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Toilet Training 101

You asked, here it is. My guide to toilet training/potty training/whatever you want to call it…. how I taught my kids to poop and pee in the toilet at the age of two.

Let me set the stage real quick: my first child, I had no idea what I was doing. We were living with my lovely mother-in-law while we built a new house. E had just turned 2 and was now exactly 26 months old. He was doing to whole “poop in the corner” thing and one day I said out loud:

“He really knows when he’s going, maybe he’ll be ready to go in the toilet soon”.

My mother-law-replies “Oh he’s definitely ready. I potty trained all four of my children in one weekend right when they turned two.”


She told me how she did it and we proceeded to potty-train E that very weekend. I then used this very technique for my two other two children (all of them are boys) and feel like this is THE way to do it as it’s worked for us with all three kids who have VERY different personalities and strengths. Ok, here goes…

1. Readiness

The first most IMPORTANT thing is to look for cues that your child is ready. When they walk over to the same corner to poop, that’s a sign. H for example had his corner, then I noticed if i ever made a comment about what he was doing, he would go hide under the table or in the pantry to “finish his business”. He knew he was going.

At this point I would ask him (when I could tell he was “going”) if he wanted to sit on the toilet like a big boy. After all, he has two older brothers who he sees using the toilet. But the answer was always “no”. I still knew he was ready so either way, we decided to move forward with toilet training.

2. Timing

After you’ve established that your child is ready, you need to pick a time to do it. It is important that you pick a weekend (or longer if you have a few extra days at home during a holiday- I trained little E during March Break) where you are at HOME and have NO PLANS to go anywhere. This is very important. You must dedicate your weekend to this and not go anywhere- I know it sounds a bit intense, but it will be worth it in the end!

3. Go All In

Ok- so I believe when toilet training your little ones… you NEED to go all in. Say goodbye to diapers and put on those “big kid undies”. I don’t like “training underwear”; it’s basically a diaper. If you’re child pees or poops in them… it does the same thing as a diaper and won’t “bother” them. The only exception to this is sleep time which I’ll touch on at the end. Your child needs to be in real underwear so that they can FEEL what’s it’s like if they have an “accident”; it’s not a pleasant feeling and they will likely want to avoid it.

4. Practice Practice Practice

So, your child is ready, YOU are ready because you have dedicated your WHOLE weekend to this, and you realize you need to go “all in”. Learning any new skill takes practice; same goes for using the toilet. Depending on your child’s liquid intake, they may only pee a few times a day (and may only have one or two bowl movements, but we can’t control those). So in order to get as much pee practice in as possible… we need to up the fluid intake so they are peeing A LOT… the more they have to go pee, the more practice they get.

The “how” is up to you, but what I have done is used juice. Water is generally what we drink around here and juice is something for special occasion. So juice has worked perfectly for us as my kids chug that stuff. So basically I grabbed a fun cup with a lid and a straw, filled it with juice (you could dilute it with water) and have your child go crazy drinking it, filling up that little bladder so they can get as much “practice” as possible.

5. The “Pee Pee Timer”

This is super important! I know I’ve said every step is important so far.. and that’s because they really all are. So, your child’s liquid intake is much higher than average, this is good; this is what you want for them to be able to “practice”. What you are going to do now is grab your phone, watch, stopwatch, laptop, anything that has a countdown with an alarm. Let your child listen to the alarm and tell them that’s the pee music (I had a music “alarm” play on my phone). Set this alarm to go off every TEN minutes (yes- it’s going to be a long day). When the alarm goes off, you stop what you’re doing, take your child to the bathroom, and they sit on the toilet/potty. They won’t necessarily have to pee or poo every single time. Oh- and try to get excited when the alarm/music goes off- get into it! “There’s the pee music! Yay- let’s go sit on the toilet!!!!”.

5. Treats and Songs

The first few trips to the toilet are fun and exciting (hopefully). But after a few times of this alarm interrupting their play it can get slightly more difficult. This is where the bribes come in. Before you roll your eyes, just hear me out. Find something small that your child loves. For my first two, I opened a couple packs of fruit snacks, dumped them into a container and that was their reward. For my youngest it was mini marshmallows.

