Fostering toddler independence, DIY-style

Edited: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

There are some areas in which I feel very confident in letting my twins just do their thing and figuring life out on their own. There are also some areas (ahem, meal time) when I’m slightly obsessed with making sure they take small bites and chew their food 1,000 times before swallowing. I’m working on that.

I can say, though, that I foster independence at home much more successfully when I set up certain areas of my house to be ready for whatever my twins want to do. Then the decision to let them be independent is out of my hands, because my home is already set up for this exact thing. In the past few months, I’ve made a few changes in my house that have really helped the twins make choices and be successful on their own.

First of all, Pinterest is my BFF. I know it’s so stereotypical. My husband likes to tell me that Pinterest is where your wife spends hours on the computer, only to end up serving the dinner salad in a mason jar and calling it a day. It’s kind of true. But I lack creativity. I’m great at following directions. I only save pins that I feel I can and will accomplish. So therefore, all the ideas I’m about to share came from my Pinterest searches.

DIY Toddler Art Station and Art Cart

With our nanny at our house every day, all day, I wanted the twins at age 2 to be able to do arts and crafts on their own. The kids have structured play during the day but also free play. I wanted art supplies to be at the ready for whenever we’re busy and they need to entertain themselves. As is my nature, I also wanted our art station to be as cheap as possible. So I consulted my BFF, Pinterest. Pinterest led me here, and this is what I based our art station and cart off of.

DIY Toddler Art Station

I used a piece of wood I found in our basement and Target’s $1 tin buckets we already had from the twins’ first birthday party. I already had the art supplies as well, though I continue to buy more on sale and switch them out. At the moment, the sticker bucket actually says, “stamps”. I bought the hooks at Target and my husband kindly drilled them in.

DIY Toddler Art Station

We have a small table that the twins eat breakfast and lunch at, and due to lack of space in our tiny cape, I decided that table would also serve as their art area. I found an old TV cart in my basement and I already had the plastic craft trays (affiliate link) from when we started doing Tot Trays. After a little modeling, I taught the twins that when they wanted to color (or use playdoh, stickers, etc.), they needed to grab a tray first, then a piece of paper and carry them to their table. Then they could grab the bucket of supplies they wanted and bring it to their trays.

DIY Toddler Art Station

They love it. These pictures are from the summer but the art station is used daily. At this point, they now know what color tray the other twin prefers and I frequently hear C saying, “Here’s your tray, B!” On the weekends after breakfast, she typically announces, “Let’s do playdoh now!” and runs to gather her materials. It’s been wonderful to allow them to partake in arts and crafts on their own without me needing to run around gathering supplies.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

Over the summer, B was struggling with transitions. He was so upset in between everything that happened – from dinner to bathtime, from getting up in the morning to breakfast. It was one meltdown after another. I hated that I was the misdirected cause of his anger. It was me saying, “It’s time to do _____” that got him so upset. Our schedules are pretty solid throughout the week. I wanted him to know what was coming next and even if he got angry, it wouldn’t be at me. So I Pinterested it, obviously. I found many examples but liked this one the best. I used mycutegraphics.com, made my own cards on Microsoft Word and printed them out. Around the same time, I paid $33 for this laminator as well as these laminating pouches (affiliate links). I knew it would get a ton of use over the years. I laminated the cards onto cardstock and slapped some velcro to the backs. I used a foam board (from Walmart – $2 or $3) and now the cards are interchangeable.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

I put it at the twins’ height in our hallway. They know to check the board when they aren’t sure what’s coming next but typically, most things stay the same every day.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

I have to say, this was helpful for fostering independence. More importantly, it cut down on B’s meltdowns. The bath card is always after the dinner card. He can’t be angry at me for my sudden bathtime announcement – he knew since he woke up in the morning that bath would follow dinner. Our nanny adjusts it as she sees fit. Right now, this is really working for us.

DIY Learning Tower

This one deserves its own post and is months in the making. Almost a year ago, my husband started making the twins’ learning towers. Learning towers are a Montessori staple, but we found it on (….Pinterest…) because we wanted the twins to be able to simply see out the window. We had a lot of scrap wood and my husband said, “I can make that”. And he did. And it took a while, and wasn’t exactly dirt cheap. That said, it was way cheaper to make one than buy one, and I love how I was able to “personalize” them with the twins’ colors, blue and purple. When they were first made (and not even painted yet), the twins were 18 months old. They’re now almost 27 months old, but these towers have already gotten a good amount of kitchen use.

