Do you need a nap mat?

All about Nap Mats

At their daycare and preschool, where they went from 24 months to almost age 5, my children were expected to nap on mats that were provided by the school. No, they didn’t look like the one pictured above. Probably something like this Kindermat.

Parents supplied a sheet and a blanket, and our daycare provider, god bless her, washed them each week. At the daycare Heather’s kids attended, after they graduated from crib napping, they brought their own sleeping bags, which parents had to bring home each Friday to wash for Monday morning.

Is a nap mat a thing your child needs?

I saw this one at a baby expo and thought it was totally adorable.




It rolls up and closes with Velcro strips that kids can handle. It’s totally lightweight. The soft blanket is attached to the side of the base layer, so it’s just one piece to keep track of.  Very cute, Elonka Nichole. (See her Etsy shop here.)

After seeing this, I felt like I could make something like it, and remembered having pinned a nap mat made from three or four store-bought pillowcases sewn together.

If you are crafty, Prudent Baby, offers an amazing step-by-step tutorial for making a similar mat with beautiful finishes. This is hers:


Sadly, it has proved impossible to find the original source of this pillowcase idea. But for those of us who can only sew a straight line, it might be worth trying. Then again, it requires 4 or 5 pillows, so it might be a better thing to bust out on a rainy fort-building day.

All about nap mats

What do you use for this napping-on-the-floor purpose? Or are you shaking your head, thinking, no freaking way my kid would settle down for a nap on a floor?

Last-minute baby Halloween costume ideas

Remember how when you sorta grew out of Halloween, there were still times when you were able to throw together a costume with items you had on hand, because at the last minute someone would convince you to dress up? This can work for a baby or toddler costume, too.

Last-minute baby Halloween costume ideas: chef

The one above was inspired by a visit to the Zynga office when they launched a Facebook game called ChefVille!

Last-minute baby Halloween costume ideas: baseball!

Last-minute baby Halloween costume ideas: LIKE button

Here are a few more ideas:

  1. Waldo – Red and white striped shirt or onesie. Beanie. Glasses optional.
  2. Tourist – Hawaiian shirt, shorts, socks with sandals. Print a picture of a camera from the Web, paste it onto some cardboard, and make it a necklace for baby to wear.
  3. 50s guy – black fake leather jacket (buy used at baby resale store or ebay), white onesie, jeans. Slick back hair for maximum effect. If hair is available.
  4. Fried Egg – white one piece outfit or separates. Cut yellow circle from felt and sew or safety pin onto belly.
  5. Ballet dancer – Pink onesie, pink tights, pink Robeez. Done.
  6. Farmer – Plaid button down shirt, denim overalls, sunhat. Carry a stuffed animal that belongs on a farm, such as a pig.
  7. Bumble Bee – Black onesie, black sweats, yellow electrical tape. Pipe cleaner headband for anntenae. (Contributed by veteran mom Jen R.)
  8. Aerobics instructor – onesie over leggings with baby legs if you’ve got ‘em. Make a quick sweatband by cutting the edge off an outgrown newborn cap.
  9. Baby Einstein – Write E=MC2 on a onesie and be done with it. Concept and photo courtesy of baby Halloween costume ideas: Einstein

What else could you do for a last-minute DIY baby Halloween costume idea?

Ten things I know because I have a ten-year old

Once I became a mom, I was the mom of a baby, then a toddler’s mom, then a mom of two little ones, a preschool mom, a grade school mom, and soon, the mom of tweens. That is how life works. I didn’t get diplomas at any of these graduations.


In the past ten years, I’ve moved from rookie status to all-star status, and even though it still feels hard sometimes, and the lack of “right answers” is frustrating, it is also my dream-come-true to raise these two children and watch as it becomes increasingly clearer that they will develop into adults who don’t think only of themselves, don’t need calculators to figure out tips, and can get lost in a good book. I am grateful to be experiencing my dream and have learned these ten facts along the way:

1. We are just mammals. Yep, the laws of nature govern our reproductive experiences, no matter how often we joke “There’s an app for that.” There is no app for the hormones that course through a birth mother’s body, that tells her to start lactating, that makes infants cry and sleep and wake in infinite cycles. The fact that babies sleep better on or next to their parents is hard to believe, but that’s an animal instinct. It’s shocking but true. Sometimes I use these biological facts to remind myself that my husband is attracted to me no matter how hairy I’ve let my legs get. His DNA tells him to be.

