Posted on 2 Comments

Toddler Life: Audio Books & Quiet Time

Toddler Life: Audio Books & Quiet Time Nourish Paris

It’s finally happened. Nap time is totally off the table. To be totally honest, it’s been off the table for a while now but naps were still happening occasionally and when they did, choirs of Angels sang praises from the skies. I loved nap time. 

However, we’ve transitioned to “Quiet time” and while it’s not always quiet…and not always a lot of time…it seems to be working for us. The basic concept is that Arthur does a quiet activity in his bedroom for one hour. It sounds simple enough but finding a way to keep him chill and happy for quiet time has taken a while to get right. That’s where audiobooks have come in. We get our audiobooks from a variety of sources, but first – why have quiet time at all?

  • For your own sanity. Now seriously, life in a tiny space with a tiny tornado of a two year old can get a bit intense. Throw in a husband who works at night and sometimes needs to sleep during the day, a baby who needs to nap, no second bedroom and a thousand tasks that need to be done & quiet time is literally saving lives. 
  • Allows children time to reset, be with themselves and rest. Important stuff for little bodies and minds that are on the go and learning all day long. 
  • It increases confidence, creativity and independence. This is the time of the day that Arthur is really alone to play. I’m not there for him to bounce ideas off, play with, or even talk to. This is generally the time when he does his most imaginative playing, challenges himself with what he plays with (our dominoes, lotto and matching cards get used a lot in this time) and also what books he looks at. 

Audiobooks

Audiobooks have been a fantastic addition to our quiet times. We use a wireless bluetooth speaker that I control from my iPad or phone. This has been useful because I can control the volume, turning it down or off totally if Arthur, by some incredible chance actually falls asleep. As the stories for his age group are generally shorter than one hour, I can also control what he listens to next. We get our audiobooks from a variety of places:

  • CDs that come with books. Yes it’s still possible to buy books with audio CD’s attached! We don’t have a CD player but I just pop them on the computer and then onto my iPad or phone. We’ve got a few lovely ones like this including Emma Thompson’s Peter Rabbit stories and a really gorgeous version of Peter and the Wolf. 
  • YouTube. Often it’s possible to listen on YouTube. We just play the sound on the wireless speaker while the video plays elsewhere. It’s not our favourite way to listen but it works and we’ve found some lovely classics like Wind in the Willows and lots of Beatrix Potter stories. 
  • Record yourself or a loved one reading. This is currently our favourite way to listen to stories. My Grandma recently found a recording my Grandpa made in the eighties of him reading bedtime stories to my eldest cousin Hannah. Hannah’s managed to put them onto a memory stick for a few of us cousins who have small children and so, often Arthur will be read a story by my grandfather, who died when I was thirteen. It really is incredible and heart rending to hear his voice reading to my son, whom he never met. I wonder when he recorded it, if he could have imagined that Arthur or any of his other five great-grandchildren would be listening to his stories fifteen years after his life had ended. It really is magical to me that Arthur can hear his voice and it has encouraged me to record myself and others reading stories too.

With an audiobook playing in the background, Arthur will happily play in his room for at least an hour at a time. We try to time it for just after lunch, when everyone needs a break before diving into the afternoon’s activities. Do you implement a quiet time in your house? Do you love audiobooks too? Let me know your favourites & where you’re getting them! We’re always looking for more.

Posted on Leave a comment

Three Plus One Makes Four

Three Plus One Makes Four Nourish Paris

Here we are, deep into the fourth trimester. I wish I could say it’s been slow, sleepy and spent mostly in bed – but that would be a lie. Such is the fate of a second child (and mother of two!). 

Luckily we’ve found Fred to be generally calm natured. He’s slotted in nicely to our small, toddler dominated space. Arthur’s somehow found it in him to make some room for his brother, even asking me if Freddie can share his bed this evening (hard pass; too much risk of erratic kicking from both boys). I was worried about this dynamic; that my precious first born would feel ousted, that our firm routine would suffer, that our apartment would descend into a molten pit of dirty nappies, dirty dishes and disturbed sleep…and don’t get me wrong, things have changed but here are my thoughts on how to have a calm, restorative fourth trimester with a toddler in tow:

Let go of any and all expectations

You have two children now – it will take some getting used to. When they both cry at the same time you will momentarily have no idea who to go to first. If you have a partner around – divide and conquer, if you don’t – prioritise. I find everything generally goes better if I put my boob in Fred’s mouth first. The situation immediately drops a couple of decibels and I’m able to tend to whatever Arthur needs (learning how to breastfeed while baby wearing really REALLY helped this one.) It doesn’t look glamorous or Instagramable, you don’t look glamorous or Instagramable and your apartment CERTAINLY doesn’t look glamorous or Instagramable but the baby is fed, the overall volume of things has massively decreased and your first born is getting attention. That’s a win in my books. 

Nothing will look anything like you expected. Which is why you must…

Accept all offers of help 

All of them. Including the things you thought you’d never accept. Like a long bubble bath at your mate’s house while she holds the baby because you don’t have a bath and your back is SO stiff from all that falling asleep upright. 

Let your mother-in-law hold the baby, let your friend do your washing up, eat the cake that people bring you even if you’re freaking out about the baby weight. Nobody will ever bring you baked goods over in such quantities with no judgement at how fast you eat them ever again. Take advantage. 

Let the little things go

No. You don’t need to mop the kitchen floor right now. 
Yup. Your toddler can in fact watch Cars 3 for the second time this week and it will not kill him.
Who gives a sh** that it’s dry shampoo? (I HIGHLY recommend H&M’s dry shampoo.)

Cling to the structures that help

Having said all of that, if you have systems and structures that keep you sane already in place, cling to them. For example, I made an effort to shower & put my makeup and clean clothes on every day in the couple of weeks postpartum when you don’t really feel like doing that. It helped me feel fresh on next to no sleep, prepared for the day with my kids and happy about myself. I also like my environment to be tidy – so I take at least 10 minutes a day to do a superficial tidy away of surface mess (hide it in cupboards). Do what works for you and don’t apologise for it. Sometimes self-care is a reluctant shower and a speed clean. 

Nourish and love your body 

The big one. You just had a baby! Your body is incredible! Reward it with nourishing food, warm drinks, hearty soups, stews, casseroles and stir fry’s. Hopefully some kind soul (or yourself) have filled your freezer with at least a couple of meals that take minimal effort from you and only require one hand to eat. Treat your body with respect and love – it’s just given you the greatest gift and does not want to hear any “Snapping back” “Shedding the baby weight” bollocks the Daily Mail might want to throw at it – in fact, just step away from tabloid newspapers and “Women’s magazines” altogether. 

Finally, give yourself a massive hug. This mum stuff isn’t easy, but you’re going to be just fine.

Posted on Leave a comment

Paris Kitchen: Quick Chocolate Orange Cake

Paris Kitchen: Quick Chocolate Orange Cake Nourish Paris

Paris Kitchen: Quick Chocolate Orange Cake Nourish Paris

Stan’s love language is not gift giving. He doesn’t see things and think that I’ll like them, it’s just not in his nature – so generally I’m pleasantly surprised when he gets a gift so spectacularly right , it’s as if he was in my head. Obviously my favourite gift this Christmas was the Harry Potter wand that controls the TV (all my Witching dreams come true!) but my runner up was the absurdly lovely book “Feeding a family: A real life plan for making dinner work” by Sarah Waldman.

Christmas day was just a week ago and I’ve already made three dinner recipes and three desserts from this book. They’re all healthy, packed with nutrients and what’s more, Arthur has devoured all of them. As I might have mentioned, we’ve been going through a bit of a vegetable dry patch with Arthur. I’ve tried to remain calm about it, tried to remember that it’s just a phase but, as a cook it’s been really disheartening and my passion for cooking family meals has suffered as a result. 

Well, long story short, I think Arthur’s eaten more vegetables this week than he has in the whole of the rest of December. Basically this book is the inspiration I’ve been searching for and I encourage you, if you want to up your kitchen game with ease, to get this book and follow Sarah Waldman’s blog too. You won’t regret it. 

I’ve included in this post her recipe for quick chocolate citrus cake. This dense, delicious cake has been a massive hit in our house (particularly with Terry’s Chocolate Orange loving me and Arthur!). Just to clarify – this ISN’T my recipe and I want to give full credit where credit is due.

Recipe

  • 200g dark 70% chocolate
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • Whipped cream & sliced orange for the top
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 210° Celsius and grease an 8 inch cake pan. Line the cake pan with greaseproof paper.
  2. Slowly melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat until smooth. Add the coconut sugar to the chocolate mixture, stir well, and set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one by one to the chocolate mixture, whisking well after adding each egg. Add the flour and the orange juice and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for around 25 minutes or until the center of the cake looks just set.
  4. Once removed from the oven allow the cake to cool for ten minutes or so still in the cake pan on a wire cooling rack, then carefully invert the cake onto the rack and peel away the greaseproof paper. Allow the cake to cool completely before topping with the whipped cream and oranges.

This cake is decadent enough to be served as dessert at your next dinner party, but equally just as easy to whip up for your kid’s gouter or evening dessert. It was such a treat to have chocolate cake mid-week that Arthur thoroughly enjoyed it, as did I!

Happy baking!

 

Posted on 3 Comments

Minimalist Me: Christmas Lists and Toy Control

Minimalist Me: Christmas Lists and Toy Control Nourish Paris

Oh it’s really snuck up on me this year but Christmas is truly just around the corner! I’ve been far more organised than previous years – nesting, pregnancy hormones and Christmas planning are apparently a winning combination when it comes to organisation! We are planning on spending our first Christmas as just us three (but hopefully four!) in Paris. This will be the first time that we haven’t spent it with one of our families but we are excited to make some of our own traditions with our own children!

As always when you have young kids, the question of presents comes up early – how many to give, what type of toy, are we doing Father Christmas presents, are we doing multiple presents from everyone? This will be Arthur’s third Christmas and quite honestly, he wants for nothing. I decided, for the purpose of this blog post to take a look at what he already has and loves in the hope of inspiring you, if you’re reading and struggling to buy for your toddler. At the end is a little list of things we’ve bought for this year that you might want to consider. I’ve split it into a couple of categories for ease: Toys, activities, and games.

Minimalist Me: Christmas Lists and Toy Control Nourish Paris

Toys

  • Wooden animals: these gorgeous, solid animals are always a winner. They’re a brand called Holztiger and I’ve seen them around in a fair few independent toy shops in Paris. They have a few ranges (farm animals, etc.) and they’re just lovely for promoting imaginative play. At this age, any kind of toy animal fascinates Arthur, and he can spend a good hour playing with them.
  • Wooden Cars: we have a set of Janod wooden cars that Arthur is completely obsessed with (seriously – he sleeps with them!) I love them because they’ve proved themselves really really durable, he received them for Christmas 2015 and has played with them practically every day since. Janod is stocked all over France and can be found in most toy stores. 
  • Grimms Rainbow: this classic, beautiful toy from Grimms (pictured below) is one of our more pricy toys, but honestly worth every penny. It has provided hours of imaginative play at our house and gets used as a tunnel, roads, boats, bridges, cradles for baby dolls and everything inbetween. 
  • Brio: self explanatory, if you have a child into trains, I can’t recommend Brio train tracks highly enough. It’s an absolute classic and, happily connects with IKEA train tracks too so you can combine collections. 

Minimalist Me: Christmas Lists and Toy Control Nourish Paris

Minimalist Me: Christmas Lists and Toy Control Nourish Paris

Activities

  • Cleaning: most little kids love copying mummy and daddy and last year Arthur received a beautiful wooden broom and dustpan & brush set from Nature et Decouvertes. (pictured at top of page) It gets used every day. Sometimes we pour out things like coloured feathers or conkers for him to sweep up, sometimes he just helps sweep the kitchen but, either way, he loves it. 
  • Sorting and ordering: from six months and up, lots of babies like to sort and order different objects. We have a set of stacking pots from Grimms that Arthur liked to put objects into, and take them out. Now he uses them for counting objects like pegs, conkers, little balls and people. They’re pictured above and you can find them here.
  • Crafts: Generally having a well stocked craft cupboard has held us in good stead, particularly through the winter months when outdoor time is limited. This really doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We keep things like lolly sticks, yarn, coloured paper, glue, paints, chalks and beeswax crayons, play doh, salt doh ingredients and beeswax for modelling. 
  • Dressing up: This is a new thing that Arthur is into and oh, it’s making my heart swell! I loved dressing up as a child and my mum made amazing costumes for us (she also loves dressing up!) if you wanted to read about some great benefits of dress up play you can do so here. At the moment we have a relatively small dressing up selection; bird, wolf, tiger, mechanic – but are looking forward to growing it over the years. The bird costume pictured above is from Okaidi

Minimalist Me: Christmas Lists and Toy Control Nourish Paris

Games

  • Story cards: I’ve written about these fantastic cards before when discussing our toddler’s morning and evening routine but they’re always worth a mention. There are far more cards in the pack than pictured above and they can be used to make up stories. Arthur particularly loves the one about the tree growing. You can find them at Nature et Decouvertes in their Montessori department. 
  • Lotto: Arthur plays this at his Mamie’s house alot and we’ve got a beautiful set here too. He loves looking at the little pictures and matching them up to the cards. I love that it’s the first game we’ve been able to play together as a family too. Worth a look & you can find our set here.

Christmas

I’ve spoken before about how we try to limit the amount of toys that Arthur is given. We live in a very small space and just don’t have the room. I also believe that it’s not healthy in terms of development for children to be overwhelmed by toys. At Christmas and birthdays therefore, we tend to send a list to grandparents and others of things that we know he will love and play with and ask them to choose one gift each to give. It generally works very well (with the exception of my mum this year who just returned to England yesterday having dropped off SLIGHTLY more than one gift for Arthur…) and we try to work on the four gift principle of: something you WANT, something you NEED, something to WEAR and something to READ. With that in mind, here’s our Christmas list this year.

  • WANT: some wooden beads for threading onto shoe laces
  • NEED: a child size yoga mat so that he stops stealing mine!
  • WEAR: a musketeer dressing up costume
  • READ: the Koala who could (We have the Lion inside and LOVE it)

I hope this has given you some ideas and inspiration if you’re feeling stuck. We’re trying to make Christmas more about starting our own traditions this year than gift giving but it is undoubtedly part of making your child’s (and your!) Christmas magical! 

What’s Father Christmas bringing down your chimney this year?

xxx

Posted on 2 Comments

Toddler Life: Encouraging Quiet Play & a Simple Play Doh Recipe

Toddler Life: Encouraging Quiet Play & a Simple Play Doh Recipe Nourish Paris

As it’s getting darker earlier and earlier over here we have less time to spend outdoors. We’re starting to look inwards, spending more time reading, drawing, crafting and playing and much more time turning the living room furniture into a soft obstacle course to jump on. When cabin fever hits during a long winter in a tiny apartment with small people, the best idea is to wrap up and get outside – whatever the weather. 

Sometimes though, this just isn’t possible. Paris can be truly truly awful during winter, something about long boulevards with icy cold wind rushing down them just isn’t appealing. Encouraging a quiet play time during your daily rhythm, especially straight after school or crèche, can really help little ones unwind all year round, but it becomes especially important in autumn and winter when we’re all shut up inside together. 

Toddler Life: Encouraging Quiet Play & a Simple Play Doh Recipe Nourish Paris

how to encourage independent quiet play

  • Light a candle. As it’s getting dark earlier, we’ve been lighting candles (keeping them well out of the reach of little hands!) and maybe lighting only one other lamp. Keeping soft light in dark seasons helps us all unwind and relax and encourages a quiet atmosphere. 
  • Create a play-list. I use Spotify to find soft, relaxing music for this time of day. We love the Spotify Autumn Acoustic playlist and the Slow Mornings instrumental playlist by mamawatters of the blog Homesong
  • Have baskets of activities prepared in advance. Arthur loves counting conkers at the moment, so we have a pot of conkers ready to go, which he counts in and out of the pots from his play kitchen. Have the play doh to hand with a bag of accessories etc.
  • Have a space near you where they can play. One of our biggest challenges with encouraging independent play was that Arthur just wanted to be with us, not separated in his bedroom. When we got a toddler sized table & chairs for the kitchen, it was like a revelation. He’s totally happy to sit there engrossed in whatever he’s doing while I cook now. 

Toddler Life: Encouraging Quiet Play & a Simple Play Doh Recipe Nourish Paris

play doh

One of the best quiet time activities is Play Doh. Arthur’s at the right age now where he can spend a good hour intensely playing with it. It’s also brilliant because it’s open ended – with some imagination it can really become anything. Arthur makes “food” with it, uses it with his trucks and diggers, makes shapes with it, makes it into “petit poissons” swimming through the sea. It’s nice to see his imagination doing some work and him so engrossed in a game. I like to make our play doh. I find it lasts longer, I can make the colours I want and I can also add essential oils to it, lavender in particular to encourage calm, quiet play. 

recipe

  • 1 cup table salt
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 table spoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups warm water
  • food colouring
  • essential oils of choice (make sure they are safe for children)

Mix all of your ingredients together over a medium heat until it’s no longer sticky. Tip it out onto your work surface and knead it with your hands quickly to make sure it’s not sticking to your hands. Divide it up and knead the food colouring and essential oils into each part (this bit is a bit messy). Leave to cool for five minutes and store in an air-tight container. 

It’s so quick and easy to make and from ingredients you can find in your kitchen cupboard, so worth making!

What do you do for indoor toddler activities? Do you have a set time for quiet play in your house? I’d love to hear what you do!

 

Posted on 4 Comments

Minimalist Me: Minimalism for Toddlers

Minimalist Me: Minimalism for Toddlers Nourish Paris

So I feel like I need to start this post with a disclaimer because the title is quite…heavy. Minimalism for toddlers, I mean it sounds a bit intense – like I make my two year old sleep on a mat in an empty white room and play with sticks. 

“Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of your stuff. It’s about focussing your family on what really matters in life.” Why kids need minimalism, Denaye Barahona.

