15 July 2015

#DIY mini Lego crayons

When Riley's older cousin Ethan migrated to Dubai last year, one of the hand-me-downs he received was a big tub full of crayons. They came in different sizes, brand and colors. It proved useful because Riley liked sifting through the crayons and sorting them into color groups.

Lego image courtesy of the husband
When he started playing with Lego toys (his papa played with them too), he lost interest and the crayons were put aside. Luckily, I found and bought a Lego silicon mold which I intended to use for chocolate but ended up using it to make Lego crayons instead.

Making the Lego crayon is really simple. You just need the Lego silicon mold, used or new crayons and a microwave. Most of the tutorials I found online uses an oven. I opted to use a microwave since I want to make my crayons in minutes not hours.

First, peel the paper from the crayons. I have my assistant here sorting the crayons into color groups while I do all the peeling.

Break the crayons into small pieces so they can melt fast and easy.

I placed the crayons in a baking cup (used for cupcakes) instead of placing the crayons directly on the silicon mold. When I tried it out the first time, I placed the crayon bits directly on the mold. It took longer to melt in the microwave plus the wax and color separated which produced a white portion on the upper layer of the crayon.

After cooking the crayons in the microwave for about 10-15 minutes (depending on the amount of crayons in the cup), I transferred the liquid in the Lego silicon mold. You have to be careful as the liquid is very hot. Though if you take your time and transferred the liquid too slow, they might harden a bit.

To quicken the setting process, I placed the Lego mold inside the freezer for about 5-10 minutes. This made it easier to pop them out from the mold.

And there you have your Lego crayons!

Riley's reaction upon seeing these creations was priceless. He even told me, "Wow, you made this because you love me Mama." *heart melting*

He now has about two dozen of these mini Lego crayons and as much as I would love to say that he uses them to color... well, he decided to use them as toy figures.

29 June 2015

To spank or not to spank that is the question

As much as I try to be present for my son during the weekends, I prefer to have at least a couple of hours for 'me' time. A cup of coffee, strolling in the mall, or an hour of mani-pedi... I feel it's not too much to ask after working for five days.

Riley is usually clingy whenever I am at home. I understand that since we only get to be around each other mostly during the night on weekdays. So on weekends, I take care of him even if our nanny is around. I can say that I am used to the chaos that comes when taking care of an active toddler.

Well, I am so wrong. I let my emotions rule my thinking that day.
It was a busy weekend filled with appointments, parties, and household chores (excuses, I know).
It was the first time I spanked Riley's hand.

I had just prepared his bath with the right temperature so he would not protest that it was too cold or too hot. He brought a dirty soccer ball to the tub and despite telling him not to do it, he placed it in the clean water. After two days of being tired (plus the summer heat is not helping at all), my temper rose and without thinking it over, I spanked his hand once and told him to listen to me.

He was surprised. He became quiet while I prepare his bath again.
I shrugged off my guilt as I was thinking that maybe he learned his lesson.

Later that evening, when we were having our nightly routine of him playing a monster truck game on my phone, I gave him a couple of warnings that it was time to sleep. After giving him a few more minutes, I took away the mobile device even when he was protesting. Then he slapped my hand.

My two year old son slapped my hand.

I was understandably shocked and felt guilty immediately. I know he did this because he imitated what I did to him earlier that night. I asked him why he slapped my hand and he said because I was not listening to him. Worse nightmare confirmed.

I told him that I was sorry for slapping his hand earlier and I promised not to do it again.
He told me the same thing. But I still feel guilty. I just hope that this will not be the start of him hitting other people when he does not get his way.

I found a useful article (from positiveparenting.com) that really helped me see things in perspective and hopefully remember the next time I am in the same situation as last weekend.

To summarize, here are 9 things can do instead of spanking your child:

  • Get calm (I should have done this! So obvious but hard to do!)
  • Take time for yourself
  • Be kind but firm
  • Give choices
  • Use logical consequences
  • Do make-ups
  • Withdraw from conflict (and this too!)
  • Use kind but firm action
  • Inform children ahead of time

From this day forward, I will strive to not spank my child. Ever. Forever ever.

