starter kits for new and expecting dads and their children
Simple, at-home activities for babies and toddlers that don’t cost a fortune
Once you emerge from the “survival” phase of parenting (sometime around 3 months), you may be wondering what to do now with this little creature who wants to do more than eat and sleep. Since our specialty is in finding and suggesting activities for the under 3 set, we thought we would take a stab at some at-home activity ideas for your babies and toddlers. These activities don’t require much in terms of set-up or materials and if they do require materials, most of them can be found from what you already have in your home. We hope you find these suggestions helpful!
Music (newborn and up). Music has many benefits for babies, some of which include early language development, pattern recognition, fine and gross motor development, and listening skills (source: Kindermusik). Plus, it’s fun and can be accomplished with the things you have in your home. If you have instruments at home, you can give you child the gift of live music! Play tunes on your guitar, piano, violin, saxophone, or whatever instrument you have. If you don’t have any adult-sized instruments at home (and don’t worry, we fall into this category as well), you might have a xylophone or tambourine or maracas/rattles. Play a song on the xylophone, bang the tambourine, shake the maracas (if your baby is old enough, they’ll likely want to do this, too!), bang on pots with wooden spoons. Rattles also make excellent maracas, so don’t underestimate their use and importance!
Singing (newborn and up). Singing to your baby/toddler has many of the same benefits as music. Yes, singing is also music (and can be combined with instrumental music), but we decided to include it in a separate category since singing involves actual language. Some popular songs in English include: “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, “The Wheels on the Bus”, and “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”
Reading (newborn and up). We strongly encourage parents to read to their children starting from birth. Newborns will gravitate to books with black and white or other high-contrast images, whereas babies 3 months and older will be attracted to books with color images. Babies also love books with photos of other babies. If you’re at home during the day (whether due to heat or cold), reading is a great way to keep your baby or toddler entertained for a period of time. Please see our previous dad-themed book round-ups here for ideas!
Sensory basket (6 months and up; can be applicable for a younger baby if he/she is already sitting up). Gather up 5-10 (baby-safe) items in your home, preferable of the same texture, put them in a basket, and let baby explore!
Water sensory tray (3 months and up; or whenever baby is stable on his/her tummy). You don’t need an expensive water table for this. All you need is a glass pyrex container (or even just a bowl or whatever you have on hand). Fill it up with water and put different baby-safe and waterproof objects in it! Fun items to try: bath toys; seashells; sponges.
Blowing bubbles (newborn and up; recommended 3 months and up). We recommend this activity for babies 3 months and older since at that age they are able to follow the bubbles. This activity builds baby’s eye-tracking skills, gross motor skills, and teaches them cause-and-effect (what happens when you touch the bubble? It pops!). More than that, it’s fun and low-cost!
Block games (6 months and up). Chances are, you probably already have a set of blocks lying around from the baby shower and hopefully don’t need to buy these. Show your child how to stack blocks. At 6-9 months, they may not have the coordination to do this, but they are watching you and learning. On top of that, at this age, they *can* knock the blocks down, and they will do this and they will enjoy it!
Play dough (12 months and up; recommended 15-18 months and up). As we get into the toddler age, your child’s skills are increasing and you will be able to do more activities with them. One highly recommended activity for this age is play dough. Depending on where your child is developmentally (and whether or not they have an older sibling who is already playing with it), your child could be ready for play dough anytime between 12 and 18 months. At 12 months, we recommend showing them how it works – have them watch you roll it, flatten it, make it into shapes. Invite them to touch the play dough and push down on it with their finger. Another activity at this age (12 months) could be to roll the play dough into small balls and have your child put them back in the play dough jar. This will help develop their fine motor skills and pincer grip.
Drawing/Painting (12 months and up; recommended 18 months and up). Again, depending on your child’s interests and development, they could be ready for drawing or painting anytime between 12 and 18 months. All that’s required are markers, crayons, paint, paintbrushes, and paper. We prefer to use Crayola, which can be easily found at most stores.
Practical life activities (12 months and up; recommended 18 months and up). If your child is at a Montessori school, you’ve probably heard this method tooted as a way to raise independent children. We agree. Plus, speaking from personal experience, very young children love to help out, so definitely let them help before they get older and don’t want to help anymore! You could start with letting them wipe off surfaces that you’ve sprayed (and letting them spray when they’re a bit older, around 2 years old), asking them to bring you clean, freshly washed utensils from the dishwasher (but not before removing all the sharp items, of course), watering plants, helping you pull dry clothes out of the dryer, and sweeping the floor.
We hope we’ve given you some ideas to start with! And of course, the outdoors is a great place for children as well. But if you’re stuck inside because of the extreme heat or cold, these activities may come in handy!
Did we miss anything? Please feel free to chime in with your activity suggestions, too!
As we come to the end of June and Pride month, we wanted to take some time to highlight several children’s books featuring families with gay dads. We believe it is important to read and expose our children to books that reflect the diversity (in all senses) of the world we live in. It is also important for children from LGBTQ+ families to see their families reflected in the books they read. Although we do not yet have a box specifically for gay dads (we’re working on it!), we do make sure the books we choose are inclusive.
Here are 10 children’s books featuring families with gay dads that we have read, enjoyed, and highly recommend:
Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown. Mother’s Day is coming up, and Stella is worried because she doesn’t have a mom – she has Daddy and Papa. All of her other classmates have moms, and Howie even has two moms! Stella’s classmates are curious and ask her who packs her lunches or comforts her when she hurts herself if she doesn’t have a mom. Stella tells them that her dads do it and that that’s not the problem : the problem is she doesn’t know whom to bring to school for Mother’s Day. Her solution is funny, heartwarming, and touching.
2. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Patterson, illustrated by Henry Cole. Based off a true story. Roy and Silo are two penguins living in the Central Park Zoo in NYC. They form a bond, and with the help of the zookeeper, Mr. Gramsay, Roy and Silo are given a penguin egg. When the egg hatches and a female penguin chick pops out, their family is complete! The zookeepers tenderly call the baby penguin chick “Tango”; hence, the title, “And Tango Makes Three.”
3. Bathe the Cat by Alice McGinty, illustrated by David Roberts. As with children’s books featuring African American children, it’s important to read books about two-dad or two-mom families in everyday situations, whose plotlines don’t revolve around the fact that the family has two dads or two moms. That’s what I love about “Bathe the Cat,” which is a hilarious children’s picture book about a family (that just happens to have two African-American dads) getting the house clean for Grandma’s visit. One of the tasks is to bathe the cat, but the cat is clever and constantly rearranges the refrigerator letter magnets to dictate the chores that need to be done – with absurd and hilarious results! Our six-year-old loved this book!
4. Families Can by Dan Saks. “Families Can” celebrates the diversity of different families: those with two dads, those with one parent, those with a mom and dad, multigenerational families. It teaches us, in gentle rhyming form, that each family is special and unique, yet at the same time similar and connected by love.
5. Papa, Daddy, and Riley by Seamus Kirst, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth. Riley loves her two dads! But when her classmate asks her which one is her real dad, she is confused. They’re both her real dads. This beautifully illustrated story is a sweet lesson showing the many different ways one can be a family.
6. The Purim Superhero by Elisabeth Kushner, illustrated by Mike Byrne. Noah wants to dress up as an alien for Purim, but all his friends are going as superheroes. What to do?! Daddy and Abba, his dads, help him find a creative solution and Noah learns an important lesson from them: “Sometimes showing who you really are makes you stronger – even if you’re different from other people.”
7. The Adventures of Honey and Leon by Alan Cumming, illustrated by Grant Shaffer. Honey and Leon are two shelter dogs who have been adopted by a loving couple. The dogs enjoy protecting their dads, but miss them when they (the dads) go away on long business trips. So, one day, Honey and Leon decide to tail their dads on their business trip to Paris! Little do the dads know, Honey and Leon keep them out of harm’s way during their time in Paris. The dogs are able to keep a low profile until the big night!
8. My Dads and Me, How Lucky are We by Cheramy Hassen, illustrated by Sergio Drumond. This is a story of a little girl who is adopted by two loving dads. The message is this book is an important one: families may look different, but what makes a family a family is love.
9. My Two Dads and Me by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Izak Zenou. Follow different dad families and their children as they go about their day, eating breakfast, getting dressed, playing in the park, having fun at bathtime, and singing a good night lullaby.
10. The Girl with Two Dads, written and illustrated by Mel Elliott. Pearl meets a new girl at her school, Matilda, and finds out that Matilda has two dads. After spending some time with them, though, she discovers that Matilda’s family isn’t so much different from her own!
11. My Dad is a Clown/ Mi Papá es un Payaso by José Carlos Andrés, illustrated by Natalia Hernandez. The main character in this book, a young boy, has two dads – one who is a doctor, and the other who is a clown. When one of his classmates angrily calls the little boy a clown, his doctor dad takes the little boy with him to the other dad’s work and they see what he does during the day. The little boy realizes that his two dads have the most important jobs: one heals the body, the other heals the soul. As with several of the other books mentioned above, this one is laudable in that its plot focuses not on the two dad family, but on a little boy learning about the importance of his parents’ work.
12. Adventures with My Daddies by Gareth Peter, illustrated by Garry Parsons. A book that celebrates the power of the imagination! As a little girl reads bedtime stories with her dads, the stories come to life and they encounter dragons, run away from dinosaurs, fly to the moon, and take a hot air balloon ride before settling down for the night.
13. Harriet Gets Carried Away, written and illustrated by Jessie Sima. Harriet loves dressing up in costumes. She even has a special costume prepared for her birthday party! But when she puts on her penguin errand-running costume to find something for her special day, she runs into real penguins and is literally carried away to their home. She must find her way back to her dads in time for her special day. Can she make it? Read the book and find out!
It’s a fact: babies are expensive. Another fact: no matter how carefully you plan for and try to save money for baby, you will inevitably end up running to the drugstore in the middle of the night and paying a premium for a necessity that never occurred to you to buy. And with inflation at an all-time high as of June 2022, many families are having difficulties budgeting and trying to cover for necessities and emergency expenses. To help cover these unexpected expenses, it can be useful to know which baby items are truly necessary and which ones you can do without. This will also leave you more room in your budget for small “luxury” items. (We’re focusing on baby gear items in this post since they tend to be the most expensive.) We brainstormed with one of our team members, who has a 9 and a 2 year old, and came up with this list. In our 6 years as parents (and our team member’s 9 years as a parent), here’s what we’ve found not to be completely necessary:
Changing table. A piece of furniture solely for changing diapers and storing diaper-related items will set you back anywhere from $80-$100+, according to a quick Google shopping search.
Our suggestion? Get a waterproof changing pad for approximately $20 (such as this Summer Infant pad) and changing pad covers (optional; $9.99 for 2 here. If you use these, we recommend 4 for the newborn days). Place on top of your already existing dresser or bed. Potential savings: $40-$100
Guerilla tip to save more money: Go without the changing pad and change baby on top of a soft towel on your bed. Potential savings: $80-$100
2. Diaper genie. We’ll admit that baby poop – especially after they start eating solids – stinks. And unless you’re one of those diaper-free parents who thinks they’ll potty train their kids at 12 months (good luck with that, by the way), most of us are looking at 2-4 years of changing – and disposing of – diapers.
