Top 5 montessori inspired toys to buy for your toddler

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I know my previous posts have been more about my pregnancy loss journey, but I also would love to share more things about my life and the things I love. This week I’ve been browsing like crazy to find some good quality toys to invest in this year. I hate the idea of buying “cheap” plastic toys that don’t get played with very long or break easily. Instead, I’ve decided to spend a bit more money on toys that will last longer, and now I’m sharing them with you!

As a (phys ed) teacher, and a child development specialist, I am not only looking for toys that improve fine and gross motor skills, but also toys that have more than one function, allowing my child to let his imagination run wild. I just ordered this number one item yesterday and I am SO excited for it.

1. Balance board – #1 CHOICE

No, it is not cheap.. but YES it is a good investment. This can be used for years and years and even be enjoyed by Mama (think; yoga on a balance board!).

What is it.. A slide? A rocker? A bridge? A ramp for cars? It is all of the above and them some. From 18 months – teenage years, this board will be loved by all and for years to come. I must admit, Tim looked at me funny when I showed it to him and said I wanted to buy it, he was NOT for it. But when I explained all the uses and read a bunch of (extremely positive!) reviews, he was on board. I cannot wait to see Finn play with this. I originally looked into a Wobbel board, they are a Dutch company and I am familiar with them, but here in Canada they are a tad more expensive. I decided to go local with the Canadian made Kimboo board. And for my US followers, the Kinderfeets board seems to be a good choice also!

2. The Wishbone mini flip

US customers can find it here. In Canada it can be found at Ella + Elliot.
And for my Dutchies: HERE

This thing is THE BEST. I bought it for Finn’s birthday and it is a MAJOR hit in this house, from the start. It grows with him and you can flip the bottom over so it becomes a rocker! When he was learning to walk he used it as a walker, seriously.. you can NOT go wrong with this one, and you can totally customize the colors too!

3. Rainbow Stacker

find it on Amazon in Canada and the USA
and on in the Netherlands

I could not leave this one out of the list.. cause it’s a Rainbow! And nope that’s not the only reason why I listed it here. This thing inspires creativity, and not to mention, it looks cute as decoration in the nursery too!

There are different rainbow stackers to choose from, though Grimm’s seems to have the best reviews for quality and they make them in 4 (!!!) different sizes.

4. Balance Bike

When I visited my parents in the Netherlands I saw there were so many cool quality products, and this was one of them. It is the same brand as the Mini Flip and I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the wishbone products so I had to add this, I mean.. COME ON. Look how cool this bike is!

Find it on amazon in Canada here, in the US here
and a different (but similar idea) balance bike for my Dutchies here.

I won’t be buying it for Finn this Christmas (This Santa needs to budget after all.. ) But I seriously will be considering buying it for his birthday in March. It will be awesome for rides to the park!

5. Puzzles

And last but not least.. Puzzles. Because.. How can you go wrong with good quality and educational wooden puzzles?

Sold on amazon in Canada and the USA
Similar puzzle in the Netherlands

I hope I’ve inspired you to invest in one amazing toy this year, I will for sure be sharing my experiences with the ones I end up buying. For now, happy (online) shopping!

Why everyone should be listening to The Happiness Lab by Laurie Santos and how it has changed my life

Life is too short to be anything but happy.

“Put your phone down, you’re affecting my happiness!”, Tim and I jokingly tell each other whenever we watch tv together. Science backs it up though; there is an actual science behind being happy, and I’ve learned so much through listening to The Happiness Lab, a podcast by Yale professor Laurie Santos. Even though Tim and I are “joking” when we say this, it actually works. Knowing that having my phone out doesn’t just impact my enjoyment of whatever we are doing but also his, makes me put the phone down. And when he puts his away, I feel it too, it really does make the moment more enjoyable. What has the Happiness Lab taught me? That we can learn to be happier, we can work to be happier.

I am so excited about this podcast, I’ve mentioned it to family, friends and co-workers. And now I will share a few of the things I learned through listening with you, and how it has changed my life (and happiness level) already. Knowing how my mind works is really useful when going about daily activities. Because I know now, that my mind is tricking me when it comes to what makes me happy. Eat that entire bag of chips, watch that Netflix show, lay in bed a little longer instead of going out for a walk/run. My mind tells me those are the things I want to do, and that they will make me happy. And maybe they do in the moment, but not in the long run. I am the first to admit that I can be lazy, I’d rather sit on the couch and drink my coffee not doing anything for a while opposed to rushing and getting ready to head out the door. But does that really make me happier? No, it does not. Even though I hate the rushing part, I love getting out, interacting with people, taking my son to play places or the park, going out for breakfast. Those are the things that really make me happy. I know this now. And the science backs it up.

If you want something to change, you have to change it. Laurie explains most of us are waiting and hoping our circumstances will change, convinced that when this happens… we will be happier. Maybe when we get a new job, or a new house, then my life will be in place. Once again, our minds are lying to us, we can work on being happy right now. It is entirely possible, even if you have the disposition to be on the more unhappy side, you just have to work harder at it than some others.

I won’t give away too much, as I want you to go ahead and listen to The Happiness Lab and be as impressed as me. I learned some things I already knew, but being reminded about them and having it put in another perspective, makes me work harder at changing the things in my life that are affecting my happiness level. What do I mean? Well, in one episode Laurie talks about how our mobile phones affect our own experiences, but also those of others around us. Research has shown that scrolling on my phone while watching a movie with my husband doesn’t just affect my own happiness, but also his. Having my phone out while playing with my kid, affects his experience of the moment and makes him enjoy it less. We are dispositioned to want to share in experiences, and having someone be “half there” doesn’t feel quite the same. Knowing this, Tim and I make even more of an effort to put our phones away, prioritizing family and couple time. And instead of nagging each other about it, we are able to jokingly remind each other that “you’re not just ruining this moment for yourself by being less present, but also for me”. “You’re affecting my happiness!” is a phrase that regularly gets thrown around and is always followed by laughs.

How else has it changed my life? Well, I try to outsmart my brain. I know it is trying to trick me. I know that it makes me happier in the long run to do that laundry, clean the house and have it all tidy when I come down in the morning instead of laying in bed doing nothing binging Netflix after Finn goes to bed. It makes me feel less guilty, less lazy, and like I am a better mom and spouse. A clean organized house gives me much more enjoyment in the long run, than watching yet another show. I kick myself in the butt more often and remind myself of the things that REALLY make me happy. Going through heartbreaking stuff really can tear you down, and even though those are things I cannot change or control, it feels freeing to know that I DO have control over my own happiness. Happiness is possible.

Check out The Happiness Lab here. New episodes every Tuesday.

Gave it a listen? Please share your thoughts below or on Facebook. I would love to hear your feedback!

Another “should have been”

34 and 6. I would (should!) have been 34 weeks and 6 days pregnant today. The longest I’ve ever been pregnant. Finn and I made it to 34 and 6 when he made his rapid entrance. These pictures were taken the evening before I woke up to my water breaking. 34 and 6, it should have been a milestone, instead it’s just another “should have been”.

And here I am, the only one thinking about this. The only one dreading my due date coming up. Pregnancy loss is lonely, people move on, even I do (in a way). Until a trigger or a milestone — a “should have been”, comes along and I grieve. It’s unfair, someone should have been growing in my belly. I miss you little bub, wherever you are. 💫

Why you should stop telling people with anxiety to “just relax”.

I can’t. I want to, but I can’t. I cannot help that my mind makes up the worst case scenarios, that I start getting a tight feeling in my chest, that I’m on edge. I know most people that haven’t experienced anxiety don’t understand, but guess what: I really don’t understand it either. Rationally I know I’m being ridiculous and there are times where I can tell myself that, but there are also times where my anxiety gets the upper hand and freaks out my mind and in return, also my body.

I never really had anxiety. Growing up, I had a great child hood, a good relationship with my family, friends, a good education. Nothing major had happened to me, until I moved across the world at age 25, but let’s be honest; that was something I had control over, something I chose. Sure, it gave me anxiety at times, but not the kind that I can experience today. Not the “something is going to happen to my child/spouse” kind of anxiety I can get at times.

I’ve heard it often, most from the people closest to me. “Just relax”, “Chill Sanne he’s fine” “Why do you see the danger in everything?”.

I had a chat about this with a friend a few weeks back. A friend I have never met in person but I still consider my friend. We connected when we experienced our first miscarriage at the same time, and since then, even though we both eventually got our rainbow baby, we have both been through a lot. She told me she hates it when people tell her to “relax”, to which I replied “I know, I can’t help but see the dangers”. She agreed. And so it got me thinking, how can we let those around us know how to help, or maybe even more important… let them know what does NOT help? My anxiety will not go away simply because you told me to relax or chill out. It actually can give me more anxiety or trigger me because honestly, I wish I could just relax. Believe me when I say: people with anxiety want nothing more than to be able to “just relax”, they just can’t. They can’t help to see the dangers, or that they have irrational fears, thoughts and/or insecurities.These feelings are legitimate for the person who experiences it.

Let me give you an example, when I watch Finn play and explore and climb, I love it and encourage it, I’ll be having a great time with him in the park. Here comes anxiety… All of a sudden I see an image of him slipping and falling and breaking his neck. Not cool anxiety, not cool. I find myself often telling Tim things like “you should watch him better”, “no he can’t have a blanket” and “you didn’t pull his seat belt tight enough”. I literally see dangers everywhere. To be honest, I can hide it quite well, I always try my best not to show Finn, because I know it will affect him. I can also be just fine for days or even weeks, but the anxiety always seems to build up over time and there are times where it catches up to me.

The reality is, when I had my second miscarriage I didn’t think I could ever have kids. And now that I do have one, I’m scared sh*tless that he will be taken away from me. I’m the happiest, but also the most anxious I’ve ever been. Comes with the (loss) mom territory I guess. I’m definitely a different mom than I would have been had I not experienced my hardships. Maybe I would have been a less anxious mom, but maybe also a less strong and grateful mom, I count my lucky stars every night that somehow I get to enjoy Finn every day, I never take him for granted. And he’ll grow up knowing what a miracle he is to both his parents.

So if you ever find yourself wanting to tell an anxious person to “just relax”, please think twice. You probably have no idea how hard we already try, and how much we want to. Oh if only I could, I would, if only I could.