Top 10 Best Books for Babies

June 29, 2015

Before becoming a mom, I worked in children’s publishing, and am now an aspiring writer myself, so I’ve experienced books from various angles. But, as with this blog as a whole, I am writing from the mom perspective. Here’s the criteria that went into making this list:

  • In a huge stack of books, baby picks this one out again and again and again.
  • I can get through a dozen or so readings (a day) before cringing.
  • The book has some sort of educational value in addition to being fun.
  • All except one are short enough that baby doesn’t get bored before the end.

Good for babies to explore on their own (board book material that doesn’t rip easily):

  1. Baby Be Kind -Jane Cowen-Fletcher
    1. One of our favorite books, with a nice message. We both have this one memorized, and my daughter shows me with hand motions that she knows what is coming on the next page (pretending to eat, hug herself, etc.)
  2. Hello World! It’s Me, _________ — Jennifer Dewing, illustrated by Holli Conger
    1. This is a personalized book from I See Me. I love that it has my daughter’s name and birth details in it, and she loves all the animals in it. We use this as a before bed story since it ends with everyone going to sleep.
  3. I’ll Teach My Dog A Lot of Words – Michael Frith, illustrated by P.D. Eastman
    1. What we love about this book is it has a lot of my daughter’s first words. At 20 months, she actually helps me read this book…I pause at a word she knows and point to the picture, and she says it.
  4. Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? –Dr. Seuss
    1. My daughter lets me know when she wants to read this book by mooing and hoo-hooing.
  5. Barnyard Dance – Sandra Boynton
    1. A silly book with all my daughter’s favorite farm animals.
  6. Who Said Boo? – Phyllis Root, illustrated by Ana Martin Larranaga
    1. I have no idea why my daughter loves this book so much, but it was an early favorite. She loves opening each door flap to see who is hiding behind it, and after many readings, she “eeeeks” with all the characters on the last page.

The rest of this top 10 is books my daughter loves, but that require adult supervision to avoid flaps and pages being torn:

  1. Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes –Art by James Dean, story by Eric Litwin
    1. This book is for older children, but no matter how I try to keep it out of reach, my daughter begs for it. This is the one that is a bit long for her, so I abbreviate the text on each page to allow us to get to the end. She loves cats and shoes, so it’s no surprise this is a favorite, and I love the positive message that even when things don’t go as planned, “it’s all good.” In addition to the positive message, this book teaches colors via healthy fruit. And, there is a free video online of the author singing the story. What more could you want? Maybe a shortened board book version.
  2. Dog – Matthew Van Fleet, photography by Brian Stanton
    1. This book is hilarious! My daughter loves the touch and feel elements, and is beginning to understand how to work the pull tabs, although two of the dogs are now missing a head and leg. We love the surprise cat hiding at the end. (There is also a Cat version of this book that I’m sure we will also love, but I haven’t read it yet.)
  3. Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? (and other similar Karen Katz books)
    1. This is a huge lift-the-flap series that everyone knows about. I particularly like this one which teaches parts of the body.
  4. Where’s Spot? – Eric Hill
    1. Another lift-the-flap book favorite. After many readings, my daughter makes the sound of the animal hiding behind each flap before opening it.

In addition to these, I think every child’s library should have a “first words” book. I see advantages to both the ones organized by topic (In the garden, in the kitchen, etc.), and ones organized by the alphabet.

There are many more books my daughter and I love, but I really kept this list to the favorites.   Did your favorites make this list?


Babies and Cats: Can’t We Just Get Along?

June 12, 2015

I worry about both of my children so much. I don’t want Shilo to scratch the baby, and I don’t want the baby to pull Shilo’s tail. When the baby is older, I picture these two playing so nicely together. They love all the same things…running after a ball, playing with balloons and anything on a string, looking up and batting at anything above them, and of course, taking naps. But how do I get them to this stage of playing nicely together?

The first months:

Before baby arrived, Shilo loved playing with all the new things we had around…the bassinet and little chairs were the perfect size for her! I let her get used to the new things we had around, and then gently let her know these weren’t for her. I had fears of baby sitting in the bassinet and Shilo jumping up into it, not realizing she was there. But I didn’t really have to worry about this. Once Shilo saw the baby sitting in anything, she never went near it again. Was she afraid of the baby, or did she somehow know she was supposed to keep her distance? Whatever the reason, I no longer worried about my first born hurting my newborn.

