In the Kitchen: Baby & Toddler

Our readers out there with children know all too well that kids have a ton of stuff.  Toys, strollers, clothes, shoes, diapers, and movies.  Well, kid clutter extends into the kitchen, too.  Why can’t manufacturers make more collapsible, easily stored, square items?  I don’t know, but personally, I find it annoying.  Anyway, I’m here to share a few tips on storing bottles, formula, sippy cups, plates, bowls.

Tip number 1:  Keep plates, bowls and silverware at toddler height.  This limits the “No, I don’t want that one” argument Vincent and I often had.  Instead, he can pick out his own bowl/plate/spoon/fork without arguement and he can help empty the dishwasher by putting his items away.  We also keep cloth napinks his drawer for easy, eco-friendly cleanup. 

Tip number 2:  Keep one small cabinet of cups, bottles, formula, and other random kitchen items.  Using a small cabinet limits the amount of accumulation, while keeping the ugly out of sight, but close at hand.  Store the most often used items on the lower shelves and less often used on the higher shelves. 

Tip number 3:  Invest in a few “cleaning faces and hands” only rags.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to have my face wiped with the same rag used to clean the chicken parmesan mess.  Just sayin’.

Oh, Baby! Clutter?

A few weeks ago, I touched on the subject of storing toys, but I’m back to give a few more tips, specifically baby related.  How can someone so small have so much junk stuff?  Clothes, blankets, baby bathtub, car seat, and toys!

Tip number 1:  Stick to the basics and necessities.  Let me start this off by telling you my little secret.  When Vincent was an infant, we received a hand me down swing and bouncer seat from relatives.  I think V used each item once in his first month, so I donated them.  He didn’t seem to mind.  If your baby never uses these items, he or she can’t miss having them.  There are so many baby items being manufactured today that we never had as children, and we’re fine.  I mean seriously, wipe warmers?  By sticking to the essentials, you’ll have minimal baby junk to store.

I think an infant bathtub is an essential, so we keep ours in Everett’s side of the closet.  Of course, he won’t use it forever, but it is so helpful.  It’s relatively convenient to get it when preparing for a bath, seeing as we have to get an outfit, too. 

Hang clothes and not fold.  If you have floorspace, add a dresser to hold toys and smaller items. 

Tip number 2.  If you have the space, go vertically with your storage.  The cubes in the closet were designed to hold shoes, but it turns out they are the perfect solution for storing diapers in storage totes.  If you can’t build cubes, add a hanging shoe organizer, like this one.  Get smaller items up and off the floor to make room for larger, harder to store items. 

Tip number 3.  Utilize under the bed storage.  Don’t let valuable floor space go to waste under a bed.  Buy totes to store clothes, toys or bedding to free up closet space.  Vincent actually has a fleet of Tonka trucks and blocks stored under Everett’s crib.

Tip number 4.  Buy tons of clear storage bins.  Store larger clothes in clear bins with labels so you can see what you have.  This will keep everything at hand, so you can quickly swap items out when the seasons change or baby gets bigger.  We know they grow so quickly.  Once you have a bin of too small clothes, label it and you can put it in the garage or basement to keep it out of the main storage areas. 

Tip number 5.  Don’t be afraid to store some items in more conveniently located closets.  Store the car seat and diaper bag in the entry closet along with your shoes and purse.  You know you’ll need the car seat when you’ll also need your purse, so keep it close. 

The car seat is in clear view, but you can see the very bottom of the diaper bag on the upper shelf. 

Some baby toys are awkward to store, so we keep those in our guest bedroom closet, which is just off the main living room.  It keeps it out-of-the-way, but close by.

If you have a linen closet, keep baby blankets, sheets, burp cloths, towels, etc. along with everyday items.  Storing some items in more logical closets will free up some nursery closet space, leaving room for toys! 

Tip number 6.  Choose items that can easily fold or be disassembled.  Both of our boys love(d) the Graco jumper.  I allow it because it doesn’t take up much space when it is out.

When it isn’t in use, we easily slide it over to the side.

If we have company, we pull the jumper off and slide it under the guest bed. 

So, there you have it.  These storage methods have worked for us, but I want to know what you do.  I do plan to cover some kitchen ideas, too, so keep reading.

Baby Shower Power

My sisters and I recently planned and threw a fiesta themed baby shower for the fourth sister we never had and her baby boy.  I really love some of the details we added and wanted to share. 

The first details are these cute and convenient napkin and utensil holders.

To make these, I printed two cute logos of a B with a baby bird perched on top per page.  I printed these on plain ol’ white printer paper.  Then I cut the printed pages at 5 1/2 inches.  I folded the sides in to make a 5 1/2 inch tall by 3 inch wide pouch, securing with scotch tape.  Then I folded the bottom up 1/2 inch and added another piece of tape.  I folded our color coördinated  napkins in half to fit the pouch.  Add colorful utensils and pop into colorful metal buckets to make a cute accessory and a user-friendly buffet piece. 

I also made cute, coordinating favor boxes filled with Jolly Rancher and Starburst candies.  I printed simple 1 1/2 inch square stickers.  Then we tied lime green, bright blue and dark blue ribbon to add more color. 

We wanted to use decorations that were also useful, so we made a clothes line filled with adorable baby clothes.  We bought miniature clothespins from Michael’s and they worked perfectly. 

We also hung the handmade bird mobile as a party decoration. 

My sister made a taco bar, including ground beef, spiced chicken, sautéed peppers, olives, lettuce, diced tomatoes, and cheese.  We also had home-made guacamole, salsa and taco dip with chips.  I saw an edible arrangements commercial and decided I would try to make a fruit bouquet.  Two hours later, we had a beautiful arrangement:

We used cantaloupe, honey-dew, grapes, blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, and kiwi.  We weighted down our bucket with rocks covered in aluminum foil (to keep things sanitary) then added a few bags of rice.  We pushed our fruit onto wooden skewers and arranged them just like real flowers.

Do you have any tips to turn a good party into a great one?  Or unique decoration ideas?  Do tell, please!

How To: Store Toys

We have two boys under the age of three with grandparents, aunts and uncles that spoil them rotten.  That means we have a ton of toys.  Fortunately for us, we have created custom built in cabinets to hide most of their toys, books and diapers.

I’m still searching for the right size, cheap but durable storage bins to house V’s toys in this cabinet, but for now, it’s okay.

This red metal bin holds up to V’s abuse and it contains most of his stuffed animals.  After all, three-foot tall Mickey and Minnie cannot fit in a small bin. 

We don’t keep all the toys in one area, as they are hauled all around the house anyway.  We have some toys stored in the Man Cave entertainment center.  Once the doors are finished, the mess will be hidden away, similar to our living room built-in.

V has some larger Tonka trucks, which are stored under Ev’s crib, hidden by the crib skirt. 

Basically, we don’t have a lot of baby/toy clutter because I refuse to keep large baby items like swings, bouncer seats, and exersaucers in the house.  I also go through the toys somewhat regularly and throw out or donate broken or unused toys.  It also helps to send noisy, annoying toys to grandma. 

One major tip I can offer is to use closets and space under the bed.  Keep items in bins labeled by size to organize items such as children’s out grown or too big clothes.

How To: Make a Bird Mobile

When I was pregnant, I found this tutorial on how to make a paper bird mobile.  I decided to make a little mobile to hang above our son’s crib.

I made some changes along the way, so here is the step-by-step on how to create this mobile:

1.  Print the template on plain cardstock or printer paper.  I prefer to lightly trace the template on my colored cardstock, giving me the option to erase my lines after the pieces are cut.  Cut out one set of the template. 

2.  Lightly trace the pieces on the cardstock colors of choice.  For this mobile, I made three sets of each bird using two different colors of green, chocolate-brown and white cardstock.  Be sure to mark the wing slit and hanging hole.  Cut out your cardstock pieces and erase your lines. 

3.  Place your template over a cut out bird body.  Use a cutting board and push-pin to poke a hole to thread your string through.  Use an exacto knife to make a slit for the wing to go through.  Do not make a box, as shown on the template.

4.  Slide the wing through the body and fold up slightly. 

5.  Add a very thin line of Elmer’s glue to each side of the tail on the main body.  Slide the cut tail onto the body.  Gently squeeze the tail and set it aside to let it dry.  After the tail has dried, thread a string through the hole.  Tie a few knots on one side and cut the extra off, leaving one to two feet on the other side.  The length of the string should vary and will depend on the final hanging height. 

6.  Buy or cut a tree branch to hang the birds from.  I prefer a branch with two or three small branches creating a V or W from one main branch. 

7.  Tie one piece of fishing line on each end of your branch.  If you have a V branch, you will have three pieces.  Make the pieces longer than you’ll need, allowing plenty of excess to tie a knot.  Tie all pieces together at the desired height from the ceiling.

8.  Tie each bird onto the branch, varying the height .  Make sure each bird is secured on the branch.  Once all birds are tied on, you’re ready to hang your completed mobile.  Screw a hook into the ceiling, hang the mobile, stand back and admire!