2. Pee is not a big deal. Before you are a parent, before someone hands you a naked baby, because that’s how he arrived in the world, you might think pee is a yucky, private thing. Well, it turns out it’s everywhere, all the time. You have probably gotten some in your eye. When your child pees on your lap, you’re glad it’s urine on your pants, not milk.

3. A green bean is just a green bean, not a gold medal. I shared this lesson after reading a parenting book. I wish we could all stop obsessing about the quality and quantity of our children’s meals. We’ve begun treating what our kids eat like a status game. Sorry, but you are not a Good Person just because your child eats salad by age three. We can only reach Good Person status by being compassionate, generous, and respectful to our communities. Making homemade baby food is for saving money and avoiding packaging, not for earning moral superiority points. [Read more...]

More than misery loves company, embarassment loves company

I had a lovely experience at the gym this morning, and that’s not sarcasm. At the end of my workout, I felt I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough, so I grabbed a jump rope off a hook in the yoga room that was not being used, and jumped for 30 seconds. (That’s harder than it sounds.) I had seen another mom from my kids’ school using the jump rope at this gym, and had been thinking I should try it.

When I got my jacket and purse to leave the gym, now sweating properly, I saw that mom out of the corner of my eye. She was jumping rope with impressive rhythm. I went over and told her that she had inspired me to try jumping that morning. (Give me one gold star for pushing myself to give warm fuzzies to someone I hardly know, right?)

We started talking about jumping rope. She gestured to her phone, which was on stopwatch mode, and explained that she was on a jumping kick and had invited a bunch of friends to try it with her. She said she’s been improving over the course of the month and shared some of the variations she does: one-foot jumping and backwards jumping. She said that when she started, she could barely accomplish two one-foot jumps in a row.

We joked about the side effects of jump-roping for women: feeling like your uterus might fall out or that you are peeing a little.

She mentioned that when she began this particular exercise kick, she felt self-conscious about jumping rope in the gym, where people could see her.

“But everyone is doing ridiculous things in here,” I said, thinking about the grunting and downward dog stretching that was happening all around us.

I wasn’t allowing her to have her embarrassed feeling. I was telling her she shouldn’t feel that way.

But then I remembered that there was one piece of exercise equipment that I have been wanting to use, but avoiding, because I felt embarrassed about it. I hadn’t even realized that’s what I was feeling until I told her about it.

It is a pair of huge ropes that are anchored to the wall. They’re called “battle ropes”, and you wave them up and down as fast as you can for a high-intensity interval.

On being embarassed

Can you see why I might feel stupid doing this in front of other people?

On doing embarassing things

I feel like I’m not entitled to those ropes, like they are for big firefighters, or people who workout really hard. Guys with mustaches, maybe.


My new friend said that she had never tried the battle ropes, and then suggested, “How about next time we see each other here, we do it together?”

Well that is flippin’ brilliant, isn’t it?

Suddenly it seemed so doable. Imagining the two of us taking 30-second turns made me feel like it would be totally normal to shake oversized rope up and down with all my might in the middle of a flourescent-lighted room. I might even let out a grunt.

The rest of the morning, I kept thinking about how that shift in perspective made me feel. It was so simple: do it with a friend.  Or in this case an acquaintance whose name is definitely Betsy or Robin, I’m not sure which, but I’ll definitely figure it out before we embarrass ourselves together.

Photo credit: Art Of Manliness

Things to do with toddlers before they turn two

Many of you have followed our list of 52 things to do with a baby and are hungry for more. What happens after Week 52?

Toddlers possess the amazing ability to simultaneously demonstrate knowledge about how the world works AND cluelessness about their role in it. (Sorry Sweetie, Mommy is not going to help you push the stove out of the way so that you can ride your plastic car through that part of the kitchen.) No longer satisfied by an activity gym on the floor, they are ready for some more exciting activities.

A helpful list of things to do with toddlers

Here are some that we like:

Indoor activities for toddlers (which are also handy when you need to make a phone call or complete an online purchase without someone hanging off your body.)

