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Taking a Toddler To Europe

Taking a Toddler To Europe

When my daughter (the Munchkin) was 16 months old we made a spontaneous decision and went to Europe for a week.  My husband and I had booked 1 week off work and had planned to enjoy a few days at home and a few days a few hours away in Parksville, BC.  About two weeks before this was to occur, we checked flight prices and found a deal too good to pass up.  Soon we were off as a family of three to Europe for one week.

Today I’m giving an overview as to how we planned for this spontaneous trip and why we thought flying 11 hours with a 16 month old was a good idea.

Mouse House Mom Shelby Hancock travels to Rome with a toddler
Enjoying the views in Rome

Upcoming Posts on Rome

This post is the first in a series of posts about travelling with a toddler in Rome.  Upcoming blog posts will include key highlights from our trip and cover how to successfully tour the Coliseum and Forum. I’ll also share how to use Rome’s public transit system instead of the hop-on-hop-off busses.  We also had a successful beach day that I’ll discuss. Stay tuned for these posts in the weeks ahead.  Also, if you have any specific questions please email me and I’ll try to address them.

Mouse House Mom Shelby Hancock travels to Europe with a toddler

Past Toddler Travels

We had traveled six months earlier with our Munchkin to Florida for a two week trip in three different cities. I had also taken her for a weekend to Ohio.  On both trips the Munchkin enjoyed airplane rides and was in a pleasant mood most of the time.  She could sleep in her baby carrier and never had any issues with time zone changes.  Given her successful track record with flying and time zones we thought we could handle the trip.  Also, the departing flight was scheduled for 1  hour after her usual bedtime so we had hopes that she’d sleep.

Toddler Readiness

Our Munchkin had a couple months of walking under her belt.  She also had a few teeth and was a good eater. The Munchkin loved pasta, bread, and tomatoes, which was a good match for Rome! Naps made us worrisome as she was still at the two naps a day stage with a 9:30am nap and a 2pm nap.

Packing for a Week in Europe

We filled our suitcases with summer clothes and focused on bringing as many outfits for our Munchkin as possible.  We knew she may go through double the outfits as us. After all, she was a messy eater and known to get herself really dirty!  We also estimated 7 diapers a day and were able to pack enough diapers into the folds of our clothes and the crevices of our bags. We know what diapers we like and since we had space we decided to bring them along.  I also packed food pouches so she could have a snack on something familiar.  Our daycare suggested we bring any and all drugs from home so we had baby Advil, baby Tylenol, baby Benadryl, teething gel, and a super duty diaper rash cream.  We never used any of it, but it did give me piece of mine knowing we had it just in case.

As for Mom and Dad packing, we each packed one nice outfit that would be suitable for the Vatican – you know, in case Pope Francis wanted to chat over coffee…

Mouse House Mom Shelby Hancock travels to Rome with a toddler
Sometimes you need to nap while on vacation…

Baby Gear

I called our travel company (Transat) to inquire about our airport transfers.  I was advised it was a bus transfer and based on this advice I did not pack a car seat. We found out in Rome that it was a minivan and they didn’t care we had no car seat.  That was pretty stressful, but we had a safe ride.

We decided to bring a hand-me-down umbrella stroller.  The stroller had seen better days, but it still worked!  From all of my pre-trip research we heard that the cobble stones of Europe could wreck a stroller. So from this research I then researched baby stores and found PreNatal chain of baby stores.  They had a great selection of umbrella strollers so the plan was to buy a brand new umbrella stroller when ours broke.  Fortunately/unfortunately (?) our stroller never broke so it returned home with us.

We also traveled with our Ergo Baby Carrier. Recognizing it was above 34 degrees Celsius most days we also bought cooling towels that could go around our necks, over the Munchkin’s legs in the stroller, or in between our body and the Munchkin’s body when in the carrier.

 

Thanks for reading! If you’re planning a family vacation to Europe, I’d love to hear your comments.

Hello Weekend Fun: RecycleFest

Hello Weekend Fun: RecycleFest

My Weekend Festivals and Local Fun blog posts are my favourite part of Wednesdays and today I’m sharing about (1) RecycleFest and (2) Ice Cream.
  • Weekend Festival:  RecycleFest at Trout Lake Park on Saturday, July 22
  • Local Fun: Go for ice cream as a family!
While completely different activities for you to participate in this weekend, both are fantastically family oriented.

RecycleFest

RecycleFest is a local festival taking place at Trout Lake Park (Vancouver) on Saturday, July 22 from 10am to 3pm.  The main purpose of this family-fun event is to drop off any of  old or unwanted small appliances and power tools so they can be recycled properly.  However, this good-for-the-earth event is also good for families as it features:
  • Bouncy Castle.
  • Hot dog BBQ (good if you miss National Hot Dog Day on July 19).
  • Photo Booth.
  • Games and prizes.
RecycleFest caught my eye because it starts in the morning, meaning you could check it out before toddler nap-time.
I also like that it supports a cause I believe in.  I’m already teaching my toddler how to recycle. She knows we separate our waste and she takes yogurt containers to our blue bin for me.
Another perk of RecycleFest is that it fulfills a need. I seem to replace my hairdryer every couple years and I have a stack that I need to recycle – finally an easy opportunity to get these unwanted hairdryers out of my house.
To find more info on RecycleFest click here.
Mouse House Mom shares RecycleFest info
This is the poster for RecycleFest

Local Fun: Go for Ice Cream

I apologize, if you read my Summer Bucket List Check In post then you’ll know I still haven’t gone out for ice cream this summer.  If you get your ice cream in a cone then there’s no container to waste and you can keep with the reduce, reuse, recycle theme.
Weekend: Backyard Fun with Toddlers

Weekend: Backyard Fun with Toddlers

Hello Wednesday! Time to make weekend plans locally. My weekend festival is Aldergrove Fair Days. For local fun, I’m sharing 3 ways to maximize backyard fun with toddlers.

Weekend Festival: Aldergrove Fair Days

Check out Aldergrove Fair Days this weekend (July 15 and 16). The parade starts at 10am on Saturday, July 15 with a flower power theme. Catch the parade on Fraser Highway starting at 270 Street and ending at 273 Street.  Trooper is headlining the fair at 8pm on Saturday at the Aldergrove Athletic Park.

Shelby Hancock on maximizing backyard fun with toddlers

Local Fun: Maximizing Backyard Fun with Toddlers

It doesn’t get any more local than your own backyard.  Our backyard is fairly small, but we do have a lawn, small garden area, 4 potted tomato plants, and a concrete patio area where we can BBQ and sit at our patio table. In our own yard, we can have hours of fun with our toddler.
  
Below are my 3 tips for maximizing backyard fun all summer long with your toddler

1. Garden as a Family

I don’t have a green thumb, or even a green pinkie finger.  However, I still like to grow my own cherry tomatoes in pots. This usually starts as a fun task at the end of May and then we get lots of rain and I don’t need to water them nightly.  We are now in summer and watering the tomatoes has become a chore.  When you involve a toddler in a regular chore and see the task through their eyes it becomes fun and meaningful. On weekend mornings we water the plants in the back yard together – me with the hose, her with a 100 millilitre watering can.
Earlier this year we planted some marigolds and snap dragons in the front yard and my daughter loved getting her hands dirty and shoveling. Thankfully, I don’t care about my back garden since it’s only a tree and a dying hydrangea that the neighbour’s cat sleeps on. I let my daughter rake and dig (from her own garden set) in that back garden and it keeps her amused. A friend dropped some coins in her dirt pile and that brought out the inner archaeologist in my daughter.

2. Enjoy an Inflatable Pool

Inflatable kiddie pools can cost anywhere from $20 to $60 and there’s a large range in sizes. The baby sized pool is ideal for a baby that is able to sit up and splash. Consequently, the amount of water used is minimal. The next range tends to be slightly larger (two babies would fit) and the water level could get a bit higher.  From this size they just keep getting bigger and deeper. 

 

 We opted for a 3 ft by 4ft pool and we rarely fill above 8 inches deep.  This size pool means on a hot day my husband and I can both sit in the pool with our toddler. The neighbour kids also like to get in on the fun and it makes for a great afternoon of relaxing under the warm sun while endless laughs and splashes are enjoyed by all.
It is important to note that you can’t leave young ones unsupervised when the pool is filled – let’s be safe parents! Add some buckets, shovels, or even water bottles to the pool and you’ve got a new game to play.  After each weekend, we scoop out the water and use it to water our plants so we don’t waste the water.
Inflating tip: if you don’t have a special inflater then use your hairdryer to cover the hole and it will inflate. Remember to be quick fastening the hole once its filled.

3. Kicking and Throwing Balls

I fell in love with my house after we toured it and my husband described the backyard as the perfect size to play catch with his future kiddo. The yard and our kid have both lived up to my husband’s expectation. Walmart and even dollar stores have cheap balls of varying sizes.  We have beach balls, a soccer ball, and a football that we pass around.  At 16 months my daughter was mesmerized by our beach ball – it was soft, it was flimsy, and it was large enough for her to be able to swing her leg and make contact with it.  This summer she’s amazed by it, but likes throwing and kicking it. Most of all, she looks at her father and I like we are professional athletes when we can rally the ball back and forth.

I hope you find these tips fun. Stay hydrated, wear a hat, and don’t forget to to reapply sunscreen often!
 

 

Weekend Fun: Abbotsford Berry Festival

Weekend Fun: Abbotsford Berry Festival

Happy Wednesday to all!  Each Wednesday, I highlight a festival and local fun from Vancouver to the Fraser Valley. This week’s festival is the Abbotsford Berry Festival on Saturday, July 8. As for local fun, I’m highlighting the simplicity of a family bike ride.

 

Abbotsford Berry Festival

New this year, the Abbotsford Berry Festival is a ONE day event happening Saturday, July 8 from 9am to 9pm in downtown Abbotsford. I grew up in Abbotsford and this wasn’t a big deal to attend. However, in recent years, the downtown has been revitalized. Walking down Montrose Avenue you encounter coffee shops, home decor collectives, baby boutiques, and restaurants. We drove out to the Abbotsford Berry Festival (or BerryFest, for the cool kids) last year with my then 1 year old. It was the perfect excuse to drive the 25 minutes from Langley to visit our favourite baby store [Precious Kargo], buy raspberries and strawberries, and eat some good food as we walked down the streets. We even got to see a horse and a police car – pretty big deal for an afternoon out. This isn’t the PNE or state fair so there is a chance of boredom, but if you are looking to get out of the house and have a nice afternoon then I suggest you head to the Abbotsford Berry Festival.

3 Things to Know at the Abbotsford Berry Festival

  1. Admission is free!
    • Just mosey down the road into the heart of the festival. The web info is limited, but in the past the centre of the festival was Montrose Avenue and Essendene Avenue and one block out in each direction from here.
  2. The Ferris Wheel and Berry-Go-Round are $2 per person per ride.
    • What they lack in rides, they make up for in subsidized ride tickets! My little family can ride the Ferris Wheel for $6.
  3. Plan to stop for a snack a long the way.
    • Food trucks will be in attendance (I hear there’s RAMEN!) and the local coffee shops also offer delicious baked goods.

 

Local Fun: Family Bike Rides

One hand-me-down baby item that I knew I’d come to love, was the bike trailer attachment for my Chariot Double Cheetah running stroller.  We have been enjoying a slower pace on weekends and morning bike rides are becoming the norm. We rented bikes last summer and setting up the bike trailer was a time consuming, pain in the butt.  In order to make family bike rides a hassle-free experience we made space in our garage so that I can put my bike away and leave the bike trailer attached to my bike.  Now we can go for spontaneous bike rides.

We’ve been exploring Willoughby and even throwing the Munchkin’s scooter into the pouch on my bike trailer. We can then ride to an elementary school and let our Munchkin out of the trailer to practice on her scooter or play on the playground. I find giving her a toy or two helps keep her interested in our bike rides. I also stop to look at ducks in ponds, or to see puppies and we are constantly in dialogue while we ride. Give it a try and please share with me how your family bike riding goes.

 

 

Mouse House Mom Abbotsford Berry Festival and family bike rides
Somebody is ready for a bike ride.

 

Happy trails,

Shelby Hancock

Sporty Toddler: Tips for Toddler Recreation

Sporty Toddler: Tips for Toddler Recreation

Keeping with the fitness theme this week, I’m tackling toddler recreation options in this blog post. Even before I had my daughter (the Munchkin), I wanted to be the family that was physically active together.  Recognizing that I have a toddler and not a teen, I still strive to keep active as a family. We might not be rollerblading the roads now, but we still manage to have fun and stay active as a family.
 Shelby Hancock Mouse House Mom toddler recreation tips

My 3 Tips forToddler Recreation:

  • Participate in community sports.
  • Try out lots of different activities.
  • Don’t gender stereotype sports.