This is SUPER important (like everything else- I know); when the alarm goes off and they go sit on the toilet, but nothing comes out they get ONE treat. And show them you are proud that they are sitting on the toilet, for example “Great job!! you sat on the toilet, nothing came out but that’s OK, we’ll try again later. Here’s one treat for sitting on the toilet”. This whole practicing every 10 minutes thing is A LOT for them. While do-able, it interrupts their play and their routine for of the day. So a little reward goes a long way.

Now, when they sit on the toilet and they do a pee or a poo, they get TWO treats and a huge song and dance from you! I always made up some random song that I would sing, clapped my hands, while jumping up and down, and generally made a fool of myself; which was met with a huge smile. Then just help them wash their hands and you’re off to get TWO treats. So exciting. You’re going to do this ALL day; practice, practice, practice.

The next day looks a little different. Day one is very intensive, so for day two I like to return to their normal liquid intake. I would set your timer for every 20-30 minutes and do the same type of thing as the previous day.

I’ll be honest, each time I have done this with my child, I have wondered “Am I going to be giving them treats for peeing in the toilet now for years to come? How do I phase this out?”. Using the toilet just becomes the norm. By the third day (or you can do it whenever), I was only giving treats for when they did their business in the toilet, then they just kind of forgot about it. Or when your little container of treats is empty you can show them that the toilet treats are gone. OR, depending on their age, you can just tell them that the treats were because they were learning and are all done now. Luckily for us, it was never an issue.

Things to consider:

  • Bed time and nap time: you may choose to put your child in a pull-up. We did and call them “night time underwear” or “bed time underwear”.
  • If your child is very much fighting this process (crying and screaming), don’t fight it. It’s a sign that they may not be ready yet.
  • It may take 2 or 3 days for them to be fully trained, but it also may take 4 or 5 days (or a few more).
  • Please don’t get upset with or shame your child in any way for having an “accident” (they are likely to happen). Physically, they won’t like the way it feels on them so brush it off as no big deal ex “It’s ok- I can help get you cleaned off and we’ll just try again”.
  • It might take your child a little while to verbalize when they have to go. My middle child was trained, not having accidents… but rarely told me when he had to go for the first few weeks. I would ask him, he would say yes, and I would help him to the toilet. Eventually, he found the words.
  • Make sure you always have extra underwear and pants when you leave the house (leave a set in your car).
  • It’s not a race. It does’t matter whether your child is toilet trained at 23 months or 30 months, there’s no prize for getting your child toilet trained the fastest.

Best of luck! Remember, learning a new skill takes time and practice. Be patient with your child and celebrate their victories! No more diapers; woohoo!!!

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Gingerbread Play Dough

It’s that time of year! The twinkling lights, the music playing in the stores, snuggling up on the couch to watch holiday-themed movies, the treats. . .

I saved the best for last; treats! I have so many fond memories of making and decorating cookies from when I was young. And now it’s something I just love doing with my own children during the holidays.

And a holiday favourite; GINGERBREAD! Being the playdough-loving mama that I am, of course I had to make a gingerbread play dough invitation for the kids.

And it was a HUGE hit. Whenever I bring out this tray, they play with it for at least 30-60 minutes making and decorating cookies for each other.

Ok- lets get to that recipe so you can whip yourself up a batch ASAP.

1 cup flour

1/4 cup salt

1 TBSP cream of tartar

1/2 TBSP cinnamon

1/2 TBSP ground ginger

1/2 TBSP nutmeg

1 cup water plus 1 TBSP

1 TBSP veg oil

Glycerin (a few drops to add shine)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl- it should be quite wet; like pancake batter.  Next you will transfer it to a pan on the stove, set to low/medium heat.  Move it all around until it all gets cooked up.  You will notice a change in the texture and it will appear a bit darker in colour. Remove the dough from the pan when it is all cooked and wait for it to cool slightly before kneading it for a few minutes.

This dough smells soooo good! It’s not quite the same dark brown as real gingerbread… but I find if you add to many spices it dries the play dough out actually and leaves a bit of a residue on your hands while you play. So I rather have it a bit lighter in colour to avoid that.

I added some little wooden beads, but have done this with buttons as well and it’s so cute! The wooden and silicone stampers are fun and cute, but not a necessity. Just grab that gingerbread man cookie cutter and away you go! Enjoy!