The crawling months:

Once baby began to crawl, my concerns shifted and now I worried about Shilo getting hurt. I immediately began teaching baby to “make nice,” petting our arms and her stuffed animals. Shilo was still much faster than baby (who only mastered the commando crawl) and there still wasn’t much to worry about. The first time we held baby up to pet Shilo, it was a huge success. She held her hand flat and “made nice.” Both were thrilled with the experience and I saw a friendship developing. Shilo began to take her naps wherever we happened to be, of course pretending she didn’t care, but I know she was beginning to like the baby.


Part 1: A tail is not a toy

And now we have a toddler. She runs, she grabs, she screams, she throws. My poor cat. While we continued to work on “making nice,” and “being gentle,” I now introduced some new phrases, “no tail” being at the top of the list.

I remember the first time baby grabbed Shilo’s tail. I felt terrible. I am not going to be one of those parents that lets her kids play dress up with the cat, put make up on her, or play doctor (poking and prodding her while everyone thinks it’s cute.) But Shilo handled it like a champ. She meowed loudly and simply walked away when I pulled baby off. There was one time when baby got her tail and I wasn’t close enough to immediately pull her off. Shilo meowed, and then seeing that I couldn’t rescue her, gently tapped baby’s hand until she let go. She could have scratched the heck out of baby, but didn’t once expose her nails. And this is a cat who does not like other animals. She will hiss and become a different animal around others. But she must somehow realize baby is part of our family, and no matter what baby does to her, Shilo has not hurt her. Baby hasn’t pulled her tail in awhile, but she has other ways of torturing poor Shilo now.

Part 2: The Chase

She chases her around trying to pet her and blow kisses. Yes, adorable, but poor Shilo doesn’t want to be chased. The more Shilo runs, the more baby screams, partially in delight, partially yelling at poor Shilo to stay still. Have you ever heard a toddler scream at the top of their lungs? It’s quite loud. At least Shilo can still jump to higher ground. But there are times when she leaves her tail hanging down, which is just too tempting for a toddler. And baby’s newest way to have fun is shaking whatever Shilo is on top of, or standing at the bottom of it, looking up, screaming.

Where do we go from here?

This has to end, but I don’t know how to make her stop. I pride myself in teaching baby to “make nice” at such an early age while other kids pull at pets’ fur. But I am at a loss now. No matter what I do, baby just doesn’t get that Shilo doesn ‘t like screaming. I know the baby loves Shilo. When Shilo lets her, baby snuggles up with her, rests her head on her, kisses her. Baby’s first word was “cat,” and it continues to be what she calls every person. Yes, my daughter refers to daddy and me as “cat.” She has yet to say “mama” or “dada.” We have come to accept that baby’s world revolves around “cat.” But how do I get her to realize she is terrorizing poor Shilo with her screams and other antics?

I have visions of baby throwing a ball and Shilo running after it, rolling around with it, and bringing it back. She actually did throw the ball to Shilo once, and I thought this might be the beginning of them playing together, but Shilo sniffed it, considered it, then walked away. She (rightfully so) just doesn’t trust baby. Baby will eventually stop running around screaming, and I think the two of them are going to be great friends. But I just wish there was more I could do right now.

Have you had similar problems? Do you have a way to get past where I’m at now, or are you still in the “no tail” stage? I’d be happy to offer more advice about the stages I’ve past, and would love to hear from anyone who has survived the toddler years.

Best Gifts for the First Birthday

June 4, 2015

Before I had a child, I was clueless about appropriate gifts for kids of different ages. And even now that I am a mom, I still am clueless about every age that surpasses my 19 month old. So, this post is for all those clueless moms (and not moms) who never know what to buy.  At some point I’ll post best gifts for newborns, but since most parents do registries for that, the first birthday and beyond is where it gets tricky.

Disclaimer: I have not been paid for these endorsements. These are simply products I love.

Best Gifts for a One Year Old:

  1. My Pal Violet (or Scout for boys). I stumbled upon this amazing creation when looking at the terrible reviews for a similar Fisher Price toy. Violet is one of those great toys that I give as a newborn gift, but continues to be fun for one year olds and beyond. My almost 3 year old niece still loves hers. It is a customizable stuffed animal.   Connect it to your computer, and you can put in your child’s name, favorite color, song, etc etc etc. Violet will sing songs about the child’s favorites, as well as constantly refer to the child by name. Other toys like this either don’t work right, or have hard electronic parts and sounds. Violet is completely soft. I could go on and on about this toy, including the low price. (Note: get the one with the hearts on the tummy. Apparently for some strange reason there is a more expensive version without the hearts that has terrible reviews.)
  2. VTech Sit to Stand Learning Walker. My daughter wasn’t yet walking by her first birthday, and this was the gift that got her going! And it has stood the boredom challenge…she still plays with the detachable toy that comes with it. That toy has a phone and shape pieces that she loves, as well as a cow that moos, and a bunch of other fun things. But the best part, of course, was the way she took off running (literally) with it the moment it was out of the box.   If you are looking for a gift for a child who is already walking, maybe skip this one.
  3. My Own Leaptop (Violet or Scout laptop). Very cute gift that is both educational and fun. One setting says the letter of the alphabet as the child pushes it, as well as some info about an animal whose name begins with that letter. Other settings play songs or musical instrument sounds when the keys are pushed. It is slightly customizable…if you enter your child’s name, when they push the first letter of their name, it will spell the name for them. One minor problem I have is with the email setting. The child can respond to a fake email. As they type letters, their writing appears on the screen. It would be nice to have a space bar for this since there is no way to make words without one! Finally, there is a game setting that is a bit too difficult for my daughter now, so hopefully something she can grow into. (Update 6/30/16: My now 2.5 year old STILL loves this.  And yes, she now loves the game setting as well.)
  4. Bendy ball. I think this link is for the hand-me-down my daughter loves. Other balls claim to be flexible, but they aren’t really, and the way my daughter throws, I really needed a completely flexible ball! This one is completely flexible, and so doesn’t hurt at all when thrown at your face! Again, I’m not completely sure if this is the exact item I have. May be worth looking for this item in a store to make sure it is really flexible. The finger holes also make it easy for the child to grasp. This is a more inexpensive item, so may be combined with something else.
  5. Books. Before becoming a mom, I would have thought this a boring gift, but we get so tired of reading the same books over and over and over again. New ones for the mix are definitely appreciated. There are many types of books for kids…with sounds, lift the flaps, etc. I’ll do another post one day about my favorite books, but one of my favorites is Dog by Matthew Van Fleet. One year old is a bit young for this and I would recommend it being used with adult supervision to avoid pieces being pulled off.
  6. Puzzles. Like above, there are so many types. They have sounds, and can be great instructional tools. For this age, look for ones that have pegs in the middle of the pieces for little hands to pick up, or are labelled as chunky, which means the pieces are raised. A popular brand is Melissa and Doug.
  7. 2-in-1 flip open sofa. I love all baby-sized versions of real things, and this couch is still a favorite with my daughter.
  8. Roll and Surprise Animal Train. This is a cute toy that my daughter is still growing into. She has yet to pull it by the string, but likes pushing it along the floor. She loves when it asks her to find the cat (or bird, or dog) and she knows exactly where each one is hiding.
  9. Shapes Quiz. This is a more advanced version of the basic shape sorter. It is for 18 months plus and is double sided. There are three shapes on the top and three on the bottom. My daughter is great at getting the shapes in, but still needs help flipping it over. The item is wood with a magnetic lid, another bonus since it’s a bit more difficult for her to pull the top off herself. Note: reviews are not great, but I’ve had no problem with this product. There are other types of advanced shape sorters, so if anything, this can give you an idea.
  10. Toys for imaginary play. My daughter doesn’t have one of these yet, and I wish she did. It was around 15 months that she really got into doll houses, play kitchens, etc. It’s on the list for her 2nd birthday for sure. For the summer, they even have play barbecues. Very cute.

That completes my top ten, but some other age-appropriate ideas:

  • Legos and other types of items like this that can be connected to make things.
  • Toys that get the kids moving (in other words, to use up all that excess energy they get once they start walking!) Slides, tunnels, and climbing pieces are examples. My daughter loves the wedge (slide) and stair pieces of this.  (But not the best gift for someone with limited space.)
  • Keepsakes. After one year, it gets more difficult to hold on to those special moments. For example, a book made to keep your child’s first doodles.  By the way, I also like this brand of first crayons.

I hope this list helps you find the perfect gift for the little ones in your life!

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