Enter the diaper genie, with its promise to lock away those awful odors. We understand its appeal. But here’s the catch: you really have to squeeze and push the diaper to get it inside the diaper genie. And there’s a chance some “juice” may leak out. Personally, I was always very eager to get the diaper out of my hands and into the trash can as quickly as possible, and for that, a trash can is very suitable. Plus, if you take out the trash regularly (once or twice a day), you won’t have to worry about smells. You can even use a lidded trash can if you’re really concerned.
Potential savings: $30-$80.
3. Diaper bag. We were gifted a diaper bag from a friend and while we did get a lot of mileage out of it, we eventually found it easier to use a regular backpack. A regular backpack can hold diapers, wipes, a diaper changing pad, and any liquids just as well as a diaper bag, especially if you bring an ice pack and a small insulated bag. That being said, diaper bags have come a long way since we first became parents in 2016, when most existing diaper bags were just totes. If I were a new parent now, I might be tempted to pick up one of those diaper bag backpacks, especially those that come with a fold out bassinet.
Potential savings: ~$50
4. Sound machine. We did have a few sound machines, including one that was in a stuffed animal lamb, but our kids didn’t like them. If you want to try before you buy, we recommend downloading a White Sound app on your phone or playing one of those white sound songs on YouTube (cost: free!). Our team member also mentioned that their family used a box fan that they already had.
Potential savings: $20-$100 (depending on the type of sound machine)
5. Baby towel. We’ll admit, there are few things cuter than a clean baby in a hooded bath towel. However, if you are looking to save some money, you can just use a fluffy grown-up towel. In our experience, baby towels can be pretty flimsy as well, so adult towels absorb more and get baby dry more quickly after a bath. You can use a dry (adult) washcloth to dry their hair. Also, grown-up towels last longer and keep their softness for a while, whereas our oh-so-soft $25 bamboo baby towel got pretty hard and scratchy after a few rounds through the washing machine and dryer.
(That being said, baby washcloths are worth the money, especially the bamboo ones. We still use ours for our kids 6 years on.)
Potential savings: $13-$25 (depending on the brand)
6. Baby Bullet/baby food processor. While these are cute, a regular blender works just as well (and better) for making your own baby food. Our team member mentioned that the baby bullet she purchased was “trash” and didn’t work well.
Potential savings: $65-$70
7. Pack ‘n’ Play/playpen. Supposedly, pack ‘n’ plays are a good place to place your baby when traveling or visiting friends. We never found one necessary. We did use a lighter, cheaper travel bassinet for our first child when he was 2-4 months old, but after that, he just slept with us in the hotel bed when we were traveling. Also, Pack ‘n’ Plays are quite heavy and hard to set up, so trying to lug that around with you for an hour-long visit at your friends’ place seems rather unnecessary when baby can just sit in your lap or lay on a blanket or playmat on the floor.
As far as playpens go, we were given one by my parents but never used it (in fact, it is still sitting in the storage, unopened, almost 6 years later). We knew that our son would not sit still in it and would be quite unhappy being trapped in such a small space (he was enjoying rolling around and exploring the house). If you do need to keep your baby from exploring certain areas (stairs or fireplace, for example), baby gates work just as well and will still allow them to explore other parts of the house/apartment. Some parents also use play-pen gates, which allow you to adjust the size of the confined area.
Potential savings (Pack ‘n’ Play): $70-$200 (depending on the brand)
Potential savings (playpen): $50-$100 (depending on the brand)
Potential savings if you forgo both items: $120-$300 (depending on the brand)
8. Glider/nursery chair/breastfeeding chair. I’ll admit that I got pretty good use out of our breastfeeding chair with our first child. And I do think that a comfortable chair is important, especially in the early stages of breastfeeding, and especially if you’re struggling to breastfeed. However, if you already have a comfortable chair at home, like a recliner, the breastfeeding chair or glider/nursery-specific chair is not necessary. Recliners have more padding and support and are more comfortable to sit in for breastfeeding/bottle-feeding/rocking baby to sleep.
Potential savings: $100-$1000 (depending on the brand)
9. Wipes warmer. Last but not least, any list of unnecessary baby gear would be incomplete without the much-maligned wipes warmer. I will say that I could see how this could be useful, especially after one of the first times I wiped our newborn son with a cold wet wipe and saw him shudder in response, but he got used to it. Our daughter never protested. Plus, if you are using the wipes warmer, what happens if you have to change your baby outside with a cold wipe and they’re not used to it? Better just to use cold wet wipes from the beginning and not have to worry about it, in our opinion.
Potential savings: $20-$30
There are also quite a few other baby items could or could not be unnecessary, depending on how your baby takes to them and whether you are breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, or a combination of both. In these cases, we recommend trying to buy the minimum amount, or finding the cheapest safe version possible (or buying used, or borrowing from a friend) to see if your baby will like it. These items include:
Crib and crib bedding sets (if you are planning to co-sleep, this is probably not a necessary purchase. We did use a crib, but many families don’t.)
Strollers (some babies like them, others preferred to be worn. And on that note…)
Baby carriers (as with strollers, some babies like to be worn, but others don’t. Also, unless you’re gung-ho on getting a black belt in parenting, we don’t recommend the wrap as it’s very difficult to get “right”)
Bottles (Some babies don’t like the bottle, others do. If you want to get a bottle, we used The First Years bottle for newborn-3 months because it imitates the flow of breast milk.)
Pacifiers (as with the bottle, some babies like it, and others don’t. We recommend using the pacifier that the hospital gives to the baby to see if your baby will like it. Both of our kids rejected the pacifier after 3 months, but as a preschool teacher, I have seen 3 year olds use it to help them sleep.)
