Why My Kid and I can’t get enough Coffee

It’s 6:40 AM on a weekday, we’re already up, showered, dressed, and halfway through breakfast and my almost 2-year old says, “Coffee?”

Yes. Coffee. Does he know me or what?

But his brilliant cognitive mind is NOT thinking of his Mama first, unfortunately. He’s [once again] thinking about himself.

We’ve had the Green Toys Tea Set since his first birthday, and it’s been in our toy rotation ever since. But in this house, we’re not much of “tea” drinkers. So we’ve always called it his “coffee set,” to create our adult-world in his child-centered play, just as Maria Montessori would suggest. 

I’m also a huge fan of breaking the gender norms when it comes to toys. My son has a tea (ehem strike that) coffee set, baby doll, and serves soup out of his kitchen like a master toddler chef. In fact, the Green Toys Tea Set in Blue is my go-to First Birthday gift for every boy pal just to be different, because I know that blocks, trains, and cars are always going to be in the mix.

Toys that promote a sequence of events during play (like tea/coffee sets), create more complex cognitive patterns in the brains of our little ones. The language that accompanies each of these events is rich with the ability to give your child an opportunity to hear more different words, which has been found to maximize vocabulary development.

So the sequence of play, and vocabulary magic would go something like this:

  1. Brew the coffee in the pot (cue loud brewing pssshhhh—puh puh noises)
  2. Pour the coffee in the cup, be careful not to spill!!!
  3. One scoop of sugar and just a tiny dash of milk, please
  4. May I have a spoon, please? Stir it up, mix slowly and carefully… oooooh, this is going to be delicious.
  5. Eek! It’s hot. Can you help me blow? Cool it down…. ok, ready now!
  6. Cheers!!!
  7. Drink! (cue loud slurping, gulping, and over-exaggerated MMMmmmmm sound)

Now, my toddler isn’t quite ready to do all 7 steps solo, but I can walk him through these and we serve coffee to family members and our closest stuffed animal friends, of course. Doing this sequence again and again promotes repetition, which is exactly what little brains need to grow.

Remember that play is your child’s job. So the next time you’re brewing your real cup of coffee, let your little one watch as you work the Keurig and once you’ve had your fix, your kiddo can brew a pretend cup to follow.

It’s kind of our morning routine now.

How to get your Toddler to TALK

You know what gets me really jazzed? Meeting awesome parents, like you!, that crave more and more information about their child's development. That's why I've teamed up with Adrienne Patterson from LearnWithAdrienne.com to give you boat-loads of ideas of what to do with your toddler.

The great thing about this video is that you've already got these very non-fancy toys laying around at home, so you can start boosting language, vocabulary, and play skills immediately. Check out the video here:

8 Holiday Shopping Ideas for Every Kid on Your List

Tis the season for indulgence and extra pie, cyber shopping, caroling, and gift giving. So this week, we’re bringing you our holiday toy guide, 8 essential tips for holiday toy shopping for every kid on your list.

These 8 key categories will teach you how to spot the best toys for language learning and getting cognitive wheels turning!

Go Old School

The classics are classic for a reason! Baby’s first Christmas? Check out these Uncle Goose classic blocks. Second time around, upgrade to these awesome Hape blocks. Maybe you’re kiddo is a bit older and ready for Legos.

My favorite toy ever is a shape sorter. Any shape sorter. Check out this First Shape Sorter for a newbie, or more challenging ones like this. More complex puzzles or toys that require building and use of size/matching concepts (like putting together train tracks) are perfect for creative minds.

No Batteries Required

Batteries are a hassle regardless, so simplify your child’s toys because simple can be better. Sounds and lights can be distracting, and take away from the language rich environment that you could be providing for your child during play. When you have your child’s full attention, you are optimizing a learning moment.

More words, less letters

Young children should be more focused on word learning and language development, rather than identifying, writing, and saying letters. Sure, we sing ABC’s for fun, but actual letter and number learning is more of a pre-school concept. So for the toddler, keep it simple and bombard them with strong vocabulary and language to enhance their development. Tell stories, sing songs, and really wait for your child to respond.

Forget Gender Toys

Why can’t a boy have a baby doll? Research has been done since the 1970’s showing what gender specific toys do for our children’s minds. The result, “girls toys” helped develop communication skills and emotional literacy, while “boys toys” encouraged more technical knowledge. Give your child the best of both worlds!

Bookshelf Awesomeness

Using pictures and book reading can always boost your child’s language and word learning. Choose books that have vivid vocabulary and opportunities for you to ask questions during reading. Take book reading to the next level, with new books this holiday season. Check out our recommended book list for ideas.

Get Real

On a budget this holiday? Sometimes the best “toys” are not toys at all. Children can learn and use pretend play using real adult items. For instance, an old set of pots and pans for pretend cooking, or head to the dollar store for some cheaper cooking or cleaning items, or set up for a tea party. Basic stationary and office items like envelopes, post-its, and paper bags can also make for great craft projects, like puppets.

Toy Rotation

If you haven’t heard about toy rotation, get on board. It’s a great way to use and reuse old toys, or swap with friends to give your child a new experience and an opportunity to build a new set of skills.

Less is More

Remember, that when it comes to the tangibles, less is more. The best learning opportunities happen when you are present as a parent. So get outside, get playing, pretend, read, and spend quality time with your kiddo, that you’ll never regret.

Happy Holidays!!!

10 Holiday Books, Not to be Missed

No spoiler alert here… books are amazing. In addition to all of the language and literacy benefits, they bring a child to a world they might not otherwise discover. They’re great for learning new vocabulary, building associations, and opening more flood gates to creativity and imagination.

In case you missed our Facebook post, a novel idea in Advent calendars is wrapping 24 books in anticipation for each day before Christmas.

(and since you’re getting this a tad late, you only have 22 books to go ;p)

They don’t have to be new books. Wrap some hand-me-down books, some favorites, some back of the shelf books, or library books!

If you’re looking for some holiday book recommendations, don't think I was going to leave you hanging!

The Littlest Ones (0-12 months)Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 9.55.22 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-01 at 9.58.07 PM

The “This ain’t my first Christmas!” Ones (1-3 years)

The Christmas Veterans (3 and up!)

Now I want to hear from you... What are your favorite Christmas stories? Are you establishing reading traditions at home? Are you a fan of the classics or do you have any off-the-radar books to share? Tell us in the comments below.

The one thing I’ve got a black belt in….

After 4 years of undergraduate education, 2 years of Masters degree, a fellowship in speech pathology, and ten years of practicing this trade, there is ONE thing that I know I do well…. like, really well….


Yup. I'm a total Sensei when it comes to bubbles. Black belt in bubbles. I use them probably 5 days a week at minimum between entertaining my little guy, and my clients. And why wouldn’t I?

Bubbles are the coolest thing ever. Right?

Not only are they captivating, in that you’ll have your kiddo’s attention in no-time, they make for a great opportunity for providing this incredible language rich environment. Here’s what to do:

Under 12 months:

Practice pointing and joint attention with baby. As you blow bubbles, choose one bubble to point at and share that experience with your baby. See if baby can follow your gaze and pointing finger. Use lots of repetition as you say things like “bubbles up up… and pop pop pop!”

12-24 months:

Be sure to really exaggerate that breath before you blow bubbles. They love that stuff. Work on verbs like blow, breath, pop. Practice turn taking and have your toddler ask for bubbles using signs or words like “my turn,” “give me bubbles,” or “more bubbles.” Practice size concepts like big and little, and see if your toddler can imitate the words.

2-4 years:

Try making your own bubbles at home and talk about the sequence of steps, using words like first, next, last. Make your own bubble wands and designs using pipe cleaners.

4 and up:

Talk about the why. Find out how bubbles work and start getting creative with all the goodness that comes with innovation.

Switch it up, do bubbles inside, outside, in the bathtub, in the garage, at the park. My fave Bubble Tumbler can be found here… love the no spill factor.

Now I want to hear from you! What activity does your kiddo love to do when the bubbles are out? Pop? Reach? Blow? Taste?!?! (bleh!) Leave a comment below!

8 Awesome Non-Food Treats for Halloween

Confession time... 

Before becoming a Mom, Halloween has been an all or none holiday for me. If it happened to land on a weekend, and some friends initiated plans, I did my best to come up with a creative costume and joined the party. I just have to brag for a quick second… one year I was a Box of Wine. Still my hall-of-fame costume, to date.

Once you’re a Mom, you’ve got to do Halloween! Even if it's a Wednesday, it’s kind of your parenthood obligation to post either a pumpkin patch picture and/or ridiculously adorable costume picture of your kiddo on Facebook.

Besides pumpkins and costumes, I’ve gotten in the spirit over here in San Francisco. We’ve got some of my favorite Halloween stories, including Skeleton Hiccups (a quick read that my little guy thinks is hilarious!), Ten Timid Ghosts (a fantastic counting and rhyming story, and for $3 it's a must-have) and The Ugly Pumpkin (a lovable pumpkin who doesn’t get picked but finds his place at the end of fall).

Now let’s talk Trick-or-Treating. My little guy is almost a year and a half. So, he hasn’t really had candy and I’m certainly not trying to get any into his Halloween bag, because then I have to fight my own willpower to stop myself from eating it.

I’m actually loving all the buzz about the Teal Pumpkin Project. A movement that is raising awareness for food allergies and promotes giving away non-food items too!

Since healthy eating is important in our house, I love the idea of giving away really cool, non-food items as TREATS. However, candy is hard to compete with. So without further ado:

8 Ridiculously Awesome Non-Food Treats for Halloween

1. Bubbles

An obvious choice. Check out these mini ones, great for the toddlers and preschoolers. Bubbles might not be as fascinating after that 😉

2. Stickers

Get festive with Halloween stickers of all sorts, this bulk buy allows you to just cut strips and give a few away at a time.

3. Play-Doh

I love Play-Doh. I use it just about every day at work (if you call playing with kids work!). Its great  for building sensory and motor skills, but I specifically use it to reinforce verbs during play. Open, shake, push, pull, press, squeeze, etc.

4. Wikki Sticks

What are these, you ask? Oh my goodness. I discovered Wikki Stix when a waitress brought them over for our little guy (instead of your usual crayons and paper) at a burger joint here in San Francisco. They’re great for keeping fingers busy, include instructional booklet if you want to use the stix to trace a design, or you can encourage your little one to create something new. And… best yet, if you have some left overs, in our adult world they work like charms for keeping wires together or marking wine glasses. Seriously! Buy these!

5. Glider Planes

I remember having these so vividly as a kid. My cousins and I would race them to see whose went the furtherest. We’d work on our negotiation skills and trade parts in hopes of creating the perfect airplane. They’re awesome for following simple directions when building, and great for using imagination during play.

6. Crayons, Chalk, etc.

There's no other childhood joy quite like using a new crayon or a new piece of chalk. They just don’t get old. Back to the basics is sometimes best.

7. Noisemakers

I’m torn on this recommendation. They give children so much amusement, but parents so much agony. Do what you will with this one. Or just be sure to give them all away.

8. Glow sticks

If these aren’t immediately put to use on Halloween night, then kids are stashing them away for their next sleepover or hiding in the dark just to see the amazement of neon lights. Be the cool Mom. Get the glow sticks.

Now I want to hear from you! Do you have any other non-candy Halloween ideas? Or maybe you’ve trumped my pre-Mootherhood Box of Wine Halloween costume from 2007? Leave a comment and share below!

3 Playtime Surprises for Baby

Ever since my little guy started crawling and cruising around the edges of the couch, he loved being chased. We’d pop out from behind a door with this expressive I’m gonna get you, he’d cackle in delight, and kisses and tickles directly followed. We’re still playing the chasing game, but now we just have to be more on our toes, since he’s getting kind of fast!

Does your baby love peek-a-boo too? Do they dig finding you hiding behind a wall? Do you get the same belly laughs that are pretty much the best part of your day?

Turns out that babies love being surprised. Why? Well, it actually helps them learn.

Babies have these sophisticated brains that start understanding what objects are capable of doing very early on. For instance, a ball can roll… a rattle shakes… and blocks can stack.

A recent study revealed that when babies are shown a surprising play idea, or they see the object do something that they don’t expect, they show deeper attention as they tried to understand the event. They examined the object and actually showed better learning, than the infants who were shown an event that they did expect.

You might have heard me preach about using toys in different ways.

This gives baby a chance to explore all the properties of one toy for better learning. And it’s up to us to show baby the surprising things too!

Playtime Action Steps:

  1.  Next time you shake a maraca, instead of holding it by the handle, hold it at the top and make an unexpected sound for baby. Try rolling the maraca across the floor or putting it inside another container and shaking to make it sound.
  2. Instead of building a tower with blocks, build a train and push it along the floor. Instead of putting blocks into a bag, put them through a paper towel roll, or in an old tissue box or oatmeal container and shake them up.
  3. Instead of just rolling a ball, you can bounce it, throw it up, or use a book and create an easy in-home ramp off the couch.

Surprise, Surprise!

So keep it interesting at home. Keep baby guessing and challenge what they already know. If you're looking for more ideas on how to make playtime easy, rewarding, and fun, then check out Baby School here.

The Mom Guilt is Real: A Pep Talk… and my BIG Announcement

We’ve all experienced Mom-guilt, and it’s terrible.

I accidentally gave my kid the non-organic banana! (*GASP*); Oh my god he fell to the floor when I was RIGHT there and now there’s this terrifying shiner on his forehead (*GASP*); I didn’t or couldn’t breastfeed (*GASP*), Work has been craaazy and I barely got to feed my kid a sensible dinner (*GASP*); Was I texting on my phone too much and not giving him enough attention just now? (*GASP* [and probably guilty]).

Here’s the thing, you’re doing great. Moms stretch their limit every day with heavy physical and emotional challenges, balancing it all.

You’re probably doing things you didn’t even know you were capable of. Being a master of getting things done during a 45-minute nap (ugh, really kid? 45 minutes?!?)

Maybe you’re the CEO of the house and you’ve got everything house on the brain. Maybe you’re a working Mom dealing with emails at 10PM and a crazy boss that doesn’t get life with kids.

Kids are resilient. And truly, they thrive in a nurturing, safe, and stimulating environments where they are challenged too.

That’s right… they survived the non-organic half thought dinner of cheese and crackers the other night. That shiner finally went away and there were only a few pictures of evidence it ever even happened. Formula-fed kids are smart too (there’s proof of it), and he was perfectly happy throwing blocks around while you texted your friend about her latest in-law drama.

We all do the best we can. And I’m here to be your cheerleader, your compadre, and your go-to for a few tips on how to make short amounts of playtime count for quality.

Baby School

I want to show you how 10 minutes a day of quality playtime can start challenging your children, help them thrive, and make you feel like the champion you are in enriching their development.

You’re going to feel like the rockstar Mom that you are.

Baby School is here. What’s Baby School??? I’m so glad you asked. Find out more here.

5 Ways to Up Your Reading Game

I love reading to my babe. I’m sure you’re the same.

He’s totally got his favorite books that we both have memorized, and sometimes we even resort to reciting them (without the book on hand) during long car rides or walks for entertainment and soothing effects.

We’ve all heard of the benefits of reading to your child. Great for parent-child bonding, building attention skills, fostering social-emotional development, and of course excellent for language development.

My most favorite thing about reading to my kiddo is switching up the way I read every time.

Being dynamic. Emphasizing different words, offering a mix up of dramatic pauses, pointing out different details on each page. So despite having the text chiseled into both of our long term memories, there is a new information every time we open the book.

Here are 5 ways to take book reading to the next level:

1.) Channel your inner-actor. Use different voices, change your intonation, and be dramatic when reading. Exaggerating emotions of characters (imagine just how shocked Brown Bear is when we notices a Yellow Duck looking at him!) can keep your kiddo engaged and begging for the next page.

2.) Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. It is the #1 way children learn words. Repeat phrases and sentences within a page, and emphasize different parts. For instance, “the caterpillar was still so so so very hungry.”

3.) Ask questions... good questions. Not just “Where’s the horse? or What’s he doing?” Ask about part/whole relationships, ask about feelings (Why was the cat so apprehensive about trying those green eggs?). If your kiddo is too young to answer these, ask them anyway and answer your own question.

4.) It takes two to tango. As much fun as reading is when you’re being this dynamic (I think I could probably entertain myself reading Peek-a-Who), let your child be as active as possible. Let them turn pages, give them time to practice sounds, and follow their lead for the speed of reading to make sure they’re still interested. It’s ok if you don’t get to the end of a book.

5.) Play charades. It’s true that using gestures can help kids learn words and language. So act out different parts of a book, with or without the book! If your child hasn’t quite gotten to the word phase yet, they’ll have a blast expressing themselves through actions.

Ok. So you’ve got 5 new tricks at being a pro reader, and your kid goes on to be one of the luckiest to have such a cool Mom. Need a few different reads to spruce up your book shelf? Check out the Resources page for more.

Now I want to hear from you. What are your favorite reads? These past weeks, we’ve been partial to Tip Tip, Dig Dig and Doggies.  Leave a comment to help all the other Moms out there find some new go-to’s.

Foodie Baby, this one’s for you

I know that you fall into one of two categories:

1 - Your kid is a total omnivore, devours just about anything you put in front of them, tries all new foods instantly, and they LOVE eating, every meal, every time.


2 - You’re wondering if your kid willingly goes on a hunger strike at least once a week, just to test you… They loved your pasta yesterday but somehow today’s version is inadequate, but they always seem to have an appetite for goldfish crackers and lollipops.

The good news is, they can’t always be picky, right? It gets better… right? How many college kids only eat chicken nuggets and Cheerios?

So… if you’re looking for print to expand your baby’s food horizon (or at least up their vocabulary in the world of international cuisine), you’ve got to check out Amy Wilson Sanger’s series of World Snacks.

She’s bringing awesome tastes to your kiddo’s bookshelf. So check these out if you’ve got an adventurous eater, or looking to interest your best food critic in some new flavors, or know a foodie Mom that would love these books (maybe more than baby?).

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Hungry for more?! I would so appreciate it if you forward this email to a friend, and told them about these weekly word-tips!