Friday, November 22, 2013

SqueeZurts reusable snack tubes in action

A couple of months ago, I posted about SqueeZurts reusable snack tubes and I was excited to give them a try. I ordered them directly from the Squeezurts website and I have been using them for over a month. I decided to go for the super starter kit which includes;

6 SqueeZurt tubes
20 twist ties
2 L'il hands cold sleeves (to protect little hands from getting too cold)
1 squeeze dispenser
1 wooden drying rack

The tubes are currently available in two color options; rainbow zebra or teal circles. I chose the teal circles and this is what I received in my box.

I was happy with everything in the box, except the wooden drying rack. There is something about it I didn't like so I never used it. It just didn't seem to be 'food grade' to me. It seemed like the type of wood that can't handle being repeatedly exposed to moisture. It also seemed kinda worn and weathered, so I decided to dump it in my reject pile. My husband didn't like the look of it either and suggested that I just dry the tubes on our spinning bottle rack.

Initially when I got these tubes I thought they could be a replacement for pouches like The Little green pouch, but as you can see from the side by side comparison photos below, this tube has a teeny capacity in comparison so it definitely doesn't compare. The little green pouch has a capacity of 7oz but the tube holds less then 2 oz by my measurement. Another important difference is that the squeeZurt tube doesn't have an airtight self seal, so its not as secure for being transported in a cooler and runs the risk of leaking.

Aside from those two issues, I love these tubes. They are superb. They are the best way to create a healthy frozen treat for your little ones. My daughter's face lights up when she sees me grabbing one of these from the freezer for her. They are so easy to use. After washing the tubes, I simply fill the squeeze bottle with homemade apple sauce, pear puree or diluted prune juice and then transfer the contents into the tube! Its that easy. Once I fill the tube about 60% full, I followed the manufacturers instructions on how to close them, as shown on their website " Lay a twist tie perpendicular to the top opening of the SqueeZurt.  Roll the tube  down around the twist tie 3-5 times.  Bend the ends of the twist tie around the back of the tube and twist together.take one of the twist ties, lay it flat"

Then I place the tubes in the freezer and within a few hours the tubes are frozen and ready to eat. The first time I froze them I made a mistake and placed them upright in the freezer instead of laying them flat. Laying them flat is best because the liquid expands as it freezes. Because of my mistake one of the tubes burst so I threw it out. and now I'm down to only 5. Since then however I have learnt my lesson and always make sure to lay them flat until they are frozen.

They are really easy to clean I use my set of munchkin mini brushes to clean it and then I store the dry tubes in the fridge until the next time I need to use them. Every sunday I cook up a fresh batch of fruit puree for her yogurt at daycare, and now I make a little extra for her squeezurt tubes. She loves having this as a treat after  dinner, and I can feel great about giving it to her because I know the ingredients are 100% fruit cooked up in my own kitchen, with no added mystery ingredients.

The cold hand sleeves are really basic so I can easily make more of them with my sewing machine, but I've been too busy so far and haven't gotten around to it. So I just rotate the two that I have, they dry very fast. 

So far I haven't used these tubes for yogurt yet because it is easier to freeze the fruit puree on its own. I also haven't tried transporting these outside my home because I worry that as they thaw, they might leak. I think resealable pouches like The little green pouch are best for transporting purees on the go and squeezurts are more ideal for treats at home. Overall I'm really glad I purchased these and I'm seriously considering buying another set as my daughter gets older.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A tale of two kitchens

As a child I was was always fascinated with toys that mimicked real life appliances. At one point my parents bought me a toy ironing set, complete with a red checkered ironing board and an iron that connected to the wall with a suction pad.  I adored it! I loved pretending I was really ironing my doll's clothing!   Although I never owned a play kitchen, I enjoyed having fun with it at my friend's house and always longed to have my very own play kitchen. Even as a child I recognized that the play options were endless; there always seemed to be so much to do with a play kitchen and all that plastic food!

