Tag Archives: toddlers

A quiet lunch in toddler Mordor

Birthday lunch

Today The other day we went out for lunch for my Mister’s birthday. Gone are the late nights of dancing and drinking cocktails with funny names and little fruity garnishes, as too are the boozy afternoons sipping a chilled Pinot Grigio in the cool shade in the gardens of posh restaurants. Now we select an eatery based on the quality of children’s entertainment first, then the quality of food. Usually, actually almost never, you can’t have both. And very often it’s neither.

Jumping castle

This year the restaurant got off to a winning start by messing up our booking for 12 people. How does one mess up a booking? You don’t write it down. Anyhoo. We made a plan and moved some furniture around to accommodate ourselves and we got on with it. Because that’s what we do as parents, isn’t it? We make do. At our table every person, barring one single female friend and one single brother-in-law, had children – either their own or borrowed (one couple was babysitting a sister’s baba).

I always feel sorry for people at restaurants who don’t have children. Yes, you read me right. I feel sorry for people who don’t have all manner of activities spread over the table, wine glasses lined up almost forgotten and out of reach in the middle of the table, a variety of half-sucked, semi-chewed dishes adorning the table, and the shrill sounds of ‘Mommy! Icy cream!’ echoing through the air. Why do I feel sorry for them? Because you have to put up with our children doing all of this.

As parents, we’re used to:

Messy kids!

  • having spaghetti bolognaise spilled all over our white button-down shirts and once-pretty skirts
  • the table being sticky, wet and decorated with soggy tissues, questionably stained wet-wipes and long forgotten Barney juice boxes
  • being climbed on as if we were human-shaped, flesh-coloured jungle gyms (or, as Holly likes to yell: CASTLES – as in jumping castle)
  • having conversations that sound like this:

Parent: So, how’s your sister doing? PUT THAT KNIFE DOWN BEFORE YOU STAB
YOURSELF. Give me my wine. What were you saying?
Friend: (ever so slightly taken aback) Uhm… which sister?
Parent: The one who was seeing that guy she met at th… I SAID NO! YOU ARE NOT HAVING
Friend: My sister, the only one, is married. To another woman.
Parent: Oh! When did they get marrieee… GET YOU DIRTY FEET OFF THE TABLE! YOU’RE
Friend: Four years ago.
Parent: Right. Now I remember. And you? How’s James? OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE! PUT
Friend: My husband left me a year ago to become a rodeo clown. I thought you kn…
 Parent: I’ll be right back – she’s trying to lick that cat again!

Does any of this look familiar? This is why I feel sorry for my friends who’ve come to enjoy a ‘peaceful’, ‘relaxing’ lunch. We know that there’s no such thing as a peaceful lunch when there are children around. Each family, encamped at their overflowing tables, is just trying to keep their own little Mordor contained within in allotted restaurant space. Children, in varying stages of undress are running in all directions screaming, their parents looking on blankly with glazed-over eyes.

If you recognise yourself in this picture as the parent of a toddler or young child, I raise my glass to you in camaraderie, strength and acknowledgement of the hours of lost sleep you’ve suffered. And I say cheers to the joyous, ongoing celebration that we’re blessed to have these amazing creatures called children in our lives. If you’re one of the friends of parents – I apologise on our behalf for the wet sleeve of your gorgeous new top from Zara, the tomato sauce stain on your still-blue jeans, and the hours of lost conversation


Activities for toddlers


Toddler development activities

Toddler fun in the sun

Every day I notice how much Holly has developed: she uses new words, strings more words together, surprises us by coming up with the cutest and strangest ideas, and has so much fun doing activities for toddlers. The other day Holly went galloping outside when she heard my mom’s car pulling into the driveway. Mister, scared that she’d run in front of the car, shouted for her to stop. She came back whimpering and looking sorry for herself, so we explained that we’d got a fright and didn’t want her to get hurt. For the rest of the day, at every opportunity (a loud advert on TV, a dark barking, the extractor fan on the stove) Holly would tell us, earnestly, ‘Holly got a fright…’ In the cutest, high-pitched voice…

This reminder, of her out-of-control development, spurred me on to put in that little bit of super-mom extra effort that we all have, and make some new activities for her to do with her nanny. So, if you’ve been following my blog, here’s the next batch. If you haven’t, check out my previous post with activities for toddlers.

Fruit matching

Fun tddler activities

Fruit match

This is a simple activity that helps toddlers learn:

  • the names of different fruit
  • different colours 
  • matching like objects
    All you need are two pictures each of about six different fruit (printed out or cut from a magazine), some glue, a piece of cardboard and a pair of scissors.

    Cut the pics of fruit out and glue them to your board to lend some strength to the pictures. Then cut out around the pics so you have 12 individual fruit pics.

    Now your little one needs to match the different fruits together.

    Texture sorting

    Texture sorting

    Texture sorting

    I love this activity – we learnt it at TOPTOTS. Toddlers sort different textures into different containers.

    Get yourself six little containers, six food items with different textures ( sugar, cereal, oats, coffee, tea, couscous, maize meal, sesame seeds, flour) – anything you have in  your pantry will work. Get a kids’ painting tray or any container with different compartments (an ice tray could work), and a spoon.

    Get your little one to take a spoonful of one of the foods and place it into one of the compartments. Then ask her to do the same with a different food putting it in another section. Your toddler should do this for all the foods until each is in a separate compartment.

    Tell her what the different foods are, let her feel them and describe the texture for her. This is great for:

  • sensory development
  • learning different textures
  • learning the names of different food
    Torn paper picture
Fun toddler activities

Torn-paper picture

This is another cool activity we did at TOPTOTS. It’s great for:

  • practising fine motor skills
  • developing their pincer grip
  • learning about different colours


    You need a plain white or light-coloured piece of cardboard to stick paper onto, a glue stick, and about four or five different coloured pieces of paper or tissue paper, torn into small pieces (about 3-4cm).

    Cover your cardboard in glue and get your sweetheart child to stick pieces of coloured paper all over. They need to pick up the pieces off a tray or the floor and press them down so they stick.

These are simple activities you can prepare at home for your toddler to do. They don’t need a lot of time to put together, we’re all busy moms – ain’t no one got time for that – and they don’t cost anything or a lot at all. Just use things you’ve go around the house – improvise. And enjoy!

Sweet child of mine

Something happened the other day that made me need to be with my baby even more than I have in the past. I don’t know if I’m supposed to need my child, if that’s ‘allowed’ or if it’s wrong, but on that day, I needed her. I needed to bury my face in her hair and smell her unique deliciousness that somehow always reminds me that everything’s going to be ok. I needed to see her spontaneous smile as I walked through the gate. I needed, so much, to feel her warm, and slightly sticky, little hands in mine and to have her chubby little arms around my neck as she buried her face in my hair. And I needed to smooch her pasta-sauce smeared face. All over.
Peppadew_pasta sauce
I’ve never thought of myself as one of those moms. You know the type? The ones who are all about their kids. I always used to think I was a focused, ambitious career woman with serious goals and all about climbing the corporate ladder as fast as my heels and pencil skirt would allow me to. Turns out I am one of those moms. That’s not to say that my work isn’t important to me – it is. I truly believe in a good work-life balance. And I think it’s so important that my little girl sees that her mommy can be a brilliant mom and have a great job that she loves. I want to be the best role model I can be for my daughter. I want to make sure she knows she can do whatever she dreams of doing – whether that’s being a doctor, lawyer, school teacher, mom or pianist.

And I want my little girl to see that I’m a good mom, who’s present in her life and wants to spend time watching her grow into the amazing person I know she’s going to be. I know none of these are new issues and I’m certainly not the first, nor am I the last, mom to ponder such things; I know these are things mothers have grappled with for years. Ever since their husbands gave them permission to leave the house during the day and (gasp!) earn their own money!

I’m also aware that this isn’t something that women who don’t have children ever really think about. Why should they? It’s not a part of their reality. And that’s absolutely fine. But it’s also sometimes where the problem lies: Women are not supporting other women in becoming the best they can be outside of the home. Other women, most often without children of their own, are sometimes the biggest hurdle we working moms face. It’s almost as if we’ve ‘let down the side’ by choosing to be moms.

But I don’t see it that way. I think we’re the best example of what women are capable of achieving if they want something. For years we’ve been told we can’t do both – we can’t be moms and work. But we can! We can have it all. It may take a little compromising, or even a little shifting. But, if you want something, regardless of what others tell you is possible, you can – and should – have it all.

Beautiful baby.

My heart.

Workin 9 to 5 what a way to make a livin’

Last week I wrote about women in my life who I believe have incredible personal qualities and could teach our baby girl Holly important life lessons. Qualities that I believe will shape her into the most amazing woman who’s going to change the world. Thinking back on what I wrote, the qualities I discussed all seem to be personal traits like patience, tolerance and kindness. And it’s obvious that I admire these qualities and see them as virtuous otherwise I wouldn’t have devoted a blog post to them.


But I’ve been thinking about another side of the women I know that I didn’t mention, a side that’s so often overlooked, undervalued or scorned. I have a group of mommy friends who I met at my previous job when I worked for a very corporate, very male-dominated, very cut-throat consulting firm. The kind of place that measured your worth solely by the number of hours you billed your paying clients.


Emmi, the mother of a gorgeous two-and-a-bit-year old boy, is one of the funniest people I know. She is witty, intelligent and has an incredibly dry sense of humour. She is also the best project manager I’ve ever worked with. I do believe she could put Mr Trump to shame. She single-handedly rescued a number of multi-million rand projects from destruction simply by waving a very pink, very sparkly magic wand. Ok, obviously that last part is slightly embellished; the wand was only minimally sparkly. It emitted more of a soft glow than sparkles like a vampire. I don’t actually know how she did it, but she more than once prevented clients from pulling the plug on difficult projects.


Candice is a woman who has the most stamina out of anyone else I know. (She has two strong-willed and curious toddlers with only a year between them.) She’s also incredibly ethical and has the moral standards of a particularly pious monk. When I worked with Candice she led her teams to the successful completion of some ridiculously difficult projects for unbelievably demanding clients. Without once resorting to violence. She didn’t even swear at her clients (even when they clearly deserved it).

Lisa also has two children – a sweet little boy and a very busy little girl. And she manages to work full time as a training manager for a multinational corporation. And, while she effortlessly (or so it seems) transitions between the role of mommy, devoted wife to a husband who’s just completed his MBA, and corporate high flyer, Lisa is also a very talented media designer.

And the thing that these hard working, intelligent, ethical, strong and determined women have in common is that they’re all madly in love, obsessed even, with their little children. And, when they climb into their cars at the end of the day and slip off their Nine Wests, they seamlessly slip out of their roles of women to be reckoned with into the much more demanding role of Mommy.  And it is these women who, on the eve of Women’s Day, I want to salute for being the backbone of, not only society, but of our economy too. Their strength and hard work is laudable and the love they have for their babies, faultless.