My Toddler “Must Have” List

By the second year of parenting, I think all mothers, consciously or subconsciously, know their “must haves” to make it through a normal day with their toddler(s). I’ve made a list of some of the things that help our days run smoothly:

A special shelf. That’s right – a special shelf. Don’t ask me what makes raisins or plain crackers taste better when they come off the special shelf, but they do. A few months ago, I put a few “special treats” on a particular shelf. When Charbel was behaving  very well, I told him we would go get a special treat. He began associating the treat with the location (coming from that shelf), rather than what the treat actually was. Pretty handy. Now, anything that comes off the special shelf is a treat. I don’t know how long it will be until Charbel recognizes that an apple is an apple no matter where I pull it from, but until then, this special shelf is a lifesaver!

A bottomless refrigerator. I think this is more true for boys than girls… our boys eat round the clock. Easily 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, if not more. Charbel seriously eats more than I do, and Paul is getting pretty close…

Finger Food! The kids love it, the food can be perfectly healthy and creates a minimum amount of mess.

A rocking horse (or, in our case, giraffe). Something that allows them to move as much as they want without actually going anywhere. This is great for rainy days and days when we can’t take them out anywhere (we don’t have a yard to speak of…).


Objects for imaginative play. These go a long way in this household. Charbel has a huge imagination; Paul is still a bit young, but I think he does too… Stuffed animals, or the DIY felt hand puppets I posted about the other day (pictured below) can engage Charbel for half an hour or more… which gives mommy over half an hour of appreciated PRODUCTIVENESS! I encourage Charbel in using and developing his imagination, because in addition to being an engaging pastime, a well developed imagination in a toddler leads to well developed problem-solving skills in a child.


Fine-motor skill activities. Our best purchase of the year: this letter tracing device. Charbel uses it for HOURS each day.


It’s helping him learn his letters and develop fine motor skills. An alternative to the electronic device would be simply printing out sheets with the letters in large font, laminating them, and letting your child practice tracing them with a dry erase marker (wipe the sheet clean, begin again…).

* Some activities like play dough, crayons and Legos develop both the imagination and fine motor skills.

THE stuffed animal. Not any stuffed animal – THE stuffed animal. Both of my boys have a hands-down favorite stuffed animal : a dog – Charbel, and a stuffed snowman – Paul (OK, not exactly a stuffed animal, but it counts…). When it’s naptime, bedtime or time for extra comfort, these stuffed animals are GLUED to my boys… They are also a real lifesaver when we travel – when we go on summer vacation in the U.S., they often sleep in 5 different beds in the same month…  If they have their favorite stuffed animals, you won’t know the difference… Dreading the day these get too worn out!

Netflix. No, I am not in favor of kids watching a lot of TV, but I don’t mind them watching some, as long as it has some sort of educational value and good morals.  In fact, I sometimes NEED them to watch some so I can cook, get ready or do some things around the house. I have come to really appreciate Netflix. Sure, it has some junky shoes on there, but it has also made a lot of very good children’s cartoons available – shows I feel safe with and I can’t find readily elsewhere, at least here overseas. Barney, Thomas and Friends, little kid documentaries on helicopters, trains, plains, machines, the old Mickey Mouse shows… What’s for a little boy not to love?    

Well, there’s plenty more that goes into our day, but those are a few of the regulars that help our little family have an interactive, engaging and happy day. Looking forward to many, many more!

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