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How I feel about Kindergarten “Readiness”

Truth be told, I don’t love the term “ready for kindergarten”. My middle child starts kindergarten in just over two weeks and I couldn’t be more excited for him to start this exciting new chapter of his life. As a former kindergarten educator who knows the ins and the outs, what have I been doing to get my child “ready” for kindergarten?


Well, nothing extra. Nothing more than what we normally do. If you follow me on instagram, you know I value play-based learning. Children learn best and develop new skills through their every day play; social skills, emotional, cognitive, and physical. So if you’re giving you’re child opportunities to play, you’re getting them “ready” for kindergarten.

I came across an article the other day that talked about very tangible measurements when it came to kindergarten readiness and it made me laugh. It was absolutely absurd the way it talked about such specifics such as:

-Your child can identify every letter in the alphabet

(this is ridiculous- all children will come in at different levels..some kids are only 3.5 years old!)

-Your child can sit still (ex. for a story)

(again children are all different and sitting still is very hard for some young ones)

-Handles emotions

(really? most grown ups can’t even “handle” emotions…THIS takes time and practice)

After having a chuckle, I realized that parents might be reading this nonsense, worried that their child isn’t ready; that they won’t measure up.

By now, it’s obvious I very much disagree with some of the advice that is out there. But I do have some words of wisdom for you if you’re little one will be heading off to school soon. It’s not a check-list to see if your child is ready or to determine how they will stack up academically compared to their peers. It’s just a few simple things you can do to help build their confidence; these aren’t skills that need to be mastered in any way before going to school.

Self Help Skills:

I was chatting with some amazing teachers that I have had the pleasure of working with in the past and we agreed that self-help skills are the most important thing you could be working on with your child. Self-help skills are when children can do things/overcome problems without help from others. Examples of self-help skills that you should be encouraging in your child that will make a difference in kindergarten and help them through their day include:

-putting shoes on and taking them off on their own

-dressing on their own

-opening food containers

-repacking and zipping up their lunch bag

-zipping and unzipping their backpack

All of the above-mentioned skills take place during busy times of the day. For example, getting ready for outside and there are thirty kids that need to change their shoes and put on a sweater… with potentially one educator to help them all? It can be a bit hectic- obviously your child’s teachers are there to help, but it can still be stressful for some children who are shy and too afraid to ask for help.

Basically, we want to encourage independence in our children and build their self-confidence. We want to encourage them to TRY, to persevere, and to take risks. We want to encourage all these things when it comes to self-help skills…but these qualities will definitely contribute to academic success overall.

These are things you can work on if you choose, that will help your child when it comes to busy parts of their day. Being able to do these things on their own before school would be awesome. But if they can’t? Well- then it will be just as awesome to see how much they grow and are able to do independently when they come out on the other side.

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15 easy ways to play with Pompoms

Go grab yourself a bag of pompoms from the dollar store, the craft store, or wherever, because I have 15 super easy ways you can incorporate pompoms into easy, play-based learning activities for your little one. (Just keep in mind the small pompoms would be a choking hazard for very young children- please supervise them!)

1. Pompom Rescue: wrap some string or elastic bands around a tray, box, or container. You child can use tweezers or even just fingers to rescue the pompoms.

2. Pompom Colour Sort: sort the pompoms by colour. For younger children, start with only 2 different colours an go up from there.

3. Frozen Pompoms: put the pompoms in an ice cube tray with water and freeze. Bring out on a hot day for a cool activity and let your child discover ways of helping them melt.

4. Pompom Soup: pompoms can get wet and will dry out just fine. Fill a bin with water, add pompoms, pots and pans, ladles, bowls.

5. Pompom Count: numbers (from the dollar store, from a puzzles, or written on a piece of paper) and counting the pompoms and placing them with the correct number. Great for practicing one-to-one correspondence.

6. Pompoms in a Puzzle: We happen to have this number tracing board, which fits pompoms like a dream, but use any puzzle- fill up an alphabet or shape puzzle with pompoms.

7. Pompom Sensory Play: add some pompoms to your sensory bin with some bowls, tongs, cups, etc. Hide the pompoms under the sensory material of your choice for them to discover.

8. Pompoms in a Bottle: younger ones can safely explore when you pop them in a clear bottle. I have even put water in the bottle with them.

9. Pompom Catapult: all you need are some craft sticks, elastics, and a bottle cap to make this super simple pompom catapult. Watch them fly across the room, or challenge your child to get them in a box/bin for points!

10. Pompom Drop: tape some paper rolls to the wall (I covered mine with coloured paper), and you have a super-simple colour matching activity. Put a bin/box at the bottom to “catch” the pompoms and your child can do it over and over (and over) again!

11. Roll and Count: use a dice, roll, and count out the pompoms. Make it a two payer game and see who can be the first one to get to 20 (or 50, or 100- whatever you decide). We used to a grid to keep track!

12. Pompom Tub: Fill a large storage container with pompoms and you’ve got yourself a pompom sensory bin that your cild can sit in and explore with both their hands AND their feet!

13. Pompoms in a Tray: find a tray with sections (ice cube tray even), and give your child a bowl of pompoms. You will see how entertaining it is for them to fill the section with pompoms. Also great for fine motor control and hand-eye coordination!

14. Pompoms Poke: use a knife to make hole in an empty egg carton. Optional: use a marker to draw colours around each hole for your child to match. Another great fine-motor control activity.

15. Pompom Transfer: two bowls, tongs or tweezers, and a bowl of pompoms. Your child can transfer the pompoms from the larger bowl to the smaller ones, practice pouring, picking out certain colours, count, etc.

Bonus: here we used pompoms (along with cut up paper straws) to make a maze on a paper plate for a marble. We glued everything down and when it was dry, we could tilt the plate to get the marble from the start to the finish.

That’s it! We rarely use pompoms for actual art activities because I find when the kids glue them down onto regular paper, they come off quite easily. I hope you enjoy these 15 16 simple ways to get playful with pompoms!

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Our Daily Home Daycare Routine

Routines and rituals are important to children. You probably already have certain routines in place for your child at home when it comes to different parts of your day. Take bedtime for example; bath, put on pyjamas, brush teeth, read a book, say goodnight. Chances are if you were to miss any of these things your kids would notice! Some children will even get quite upset if something in the regular part of their day is different than usual, while others can adapt more easily to changes in routine. When my oldest chid was younger, we would always try to give as much “notice” as possible when a regular part of our routine would need to change for whatever reason. We would do this by talking about the new event so it wouldn’t come as a surprise.

I apply the same tactic when it comes to the routine/flow of our day in my home daycare. We have a general schedule that we stick to so the children know what to expect. We don’t always stick to the exact times; the beauty of running a home daycare is that I have flexibility. But this is generally what our day looks like:

7:00   The program is open

7:00 Play-based learning activities

8:15 Tidy up, bathroom routine, and wash hands

8:30 Snack

9:00 Outside time (depending on the weather- too hot or too cold)

10:00 Outside time (depending on the weather- too hot or too cold)

11:15 Come inside, bathroom routine, wash hands

11:30 Lunch

12:00 Get the beds out (some kids help others read books)

12:15 Group time: music and stories

12:30 Sleep time

2:45 Bathroom routine, wash hands

3:00 Snack

3:30 Outside time

4:30 Program is closed

As you can see, we spend A LOT of time outside; sometimes we are even out at the start of the day right at 7 am. This has been our routine in the summer. On the really hot days however (or in the winter), our morning outside time is only an hour (out from 9-10am then inside from 10 until lunch). Also, the times in which the children wake up from nap always varies, so we usually have a little playtime while the kids are transitioning from sleep time.

We also have mini routines within this schedule that the children have grown accustom to. For example, when it’s time to ready for outside; they get completely ready (some with assistance), then they can look at a book from the basket I have by the door.

I hope this helps you; this is the schedule that works best for us, your may look different. Keep your children’s needs in mind and give warnings when possible if there are any major changes (outings).

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5 things you can do right now to help your very emotional toddler

He has a spicy personally. He’s very spirited. Oh yes, he’s my wild child. All of these things I have used to describe my third child. Maybe you can relate; he screams at the top of his lungs in both in excitement AND anger (there’s a lot of screaming that goes on), he bangs his poor little head against the wall or the floor when he gets upset, and he is go go go all day. A little person with extra big emotions, and if you have one in your home, you probably know by now that simple reasoning when they get upset just doesn’t work.

