life with a toddler

Tutorials for Toddler Gifting

Busy at the sewing machineMy winter project list is growing every day as I think about Christmas gifts!  I just finished making a very simple queen sized quilt for our bed because we needed something warmer this winter (tutorial can be found here: ).  I had this crazy notion that I should tackle a project this huge.  Though making a large quilt has been on my bucket list for a while, I think it’s one that I should have saved for, I don’t know, another decade.  Finishing it was one of those huge sigh moments, with "Glad that’s over with!” ringing through the house.  My number one project for the new year—don’t be a project super woman.  Let this be a warning to the wise. Still, I can’t resist making things a few small things for my son this holiday!  *nervous laugh*  Here are some ideas that, should you choose this mission, can be easily accomplished during nap times and late night coffee binges.   I don’t know that I will get all of them done, and I’m sure my sewing machine will need a good oiling if I do, but they are easy enough I can work on them throughout the year.  They are grouped from easiest to hardest, and the first four don’t require a sewing machine, so don’t shy away non-seamstresses!

  1.  A “People Who Love (child’s name)” book — My friend gave me this idea and it’s as simple as printing pictures of close friends and family then arranging them in a book or photo album.  My son says about 20 words, 8 of which are names of family and friends.  For some reason, he is obsessed with naming people!  I figured he would love a book where he can pretty much “read” every page.  I might even have a note written by each family member, or something like “Grandma loves Gabriel” written next to the photo.  Something to be treasured, and if I may, much cheaper than the recordable Hallmark books (although those are adorable).
  2. A Sensory Stocking — Gabriel has loved little sensory activities, so we will be filling his stocking with fun items found mostly at the dollar store!  Homemade play dough (tutorials: ), more colored rice and pasta (because we just can’t get enough of it!  This tutorial can be used for pasta as well: ), fuzzy pom poms, water beads, mini kitchen gadgets for helping mommy, washable paint, light sticks (for fun glow-in-the-dark baths time), and whatever else tickles my “fancy.”
  3. A Drop Box — This is one I’ve already made for him and it is still a huge hit!  He loves dropping things into the box, opening it to retrieve them, then starting all over again.  Tutorial:
  4. A Light Table — These are so fun for kids, and have a tons of uses.  Play at Home Mom ( has awesome ideas for using one!  There are a million tutorials on them, but some are quite pricey.  Here’s my favorite so far and one I can easily put together in an afternoon:
  5. A Spy Bag — This will be great for a plane ride, and it is easy enough to make for other little friends too!  Tutorial:
  6. A Quiet Book — This is the one that may not get finished until after Christmas but one that I know is worth it!  I remember having one when I was little.  Children love all the little activities on each page, and there are so many creative mamas out there!  Seriously, google “Quiet Book Tutorials,” and be overwhelmed.  The Quiet Book Blog will help get you started:

Whew!  That’s “all.”  We’re excited to try a homemade Christmas this year!  What ideas do you have for your little ones?

Things I've Learned


August is "Back to School" Month at The Motherhood Collective.  Over the next few weeks, our writers will be sharing their teaching moments, the ways they encourage learning, their thoughts on education or the things THEY are learning as a parent.  Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, we hope that our thoughts on learning will inspire you.    ~TMC ---

Confession:  I’m a college-educated 28 year old.  I’ve worked in laboratories, universities (including a stint at Harvard), and very busy veterinarian offices.  In April 2011 I took on a new position: stay at home mom, with a diverse farm which needs a lot of tending.  My new “boss” is Olivia, a cute 16 month old girl with darling curls and a huge personality.  Like the best of bosses, she expects a lot out of me and makes me want to do better than my very best.  While it’s a dynamic job, where no day is ever the same as the one that came before it, it’s also an experience in humility and humanity.

With August being “Back to School” month here on The Motherhood Collective blog, I thought I would share the top five things I’ve been learning from the little person I spend the majority of my day with:


1.   Put others first. Danielle and Olivia

This is one of those lessons we’re taught our entire lives, but it really comes into play once there is a tiny human being depending on you for everything, day and night.  It can be overwhelming, especially at first.   The good news:  They DO become more self sufficient.  I remember rejoicing the first time Olivia played on her own while I made dinner.  So just remember, between the constant calls of “Mama!” and sippy cups, and snacks, and sharing your dinner with your child … it will all be worth it in the end.


2.  Slow down.  Take your time.

Early on, even before Olivia was born, I was being taught that I needed to go a little slower.  Prior to finding out I was pregnant, I remember several road trips where I was hauling my horse back to Virginia after a weekend of showing in North Carolina.  I would be so tired, that I would have to pull over in a shaded parking lot, lock the doors, and take a nap before I could continue the drive home.  Nature rewards us after a lengthy, sometimes exhausting, gestation and parturition, with the period of newborn amazement:  that span of time after the arrival of our precious babes where every moment is a miracle.  (Of course, I’m wondering if that phase lasts as long with subsequent children?)  It’s a period of time where we move slowly as our bodies heal, and we look upon our babies in awe.  As our children grow and develop, their needs change, but it’s always important to remember that every baby develops differently.


3. The world is marvelous.

In her room, Olivia has a piece of art that contains the following quote from Robert Louis Stevenson that says “The world is full of wonderful things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”  Since her birth, Olivia has always been calmer when outside.  The clouds, the trees, the sun, and the wind – there is so much there for observation and exploration.  From Olivia I have learned to appreciate the smallest of pleasures – the breeze on our face as we drive across a field, the feel of soft fabric on our skin, the joy of splashing in a puddle of water.  To see her delight and engage in our environment is one of my greatest joys.  Children encourage us to explore the world with them; but helping a child experience the world can be frustrating because it requires us to slow down and experience the world on their terms.  A simple walk to the mailbox could end up taking an hour, with many detours to check out a tree, a bug, a leaf, etc.  I have come to value this time of exploration, because it usually lends itself to a period of quiet, a time for some inflection, and amazement at watching my child discover the world that surrounds her.


4.  Friends are essential (for mamas and babies).

I wouldn’t so much as say that Olivia has taught me this, but being a mother has definitely highlighted the importance of friends.  Support groups, play groups, they are an important part of my life.  Whether you attend The Motherhood Café and its playgroup, La Leche League, or just simply catch up with other mamas over coffee, getting their perspectives and help go a long way to stretching out a mama’s sanity.  I am blessed by a core group of mama friends, and I’m pretty sure Olivia enjoys playing with their little ones as well.  We both benefit from their friendship.


5.  Don’t forget Daddy (or Mama).

As parents, we play critical roles in the lives of our children, and it’s far too easy to allow children to overrun the family.  However, for the sake of the family unit, we must remember to make special time for ourselves, as husband and wife, not just mama and daddy.  (Trust me on this one.) It can be as simple as a quiet chat in the evening after bedtime, a surprise lunch date, or even as luxurious as a weekend getaway to a fancy hotel.  It doesn’t take much effort to keep the flame alive, and everyone in your family will benefit.

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