DIY Learning Tower

This was one of the first times we used them. B helped Daddy make afternoon smoothies. He absolutely LOVED being at counter height.

DIY Learning Tower

C loved it too, and though we planned on them helping us cook in the kitchen, I found I could just hand either of them a pot and a spoon and they enjoyed pretending, stirring…

DIY Learning Tower

…and sampling dinner.

DIY Learning Tower

Someday I’ll do a post with the step by step, because my husband did take pictures along the way. I love their quality, and someday perhaps we will sell them. I don’t like how heavy they are. In a big house, they might have a permanent home against a counter but in our house, we have to move them to the mudroom when we aren’t using them.

In case you’re not up to sawing pieces out of wood and would rather invest in a learning tower, you can find a few great ones HERE and HERE! (affiliates!)

So these were a few changes we made that have really encouraged and fostered independence from our toddlers. I am always looking for new ideas, because I truly believe in the concept of independence. The more they can do on their own, the better! Selfishly, I also love that there’s less for me to do – more of it’s on them, saving me time and energy. I did pin many more ideas but haven’t yet tried them – you can find all of them on my Pinterest page!

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Yup, our food problems are solved.

 

Recently, we saved our receipts for a whole month (which I recommend doing, by the way) – and we realized we were spending a TON on groceries. Like, to the tune of $800-900. There are two adults and two toddlers in this house. We expected to pay half that a month, so what went wrong?

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

How we climbed out of a food rut and saved money on groceries!

1) Long summer days meant trips to Target and Costco. Costco boasts the double seated cart, which is perfect for my two year olds. Target boasts  – well, everything. You go in for one thing and leave with 20. We went to both of these places too often.

2) Mid-week shopping runs. Making a grocery list every week was taking me a long time. I mean, it would take at least an hour to construct a good list. We ended up getting into the habit of just getting what we could think of quickly, and stopping mid-week once or even twice to pick up more things. Those trips inadvertently cost us, as we would buy even more food while at the store that wouldn’t have made it onto a list in the first place.

A while ago, I stumbled across this post, which got me thinking about how we could cut our grocery bill WAY down. We were already operating with a list, and other than the stores mentioned above, I tended not to shop with my kids in tow. So what else could we do?

Then I found this post. The idea is simple, yet genius. Simply type up what you typically buy on a weekly or monthly basis and print out a bunch of copies. When it comes time to make your grocery list, most of what you need is likely already written down and you may only need to add a few things. No more wasting a Saturday morning writing out a grocery that’s 10 miles long! I decided to try it.

Our Weekly/Monthly Shopping List

That link will take you to my personal list. It’s on google drive, so you’re welcome to print it, edit, copy, share – whatever. It’s what my family might typically eat during the week (from the grocery store) and the items we typically get at Costco and Target once a month.

Now, I’m not scrambling around the kitchen wasting time writing down apples, pears, and bananas when I get those every. single. week. They’re already on my list! I’m just highlighting what I want to buy and adding any extras in. So far, this is saving us some serious money. Example: Our typical grocery bill is between $120-150, and the most recent one since creating this list was $66. Phew.

YES, MY TODDLERS EAT A LOT NOW.

On to the next topic. Yes, C is eating ice cream in the picture. I looked in the archives and struggled to find pictures of her eating anything BESIDES ice cream. She believes it’s a food group. But that just won’t do, you know, health-wise. I’ve written before about how my toddlers got stuck in a food rut. I got stuck in a creativity rut. We were rotating between 3-4 meals for dinner and lunch, and it was frustrating. I wanted my kids to like more foods. We’ve been in this position for a long, long time. But finally, we’re climbing out of it. I’ve got fabulous, SIMPLE recipes, and the twins are eating them up! So what did I do?

First of all, I suck at cooking. Let it be known. Some people love experimenting in the kitchen with various ingredients to create delicious toddler meals. That is not me – I hate everything about cooking.