Breastfeeding pillow (this was a necessity for us in the early days – we used My Breast Friend – but many families find that a pillow suffices)
Breastfeeding covers (some babies hate them; ours were fine and I recommend the infinity scarf over all other breastfeeding covers, if you decide to use one)
As parents of two children who were born pre-pandemic, we can only imagine what the pregnancy/childbirth/postpartum experience is like during Covid. This period is difficult enough in normal times, without the additional complications presented by Covid-19. Now, decisions that never required a second thought, such as running to the pharmacy to pick up diapers, are carefully weighed with the risk of contracting Covid. You may be wondering how to protect yourselves and the baby during pregnancy and after, whether you should hire a doula when only one person is allowed to be in the delivery room with you, and when/how your family members can safely travel to meet the new baby.
If you’re still reading at this point, we assume that you take Covid seriously and want to take steps to protect yourself and your family. You most likely have already extensively researched these questions and more online, so we won’t spend too long repeating what other expert sources have already told you, which is that pregnant and postpartum women are at increased risk for adverse effects from Covid , and the best way to protect yourselves is to get vaccinated against Covid-19, wear a mask indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces, and to wash your hands frequently .
Rather than adding to the litany of medical advice you may have already read, we decided to give you a human angle on this subject. We spoke with our friends, who welcomed their son in May 2020, about the pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum journey in the early days of Covid. We hope that their words and advice give you some solace and strength as you and your partner embark on this, at times thrilling, at times terrifying, journey in these times.
The Rad Dad Box: The Covid-19 pandemic has been going on for almost two years, so parents-to-be now at least had knowledge of Covid when they made the decision to get pregnant. You, on the other hand, were blindsided by it. Can you tell us how you felt when Covid caused everything to shut down, 7 months into pregnancy?
To be honest, it was a mixture of disappointment, confusion and fear. I had never had a child in the United States before, close to all of our family, so we were really looking forward to getting to celebrate that time and those experiences (such as gender reveals, baby showers, and simply being around family as my belly grew) with our extended families for the first time. We had a miscarriage prior to getting pregnant with our son, which caused us to be cautious when it came to celebrating. In retrospect, I wish we hadn’t waited as long as we did to set up his nursery and have a baby shower etc. because we ended up planning everything for the end of March, a week after the country shut down and things either being cancelled or revamped. The whole pregnancy process and navigating the healthcare system and social distancing was confusing and we were engulfed with fear of something happening to our unborn baby, if Mom were to contract Covid while pregnant. It definitely was not the pregnancy and birthing experience we had envisioned. Instead, it was an experience full of unanswered questions and uncertainty most of the time, but it all ended the best that it could and we are stronger as a family because of it.
TRDB: What did life look like for you being pregnant during a global pandemic and the national shut-down?
It was extremely strange, to say the least. Our daughter’s school switched to online learning (like all the others), which required me (mom) to leave my part-time position in the clinic, so that I could stay home with her. We limited our outings to predominantly Dad going to work and running any essential errands that needed tending to and I went to my prenatal appointments. Other than that, we had our groceries and other necessities delivered and would play in the back yard or go to the creek to get some fresh air, while staying away from all family, friends and most all other humans and avoiding any enclosed/indoor locations.
TRDB: What was Mom’s biggest fear while being pregnant during the pandemic and how did Dad help ease some of those concerns?
I feel like the obvious concern during that time was of any one of us contracting Covid. I worried about losing our unborn son at 7, 8 and 9 months gestation if I were to contract covid. I would have panic attacks thinking about how we would possibly manage potential hospitalizations between any one of us, with the strict Covid protocols and restrictions that the hospitals were mandating at that time.
The hospital had made it clear that if either Dad or myself were exhibiting any sickness or allergies symptoms that mirrored Covid 19’s symptoms when it came time for the birth of our baby, Dad would not be allowed to enter the hospital to be present. I also worried about the possibility of our infant not being allowed to share a room with me after his birth if either of us tested positive for Covid.
However, my husband was amazing at reassuring me by limiting his outings to strictly work and the grocery store, while wearing his mask at all times when in public. He also carried sanitizer with him to work, ensuring to sanitize and wash his hands often. He chose not to eat his lunch in the office and once he got home, he would immediately throw his outside clothes in the washer and jump into the shower.
TRDB: What are some things you missed out on during your pregnancy, birth and postpartum during the pandemic, versus a traditional experience?
The pandemic caused us to miss out on many things that a couple may be excited about or look forward to leading up to the birth of their child. Some of the most notable ones for us include:
No Birthing classes, sibling classes, hospital tours etc. All of the classes were cancelled, which was really disappointing because we had a first-time father of a newborn and first-time big sister who I felt could have benefited from those classes, in order to help everyone mentally prepare for this massive life change. Additionally, it was my first time giving birth in the United States so I wasn’t really sure what to expect and looked forward to gaining more insight during those classes to help me prepare for the birth of our son.
No gender reveals or in-person baby showers. However, our family did an amazing job at throwing us a virtual baby-shower, which we felt was extremely sweet and the best example of making lemonade out of life’s lemons, so to speak.
No visitors while in the hospital, which was alright with me because I feel those first days are so exhausting and so important for mom, dad and baby to bond, however, there is one exception which leads me to number four:
Sister not being able to meet baby brother in the hospital and having to see him for the first time over a video call. We had planned for big sissy to stay in the hospital with us and she was very excited to do so. We had long talks about what birth would look like and how the baby doesn’t come out pink and swaddled in a blanket. We watched live birth videos to prepare and she was ready! We were all ready to welcome this new little soul into our life, together! But unfortunately, due to the pandemic, it was not a possibility and not our reality.
TRDB: What was Dad’s biggest concern regarding prenatal, birthing and postpartum care during the pandemic?
Dad was stressed out because he was not able to accompany me to the prenatal appointments, which prevented him from being able to ask any questions or get any reassurances from the doctor, which as a first time father to a newborn, you can imagine he had plenty of questions and could have benefited from some reassurance. He mentioned that it was challenging because we were unable to gather with family prior to and following the birth of our baby. It was also really difficult to prepare for our baby as in-person shopping was limited due to the shutdown at that time. It definitely took away from the fun of baby-shopping by going and actually looking at the items you want and need. Instead we did all of our shopping online, which isn’t quite the same, nor nearly as exciting.
TRDB: What did the prenatal, postpartum and baby’s check-up appointments look like during the pandemic?
Again, it was very strange. Our son was born with a condition that required many follow-up appointments after his birth for testing and therapy so we were in and out of the clinic quite a bit. And again, only one parent was allowed to accompany him. For the more “important” appointments, we had to get permission for both parents to come. There was one time that we took him to the hospital for an appointment, with our pre-authorization for the both of us to attend and that doctor ordered x-rays for him. When we were walking to the other side of the hospital to get his x-ray done, we got stopped by security asking if we both had authorization to be there. We mentioned that yes, we did and the security guard called ahead to x-ray. He then informed us that since it was in a different part of the hospital, we needed to get another authorization to both be present during the x-ray. We decided that it would take more time to do that than for Dad to just stay behind while I took our son to go get his x-ray done. That is just one of the many examples of the hoops that we had to jump through, for regular care.
We grew very used to “virtual waiting rooms” for all of our son’s follow-up appointments and wellness checks, where we would arrive to the clinic, phone in at the office, answer the Covid-19 questionnaire to ensure that we didn’t have any symptoms and then wait in the car until they called us to come to the door where someone would meet us to let us into the clinic for the appointment.
Another challenge we faced was our baby not being allowed to accompany me to my six-week postpartum appointment. It made for a challenge because he was exclusively breast fed and refused the bottle, so Dad and I had to try to plan and schedule everything out perfectly, taking into account drive-time to and from the hospital and a guesstimation for how long I would be there, in hopes that it would all be completed between his feeding times. Disclaimer, I very barely made it. Ha!
TRDB: Mom, What was one of the biggest challenges you faced after having a newborn baby, during the pandemic?
One of the challenges that I least expected was not being able to buy postpartum pants that fit during that awkward phase, because I had no idea what my size was and all fitting rooms were closed down. Therefore, I only had the choice between my pre-pregnancy pants that were way too small and my maternity pants that were way too large to wear to all of those appointments. It seems so silly now, but it was actually quite stressful at the time. Haha!
TRDB: Dad, same question!:
Everything! It was my first time being a father to a newborn so… I really don’t know what is different outside of the pandemic. You know what I mean? Like, I have no basis of comparison between having a newborn baby pre-covid versus the pandemic. And diapers. Finding and buying diapers was a challenge because everyone bought up all the diapers and toilet paper. My wife ended up resorting to cloth diapering for a while to help alleviate that issue for us.
TRDB: Any other thoughts on this topic?
Yes! Something unusual that we both noticed was our son was able to read eyes really well from a very early age. Even with everyone having a mask on, he could tell if someone was smiling at him under their mask and would smile back, or if they were being serious, he would also be serious etc. And then, once restrictions started letting up after people began getting vaccinated he discovered that he was scared of uncovered faces! Being that he was accustomed to seeing only our three faces, since everyone else’s face was always covered,it was a lot for him to process initially. It was especially stressful for him when people would begin showing differing facial expressions, even if they were smiling, he would cry because he was not used to that, at all. Haha!
TRDB: Almost two years later, the pandemic is still here and it looks like Covid is likely to stay. What advice would you give to new parents and parents-to-be based on your experiences as “Covid parents”?
Dad: Always remember that regardless of a pandemic or not, children (especially of a young age) are extremely susceptible to getting sick. So, be sure to wash their hands regularly, always have sanitizer handy, and be mindful that, as parents, we are less likely to get sick from bacteria or a virus and it is our job to protect our children.
Mom: Trust your gut. Now that our country is letting up on restrictions, don’t let people or “social norms” pressure you into doing something that you are not comfortable or ready to yet. This goes from allowing people to hold your newborn simply because they want to, to getting said newborn vaccinated simply because someone says that you should. An example from us in regards to this is, in our state, we are allowed to be maskless in public places as long as we have been vaccinated. Both my husband and myself have been vaccinated, but we have two children (one very young, the other asthmatic) at home and do not feel comfortable removing our masks when in crowds and indoor settings. Therefore, we continue to wear our masks any time we go out in public and we often get dirty looks for it, as if we are unvaccinated and people don’t agree with “our decision.” The fact is, they don’t know our reality and our truth. Even though we are vaccinated, we choose to wear masks to set an example for our children who aren’t, and to try to keep them as safe as possible. We won’t let those dirty looks encourage us to remove our masks just to “prove” ourselves. So, do your research. Know your child/ren. And make an educated decision based on the information that you have learned, rather than just what you have been told via social media or your next door neighbor. But most especially do not feel obligated to do anything regarding the safety of your children and your household, that you are not comfortable doing.
For more resources on Covid and pregnancy, please visit the following sites:
This month, we’re proud to support a Dad-owned business! Your August boxes will have a bottle of liquid hand soap from The Rugged Company. We sat down with owner, founder, and Rad Dad to two daughters, Corey Cole, and chatted about business, work-life balance, and fatherhood.