So what has worked for us? There are a few things that do tend to help when he is going through a tough time. That isn’t to say that these things work all the time every time. But for the most part, they have helped for us, and hopefully will help for you too.

  • Go Outside: It’s truly unbelievable the power of the outdoors. No walls, less limitations, more freedom, fresh air, nature…. I have noticed that my little guy has FAR fewer frustrations/outbursts when we are outside. In the warmer months, we are outside pretty much all day. Try it, next time your little one is melting down, bring them outside, go on an adventure, walk, play, jump, run. You will see it even does wonders for your own well-being.
  • Sing Your “Special Song”: I got this idea from a follower on instagram who suggested it to me and it has worked well for us. I made up a little song with a slow and relaxing melody that I will sing to him when he’s upset, and even when we cuddle before bed so that he associates it with positive feelings too. It goes something like “Mama loves Henry yes its true…”I repeat that line three times and end with “I love you”. It’s slow, calming, and it reaffirms my love for him in the hopes of making him feel safe and secure.
  • Read a Favourite Book: Grab your child’s favourite book and try cozying up together. This will sometimes work for my little one, especially with his favourite picture books. You could even try having a basket of “special” books that are not out and available at all times to take out during a “time of need”.
  • Listen to Some Music: So this has actually worked for me quite a bit. Grab your phone, ask Alexa, fire up youtube, whatever you need to do to get some tunes going. I will put on some of Henry’s favourite songs such as Wheels on the Bus, Old MacDonald, If You’re Happy and you Know it, etc. These songs always get him bopping up and down in the cute little toddler dance and help change his mood.
  • Physical Touch: Take that little ball of emotional turmoil and give him/her a big hug. Rub or scratch their back, rub their face soothingly, and just basically let them feel safe and loved in this time of need. This doesn’t work all the time; sometimes mine will run away from me screaming “NOOOO”. But often he will return to me looking for some loving, or be open to it from the start. I will often ask him “Do you want a nice back scratch?” (his fave) and he usually responds “yeah…”.

That’s it! Try one (or more) of these things next time your larger-than-life little one is going through an emotional rough patch in their day. Some days, one or two of these things may work for you, and the next day, it may be others!

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My child told me he doesn’t want to be in this world anymore…

The first time he said it, I almost wanted to laugh out loud for a second, because surely this had to be a joke. There’s no way my amazing little boy could ever be having these thoughts…

"I don't belong in this world- I shouldn't be here."

What do you say to this? Well, I said what any parent would naturally say. “Of course you belong in the world! You belong so much, in this family, we all love you. You belong right here with us”. While this was all true…it wasn’t what he needed to hear and it wasn’t helping him.

My first born is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. He is so incredibly sensitive to other people’s feelings and needs. This child will actually come up and hug me and say “did you know that you are the best mom in the world?” and write me notes that include “I can’t believe I got so lucky to have a mom like you” when he can SEE that I may be having a hard day… he will do these things all on his own.

His heart is beyond enormous… his little brother drops his popsicle outside? He will gladly give his away. I cannot believe how amazing this little human is; he is just so very “good” right to his inner core. And to top it all off he’s incredibly smart it’s scary sometimes. I’m actually the lucky one here to have him in my life- I can learn from his kind spirit. Recently, I have found myself thinking that whoever ends up with him as a life partner in the future, will be one insanely lucky individual as well.

But last fall, my world was completely rocked when he disclosed to me things such as :

"I'm horrible at everything"
"You must have been disappointed when you found out you were pregnant with me"
"I wish I wasn't born"
"If I wasn't on this earth, then I wouldn't be so scared of everything- it would be better that way"
"I'm the worst person in the world"
"If my friends knew that I was scared of everything all the time...they wouldn't be friends with me"

At first, he would say these things to me about once every three or four weeks. It was always when I would come into his room to say goodnight and it was almost always when my husband was not home. And then I would tell him that what he wrong, that none of that was true. I would cry, hug him, and tell him I loved him. And then when we were both emotionally drained, I would say that we would talk more about it in the morning. Then off I would go to have a cry on the couch alone. Sometimes, I would call my husband, and other times I couldn’t bear to say the words out loud again.

I’ll also note that he had a hard time adjusting to the new school year as he didn’t have any friends in his new class, which was extremely hard for him. I kept telling him he would make new friends, to be positive…I had no idea all of THIS was happening inside of him though.

He started saying these thing to me more and more. He even said it to me on his birthday! We had just spent the whole day together; we played, did whatever he wanted then had a fun bowing party with his buddies…. yet that night he told me he was the worst person in the world and shouldn’t be here. On the nights that my husband WAS home, I would suggest we all talk about it together; he refused. I needed help. No matter how many times I told him how great we thought he was, it wouldn’t matter. And being the only person he would take to about this was really starting to become more than I could handle emotionally. We sought out professional help and it was the best decision we have ever made as parents. We had an initial session, then he would have three without us, then it would be our turn (just the parents). And repeat.

I won’t go into too many details, but I will share you the MOST IMPORTANT thing I learned because it really changed things for us. When my child was telling me all about how awful he thought he was at everything, how he didn’t belong, how he wished he was never born… No words ever spoken had ever caused me so much pain; it hurt me right to my core- my poor baby was suffering. What he was saying wasn’t true and I all I wanted to do was make him believe that. But, what he really needed was to be heard and acknowledged. This was tough. It was actually so unbelievably hard. It went something like this:

HIM: "I'm the worst person in the world"
ME: "Wow, that must be really hard for you to be feeling that way..."
HIM: "Yeah it is..."

HIM: "I don't belong in this world"
ME: "Oh sweetheart, that must be making you so sad on the inside having those thoughts..."
HIM: "Yeah it is..."

At this point, he could go on to really talk to me. Because before, all I was doing was dismissing the way he was feeling. He was telling me “I am feeling this way” and I was telling him “well you shouldn’t be”. And of course, before I tried asking him why, but our conversation would always be taken over with me telling him that everything he was saying wasn’t true.

It was hard, soooo hard to sit there and not scream “YOU ARE WRONG- YOU ARE GOOD AT SO MANY THINGS!!” Instead, I learned how to validate his feelings, to listen better, to acknowledge that what he was feeling was legitimate and real; I had to show empathy.

This has by far been the most challenging thing I have gone through so far as a parent. I couldn’t always bring myself to talk about it with others because of the way it made me feel. I cried A LOT. Eventually, I was able to talk about this with a dear friend. Slowly the weight lifted off my shoulders a bit and it became a bit easier. Our therapy sessions were really helping; both for my child and for me.

If you are going through something like this: REACH OUT

Please talk to somebody and get help. That is my message here. There is no way I would have come out on the other side of this experience if we hadn’t gotten help. My kind, sweet, and loving child was going through something tough; he was in a dark place. This brought me right down into a dark place of my own. But we are out now; on the other side. Equipped with new knowledge, tools we can use, and more love than you can ever imagine.

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Reggio-Inspired Learning Space: come take a tour.

My dream has finally come true...

For years I dreamed of having a space that was my own. I dreamt of creating a beautiful space that I would look forward to spending my days. A space where I could learn and grow along side the children.

I truly believe in the importance and power of a careful designed learning environment. This is why I have kept things are light and neutral as possible. I want this space to evoke calm, creativity, and growth. And I think I have succeeded in doing so.

Our reading/quiet corner is one of my favourite areas…I often find the children in here taking a quiet moment to themselves, or looking at books with friends. I love when the kids incorporate the tent as part of their play as well… perfect for a little hiding space, to act as a pretend “house”, or I have even seen them use it as a deep dark cave. Although I will admit, they have been known to get a bit silly in here 😉 So while I call this the “quiet corner” it does not always live up to this name!

I get asked so many questions about this table!  And unfortunately, I did not purchase it from a store…it was a facebook marketplace find.  It was advertised as a train or activity table and it cost me five dollars!!  We often use this table for small world play; here it is a very basic road way.  We also set up train tracks, animals and various wooden blocks pieces, construction site, etc.  Our carpet area is where we have most of our open ended building toys. I love providing the children with simple wooden toys that also them to use their imaginations while they play and create.