In addition, I’m lucky that my twins do like a lot of different foods. They like every vegetable and fruit that I throw at them. They love pasta, bread, sweet potatoes and rice. They also love dairy, but B gets constipated very easily, so unfortunately I keep those to a minimum. What they don’t love is meat, and so protein is a little challenging, especially with the lack of dairy.

Here’s how we climbed out of our food rut and found some simple recipes the toddlers love:

1) I found this website. It’s amazing. I learned that I can make my twins’ lunches with separate, simple ingredients – prepared in different ways. Have you ever thought to serve raw carrots using a peeler? Because I haven’t. But I haven’t wanted to give them big chunks of carrots because I’m paranoid about choking. There are tons of simple lunches and dinners, as well as easy recipes to follow. OH, and it’s all allergy-friendly!! I like to keep the kids’ sugar intake pretty low, as I’ve gone sugar free and it’s changed my health. More on that in the future. Anyway, here’s one example, and here’s another one. Healthy muffins for lunch? Absolutely!

2) I found this website, too. Super Healthy Kids flat out blows my mind. I could spend hours on this site, and in fact I did the night I found it and the other, Yummy Toddler Food. Here, there are tons of EASY recipes that don’t take much effort but expose your kid to foods they might not eat (like veggies or protein). Here’s one example and another. Here’s a recipe I’m making this week, as I attempt to get my protein-haters to like beans. And here’s a fabulous chart about toddler constipation, which I suppose is kind of an awkward water-cooler conversation yet is also quite common and problematic.

These websites not only gave me a ton of ideas I had never considered before, but also some simple tips. Here’s one for the sandwich haters (my toddlers only ate one type of sandwich, until recently.) Cookie cutters! In all shapes and sizes! You can get the exact set I bought HERE. I’m telling you, B will eat a sandwich with anything in it if it looks like a truck. So here’s what I did (besides buying cookie cutters).

I made another list. This list hangs on my fridge. It lists all the single ingredients that I could use to throw a lunch or dinner together for the twins. I was only rotating between four veggies every day – how boring! Now they’re munching on fresh snap peas, cherry tomatoes and zucchini sticks covered in parm cheese. But to keep myself from forgetting all that I learned, I had to write it down.

Single Ingredients for Toddler Meals

Here it is! Again, use it, share, copy, edit, print, etc. So far I have found this incredibly helpful when I’m trying to throw together a lunch. It’s obviously tailored to what my kids like and eat, but we were stuck in a rut, and now we’re not. I take a quick glance and think, “Okay, how about edamame, sweet potato, and bread with melted cheddar cheese?” The possibilities are endless here – there are so many combinations to choose from. I also added to the bottom of the document recipes that I am cooking for the kids, hoping to add some regulars to our ever growing list of meals the twins eat. I’m excited to make the honey-cinnamon chickpeas this week for a new protein option!

The fact is, I’m back at work in two weeks. The twins need to eat a larger variety of food so my nanny doesn’t have to struggle with them at mealtime. As a family, we need to cut our grocery bill WAY down because we’re trying to save money and up until this point have been failing miserably. Now, we’re on to something and it feels so good!

Coming soon: My review of the 21-Day Fix, going sugar-free, thinking about preschools and how we made our house nanny-ready!

Check out my Facebook Page for more ways to make life with toddlers cheap and simple! Crafts, recipes, DIY hacks – you name it, it’s there!

Throwing a Rainbow-Themed Party

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The twins turned two last week, and this past weekend we had a small gathering to celebrate their toddlerhood. As we’ve only had two parties since their birth, I have to say – party planning on a theme is a lot of fun. I really enjoy scouring the internet looking for ideas, and once I’ve made a decision, working on all the little details to make that theme come to life. Last year for their first birthday, I threw an old-fashioned ice cream party. It was all based on ice cream, of course, and their baby colors, purple and blue. Apparently the whole color idea stuck with me, because I loved the use of so many different colors in the rainbow party. I very much understand that the years of Mommy deciding what a birthday party is going to look like are numbered and when the day comes where the twins tell me what theme they want…well, I guess I’ll be going with it. For now, I utilized a few key aspects of the party to bring the rainbow theme to life.

I kept decorations pretty simple, but I made sure to have the mason jar centerpieces. I used mason jars from last year’s party, bought fake white daisies and cut them down to size. Then, I added food coloring to the water and got the rainbow look I was going for. The picture doesn’t show it well, but there was a nice purple jar on the end! I got this idea for the centerpiece here.