(Image to the left shows Corey and his daughters on a hike, courtesy of Corey Cole)
The Rad Dad Box: Can you tell us about your company and the types of products you offer?
Corey Cole, The Rugged Company: At The Rugged Company we make natural products for men, women, and children. We make bath bombs, shower steamers, body butters, shampoo, conditioner, jar and beard oil, shave soaps, clay face masks, rose water toning spray, texture spray, candles, and I can keep going. We manufacture over 125 different products. We are constantly launching new products.
TRDB: What inspired you to start The Rugged Company?
CC: I started The Rugged Company out of necessity really. I have both psoriasis and eczema. I have dealt with self image my entire life because of it. I started to hear about the benefits of natural oils and products and it just blossomed from there. What started as a way to help my own skin turned into us making over 125 different products and having 20 people on staff that we get to help create product lines for other companies as well. We get to create products that people can stand behind and be proud of.
TRDB: Being an entrepreneur/business owner is, as you probably know, very time-consuming. How do you set aside and prioritize time with your children and spouse?
CC: I’m blessed that I get to do this alongside my wife. She is the COO and handles all the day to day operations. I oversee the sales, private label production and research and development. I set strong boundaries with my work life. Once I leave the office, I’m done with work. When I’m with my family it’s family time. I don’t even take the computer home anymore unless it’s absolutely dire need. Even then, I wait until my daughters are in bed. Weekends are family time only. I’ve stopped doing markets and vendor shows so I can spend time with my family. We love to be outside hiking and camping.
TRDB: What advice do you have for dads who would like to start a business?
CC: I always tell people to just go for it. At the end of the day if it doesn’t work out, you will still have some amazing stories to tell your children and grandchildren. Take your time with it. Do the research and put in the work. Don’t compare your day 1 with someone’s year 5 or year 20. It takes time to build a successful business. Lastly, you have to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it then what’s the point? You can always make money. Find something you’re passionate about that solves a problem.
TRDB: As a dad of two children, do you have any words of wisdom for new dads or soon-to-be dads? Also, do you have any advice for dads who are expecting their second child?
Take in the moment. Be in the room. Ask a nurse to take the pictures for you. Soak up the moment with your spouse. We don’t become fathers until they are here, so don’t worry if you don’t feel prepared. You never will. It’s a constant growing process. We learn as we go. Our job as fathers is to show our boys how to grow up to be an amazing man and to show our daughters how men should treat them. I want to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try new things with them. They will never forget it and you won’t either. Only thing we can’t get back is our time. Our time with our children and our family is more important than anything else. Be present.
Dads expecting second- good luck! Haha! Two can be crazy but your children will always have each other to play with. Teach them to be best friends and they will always care for each other. The bond my daughters have is beautiful. Even on the days they fight all day long, at the end of the day they snuggle up together and love on each other.
Race and racism has been a topic at the forefront of most people’s thoughts recently, especially in the light of the protests following George Floyd’s tragic death. Those of us with children may be trying to figure out a way to talk to our children about race, if we haven’t yet had this conversation. To help, many news outlets and blogs have been publishing lists of children’s book recommendations to help introduce and explain racism and African American history to children.
On that note, our recommendations feature a mix of books specifically geared towards educating children about African American history and racism, and books about every day life. Furthermore, since our work involves supporting dads, almost all of the books below feature African American (or Canadian) dads and their children.
We hope you check out some of these books, and please feel free to pass this list on to anyone who might be interested!
My Daddy, Martin Luther King Jr./ By Martin Luther King III, Illustrated by AG Ford. One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous quotes is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” However, what do we know of Martin Luther King Jr.’s children, and what do we know about what Martin Luther King Jr. was like as a father? Martin Luther King III, one of the children mentioned in his dad’s “I Have a Dream” speech, answers these questions in this dad-themed history book.
2. Antiracist Baby / by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. If you want to raise an activist from Day One, we recommend this book! It’s also a great way to introduce anti-racist concepts to your child.
3. Rosa: My First Rosa Parks/ Little People, Big Dreams series/ by Lisabeth Kaiser / illustrated by Marta Antelo. Although this book isn’t dad-themed, it’s also a good way to introduce your child to the history of racism, via one of the most prominent civil rights activists of the 1960s. This book is also a good starting point to discuss race.
4. My Daddy Rules the World / written and illustrated by Hope Anita Smith. We previously recommended this book in another post, but it bears mentioning again. This book celebrates everyday moments between fathers and their children, from bike-riding to wrestling matches to bedtime snuggles. Each quiet paper-cut illustration is accompanied by a poem. This is a lovely book that will help diversify any child’s bookshelf.
5. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan/ illustrated by Tom Knight. A universal struggle that any parent and child can relate to! This little girl does not want to sleep in her own bed, so, like any smart toddler, she decides to give her dad his own bed: a cot!
This one is a favorite at the Rad Dad house! (Although, due to the price of the book, we haven’t included it in our boxes.) Jabari goes to the pool with his dad and little sister. He wants to jump off the high dive, but when his turn comes, he finds every reason to procrastinate. His dad helps him overcome his fears, and Jabari heads for the diving board! As someone who hasn’t been on the high dive since the age of eight, I can say that all of us could use encouragement from a dad like Jabari’s. This book is perfect summertime and Rad Dad read.
7. You See, I See: In the City by Michelle Sinclair Colman/ illustrated by Paul Schmid. This sweet and simple book was included in our February 2020: Explore box. Colman and Schmid take us through a dad and daughter’s day out in the city, exploring it from their different perspectives: “You see big skyscrapers / I see morning papers.” Babies especially will love the minimalist illustrations (ours does!), and the most important message is that, in spite of their differing views, “In all the places that we see / I love you and you love me.”
8. Clean Up, Up, Up! by Ellen Mayer / illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu. Those of you who are familiar with Maria Montessori’s work will enjoy this book, as it’s a realistic book that teaches practical life skills: cleaning up after oneself! We also enjoy it as it features a loving father figure and diverse family in an every day setting. (Spoiler alert: we will probably be including this book in a box later this year!) We also recommend checking out the companion book, A Fish to Feed, featuring the same father-daughter duo.
9. Daddy’s Mini-Me by Arnold Henry/ Illustrated by Ted M. Sandiford. By Instagram Dad sensation Arnold Henry, this is another book that, due to its cost, didn’t make it into our boxes. A proud dad cheers on his son’s developmental milestones as he grows, and showing us how important a dad’s presence is in a child’s life.
10. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley/ illustrated by E.B. Lewis. It’s Miles’ first visit to the barbershop, and he’s scared. However, with gentle encouragement from his dad (and chocolate milk!), Miles is able to overcome his fear and decide on what kind of cut he would like. We love this book for its beautiful, realistic watercolor illustrations and the caring father figure.
11. Honorable mention: Papa, do you love me? by Barbara Joosse/ illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. A follow-up to the best-selling “Mama, do you love me?” this beautifully illustrated book is set in Africa among the Maasai culture.
Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, we hope that it gives you some ideas for diverse dad additions to your children’s bookshelf! Do you have a favorite book featuring a diverse dad that we didn’t mention? Please leave it in the comments below!
We have also created an activity to accompany our story time! Although this is geared towards toddlers and preschoolers, it can be modified for babies (suggestions below).
As many of you know, male seahorses carry their baby eggs in their pouch until the seahorse babies are born. In this beautifully illustrated book, Mister Seahorse meets other male fish who also carry their baby’s eggs. In our activity, you and your child will work together to create one of these Rad Dad fish!
dot stickers (we used brown since that’s what we had on hand, but if you can, we suggest using a more vibrant color, such as orange)
glue or gluesticks
Select the fish you’d like to make, and draw its outline on the construction paper.
Depending on your child’s age and skill level, you may ask them to cut out the fish, or you can cut it out yourself.
Glue the fish onto the background paper, or ask your child to glue it onto the background paper.
Instruct your child to place the dot stickers on the fish. These stickers represent the baby eggs.
Feel free to embellish however you like! (Our son drew water, seaweed, “fish food”, and “crab food”!)
If you don’t have dot stickers on hand, never fear! You can punch holes in paper with a hole puncher (or assist your child in doing so), and use the circles from the holes as the eggs. Or you can cut out fish eggs from construction paper and ask your child to glue them.
For babies, you can use non-toxic finger paint or stamp ink for the eggs. Dip baby’s finger in the paint (or press against the stamp pad), and then press along the body of the fish.
Now you have a joint piece of art with your child, celebrating dads!
We’re excited to announce our first ever Rad Dad story time this Thursday (March 26th) at 2:30 pm Central Time on Instagram Live! We will be The theme is Rainy Days and we will be reading from Lucy Cousins’ “Splish, Splash, Ducky!”, which was included in our August 2019 box. After story time, please also feel free to participate in a few rainy day-themed activities below.
With many dads and parents now working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak, we wanted to help make this time easier for you and your children with what we hope will be weekly themed story times and activities. This way, you don’t need to scour the internet for activities – simply go to our site to see suggestions! We will try our best to choose activities that use items found in most households, to reduce waste and prevent you from buying lots of needless supplies. We’ll also make suggestions on substitutions, where appropriate. Read below for the activity instructions and supply list for “Rainy Days.”
Theme for Week 1: Rainy Days
– Book: Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins (if you don’t already have this book, you can buy it online or listen along during our story time)
– for baby activity: shallow tray for water, water, sponges (if you don’t have play sponges, you can also use seashells, or animal bath toys)
– for toddler activity: clear plastic or glass jar, shaving foam (NOT shaving gel), food coloring, pipette
Baby Activity: Sensory Water Tray
Babies love water exploration! This sensory water tray activity is a great way to help them develop their sense of touch, learn about cold (and warm), and cause and effect. For our activity, we suggest using play sponges (similar to the ones we included in our May 2019 box), but this can also be done with seashells or rubber bath animal toys. (In fact, you can re-enact the Splish, Splash story with animal bath toys!) This activity is best for babies who are comfortable on their tummies, so roughly 3 months and up.
Fill a glass tray with water. Set on floor.
Place sponges in tray. Soak in water. Lift up and squeeze so baby sees the “rain” falling down! (bonus tip: squeeze the sponge over baby’s hand so she can feel the rain!)
Let baby play with the water to her heart’s delight!
Bonus tip #2: If you have an older child, this is a great way to involve them in play as well. Our son liked squeezing the water out of the sponges!
Toddler/Preschooler Activity: Rain Cloud in a Jar
The idea behind this activity is to teach children about how clouds hold rain, and then release them. The shaving cream acts as the cloud, the food dye/colored water acts as the rain, and the water in the jar acts as the air.
Fill your jar with water.
Squirt shaving cream on top of the water.
Mix food dye with water and have your child pipette the colored water into the shaving cream – or squeeze the food dye directly into the shaving cream. (Bonus tip: you’ll see results faster if you squeeze the water on the side of the “cloud”)
Watch the results!
Our son wasn’t so interested in the science, but he did enjoy seeing me squirt the shaving cream and playing with the shaving cream, too! He also didn’t have the patience to watch the “rain” fall down and actually became interested in pipetting the shaving foam into the colored water. However, when he was playing with his finger puppets later, he did have them take a trip to admire the rain!