As always, I am coming from the position of having very little living space and minimalism looks different for everyone. We have stuff, we have toys, we have knick-knacks, we have THAT drawer that is stuffed full of stuff that doesn’t go anywhere else, it’s just proportionate to our living space. However, one area where we really really make a conscious effort to be at our most minimalist is when it comes to kid’s stuff. Here’s why:

When I was pregnant with Arthur I got excited about buying ALL the baby things for him. Cute clothes, every gadget under the sun, the beautiful baby carriers, the bottles and sterilisers and cribs and baby swings, play mats, toys…the list just goes on. There is a never ending market for baby things because the people selling them KNOW that expectant parents are excitable creatures and very likely to fork out for every gadget going. In fact parents in general are an “easy sell”. Parenting is hard work, we want whatever we can get our hands on to make it easier on ourselves and I understand this impulse, I really do. However, what we really end up doing when we start the endless buying cycle, is making things harder on ourselves. How?

  • Kids have so many toys that they can’t actually find what they want to play with which leads to far less non-parent led play, constant fighting between siblings, stress and anxiety in kids. It also generally leads to more screen time and less time outdoors. Whiny aggravated stressed kids.
  • Parents feel trapped into constantly buying their child the next thing, because they are bored with what they have. Stressed, in debt parents.
  • Parents are constantly trying to find space and/or storage solutions for the endless toys, games, sports kit, craft supplies that their kids begged for – but have now cast aside. Less space at home.

Why choose minimalism?

Joshua Becker has written a great article on the subject “Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids” but here are some of the best reasons he lists from our family’s perspective:

  • Kids learn to be more creative. 
    Not just in terms of what we think of as creativity – arts and crafts, music, painting etc. but creative and imaginative in their play. I think the best toy we’ve bought has been Arthur’s play kitchen – he will happily spend a couple of hours cooking us meals, cleaning it, feeding his bear and bunny “coffee” and pretending it’s a shop. A good toy will act as a sort of leap board, which encourages and is a catalyst for imaginative play which mans that…
  • Kids become more resourceful.
    Which is important for later education: “Fewer toys causes children to become resourceful by solving problems with only the materials at hand. And resourcefulness is a gift with unlimited potential.” (Joshua Becker)
  • A tidier and clutter-free home.
    One of the biggest advantages of less toys and THINGS in general is that we have a tidier, clutter free home. It takes 10 minutes to tidy Arthur’s room and he has space in there to get his toys out and play with them (which is great because there’ll soon be two boys in there!) We’ve set his room up so he can reach almost everything himself and tidy it away himself too using baskets and low cupboards and shelves. Because it’s so easy for him to tidy, he’s learning how to keep his space clean too. Yes he still does have more stuff than I’d like (especially cuddly toys!) but it’s a work in progress, like everything we do – it’s all about learning what works best for us. 

Minimalist Me: Minimalism for Toddlers Nourish Paris

How to start

As I’ve said, this really doesn’t have to be a question of heading straight to your children’s rooms armed with bin liners and steely determination. It doesn’t actually mean you need to get rid of anything straight away if that seems too daunting. 

  • Start with looking at your child’s room. How many toys do they actually have? Can you see the floor? Take everything off the shelves and make a pile of what you know they absolutely LOVE and use every day, favourite dolls, the play kitchen etc. Make a second pile of things they use once a week or so, dressing up clothes, craft supplies, sports gear. Put everything else in a box. When you’re putting everything back, make sure that the things they use every day are the most accessible. Put the box in a cupboard somewhere, if they don’t ask for something in that box for a week – donate the box to your local charity shop. 
  • Resist the urge to buy. For Christmas and birthdays we’ve started to buy gifts using the idea “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” This Christmas that will include Father Christmas presents – so four (small) presents in total and one from each set of grandparents. When it comes to grandparents, we send a very specific list a month before Christmas or birthday to them and ask them to choose something from the list. This might seem high maintenance but we don’t have the space in our home for excessive or large gifts. 
    The rest we buy on a needs must basis; clothes, a bucket & spade set for the beach for example, a fun umbrella for la rentrée and arts and crafts supplies throughout the year. 
  • Use your purchase power! Shopping like this throughout the year for your kids should mean that you have a little more money to spend when you do buy on quality toys or in local or independent shops. Quality products will last longer and your kids will take better care of them knowing that they are special and won’t be replaced the moment they break. 

As I said, minimalism looks different for every family. For us, it helps our family function the way we need it to, in a way that contributes to our values and lifestyle. It’s certainly not for everyone, but there are definitely some benefits for both parents and kids in the idea.