DSC_0075I have to give a shout-out to the best food coloring I’ve ever used in my life. As a non-cook, all I have ever known is the liquid drops that come in four colors. And it’s never very bright unless you use half the bottle. I have now made good friends with this food coloring, which comes in so many colors and one drop alone gives you the brightest hues. I’m addicted to food coloring now, I think. What else can I dye??

We had a few other small children attend the party, and for their favors I kept it very simple with windmills (in rainbow colors), and stuck them in candy jars of skittles and M+M’s.

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During the party, my original plan was to put rainbow-colored sensory bins all over the yard. Kids could move around to various stations as they pleased. However, it was insanely hot that day and we stayed indoors, so I only made one sensory bin, rainbow rice. Dyeing rice is very simple and I did it (no joke) one hour before the party. Here’s how I did it.

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And I’m so glad I threw it together, because it ended up being a hit with all the kids! Everyone had a blast poking and stirring and pouring the rice.

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Finally – I put a lot of thought into the food for the party. Desserts = my world, so our afternoon gathering was dessert only. (I’m no longer eating sugar or gluten, so I didn’t touch a crumb…but that’s a post for another day!) I could’ve gone on and on with the rainbow-themed desserts, but stuck to only a few. First of all – the cupcakes.

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I got the recipe here, but let me just say – it’s a boxed mix of white cake. That’s it. With my handy new food coloring, I was able to make really vibrant colors. And even though I personally didn’t eat them, it was strangely satisfying to watch someone else eat one and see the middle looking like this:

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Doesn’t that look so satisfying?? Hopefully it tasted as good as it looked. We also had simple rainbow cookies, which I found here. In a nutshell, though, they’re oreos covered in chocolate. Dyed chocolate. That’s it! We made them the night before the party!

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We had a few more desserts as well, and our marshmallows were simply dipped in water and rolled in rainbow sprinkles.

DSC_0083All in all, I enjoyed how it looked and the twins had a good time. I suppose that’s the most important part! B ate his cupcake just fine (surprising me!) and checked out his balloons at the table.

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C ate her frosting off the cupcake and then that was it (more surprising!) but had a great time running and playing with her brother and friends.

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All in all, it was a success. Happy Birthday, twins! I’ll start working on next year’s theme – three year olds don’t have any strong opinions, right?

How We Survived a Road Trip with Toddlers

Thank you all for your super supportive comments on my last post, regarding B’s speech pathologist. Her style doesn’t match mine, and it definitely doesn’t seem to match B’s. And perhaps shopping around for a new speech pathologist is in my future. For now, we only see her once a month and I’ve just decided – I feel like his speech is taking off. This past weekend alone was wonderful. He is continuously speaking in 4 word sentences, even if they are broken. Just at dinner tonight, he said “C…eat…Daddy’s…potatoes. B…eat…Mommy’s…potatoes”, as the kids sampled our dinner. I mean – it’s slow and deliberate, but the speech is there. I’m feeling better about it now.

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As the title suggests, this past weekend we took a road trip; a mini vacation. It’s about a 6 hour drive normally (no traffic), and with one hour long stop, you’re looking at a long day in the car. Last summer, we took the same trip. I find car rides to be challenging with both babies and toddlers. With babies, you don’t know how to keep them entertained, and they cry and can’t tell you what’s wrong. Last year, they fell asleep too soon on the way home and then screamed the rest of the ride after a short nap, when it should’ve been bedtime. With toddlers though, every time we’re in the car, someone drops a toy. Someone wants what the other has. Someone is hungry. Someone is bored. And that’s a hassle too. So for this trip, I wanted travel to go as smoothly as possible. I scoured the internet for some tips, implemented them, and they WORKED. So I’m passing them on to you!

1) The first and BEST tip I can possibly share is this simple one: Stop at a playground. It bears repeating, because it’s so worthwhile – stop at a playground. Instead of a typical rest stop, with a million people inside the building waiting in long lines for food, with antsy toddlers who are overwhelmed by noise and hunger – stop at a playground. Where? Ahead of time, plan out approximately when you’ll need a lunch (or stretch) break. We knew we wanted to stop around noon. We charted the course and figured out where we should be with no traffic, and then googled playgrounds in that town. We found the best playground, a beach spot. Sounded perfect.

