When my son was born, we lived in a small urban townhouse and every square inch of our living space was precious. We had very little baby gear, and only allowed toys that had multiple functions. If it was big, bulky and our son would outgrow it quickly then I didn't want it in our house. I suppose this is officially when I became a Toy Snob.
Now we live in the 'burbs and have a huge basement area to play in, but guess what? I'm still a toy snob. When purchasing a larger toy for either of my kids I still like to make sure they meet all of the criteria in my toy snob checklist:
If not, I won't waste my time. I like letting my kids play with a variety of toys at local play groups and friends' houses to see which ones they respond to, and I take note of their interests.
Yes, I'm that parent. To a certain degree. I believe learning should be fun, natural, and based on your child's interests. I like toys that encourage learning through play. We use Cole's garbage truck to pick up his alphabet letters because this is how he likes to learn. But it doesn't hurt to have toys that sing familiar songs to reinforce what he's learning at each stage as well.
This is a big one. I want a toy that will grow with my child so it doesn't end up collecting dust in a corner two weeks after we bring it home.
The deal hound in me is always scouring kijiji and local second-hand stores. It also makes me feel a little better about my environmental footprint if I can buy a toy second-hand (I try to lighten the mom guilt wherever I can).
So now I can tell you honestly that after looking at Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages toys, I was able to tick off all of the boxes on my toy snob list, as they are toys that I genuinely love and pass all of my criteria.
When Cole was about 9 months old, he started to become obsessed with our vacuum (awesome! A kid who cleans!). But it wasn't safe for him to use, so we got him his own which he used and abused. So for Maeve, we got her the Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Vacuum. It has fun songs, teaches about colours and shapes, and the best thing, in my opinion, it encourages kids to help and play creatively, which I love.
Shortly after Cole's vacuum obsession came his lawn-mower obsession. I think he's mowed the lawn more often than we have! And as soon as Maeve learns to walk, I have a feeling she'll be helping out her big bro using this Smart Stages Lawn Mower. Right now she enjoys the character face that lights up, and she bobs happily to the various songs. Once she discovers the removable play gas-cap and gear shift, I'm sure she'll use it over and over again.
And last but not least, we love our Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair shown in the image above. So far, Maeve can crawl up onto it herself, and press some of the buttons. She loves lifting the seat up and down to activate the various songs. When I'm close-by, I'll prop her up and let her sit in the chair by herself so she can press the shape buttons and flip the pages of the book. It's a toy that will grow with her, offering 3 levels of progressive learning content: you can either slide the switch to control the level of learning that is most appropriate or you can enter in your child's age for automatic content updates, how cool is that?!? It's funny though — we chose this toy for Maeve, but Cole (2.5 years old) loves it too and always asks to have a turn. This makes me happy because I know I've chosen something that will last a long time!
And when we do finally outgrow all of these Smart Stages toys? I'll be dropping them off at a second-hand store so that someone else can enjoy them for as many years as we did! But then what? I guess we'll be into a new phase of life (gulp!) Does Fisher-Price offer Smart Stages Toys for teenagers? I think I could be onto something here...
This is proudly sponsored by our friends at Fisher-Price®.
To discover more about each level of learning within Laugh & Learn® Smart Stages™ toys, visit Fisher-Price® Smart Stages™. You can also find Fisher-Price® Laugh & Learn® Smart Stages™ toys at Walmart, Amazon.ca and Toys “R” Us.
I'm not pushy enough to be a good journalist, but I love love love interviewing people. So I've decided to start doing that more and using my blog as my interview platform. I'll be interviewing ordinary everyday people, quasi-famous people, and one day . . . maybe even famous-ish people. Excited? Me too!
So first up on my interview list is . . .
My Husband. (So clearly, he fits into the famous-ish category. Right?)
I've been writing this blog for almost three years now, so I think it's time you all hear from someone who gets a little less stage time in our house—my supportive, calm, rational, and loving husband, Tyler.
He's the one who takes deep breaths when I'm hyperventilating. He's the one who remembers to pay our Rogers bill. He's the one who will be teaching our children math and geography. He's the one who knows how to send me over the edge just by eating a cracker a little too close to my ear . . . but he's also the one who knows how to reel me in from the edge with a few simple words or a solid bear hug.
So, now, let's see what Tyler has to say about our parenting adventure so far, shall we?