24 June 2015

A progressive learning approach for my toddler's first school year

They said learning starts at home. But what if your home does not provide enough engaging stimulation for your child to learn?

Send them to a learning center.

I did not want to be the parent who pushes their offspring to do a task when the child is clearly not ready. In Riley's case, he had a previous exposure to school playgroups. Last year, he regularly went to 'school' every Saturday and was exposed to the teacher-student setting. When the summer class ended, his mind was still set on going back to the school. Maybe it stuck since the school was inside the mall.

Since we have decided to send him to school despite him being less than three years old, we are faced with another crucial decision. Which school do we send him to? Choosing the right preschool for him was a challenge. We wanted the school to be near our house, affordable tuition fees, have a low teacher-student ratio, and with a good learning environment.

There were a lot of good Montessori schools near our village but the tuition was astronomical for Nursery level and travel time was around 30 minutes. I was disheartened because I wanted Riley to experience learning that way. I have read about Maria Montessori and her philosophy of giving the child independence to learn what he/she wants (within limits). "The Montessori method of teaching aims for the fullest possible development of the whole child, ultimately preparing him for life's many rich experiences." (source)

I have heard of stories where the toddler was forced (strapped down by the arms of a grown-up) to sit down on their chair for an hour everyday until they obeyed on their own. This is not acceptable for me. These type of experience will traumatize the child. Hearing about it traumatized me!

Luckily, we found a progressive school inside our village (5 minutes away from our house). I have not heard about progressive learning prior to discovering this school. Upon reading about their approach to learning, I am full on-board the progressive train. I found this local website that gives you detailed information on progressive learning. In a nutshell, they encourage "learning by doing" and claims that children learn best when they pursue their own interest. They let the children play while injecting knowledge in an experiential way. For example, they are doing arts & crafts where the kids are making a face using different shapes. Here they introduce the basic shapes (circles, triangles, squares) while having fun making a goofy looking face.

“The actual interests of the child must be discovered if the significance and worth of his life is to be taken into account and full development achieved. Each subject must fulfill present needs of growing children . . . The business of education is not, for the presumable usefulness of his future, to rob the child of the intrinsic joy of childhood involved in living each single day,” ~ John Dewey

After being briefed by the teacher, I have learned that they do not give assignments, they give student assessments (or progress reports) instead of the typical grading system, and the thing I like the most is that they adjust what they teach your child depending on his/her skill set. Riley has a well-developed language and motor skills but his social skills need more work. Although he can converse with you, recite the ABCs and count 1 to 20, he needs coaxing to share and mingle with new people.

It has been a week since school started so it is still too early to say if it was a good decision to send him to school this early. He is only in school two hours a day, Monday to Friday.

And yes, we are currently dealing with separation anxiety. More on that in the coming weeks.

13 May 2015

This is the way we brush our teeth – Six toothpastes in one review

With a spunky toddler like mine, brushing teeth is another battle we have to face three times a day.

I became very diligent with having his teeth brushed properly when his first tooth stain happened last December. Holiday season means a longer commute home so I normally got home around 10pm. Since I leave for work at 6:30am, I hardly got to see Riley last December. I trusted his caretaker to at least brush his teeth once a day. After two weeks of  this set-up, I noticed that the middle of his front teeth has started darkening! When I asked his caretaker how often his teeth got brushed, she said that she can only brush Riley's teeth when I am around. That means only during the weekend! I was so pissed!

I tried to rectify the situation by brushing his teeth in the morning before I left for work. My husband will supervise his teeth brushing during noon. And I will diligently brush his teeth again at night. Sounds like a good (military) plan, am I right? Now, if only Riley will cooperate.

Brushing away those cavities with the Pigeon toothbrush

He will only let us brush his teeth if he is occupied with a mobile phone. He will either play with the camera or play with the dozens of games I have downloaded for him. If we do not have that, we had to hold him tight and brush his teeth while he is screaming bloody murder!

