Favorite Toddler Books + Daily Reading Rhythms

Favorite Toddler Books + Daily Reading Rhythms

Reading to your children seems like such a simple thing, and truly it is, but like most worthwhile things, it doesn’t happen unless you make it happen. Especially when children are young and unable to read to themselves, a time for reading has to be created and then fostered. I think every parent wants their child to grow up with a love of books and reading, especially in this age of technology, so I’m sharing a few tips on how I’m encouraging and prioritizing reading in my house.

TIP 1 // SURROUND YOURSELF WITH BOOKS

At home I like to be a (semi) minimalist about everything, with the exception of children’s books. Lewie has books in every room of the house. A basket in the living room. Books tucked in our nightstand for bedtime. Books in his bedroom. I even put books in his toy box. I want him to grow up surrounded by books.

Books don’t have to be an expense, most of the books we have I bought at thrift stores or were my own books as a child. You can also buy used books online. Obviously Amazon has millions and I also really like Discover Books and Thrift Books.

TIP 2 // CREATE A TIME & SPACE FOR READING

Every night before bed we read to Lewie. This is natural time for most parents to read with their children and it’s such a simple and beautiful rhythm to close the day.  I also like reading in the morning and before nap time. Reading is also a great way to help Lewie calm down when he’s upset.

To me, just as important as time to read, is a space to read. We often read in my bed, but  I also have an oversized bear by his bookcase and a floor pillow in the living room. You don’t need much space, any tiny nook will work as a reading corner.

TIP 3 // PRACTICE WHAT YOUR PREACH

I spend a lot of time trying to encourage a love of books for Lewie, but it recently occurred to me that Lewie rarely sees me read. I actually love reading, but I typically read at night after Lewie is in bed. But just like any skill or lesson I’m trying to instill in my child (gratitude, patience, politeness) it has to start with me. So whenever you can, create some time for yourself to read, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there. Children watch and do.

TIP 4 // READ BOOKS YOU ENJOY

Yes of course letting your child pick their own books is a great way to encourage kids to read. Take a trip to the library and let them choose away. And while you’re there, pick out some children’s books you find interesting as well. The truth is I’m much more likely to read to Lewie if I enjoy the books I’m reading. And if i’m enthusiastic about the book, chances are he will be too. If I let my toddler pick out all his own books, we would only read about trains. But just like food, it’s important to introduce your child to new topics they probably wouldn’t choose on their own.

Right now, we’re reading a lot about Summer. I’ve been intentionally picking books that will help us notice and celebrate the season. In addition to our summer reading, here are some favorites we’ve been loving lately. All these books are very picture-centric, but have an actual story, so they’ve been really great transition toddler books, from baby board books to longer-style children’s books.

Anything by Richard Scarry. Our favorite is Cars and Trucks and Things that Go.
Tuesday I grew up on this book. It’s so strange and imaginative. Lewie loves the frogs.
Where the Wild Things Are  A classic for all ages. This one never fails to entertain.
The Little Engine that Could If you have a child that loves trains, this one is a must!

And, alphabet books. Lewie is really into learning the alphabet. There are an abundance of amazing alphabet books including, Touch Think Learn (this one would make a beautiful baby gift) Animalia (so imaginative for all ages) Quentin Blake’s ABC’s (super whimsical with rhyming text) and Winnie-the-Pooh’s ABC (simple and beautiful intro in the World of Winnie the Pooh).

What about you? What children’s books is your family reading right now? I’m always on the lookout for new favorites!

 

 

Summer Rhythm // Family Movie Night + Homemade Popcorn

Summer Rhythm // Family Movie Night + Homemade Popcorn

When Lewie turned two we took him to his first movie. We assumed he would last 15 minutes but to our surprise he was enchanted through the ENTIRE MOVIE, eating popcorn like a pro and everything! It sounds silly, but it was truly a magical experience. One of those “firsts” you never want to forget. I actually saved the movie stub for his baby book. Curious what movie?

Paddington 2! Which, is you haven’t seen, you need to remedy immediately. It’s unbelievably charming. Here is a great review about why children and adults need more movies like Paddington 2. Also this quote from the Wall Street Journal made me laugh, but it’s also true:

“Paddington 2 is “The Godfather Part II” of Peruvian bear movies, a sequel that surpasses the superb original.”

Completely impressed by Lewie’s attention span through the movie, we decided to implement family movie nights on Friday evenings. Of course we can’t do it every Friday, but when we can I like having a sweet ritual to mark the end of the week. I usually make something simple for dinner, pasta or pizza (the best pizza dough recipe here) and eat in front of the telly.

I pretty much always make popcorn too, which is one of my all time favorite foods. It’s a very simple routine, but I’ve found that it’s something to look forward to. While Paddington 2 tops this list, here’s a few more family movies we’ve found worked with Lewie, aka not too scary, and that we also don’t mind watching on repeat.

Cars & Cars 3 – Underrated Pixar movies, especially Cars 3 which has a sweet message.
Toy Story 2 – Toy Story is terrifying through toddler eyes. Toy Story 2 is pretty perfect.
Monsters Inc. & Monsters U – Both have a couple scary parts, but overall super fun.
The Muppets – The newer one, although I would love to re-watch the classics too.
Mary Poppins – This movie is way too long for toddlers, but the parts we watch he loves.

And some movies on the watchlist: Lady & The Tramp, Lost & Found & Fantasia

My all time favorite movie as a child was Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, but watching it as an adult I realize it’s pretty terrifying, so I’ll probably wait a bit before letting Lewie watch the whole thing.

P.S. – Here is an easy recipe  for homemade popcorn. There is a ton of popcorn advise out there that involves extra steps that I never do. I just throw in some coconut oil, let it melt, add the popcorn and shake. Does it burn? Sometimes, a bit. Do I eat it all anyways? Absolutely. Finish with her favorite seasoning and try to share.

What about you? Do you do family movie night? What are your current favorites?


PLUS: OUT OF THE BOX KID’S GIFTS & A RHYTHM FOR THE SEASONS 

 

 

 

A Rhythm for the Seasons

A Rhythm for the Seasons

I miss seasons. Fall, Spring, Winter, Summer (in that order). I miss the first warm day of spring after a cold winter almost as much as I miss the first cool day of autumn after a hot summer. Seasons have a natural rhythm and focus, whether it’s playing in the summer or gathering together in the fall. Not having true seasons in LA has undoubtedly been the hardest part about living in this city for the last seven years.

LA’s weather is warm to hot and back again. This anti-seasonal living has often made me feel lost with no anchor in time. So, because seasons are so crucial to me, but I have no control over the weather, I’ve started pondering different ways I can distinctly celebrate each season with seasonal rhythms that will hopefully bleed into a rhythm for my weeks and days.

The goal is for these seasonal rhythms to have a distinct focus, but also a connectedness throughout the year, each season building off the previous season and informing the next.

Although the calendar year starts in winter, I’m starting my seasonal rhythms with spring. One of my favorite childhood books about weather starts with spring, everything is just coming to life- it’s a perfect beginning.

SPRING //  SIMPLIFY

Spring is the season I want to be outside the most. Even in LA, spring is beautiful and inviting. The warm weather also brings that spring cleaning bug. But, instead of focusing solely on deep-cleaning, spring is the perfect time to simplify. Subtract from the stuff and noise and choices and media in order to experience and live more. The goal is not to have a perfectly clean house at the end of the season, or even to become a minimalist, but rather to be in a mindset of simplification that will carry you throughout the seasons.

SUMMER // MAKE-DO

The goal for summer is to capture some of that childhood summer magic by focusing on experiences rather that things. The summers of my childhood felt endless. The days were slow and languid, spent making things – a treehouse, popsicles, mud-pies. And also doing things – visiting the beach, going to a museum, plus a lot of simply doing nothing. Now my summers have become consumeristic instead of creative. As an adult it’s been a long time since I’ve flexed my creative muscle or given myself permission to do nothing – these are the goals for summer.

AUTUMN // EDUCATE

Fall is the season I miss the most. I know I already said that, but it’s so true I’ll say it twice. The cool air of autumn always awakens my mind. I feel the most clear-headed in the cool days, or maybe it’s just the 18 plus years of starting a new school year in autumn. From the time we’re born through college, our lives are dedicated to learning. Then as adults, education takes a backseat. A few of us are lucky enough to have a challenging job that promotes learning, but I image that most of us (me included) spend our days checking off a to-do list, instead of carving out time to grow. Learning is obviously achieved through many forms, but reading tops the list. This autumn I’m finding time to continue my personal education and growth, because we are never too old to learn something new.

WINTER // GIVE A DAMN

Winter’s theme is the accumulation of these seasonal rhythms and really the point of this entire blog. Care about the the world’s resources – it’s trees and oceans and animals. Care about the simple things and do the simple things with care. Care about bettering yourself and raising a better generation. Care about people – all the people, your children, yourself, your neighbors, and the people you can’t see – those people who make your clothes and who grow your food.

We can’t be perfect, but we can all be better if we just start to give a damn.

That’s it! I’m sure these seasonal rhythms will evolve as the months progress, but I’m really excited to have a focus for each season to help anchor my thoughts and actions. And I would love for you all to follow along! I’ll be posting blogs about each season’s focus to help give concrete ways to implement the theme into your daily rhythm. Do you have seasonal rhythms you practice throughout the year? I would love to know!

3 Instagram boundaries to start now

3 Instagram boundaries to start now

Recently on Instagram a rather popular mommy Instagrammer I follow asked this question in her story: Does Instagram inspire you? Or make you feel bad about your life? I thought the question was so interesting, but even more interesting were the answers. HALF of the people answered that Instagram made them feel bad about their lives, but there they were, on the exact app that, when they’re being honest, breeds negativity.

I understand. Like most, I have a complicated relationship with Instagram. At it’s best it connects me friends, introduces me to new places, ideas and people. And yes, it can even inspire me. At it’s worst, it’s an addicting, envy-inducing time waster.

For decades there have been mediums that beg comparison. Billboard advertisements. Television shows. Glossy magazines. But Instagram is different. It’s pervasive–always just an addicting click away, plus it poses as real life. Even though we all know that Instagram is fake, it’s difficult to remember when everything feels so real, only better.

This past year it seemed that everyone I knew went on an Instagram cleanse. By now we all know the determents of social media overload, but the detox mentality can often be like a rocky relationship. Break up. Get back together with vengeance. Repeat. I’ve also done this pattern and in the end, Instagram always ends up back in my life, and like the people above, half of the time I enjoy it and half of the time I hate it.

So this year, instead of a hasty break-up, I decided to set some simple instagram boundaries, a crucial aspect of every healthy relationship.

These really are simple and honestly, rather obvious, but sometimes reminders are good. So here they are.

// TURN NOTIFICATIONS OFF //

First things first, I turn notifications OFF. If I’m notified every time I get a like or comment, I immediately find myself checking the app and then I’m sucked in for minutes. This one easy Instagram boundary has really changed my relationship with this app. Out of sight (more) out of mind.

// TAKE DAILY MINI-BREAKS //

This is hardest Instagram boundary. And while it’s difficult, it truly is freeing. Time boundaries will probably be unique to you, but find out what is beneficial for you and stick with it. My strict time boundaries are never checking Instagram in bed. That means before going to sleep OR when I wake in the morning. I also don’t use Instagram if I’m out with Lewie and Bryce. I’ll take photos and videos on my phone, but I don’t upload them till later. That exclusive family time is rare and important to me so I don’t want to be distracted by looking at other’s lives instead of living my own.

I also make intentional time every day to be with Lewie sans phone. I put my phone on a shelf somewhere out of reach and then leave it. This one is actually really hard because I often find myself reaching for my phone out of habit. Going outside and leaving my phone inside is one fool proof way to ensure that I spend time with my child without my phone.

// FOLLOW THE POSITIVE //

If you’re scrolling through Instagram and you start feeling jealous or annoyed or upset, pinpoint what accounts make you feel that way and immediately unfollow. I used to follow all these accounts that didn’t bring me joy, but now I am extremely choosy about who I allow in my daily life. Also, I have friends in real life whose social media accounts I don’t follow.

Sometimes you can have a great relationship with someone in person, but their social media persona drives you bonkers. The real life relationship is 1000 times more important anyways. It’s totally ok to unfollow these people- strangers, friends and even family. It’s an obvious boundary and yet it took me way too long to realize the benefits of controlling my feed.

That’s it! These three simple Instagram boundaries have really helped me have a healthier relationship with this app, a relationship that I actually truly enjoy. How about you? Do you set Instagram boundaries? Please share!

 

Family photos // A glimpse into our lives

Family photos // A glimpse into our lives

Historically I am not into photos. We didn’t even hire a professional photographer for our wedding. And honestly, I probably never would have considered family photos if my dear friend, Lily Glass, wasn’t an amazing photographer. Recently she came over during one typically chaotic morning and took some photos of the three of us.

Continue reading “Family photos // A glimpse into our lives”