Except we hit traffic because it was the Fourth of July weekend. Lots of traffic. As we sat in it, we needed a Plan B. So we quickly looked up playgrounds in our area, in a state we weren’t familiar with. We found one. And it was this beauty of a playground. It even had a splash pad, tennis courts – I mean, if we knew we were stopping here we would’ve stayed all day. Right when the twins were hungry and fussy, we got off the highway and stopped here for lunch. I had already packed them their easy-to-eat lunch, couscous chicken sticks, carrots and peas, and apple sticks. They sat on a bench and leisurely ate lunch. Then, we let them run around on the playground. They went on swings (big kid swings until they both fell off lol), down slides, and we changed diapers on a bench. The weather was perfect. When we climbed back in the car after an hour, they passed out, right in time for their nap. They got their stretch break and we got a nice surprise, a mini day trip all in itself. This rest stop was key for our journey.

2) The second best thing we did to survive this car ride was to put all the home movies I have taken of them since birth (um, 208 and counting…) and burn them together, like for a DVD, and then put them on the ipad. In fact, the ipad couldn’t even hold all the videos I have taken, so it was only about half. And even that was a full length movie – 90 minutes. This movie they watched of themselves for 90 minutes was totally worth the time it took to get them on the ipad. They loved watching themselves as babies, hearing our dogs bark in the background, watching Daddy be silly. For a long car ride – burn home movies.

3) I spent a day looking up how to best show said ipad movie – and there are some great cases you can buy that hook up to seats. Most are for forward facing car seats though, and mine are still rear facing. Plus, with shipping times, we wouldn’t have received any case in time. So my husband was kind enough to take some scrap wood we had and spend a few hours one night to make a mini table. It fits right between the car seats, and even after the road trip, I won’t take it out. It’s perfect for books and toys, and the twins can grab them as they want them. To show the movie, he put up two pieces of foam padding on the sides to make sure the ipad wouldn’t slide off. After they woke up from their car nap, we propped up the ipad and put on the movie. Twice. (More traffic.) Here’s what this looked like:

IMG_24174) The last tip I would give to survive a road trip with toddlers is to provide random activities in little ziplock baggies (the ones with the zippers they can open themselves) and as the kids get fussy, give them something new one by one. And not just normal standard toys – think outside the box. Here are a few of the travel busy bags they had:

-Slinkies

-Q-tips into water bottles

-Crayons and Sticky Notes

-Magnetic letters and small cookie sheets (.88 at Walmart!)

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We had a few others as well, but these plus the ipad movie and the playground stop were enough! The others are saved for the next trip!

We arrived at our lake destination for a relaxing, calm, easy weekend. The twins slept until 8:15 every day (mind-blowing), took good naps, and even ate a bunch of new foods, including bacon, corn on the cob, french toast, and baked beans, otherwise known as “brown peas”. We went on many nature walks and watched the passing boats. We had a great time!

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I cleaned my basement at midnight.

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

This was a few nights ago now. And I didn’t clean my whole unfinished basement. Just the part I felt I could control enough to do something about – our toddler supplies.

During the week, I have no spare time. When I say none, I mean I get a half hour prep period during school (today’s was spent on the phone with parents) and a half hour lunch. I leave right after school and relieve the nanny, taking over with the twins until my husband gets home at 5:30. It’s dinner, bath, pjs and bed. Then the chores at 8:00. Anyway. I’m usually done for the day and on my own around 9:00/9:30. That’s when my party gets started and a few nights ago, I celebrated with a Friday night trip to Walmart. I needed a bunch of things, but in addition I left with two storage bins for less than $10. And even at 11:00 pm, I felt motivated. See, my basement was looking like this:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Just crap everywhere. Holiday decoration bins overflowing and baby gear still hanging around. Here, specifically, was the targeted problem:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

I’m constantly making things and re-purposing containers and purchasing cheap things for sensory bins, crafts and activities. And it all keeps making its way into my basement to be thrown into the pile. While I’m no Pinterest organizer (and I wish I was), this was too much for even my standards. With the two bins from Walmart I suddenly felt like I could manage this and might as well while the motivation was there. I gave myself the goal of being done by midnight and got started.

First, I dumped everything out and surveyed my storage container situation. I had a few bins already plus the two more, so I started to sort. Here’s how I organized 5 bins and a boppy bag.

Bin #1:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Sensory bin bases. As of now, we pretty much rotate between beans and rice, but I will soon be incorporating epsom salt, pasta, oats, etc. All of these dried bases can be saved and reused (and I wouldn’t have it any other way) but I wasn’t storing them well. They go in gallon bags now, and from there, into this bin. I also have the cheap $4 tablecloths to put underneath the sensory bins.

Bin #2:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Art supplies. My hot glue gun, pipe cleaners, sharpies, googly eyes, craft sticks, paint, pony beads…etc. You get the idea. There are certain crafts I’ve done where I need these things constantly, so it would be so much easier to just bring up the whole bin!

Bin #3:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10Paper, fabric, and felt. This bin’s contents were presenting me with difficulty before I organized it. I have felt coming out my ears right now and so much leftover fabric from my buckle pillows and fabric letters. We use contact paper regularly and the freezer paper is my trick for felt, which I’ll be blogging about soon. I’ve got one side fabric and one side felt, so it now feels much more manageable!

Bin #4:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

The bottom of my storage bin pile – all the extra crap with no home. Specifically, these items tend to be great for sensory play (squeeze and spray bottles, tools) or crafts (egg carton, aprons). I also threw in a few other things I’ve picked up for $1 to save for the future, such as the watering cans and the bug catcher nets.

Bin #5:

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10This bin sits off to the side, as I don’t use it much but the contents are there for me if necessary! I have a few extra sensory bins and base supplies, such as cotton balls, rice, etc. It’s just nice to have these things off the floor.

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Boppy bag – it zips! We haven’t used a boppy in memory but the bag rocks. In it I have all the objects we’ve put into our sensory bins so far. They are in individual bags as well, so it doubles as a toy bag. I’ve got seasonal objects in there as well as animals, dinosaurs, cars, etc.

When we want to do a sensory bin I’ll know just where to grab the bin, the base ingredient I’m looking for and the objects to go with the base! For example, I might grab black beans and the bugs/snakes bag. Or a green water bin with the plastic dinos. Quick and painless, and everything now has a home.

How I organized toddler supplies for less than $10

Ta-da!! And of course I’ve labeled the bins, because no organization is complete without labels! This was very much on my to-do list and I’m so glad it’s done. And the best part is – I finished at midnight(ish) and only spent $10!

There are some amazing ideas out there for storage of toddler supplies and while this is not my dream way to store things, it works for now. I’ll be keeping an eye out for storage bin sales!

Easy & Cheap Homemade Baby Wipes

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* Please like my Facebook page for everything DIY baby/toddler – including crafts and activities on a budget! Thank you!

I know this isn’t exactly about toddler crafts and activities, but as I got ready to make a new batch of wipes this past weekend, I thought I’d take a minute to share with you what I do. DIY (with the goal of saving money) is kind of my thing, and making these wipes has been a really good decision for our family.

I started making baby wipes a year ago, when the twins had a lot of diaper rash and the store-brand wipes we bought didn’t seem to be helping. In fact, they were extremely drying on the babies’ skin. I was tempted to run a damp wet cloth over them after using the wipes. In addition to that, with twins, there were so many diaper changes in a day and we were going through wipes like crazy. Then, I found this post from Amber at Four to Adore. She ranted and raved about making her own diaper wipes and I decided to give it a try.

One year later and it was a wonderful, cost-effective move for us. They aren’t reusable wipes obviously (and I do cross the line there…), but one half roll lasts us 3-4 weeks. Not only that, but the diaper rash has greatly improved and these wipes aren’t drying on baby bottoms. Making wipes takes me about five minutes, so it’s easy to do.

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The recipe calls for:

2 cups water

1 tbsp. coconut oil (liquified)

1 tbsp. baby wash (whatever you use is fine)

2-3 drops tea tree oil

Now, with regard to coconut oil – it’s like a super food, honestly. It has more purposes than you could even think of, including for cooking, as chapstick, diaper rash cream, moisturizer…you name it. And we use it for all of those things. With cloth diapers, I can’t use Desitin or other creams, so I slather on coconut oil at most diaper changings to keep irritation at bay. I bought my coconut oil at the grocery store.