During my pregnancy, whilst shopping for baby gear I came across several cute play kitchens, and I made a mental note to come back to them when my daughter was old enough. Now that she is 19 months old, I think it's a great time to start looking for one especially with all the holiday sales coming up.  The great thing about a play kitchen is that it encourages a child to use their imagination in ways that most electronic toys will not. It gives them the opportunity to learn the motions of running a multi-appliance kitchen in the same way they have seen grown ups doing it. Best of all it is a great toy to encouraging sharing, playing with others and working as part of a team. Whilst many toys are still marketed specifically for boys or girls, a play kitchen is a gender neutral toy that works equally well for both genders.

 My daughter already loves our kitchen, and always wants to be in there moving things around and creating havoc. We installed a gate to keep her out of the kitchen but that hasn't diminished her love for being in there. She especially loves helping me unpack groceries, and stacking small cartons into the lower shelves. she knows exactly where we keep certain things and runs back and forth to get all the little items properly stored away. She also loves to pretend she is cooking with me, so I give her own little pot and a wooden spoon, she will drum away for hours.  Unfortunately the kitchen is not always the safest place for her, so sometimes I have to ignore her crying and lock her out. This is one of the reasons I can't wait for her to have her own little play kitchen where she can safely play as much as her heart desires.  I have also seen her playing with the toy kitchens at her daycare and know she really has a lot of fun with it.

After looking at many options out there I realized that some of the best toy kitchens are made by KidKraft. I really liked all the KidKraft kitchens I looked at but eventually narrowed down my choices to two; the Uptown kitchen and the Vintage kitchen

[1] Kid Kraft Uptown Kitchen 

Just like the name suggest the Uptown kitchen is sleek and modern.  It is quite large, so it's perfect for a child to grow with. The recommended age for this is 3yrs and up. 

KidKraft Uptown Kitchen (Espresso)
Dimensions: 42.5 x 17.1 x 41 inches

KidKraft Uptown Kitchen (Natural)

I really like all the details on this kitchen, the little chalk board on the freezer door, the water dispenser, the deep sink and rack for a dish towel. It looks like a real kitchen that I would actually buy for myself!

I also like that it is made out of wood (composite), and that there are two color options; the dark espresso or the brighter natural finish.

My main concern about the Uptown kitchen is that it might be too large for our home. I also worried that I would have to wait til my daughter was three years old to get it, since that is manufacturer's recommended age for it. However after doing more research I realized that most of the sturdier better quality kitchens have the same recommended age due to the small parts that might come detached and become a choking hazard. As long as she is supervised while playing with it she should be fine. 

I also noticed that most people who own the Uptown kitchen complain that it is a real pain in the neck to assemble, but since my husband and I both love a challenging DIY, I'm hoping this shouldn't be an issue.

[2] KidKraft Vintage Kitchen

Vintage Kitchen
Dimensions: 33 x 11.7 x 35.7 inches 

The first time I came across this kitchen was when Mrs Bee mentioned it. Her adorable son has the red version of this kitchen shown below and it was love at first sight for me. It is the cutest thing ever! Most toys and gadgets these days are focused on being as modern as possible, so its nice to see a play set that salutes the past and gives kids an idea of how things looked way back when. I really adore the retro touch of this little vintage kitchen and love the fun colors it comes in.  It is considerably smaller than the Uptown kitchen, but that can be a good thing if you have less space to accommodate it
I love everything about this sweet little kitchen, but I realize it has slightly less features than the Uptown kitchen, such as the utensil hooks, chalk board, dish towel rack and extra counter space. 

I am genuinely torn between these two kitchens but I'm aiming to make a decision before the end of the year, in order to take full advantage of all the sales and discounts out there. Many retailers such as Amazon, Walmart and Costco have promotions and deals on large toys like this for the holiday season so it feels like the perfect time to buy! Wish me luck and I will post about once we buy it and assemble it!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The making of her belly button

It’s funny how I never thought much about my belly button until becoming a mom. I didn't pay much attention to it and hardly considered it a sentimental body part. The only time I even thought about my belly button was in high school and college when friends would randomly ask if I had an “innie” or “outie” and I would proudly respond “innie” As though I could somehow take credit for having the perfect bikini ready navel.  Of course I always knew the science behind a belly button, I knew it was a scar marking the spot where the umbilical cord was once attached but I hardly ever thought of it that way. For me it was more of beauty mark, the perfect fashion accessory to a flat belly and 1990’s crop top. 

