Holidays In Review: Early Gifting, Decorating and Pre-Christmas Experience

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This was our first real Christmas since Alexis was born. She was too young to understand gifts or the decorations or even do any of it safely before that when she was one, so we sort of skipped the whole Christmas deal that year and just had a Christmas dinner.

This past year however was all about buying Lexi her first Christmas gifts, decorating together, playing Christmas music, reading Christmas Books, going to Christmas events, seeing fake Florida snow.


Santa Claus

I thought a bit  about how to do Christmas in our family. I was not ok with the whole Santa thing (some strange old dude bringing presents through a chimney? What?) but I couldn’t think of a way of presenting it all without segregating her from all the kins who will believe in Santa when she is a little bit older. There was also this magical feeling that I remember having about Ded Moroz (though quite different but a Russian equivalent of an American Santa) that I wanted Lexi to experience. All the books and media feature Santa Claus, so it’s pretty hard to get away from that. I wish I could have Ded Moroz who gives you presents at a party after you tell him a poem or dance or sing a song like they do in Russia, but it’s just not doable  here.

Without much of our involvement, Alexis somehow picked up the idea of Santa from some Christmas books we read and we went with it, but didn’t make a big deal out of it.


Gift Giving

The next issue I had was all the gifting on Christmas morning. It just seemed a little excessive to give that many gifts in  one shot. I could just picture her tearing one package after another not really pausing to play with it or caring what it was. I didn’t like that idea. So instead I decided to do Days of Christmas and spread the majority of gifts over time with a few ones to be opened on Christmas morning. This worked out better than I thought, because every day she was so excited to come down and open another present and then she would spend the whole day playing with it.


So a few weeks before Christmas she would open one present and find a book or a small toy or something of that kind. Almost immediately we had her open one of the biggest gifts, because she could get great use out of it- the iPad Mini. Rather than strain her eyes and slouch trying to work with our small iPhones, the iPad gave her the opportunity to have her own space with all her apps and books and educational games without hogging one of our phones. ( For a list for some of the starter educational toddler apps, read this post). It also allows her to do more complex things like letter tracing and sorting or drawing  when on the go.



The other few gifts were Daniel Tiger Neighborhood toys and books. I knew she would go crazy over them and I was right! This was the best money spent ever. She never played with plush toys, so I was iffy whether she would play with these, though I couldn’t believe she wouldn’t. If you remember the toys were what helped Lexi start going potty, they were the first ones to become her favorites ( as in carry around with her everywhere) and they still serve well. The books were huge hits, as well, and we are patiently waiting for new ones to get released in July and May. She makes sure she carries at least one of the characters or books with her everywhere she goes and often talks to them or shows off in front of them. The toys were sold out everywhere so I had to buy them in batches until we had the whole collection. Now you can buy the full collection here.


The Decorating

It was pretty much a choice between letting her in on the beautiful part of Christmas, decorating the tree, and protecting her from the horrible toxins that those decorations are covered in. We tried to strike a balance between allowing her experience the fun of Christmas decorations and  washing hands frequently and teaching her not to touch the lights. Of course, that wasn’t always feasible, she’s a toddler in the end and thing like THIS (below) happened a few times before we were able to run up to her saying “Noooooo, sweetie!”  (more than once but less than three times )


She really really really enjoyed decorating, so we let her. Then washed hands, then she would touch the balls again, we would wash hands after she was done and so on.  She would also be really rough with the decorations at first and I showed her how to be gentle by putting my hand under the ball and saying “Ooooohhhh!” so she quickly picked it up and kept walking around saying “Ooooohhh!” to the balls. (See below).






She worked so hard trying to get the hang of the ball hooks and would do a little happy dance every time she would hang one successfully. We would clap and cheer and she would be so so happy!








I have just one more Holiday Photo post to catch up on which is the Christmas Morning and the gifts she ended up opening on Christmas Morning and I am done with the winter holidays.
In the time that I was absent there were so many things and photos that I have to share, along with all the other posts I’ve mentioned before. So it’s going to be a busy few months for me 🙂

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  • Reply
    February 8, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    I love the blanket in the last pictures, it would match my sons nursery perfectly! Where did you get it?

  • Reply
    February 8, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    Great photos! I hadn’t even thought about toxins on the tree ornaments — yikes! Luckily for us, our son had just turned one year old so was not so interested in helping us trim the tree. Also, we bought a very small tree (5 ft) and set it up on some boxes *covered with cloth) so that it was out of his reach. The only ornaments were some handmade ones I kept from my childhood and other ones we received as gifts (baby’s 1st Christmas ones from the year before when he was only 2 weeks old). I made a garland out of scrap paper from the recycling bin that I painted with non-toxic watercolors. This year, I hope my son will want to help paint a new garland. Another idea is to make a popcorn and cranberry garland. These are ways of avoiding the toxins in store-bought ornaments. The tree ends up looking a little sloppy (not as cohesive and elegant as yours), but I don’t mind. Also, I looked back at your Christmas post from 2012 and bookmarked it because of all the awesome traditions your readers shared with you. Love! I look forward to creating some real traditions this year since our son will be two!

  • Reply
    Tiff Baker
    February 8, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    Christmas is just magical through the eyes of a toddler, isnt it!? Lexi looks just so cute near the tree. Real tree, right? I L.O.V.E. the smell of real trees.
    I would love to know more about this Ded moroz. (Am I pronouncing it right, “dead”? Lol). Does he look like American Santa? I’m sure you can improvise and add him to your Christmas celebration. A great way to keep up your Russian heritage (speaking of Russia– how are you enjoying the Olympics?!)
    An ipad for Lexi? Lucky girl. Lol… Well, you sure have changed your stance on screen time. Does she have a certain amount of time to use it (like 10 mins a day?)

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 8, 2014 at 9:29 PM

      Yes, real tree! That’s one way to eliminate the lead and Pvc toxins, plus the smell…ummmm! I never had a real tree growing up…

      You can read about Ded Moroz here: but like in US, specifics varied by families since he was a fictional character. I see no point in adding him to our traditions, because he is too similar to Santa, but I do want to bring something into how we celebrate Christmas from Russian culture. I just haven’t figured out what.

      Screen time- YES! I have SOOO changed my mind on handheld devices (still don’t believe in TV programming, though I am ok with recorded shows or DVDs, just not live TV with ads and non-stop cartoons).
      It’s funny because I had a few preconceived notions before pregnancy about what kids are like and what kind of parent I will be and some of it was corrected by different books I’ve read and agreed with, but nothing really prepared me for the fact of how WRONG most books were about Lexi. Almost everything I read initially when it came to behaviors and parenting techniques were dead wrong. The whole “No educational value of screens before age 2” was one of them. I was very quickly corrected in my belief that she should not be exposed to technology by watching her interact with and learn from it. But I guess that’s the wonder of a child led parenting where you follow baby’s cues to see what works and what doesn’t.

      She doesn’t have a certain amount of time because every day is different and every things she plays with and watches is different and I don’t believe in rigid rules. My goal is to have her engaged into anything other than the ipad, so when she truly wants it, wants to watch or relax, or we have been driving for a while, I have no problems giving it to her. I will always let her finish a game or an episode unless she puts it down herself mid-use, but otherwise I don’t show it and don’t give it to her unless she specifically asks for it. It helps that she has an ipad now, so she doesn’t ask for my phone anymore and I can have it on me without worrying that she will want it every second of the day. Most of the time out of sight out of mind unless she is tired (but not sleepy), sick, or driving.

  • Reply
    February 8, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    So beautiful!!! Glad you enjoyed your first Xmas. I was meant to ask if kids eyes, in your opinion, can handle iPad screen potential harm?

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 8, 2014 at 9:31 PM

      I haven’t seen much research there on the screens effects on children’s eyes any more than reading books would. I have read that having a lot of outdoor time is beneficial (it has to do with bright light), so I try to have her out to play daily. But mostly from everything I read vision is mainly genetic, though environment plays a big role if it’s not balanced.

      • Reply
        February 9, 2014 at 3:51 AM

        Using an iPad or even a kindle hurts my eyes, so purely by my own conjecture, I would suspect it does the same to childrens as well.

        And going from a zero screen time to an iPad mini for an under 2 year old is a bit of a reversal for you as parents! I have no problem with screen time, having the TV on sometimes in the background, allowing my 4 year old to learn how to use my MacBook etc. But I would never get them their own device. Each to their own I suppose 🙂

      • Reply
        February 9, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        There is a lot of evidence that the blue light from backlit screens can interrupt the circadian rhythms of adults, so I’d expect that the effect would likely be the same (if not worse) for children. Do you allow Lexi to use the iPad before bed? Since breaking the bad habit of using my phone before going to sleep at night, I’ve noticed a major improvement in both the quality of my sleep and sleep interruption.

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          February 9, 2014 at 4:08 PM

          Yes, I actually learned that, too, after a commenter pointed it out. That’s one of the reason why she doesn’t get the ipad before bedtime (for the most part. There are always exceptions though). However, personally I haven’t noticed any correlation in real life from back when I didn’t know about this fact. Her sleep is pretty random regardless of what happens 🙂

          Did you read somewhere trusting that ipads/iphones in fact have that blue light? I def. know that older TV do. But I wonder if newer technology is the same

  • Reply
    February 8, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    I enjoyed reading your holiday recap, especially since it is rainy February outside and I needed a little sparkle. Lovely tree 🙂 and I adore Lexi’s gold sparkly dress! How do you get her to wear dresses? My child does not want anything to do with them… or pants for that matter. Thank God she still loves wearing underwear 🙂 and socks, and hats.

    The 2-year olds do enjoy Christmas so much! It is so adorable to see them run around with gifts, and the Christmas lights are magic. I also love driving past decorated houses after dark – my daughter called out Santa and snowman this year, and said “oouuu” every time she saw the lights.

    I never even considered toxins in the Christmas decorations – I suppose you just have to draw the line somewhere, plus it is only once a year. It would be impossible to wash hands after each encounter with a decorated bauble or a string of tree lights :), plus it really is part of the magic. Whatever do you mean “more than once, but less than three times” – lol – I am sure she touched the decorations more than that, and it is OK.

    Do you do anything Russian-style for New Years? Back home, it was always such a big deal for us – big food celebration, toast at midnight, watching the special program on TV, then gifts. I think they let me stay up after I was probably 7 years old. I never do anything here, we mostly have a glass or two of bubbly with dinner, watch a movie and call it a night. I miss the camaraderie of New Year celebrations at home, with the chopped salads (Oliviye), caviar and Abrau Durso (sparkly wine made in the Crimea region).

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 8, 2014 at 9:56 PM

      :)))) Glad you liked it!!!
      To answer your questions:
      Dresses- luckily she seems to have ZERO problems with clothing. She doesn’t care what she wears or doesn’t wear.
      Christmas toxins- basically aside from lead in Christmas tree lights’ wires and pvc of the artificial trees, I always thought that Christmas ornaments cannot be too safe when it comes to what kind of paint they use. I don’t know about them for a fact, but if toys have issues with lead paint, then oil based painted ornaments will do. And you’re absolutely right – you gotta draw the line somewhere. So we tried our best to wash her hands but in the end we weren’t perfect (I want to do better next year). Plus lead can soak through skin, so they don’t even have to put their hands in their mouths. Ugh!
      More than once, but less than three times – I meant the KISSES she gave to the balls in the picture below those words. I couldn’t stop her in time, so I took a picture. haha.

      Russian style for NYE- NOTHING! Believe it or not, it’s hard to have a festive atmosphere when you don’t hang out with Russian who celebrate NYE that way and I used to celebrate it by partying hard but now with kids- no way to do that 🙂 I do miss celebrating New Year’s Eve Russian Style… Maybe when Lexi is older, I will… Right now I just have enough energy to be her mom and do work and do all the activities and then actually think of things like that 🙂 lol For now. 🙂

  • Reply
    February 8, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    What adorable photos! I love how the exif data shows on them as well – really helpful as I’m just getting to grips with my camera.

    I’ve never thought to be concerned about tree ornaments, other than making sure they’re shatterproof. What are they made of that’s so dangerous? What would happen if she didn’t wash her hands afterwards? Is there like a chance of illness or death? I’m quite worried now as I’m sure I didn’t wash my son’s hands after he examined them every day!

    Lexi is so clever now! Lucky girl getting an ipad! My Clive wouldn’t have a clue what to do with one, lol!

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 8, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      Hi, Ann! 🙂 No she won’t die or get sick. Not from minor exposure like this. The wires of Christmas lights have a decent amount of lead ( they even have a warning on them) and lead kills brain cells and the damage is irreversible. Fake trees have pvc which is pretty good toxin as well tends to be contaminated with lead as well. (Lead poisoning happens in higher doses though and it’s bio-cumulative). I don’t know for a fact what the balls are made of but I have a suspicion that it’s paint with lead since that’s often the case with oil based paints.

      I would say don’t worry about it right now but just keep it in mind next year and wash his hands as often as it’s possible.

      • Reply
        February 10, 2014 at 11:20 PM

        What is your opinion on golf course pesticides? I know you live on one which means Lexi will in hale hem. As well as you’ve documented on here that she plays on them as well. Do they use non toxic chemicals?

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          February 11, 2014 at 10:45 PM

          No opinion. They suck, I wish they weren’t there. But nothing I can do about it. I am not going to limit her experiences of the outside and normal childhood just because we happened to live on a golf course. 🙂

  • Reply
    February 8, 2014 at 11:40 PM

    Cute photos! Lexi looks like she’s loving Christmas!

    I’m not trying to be snarky here, and I know you don’t think the AAP has ever seen a kid like Lexi, but come on. Why not just say, “I wanted to follow the guidelines for no screen time, but it turns out having a two year old is hard as crap sometimes, and sometimes you need a little TV/iPad/phone to get some things done”? We’ve all been there. By making up some bogus explanation, you’re doing a disservice to new moms who read your blog. It turns out that every parent needs a little break sometimes, and if an iPad gives you that, so be it. Just own it! (and for the love of God, don’t buy your 2 year old her own…)

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 9, 2014 at 12:09 AM

      Not trying to be snarky huh? 🙂

      If it was solely the case of “getting things done” then I’d say so. Sometimes it is, mostly it’s not. And the main reason for why she’s allowed screen time isn’t because I need time but because I see benefit in it. If I didn’t, then I’d find other ways of getting stuff done (as you say). Besides most of my “stuff gets done ” while she draws or reads books anyways. The only exception I make is when out of town friends are visiting and I want to have some adult time with minimal interruptions.
      I couldn’t care less about giving someone “a story” about why I do the things i do. I thought I’ve made it pretty clear.
      I know plenty of toddlers in real life and not, that use iPhones and learn things from them long before they are two. And then others who don’t. Lexi isn’t the only one who did that. Aap is simply full of it and using outdated info and age inappropriate media.

      And thanks for that last sentence. 🙂 because I was dying to know what I should or should not do with my money and my kid. Lmao

      • Reply
        February 9, 2014 at 3:19 AM

        Actually, Elena, the AAP is not actually full of it. They’re made up of people who have spent longer than you’ve even been alive working in a medical capacity. They went to medical school or got their PHD. They have been studying the effects of media and screen time on children for years. You can say that you personally disagree with the AAP (although I don’t know why you would) but you cannot say that they are full of it. That’s ridiculous.

        Although I would like to know why you say so?

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          February 9, 2014 at 3:17 PM

          I didn’t mean that disrespectfully, though it sure sounded that way. I am just a bit sick of having “experts” say things that might apply to some kids and families, but certainly don’t apply to others. However those things are always said in a way that leaves no room for exception.

          I’ll elaborate more on my thoughts in my replies to next comments. Don’t want to repeat myself

      • Reply
        February 9, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        Is this what you are calling “Child Led Parenting”? Lexi asks for something, then she gets it, even though she’s not even two (at Christmas)? That explains the lack of tantrums you seem so proud of – what could she possibly have to tantrum about when she gets everything she wants the second she wants it!? That will be super fun when she’s a teenager 🙂

        Tell me, what else is the AAP “simply full of it” on?

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          February 9, 2014 at 4:14 PM

          Oh yeah, because she certainly woke up one day and walked up to me and said “Mommy, I want my own ipad!”
          WTH is wrong with you? If you’re here to simply push your agenda and snark, leave! If you’re truly interested in my answers or what I have to say, change the way you ask questions.

          I absolutely CANNOT wait until she is a teenager, because we treat her with respect, without unnecessary struggles and lots of attention and love. You don’t need to hardcore-discipline a child who feels like they are respected because they respect you as well. But what would you know about it? Filled with anger, that certainly wasn’t the type of parenting you received.

          My AAP answer is in my previous comments in case you’d like to snark on that too ( at which point you will be blocked, btw, so watch your tone and be respectful)

          • Lulu
            February 9, 2014 at 9:59 PM

            I have no agenda. I’m simply a reader of your blog ?

            Genuine question: how much iPad time is Lexi getting that necessitated buying her her own device at not-quite-two? I have two kids (3 and 5) and they get their fair share of TV time (no iPad – we don’t own one, and we don’t let them play with our phones). True: kids can learn A LOT from media. Hell, my kid watches Dinosaur Train for 30 minutes just about every night, and she knows more about dinosaurs and paleontology than I’ll ever know. But if they were watching on my phone or my iPad (if I had one), it’s 30 minutes. I could spare that time away from my phone.

            I’m pretty familiar with teenagers, what with 15 years of teaching them under my belt. I can tell within days how they were parented, but since you’re not interested in what other parents do, I’ll spare you my conclusions. You’re right; I was not parented the way you parent Lexi. I’m ok with that. I had boundaries and limits, but I was loved and cared for.
            And guess what? I respected my parents as a teenager and still do as an adult – and that’s without them giving in to my every desire.
            Look: if this is how you and your husband choose to parent, so be it. Great! Every parent has to make their own way. Own it. It doesn’t matter to me (or anyone else) – we have our own kids, and everyone has to do what they think is right. But when you put your life online, you are inviting comments and questions, so to get angry when someone questions things you say is a little insane.

            Feel free to block me from commenting if you must, but I am not being rude. I am simply asking a question based on what you’ve put out there over the last few years.

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            February 9, 2014 at 11:36 PM

            Ha! I don’t block for differing opinions, I block for nastiness/rudeness/snarkiness/lack of point, and this comment is fine.

            I do own the way I parent, that must be clear! However, blogging does not equal inviting the crazies, they are just a “wonderful bonus”.

            And you know what, you have absolutely NO idea of what our parenting style is like. Yes, you know we are AP, but that can mean so many things, from extremes to borderline conservative. Yes, you know some of the decisions we make, yet you don’t know the reasons behind them, or situations. Yes, you know that we parent with love and patience and attention, but you don’t know the extent of it or the details. The truth is you don’t know anything when it comes to how we parent Lexi- you only know what I choose to share occasionally. lol So coming here and questioning MY parenting is a little narrow minded of you.

            If you truly believed that every parent has the right to parent the way they want to, then you wouldn’t post earlier comments. Period. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t bother me, but I am just calling you out on your inconsistencies, just like you think you’re doing it to me (except you’re drawing wrong conclusions using faulty and limited data).

            Also, I am sure you know that kids can still “erroneously” feel loved and cared for even in abusive situations, because it’s their basic need and they don’t know any different, so that is in no way an indicator of proper parenting.

            And to answer your first question (and to once again show you that you were drawing conclusions based on limited knowledge about us), Lexi got an iPad, not because it was necessary, not because she asked (that’s just silly), but because I wanted to her to have a bigger screen to work with rather than a tiny phone, to reduce eye strain and to have my iPhone be mine and not filled with a million kids’ apps and DT. How you have a TV for your kids to watch is any different than her having an Ipad – I really don’t see. The iPad is put away until I decide to bring it out, you can’t do it with a TV, so it’s there as a constant reminder.

  • Reply
    February 9, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    Screen time sure is a hot button topic, huh. It’s good to get the discussion going (w/o being snarky, lulu). Elena, do you have a date when the last time the AAP did screen time research? If it was over 5 years ago, then I would agree they should update (I’m sure they are researching as we speak). But, I think the point of the AAP’s guidelines is the actual screen (not necessarily the content). I mean, sure the ipad IS great to teach them the ABCs etc, but the passive time of being in front of the screen, close up, hearing sound but not reading lips, the instant gratification of it, are all negatives, in my opinion. And yes, tv (Netflix, ipad, etc) CAN be good as a relaxant, but I do agree that that is for OVER the age of 2.
    It is a crazy world our kids are going to grow up in, tech wise. Elena, do you have any comment on how this might effect attention span in the future?

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 9, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      No, I haven’t actually looked into when the studies were done that AAP based their recommendations off of. It’s not the first time they recommend something that clearly is not the best (like Hep B vaccines at birth).
      There are a lot of negatives to screen time, I fully agree. So the parents need to be smart about mitigating those (I’ll elaborate on the next comments). Age two isn’t a magical age at which everything happens and everything becomes ok. Every child is different and reacts to the environment differently, so recommendations like this are made for the general population, that doesn’t mean they apply to everyone.

      As far as attention span, I don’t think PROPER media (No fast screen changes) will have an effect on the attentions span as much as it will on patience. Since Lexi is only two, her self-control and attention spans are just developing and becoming better every day. I’ve seen no effect of OUR (keyword: the way we do it) use of media.

      • Reply
        February 9, 2014 at 4:16 PM

        I agree with you that 24 months is not a magical number in which they are now immune to some of the negative aspects of screen time. But like you said, Lexi (and all 2year olds) are just now learning the idea of patience, self-control, and I think one of the reasons AAP says to wait with the screen time is because we don’t know how it will affect their developing minds.
        Not singling out Lexi, but any 2 year old with their own ipad, they may seem fine (even advanced, cause they are learning numbers and letters, etc) but its the way they are learning them (screen time) that may affect attention span in the future. Yes, they are learning great things (Daniel tiger) but its the way they are getting their info (ipad vs one-on-one stimulation) that we just don’t now how that will affect them.

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          February 9, 2014 at 4:22 PM

          I see what you’re saying and it would correct if the media was THE ONLY way they were receiving that information. We as parents build upon it. They get it there and we continue with it. You know what I mean?
          Like letters and numbers are constantly reinforced through our daily interactions. So are the life lessons from DT. It’s all intertwined together. I see media is “ONE OF” the way of exposure, not “THE ONLY ONE”.

          I do like what you’re saying though on patience and self-control and I will keep watching how it seems to affect Lexi.

          If anything, it might help her develop patience and self control, because some of the apps she uses require just that. (kind of like the newer studies, showing that “Guess what? certain video games are actually beneficial, help focus, problem solving and multitasking”. But I remember our parents being deathly afraid that video games are going to be the bane of their children! lol People are just afraid of things they don’t know. It’s all about balance and flexibility. Watching your children and the effect certain things are having on them and being flexible in your decisions. Lots of parents lack that flexibility, unfortunately.

      • Reply
        Anya Meng
        February 10, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        Here is a TED Talk on Media and Children that you ladies may find interesting:

  • Reply
    February 9, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    What cute pictures!
    Have you thought about homemade ornaments? Lexi would probably get a kick out of that! Paper snowflakes, popcorn garland, etc

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 9, 2014 at 3:19 PM

      I HAVE!!! 🙂 But I just LOOOVE the look of a traditional tree and I am so busy. Though I def. want to do that once Lexi can use scissors. I used to make those when in kindergarten in Russia and it was so much fun!

      • Reply
        February 10, 2014 at 5:04 PM

        Yes! Homemade ornaments, making cookies, jumping in puddles, teaching abc’s the “old fashioned” way, planting a garden. THIS is how we need to teach our kids, by doing, not by watching. There is always time for kids when they are young.
        If you are so busy Elena (as a wham) would you ever consider preschool so Lexi can get those experiences that you may not have time to give her?

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          February 10, 2014 at 6:46 PM

          Considering I am with Lexi every waking hour (unless her dad is with her), I don’t see what a preschool could give her that I don’t. So I am not even considering it at the moment. The only time I actually allow myself to work is while she sleeps (which is why I am always “catching up”)

          • Karley
            February 10, 2014 at 9:45 PM

            One thing she would benefit by is socializing with her peers and not just her parents. It would give her more exposure and make her more well rounded to face the world. You know, by interacting with others = huge benefit! Surely you see that 🙂

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            February 11, 2014 at 11:17 AM

            Of course! That’s really important! She loves peer interaction. That’s one of the reasons why we go to so many activities.

          • Irina
            February 10, 2014 at 10:45 PM

            Just my two cents: I have to use pre-school (actually day care that has a pre-school-like program for 2 year olds and up) because I do not stay at home or work from home. I used to think that it was so sad that someone else is spending more time with my babies… but I am a firm believer now in incredible benefits of day-care/pre-school: kids benefit enormously from the socialization. Learning in a group, learning from peers, playing in a group, and even taking meals in a group is something that you can’t give a child at home (unless they have like 10 siblings). It motivates them to communicate and problem solve, teaches them new (mostly exciting, and sometimes not so desirable) behaviors, and provides them with experiences that beyond those that I can do at home… I am creative but it is just not always possible to hose down the kitchen or clean carpet after every “creative” play session… so I do not do finger painting or play dough a lot… and I do not have an outdoor space in our condo for water/sand/garden… We do play ground every day, sometimes twice a day if the kids are home (weekends, holidays) but I have to do shopping/chores as well, so they end up doing a lot of family chores with us, rather than be entertained by specific play/learning activities. To each their own, but do not discard the idea of pre-school, it does have unique benefits, beyond just “watching” your child for a period of time while you do something else. Just find one with a good curriculum and good teachers who care.

          • Irina
            February 10, 2014 at 10:57 PM

            Oh, forgot to add: I was one of those over-loved kids (lol) who did not go to day care in Russia – I was with my mom till I was 3, then my grand-grand-mother watched me till it was time to start school. I was not in the after-school program either, because my grandmother lived with us. So, I got a lot less socialization that my peers, and I have to say, it did affect my interactions at school negatively in the first 3-4 years. I was a lot less independent and very sheltered, and I got to say that my family were not even overly protective… they are pretty pragmatic, but I just did not get enough peer time and had to learn to interact with kids who had already gotten the whole social animal bit and were light years ahead of me there. Playdates are awesome, but having a pre-school experience prepares a child for life among the peers a lot better. Not being in pre-school did not affect my intelligence or grades, it was purely social/co-existance aspect of life, but for kids it is very important…

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            February 11, 2014 at 11:31 AM

            I agree but there is also a question as to what gives more benefit: parental interactions with balanced classes and activities among peers or preschool with more limited parental interaction. I think as Long as it is relatively balanced on both ends the results are similar. It’s when you go to extremes that you see problems.
            Also I am sure you’re aware of the fact that most of our social intelligence comes from watching and mimicking our caregivers not peers. (I’ve been reading a lot about social intelligence. It’s fascinating. )

          • Irina
            February 11, 2014 at 10:37 PM

            Actually – this is the point – caregivers can teach, but practice on peers makes perfect 🙂

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            February 11, 2014 at 10:44 PM

            Agreed! 🙂 And we have plenty of time for that, I don’t see the reason to push her into a situation she is not comfortable in and needs. Pre-K or maybe a bit before that- definitely will be looking into it 🙂

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            February 11, 2014 at 11:22 AM

            I totally see that! Lexi loves a company of kids! We have a slightly different situation from the standpoint that we have a big playroom, lots of outdoor space and my attention is almost undividedly hers during waking time. Plus the weather here is conducive to a lot of activities.
            I was thinking about trying out preschool but with every class and activity we have we barely spend any time home let alone have the hours to send her to preschool. I’ll see how things develop and maybe once she drops her nap that will be more of a possibility.

          • Sarah
            February 11, 2014 at 5:30 PM

            Another thing to consider is finding a “mom’s morning out” program. Though, like someone mentioned below, maybe not until closer to 3. I live a little north of you and I didn’t realize how many part time (3 days a week for just a few hours) programs there are until I started looking for places for my son. And several of them you just drop in and out when you want. My boys have always gone to groups and classes, but it’s different when they are seeing the same group of peers day after day. And a lot of vpk programs seem shocked when they’ve never been to school before that. It seems like the age they expect kids to start is younger and younger. I started my big kid at 3 and he was the only kid in his class that had never been to school before. It’s weird, but I’m trying to embrace it.

          • Lauren
            February 11, 2014 at 11:25 AM

            Besides just the social interaction from peers it’s also benificial for children to learn to take direction from adults besides their parents (and family). I am firm believer in the power of preschool, but I also think it might be something to better address closer to the age of 3.

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            February 11, 2014 at 11:32 AM

            Oh yeah I forgot to mention. Florida has a great vpk program that I fully plan on utilizing but we have some time until she is old enough for that. Like you said two is just too young in many cases.

          • Bernice
            February 11, 2014 at 1:55 PM

            A preschool can give her everything Daniel Tiger is giving her, only it’s real life, not on a screen, and there are peers to interact with

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            February 11, 2014 at 2:51 PM

            Yes but it won’t give her what we as parents are giving her. 🙂

          • Gloria
            February 11, 2014 at 9:45 PM

            Do you think it’s possible that you don’t want to be separated by her at all? Even to do normal thing like attend a school program that doesn’t involve her parents. It just seems as though you want to alienate her from those things an not allow her to venture out into the world without your direction and involvement. She will still love you even of she experiences things like every other child of the world does.

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            February 11, 2014 at 10:23 PM

            That’s complete silliness 🙂 I absolutely don’t think a 2 year old NEEDS to go to a preschool. It’s NOT normal for a 2 year old to go to day care when her parents work situation does not necessitate it.
            In any case, even if I was itching to put her into preschool, she would absolutely not allow it right now. We have been in the solid “Mommy Mommy Mommy! non stop all day long” territory. No one else will do.
            We will soon be trying a dance class that doesn’t require parents ( who hide behind the door peeking in), so we’ll see how that goes.
            But nice try attempting to “diagnose” me. lol! You know there IS such a thing as being a dedicated mother because you want what’s best for your child, not because you’re clinically longing for someone to love you.

          • Jan
            February 11, 2014 at 6:42 PM

            To interact with peers, one does not need to go to preschool (or any kind of typical school for that matter). There are other ways for children to socialize with their peers in controlled environments.

  • Reply
    Dr. T
    February 9, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Hi, Elena. My name is Dr. Tyler, and I am a pediatrician in Oklahoma. I actually helped to draft the AAP recommendations on screen time, so I figured I’d use this opportunity to chime in. I can assure you that no pediatrician knows your child better than you do and that none of us would ever try to tell you how to parent your child, because we recognize that being the parent is your job. And it’s true that, over the last few years, screen time recommendations have changed some. Anyway, part of the reason why we are not big fans of tablets for toddlers, and even more concerning to most of us than the potential for eye strain, is that they hamper regular social and parental interaction, even more than television does. Though we don’t argue that educational apps exist, our opinion–and it is supported by extensive research–is that the risks to healthy social development outweigh the negligible educational benefit. Of course, we pediatricians also make a lot of other recommendations that not every parent follows. We don’t take it personally. 🙂 Also, as you said, each child and each family is different, and we absolutely respect each family’s right to self-determination. I’ve been enjoying your blog and just thought I’d chime in. Your girl is precious!

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 9, 2014 at 4:02 PM

      Wow! You can’t imagine how cool it is to hear from you! 🙂 This also gives me an opportunity to further explain my reasoning for where AAP is wrong on giving such a blanket recommendation (Though I understand the need to do something simple and all-encompassing). (and It’s for other commentors too)

      I absolutely agree with the following point of the recommendation:

      1. parental interaction is better in all aspects – Absolutely NO argument here. Sitting a kid in front of a TV and walking away to do whatever will certainly no do any good,though is sometimes necessary in certain families. However using media with the parent, having the parent explain what’s going on, the use of apps together with the parent, or even talking with the parent afterwards about what was seen completely negates this particular part of the recommendation. More than that, (in our situation specifically) when a parent is a Stay at home parents, chances are good that they spend an exorbitant amount of time with the kid which means that 30 or even 60 minutes a day of media use will not have any effect on that. If you take out situation, one of us is with Lexi 24/7. Literally, if I am cooking, most likely my husband is playing with her or reading with her or drawing with her, if she is not doing something on her own. When husband is not available and I have to do something around the house, she is usually sitting and drawing while we talk or playing and constantly running up to me to show things. Or we are out at a class together, or at the playground or playdates. That goes on from 7 am till 9pm . Surely that’s a lot of parental interactions. And I am huge on social intelligence, so no argument here- it’s an immensely important skill.

      2. Eye Strain/damage – again I know very little on this. just as much as I could find in reputable books and what I’ve read seems to be confusing with some sources saying that studies have not shown an effect and others saying that there is some correlation. Since she spends significantly more time playing or going to activities, I don’t worry about it. However if you have any information that I can trust about this, I would really appreciate it.

      3. Fast scene changes vs brain wiring – I know AAP doesn’t really mention it, but I’ve seen it talked about in many sources and it was a big concern of mine in the first 2 years. Fast scene changes in the first 2 years of live alter brain structure and wiring to predispose a kid to ADHD. I am a firm believer in that, which is one of the reasons why I am so against running live TV, even in the background. We made sure that she only played with apps that shows a long running scene without switches. And then towards the end of her 2nd year, Daniel Tiger was allowed, since it was slow enough (though I wish it was slower).

