As a mom (and teacher), I strive everyday to engage, nurture, and expand the mind of my little one.
Here you will find the books, music, and activities most useful to me in my endeavors.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Costumes for Little Ones

Google image searches produce the most interesting results.
Don't you agree?

These made me go .... hmmmmmm?!  Your reaction?

Babies already make plenty of their own flatulence and reaction-worthy noises, do we really need to advertise?

Just getting ready for the next big holiday, huh?

The poultry trend continues ... but this one is beyond disturbing!  That's an alien spawn breaking through that adorable chicken's tummy.  Guessing there's a daddy behind this ingenious costume :)

I'm a fan.  Think the man was an amazing performer.
Not interested in dressing my toddler as Michael Jackson - now or ever.

You'd need to have a precocious toddler to pull this one off ...

Can't help but think of Chitown Momma's husband with this one ... he's just ballsy (and hilarious) enough to give this a try (and get away with it) - hee, hee!


What do YOU think of these costume choices?  Did you laugh?  Cringe?

More importantly, what costume will your little one 
be wearing for this Halloween?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Footprint Ghosties

The perfect - easy and fun - Halloween craft!

Giving credit where credit is due ... this idea came from Chitown Momma ... and I modified it just a bit.

All you need:
  • Toddler's foot ... please leave it attached ;)
  • Package of baby wipes ... I was so glad I had these nearby! 
  • Black marker
  • Black Construction paper
  • Foam brush or paintbrush of some sort
  • White paint - I used this ...

  1. First strip down your little pumpkin down to her/his diaper ... the paint is washable, but I like to keep my mess and my laundry to a minimum. 
  2. Put down some newspaper and a sheet of black paper on top.  
  3. Sit down just behind the newly prepared "canvas" and put excited toddler in your lap.
  4. Use the brush to spread white paint all over the bottom of your toddler's foot and toes.  I chanted, "Tickle, tickle, tickle," while applying the paint, and NHV thought it was hilarious!
  5. Press the foot to the black paper - give it a little side-to-side roll - and lift if off.
  6. Turn that footprint upside down ... viola!  A cute little ghostie!
  7. Once it dries, grab a black marker and make a ghostie expression :)
  8. There are lots of options for what to do with your finished footprint, I trimmed off the excess black paper, glued it to a piece of orange paper, added initials and the date, and made it into a card for the grandparents.  I think Chitown made some sort of wreath with ghostie footprints and pumpkin handprints.
You have exactly one week until Halloween; plenty of time to make your own Footprint Ghosties!  Have fun!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Accidents Happen: Fall & Head Injury

No other age group is as busy, curious, energetic, fast-moving, agile, and fearless as toddlers.  We anxiously await the day they take their first steps and then protectively cringe as walking leads to running and climbing and falling.  Of course with every fall comes a fear of head injury.  I know of a mother who strapped a helmet on her son from the age of 2 to 3 - simply as a precautionary measure!  Yes, toddlers fall ... all the time. They fall off their own feet.  They fall from pieces of furniture.  They fall from atop stools.  They fall from swings and slides.  They fall through ... windows.  

Yep, my best friend Missy - known her since high school, lived with her in college, see her at least once a year despite living in different parts of the country - and her typical toddler, Emmett, recently had the "fall through the window" experience, and she's agreed to share their story with you ... it's a good one!

It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday. We were enjoying a cool breeze in our backyard when our 19 month old son, Emmett, decided that he wanted a snack. Not wanting to lose that fresh, cool Colorado breeze when we went inside, I did something that I never do--I opened the windows. Don't ask why I never do this...perhaps in my gut I knew what would happen if I did. After handing my little boy a treat, I joined my hubby on the couch for a little chit-chat. Behind our couch is a ledge with a wall of windows behind it. I have never understood why this ledge exists. It serves absolutely no purpose. It's just there. A constant annoyance that requires me to say many, many times on a daily basis, "Emmett! Get down from there!"

On this particular day, I was distracted and didn't notice E making the vertical climb up to the ledge. All I know is that about thirty seconds after taking my seat on the couch, I heard a little bump. Not a loud sound, barely audible, in fact, except to a mother's ears. I looked up and noticed that the window screen was torn. And E was nowhere is sight. "Oh, my god, Joe...Emmett fell out the window!"

We immediately bolted out the back door to our patio. Sure enough, there was Emmett...lying on his back and struggling to get up like a turtle that has landed shell-side down. I ran over to him and picked him up (probably too quickly since I didn't know if he was hurt). He didn't appear to be in pain, and he didn't even cry...until, of course, he saw the tears welling up in my eyes and heard the panic in my voice. Then, the floodgates opened..quickly, loudly and without pause, for a good five minutes. Then all of a sudden, he saw our cat walk in front of us, said "CAAAAT!", jumped off my lap and ran to his little feline friend. I thought, "What the heck? Could that be it?" Although my husband insisted that he was okay (typical man), I called the Children's Hospital and spoke with a nurse. She asked how far he had fallen. Luckily, it was only about 3 1/2 feet, but he did land on paver stones. She asked if he had any bumps or bruises...nope. Just one little cut above his forehead. Is he falling down or dizzy? Nope. Complaining of pain? Nope. She said that since he wasn't showing any signs of head trauma and since the fall wasn't more than twice his height, our only course of action was to observe him for 48 hours. He had to sleep with us for two nights, and each night we had to wake him up and make him walk around the room to make sure he didn't have a concussion. Now, unfortunately for E (and us), he is truly like his Momma in that he DOES NOT like to be woken up, particularly for a leisurely stroll at 3 o'clock in the morning. He was mad, mad, mad and he let us know it. After 48 hours, I was finally convinced that we had escaped this little episode unscathed.


As I read this story, I realize just how easily something like this happens.  And how scary it can be.  As parents it is tough to cover all the bases of child-proofing, and I think we must accept that falls will happen.  We can somewhat "prepare" ourselves for the more serious falls by knowing how to react, what to look for, and who to call.  This Falls: Safety Sheet from is a great place to start and a handy reference to print and keep on hand.

In addition to Missy's firsthand account, I would encourage you to read this article ... for some common sense reminders and tips:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Spek-tacular Offer

Remember these guys?  And their delightful sing-along songs?  And this delightful review I posted a while back? And the fabulous giveaway?

Well, if you aren't already listening to, singing-along with, and dancing a jig to the musical talents of The Speks, you are seriously missing out ... and YOU'RE IN LUCK ... as the Irish might say!

I just received this message and generous offer from Quince, one of The Speks:

We had a great response from your Spek-tacular review and to show our appreciation to you and your readers we have created a Discount Code called DVH so that your readers and friends can download our album as an MP3 for 3 Euro (that’s about $4.50) which is the lowest price for our music anywhere in the whole wide world! DVH can be entered as a Discount Code at checkout in Our Shop on our website.

Just to clarify, The Speks are offering readers of ToddlerBrain the chance to purchase their entire CD - all 17 songs - for less than $5!  Just enter the code DVH at checkout.  How can you possibly pass up that offer?!  Original, enjoyable, educational music all the way from Ireland can be yours ... right now ... just click :)

This is how Quince signs his email messages to me ... and I love it ...
As always, sing along and sing loud!

Oh, we do.  We do!  In fact, if I can capture it on video, I will post my sweet toddler singing along to number 16, Homeward Bound ... a song about a horse with lyrcis that go faster and faster.  It is so darn cute!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Caspar Babypants ... In Concert & Camera

I think we're officially groupies.  Caspar Babypants groupies.  How awesome is that?!  Natalie and I - along with a group of our mommy and baby friends - and as many other fans as could squeeze into a local library - saw a live performance of Caspar Babypants.

The songs were fantastic, and I felt super cool because I knew the words to pretty much every song.  Which probably has something to do with the fact that we've been listening to Here I Am! in the car, on the iPod dock in N's room, on the laptop while making dinner, ... all the time!  NHV even sings along in the car, and her sweet little voice just about melts my mommy heart!  And Caspar previewed a few new tunes from the upcoming release of his second CD.  I liked what I heard - and plan to buy More Please! when it comes out November 17.

The energy from the three of them ... Babypants on guitar and lead vocals, Babyshirt on percussion and general silliness, and Babyshoes on keyboards ... was contagious!  The threesome hammed it up for the kiddos and didn't take themselves too seriously.  Parents and kiddos were having an absolute blast!  Natalie danced and stayed happy for most of the hour-long show.  We did take a snack break and shared a "binky cuddle," but overall it was just perfect! 

After the concert, I stormed the stage to introduce myself.  Seriously, I was the first person up there.  I was somewhat starstruck at the chance to meet Caspar (aka Chris Ballew) - hey, I don't get out much :)  Like a dork, I introduced myself as ToddlerBrain - since we've meet via my blog and subsequent emails.  I think he recognized me ... or at least had a vague memory of my blog name.  I then promptly handed him my precious two year old and started taking pictures.  How pushy is that?!  He didn't seem to mind too much, and the pics are priceless.  When we talked about our day, Natalie mentioned Caspar with much enthusiasm, and even said, "Him hold me.  Mommy take picture."

Can't wait for the next Caspar Babypants show ... that's not during naptime :)

Accidents Happen: Choking

I know I've spent an exorbitant amount of time thinking about what to feed my toddler ... what she'll actually eat, what has some good nutritional value, what makes for a balanced meal, ... but I haven't spent nearly enough time considering the dangers posed by those foods.  Especially the danger of choking ... how to prevent it and what to do if/when it happens. 

This post was written by my good friend Deann.  Her daughter Sahara, a cautious and neat eater ... uses utensils like a pro, takes one bite at a time and barely needs a bib (the complete opposite of my own toddler) has had two recent choking incidents. 

It was a routine lunch time. My girl was having some dinosaur style chicken nuggets, green peas, and some other yummy lunch item that I can't remember now. I was trying to get the nuggets cut up a bit smaller when my sweet Sahara grabs my fingers and looks at me with eyes wide open in a mix of shock and fear. She was choking on one of those darn chicken nuggets. I tried not to panic and whacked her on the back a few good times and the chunk came up, thankfully!

It was a scary moment for both of us! I am so thankful that I am usually very close when its a meal time, I would have felt more than horrible to have walked away for too long during that one crucial moment and not been there to help her. The realization of the possible outcome is more than I can bear to think about.

We recently had a second choking experience at dinner with my in-laws and husband present. Sahara was doing so well at chewing up green beans, loving eating them as a matter of fact, when suddenly she was choking on one. She didn't quite get it chewed up well enough and most of the bean was intact and stuck in her throat. My husband actually did a mouth sweep to get it out and that also worked well, especially for the bean scenario. Once again, we were reminded to make sure that things are cut up, even if they seem to be handling chewing the food item with ease.

So, some rules that I've set up are 1) always cut up food in smaller pieces, even if you think that he/she is old enough to handle bigger pieces; 2) DO NOT walk far away!; 3) Keep an eye on the kiddo while they are eating; 4) DO NOT let them walk around with snacks, make them finish them sitting down while you are nearby

Here are a few tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

What can I do to keep my child from choking?

Do not feed children younger than 4 years round, firm food unless it is chopped completely. Round, firm foods are common choking dangers. When infants and young children do not grind or chew their food well, they may try to swallow it whole. The following foods can be choking hazards:
Hot dogs, Nuts and seeds, Chunks of meat or cheese, Whole grapes, Hard, gooey, or sticky candy, Popcorn, Chunks of peanut butter, Raw vegetables, Fruit chunks, such as apple chunks, Chewing gum

Dangerous household items
Keep the following household items away from infants and children:
Balloons, Coins, Marbles, Toys with small parts, Toys that can be squeezed to fit entirely into a child's mouth, Small balls, Pen or marker caps, Small button-type batteries, Medicine syringes

What you can do to prevent choking
Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) (basic life support).
Be aware that balloons pose a choking risk to children up to 8 years of age.
Keep the above foods from children until 4 years of age.
Insist that children eat at the table, or at least while sitting down. They should never run, walk, play, or lie down with food in their mouths.
Cut food for infants and young children into pieces no larger than one-half inch, and teach them to chew their food well.
Supervise mealtime for infants and young children.
Be aware of older children's actions. Many choking incidents occur when older brothers or sisters give dangerous foods, toys, or small objects to a younger child.
Avoid toys with small parts, and keep other small household items out of the reach of infants and young children.
Follow the age recommendations on toy packages. Age guidelines reflect the safety of a toy based on any possible choking hazard as well as the child's physical and mental abilities at various ages.
Check under furniture and between cushions for small items that children could find and put in their mouths.
Do not let infants and young children play with coins.

Published online: 2/07
Source: Choking Prevention and First Aid for Infants and Children (Copyright � 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 4/06)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blogging Adventure of the eebee Kind

If you don't recognize this adorable little baby, you and your toddler have been missing out on the greatest thing to happen to developmental learning!

This is eebee ... and eebee's Adventures (videos, books, and more) are founded on the philosophy that every baby learns by doing.  Through the eebee lens, parents and little ones are able to see the power of play and the importance of discovery learning.  "eebee’s adventures focus on the developmental skills that babies are working on and use as the foundation of all future learning."

I've been a fan since discovering the eebee videos On Demand (when I still had cable).  NHV has her very own eebee doll, and our eebee DVD is one of her absolute favorites!  I've blogged about eebee before, and I recently mentioned eebee as one of my favorite options for toddlers watching TV.  Because of the blogging I've done - and the networking power of link back-tracking, I've also been in contact with Stephen Gass, the creator of eebee. 

Most recently, he bestowed on me a great honor and asked me to write a post for the eebee blog.  I wrote about the eebee-inspired Play Dates I've hosted through my moms' group.  This was a very exciting opportunity for me, and I hope to write for the eebee blog in the future! 

It would really mean a lot to me if you'd hop on over to the eebee blog, get a few ideas for hosting your very own developmental play date, and feel free to leave a comment, too :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Whooo can resist these adorable owls?

Natalie has been all about owls for at least the past 6 months.

The current season and cooler weather seems like the perfect opportunity to share our favorite owl books as well as several variations on a Pinecone Owl craft idea.

Here's the basic idea ...

And several How-To Variations on that idea ...

Variation #1

this one came from Chitown Momma

Variation #2

Variation #3

Variation #4

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Accidents Happen: Emergency Consent Form

No matter what kind of Accident Happens to your toddler, it's important that his/her caregivers know essential information and have your official permission to seek appropriate treatment.

The best way to have those things all in one place and in the hands of the caregiver ...
an Emergency Consent Form.

This is one that was passed along from a friend. I tweaked it a little. This is what I use for my toddler. I found it especially helpful when hubby and I went out of the country - for our 10th anniversary - and Grammy came to stay with NHV.

The form can be downloaded as a Word document. Save it to your computer, edit it with your information and print it out. Or just print and hand-write the information.

Hope you find this useful!

Question of the Day - 2

As moms (and dads), we are suppose to have ALL the answers, right?! The big ones like the hows and whys. And the more mundane wheres - like my shoes? I tell ya, Alex Trebek's got nothing on the moms of the world!

It's a good thing we have each other to rely on. To share what works and what doesn't. To suggest a new approach. To tell about the latest and greatest and the oldies-but-goodies. To speak from experience. To learn from mistakes. To impart wisdom. To provide ah-ha moments :)

Allow me to pose a few toddler-related QUESTIONS for you to ponder. If you have some insight, please leave a comment ... start a dialogue ... let's build up our arsenal of ANSWERS.

What does your toddler eat for breakfast?

I am in a total breakfast rut. And I know I rely too much on carbs because that's what I like in the morning. Typically, my toddler eats multi-grain pancakes or waffles, half a banana or a few apple slices, and about 8 ounces of milk. Some mornings I make scrambled eggs with cheese or french toast. Sometimes NHV will tolerate a bowl of oatmeal, but it's not her favorite. Any ideas? Does your toddler eat the same thing day-after-day? What options do you offer?

Can't wait to get some ideas about breakfast for toddlers!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Little Luck of the Irish ...

I had so much fun with this giveaway! Almost as much fun as traveling to Ireland for a weeklong getaway ... almost!

Thank you for humoring me with Skittle flavors, pot of gold finds, baby girl name choices, and most delightful, the heartfelt proverbs - you can read those at the end of this post!

The Winner ...
It seems my dear friend Chitown Momma (who has also done a guest blog for me) had the luck of the Irish on her side ... or maybe it was her numerous entries ... either way, she's our winner! Woo Hoo!

And here are those Proverb Entries I promised ... so sweet and creative!
Miss Mel said...
May you always have your silkies and sockies for the tearsrubber pirate and mermaid boots for the rain, warm milk in your Snow White cup,endless tickles to cheer you you, those 100 stuffed animal you each love near you,and all your heart might desire.

Raising Z said...
May you always have a smile that lights up the room,a George to cuddle, sunflower butter on toast,good friends to cheer you, family members who love and cherish you, and all your heart might desire.

Terri said...
May you always have magic kisses to heal your wounds, ice cream for the tears, prayers to calm your fears, a warm bed to crawl into, the power of love around you, and all that your heart desires.

Chi-town momma said...
This is for my toddler...May you always have cars for racing, your dog for snuggling, books for reading, music for dancing, giggles to cheer you (and everyone around you), those you love (who love you back even more!) near you, and ALL your heart might desire!!!
Each night our prayer is "Dear God, Please keep Benjamin/Taylor Happy, Healthy and Safe. Amen!" If my kids are always blessed with these three wishes, life is perfect!!!

Epiphius said...
A house is not a home, but you'll always have a home in our houseWe'll give you everything you need, but not everything you wantWe wish for you unconditional love, enless belly laughs and a life full of light.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Funny Faces: Learning About Emotions

by Nicola Smee
(book image is a link to Amazon)

This delightful book about a little boy’s encounter with three playful bears perfectly illustrates the connection between feelings and expressions.

Another fabulous library find - I have been hitting the jackpot lately - this book sealed the deal on emotions for my toddler. After reading and discussing this book for a few weeks, she is now pointed to faces in all the other books we read and using words like, "happy, sad, angry, frightened, and worried," to describe them. I especially love NHV's worried expression ... looks more like a fish face than worried ... it's priceless!

A few months ago, my Natalie started making strong connections to happy and sad. From about 16 months or so, her daddy and I played a silly game of putting a big smile on our face and saying, "Happy!" and then making a frown face and saying, "Sad." She thought it was hilarious, and we appreciated the acknowledgement of our obvious acting talents - ha!

From there, I tried to help NHV identify when she was obviously feeling happy ... like when she gets to share a cookie with daddy or we decide to go to the zoo. Then came the mention of, "Oh, that baby sounds sad," whenever we'd hear a baby crying in the story. I am certain that one is bound to bite me in the rear when baby sister arrives and cries because she's hungry or needs a diaper change ... I am going to be hearing a lot of, "Baby sad?" from NHV!

This book was a very natural next step.
  • It is very, very simple, which means the text is minimal.
  • The story follows a boy's playing in the woods (happy) when a bear takes his ball (sad and then angry). The bear and its cubs return (worried and then frightened) to play with the boy (happy, again.) Those are the situations I can remember - had to return the book to the library just yesterday - I think there are 7 emotions/expressions in all.
  • The illustrations are hand-drawn (not "real" faces) but it's still very effective.
  • The last page is a mirror with a facing page that shows all the expressions covered in the story.

This is definitely a book worth checking out ... if you are working on the idea of emotions/expressions with your toddler :)

Which emotions does your toddler identify with? Do you use the word frustrated with your toddler?

Scroll down to the next post for your 5th (and final) chance to enter the Speks Sing Along CD GIVEAWAY! Contest will close Sunday evening. Winner will be announced on Monday, October 5th - just before I go pick up my mom from the airport ... woo hoo!

the Speks Giveaway - Final Chance to Win!

Here's your 5th - proverbial - chance to win a copy

of this fantastic kids' music CD ...

If you haven't already read my review and listened to this Irish-inspired music,
it's only a click away.

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

This is a popular Irish proverb/blessing. Your FINAL CHANCE TO WIN requires you to wax poetic ... or at least proverbial ... and rewrite this proverb addressed to your toddler. It can be funny, ridiculous, sincere, sweet, ... whatever. And there's no pressure, all efforts are considered an entry .. but I know some of you will undoubtedly impress :)

Because this one requires a little brain power, I am leaving the giveaway open until Sunday evening ... that's three days worth of proverb-writing potential :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

the Speks Giveaway - 4th Chance to Win!

Here's your 4th - wee little baby - chance to win a copy

of this fantastic kids' music CD ...

If you haven't already read my review and listened to this fantastic music,
it's only a click away.

Perhaps you've heard ... there's a wee one on the way, and she's going to need a better name than "wee one."

image from here

Here's your chance to give a little input on what we should name Baby Girl 2.0 ... IF we decide to go with an Irish origin ...

According to, these were the top 30 most popular Irish baby names for girls ... way back in 2003 (it's the best I could find).

Emma - Sarah - Aoife - Ciara - Katie - Sophie - Rachel - Chloe - Amy - Leah - Niamh - Caoimhe - Hannah - Ella - Lauren - Megan - Kate -Rebecca - Jessica - Emily - Laura - Anna - Grace - Ava - Ellen - Shauna - Roisin - Holly - Aisling - Lucy

To enter and possibly WIN the Speks GIVEAWAY (see details above), simple leave a comment with your Top Choice(s) from this list of girl names.