crafts, Motherhood, toddlers, Uncategorized

Color Hunt

Play is the highest form of research.

Albert Einstein

As we came inside to take a break from playing in the rain, I noticed all the colors dancing around our playroom. I realized that the toys we play with day in and day out are, in themselves, a learning tool. So, we went on a treasure hunt, well, a color hunt. You’ll see what I mean.

What you will need:

  • Two toilet paper rolls or one paper towel roll cut in half.
  • Tape
  • A large piece of paper 
  • Markers

Grab your big piece of paper and divide it into equal sections. I did 9 squares, but you can use as many or few based on what is best for your child. Next, write down the names of the colors using the corresponding marker.

While making the grid, have your child color the toilet or paper towel rolls. Once they are done coloring, take some tape and tape the rolls together. Now, you are ready to go on a color hunt!

Place the piece of paper in the middle of the room and let your kiddo go to work. Have them look around and find anything they can that matches the colors in your grid. Gray loved looking through his binoculars to find each new item.

Some colors can be a little tricky, like those teal puzzle pieces. He switched them between the green and the blue a few times, but either would be have been correct. Let your kiddo problem solve and search without interference, unless they ask for help of course!

Gray looked around the playroom for almost an hour, adding and taking away things as the grid filled. This is something that we will do again in the near future.

If you want to add more literacy, this fun art project pairs well with the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear. It is one of our favorites and a great way to explore color learning.

What are some of your favorite color projects?

Take a look at some more fun activities for your kiddos.

XO Kate & Elizabeth

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive a small affiliate commission. Regardless, we give our promise that we only recommend products or services we would use personally and believe will add values to our readers.

Motherhood, toddlers, Uncategorized

Keeping it Clean

In life, there are a few things that are harder then we anticipate. Keeping a clean house seems to be one of them for many of us. Because of children, pets, and daily life, keeping a clean house can seem like an impossible task. Like most things in my life, I decided to tackle this problem with a list and routine.

List most of us, I made myself a New Years resolution. My personal goal was to decrease stress in my life. A messy house creates a messy mind, which in turn creates a stressed out me! So, the brainstorming took hold. I knew I needed a structured plan to get the cleaning train moving. I also knew the more I kept on top of my cleaning routine the faster the daily process would be. Think about it, if you clean your floors once a week, there is less dirt to scrub off then if it’s been a month. And just like that a cleaning schedule was born.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your home can’t be 100% cleaned in one day either. Let’s be honest, your home will never be spotless, because that’s just life. But, you can keep your house clean and yourself sane by breaking down your cleaning into more manageable tasks. I break my tasks up into two categories: daily and weekly. This helps me stay on top of things, without spending hours a day cleaning.

What does that weekly schedule look like? Well here it is:

Monday: Bathrooms: my least favorite thing to clean on my least favorite day. I do bathrooms first, so I can get it checked off the list.

Tuesday: Downstairs floors. Vacuum and mop all the floors on your main floor.

Wednesday: Declutter: Wednesday is trash day, so I go around and collect all trash, recycling, and giveaway items. This is a great way to reduce clutter in your house as well.

Thursday: Upstairs floors. Vacuum and mop all the upstairs floors.

Friday: Catch up: Use this day to check up on anything you may have missed over the week.

Saturday: Clean out the fridge & Meal plan! Create your weekly meal plan to make your grocery shopping trip a breeze.

Sunday: Relax!

With my weekly tasks, come my every single day tasks. These activities do not take long, but help move everything along smoothly.

Morning tasks:

  • Empty the dishwasher: put away all the dishes from the night before.
  • Reload the dishwasher with left over dishes.
  • Throw in a load of laundry

Evening tasks:

  • Load and rerun the dishwasher.
  • Wipe down all the counters.
  • Scrub the sink.
  • Put away laundry.
  • Take 15 minutes to clean up.

Helping clean up the playroom.

This cleaning schedule has saved me so much time and stress. I check things off as I go and I don’t have the feeling looming over me that I should be cleaning. I can spend my free time making memories with my kiddos and relaxing.

The goal here is to keep your house clean, while spending less time actually cleaning. Remember, your house doesn’t have to be spotless because you and your family do live in it. I hope this cleaning routine saves you time that you can use to build and grow those precious memories with your family.

XO Kate

Motherhood, toddlers, Uncategorized

Getting Creative with Picky Eaters

When you become pregnant with your first child, you will swear your child will eat whatever you eat. You will never make a meal just for them. Your child will eat whatever is put in front of them. You swear that your child will love vegetables.

Everything is going exactly as you predicted, so far so good, then your child turns one. They get their first bite of cake and just like that your plan of healthy toddler meals goes out the window and all the delicious food you cook ends up on the floor for the dog.

Girl (and guy), I can completely relate. In fact, I am going through this very stage right now, times two! So here are a few tips and tricks that I am currently trying with both of my children. These have helped make meal time a bit less stressful, and the kiddos are slowly starting to come around. I call that a win-win!

Stay Consistent with Offering Healthy Foods!

Finding healthy meals that your toddlers will actually eat is hard work. It’s even harder to make meal after meal just to watch it be spat out. This can be frustrating, but take comfort knowing that consistently offering healthy foods can have a positive effect on their eating habits as your little(s) grow older.

Has your little one ever refused a certain food and then all the sudden they can’t get enough of it? Well, that’s because as your baby grows and develops, their taste buds change as well. So, keep offering a variety of healthy food to your little ones and eventually they will come around!

Hide Those Veggies!

Does your kiddo like smoothies? Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to include veggies into your child’s diet. Add some kale, carrots, or even beets! The sweetness of the fruit and yogurt will mask those veggies. There are a ton of easy and tasty recipes out there to try, or just make up your own. I also like to hide veggies in pasta sauce. My children love spaghetti and never notice when I add some zucchini, carrots, or cauliflower into our sauce.

Make Their Food Fun!

Who doesn’t like a plate of pretty food? Let’s be honest when we go out to eat and are handed a gorgeous plate, we are even more excited to chow down, after taking a picture, of course. So, why not create a fun and playful display of their food for your kiddos? It is worth the extra time it takes just to see how excited they get! The few bites they take may be icing on the cake, because let’s face it, a few bites are better than no bites at all!

One super fun and simple idea is turning apple slices into animals by using peanut butter and raisins. You are only limited by your imagination, create dinosaurs, butterflies, or whatever animal you kiddo enjoys. You can also make different bugs out of veggies! Get creative, do a little Pinterest search and even include your child in the decision and creation!

Change the Shape.

The texture of different foods can be a huge turn off to kids. Sometimes, something as simple as cutting the food up in a different way can make all the difference. Try cutting veggies into smaller pieces, shapes, or strips. My son loves carrots, but only if I cut them into strips julienne style (he’s a diva, I know) or buy baby carrots. Why? I have no clue, but if all I have to do is cut them differently to entice him to eat them, I am all in! Watermelon was the same way. When I cut them into cubes, neither child would touch it. But let them eat it directly off the rind and the watermelon was gone in minutes.

Cut into cubes… no, thanks! On the rind…. yes, please!

Always Have Something They Like on the Table.

I always have at least one thing on the table that I know my children will eat. That way I don’t have to worry about them being hungry five minutes after they leave the table. I let them know that they can choose what you would like to eat on your plate. I do not expect them to eat everything, but when it happens it is a pleasant surprise!

Having a food they enjoy, reduces the stress of both parent and child. When your child is relaxed, it is also more likely that they will try something new. Just imagine someone forcing you to try something you really weren’t too keen on. Do you think that would create a positive association with that specific food, or even with dinner? I think not. So, don’t force your child to finish everything on their plate. Encourage them to at least take a bite and praise them when they do. Creating positive associations between food and your child will help broaden their pallet.


I hope these tricks come in handy for you and your kiddos. If you have any other tips, comment below! We would love to hear how you get your kiddos to eat healthy!

XO Kate & Elizabeth

Cleaning, Motherhood, toddlers

Tips for a Non-Cleaner

I am what I would consider a “non-cleaner”. I was not born (or raised) with the skilled ability to clean. I didn’t grow up scrubbing baseboards. These were not the chores I had. In fact, I’m not even sure our first house had baseboards. My childhood home was not the tidiest, and neither was my mom’s childhood home. It must be in our genes. But I don’t really remember those details when recalling early memories. I had the BEST childhood. I grew up outside, spending my time getting as tan as my shins were bruised. I ran around barefoot, playing at the pool, on the playground, in the woods. I didn’t have daily or weekly chores that ever ran on a schedule. I cleaned my room as well as any kid would, which is to say not really doing much cleaning but instead finding ANYTHING else to do instead. When I got older my chores included putting dishes away, irregular vacuuming, and my favorite…dusting. OH dusting, how I hate thee. We had a lot of intricately carved antique furniture with decorative glass and figurines, and in my teenage mind, that was the worst thing I could be expected to do. Please, ask me to do anything else. After years and years, I am realizing I am just not a very skilled cleaner. What does that even mean? Is my house in a constant state of disarray? Does FEMA need to provide some disaster relief? NO. But it means that I missed out on a very useful education that some of you had, and I work a little harder and stress a little more over cleaning-related things that I am not good at or consistent with. My (mostly) Type B personality doesn’t mind if something gets skipped, and while I have failed to make myself run on schedule, I do love organization and clean spaces. I think I am a Type B person with a Type A brain. I am always enthralled when people have their cleaning routine down to a science while I feel like I am always cleaning but never done. If you can relate, read on, and maybe this post will help a little!

One of my newer goals for myself is to always have my house what I would consider “houseguest ready.” Not perfect, but put together enough to where I feel comfortable having someone drop in at any moment. This may sound really silly to some, but it has always been a source of anxiety to me! I want my home to be welcoming and organized for so many reasons, and sometimes life (and my habits) just get in the way. I mean first off, two kids and two white dogs. Hello. Occasional piles of laundry to be folded on the couch, boxes to go out to recycling by the front door, last night’s dishes on the counter, etc. It’s not really how I would prefer my house to be on any given day. So here are some changes I have adopted that have made a big difference in the nightly and morning routines, as well as my overall peace of mind:

Clean a little throughout the day. Again, if you are “a cleaner”, this is probably the most obvious statement ever. But for those non-cleaners, let me explain. I once came across and article about things all neat & tidy people have in common, and the biggest one was that they cleaned throughout the day. It said, “you can’t expect to be a slob all day and then find time to clean everything up at once.” I realized that I very frequently made poor, lazy choices under the premise if “I’ll get to it later” because the kids were pulling me in one direction or another at the moment. I mean slob seems harsh, but yeah, maybe I was being a slob! For example, putting my plate on the counter instead of in the sink or dishwasher. Wiping toddler faces and putting the paper towel on the table instead of immediately in the trash. Folding laundry and leaving it in clean stacks on the floor to put away later. All of those little things have to be dealt with at some point. Maybe the end of the day, or maybe you’ll leave it for “tomorrow.” Mmm hmm. Just forcing myself not be lazy in those aspects has helped my nightly routine straightening up SO MUCH. Doing those things consistently have changed my habits which I have had for YEARS and make life more simple.

Daily laundry and dishes. For whatever reason, I always had “laundry days.” I separated out all of the laundry for all 4 of us and did load after load, then folded it all, and put it away. This was intense. I don’t know why that made sense to me, but I found another pearl of wisdom among some other cleaning article I got lost in and it mentioned the importance of daily laundry. Instead of 5 huge loads one day a week, I bought some Shout Color Catcher and at the end of each day I wash everyone’s things together. Towels, toddler clothes, work out clothes, etc. The color catchers work wonderfully at keeping colors and whites bright and the laundry loads are small and manageable. Folding and putting them away is easy! Same with dishes. Dirty dishes go immediately in the dishwasher and are washed each night, so every morning we put dishes away and start all over. Making my husband and toddler do the same is…a work in progress…but even if they don’t, it’s less mess for mama. Here’s my kitchen on a normal day now:

Have a “goodbye” spot. This is a place in your house where things can go before they are put out to pasture. Have it be tucked away, but not totally inconvenient or totally out of site. Mine is in a certain part of our garage. Having a designated place for things to be stored until you have enough to run to Goodwill, host a yardsale, etc. is great for lessening your household junk. It lets you think about whether you are ready to part with it, and it’s out of sight so it doesn’t bug you, but not hidden so you forget about it. Plus, in somewhere like the garage I can just load up the car and drop everything off when I’m ready. Easy peasy. If you find it hard to Marie Kondo things, try this method first. It’s like Marie Kondo with a safety net.

Clear couches, comforters, & counters. CCC. One of my ultimate pet peeves is having things where I want to sit. My husband has this bad habit of emptying his pockets on the back of our couch, or spreading his things out on the couch beside him if he’s working on his laptop. If I come into a room with two couches and a chair and nowhere clear to sit down, I loose it. Keeping seating areas clear, as well as beds and tables, it a great goal to have. A clean kitchen counter is my happy place. This keeps your down time relaxing, and opens up space for starting new tasks.

Make it a game. Encouraging little kids to help is great on so many levels. Toddlers LOVE lifestyle play. That’s why Melissa & Doug toys are genius! Instead of getting something where they can only pretend to clean, let them help out a little! Wipe windows, unload the silverware from the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen. Lately my 3 year old LOVES folding laundry, and I taught her to fold shirts. She’s pretty good at it! Win-win! She’ll also take a mower ride whenever she can get it.

Phone a friend. There is no shame in not enjoying cleaning, or not being good at it. I know several moms who pay someone to clean weekly or deep clean monthly. If you can do that- go for it! But if you’d rather improve your cleaning skills and efficiency yourself, ask a friend what they do. I asked Kate this very thing, which led to the inspiration for this blog and the one to follow (so stay tuned!) Kate is a cleaner. She has a routine, which keeps her household running like clockwork. I asked her for her weekly schedule she sets for herself. Other friends have found genius Pinterest hacks which save time too, so don’t be afraid to ask how your friends clean!

Give yourself time. If you have a tendency to be messy, don’t expect to become a neat-freak overnight. You can’t change a lifetime of habits overnight. (And if you can, please write a blog!) Set achievable goals, take it one day at a time, and strive for consistency. Try to make each day better than the last. Slowly you will find yourself with less work to do each day, which means you can dive into another project or start organizing those drawers or closets you never find time to get to.

When Kate and I started this blog, one of our primary goals was to be honest, not shiny. We are not perfect and neither are our houses. Just like (almost) everyone else. So, I say all of that to say it is OKAY if your house is always always always a mess. It really is. Even the cleanest of people, I’m sure, wishes things were a little more clean and tidy. Just think, when your kids are grown and the opportunities to make memories with little people has come and gone, your house can be clean. I would rather my house be messy and my kids be happy. When I’m 90 years old and recalling my greatest memories, I can ASSURE YOU I will not be picturing my clean house. So find a balance between messy & clean, don’t stress over the opinions of people who don’t live there, and be happy.

Any quick cleaning tips or habits hat have made a difference for you? Please don’t keep them to yourself! Share below!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

Motherhood, toddlers, Uncategorized

Easter Baskets for Babies & Toddlers

As parents we love getting our kids gifts, and Easter is no exception. Each year, as spring comes around, we all look forward to Easter egg hunts, dressing up, dyeing eggs, and filling Easter baskets with loads of goodies.

However, many parents don’t enjoy the stress of figuring out what to fill their child’s Easter basket with. It is easy to run out of ideas and to grab all the sugary candy you see all over the store. Of course, we want their baskets to be fun and enjoyable, but we don’t want to have our toddler on a sugar high. We try our best to find unique ideas that are practical and not a basket filled with sweets.

We tend to try to shy away from those basket “fillers”. You know, all the small pieces that will end up sprawled across the playroom floor in a matter of minutes. The kind that are waiting for your unsuspecting feet to step on in the middle of the night. The kind that end up in the giveaway pile only weeks after purchasing. Yeah, those basket fillers!  

We know you’d rather gift your kid with things that are fun and that gets plenty of use. So, we went on the hunt for the best Easter basket fillers that babies and toddlers would enjoy and that parents wouldn’t mind buying because they are super practical. We had to get creative and found five different categories to choose from to build your basket! We made it SUPER easy too, with the help of Amazon.

We’ve got what you need to make this year’s Easter basket for your baby and toddler the best one yet!

So, here is our list of Easter basket ideas for babies and toddlers.

Something to read:

Books are usually where I start when getting gifts for any holiday! They are a great way to introduce new topics and get their imaginations going. So, don’t forget to grab some fun Easter or Spring themed books to put in your kiddos Easter basket. And then snuggle up together and read as a family.

  • Little Blue Truck Springtime I actually bought this for my son LAST Easter and it is still one of his favorites. All of the Little Blue Truck books are adorable, but I love the interactive flaps in this one. 
  • Llama Llama Easter Egg – The Llama Llama books are always so sweet, and this one is no exception. 
  • We Are the Gardeners-This is my topic pick for this Easter! It is written by Joanna Gaines and all about gardening. I cannot wait to read this one to both of my kiddos. 
  • Mouse’s First Spring My daughters current favorite book. We read this book at least three times a day. The cute sound effects and pictures captures her attention every time. 
  • If you Plant a Seed– We are BIG into planting this year, so this book is prefect for spring. 
  • And then it’s Spring- Another cute Spring book for both our toddler and baby. Teach them all about Spring with this cute book.

Something to eat:

While we don’t want to pack our child’s Easter basket with sugary treats, snacks are the way to their heart! So, grab some of their favorite and swap them out in place of all that candy.

  • Goldfish
  • Fruit Bars
  • Granola Bars
  • Puffs
  • Graham Crackers

Something to make:

Toddlers love to build and create! We have found some fun crafts and activities to get your kiddos imagination flowing.

  • Birdhouse kit-This cute kit allows your kiddo the creative pow to decorate their own bird house. Once the house is built, watch their excitement grow as a bird makes a home.
  • Bug Catching kit- What toddler doesn’t love catching a few bugs and observing them? This kit invites so much awesome science play. Work with your kiddo to safely grab bugs to watch before releasing them. I can’t wait to catch a few ants and worms with my toddler!
  • Tie Dye Kit –A little messy, but so much fun! Grab a white shirt, and let your little one design their own tie dye shirt! You can make one for each member of the family.

Something to wear:

With warm weather coming use their basket as an adorable way to get them spring time ready!

  • Rainboots and Rain coat
  • Sunhat
  • Cute Sunglasses
  • Bathing suit
  • Flipflops
  • Cute Easter Outfit

Something to use:

Practical gifts are the best kind of gift! Something that they can use time and time again over the spring and summer. Here are a few of our topic picks.

  • Bubble Machine– A classic and a favorite of both of my children. Bubbles and even a bubble machine is a fun way to get them to run around outdoors, as the warm weather begins.
  • Play-Doh -To refresh your supply and offer a simple activity whenever you might need it.
  • Chalk– A new warm season, a new set of chalk. It’s just how it has to be! Our chalk from last year is looking pretty tired and may have gone threw a few rain storms! This fresh set should get the creative outdoor juices flowing!
  • Coloring Paper & Crayons– We use plain paper, so our baby and toddler can use their imagination as they color and draw. These crayons are also great for little hands to grab and scribble. As a bonus, they are also fun to stack!
  • Outdoor Paint– Keep the mess outside with these waterproof outdoor paints. They come with brushes and hours of fun.
  • Dot Markers – I use dot markers for a variety of activities. From art projects to finding letters, they are a great addition to your art closet.

Don’t forget to add your our traditions to your Easter Basket.

I hope you are able to get a bit of inspiration from this list and are ready to get that basket together! What are some of the things you’ve put into your child’s Easter basket?

XOXO Kate & Elizabeth

Motherhood, outdoors, toddlers

Letting the Outside In

Like many of you, we have been anxiously awaiting spring over here in North Carolina and cursing Puxatony for getting our hopes up this year. We had a string of warm sunny days, followed by a snow day, then another warm day, now 40 degree days with gale warnings. On Monday I was wearing shorts, and today I had to put two jackets on each of my girls to head to our doctor’s appointment. TWO. When you add a slew of viruses to the mix, we are more than ready to open our windows and break out the flip flops!

As boring as winter days stuck inside can be, and despite my current longing for actual spring, I sometimes feel that warm days can strike the same monotony. We tend to eat breakfast and head outside, but this mama needs some variety to keep me playing alongside my children, which I think is extremely important to do. I always push myself to be the mom running with my kids on the playground, not just watching them from the sidelines, no matter how much coffee and tylenol it requires!

That being said, here are a few of our favorite ways to mix up the monotony and enjoy those warm days of Spring:

  • Visit a farm. In our town we are lucky enough to have a farm that boasts a family-style restaurant and allows visitors to come and feed goats, chat with chickens, and gawk at llamas and cows. When an activity only costs me a handful of quarters to buy corn for farm animals, SIGN ME UP. Look online and see if you have a farm like this too! If not, you can always take a driving tour down some country roads. Pack a picnic and sit in the back of the car while watching cows or horses in a farmer’s field. It may not tire them out as much, but they will love it nonetheless!
  • Seas the day! Take a day trip to the water. Neighborhood pools are amazing things, but you can’t beat the allure of a pond, lake, or ocean. Let your littles get their toes wet! Look up public accesses online if you aren’t familiar with any in your area. Search for State Parks to see what each has to offer. Many will identify not only fun things like nature trails or scenic overlooks, but water access points as well. If you live in North Carolina, start here! If a wilderness water spot is out of the question, you can easily make a splash in your own backyard, no matter the size. We purchased this foldable pet pool, of all things, and it’s been amazing! We set it up in our yard, at the beach, and even outside of our camper. It drains and folds up small enough to stick in a beach bag. Highly recommend!
  • Go to the park, but skip the playground. We frequent the playground OFTEN. It is definitely a favorite of the tiny bosses around here. But as parents, it can get a little old! Am I right?! So pick a day and go to the park but avoid the colorful equipment. Stick to the tree line and explore nature. There are SO MANY ACTIVITIES you can put together in a matter of minutes. Make a scavenger hunt of things your child can find. Gather items to make a bird feeder. Take a bucket and have them pick up any little piece of the wild they want, then pull out the glue and make a collage when you get home.
  • Car wash time! Not literally. I mean, unless they’re up for it. That would be a win-win! But instead of making them wash the family transport, get them a rag and bucket and let them go to town on their little cars or bikes. You can give dolls an outdoor bath too, or plastic animals, anything!
  • Recycle! Take a cardboard box outside along with some markers, paint, crayons, stickers, whatever you have on hand! Have your child decide what to make…a rocket, pirate ship, race car, etc! Decorate and then watch their imagination run wild.
  • Catch a bug! Does anyone else have kids that LOVE bugs?! My daughter points them out all the time, loves her bug books, but still looses her mind when a moth gets in the house! Now, I am not the world’s biggest fan of bugs, but I see the opportunity here to show her the difference between good bugs and bad bugs and build that comfort level, so I’m going to take it. We were gifted an adventure kit for Christmas and we love it. My three year old loves to catch ants and rolly pollies now! You can also sacrifice some of those tupperware containers we all have too many of and let your kids catch & release from there!
  • Pitch a tent. Whether you dig out the ol’ camping equipment or take a flat sheet outside, your kid will go nuts! Why? Because it’s NEW! We really take for granted how such simple actions can make a child’s day. Enjoy some time being explorers outside in your makeshift hideaway, and if you are feeling crazy, make some s’mores! No need for a fire pit, just add marshmallow fluff to your next grocery list or microwave larger marshmallows (no more than a few seconds at a time, because guess what, they catch fire amazingly fast in there!)
  • Lights, Camera, Picnic! There’s nothing wrong with a movie now and then. Even a movie day! So embrace that nice pre-summer weather and take movie time outside. Grab your phone, tablet, or laptop and pick a family favorite. Pop popcorn or eat a meal together al fresco! You may even want to splurge on an outdoor projector if you have a backyard suitable for gatherings or spending a lot of time in. My family loves this one for backyard movies and camping trips!
  • Smell the flowers. Botanical gardens, memorial gardens, a local nursery, or even a trip to Lowes! Walk through and smell the flowers. Talk about colors and smells. If you’re in a home improvement store, have your child grab some paint samples and find flowers of the same color in the garden center. Play is everywhere! If the mood strikes you, take a few flowers home and plant them in a special spot. Every yard could use another plant or two.

If I wasn’t already, I am now drooling over that springtime sunshine and hoping it will be here to stay soon enough! What are your favorite spring & summer activities? Share with us in the comments below!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

Motherhood, sharing, siblings, toddlers

This Is How We Share

Children are selfish. They live their little lives like we would often like to. Do what you want, when you want, how you want. Something breaks? Oh well. Decide to quit halfway through? Cool, let’s leave that for mom to finish. Want something someone else has? Grab it and RUN. Literally, run. It is our job, as boring, rule-following adults, to teach our children to tone it down a notch, basically.

When my first daughter was 18-24 months old, she really struggled with independent play. She wanted us involved in any and every activity, which was really tiring to say the least. Her go-to “play” was just to hand us everything. EVERYTHING! We made a fair amount of headway before baby sister came along, and continued to learn to play on our own. But, now as baby sister is walking around, of course she wants to get her paws on anything and everything. However; what really took me by surprise was that my oldest now wants to takeover everything my youngest has! Shouldn’t it be the other way around?! My youngest will play on her own and find her own toys, and my oldest tramples in to “play with her” with the best intentions, but ends up taking over the activity. And thus began my curiosity on how others reinforce sharing.

At first I just stuck with what I knew. We take turns. That makes sense and is fair, right? But while it seems simple to us, it really isn’t to the toddler mindset. They are giving up something that they don’t want to, not knowing when they will get it back. And in some cases sharing means not getting something back at all. When I tell my oldest to share her snack, she does so very reluctantly, understanding that this means she gets less snack (and therefore she usually starts eating much, much faster.) This seemed okay for awhile, but as my youngest grew more mobile it became less effective. How do you explain taking turns and asking for a toy when the littlest member of the family yanks a toy and runs with no intention of returning it? How do you make a 3 year old share her goldfish crackers and not expect your 1 year old to do the same? This technique left me struggling to explain “it’s because she’s a baby” and led to some confused and hurt expressions from my oldest (even though she always took it like a champ!)

Then we toured my daughter’s preschool, a cute little Montessori school a town over. I was introduced to a new ideology on sharing, and loved how simple it was. When another child is playing with a toy or activity, it is theirs for as long as they want it. Once they put the toy back it’s up for grabs again! What?! This blew my mind a little bit. I was always raised with same-time sharing in mind. Share or no one plays with it. My favorite results from this Montessori method are that they A) allow a child to fully play with an activity without having to pause their imagination and B) they learn patience. Waiting is hard, even for adults! Understanding early on that waiting is kind and a valuable life skill is amazing. This is also easier to enforce with smaller children, because they don’t have to understand when they can and can’t take a toy from another child and you don’t have to wrestle it back from them and try to explain they are sharing. No positive associations with that word right there!

My only hesitation with this method was, how do they learn to play together? If they are always waiting on a toy, WILL they play together? The answer is yes. I think that in the “waiting” and watching, the child playing with the toy first is allowed to shine and lead the playing. They create the rules for this short-term play and the second child adapts. In my experience at home, they always end up playing together, and if things start to go south the best method is distraction. Lead the other one to a new activity. My girls rarely battle over toys these days, so I think it’s a successful sharing practice! But as in most things in life, I always try to be open minded to trying new things. There is no black and white over here, we bend and stretch the rules to learn what works best for us.

So here are some tips for getting kids (age 1-3, because that’s the experience we have!) to share:

  • Watch their interactions first. Every child is different. Some will be content with the dynamic struck, even if one child is doing the majority of the playing. Let them try to work it out themselves. Aka, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! If you notice a power struggle, step in and try a few of these tips.
  • Lead by example. Share your food with them. Share the TV. Share books or magazines with your spouse. Sit on the floor and play with a toy, then share it with them. Let them know you are sharing and they are doing a good job sharing with you. When they can associate good feelings of being played with to the word “share” they are more likely to want to do it on their own. They now understand this is a good action.
  • Encourage clean up. Not only does this save the adults in the house a ton of time, but it’s an important life skill to learn to be organized and see things through. It also is a clear cut signal that they are done with that toy or activity and it is now available again. No more abandoned toys in the middle of the floor and screaming, “I was still playing with that!”
  • Decide which toys are NOT to be shared. Whenever we have playdates we put our favorite bear and baby doll in our room. We know that those are special toys that we have decided that we do not need to share with others. Setting those aside also lets my toddler know that all other toys ARE to be shared. Between siblings, my oldest knows that toys in the living room can be shared and if she doesn’t want her sister to play with her favorite bear or baby doll then they should be left on her bed when she’s not playing with them. Personally, I believe that letting children have a special toy or two that they don’t have to share is important.
  • If a battle ensues, distract. Don’t try to over-explain sharing to them. They likely will be so focused on what they want to do in that moment that you might as well be speaking Chinese. Just allow the child to continue playing with their activity, and take the other one over to a new activity.

If you have any tips for us, please share! Especially for older kids as we are swimming in new waters every single day! What’s the saying? Once you get used to it, it changes? YEP!

Thank you for reading & keep us posted on what works for you!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate