Real Talk With Real Moms / Play and Screen Time

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Ah! I am SO excited to be writing this post right now, because it’s bringing me back to something I haven’t done in awhile - just some good old fashioned long winded blogging. If you’ve been along the journey with me for awhile, you’ll remember that for several years I blogged on a regular basis about my outfits, shopping, cocktails, fashion tips, and then motherhood. My regular posts took a backseat when I revamped my business in 2017 and put all my time into my clients, but I’ve really missed popping on here and sharing with you guys about whatever is on my mind. So when my mom blogger friends and I decided to bring back the Real Talk With Real Moms series, I was all over it.

If you’re new to Real Talk With Real Moms, it’s a monthly discussion about life with kiddos brought to you by a group of badass bloggers who are all working moms. We all have a variety of blog topics, viewpoints, and styles, so each of us brings a different voice to each topic. I know I love reading the other moms’ takes, so I can get tips and ideas on how to do it better myself. Cuz let’s face it, parenting is HARD. So I hope you enjoy this little break from fashion on my site to talk about being a mom. I know so many of you struggle with a lot of the same things I do, so I love to keep the discussion open!

Today we are all posting about play ideas and screen time, which I know for me has been a big one in my house now that Sailor is 3 and in constant need of attention and stimulation. Check out the posts from the other ladies as well, and stay tuned for another topic next month!

The Effortless Chic / Studio DIY / Natalie Borton / A Daily Something / Apartment 34

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Right now, we are in the thick of the screen time dilemma over at the Sheppard house. But then again, this day in age, I’m not sure there will ever be a time where it won’t be a topic of discussion. Sailor is at an age where her mind is always going, she has preferences/requests about EVERYTHING, and she wants constant interaction. She goes to preschool full time now, which means she is getting to exercise her brain basically all day (with a nap break somewhere in there). She comes home just vibrating with the excitement of everything she did that day, and is still bouncing off the walls. Literally the only thing that will calm her and bring her down to an energy level more consistent with the rest of us is a little bit of Pinkalicious, Sofia the First, or lately, The Sound of Music. Since this comes at a time when I also need to make dinner, I usually cave and let her veg out in front of the TV for a bit. If I had just played outside all day, I’d want to veg out too!

We tend to take a pretty middle of the road approach to a lot of aspects of parenting, so it just seems like a little bit of TV isn’t going to kill her. It’s when we stretch it a little too far that we start to see the changes in her mood. If we get a little too comfortable with the extra free time it gives us, and accidentally let her watch the entire movie after she had already watched a show that day, she goes into a headspace we prefer never to be. Tantrums, crying, irritable, demanding… even for the rest of the day. We always say “lesson learned.” So, we’re definitely not perfect parents when it comes to this, but if we can keep things in moderation, everything is usually in a good place.

So, what type of play do we find keeps her occupied without a screen? We don’t have a ton of toys in our house, for various reasons. Not in any extreme way - she has plenty - but we just don’t have a play room full of toys. The living room has one credenza where we store her most used ones, and any backups are kept in the garage. I’m constantly going through and getting rid of things that lost a lot of pieces or that she’s not reaching for. Most of these toys keep her occupied for a few minutes before she leaves them in the middle of the room and is on to the next. This whole process will last about 20 minutes tops before she’s looking to us for interaction. This can be challenging to say the least, but it does cause us to find activities that will genuinely engage her. A few of the most successful ones include:

  1. Making cards for loved ones. For the holidays, she and Madi (nanny turned BFF) made cards for every family member, friend, teacher, and Starbucks employee, all of which got mailed out or hand delivered. All it took were some blank cards from the dollar section at Target, rubber stamps, markers, and stickers. Something about the idea of making something for a specific person really inspires her. Now we’re onto Valentines.

  2. Reading books. Sailor has always been book obsessed, which is awesome. Sometimes she’ll sit and “read” by herself, but she’s happiest sitting with one of us and reading together.

  3. Playing “tennis.” Actually badminton. Surprisingly, this is kind of a sport that can be played in the house. No net of course.