Once I started shopping for baby items during my pregnancy I kept reading brief references to the healing period for the baby’s belly button. For instance when I was buying diapers I saw all the comments that the best newborn diapers had a dip in the front to accommodate the healing belly button. When I was shopping for an infant bath tub, again there were reminders to only give the baby a full bath in water after the belly button had fully healed.  I looked up how long it usually takes for a belly button to heal, and the standard response seemed to be 7-10 days which seemed pretty okay to me. I didn't bother doing any more reading on that subject because it seemed pretty straight forward.

Once my baby was born I realized several things. I was severely under-informed about the entire belly button healing process. For one thing I found that the term “belly button healing” didn't paint an honest picture of the whole story. This term conned me into thinking that my baby would be coming home with a nice and neat innie belly button that just needed a few days to heal. False! I guess this was another biology class that I should have paid more attention to.  What really happens is, soon after the baby is born, the cord is clamped using a plastic clip and then cut. This is done in such a way that there is still a short 2 to 3 inch piece of the cord attached to the baby’s belly, which is supposed to heal on its own by drying up and falling off.

 My daughter and I were discharged from the hospital three days after she was born, the plastic clamp was removed and the cord had dried and shriveled up into a hard stump. We were told to keep it dry and to clean around it daily with an alcohol wipe.  They promised me it would dry up and fall off within a week or so.  They cautioned me to avoid pulling it off even if it appeared to be falling off. They made it clear it had to fall off on its own accord otherwise there could be a whole host of complications. I was really nervous about this. What if I did something wrong and her belly button didn't heal right!  A few days later we had our first visit to the pediatrician and she told me not to use the alcohol wipes given to me by the hospital. She explained that using the wipes was an old fashioned way of doing it and that it could cause delays in the healing process because it made the area sterile and slowed down the natural drying process. I felt confused! To use alcohol wipes or not to? Why would the doctor  and hospital give me conflicting information?   Then about a week later I noticed it seemed her belly button was oozing. I could tell this because I could see little spots and streaks on her inside of her clothing that was right over her belly button area. I was freaked out. I called the doctor and she told me it was normal and that I could wipe it with alcohol.  I was even more confused, I  thought this very same doctor told me I wasn't supposed to use the alcohol wipes! 

At her 1 week checkup the umbilical cord stump was still hanging on tight. 
At her 2 week checkup the umbilical cord stump was still hanging on tight. 
At her 3  week checkup my daughter still had her umbilical cord stump firmly attached!  And it showed no signs of coming off. Ever.  

I was really anxious about this. Why was everyone telling me it falls off in 10 days or less when my daughter was 21 days old and still had that stump firmly attached. Meanwhile during this time I couldn't give her a proper bath for fear of getting it wet, nor could I start using the bum genius cloth diapers I was eager to try out. Not to mention the fact that it was still randomly oozing indescribable stickiness.  At her 3 week check up, her pediatrician told me she was going to have to cauterize her belly button. I calmly said okay because I didn't know what it meant. She then proceeded to use some sort of angled wooden stick with a silver nitrate tip to gently dig in and lift up the edges of the stump. I was horrified! My poor baby screamed her little head off. I felt terrible and I wondered for a moment why the doctor would put my daughter through that, and if she even knew what the heck she was doing. However once we got home my daughter calmed down and her umbilical cord stump definitely showed signs of improvement in terms of detaching. The very next day when I went to change her diaper I realized the stump had come off! All by itself!   My husband and I were so happy it was like we had won the lottery, we were yelling and high five-ing. Then we calmed down and examined it closely as if we were  inspecting some type of rare diamond and then immediately decided to throw it out. I know people save the stump for sentimental reasons, but for us saving that piece of dried cord just felt odd. It had stuck around for 3 long weeks and I never wanted to see it again.

Everyone had made me believe that once the stump fell off life would be golden again, but not quite. Once the stump fell off her belly button still wasn't healed yet. It wasn't immediately recognizable as a belly button, it was just a tiny circle of moist ooey gooey stickiness. It was white and sticky and just plain weird. I called her pediatrician and she told me it was totally normal and would heal on its own soon.  It took another week to finally start looking and feeling like a normal belly button.  Overall it took more than a month from the day she was born for her to have a healed belly button and  now thanks to the Where is Baby’s Belly button book she loves poking her belly button and laughing uncontrollably. Each time she does this I laugh to myself and think "girl, you have no idea what went into the making of this belly button"


Thursday, October 24, 2013

What is the point of Halloween?

/ˌhaləˈwēn, ˌhälə-, -ōˈēn/
A contraction of All Hallows' Eve. The eve of All Saints Day celebrated yearly on October 31st

For as far back as I can remember I've never really understood what Halloween was all about. I mean yes I knew how it was celebrated, but I didn't understand what the purpose was. Over the years as I got older, I understood it even less and now as a mother I'm beginning to hate it.  To me it is just one big contradiction of everything we teach our children year round. We teach them not talk to strangers, not to accept candy from strangers, not to eat too much candy and most of all not to go to strangers homes. But on halloween,  it's suddenly okay break all those rules. I don't get it.

The word Halloween  dates back to the 18th century when it was celebrated as All Hallows' Evening, and that eventually was cut short to Hallows' Even, hallowe'en and then Halloween. It was somehow celebrated as both a christian & pagan day; a festival of the dead for the pagans and a remembrance of saints for the Christians.  Over the years these celebrations have somehow fused together to become all about zombies, vampires, witches, ghosts, gory decorations and "trick or treating". You have to forgive me for being confused but how is it a celebration of the dead to put up creepy decorations, and walk the streets at night asking for candy? As I researched this topic in depth I found that many of the symbols associated with halloween such as the jack-o-lantern have dark origins that just don't sit well with me. I want to be able to give my child a level headed explanation of why we celebrate a day like this, and frankly no such explanation exists. As a christian, I am not a fan of  the label 'christian' being attached to celebrations just because one church or a few churches participate in it. The term christian simply means "Christ like" and I don't see how anything about halloween is Christ like in the slightest. Basically I am not a fan of halloween!!

To make matters worse, it's now a big excuse for daycare parties with lots of junk food on the menu. I have heard from many other frustrated moms that their child's daycare has already posted a halloween party menu. Most of these menus have a long list of junk food and no "real food", so the toddlers are going to fill their little bellies with candy, cookies, cakes, juice drinks and other  unhealthy "treats". And supposedly its all okay because its "just one day". The thing is, toddlers are not robots, they can't switch their cravings on and off like that. After introducing them to a binge of treats, they expect more of that the next day, they cry for it, and worst of all they refuse to eat the normal healthy food that they had liked before, because now they know there is something "better" out there.

Personally I don't understand the point of giving candy to young toddlers at all, for any reason. What is the benefit of it? To make them happy? My 18 month old gets offered lollipops all the time, and she just hands them over to me and I 'save' them for her. And when I say 'save them' what I really mean is I throw them in my reject pile of junk food labelled 'never to be eaten'. She doesn't know what lollipops are, and that's working great for me right now. There are so many healthy treats out there that candy seems completely unnecessary at this age.

The worst part of the daycare halloween menu is that the parents are supposed to provide these treats. I decided to ignore the obvious treats on the list and look for a healthier option. After searching online, I found several ideas for healthy yet fun fall inspired treats on pinterest. I decided to go for the easiest option of all, since I won't have much time in the morning to prepare this for her class. I chose the clementine pumpkins shown below. They are cute, sweet and healthy, so I'm happy to make this for my daughter's daycare halloween party. All it takes is a bag of clementines and celery sticks cut down to size!

I also found that there are many other healthy treats for kids that still promote healthy eating habits such as these pretzel cheese and hive brooms that I also found on pinterest.

I guess I should say Happy Halloween in advance? I think not. How about Happy Fall!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Car seat safety in the winter

Before I had a baby I thought it was the cutest thing to see babies and toddlers bundled up in their car seats with thick puffy jackets. I thought they looked like cute mini Michelin babies. Little did I know how unsafe it was to place young children in the car seat with such jackets on . I know you are probably thinking “huh”? Every time I mention this to people they roll their eyes and call me paranoid. Surely since everyone has always done it,  it can’t be unsafe Right? Wrong.  Think of it this way, when I was a child I never even once sat in an infant/toddler car seat, I don’t think I regularly wore a seat belt, in fact I clearly remember riding in the trunk of a station wagon a few times! There was no law against it at the time and  I survived it but that doesn’t mean it was a safe practice.  The same principle applies with many other baby practices, just because it has been done by parents for years doesn’t make it safe.

The issue with bulky jackets is this; when a thick winter jacket is worn inside the car seat, the straps of the seat need to be loosened to accommodate the extra bulk of the jacket. In addition the straps are not able to be properly positioned on the shoulders and chest of the child because the bulky jacket is in the way. Even though you might tighten the straps over the jacket it is still not holding the child correctly. In the event of a sudden stop or collision the thick jacket will compress and suddenly there will be all this extra space between the child and the straps,  allowing the child to either slip free from the car seat or to sustain more serious injury and trauma because the straps were unable hold the child tight enough to the seat. Most people think the whole purpose of the car seat straps is to keep the child in the seat, whilst that is the primary purpose. The straps are also to minimize how badly the child would be jolted, shaken or thrown forward within the seat in the event of a sudden stop or collision.  If the straps are too loose they won't be able to function properly. 

When I first heard about this, I tried to ignore it because it seemed 100% impractical to NOT put my infant in a jacket in the winter but the more I learnt about it, I knew I had to listen up and figure out another way. Firstly I learnt that light weight fleece and micro fleece jackets and hoodies like the ones shown below were considered safe for the car seat and that I could always put a blanket or jacket on her once she was already strapped into the seat.

Fleece & microfleece hoodies and jackets 
that are safe to be worn inside the car seat

On the other hand winter coats, thick jackets, buntings or snow suits with padding like the ones shown below are are not safe to be worn inside the car seat

Bulky winter coats and snow suits, unsafe for the car seat

So last winter when my daughter was still in her infant seat, I would put her in a fleece hoodie and then strap her into the car seat. Once she was strapped in, I would put her jacket over her arms and throw a thick blanket over her. At one point I used the JJ Cole Shower cap style carseat cover as well.
Once we stopped using the infant car seat and switched to the convertible seat it got a little trickier. The infant seat was much more convenient because I could detach it from the base and bring the seat into our home. This allowed me to strap her into the seat and get her all bundled up within the warmth of our home before taking her outside into the car. The convertible seat on the other hand stays inside the car , so it became a bit more confusing to figure out how to keep her warm without putting her into the car seat with her jacket on. This was how we survived her first winter.

  • ·         First I would dress her as normal with her thick jacket and fleece hoodie underneath.
  • ·         Then  I would carry her into the car and turn the engine on and turn on the heat.
  • ·         Next I would remove her outer jacket, place her in the car seat and strap her in.
  • ·         Then I would drape the jacket over her, and add a blanket if necessary

So this way she was warm in the car seat but there were no thick bulky layers between her body and the car seat harness.Yes it was slightly tedious having to keep taking her jacket off when we got to the car and then putting it back on once we arrived at our destination. But spending an extra couple of minutes is a sacrifice I was totally willing to make to ensure my daughter's safety and I will repeating that process again this winter! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

SqueeZurts reusable snack tubes

Because of my disappointment with the performance of the Little Green Pouch I started looking out for other ways to serve my daughter yogurt, purees and smoothies on the go. Several parents recommended that I try store bought GoGurt which is a freezable yogurt tube made by Yoplait and it is marketed as being a healthy snack for kids. I posted previous about how I chose to avoid commercially flavored baby yogurt since it's full of way too much sugar. Instead I chose to use plain yogurt sweetened with raw fruit or homemade fruit purees. So I knew I was most likely not going to be happy with the ingredients of GoGurt either but since I heard such good things about it being a yummy, healthy fruity snack, I decided to take a closer look at it in the supermarket. I was appalled.

As you can see from the nutritional label posted above, the three main ingredients in this product are; milk, sugar and modified corn starch. In that order. Then there is less than 2% of other yummy chemicals {insert sarcasm}. I read over the ingredient list a few times and I had one question playing over in my mind  where is the fruit? There is absolutely no fruit in the product! I'm kinda confused why so many parents think this has fruit in it, when it clearly shows in the ingredients that there isn't even a drop of  fruit juice in there. Maybe because the package says "naturally flavored strawberry"?  I also am not quite sure why they add gelatin and carrageenan to thicken the yogurt when plain yogurt is naturally very thick. The only reason they would need to do this is to save money buy putting less yogurt and more thickening agents.Worst of all there is 10 grams of sugar in a 64 gram tube of gogurt, That is nearly the same amount of sugar as half a candy bar. Which means if your child eats two tubes at a time they have basically consumed the same amount of sugar as half a can of coke. Essentially each GoGurt tube is made up of over 15% sugar. Sorry Yoplait I refuse to feed this to my child, heck I refuse to eat it myself.

I was however still envious of the convenience of these yogurt tubes they can be frozen and packed in a lunch bag for kids at school or daycare and it makes it easier for them to feed themselves. So I was happy although slightly confused when I heard about SqueeZurts. They are a reusable tube for homemade smoothes, purees and yogurt mixtures.

The reason I was initially confused was I didn't understand how the tubes could be sealed and reopened repeatedly without having a zipper closure similar to the disappointing zipper on the Little Green Pouch.  According to their website each tube is sold with a twist tie that can be used to seal it, in addition I saw on the So Easy being green blog that it is possible to use clips such as the ones used to keep potato chip packs fresh.  I wasn't a huge fan of this idea at first especially because these tubes basically require me to freeze my yogurt or smoothie rather than just serve it chilled. However the more I thought about it I decided it's worth giving it a try especially since my daughter has now developed an obsession with frozen fruit.

The super starter kit costs $21.00 and includes:
6 SqueeZurt tubes
20 twist ties
2 Li'l hands cold sleeves (to put over the tube to protect little hands from getting too cold)
1 squeeze dispenser bottle
1 wooden drying rack

Even though summer is pretty much over and it's getting cold out, I think my daughter will love these. At least with these snack tubes I won't have to worry about the seal malfunctioning. I can't wait to receive these in the mail and I'm really hoping I like them!

A little disappointed with the Little Green Pouch...

I posted about this reusable food pouch late last year, I was so excited to finally get to make my own homemade pouches for my LO.  Sadly my excitement didn’t last as long as I hoped. The pouches have a defect in the design that causes the zipper closure to separate from the bag, rendering the pouch useless. Their website describes it as a “secure press zipper opening [that] makes filling and closing a cinch”  but in actual fact closing the pouch is not the problem . The real problem is when you try to open it to clean it or refill it, instead of the two sides of the zipper coming apart like a regular Ziploc bag would, one side of the zipper thread rips away from the inner wall of the pouch in such a way that the bag cannot be closed again.

The first time it happened, I blamed myself,  I assumed I opened it too hard, then it happened again and again until the entire 4 pack that I bought ended up in the trash. I was a bit irritated because I hadn’t really gotten much use from it. I looked online and realized that the exact same problem was being reported by many others. I contacted the company and they were awesome. AWESOME.  Seriously they displayed the absolute best customer service I have encountered so far. They expressed genuine concern about the issue, a heartfelt apology and were willing to provide a full refund or free replacement immediately.  I decided to accept the free replacements in the hope that the new pouches would be better. 

 I was hopeful when I received the new pouches they seemed slightly different from the old ones; they were wider and bigger and had a capacity of 7oz unlike the previous set that had 6oz as the max. I made a mental note to open them as gently as possible and even followed the new instructions to blow air through the spout before opening them. I also decided not to put them in the freezer just  in case that was somehow responsible for the problem. Despite all our caution within less than a month the first one was ripped again .  It really baffled me why it would rip so easily,  it’s not as if I use them everyday! I only use them on the weekends usually only  on Saturdays when we have a long day out.  A few weeks later a second pouch ripped, leaving me with only two remaining pouches from a pack of 4 within less than 2 months. So it is obvious these reusable pouches just don’t last long, I’m lucky if I can get to use the same pouch three or four times, which is annoying.  Hence my disappointment in the brand.

Since them I have shopped around for other pouches and discovered there are suddenly many other options other such as EZ Squeezee, Yummi pouch and Gofresh Baby. None of these were available last year when I was looking for reusable pouches, so this gives me hope that a better design is out there somewhere! I haven’t tried these other pouches yet and based on the reviews I'm a little hesitant because  they all seem to have their own flaws.
EZ Squeezees
Yummi Pouch

Go Fresh Baby

Call me crazy but I have decided to stick with the little green pouch for now and by that I mean order another pack and hope for the best, The only reason I’m doing this is because of how nice they were to me and I understand they are a new company starting out. Also because their pouches still have the best reviews compared to the other brands even though the Little Green pouch is slightly more expensive. I really hope they have improved the design and that  my next post about them will be gushing with praise

In the mean time I’ve decided to give Squeezurts yogurt tubes a try too and I will be posting about them soon!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Baby Gear: Safety & baby proofing

When my daughter was a newborn I couldn’t wait for her to be more active and mobile, but once she started rolling and crawling around, life as we knew it was changed forever. Firstly it stunned me how lightning fast she was; she could get from A to B within nanoseconds. I would put her down, look away for a second,  and she would be half way across the room on an adventure of mischief. I knew I had to take some steps to make our home a little safer for her but I didn’t want to overdo it and turn our home into a baby jail.  This is my list of baby proofing gear so far:

Foam tiles
The reason I wanted foam tiles is because in our previous home we had hard wood floors with no carpets or rugs. I didn’t want to put her on the floor in the beginning because the wood floors seemed too hard, cold and slippery for her little hands and feet. Not to mention that the wood surface also seemed to transfer the most dust and dirt to her hands no matter how often I cleaned the floor or the fact that we removed our shoes as soon we got home. I know some parents prefer wood floors over carpet because carpet traps a lot of dust, but I’m the opposite. I prefer carpet because she won't end up with dusty hands just from playing on the carpet. The carpet absorbs the dust until I get a chance to vacuum it up. Maybe I'm crazy? Anyway I decided the foam tiles would be a good way to cover the wood floor and provide a soft, easy-to-clean play area for her.

I  had heard good things about the foam tiles by Soft Tiles but they seemed a bit expensive to me so I held out on buying them. Instead, I started out with the Sassy foam tiles shown below.

 I bought these without doing any research simply because I stumbled upon them in a target store and I thought they looked bright and colorful. I can sum them up in one simple word; useless.
Firstly they aren’t as thick or soft as other brands, and they have shapes cut out of them which is totally impractical.  The cut out shapes prevents the mat from being a smooth walking/crawling surface because the cut outs pop up and can be a trip hazard. These tiles are sold in sets of 6 and since each tile is 16 x 16 inches you would need several sets to cover a large enough play area. I also started paying more attention to the reports that many of these foam tiles contained and emitted dangerous toxic fumes like formamide

I decided to give the Soft Tiles a chance, I liked the fact that they offered a wide range of colors and different sizes of tiles as well as the option to order sloped border tiles to ensure you don’t trip on the edge of the mat. I also fell in love wit the below photo that I saw on their website. Their tiles could look a bit more sophisticated and grown up than the bright colored ones.

I decided to go ahead and order 6 brown tiles and 6 white tiles; so a total of 12 tiles, each tile was 2x2 ft. This covered a total area of 8x6 feet (48 sq ft). I also ordered brown sloping border tiles for the entire mat. When I received it I was really happy with it, it looked a lot better than the brightly colored sassy mat and honestly looked more like a rug than foam tiles. In addition the tiles are much thicker and provide more of a cushion than the Sassy tiles. The photo below shows our brown and white foam tiles when we first assembled it with the sloping borders. The great thing is I can always rearrange the tiles to create a different pattern.

Best of all their website clearly states their tiles are non toxic and do not emit formamide

Play yard
Once we set up the foam tiles, I felt more comfortable putting my daughter on the floor, but she had no desire to stay on the mat and would immediately crawl off the mat and on to the hard wood floor.  Although I’m not a fan of putting her in baby jail, I really had no other choice because I simply couldn’t baby proof everything. I set out in search of a play yard big enough for her and her toys and  I came across the North States Super yard XT play yard.

It comes in two options either a 6 panel yard with optional 2 extra panels or an all-in-one 8 panel yard. The customer photos on amazon show many different set ups of this play yard but the instructions in the manual state you should not put more than 8 panels in one play yard because that affects the strength and stability of the product. The instructions also insist that the play yard should be set up as a hexagon or octagon but never a rectangle or square, again for the same reasons to ensure stability.  This play yard is really easy to set up and has worked great for us.  My daughter hates being in there by herself but I feel good putting her in there for short periods of time because I know she is safe. It is large enough that it fits all her large toys at once, including her exersaucer and there is still space for the both of us to be in there comfortably. This play yard folds up into a compact stack of panels and has a carry strap for ease of transport. As you can see in the photos below we set up the play yard over the foam mat and we tried it both ways, in the octagon shape and also as a square.

Baby Gates
Once we moved into our new place, we knew we needed two baby gates; one for the top of the stairs and one for the kitchen. For the top of the stairs it was really important to get a sturdy gate that we could rely on to keep her safe. I decided I would invest in a good quality steel gate that could handle the responsibility of keeping my toddler safely at the top of the stairs. After doing  lots of research I chose the North States Metal Deluxe Decor gate.

I chose this gate for several reasons:
Key Benefits
·         Adjusts to fit openings 38.3" - 71" (97.3 cm - 180.3 cm) wide, and is 30 (76.2 cm) high.
·         Hardware mounts, even on angled walls.
·         Entire barrier swings open on both sides with child-proof safety latch on both ends.
·         Arched gate is an extra-wide 25.5" (64 cm).
·         Deluxe heavy-duty metal construction.
·         Color: decorative matte bronze.
·         Auto close with stay-open feature.
·         Child-proof latch with easy one-hand operation

These features were all important to me because firstly our stairway is slightly wider than the regular doorway so most of the standard gates were not wide enough. Secondly Many others that were wide enough have a very narrow entrance, for instance I considered getting the metal gate below by Summer Infant. Even though the entire gate is wide enough to fit an opening of up to 48 inches, the part of the gate that actually opens for you to walk through is super narrow. Because our staircase is quite steep I really didn’t want to have to deal with a narrow entry way right at the top of the stairs especially when I have to carry my daughter as well.

Summer Infant extra tall gate with narrow walk through

The North States deluxe gate  also has the added advantage of looking great; the slim streamlined design is much more visually appealing than most of the other bulky plastic gates. The slim design is also great because it means the gate doesn’t protrude into the hallway too much. Best of all the gate opens easily with one hand and swings shut by itself.  We have been using this gate for over 4 months and I love it so far. The only one thing that threw me off was the side panels of the gate or what I like to call the wings. See when I read that it was adjustable from 38.3 inches to 72 inches wide I assumed the side panels were removable. I thought I could add or remove extensions pieces to get the perfect size I wanted. I was wrong. The side wings are not removable what so ever, so to fit a smaller doorway than 72 inches you have to basically fold the side wings into the doorway. The side panels can either lay flat against the inside of the stairway or they can be angled out. As you can see from our photos below we chose to have the side panels lay flat against both sides of the wall inside the stair case. Honestly having the excess panels of the gate tucked into the doorway is not as clean looking as a regular gate that fits the doorway, and having it angled out took up too much space in our hallway. I was a little irritated that this wasn’t better explained on their site but ultimately I still love this gate.  As with other North States products, this gate is made in America.

Our second gate was bought as more of an afterthought. I originally thought I could avoid putting up a gate in the kitchen by baby proofing all the cabinets but my daughter is obsessed with all the appliances in the kitchen specifically the dishwasher and oven.  She figured out how to turn on the dishwasher and would to turn it on every chance she got. Since the oven has similar buttons and dials I knew it was just a matter of time before she figured it out too, so I had to lock her out of the kitchen to prevent that. I decided to get a bit more affordable gate than the steel gate that I chose for the staircase. I bought the Safety 1st Lift, Lock & Swing Gate.

 It is not my favorite gate by any means,  it pretty much has everything I didn't want in a gate; thick bulky plastic, hard to open and close, and often requires two hands to operate it.  However to be fair it does the job of keeping her out of the kitchen and unlike the metal gate, this plastic gate fits within the doorway and doesn’t have any side panels or wings sticking out.  This plastic gate is also very strong and sturdy and has the option to be pressure mounted as well as hardware mounted.

Finally we invested in outlet covers.  We chose the Secure Press Plug Protectors by Safety 1st.

 These feature a pop out tab that makes them easier to remove for the parent but not for the child. Luckily so far she hasn’t expressed much interest in the outlets and is far more interested in trying to break down both gates!