After visiting a Pediatric Dentist (located in SM Southmall), we were told that using a fluoridated toothpaste is better (in small amounts though!).

Below are some of the toothpaste that Riley has used in his oral care journey. To be fair to him, I actually try them out before giving it to him so that I can relate if it is as yucky as he said.

This is the most used toothpaste as you can tell. Price: Php100+

First one is the Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection with Sugar Acid Neutralizer (that was a mouthful). I like this one because the minty taste was not overwhelming, does not get too foamy, and the sugar acid neutralizer supposedly helps in fighting cavities. It contains 1450 ppm (part per million) fluoride. Technically, this is not a recommended toothpaste for children younger than two years old because of the high fluoride content. Since they cannot properly spit out the toothpaste, it stays in their mouth longer and this leads to enamel fluorosis (small white spots or discolouration of the enamel). I give him a very tiny amount (a swipe on the toothpaste, smaller than the standard pea size) every time I brush his teeth. At first he said it was yucky as it does have a slightly bitter taste but after a while he got used to it. The teeth does not feel that squeaky clean after brushing though.

Elmo sold us on this one! Price: Php54

We bought this Hapee Kiddie toothpaste because Riley likes Elmo! It does not say on the packaging but after searching the web, it says it contains 1500 ppm fluoride. Taste is suppose to be strawberry but it tastes weird. Riley confirms it when he tried it and he almost vomited. It was very foamy even when I used a tiny amount. Despite the taste, it does leave your teeth squeaky clean so I still might continue using this once in a while. 

Riley's first fluoride toothpaste. Price: Php70+

This Aquafresh Milk Teeth toothpaste for 0-2 years is the one that the dentist recommended for Riley. We have consumed two tubes of this before trying out other toothpaste brands. I liked it because there was almost no taste but it was not that foamy. I somehow like foamy toothpastes. I noticed that his teeth are still stained with milk after brushing with this so I decided to try other brands to see the difference.

Bought this because of Spiderman. Price: Php41

This Colgate Spiderman toothpaste is the one I pack in Riley's diaper bag. It's small handy size means that it will not add more weight to an otherwise heavy bag. I find it similar to the Hapee Kiddie Toothpaste. It has normal foam and slight minty taste (which means it was yucky for Riley). We only use it when we are out of the house.

A fluoride-free alternative. Price: Php100+

We use this SansFluo Xylitol Swab when I don't feel like having a brushing battle with Riley. Just place some drops on clean wipes and rub on the teeth. Quick and hopefully pain-free (if he doesn't bite your finger). I don't really feel that his teeth are cleaned with this solution. As an added teeth protection, I try to brush his teeth with the normal toothpaste then follow-up with this solution. I'm thinking it will create a barrier so that the cavities will not stick so much to his teeth. We use this together with the Spiderman toothpaste. I've also tried their toothgum wipes. I find that more convenient to use since you just take it out of the packaging and wipe the teeth with it. It was more expensive though at ten wipes per Php149.

Price: Php97

Tiny Buds Tiny Fangs Tooth Gel Stage 2. I used this when he was still less than a year old. Never used it again since we started using fluoride toothpaste. I like this better than the SansFluo toothpaste because the teeth feels cleaner. You can use it with the silicon finger toothbrush or wipes. What I don't like is that it tastes slightly sweet.

In conclusion, we still use the Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection with Sugar Acid Neutralizer because I am happy with the fluoride content and Riley is used to its taste. Our back-up toothpaste is the Hapee Kiddie Toothpaste since I love the squeaky clean feeling.

What toothpaste brand do you use?

08 May 2015

How I enjoy eating in a restaurant with my toddler

When Riley was still a few months old, I thought that eating out with a baby was hard because of all the things you have to worry about when in public (germs, heat, poop explosion). What I did not expect was that it was going to be much harder to dine out with a toddler.

Ordering food at 8cuts... Looks can be deceiving 

Being a picky eater, Riley is one hard-to-please customer. He cannot stay put in his seat, wants to touch and play with everything he can get his hands on, and when he finally touches the food, he will say yuck.

At first, we picked out the restaurants where we know he can eat the items on the menu. After gaining so much weight from all the fastfood restaurants and being so stressed out from forcing him to eat, I told myself that enough is enough.

Jollibee is his happy place
Guess where? Jollibee!

Now, instead of letting him dictate where we eat, we get to choose which restaurant we will try next. It's a hit or miss. He doesn't always eat the food. We order the stuff that we think he might like or recently he will be the one looking at the menu and base his order from the pictures. Sometimes I also make a plan. If I know he will not like the food in that new Thai place, I will feed him at home before we leave so that when we are at the restaurant, I will not be forcing him to try to eat the food there. He can just taste it if he wants to and if he does not want to eat it, I will not stress myself about it and just let it go.

It works for us since we can enjoy a simple meal outside our home with the whole family. And Riley gets to try a variety of food from different places without any pressure from us. Sure he eats his rice with french fries and drinks his milkshake with a spoon. We're embracing his uniqueness (with food!) instead of fighting it.

yummy ice cream with cookie at Bono

02 May 2015

Experimenting with YouTube toy videos

Riley watches these toy review videos almost all the time now. He still watches a little bit of Disney cartoons on the side. But every time he sees the television, he will demand to watch YouTube and see the wonderful toys the kids are playing with. And it always ends with him asking to go to the mall and buy the recent toy that he has seen!

So, as an experiment, we decided to create a toy video featuring him!

It was hard to shoot as we had to make him stay seated in the same spot for more than a minute. If you have an active toddler like mine, a few seconds on the same spot is like torture! My video editing skills need a bit more work but that can easily be fixed with a little more practice.

29 April 2015

Tuesdate at Little Tycoon Playhouse

Instead of buying Riley new toys, I wanted him to have new experiences in his young age. We are not exactly a rich family where we can afford to give him everything a child his age may want. But I will certainly try to expose him to the real world in  a way that his toddler mind can handle and understand. 

Immediately ran to the cars as soon as he stepped inside

With playhouses / playgrounds, he is able to experience interacting with kids and learning how to deal with different scenarios. Sharing is still hard for him but a gentle reminder of "Share your blessing!" is enough to make him want to share the toy or play space. He is also starting to converse with other people. 

Just yesterday in the playground, a kid accidentally stepped on his fingers. He immediately told me what happened and after he felt better, he started telling other kids that he hurt his fingers. It's funny because the other children are puzzled why Riley was telling them that information.

I've discovered this relatively new playhouse located at the 2nd floor of Westgate Center, Filinvest. The banners that I saw posted on the lamp posts in the area notified me that they just opened. If not for those, I don't think I would have known about them as that area is too far from the mall and not really noticeable. 

Wide play area

Variety of shops for the kids to choose from
Doorways are a tad small for adults but I can't complain as they are meant for the little ones

We dropped by on a weekday afternoon and since it's existence is almost unknown, Riley was the only one playing there! One hour play time fee is at P200 and you have to pay an additional P50 for the adult companion. Unlimited play time is at P400 which is not too bad. I hope in the future they will have an option for an additional 30 minutes play since if you exceeded the grace period of 5 minutes they will charge you automatically for another hour.

At the stage area, where he wanted to take home the balloons

Inside the cafe

Inside the Japanese restaurant

Riley served me a salad since I was on a diet!

At the salon checking out the hair cutting tools

Depositing the coins in the bank. He said he can finally buy Cra-Z-sand!

Inside the toy palace. It's scary to think how he will be able to reach the other toys without an adult present.
It was a well spent afternoon at the Little Tycoon Playhouse. Riley did not want to leave when his hour was up! I heard they also accept birthday party reservations as one customer was confirming her set-up while we were there.

We would definitely be back soon and hopefully more kids will flock this place so he can have playmates.