      But the one thing I have a problem with is : “No program/media can be education to a child of under 2 years of age” (can’t remember the exact wording, but that’s the jist). Before Lexi I truly believed it. As in, I was so adamant that there was absolutely NO reason she would need any sort of TV before 2 since it’s not educational. I can’t remember if I considered tablets and phones in that belief, but when it came to TV and movie, it was a strong no. And it was sort of a surprise for me to see how what I gave her in terms of media helped her interests and knowledge even from a relatively early age. Allowing her to play with 1 APP (Video Touch where you are shown a clip of musicians, or animals, or vehicles) made her intensely interested in classical music instruments, widened her understanding of animal, birds, vehicle beyond her age. I don’t think she would get such intense interested if she wasn’t exposed to these things we wouldn’t be able to really expose her in real life. At around 15 (?) months she started learning concepts from Daniel Tiger (Before that I saw that it was just useless entertainment and didn’t really let her watch it) and alphabet from the apps she was using. So it was a bit of a shock to realize that what I blindly believed was in fact incorrect in our case. And then looking around at all my friends who did use media with their kids, I saw the same thing.

      So whatever children AAP used for this study and whatever old or age inappropriate media was used, it certainly did not match up with the reality I was seeing. And that was making me sort of mad, because I am not one to blindly follow something, yet I blindly believed that this recommendation was true. It’s almost like a feeling of being cheated. I realize that wasn’t AAP’s intention, but I feel like its advise is often a day old and a dollar short in light of all the new media or information or studies coming out (No offense!). Certainly if you do studies using barney cartoon or fisher price apps (though the latter isn’t SO bad), you are going to see that there is nothing educational there. But nowadays there are SOOOOOO much media that is truly wonderful for kids that age, teaching them to go potty, and share and exposing them to concepts we as parents often don’t have a chance to expose. (One example is Lexi saw an episode about jumping in puddles, so next time it rained she asked to put on her raincoat and go! We get rain maybe once a month. Would I think to go puddle jumping on my own? Probably no, that’s not what we do here in Florida! Yet her interest in it and knowledge of it showed me that it’s something I should go do with her. And she also had much more fun doing it because she kept referring to the DT characters)

      In the end AAP is just trying to keep those families that routinely plop their kid in front of live TV from doing so and spending more time with them, but when I hear people come to my blog and mindlessly spout “What are you doing? No media till 2!”, that makes me laugh. As if 2 is this magical age when media suddenly becomes ok and before that it’s going to damage your child beyond belief. Every child is different.

      So this was long, but it pretty much sums up everything I am thinking 🙂

      Again, thanks for stopping by and chiming in! It was really great to hear from you!

  • Reply
    February 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Honestly, I don’t get why people get so worked up about how other people are raising their kids. So what if Lexi has an iPad? She seems happy and well adjusted and that’s what matters in the end. Child raising is all about what works best for the kid and for the family. We don’t do any screen time at our house but that’s mostly because our DD has literally no interest right at the moment. Right now all she cares about is books and blocks and fingerpainting but I’m sure she’ll get interested in technology in the future. Anyway . . . isn’t age two the coolest, Elena? I love how our little ones go from being squirmy babies to being actual people with interests. Your posts have made me want to look into gymnastics for my girl. She’s really more of a quiet reading person right now but I think she’d dig the bouncing and jumping. Do you do a Mommy and Me class or does Lexi just do open gym? And is Lexi still taking music classes?

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 9, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      Two is AMAZING! It’s very hard, because it’s easy to lock in power struggles, but I am constantly working (with the help of some book guidance) on remembering what’s most important! It’s by far my favorite age with all the talking and personality and intense interest and excitement for new experiences.
      You should ABSOLUTELY sign up for gym classes! We do both mom and tot and all open gyms we can make it to. I think it’s even more important if your daughter is a quiet book reading type. Lexi is still doing music classes too. I am trying to expose her to as much as we can handle right now to see where her true interests lie. And so far she digs it all. I am currently writing a post about all the classes, so I’ll go into detail

      • Reply
        February 10, 2014 at 9:35 PM

        I am curious as to why you go by what books say over intuition? 99% of moms that I know refuse to consult books, it’s like pigeonholing your child into someone else’s perspective.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Well it’s refreshing to know there are parents out there who go for quality over quantity when it comes to gifts. It always amazes me how kids nowadays get a million low quality presents when the parents can just use that money to buy one or two very valuable and extremely useful gifts instead.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    I know that you strive for a toxin-free environment, and it seems that you’re letting your natural color grow back in. Can you tell me what brand of color/highlights you/your salon used in the past? Thank you!

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 10, 2014 at 6:48 PM

      I wish i was growing it out and not just too busy to get it colored. I just go to the Aveda salon and they use whatever they use. 🙂 Sorry I can’t be more helpful, but this isn’t one of the fields I am knowledgeable in 🙁

      I know there are some salons that do have natural coloring processes.

  • Reply
    February 10, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    It’s interesting and sad that the people who least know what they’re talking about feel the need to spend their time making others feel bad for not doing it their way. 🙁

    Merry late Christmas!

  • Reply
    February 12, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    It seems like now that Alexis is two, you are now complying with the AAPs screen time recommendations anyhow, right? All they say after age two is to limit it to 30 minutes or less per day, and I can’t imagine a two year needing more screen time than that. I mean, barring a transatlantic flight or some other extraordinary circumstance.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 14, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Yup, the time limit was never really a concern. It just bugged me was the age limit based on “no educational benefit”. It doesn’t matter now 🙂

      • Reply
        February 14, 2014 at 4:46 PM

        Yeah, it makes sense that it would bug you that the age limit was based on no educational benefit, when you could see Lexi learning things from it.

        I definitely think that a child under the age of two could learn things from a tv show or an app- I just can’t see that there is anything that they would need to learn that way, at that age.

        There should be an app that turns the device off after 30 minutes. Maybe there is already?

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          February 14, 2014 at 9:03 PM

          Yes precisely!!! If they set the limit on something else like the fast switching scenes studies, then I wouldn’t be so surprised and confused as I was when something I thought was an absolute was really not.

          Btw there is an app like that. Called parents lol 🙂 Lexi is far more upset when the iPad turns off on its own than when I nicely tell her that it’s time to go do something else after she is at a stopping point in an app.

          • Tarynkay
            February 14, 2014 at 10:29 PM

            Ha! Good point. But I could use an app like that for me, honestly… I would love to limit myself to 30 minutes a day!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    I’ve read and enjoyed your blog for quite some time (we have a daughter who was born just 2 months before Lexi and I found your blog when I was pregnant with her), but have never really been one to comment so this is a first!
    I love hearing about your child lead parenting approach! We’re using the same approach with our daughter and it’s been quite a learning process as both of our families were definitely a bit more rules-oriented. So far though, I am so pleased with the results – a child who knows what is expected and easily complies with necessary rules and requests, but also loves exploring, figuring things out on her own, and interacting well with people of all ages.
    That was kinda a long intro to what I actually wanted to say – we recently found a book called “It’s Okay Not to Share” and have been SO impressed with the common sense wisdom that it contains. It fits very well with the child-lead parenting point of view and has been incredibly helpful in dealing with one or two things that we weren’t quite sure how to approach from a positive (rather than rule/punishment based) perspective.
    If you haven’t read it already, I think you would really like it! And a major plus – it is formatted so that you can easily find the basic concepts and application points if you don’t have time to read the entire thing right away.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 16, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Hi, Sonia! I feel the same way about child led approach. Before having Lexi I never thought that you could accomplish so much with love and attention as well as gentle direction. Our parents were always in a rush and that created a lot of power struggles. Anyways, sounds like a fun book to read. I just finished a book called Unconditional Parenting and it was such a validating as well as eye opening read. I would recommend it too!

  • Reply
    February 17, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    I may have missed it, but have you done a post specifically about your parenting approach? I can gather bits and pieces from each post, but I’m curious if there is a post about child led parenting. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 18, 2014 at 2:43 PM

      Hayley, I’ve thought about it, but parenting is never cut and dry. I can’t figure out a way to write about it so that it wasn’t in absolutes. I am very flexible when it comes to how I respond to Lexi, it depends on situation, her mood,and many many other things so it’s hard for me to do a post about it.

      Maybe I could do a post about parenting books that I love and recommend which will give a better insight into what I believe in and like to practice. But even that is never cut and dry, I take bits and pieces from everything I read, add my own instinct and Lexi’s personality to it and our approach then gets customized based on the situation.
      Or maybe I’ll simply write about what child led parenting is, about the concept…

  • Reply
    February 18, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    Hi Elena,
    I just wanted to share some info with you about preschool since I am a mom and a preschool teacher. Preschool is very different than daycare… Typically at the age of 2 you are looking at 2 mornings a week at approximately 3 hours a morning. There is such a huge difference to the way Lexi will socialize with other children when you are around and when you are not. I think doing different programs with her is fantastic! So many parents feel their children need “more preschool” because they are so “advanced”. 2 year olds need a balance of time with and without mom and dad to really find themselves. The way she acts with you will be very different from the way she acts without you. I’m not trying to push preschool on you, it’s obviously your decision, however, be prepared for some serious separation anxiety if her first time away from you is a pre-k program that runs 5 days a week and is structured like a classroom. Going from being with mom all the time, to not being with her for half of the day can be a lot for a kid to handle. Just like everything else you’re hoping Lexi will learn as she grows, spending time with peers and without parents is a learning experience. I just thought you may want to reexplore the idea of preschool before deciding not to do it until later.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2014 at 12:39 AM

    One more thing. The comment you made about Lexi only wanting mommy right now is interesting. In my classroom (2 year olds), the first 4 classes are tough. They want mom, or dad, or anyone who isn’t us. BUT that changes so fast to the point where they run into class to find their favorite toy and barely give mom or dad leaving a second thought. Separating from you is something that needs to be learned whether at the age of 2 or 5! Don’t think that just because she will be older it will be easier. Will she understand that of course mommy and daddy will be back? Yes! So do 2 year olds. Will she still be sad? Yes! So are 2 year olds. Just think about this…. If Lexi isn’t given the opportunity to interact with peers on her terms (not yours), how will she know how to make friends and interact with said friends when that time comes? Moms are great. They’re the best actually! But they can’t give a child everything she needs no matter how hard she tries. Sometimes the best way to help your child is to step back and let them help themselves. You may not like it in the beginning, but you’ll thank yourself in the end.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      February 18, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      I understand what you’re saying and I agree with a lot of it. I think the same way. Rarely are her peer interactions mom-lead though. We are very much into child-led parenting so when she plays with others, I rarely interfere, but she knows I am around. We’ve always been about waiting until she is ready to do something on her terms, and as much as she LOVES classes, I can see she isn’t ready for a preschool. And it’s funny to me that people that do preschool or teach preschool are soooo passionate about someone else’s child starting preschool right freaking now! hahahaha lol 🙂 I know you guys are passionate about what you believe in, but not everyone has to do it that way, and not everyone’s child is the same 🙂
      When I step back at her classes and watch her navigate the place on her own, she makes sure that I am still there every few minutes. If you read the AP books, you know that it’s a normal progression: from being attached, to venturing out but making sure mom is right behind you, and then to being independent. She is between that 1st and second stage depending on the environment. So I continue watching for signs of readiness and when she is, you can rest assured she will go to preschool 🙂 But I am not going to push it, like I have not with any other aspect of her development: sleep, food, talking jumping…

      Finally, heck, there are moms that homeschool and I considered homeschooling for a bit, too, but I just can’t take the social aspect of school that I enjoyed so much when I was a kid away from her. So my point, yes I know what you’re saying and I agree with a lot of it, but there are other perspectives, opinions and children 🙂

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