What surprised you the most about becoming a Dad?
Just how busy and exhausting it is. I knew it would be busy, but seriously . . .
What advice would you give first-time Dads out there?
Do the best you can and don't worry too much. With your first child you are so terrified of anything going wrong and most likely it won't. If something does go wrong, you will deal with it. People used to (and still do in some places) raise their children in caves. It will be fine!
What is your favourite part about having kids?
Watching them change and grow. They begin to develop such unique personalities at such a young age. Nothing will bring you more joy than your kids.
What's the toughest part about having kids?
Balancing your time. Your children will always come first. Finding time for yourself, your partner, exercise, eating healthy, etc. can be a real challenge.
How has having kids changed your relationship?
I think it's forced us to pay more attention to it. It's so easy to become totally wrapped in your kids and forget about each other. Making time for each other (no matter how scarce it is) is really important.
What advice would you offer couples with young kids?
Make sure you spend time away from your kids together—dinner, a movie, a walk, whatever it is. If you think you will miss them too much, don't worry. If you are anything like us, you will spend the entire night looking at pictures and talking about them anyways . . .
Do you think we should have a third child?
Why not? (See, I knew you'd say no.)
Why mess with perfection?
Do you think I should brush my hair more? And how do you feel about my leg hair?
Definitely not. The homeless look is starting to grow on me.
End off this interview by saying something nice about me.
I feel extremely lucky each day to have such an amazing partner. Your vitality and beauty continue to grow with age. There is no one else on earth that I would want to be on this journey with. Was that ok?
Yes, *wipes tear* that was great. I might even shave my legs for you tonight. Rawwrrr.
If you'd like to hear more about my rants and rambles, check out this video where I talk about raging on my husband. In the middle of the night . . .
I haven't actually gathered any data, but I would make a hypothetical guess that "why won't my baby sleep?" And "when will my baby sleep?" and "baby who won't sleep" are among Google's top trending searches since the beginning of its existence.
There are approximately *10 thousand websites related to infant sleep . There are approximately *20 thousand books. There are about *30 thousand sleep doulas and "educators" out there trying to make money off of exahusted-as-shit mothers desperate for any glimmer of hope when it comes to sleep.
And it seems like everyone, except you, has a baby who sleeps, right? Every person you talk to has a good sleeper. You feel like you must be doing something wrong! Or perhaps your baby is malfunctioning? Did you put the batteries in backwards? It's quite possible. You can't even see straight, you're so damn tired!
Well, after two and a half years of sleepless nights, two babies, a lot of reading, soul-searching, coffee, and a bucket-load of my own tears, I can honestly say I've learned a lot and have some pretty strong beliefs about infant sleep:
I believe in nighttime parenting.
I believe in responding to your children's needs.
I believe in trying to find the best way to maximize sleep for everyone. Even if it means trying eight thousand different sleep arrangements, like I illustrated here: "The Evolution of Our Sleep Arrangements."
I believe in NOT believing people when they say "My son sleeps through the night. He's 6 weeks old." Even if it's true, I'm too jealous to actually process that thought. So I block it out.
I believe you should try different techniques, but don't stress if something isn't working for you. Babies are not machines. Babies cannot be programmed. Listen to them. Listen to yourself. You'll find a rhythm...
I believe that the days are long but the years are short. There are so many sweet moments I've shared with both of my children in the wee hours of the night.
I believe my friend Kevan said it best years ago when he told me, "There are worse things than waking in the night to hold your children."
So please just know that you're not alone. And please know that I understand how having children who don't sleep means so much more than just being tired. It means having little patience for things that normally wouldn't bother you. It means having to be strict with bedtimes and naptimes because sleep is just oh-so-precious. It means having to put yourself to bed really early just so you have a hope-in-hell of functioning the next day. It means that exercise regime you keep fantasizing about might just have to wait until you actually have an ounce of energy to spare.
But it will get better. I promise. Slowly, but surely: like a sloth crawling through a vat of honey.
One day you'll look in the mirror and realize your eyes look a little less puffy. You might have a few more lines, and gray hairs, but they just add character, right?
*These numbers aren't even hypothetical guesses, they're just random numbers that feel accurate.
If you'd like to read more about my sleepless adventures, here is a post about the time I got cocky and thought I had a baby who slept.