As for tea tree oil – I bought in on Amazon. It’s not cheap, but you only use 2-3 drops, once a month or so. That bottle will last us YEARS. It’s strong stuff, too. It’s the same oil that’s found in Melaluca natural cleaning products – and it keeps the wipes from accumulating mold. It basically replaces the bleaching chemicals found in store wipes.

When I get ready to make wipes, I first cut a paper towel roll in half.

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These paper towels are Costco-brand so we save some money there. They are also select-a-size which is perfect, as I don’t need giant wipes. The select-a-size closely resembles the size of store wipes. Cutting it in half leaves me the other half for the next time I make wipes, so I only cut the rolls every other time.

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The container is from the dollar store. As you can see, I’ve written down the recipe on the lid so I don’t have to keep looking it up every time. If you notice, I added a little more water to this batch of wipes (2 cups). Either amount is fine – I just found that I liked the wipes to be a little more moist.

After mixing all the ingredients in the bottom of the empty container, I then push the roll cut side down into the container and let it sit. My part is basically done!

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After anywhere between 20 minutes to a few hours (as the mixture soaks through the roll slowly), I pull up on the brown roll until it’s loose enough to come out. Sometimes I’ll forget and do other things and many hours later it’s soaked and ready to go. This time I was impatient and dragged it out sooner. The key is to mix the liquids in the container before putting in the paper towels, rather than putting the paper towels in first and then pouring the mixture on top of it. Once the roll part is pulled out, you’re good to go. I pull out the end piece that’s in the middle and voila. Wipes.

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This batch, as I said, lasts quite a while and never loses its moisture or gets moldy. It smells fresh from the tea tree oil and really, I’m a huge fan. That said, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

They are paper towels, and therefore they are flimsy. Costco brand does NOT rip, shred, etc. which is amazing. Not tearing whatsoever. However, they’re thin like any paper towel would be. It doesn’t bother me at all, but I suppose it takes a little getting used to.

The other thing is that for me, I tried taking out a bunch and putting them in a reusable container in my diaper bag for when we’re out of the house, and I found the wipes would dry out pretty quickly. Because of that, I do keep a small package of store wipes for when we’re visiting relatives or out at the store. I prefer these wipes, of course, but it was worth the occasional purchase of store wipes.

That’s it! I would absolutely recommend making baby wipes to anyone – even for kids. There’s nothing in it that makes it a “diaper wipe” – it would be safe for cleaning faces and hands too!

If you enjoyed this post, please also check out my DIY buckle pillow toy for toddlers, my DIY zipper board tutorial, and my DIY playdough without cream of tartar posts.

I’m learning new tricks.

Every day is a new adventure for a first time parent. I so often find myself discovering something and thinking aloud, “Well, next time I’ll remember not to do that…” There are constant lessons to be learned. Some of these things I learn are fun, others just practical. I got some of both this week.

For fun, I am playing around with my other hobby (besides blogging), photography, and I have just learned what “catchlight” is. Those who take pictures probably already knew this. I knew what it meant, but didn’t know it had a name. “Catchlight” – when the subject you are taking pictures of “catches” the light in his/her eyes, making them sparkle and look REALLY good. When I take pictures, I’m obsessed with eyes. If a picture is going to be a close-up, it’s really all about the eyes anyway, isn’t it? I don’t know if or when my twins’ eye colors will change, but considering my husband and I both have brown eyes, it’s a good possibility that it’ll happen. So for now, I want to capture the beautiful deep blue of C’s eyes, and the mysterious gray of B’s while I can.

