make treasure baskets out of household items for Xiaobao to exlplore
    • soft books/board books - Xiaobao has a small collection of books left over from Baobao. She also really enjoys when I read the books more suited to Baobao's stage of development.

      Toys from the list that Xiaobao doesn't have:
      • baby gym - Xiaobao rolled at 3 months, and only barely used the baby gym before that, so we passed it on to another family.
      • play mat - Xiaobao crawled at 5 months, making the play mat kind of useless. She now prefers our wooden floors for play. Before that I had a large blanket that she played on.
      • mobile - As with the baby gym, her mobiles (I made multiple beautiful Montessori inspired mobiles) became obsolete around the time she could roll.

      Baobao's Current Toy List (2 years 6 months)
      • Construction Toys - wooden blocks, Grimms Rainbow & Semicircles, Duplo
      • Vehicles - cars, Grimms small boat
      • Small World Play - train set, wooden animals, peg dolls, wooden scenery (grass, pond, tree)
      • Musical Instruments - Baobao has a box of different instruments
      • Puzzles/Games - Baobao has a box of puzzles and games for her stage of development that we rotate regularly. I find it difficult to limit this category, but we try to buy second hand from local selling sites or charity shops.
      • Role Play - play kitchen (with pots, pans etc but no play food), doctor's kit, fabric and a couple of accessories
      • Art Materials - water colours, pencils, crayons, chalk, paper, easel
      • Sensory Activities - We make our own play dough, play with water and use dry rice and pasta. Baobao doesn't enjoy messy play
      • Fine Motor Skills - Grimms tweezers, beads, threading board, laces
      • Gross Motor Skills - balls, beanbags, scooter, ribbon wand
      • Outdoor Play - we're currently working on our garden, but use the local park as a resource
      • Books - This is the other category I find it difficult to limit, but we rotate regularly and borrow books from the library to fit in with Baobao's current interests.

      Listing their toys like this, makes it seem as if the girls have lots of toys. We are really down at a manageable level now.

      Do you try to keep toys to a minimum? How do you use to decide which toys stay and which go? How do you handle holidays and birthdays?