  1. Sitting in front of an open cupboard or drawer full of plastic storage containers and messing around with them.
  2. Hunkering down in an unexpected place, such as inside the closet or under a table. Throw a sheet over it to make it special. {tips for a better blanket fort}
  3. Squeezing and squishing play-doh. Fear mess? Keep the playdough in a sealed baggie while your child handles it.
  4. Drinking toddler tea out of a real ceramic cup (add lemon or a shake of cinnamon to warm water). We love this gender-neutral set for pretend play and real use.
  5. Turning regular shoes into tap shoes, and back again.
  6. Gathering all the washcloths in the house and laying them out in various patterns. “Shoot it out!” my daughter used to say. Washcloths are more manageable for little ones than baby blankets, but blankets are a good time, too.
  7. Playing with magnets on a cookie sheet or metal bucket.
  8. Helping sweep up with a little dust pan.
  9. Placing different lengths of Scotch Tape or masking tape onto paper or the side of a box.
  10. Sitting in a box. Yep.
  11. Taping up a train track on the rug. Choo choo.
  12. Getting silly with finger puppets.
  13. Playing hopscotch inside.
  14. Organizing small objects, like Cheerios, in a muffin tin.
  15. Creating a felt food feast.
  16. Pouring water between containers at the kitchen counter (AKA potching)
  17. Trying on all the hats in the house.
  18. Removing everything from the bookshelves. Maybe putting them back.
  19. Sticking and unsticking stickers! On the paper, on your shirt, on your cheek. Hooray.
  20. Playing in a ball pit from your old pack n play.
  21. Helping grind coffee beans (or is this just my kid?).
  22. Tearing up paper – use old magazines or newspaper.
  23. No-mess finger painting.
  24. Banging pots and pans really loud (not so great for that phone call).
  25. Solving puzzles like these simple ones.
  26. Running trains over the tracks you put together.

Outdoor activities for toddlers

  1. Discovering how chalk works on the ground outside
  2. Playing hide-and-seek with small toys or fruit from a tree, Easter Egg-style. (Give your child a bucket to collect the items you’ve “hidden” at the park or in your yard).
  3. Throwing. This simple act never gets old. “Let’s go to the park and throw sticks at the bushes!”
  4. Going anywhere in a bike trailer.
  5. Collecting rocks into a container. Stacking rocks. Lining up rocks. I’m surprised they don’t sell rocks at Toys R Us. I bet someone has tried.
  6. Pouring water in and out of a large container.
  7. Starting a butterfly garden.
  8. Playing fetch with stomp rockets or other “blast-off and chase” toys

Outings for moms with toddlers

  1. Home Depot or other massive hardware store. Check out the light switches, the door bells, the orange cones. Basically every thing your kiddo enjoys seeing in the world around him is sold there. Look at all those potties!
  2. Public Library. Since other people’s toys and books are more fun than your own, this is a place to enjoy them for an hour or two. No pressure to buy anything!
  3. Zoo, time to think about a membership, mama.
  4. Elementary school playground, watch some big kids or test your daredevil.
  5. IKEA. If you’re lucky enough to live near one, here’s a list of why it’s awesome for parents.
  6. Chase the garbage truck! Some days are easier to get out of the house when you know your garbage routes.
  7. Children’s museum (save money on membership when you follow our tips).
  8. Pitch a tent at REI.
  9. Sip pretend coffee at a kid-friendly cafe. (It’s called steamed milk, and they’ll make it not-too-hot if you ask.)
  10. Your friend’s house, where the toys are fresh and novel.
  11. Anywhere with trains.
  12. Push a doll stroller or drag a wagon around the block. Even better, find a friend with a baby in a stroller and let your toddler push her stroller on the World’s Slowest Walk.
  13. Ethiopian or sushi restaurant where eating with your hands is worldly.
  14. Indoor playspace with climbing, bouncing and toys you don’t need to keep at home.
  15. Bus ride, round trip.
  16. Take a class together.
  17. Botanical garden with leaves to touch and bugs to chase.
  18. Toy store; keep your wallet hidden, why not teach now that a store is like a museum of cool stuff to admire?

52 things to do with toddlers before they turn two

Related: Best gifts for a two-year old.