So, I just learned about “catchlight”. For those who don’t know, if you want to see some sparkle in your subject’s eyes, you need to position them so that there is a light source on their face. As a novice, completely unprofessional photographer, I find that I absolutely love natural light. A lightbulb or some fancy props won’t do – you really only need the sun. So, when I’m bored on a Friday and want to practice this new skill, I plunk my twins down near my light source and throw them some toys. In the mornings, it’s on my dining room floor in front of the slider. In the afternoons, it’s upstairs in the extra bedroom. Wherever the light source is, that’s where the best pictures will be. This morning, we tried out the dining room floor. B wasn’t having it – he had no desire to look up at me for any reason. But C played along, as she typically does. I focused on getting the light to land right on her face, turned my camera to “no flash”, zoomed in, and waited. Here are a few of the results:

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You can actually see the reflection of the slider in C’s eyes, which is almost the goal. I find it extremely satisfying to capture catchlight in my twins, and it’s really, really easy to do. I have a nice SLR camera. I don’t know how to use it. I also don’t have any photography props in my house – no screens or anything. I just turn off the flash, and find the sun.  The other little trick that goes with this is to position yourself all around your subject. Get them to look up, look sideways, look out…whatever. You can get some extra eye sparkles that way! You can clearly see the difference when you don’t have catchlight:

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Still a cute picture – but without the “pop” of the eyes.

I’ve also learned that you can take really good “catchlight” photos on a phone as well. A fancy camera isn’t necessary all the time. This picture was taken on my iphone, with sunlight pouring in through the slider:

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So that was the new fun trick I learned this week.

My practical trick is related to getting out of the house. If you’re leaving the house with twins (or one baby, or five) – give yourself an extra amount of time. It’s going to take longer than you think, every. single. time. And if it’s going to take THAT long…you might just want to stay home.

We went to a new playgroup. I really wanted something on Fridays and I found a group a few towns over for babies around my twins’ age, which is perfect. Today’s meeting was at a library. Unfortunately many playgroups start around 10 or 10:30 in the morning, and the babies’ first nap starts between 9:00-9:30. On a day like today, when I knew we’d be traveling, I made sure to have them sleeping at 9:00, which I did. When 10:00 came, we had to go in order to spend any time at this new playgroup, which was running from 10:00-12:00.

I had to wake both babies from the nap at 10:00, which is always a painful thing. It took 40 minutes to get there – we hit EVERY light, I was followed by a police officer for a while, every senior citizen in existence was out driving…etc. We got there. There was no parking. Like, NO parking. What library has no parking? I had to park down the street, down a very busy main road. I got the stroller out. I got the two car seats out. I hooked them into the stroller. We got to the front of the library and couldn’t find a ramp. What library doesn’t have a ramp? Finally found it, went inside. How do you get to the playgroup? You have to take an elevator. First time pushing a double stroller into an elevator – which was pitch black, by the way. What elevator is pitch black inside? Found the playgroup, met 4 moms and their babies. I didn’t realize it was a library-sponsored playgroup for any age child, so there were big kids running around everywhere. We sat in a circle. There were no toys for babies. What library doesn’t have baby toys? The babies sat on the rug and stared around for an hour. I chatted. Both babies pooped. I changed them. Because we arrived at 11:00, 12:00 came quickly. The babies normally drink their bottles at 11:30. Back in the car seat, back in the stroller, down the street, back in the car, and the babies are hungry. They’re STARVING. I didn’t bring their bottles. C screamed her little heart out for at least 25 minutes on the way back. Harder than she’s probably ever cried. What kind of terrible mother starves her children?? Oops.

We got back, C passed out from crying, I heated bottles, they ate an hour late. We were all exhausted. We went on with our day. Worth it?

I’m not sure yet.

There were many lessons to be learned here in this situation, but one of them is possibly that it’s not worth going to a playgroup if it takes 40 minutes to get there. Poor babies, I felt so bad.

Here are a few more pictures from our week:

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B being a silly boy.

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He does want to crawl. He’s actually starting to move….backwards. It’s something I guess.

 

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Rocking the matching hoodies. C’s is a little small, B’s is a little big – but hers is size 6 months, and his is size 18 months.

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Okay, I know this one looks odd. Here’s the story: I was changing B’s diaper on the rug. I was about to change his whole outfit, hence the un-done snaps. C was sitting next to him, and she started to lean toward him. Well, she has just learned how to give kisses, and with no prompting from me (I quick grabbed my phone just in case), she bent over to give her brother kisses. Again and again and again. It was SO sweet. I think B thought she was going to “baby bird” him, so he went along with it. The picture looks kind of weird, and possibly inappropriate, but I assure you, it was the CUTEST thing ever. Affection toward her brother – a first for Lil C.

And that was our week!