Baby & Toddler Swimming

The Munchkin made her first trip to the pool at 6 weeks old and we were keen to enroll her for her first swim lesson at 6 months old. She has continued to progress through swim lessons, even repeating levels in order to not go half a year between lessons. Next month she starts a new swim level, which is 3 toddlers and 1 instructor – no parent participation!
Shelby Hancock Toddler recreation swim
6 weeks old and in the pool.

Toddler Recreation Programs: Active Start

Our municipality offers “Active Start” sporting classes for toddlers as young as 18 months, with a requirement for parent participation. The classes are cheap, no more than $6 to $8 per class and classes range from 4 weeks to 8 weeks in duration.  I enjoy our Saturday morning sports classes and our post sports coffee and donut stops. The Munchkin’s grandparents come out to her sports classes and each week they say they can see changes and improvements in her development (not just in sports, but language and growth as well). I like to put my running shoes on and go play with my Munchkin and I wish I had time to do that every day.

Toddler Soccer

When the Munchkin was almost 18 months we put her in soccer, which was hilarious.  I was surprised at how much flak I got from people about putting my 2 year old in sports. People told me it was ridiculous, a waste of money, and that it was just too soon. One person said I should take my kid to the park and bring a ball for her to kick without the need for a class.
Perhaps they didn’t realize that I wasn’t putting the Munchkin in sports so that she’d be the next Christine Sinclair, although I did post that exact comment on my Instagram. I wanted the Munchkin to have fun interacting with a new person of authority (i.e., the coach), play with other kids, and kick a ball around outside. There are no teams, they don’t even scrimmage so there’s nobody keeping score of anything – trust me, we’re not THOSE parents!
Shelby Hancock Mouse House Mom toddler soccer
First Soccer practice.

Toddler Gymnastics

After soccer we tried gymnastics. The great part of gymnastics was the Munchkin learned new skills, like jumping and rolling. We also enjoyed meeting the other families and getting to play in a big indoor space during our terribly cold winter.

Toddler Multi-Sport

We recently wrapped up “multi-sport”, which was an outdoor class that involved kicking balls, throwing balls, and running. Tom Brady better watch himself because the Munchkin was getting pretty good at throwing a football. And by “pretty good” I mean, there was absolutely no spiral and she’d often drop the football backwards mid-throw.

Toddler Yoga

Our daycare is teaching the Munchkin some yoga or as the Munchkin calls it, “stretching”. Daily, the Munchkin stops what she is doing and announces that she’s stretching.  She then proceeds to go into down dog pose where she flows into three legged down dog.  I’ve taught her down dog to plank and then baby cobra and up-dog. She cracks me up with her daily yoga routine and she even assists me as I do my head-stands.
Shelby Hancock Mouse House Mom Toddler headstand
The Munchkin is my spotter (don’t mind the mess).

Toddler Golf

The Munchkin is sporty, but she’s also a thief! Whenever our neighbours garage is open, the Munchkin finds her way into the neighbours garage to their son’s old plastic golf clubs. She takes them out and plays with them. She seems to have learned that a golf club is different from a baseball bat since she swings the club at balls on the ground. While the other kids ride their bikes, she’s happy to stay back and work on her golf swing.

Skating

After working 60 hour work weeks for a few weeks this fall I had some mom guilt. I tried to buy my way out of it with a pair of ice skates for the Munchkin. We took her to the rink and she enjoyed walking in the skates, but was really uncertain when she got on the ice.  I think there’s a reason there weren’t any toddler skating classes until they are over two!
Shelby Hancock of Mouse House Mom toddler recreation
First time the Munchkin used skates.

Don’t Gender Stereotype Sports

The Munchkin was the only girl of 12 in her soccer class. In gymnastics, the girls outnumbered the boys 4:1.  In multi-sport there was 1 other girl that attended half the classes and the rest of the class was boys. While I  recognize enrollment is low for these toddler sports, I’m still annoyed at these gender stereotypes of sports.
There aren’t girl sports and boy sports and I’d have assumed parents of my generation would know that. I read all the course descriptions and was surprised at some of the activities. For instance, rhythmic gymnastics focused coordination and agility while working with balls and hoops – perfect for a future football player and not restricted for the girliest of girlie-girls.
See ya’,
Shelby Hancock