The table featured here gets lots of questions as well.  It is the Ikea “flisat” table and is perfect for sensory play.  The two white lids come off (take both off or just one) and the children can play with whatever materials you have set up in the bins.  This table really is great because when the lids are on it can use be used as a regular table for colouring, puzzles, lego, and more!

This is probably my most favourite area; our dramatic play area. Our play kitchen is from Ikea (but bought second-hand). The wooden shelves on either side are also from Ikea and are called “molger”. The little high chairs were thrift shop finds as were many of my wicker baskets.

I just love playing pretend here with the children. The baby dolls are always a hit, but I do like to change it up every once in a while. Some of the successful dramatic play areas we have done include; a doctor’s office, a coffee shop, a bakery, a vet clinic, and pizza parlour.

This easel was another second-hand find. I love the neutral colours and how it is not too big and bulky. I didn’t love my previous easel very much, this one is just perfect for us!

Our changing and bathroom area (I moved the easel out of the way to take this photo). This shelf is where I keep the children’s change of clothes so I can easily grab them when needed. Diapering station, the bathroom, plastic bags; all together. I also recently moved my books to this shelf. I had them stored in another location which wasn’t “open” or accessible. I love having them here so much better. Not only do I enjoy looking at them (because I have I arranged them in rainbow colour order!), but it makes it so easy to quickly grab a book when I see a child interested in a certain subject.

Our kitchen. This table is where we eat, where we play with play dough, colour, do crafts; so much fun is had here. This is an Ikea kitchen and our little table is also an Ikea table; it was full size, I just cut the legs down. All the chairs at this table were also purchased “previously loved”. What can I say- I’m a bargain hunter.

Right between the kitchen and the bathroom is the perfect little wall for this Ikea “kallax” shelf. This shelf houses our “table top” activities. Four clearly defined sections make it easy for the children to help with tidying. I have a few art supplies on the top of the shelf which has been working so well. The littlest ones cannot reach these, but it’s perfect because the older ones can see them and reach them as well. I used to have these materials in drawers, but I am finding having them visible is nice because the children see them and then it sparks an idea and they ask to colour or draw.

Finally, this is the entrance to our little learning space. Each child has a hook and a little basket.

That’s it! Please feel free to email me with any questions!

I feel so lucky that I get to spend my days here with my amazing little group of children that have truly become part of my family.

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5 things you should be doing to help your child engage in more meaningful play

Your home may actually burst from all the kid’s stuff you own. Between all the birthdays, holidays, and random gifts, kids sure do accumulate a lot of stuff. But’s it’s all good right? Because surely all of these toys will keep them happy, busy, and engaged! They won’t ever get bored because how can you possibly be bored when you have a literal mountain of toys right?! Well friend, I’ve sadly found this to be wrong. I’m sure we have all asked ourselves questions like:

“Why aren’t my kids playing with these toys?”

“Why will they only sit and play for 5 minutes and then get bored?”

“Why won’t they engaged in any of the activities I set up for them?”

If you are asking yourself any of these question, first I want you to know that you are not alone. I still even find myself wondering some of these things from time to time. When I do start asking myself these questions, I know it’s time to re-evalaute what I’m doing.

Next, I want you to know that this post will briefly outline some of the main topics you should be considering. For more detail, refer to my Guide for Keeping Your Child Engaged in Play which goes into more detail (available here).

1.  Are the toys or activities developmentally appropriate?

I know this sounds basic, but toys or activities to that too easy or too complex may not hold your child’s attention for long. Toys that are not challenging enough for an older child will not keep them engaged, and an activity that is too complex for younger ones may just end up causing them frustrations.   It is also important to remember if what we are expecting from our child is realistic for where they are in their development. It would be unrealistic for a 12 month old to sit down for an hour engaging in pretend play.

2. Are you following their interests?

Your child is going to be far more engaged in an activity when it has to do with something they already love. I know as parents and as educators we want to expose our children to new and exciting experiences, but if your child is having a hard time engaging in activities you set up, try putting a spin on it by following their current interests. Do they loves tractors? Try painting with them; their tires leave such fun prints on paper! If “new” isn’t keeping them engaged, then why change what is already working- stick with what they know and love.