  4. Yoga. The girl loves yoga. We get out the mats and she’ll show us the moves/chants she’s learned in her preschool yoga class (I know). She loves 3 legged dog the most. But you don’t have to have yoga at school to try this one. She’s always been fascinated by all the poses.

  5. The park. What kid doesn’t love the park? Sailor would never turn a trip down. Every time she goes, she challenges herself to try something she hasn’t done before. It’s great because it gets us out of the house and exercising, and allows her to practice her physical skills.

  6. FaceTiming with family who live far away. This one is a gray area because it involves the screen, but Sailor loves connecting with her grandparents, aunts, and uncles this way. She’ll put the phone on a gorilla pod, attach it to her scooter, and take them all for (very dizzy/choppy) rides.

  7. Walking the dogs. She loves to take the leash and feel like an adult. She gets tired and asks to stop and “take a moment” along the way, but it’s another fun activity that involves exercise and also crosses something off the To Do list.

  8. Dressing up. Whether we like it or not, we’ve managed to collect a plethora of princess dresses and it’s not a normal day if she’s not requesting to put one on at some point. It’s not much of an activity because she just puts it on and goes about her day, but there’s a whole ritual around deciding which princess she wants to be that day, and it seems like it’s helping her navigate “girl life” somehow.

There’s one common theme amongst most of these. They all require an adult to do them interactively with her, or be overseeing it in some way. At the end of the day, she’s happiest when she’s playing WITH us. It can be draining when there’s a million other things to get done and it feels like she’s never satisfied, but it’s a good reminder that ultimately kids her age just want to spend time with us. I’m sure I’ll welcome the day when she’s happier to play on her own, but I know I’ll miss her looking to me for attention as much as she does now.

I’d love to know what your toddlers’ favorite activities are, because I’m definitely in need of ideas! Let me know if you enjoy these types of posts and if you have any requests of topics you’d like to see discussed!


Photography by Ashley Burns

Real Talk With Real Moms / Chores

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It's so crazy to me that I'm writing a post about Sailor doing "chores" right now when it just feels like a matter of months ago that this child was a blob of an infant who did nothing but nurse, sleep, and poop. How can she already be put to work as an actual helpful member of the family? Well we're definitely on the young end of kids' ages that would make sense to be covering this topic alongside the rest of the Real Talk With Real Moms bloggers but much to my surprise (and delight), Sailor has been starting to do things that could sort of be described as chores, so here we are. But we're definitely very new to this one, so I'm surely going to be looking for insight from my fellow moms who are also posting on this subject today! Be sure to check out their thoughts too:

Hey Mama / Ave Styles / Design for Mankind / The Effortless Chic / Design Addict Mom

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Growing up, my chores were very much a part of my daily routine. I was expected to make my bed, keep my room clean, and help out around the house. On weekends my sister and I had more involved chores like folding laundry, helping with cleaning, and whatever else my parents needed done. Not that we were put to work all weekend, but we'd definitely have a list of a few chores that we did NOT want to do, and then we were able to enjoy ourselves for the rest of the time. Now I see how valuable those rules were to making me a contributing member of the family, and someone who understands as an adult what it takes to run a household.

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Sailor is at an age where she loves to mimic what she sees us doing, even if she doesn't quite understand the purpose of everything. Her new thing just this week is pushing the kitchen chairs up to the sink, and getting up there to do "dishes" which entails trying to drink the soapy water out of whatever cups are in there and splashing everywhere. She'll do it for an hour and LOVES it. We've discovered that if she feels like she's helping out, she's much happier than if she's just being told to play or read her books. So I've started actually asking her to help me out. Picking up the makeup brushes and putting them away. Gathering all her books on the floor and putting them in the basket, etc. Having little receptacles around for her toys and books has been perfect because she will start to clean up on her own as an activity. She's perfectly happy to spend her time taking toys out of a bin only to put them back in. Obviously this is awesome. I try to let her know how much I "appreciate her help" and she's pleased to get the affirmations. She may be too young to understand what it really means to help out but I feel like we are teaching her how to make herself useful and for right now that feels like a win.

If any of you mamas have older kids I would love to hear how you start to incorporate chores as they become old enough to actually get stuff done, and what it means to do chores in your family!

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Dress by Elm Street Textiles (my mom)

Photography by Ashley Burns

Real Talk With Real Moms / Adult Time vs Family Time

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The concept of "adult time vs family time" is one that can leave new parents marveling at how different their current life is from the one they had before. The second you cross over into a life with kids, it becomes painfully obvious that finding time together with your spouse one-on-one is like finding a unicorn. Sure, you can get a babysitter but remember when you didn't have to pay someone or ask for a favor just to be able to go to the movies? When the kids are in their young years (which everyone says go by fast but can also feel like an eternity when it comes to certain things), being able to freely wake up on a Saturday morning after sleeping in til 9 and stroll down to brunch is something that's now only normal on vacation (one where you left the kids at home, of course)... which is a whole unicorn in itself. Yet, more than ever, when you become parents is exactly when it's the most crucial to feel connected and on the same page as your spouse. That's why for us it's been super important to make sure there is both family time AND adult time in each day...

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The mornings are natural family time. We wake up and try to have some quality book/play time while also working together to get everyone fed and ready for the day. We did a whole post about morning routines with Real Talk With Real Moms, which you can read here. The adult time is harder to find. Ian comes home from work around 6:30 or 7, which is in the middle of Sailor's evening routine of dinner, bath, and bed. So he either jumps right in and takes over with her while I try to finish watering the plants outside (sprinkler system problems), clean up, and start dinner, or we switch. If we're lucky, we fit in a family walk. Then we put her down around 8 (well one of us does while the other one finishes making dinner), and only at that point do we get to relax as two adults. But unlike the days when the night was young at 8, we get to bed by 10:30 on most nights so we can be ready for the 6:30 human alarm, and do it all again.

We usually spend these two hours eating dinner, talking about our day, and continuing with a show binge (right now it's The Handmaids Tale - OMG, have you watched?). So, we ALWAYS eat dinner as adults after she goes to bed. This is partly logistical, but also because we see dinner as a sacred grown-up ceremony of sorts (VERY poorly chosen word, if you're watching the aforementioned show). This time to just sit and relax together is a lot shorter than it used to be, but that makes it count even more. What's hard is when it doesn't really work out. Sometimes we're exhausted, making dinner doesn't even get started til after 8pm, and I'm still needing to get some work time in before the day is over. Those are the days where our adult time is eaten up by other things, and the whole day feels out of balance.

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Right now my current mom challenge is to be extra efficient with my time during the day, to make SURE that our adult time is solid. That means getting Sailor's ducks in a row for the evening needs to start around 5:30: dinner, plants, bath, and our dinner started all before Ian gets home. It can be a tall order when also trying to get my work stuff done for the day and everything else going on, but we notice a HUGE difference in how balanced the day feels when these things happen. It just makes the evenings less stressful. Making it a priority and carving out the time makes us better parents, and recharges us for the next day. The next parent challenge: schedule more adult vacays. Even if it's just a weekend somewhere an hour away, that time together just us every once in awhile is non-negotiable!

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And what about adult time with friends? I'm a big believer in double date nights, Bachelorette night with the girls, and lunch dates sans kid. They may not happen quite as often as we'd like, but I try to take as many opportunities as I can. I genuinely feel that it's not possible to give your friends the attention they deserve if you bring your kids, unless they also have kids that can play with yours. After she was about 7 months old, I stopped bringing Sailor to lunch dates because I know that it would turn into the Sailor show whether the adults like it or not. She's at an age where she is all consuming (frankly just not a great lunch date). So I wait for the days I have someone to watch Sailor to set up friend time. I know my friends love Sailor, but trying to catch up over lunch doesn't really work too well with a toddler in tow. If my friends want to hang with Sailor too, I'll have them come over to play with her on a day where we can also leave some time for the adults to chat during nap or after her bedtime. I find it incredibly frustrating to constantly be dividing my attention or trying to talk over a child's yelling, so even if the friend doesn't mind, I do mind, and I prefer to be present for one thing at a time.

So what's your philosophy on kid time vs. adult time? I'd love to know how other families balance their time! I'm excited to read how the other moms do it too:

A Daily Something / Design For Mankind / The Effortless Chic / The Refined Woman