Activity #37: Meow, bark and tweet at the pet store

Take your older baby to the petstore and dozens of maternity leave challenges

My friend Mary (who had her son Del in the same hospital the day after I had Julian) gave this idea to our Moms Group. She said that 13-month old Del loves the pet store where he can check out the animals, especially the birds.

Does your baby love animals? Mine really did (and still do) but when we went to the Zoo, I found that he couldn’t really see the large animals that were so far away from him in their habitats. A visit to Petco where he could get right next to the turtle tank and mouse cage was just as much fun — and closer to my house!

Take your older baby to the petstore and dozens of maternity leave challenges

To kill two birds with one stone (no-offense, bird lovers), you could be a really nice friend and offer to pick up pet food for that postpartum friend of yours, meanwhile taking your older baby on a super fun and free outing.

Fun things to do with babies, week by week

This is your 37th weekly challenge for rookie moms. Baby not old enough to appreciate the fish tank? Start at the beginning of our series of fun things to do with babies.

7 Ideas For Mom and Baby Halloween Costumes

This post contains affiliate links.

Family Halloween Costumes

Since I can still fit into my 9th grade cheerleading outfit (that’s a brag, not a humble brag), I have used it more than once on Halloween to coordinate with my son’s football player costume. I bet some of you would like to dress up in partnership with your babes as well.

Here are 7 ideas for mom and baby costumes:

Ideas for Mom and Baby Costumes

Olive Oyl and Sweet Pea from Popeye

Find Swee’Pea on Amazon and Olive Oyl on Amazon. Also available in Plus Sizes.

If Dad wants to get in on this family costume, he can click on this Popeye costume. Swee’pea seems to be mostly held by Popeye in the cartoons anyway.
Popeye Adult Costume

(Find these muscles on

Star Wars. Heather already declared her love for Princess Leia as a mom costume, which both masks a post-partum belly and allows kids of any age to be Luke Skywalker (white kimono-style top) or any number of other Star Wars personality. So what if Leia and Yoda never actually interact in the legends? This day is about fantasy.

Princess Leia and Yoda are a fun Mom and Baby Halloween costume

Her costume above is courtesy of Order placed by 4 pm get shipped same day.


For Toy Story fans, I like kiddo as Woody (or Buzz) and mom as Jessie. The outfits in the picture are available on BuyCostumes or Amazon, but even better for your toddler are the pajamas version of Woody.
Disney Toy Story - Woody Infant CostumeDisney Toy Story 2 Jessie Adult Costume

The sports theme I referred to could be accomplished a number of ways.

Baby as football; mom as football player, referee, or cheerleader. This one is from etsy, but you can make it with a brown onesie and white tape or fabric paint.

Mom and Baby costume ideas

Alternatively, baby can be a football player with a souvenir jersey and the right color leggings. Add black face paint under the eyes.

Order a referee shirt here. (Just add black pants. The whole thing they want to sell women as a referee costume is offensive. Of course, Sexy Referee! There’s also a teen version with a mini skirt. What?)
Referee Shirt Adult Costume

For Muppet fans, I kinda like baby as Kermit and mom as Miss Piggy, but I’m not wild about the way the Miss Piggy store-bought costume looks.  A bigger mom would rock a Hollywood-style dress with Miss Piggy glamour style than the lady in this picture, so let’s forget about her and envision Adele instead.

Kermit Toddler CostumeThe Muppets Miss Piggy Adult Costume

Dad, please don’t try to join the party as Gonzo. It’s scary.

The Muppets Gonzo Adult Costume

Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood
Vintage Wolf Infant/Toddler Costume

Baby lion and mom is Dorothy

Ideas for Mom and Baby costumes

Costume ideas for slings and carriers
Costume ideas for strollers and carseats
Costume ideas for bald babies

Tech Tuesday – Be in the know before a product recall is issued

Thanks to EMPOWERED SAFETY for sponsoring Tech Tuesday today.

How to Stay on Top of Safety Recalls

It seems like safety recalls happen frequently in the field of baby products, which is reassuring because it means there’s a system in place to keep consumers — and their babies — protected. But at the same time, every time I hear of a major one, it gives me a creepy feeling, knowing that I’m lucky, and someone else found out about a faulty product too late.