3. Are you overwhelming your child with too many toys to choose from?

This is a big one; your child does not need to have access to every single toy in your home. It will not keep them busier having hoards and hoards of toys everywhere. It will only overwhelm them, making it harder for them to focus and engage. Studies have even shown this! (see notes at the end). You have probably even experienced this for yourself; have you ever set foot into a grocery store and had absolutely no idea what to buy even though you are surrounded by options?? Simply select a few toys from different categories for your child to play with and put the rest away. (Bonus: this will also make tidy up time sooo much easier!)

4. Are you switching up the toys?

Since your child now only has a select few toys to play with at one time as the majority are being stored away….this naturally leads to a toy rotation. Toys rotations are magical things! This is where you pack up the toys that are in use, and bring out some of the ones that they haven’t played with or seen in a while. Keep your child’s interests in mind here too; I always have vehicles out and available, it’s just a matter of which ones. For example I have a big bin of vehicles and will just switch the ones I have out. Or I will switch different types of building materials. Also, now that my kids are older, they tend to have favourites that they always have out (Lego or special figurines).

5.  Have you considered how your toys and activities are being stored/presented?

I used to store all of my kid’s toys in a baskets in our living room and I would always wonder why they didn’t all get used. “Out of sight, out of mind” my friends. Try finding a flat surface in the area where toys are stored and have a few toys out on display. For example, ff you have a small shelf in the family room, you could have some of the toys in bins or baskets, and others set up as “prompts” or “invitations to play”. This means take out some of the blocks and make a little tower, this will invite your child to come and build upon this.

Once you have taken all these things into consideration and set up an appropriate environment for your child, it really should help with how they are able to engage, focus, and play. Keep in mind that some children will need your help at first; your child may be able to engage and stay interested, but may still prefer you to be there with them. This is completely normal for younger children; they have not yet mastered independent play. You can teach them this (I had to teach my oldest child this at age 3!), but this topic is for another blog post friend!

Do you want to know MORE about this topic?? My FREE Guide for Keeping Your Child Engaged in Play goes into more detail, you can get it here!

Here’s the research I found about the number of toys in a child’s environment affecting their quality of play.

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The Easiest Way to Make Rainbow Rice

We have been enjoying green rice in our sensory table for a few weeks now! First we had large flowers and flower pots; the kids enjoyed filling, scooping and pouring, covering the flowers, planting flowers etc.   I just recently switched those out and put in some insects, wooden bowls, tree slices and mini flowers (keeping with the spring theme over here!).  

Since are we loving it so much, I thought I should share with you the easier way EVER to make rainbow rice (or just make 1 or two colours- it’s up to you!)

All you need is:

  • rice (find the cheapest bag of you can)
  • Zip lock bags
  • A squirt of paint

Separate the rice into the bags (I have used larger bags before and found it actually a bit easier, but when I made this batch I only had the smaller ones).

Add a good squirt of paint to the bag (about a tbsp). I don’t ever measure exactly strictly because I want to have less to wash afterwards; ex. measuring spoons. But add a little to start, and you can always add more to make it more vibrant if you need to. Then shake, shake, shake!!!

Such rainbow-ific goodness!!!

Next you will just want to spread it out a bit on something flat to dry. You can do this is your home, but a nice sunny day definitely speeds up the process. You also don’t have to worry about spreading it completely flat. I just went out and gave it a quick stir at one point and was actually surprised at how fast it had dried all over.

Filling up those 6 little bags actually made a good amount of rice! I dumped the rice out into a large plastic storage container (it even has a lid for when it’s not in use!) and then brought it outside for the kids to explore. You can do this inside; I would consider putting a towel or blanket down underneath to prevent the rice from going all over the floor.

Add some spoons, bowls, cups, muffin tins, etc. Just raid you kitchen: no need to go out and buy anything new!

You’re done- it’s that EASY!

As always, when playing with younger ones, try to discourage them from putting the rice in their mouth. Since I used paint here, it isn’t considered “taste safe” for babies. Another option to make it taste safe would be to use food colouring instead of paint. I find with food colouring you need quite a bit to get vibrant colours. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to help the colour get all spread around the rice and then spread it out to dry (it takes a bit longer). For more information on sensory play with babies, see this post: