Screen-free Rainy Day Activities for Toddlers

It’s the rainy season here in Manila.  A couple of weeks ago, there were at least three tropical depressions that entered the Philippines, giving us more than our fair share of rain.  Just this weekend, all our plans got cancelled or postponed because of the incessant rains. 😯 This means staying indoors for most of the days — enough to give our little toddler some serious cabin fever.

J’s daily routine always would always include some outdoor play time.  It’s as simple as a stroll along our neighborhood or a walk to the store and pick wildflowers or twigs along the way.  He also loves playing ball!  Football is a natural choice especially with his elder brother.  They would take turns in being the kicker and the goalie and would only stop when one of them is tired already.

Sharing with you now some of the screen-free activities that J enjoys indoors.  I know it can be challenging to keep the little ones preoccupied without turning to the Ipad or the television so I hope this helps mommies out there:

1.  Hide and seek — My little one loves playing this game and everyone in the household would happily indulge him.  He would go looking for a suitable hiding spot as the designated “it” patiently (oftentimes very slowly) counts 1- 10 until he finds one.  It’s fun to watch him wait in anticipation until one of his siblings find him.  It’s a test of patience and how long he can quietly sit still in one place.  On most cases though, he gives away his location because of uncontrollable giggles.  This game proves how little it takes to have fun together!

2.  Building blocks and magnet tiles  — I love how both toys are very versatile.  Sometimes, J would play with his blocks by sorting them by color.  He does the same with the tiles and sorts them by shape and then practice counting.  On other times, he would try to build something like a rocket, a tower, a house or a sword.  His play switches from the blocks to the tiles, depending on his mood.  I love that these toys encourage him to be creative and imaginative.

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3.  Coloring and doodling — I first introduced J to colors by making him paint.  Unfortunately though, it was not quite the hit that I hoped it would be.  I soon found out that he disliked getting messy so painting and getting his hands “dirty” did not interest him.  He, however, has a totally different reaction when I gave him a set of basic crayons.  He immediately started doodling and drawing and has since then, been part of our go-to quiet time activities with him.

4.  Reading — We started reading to J when he was still a baby and it has been an all-time favorite ever since.  He likes to identify things in his picture books and loves to listen to story books as well.  Now that he’s a toddler, our story telling time has evolved.  Sometimes, I would ask him what he thinks would happen next in the story or ask questions to see what he thought of the characters.   There are even times when he chooses a book which we’ve read for many times and then starts “reading” it to me.  I love how this activity has become more interactive over time.

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5.  Singing and dancing J is such a music lover!  Put on any upbeat song and you would soon have him dancing to it in no time.  His current favorites are the soundtrack of Disney’s Cars movie and Lion King.  Just like most kids his age, he loves singing nursery rhymes.  We can go on and on with various versions of ABC and never get tired.  His sister is the biggest influence in music.  Their bonding moments include S playing the ukelele while the little one sings and dances along.

BONUS:

Since J is left mostly alone at home ans plays with his namny, he has a lot of individual pretend play time.  I get to see this in action when I am working from home.  He would be in the same room as I am but he will go on with his business and not bother me.  Instead, I’d get treated to a “show” as I listen to him concoct his stories and play.  Usually, it’s a big race among his cars.  Sometimes, it’s a re-enactment of a scene from a movie or a show, complete with dialogues usong different voices! I love it! 😍

During the course of the day, he will most likely watch an episode of Disney Junior’s Mickey and the Roadster Racers or maybe PJ Masks.  But these activities definitely limit his screen time without him feeling wanting.

How about you? What are your screen-free indoor activities with your little ones? Share with us in the comments section.

Cheers! 🎉

 

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5 Things We Can Do to Help Save Mother Earth

If there was one thing that I wish people would care more about, it would be doing something for our environment.  Every day, I see sad news about how damaged our earth is and I am worried that my grandchildren would not be able to enjoy nature’s beauty if we do not do something about it now.

I am not thinking of grandiose acts.  I only ask that we do our little share to preserve and care of the things around us.

And so, I picked out 5 of the most doable things that we can do every day to protect Mother Earth.

1.  Bring reusable shopping bags. — Most groceries and shops have banned plastic bags already.  The thing is, they are using paper bags as alternative.  This actually does not help the environment because the increased demand for paper will mean more trees being cut!

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As an even better alternative, just bring a reusable bag when you go shopping.   In fact, there are those foldable kinds which you can keep in your purse so that whenever you get into shopping mode, you can use it and refuse the store’s paper bag.

2.  Avoid single-use items.  — I want to be realistic here.  We sometimes turn to disposables for the convenience it offers and I hear that.  But being mindful of its use and trying to avoid it is already a stap forward.  For instance, I got really excited when the hubby got us a Keurig coffee machine for the house….that was until I realized how many K cups we were accumulating!  I tried researching for ways to recycle the K cups and found out that there are also reusable coffee pods that works perfectly with the Keurig.  This meant doing away with the single use plastic K cups and saving a little bit too.

Another way is avoiding plastic sandwich bags.  Instead, we try to use reusable food containers for my bread, sandwiches and cookies.  It may look like a small thing but that’s still one plastic saved a day!

3.  Say “no” to plastic straws.  — Admit it, there are only very few instances when straws are real necessities  like maybe when you go for need to drink your beverage while driving or when you order that ice-blended drink you love.  For most other times, we can all make the decision to ditch the straw and drink straight from the glass.  And it it really can’t be helped, consider investing in a reusable straw that you can keep with you.  There are different alternatives available in the market already, there is really no reason to use the plastic ones anymore.

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Bamboo straw is one of the more eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws

4.  Bring your own drink container.  — I always ask my kids to bring their water jugs when we leave the house so that we don’t need to buy bottled water.  It’s a win-win situation, if you think about it.  I save a few pesos while saving Mother Earth from more plastic bottles.

It’s the same for my morning brew.  I usually bring coffee from home in my tumbler instead of taking out coffee from the nearby coffee shop. Two birds with one stone!

5.  Practice mindfulness in the use of water and electricity. — Turn off the lights.  Unplug appliances that are not in use. Take shorter showers and use a cup when brushing your teeth.  These are basic things that we should be doing but sometimes take for granted.  Doing these consistenly will do wonders for both your utility bills and our environment.

These may seem small deeds but when we do this collectively and habitually, it could make a huge difference.  The little things matter when we all work together so let’s all do our share to save our home… to save our earth.

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*all photos taken from the web

5 Reasons Why We Travel with the Kids

Travel is one of the things we like doing as a family.  We love planning for roadtrips and out of town trips during holidays.  Of course, vacations out of the country are special and takes more time (and resources) so planning is longer and more deliberate.

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Our kids in one of our trips to Tagaytay

Our last trip overseas was in October 2016.  It was our first trip as a family of five and our first time in Osaka, Japan as well.  A lot of people were a little surprised that we were bringing 12-month J to the trip.  Some even suggested to leave him with my mom so that we can enjoy more.

“It’s difficult to travel with a baby.”

“Leave him with his Laly (Grandma).  He’s too young to remember this, anyway.”

I do recognize that bringing a baby with us on a trip changes the pace and even our itinerary but we really didn’t have the heart to leave him this time.

Truth be told, that trip was my first time to fly with a baby. S was already 2 years old when we first travelled by plane and it was only a 2-hour local trip.  That was also F’s first time to ride a plane and he was almost 4 years old during that time.  Admittedly, I was also a little anxious so I sought help from a friend who is a seasoned traveller with babies. Thank God for her and the tips she shared, some I really would not have thought of myself.

Many well-meaning friends advised N & I to wait when the baby is older before we bring him along in our travels.  I guess every one has their own preferences and I believe that we each should follow our gut.  But for those of you considering travel with kids, here are my five reasons why I think you should go for it (as I did) no matter what age:

1.  TRAVEL = FAMILY BONDING TIME – When we travel as a family, we are stuck with each other’s company whether we like it or not.  Inevitably, there are times when we get into each other’s nerves! Like when N would get frustrated with me when I navigate wrongly… or when F would be irritated with S and her constant bugging 😛.  For most parts though, we find it to be a great opportunity to reconnect and bond.  We get the chance to talk, have fun and create memories.

2.  TRAVEL PROVIDES for NEW & BIGGER ROLES – I remember one time when we planned a trip to Boracay with friends.  N had a business trip scheduled so we decided that it was most practical to just meet in Boracay.  This meant travelling with F & S (then 8 and 6 years old) by myself.  It was a pleasant surprise that the kids rose to the occasion and picked up after themselves.

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Boracay with F & S (2011)

During this recent Japan trip, S was such a helpful assistany to me, especially when taking care of baby J.  On the other hand, F was a willing helper to his dad, carrying our luggage and even navigating around the city.  They also learned how to be more responsible with keeping their own tickets, buying their meals and keeping their own stuff.

3.  TRAVEL TEACHES ADAPTABILITY and FLEXIBILITY – We all know that the most well thought-out travel plans can still go wrong.  Delayed flights, missing baggaes, weather abberations.  These things will teach our kids how to adjust and make the most out of unforeseen situations.  In this trip, we initially wanted to go to Universal Studios mainly for the Harry Potter experience.  After checking though, the crowd estimate was outrageous!  I actually still wanted to give it a try (being a HP fan that I am).  It was F who put things in perspective — that it would be difficult for J and that we would not really enjoy if there is waaaaay too much people.  S said that since they’ve been to two other Universal Studios anyway, they’re willing to wait a few more years till J is ready for theme parks. How is that for flexible?

4. TRAVEL LETS US DISCOVER THE WORLD FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE –  Experiencing a diffent culture first hand helps us appreciate better those things that are different from what we’re used to.  Personally, I used to dislike Japanese people (think World War II and how the Japanese invaded the Philippines).  But having been in close contact with them in this trip showed me how they are nice people,

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Snippets from our Japan trip (2016)

courteous, polite and very helpful.  I believe that when we expose our children to more of the world and its varying cultures, they will become more inclusive and accepting of others.  They will accept and appreciate diversity much easier.

 

5.  TRAVEL PROVIDES A BETTER LEARNING EXPERIENCE – Learning about a city or country by reading about it is so much different from actually experiencing it.  Travelling gives the kids a better learning opportunity as they see, feel, touch and taste what a place has to offer.  That was the case when they went to Times Square in New York or ate fresh sushi at the Kuromon market or rode the elephants in Thailand.  The experience makes everything more tangible and memorable.

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Times Square at night (2014)

And so, while there may be real inconveniences travelling with kids, for me, the benefits outweigh them by leaps and bounds that we will travel with the kids as often as we can 😊

5 Easy Ways to Save (Without Feeling the Pinch)

I have always considered myself as a frugal person.  I attribute this to my parents who have taught us early on that money does not grow on trees and so, should be spent wisely.  At a young age, we were “trained” to distinguish which are needs and which are simply wants.  Case in point:  while shopping for school supplies and I asked for those cute Sanrio pencils, we were told that we only needed Mongol pencil #2.  The Sanrio pencils that costs twice as much were nice to have but we didn’t really need it at that time.  Growing up, we hardly had any extravagant material possessions but strangely enough, I never felt wanting.  Maybe it’s because we’ve always had enough of what we needed and extras were spent on experiential things like dining in fancy restaurants or family outings.

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Now, as a mom myself, I try to teach my kids to also be save and be practical with their choices.  When they receive money as gifts, we take a portion of it for saving while they can spend the rest as they please.  It can be challenging at times but I am happy that they are learning to value money and saving at a young age.

Personally, I also try to keep finding ways to save from our household expenses.  I chanced upon an old budget notebook that i had when N & I were just starting out and I am shocked at how things (and expenses) have increased over the years.  I’ve never noticed but the small changes in spending behavior and lifestyle actually had a big impact on our budget.

So, after reviewing our current expenditure pattern, let me share with you a few easy ways to save without feeling deprived afterwards:

1.  Plan meals ahead. —  Planning meals offer a lot of advantages for me. Firstly, my family is ensured of a variety of food on the table.  Last thing I want is a whole week of chicken dishes because there is nothing else left on the fridge to cook!  Second, planning ahead minimized the stress of thinking what’s for dinner and for baon every single day.  A menu plan also works for my helper, who would already know what to prepare early.

Ensuring there is enough stock in the fridge and pantry also limited our emergency food take-outs and trips to the grocery.  While there is always the trusty sari-sari store, we know that their prices are always more expensive than the grocery.  Planning eliminated unnecessary shopping as well as over/understocking.

Lastly, as I recently involved the kids in coming up with our weekly menus, the food served is welcomed with delight and kid-approved! No more unfinished baon or spoilage! ☺

2.  Be conscious of the little things. — We rarely notice but the small efforts that we do can make a big difference.  How mant times have we been often told to switch off the lights when not in use?  And it does work!  So…turn off and unpug appliances especially when turning in for the night.  Close the faucet whie brushing your teeth.  Let natural light and air come in.  These may be insignificant acts but when put together, can make a dent in your water and electricity bill.

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3.  Make use of rewards programs.  — I have a separate wallet with membership cards of various stores that we frequently visit.  Most big supermarket chains and department stores woud have a rewards program to encourage patronage.  One time, I was pleasantly surprised that I already accumulated Php1,000 from my grocery rewards card!  On a separate occasion, I was able to buy a blouse for myself using my rewards points too! ☺  I’ve used these points also to buy gifts or other items that were not originally part of my budget so it didn’t make me guilty for buying something not in my list. ☺

4.  Brew your own brew. — Coffee is something that I cannot live without.  I need my caffeine fix in the morning if you want me productive and functional.  There was a time when a trip to Starbucks or Tully’s became part of my daily routine…until I realized how expensive this habit was becoming.  I spend Php100-150 easily on a cup of coffee, which is approximately Php2,000 in a month’s time!  Good thing, I discovered this hazelnut-flavored coffee beans in the grocery.  500 grams costs about Php400 which is good for two weeks of coffee for me and the hubby!  That’s good savings right there without sacrificing on taste and flavor!

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5.  Pay bills on time.  — I am usually prompt in paying bills and for credit cards, I make sure to pay in full because of the very high interest rates.  However, there was a time when I was so busy with work that I forgot to pay one credit card on time.  The delay in payment resulted in about Php3,000 in interest charges!  It may seem small but that amout could’ve been put to better use, right?  As soon s I got the bill, I called the credit card company and pleaded to reverse the charges.  Maybe they saw my payment history and decided to allow this one-time slip.  From then on, I promised to ALWAYS, ALWAYS be mindful of due dates and pay on time.

These are just few of the many ways we can save without really feeling the pinch.  I am sure a lot of homemakers out there will also have some tips to share so feel free to do so in the comments section.  I’d love to hear from you and learn some more. ☺

5 Things to Never Say or Do to THIS Pregnant Woman

I am now on my 18th week with Baby#3 and as expected, my bump is already starting to show.  I am loving the preggy belly but I am not sure what is it with the bump that elicits some of the most irritating behavior and insensitive remarks from people!

So I decided to do this post and come up with a short list of what not to say or do to pregnant women…at least to this one. 😉

1.  “Can I touch your tummy?” —  This is at the top of my most infuriating list!  Even worse are those who do not ask at all and simply assume that it’s okay to grab and rub my tummy. Excuuuuse meeeee! My belly is MY BELLY!  It encroaches on my personal space when people just suddenly rub it and yes, this includes well-meaning friends and relatives.  The only people who have unrestricted belly-touching privileges are the hubby and kids.  It gets even more annoying when people add the “for good luck” comment while touching me, like I’m some sort of Buddha. Not cool, really!  So, enough with the belly rubbing please.  And I mean NOW.

2.  “You’re already on your fourth month?  You look so small.” —  I know this is intended to be a compliment but really, the translation running through my head is “Are you sure your baby is okay?” or “You look tired and stressed.”, which isn’t positive any which way I look at it.  Being pregnant leaves me with days feeling ugly and unattractive.  And certainly, there are those days when I am tired and stressed out.  In those kinds of days, it really doesn’t help hearing those comments so better if you keep these thoughts to yourself.

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3.  Incessantly asking “Do you know the gender of the baby?” or “What are you going to name it?” —  I understand that people get excited with pregnancy and babies.  I get that, really.  But please understand that being pregnant is also a personal thing that I undergo.  Sometimes, I just want to keep some of those details to mysef and my family first.

So stop hounding me with gender questions and baby name options.  If you’re important to us, we will tell you when we’re ready.  You just have to be a little patient. ☺

4.  Acting like the pregnant police.  —  You mean well, I know.  When you keep reminding me to stop with the caffeine or the sugar, or to eat more of this and less of that, I know that you have my best intentions at heart.  But you see, I know these too!  I’ve read enough books and been through two previous pregnancies to know which is okay and which may harm my baby.  So I hope that you can give me a little credit on that and cut me some slack when I sometimes feel like eating that small bag of potato chips.

5.  “Did you plan to have another baby?”  — This is when I grit my teeth, try to smile and walk away slowly.  This is really none of your business.  End of sharing.

My list is probably just the tip of the iceberg.   I am sure other expectant mothers have heard and dealt with so much more than this.  In most cases, I am sure that the comments and gestures are not meant to deliberately hurt or annoy us.  But sometimes, it just does.  So before saying another word, pause for a while and think through it again.  A little bit of understanding and sensitivity would go a loooooong way….especially to hormonal pregnant ladies like me.

And with that, I leave you all with a smile and a peace sign! ☺✌  Cheers!