Since I temporarily retired from my teaching profession in the classroom, I have taken on a full time and overtime job of teaching, mothering, organizing, and managing my children and family. It’s a demanding job but if you have the right tools, ideas, and activities your life will sail a lot more smoothly!

BE PREPARED

When it is time to run out the door with the kids, is that a  stressful time? For most parents it is. Unexpected meltdowns, refusing to put on socks or shoes, last minute diaper disasters, or not wanting to get into the car are  scenarios all too familiar for parents. Packing your purse or diaper bag should be the last issue you want to deal with! Before I delivered my baby, I had my diaper bag packed and ready to go and promised myself to always keep it stashed and ready to grab and go. Most of the time I am pretty good about this and it really makes life easier. At night when the kids are asleep, I make sure I have replenished any depleted diapers and wipes. Everything else is usually there by default. Some of my essential default items include: pain reliever/fever reducer (Infant Tylenol with a syringe for my 6 month old and Children’s Advil for my 3 year old), bandages, disinfecting ointment, nail clippers, a baby hair brush, emergency hair ties and headbands, hand sanitizer, disposable diaper bags ( for unexpected stinky diaper changes on the go, to be courteous- do not leave those stinkers in someone’s home or a trashcan in the mall!), diaper rash cream, etc. To carry all of this and be able to access it easily, you probably need a nice big baby bag with plenty of pockets. Unfortunately it is not very easy to find such a bag. Sometimes you find a great bag that has good organization and function but it is not BIG enough. Or maybe it is very stylish and high fashion but not very functional with adequate organization. Well, I am on the hunt to solve this problem, and I am not looking to spend $1000 either. The bags I am looking at are between $100-$300 to show a good range of high fashion and style but with good function. Stay tuned for detailed photo and video reviews coming soon! You might be the lucky winner of a diaper bag giveaway!

GET ORGANIZED

The most important thing I find in making the day as successful as possible and to minimize the stress is to be ORGANIZED! Organization is my oxygen. My heart skips a beat when I find an innovative way to solve a clutter problem. Your children will be more independent and self sufficient if there is a place for everything and everything in its place. Stop wasting your time with simple tasks such as getting a snack for your child, passing them a spoon, or finding the red ball for their ball popper toy! See how they can easily do these things on their own!

Toys

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This dress up bin holds all kinds of costumes, tutus, hats, headbands and antennae! 

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Use baskets with labels to have a dedicated place for different types of toys (blocks, puzzles, plush toys, dolls, musical toys, alphabets, numbers, animals, etc). The labeling of the baskets or bins are also an excellent way to expose  your children to early print concepts. Don’t be surprised if they start to “read” the labels and identify the blocks or dolls basket. 

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If you have a play kitchen, play house, or play grocery store it is an ideal place to store all the kitchen and food themed toys! Once again the child has a place to find these toys and to put them away at clean up time.

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For households with different aged children and a baby, its a great idea to have one basket or bin dedicated to soft, baby safe toys.

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This is our living room there are 5 baskets of toys that kids help themselves to and spread all over the place. Do you see all the toys and the mess? You cannot find it because the toy bins each get nicely tucked away and out of sight in this large ottoman in the center of the room! Such a clutter-proof life saver! Larger items like the train or rocking horse can stay in the closet and circulating which toys are out keeps the kids interested. Its like getting a new toy every time you switch up what is out and accessible to the kids. You don’t need to have all the toys out all the time!

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Clothes

Here, we have the closet sectioned off to organize clothes by size, diapers and wipes, and accessories. Many people do not realize it but  you can save a lot of space by actually removing the diapers and wipes from the large boxes they come in! And they will be much easier to grab in a hurry to refill the diaper station when you run out and have a baby with a bare butt ready to splatter any moment! If you don’t have the time to organize your closet or do not want to invest the money the hanging shelf on the left is a GREAT option. Get it on Amazon here.

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If you have girls, chances are you have accumulated A LOT of headbands, flowers, clips, socks and tights. I like to keep the headbands easily at hand on this behind the door pocket organizer. I have 2 girls so a lot of flowers and socks to organize! I like my kids to be able to help themselves to the socks and put them on independently so this shoe organizer nailed into the wall at their height works great! Its not that pretty which is why you may want to hang it behind the door or inside your closet if it is large enough.

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I also place the other clothing items my daughter can wear independently at her height so that she can help herself. Pants, underwear, and pajamas are in the bottom drawers to facilitate dressing herself. 

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Books

We have more books than toys. That is intentional and my kids love it, but you need a lot of space for books! Aside from the bulky book cases that can take up a lot of space, I find the big book sling shelves are a great way to display the books to your kids and make them accessible. I also filled several lower cabinets in my living room with them so my daughter can help herself at any time.

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Here are some of the essential play and activity items we recommend:

A Play Kitchen– I could not wait to move out of our apartment so that we would have space to buy my daughter a play kitchen. I knew she would love it. She can spend hours in a play kitchen or play house. I am also a firm believer that kids do not need very many toys, and the ones they do have should encourage imagination and creativity. A play kitchen is absolutely essential to that! I love the one I found on Amazon.com bc it matches my white kitchen.  Or if your child has other interests such as construction, a play mat (like this one) with roads and buildings is perfect.

An activity table I really want one of those nice wooden ones that has a roll of craft paper on top and great storage underneath like the Carolina Craft Table at Pottery Barn Kids, but alas we are still limited on space. So this one I found from Amazon is great, its plastic is easy to wipe clean, the bench seats all of your child’s friends during playgroups, and best of all the table and chair are connected so the children stay close to the table! That means no falling off the chair, no crumbs or items falling to the ground because the child is not sitting close enough, and your child isn’t scooting his or her chair all over the place!  I will warn you, although the table is called “fold and store” we were NEVER able to fold and store it because it was ridiculously complicated to assemble. We did not dare unscrew parts again just to fold it. Read the Amazon reviews, they explain. Anyway, this craft table is a great place because it is your child’s zone, at his or her height, and they can independently get to it to do activities, roll out play dough, assemble legos, color, eat a snack, or just sit in their own personal space. It is their domain, and I love the way my daughter just toddles over to her table to play, doodle, or play with her tea cups. I do not know what we would do without her activity table.

Puppets– this is self explanatory, but again, I am a huge fan of encouraging pretend play, imagination, and creativity. Puppets are great for social and emotional learning, story telling, and providing extra friends for your child at home! We have been known a few times to pull out “Mr. Bumble Bee” or “Lady Bug” to get our daughter to eat her dinner or cooperate with brushing her teeth. She wouldn’t dare disappoint her puppet friends! I love the Aurora puppets you can find on Amazon! Can you tell I love Amazon?

Dress Up Trunk– This is by far one of my daughter’s FAVORITES. It is also great because it is so versatile and your (uh, I mean her) collection can grow through the years! I ordered a large canvas toy basket from Pottery Barn kids and personalized it with the words “Dress Up”, but there are also many cute toy trunks out there. My daughter and her friends get lost in a world of their own dressing up as princesses, fairies, a doctor, construction worker, firefighter, etc. The options to include are countless. We have several pairs of fairy wings, these awesome butterfly wings, several tutus, princess dresses, a lady bug outfit (currently her obsession), a chef’s hat, a firefighter hat, one of dad’s ties, eye glasses with a mustache, and so on. Right after Halloween is a great time to stock up and find costumes on sale or clearance!