Here are some excerpts from letters consumers write:




That’s three different notes, all filed about the same car seat.

Well, it turns out that it doesn’t take just one consumer complaint for a recall to be issued. There may be many complaints — even hundreds — before a formal recall is required.

For example, 1.9 million units of my carseat of choice were recalled in 2014. The first consumer complaint relevant to the recall was dated January 2009. Five years passed, and in that time, 177 consumer complaints were filed.

Here’s how you can tune in:

A website called Empowered SAFETY contains a database of over half a million baby and children’s products. When you subscribe to the premium service and create a profile, you indicate which items you own, where you live, and the age and gender of your children.


How to stay abreast of children's product safety recalls

Empowered SAFETY sends emails, prioritized by urgency, about safety issues related to products, food safety (which may be regional), home safety, and health and wellness issues (also regional).

This is the only service that alerts consumer to complaints before a recall has been issued.

How to stay on top of children's product recalls

If you want to see the specific complaints, you can click on the product. Note that you’ll see the complaints exactly as they’ve been made by consumers to government agencies or on blogs, so grammar and spelling police, you’re going to need to relax. It is helpful to see what real parents are saying, however, and to be made aware of the specific problem with the product, ie is it a buckle that breaks or padding that shreds so badly it becomes a choking hazard. (I never would have thought of that one!)

Empowered SAFETY offers a two-week free trial on their website, and I’ve got a promo code for you guys for 28 days free: ES28DAY94. Click through to Empowered SAFETY to use it.

We’re also giving away a 6-month membership to one lucky winner. I love that we are able to give away this valuable — and clutter-free!– safety tool.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks again to Empowered SAFETY for sponsoring this post.
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Activity #36: Take a photo of your baby at the pumpkin patch

Take a photo of your baby at the pumpkin patch

Your 36th weekly challenge is a seasonal photo assignment. You can’t take a bad picture in a pumpkin patch. Good assignment, right? Find a pumpkin patch. Go. Take pictures. Where we live, you can get a good old fashioned farm for a half-day outing, a street corner covered over in hay, or a mound taller than a man at the neighborhood grocery store (this is true, we made a whole guide to East Bay pumpkin patches). Your future self won’t be able to tell the difference.

Use hay as a background, too.

Pumpkin patches are the best scenery for baby pics
{source: backpacktobuggy}

Pumpkin patches are the best scene for baby pics

{photo: Marketing Mommy}

Rookie Moms Challenges

If you do this, we would LOVE to see your photos on our rookiemoms facebook page or tagging us on instagram (@rookiemoms). Is your baby too little or is it the wrong season where you live? Choose another challenge.

On being a working mom: Practice makes imperfect okay

Working outside the house is a whole different story after maternity leave than it was before. Being away from the babe can be gratifying and stimulating, but also stressful. And I’m not talking about guilt, whose impact truly varies from mom to mom. I’m talking about the logistics that make a job and parenting hard to balance.

From getting ready for work in the morning while a little person is demanding attention to making sure I had sufficient food in the house to feed us, it was tough for me. And when my nanny canceled in order to tend to her own child who needed her? I had to stay home from work. And let’s not even talk about pumping. Now I know there are numerous tricks that working moms master along the way (hello, grocery delivery services), but on the first day? The first month? The first year? There’s a steep learning curve.  My friend Mary, her family’s breadwinner and mom of two, encouraged me, “Give yourself permission to learn on the job.”

No one knows how to do their new job entirely on the first day of work, she reminded me, so how would you know how to be a Working Mom the first day that becomes your new title?

After some practice, it gets better. (So friends, don’t quit your job just because the first week back is so awful.)

Mary even gave me a bottle of champagne when I had my second child and told me to save it for the day that Ryan and I felt like, “Okay, we got this. We have two kids and it’s working.”

And you know how much I like to get a gold star when I do something hard.

The gold stars we earn as working moms may still be rough around the edges. Practice does not mean perfection. It means that when you arrive to drop your child off at daycare and realize he’s out of diapers and you didn’t bring any, you understand that asking to borrow some doesn’t make you a failure. It means shrugging off mistakes and figuring out how to work around them.

I give merit badges for problem solving.

rookie moms merit badge

When I was on my first maternity leave, I geared up for going back to work by acting like I had a job. Sort of.

Last year, Kids in the House interviewed me about All Things Rookie Moms, here’s what I said about how to “practice” for working moms.


Easy chalkboard paint projects

While my kids were out of the house one day, I got a little crazy crafty and painted their bedroom door. It was previously all dark wood, which I didn’t like anyway, so I painted the trim white and the inner panel with black chalkboard paint. I was influenced by my Internet friend Amy, who painted an outdoor chalkboard door at her house.

Chalkboard door for kids room and other chalkboard paint ideas

Doing the lettering is a whole other story. That day, I posted on Instagram, “That chalk art shit you see in restaurants is way harder than it looks.

This month, I saw all this good stuff from Colorhouse Paint, who makes chalkboard paint in a variety of lovely colors.


I liked this simple decoration of a wall which could be for a nursery or a home office. Or even better, for those who are using one room for two purposes, this could be a nice way to mark the space with personality for each function. Tutorial here >

How to paint a chalkboard "bubble" on the wall

How in the heck do you paint a circle on the wall? This tutorial has a little string trick that can help.

Use a chalkboard wall as ever-changing wallpaper

I love this arrow wall because it’s like having wallpaper that you could change every few months. And, after scouring the chalk art on Pinterest and nearly hyperventilating from the level of difficulty, I appreciate how great this simple motif looks. Here’s the tutorial >

Colorhouse paint is no VOCs and no toxins. Find it in many colors on Amazon>



How to make an iPhone costume for your baby’s stroller

How to make an iPhone costume for your baby

I wanted to make a huge iPhone that could be used as a costume on Halloween by attaching it to a stroller or car seat. My daughter was my helper, so she got to be the first model for the finished product, even though she is too big for a stroller.

iPhone tutorial: Halloween stroller solution

Materials needed:

  • Piece of foam core – sold at a craft store or office supply store, usually 30 x 20, about $5. I asked in the frame department at Michael’s and they had larger pieces in the back.
  • Box cutter – I call a big utility knife a “box cutter” but while I was working on this, my parents kept calling it an Exacto knife, so see the picture below to get my drift.
  • Pencil
  • Sharpie
  • Yard stick or large ruler/straight edge
  • Optional: Silver tape for metallic edge. Found at Michael’s or here.

How to make an iPhone costume

When I set out on this project I believed that the key to the board looking like an iPhone was to get the ratio of height to width — and the proportions of the screen — exactly right, so I prepared to do some serious 7th grade math to figure it out for you. Once I researched the size of the iPhone and saw how many variations there are (iPhone 4/5/6) I realized that the exact measurements are not SUPER important, but you can just do what I did and it will certainly look like a recognizable mobile phone.

TUTORIAL: iPhone Costume

Protect your work surface with a discarded cardboard box and cut your 30 x 20 piece of foam core to 30 x 15.5.


In other words, simply cut 4.5 inches off the width. And then cut the corners to be rounded.

I drew my lines straight by using a Sharpie on the back side of the board and then used the box cutter to make the slices as needed.

Next cut the screen out.

The screen is centered on this type of phone, so it’s pretty easy. Measure 5.5″ from the top and the bottom and one inch in from the sides. Use a ruler again to draw a large rectangle for the screen on the back side of the board.

The edges may be a bit jaggedy because of the inner foam material. Hiding them with a border of silver tape helps.

How to make an iPhone costume

Next, you need the details on the front of the phone. I used a short juice glass to trace a circle for the home button. The curved-edge box inside the round home button was made out of silver Duck Tape-brand tape that I cut free-hand. You could just use a pencil.

How to turn a piece of foam core into a huge iPhone

I modeled my camera lens and speaker details on my sister’s iPhone 4 after looking at my own iPhone 5 and thinking hers looked more iconic. The sideways thermometer shape (know what I mean?) that represents the speaker/camera is about 5 inches long. I did a practice drawing of that on the backside before drawing it with pencil on the front.


Now that your posterboard resembles a phone, figure out how you will attach it to the stroller. Zip ties will work, but once it’s on, it will be difficult to take on and off. I used a piece of ribbon on each side.

Halloween costume ideas for babies

Related: More stroller and car seat costumes for babies