In addition to these weekly story times, we’re also preparing a blog post with ideas for activities you can easily do with your children during your self-isolation/quarantine at home. Stay tuned!
It’s true: nothing can truly prepare you for being a parent, outside of the experience itself. However, a little research, preparation, and advice-seeking never hurt anyone. Below, we’ve compiled a few bits of random advice for new parents. Think of this list as a combination of “What we wish we knew as new parents” and “tips to make your parenting life a little easier.” We hope these tips will help you as you navigate this wild journey of fatherhood/parenthood!
3 months clothing is 0-3 months, so don’t wait until your child is 3 months old to break it out! (Same goes for 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, etc.)
Car seat toys and playmat toys can have a second life after your child outgrows the infant car seat and playmat – hang the toys on doorknobs around your house to encourage baby to stand, or if baby is already standing and walking, for baby to have fun surprises around every corner!
Keys make a great substitute rattle if baby is crying or bored and you’re outside with him and have no other toys.
Babies are also fascinated by fingers. If you have no toys to entertain baby, just wiggle and wave your fingers up and down, side to side. Babies will love this!
The same goes for clapping. And Peekaboo.
The footed sleeper (with zipper, not buttons) will be your best friend in the early days and in the winter for keeping baby warm at home.
Buy two of every accessory (hats, mittens, baby booties). You will need to wash one pair and you will want a spare. Plus, you may lose something and want to have a back-up handy.
If you are freezing meals in preparation for baby, please note: eggs do not freeze well. (This is from our own personal experience!)
When baby is a little older, you can clean out their body wash/shampoo bottles by rinsing them in the bathtub during their bath. You get clean, empty bottles and they get a fun sensory experience: a bubble bath!
Babyproof your house now while you are still expecting baby. Even if they won’t be able to crawl for another few months, it’s easier to do it before baby arrives than six to nine months from now, when you’re sleep-deprived and worn down from all your babycare duties.
The same goes for older toys and bigger sizes of clothing. Register for these and have them ready to take out when baby is ready.
If you’re storing baby’s bath toys in a plastic bin, put a towel at the bottom of the bin. This will absorb any excess water and prevent the toys from getting slimy or moldy on the outside.
If using diaper rash, dab some onto a kleenex or wipe (instead of on your bare finger!) and use that to apply it to your baby’s bottom.
Since you can’t buckle babies or toddlers in their car seats with their coats on, put their coats on backwards after you’ve buckled them in the car seat. (See photo below!)
Reader tip: Newborns and young babies are fascinated by ceiling fans!
If you’ve received our August 2019 box, you have probably seen the soap that we’ve included in this month’s box. You may have also seen the postcard introducing the soapmaker, Ty Collum (Ty is also offering a generous 20% discount to Rad Dad fans on his Etsy shop – link below – with the code RADDAD). Ty is one of our customers and in addition to making soap and brewing coffee for Early Grave Coffee Company, he is also a Rad Dad to his 19 month old son, Gideon. The father-son duo also does vlogs of their activities and adventures over at Bad Dad Crafting (including a few videos of the Rad Dad Box!). We sat down with Ty to talk about his various entrepreneurial ventures and about fatherhood:
The Rad Dad Box: What inspired you to start making soap?
Ty Collum: To make a long story short, my Grandmother is my primary soap-making inspiration. She raised me as a child from the time I was 2 weeks old, and has been the single most positive influence throughout my entire life. She has been making soap for over 25 years, beginning when I was around toddler-age. In all those years, I’m sad to say I never once participated in the process or gave soap-making a single thought. In the last 3 years I have been fortunate enough to marry the woman of my dreams, welcome our son, Gideon, into the world, and purchase our first home. As I’ve watched my family grow around me I’ve begun to recognize just how important it is that I learn from and participate in my (grand)mother’s life. I think about the recipes I enjoyed growing up, the family history that only she knows, and of course, the soap-making. She goes to the gym 5 days a week and is the healthiest grandma I know, but she turned 80 this year and had pacemaker surgery just last month, so now more than ever I feel the importance of being connected to her.
Ty and his grandmother at his wedding (photo courtesy of Ty Collum)
TRDB: From what I understand, the soap-making is an outgrowth of your coffee roasting business. Can you tell us what inspired you to start it?
Ty: I’m the type of person that I call a serial-hobbyist. A jack-of-all and a master-of-none. If I see something that interests me I jump into it, get really excited about it for a small amount of time, and then move on when something else catches my eye. My past and current hobbies have included painting, drawing, woodworking, wood burning, designing t-shirts, social media management, web design, video games, disc golf, fishing, technology, producing music, writing poetry, blogging, and I’m sure there’s more I’m missing. The point is, I wouldn’t consider myself good at or super in love with any of these things. I try them, I enjoy them, and then when I get bored I try something else.
My coffee journey actually began as my (grand)mother buying me a cold brew maker for Christmas. My hobby of the moment was coffee, and I wanted to try cold brew. I let a few friends try what I was making and one of them wanted me to sell it to her. So Beardman’s Cold Brew was born. after about 8 months of selling coffee to friends and family and saving up for a fancy coffee grinder, I got bored. It wasn’t until the next Christmas when I tried making a peppermint cold brew and had a few people asking for coffee for Christmas gifts that I decided to re-brand myself and sell coffee again. Enter Early Grave Coffee Company.
Today, I’ve more or less quit selling coffee again. Actually all I did was stop promoting it. If you’ve ever dealt with building emerging brands you understand how essential advertising is to the success of a business. I always maintain enough coffee in my fridge for personal consumption, and in almost 4 years have drank my cold brew pretty much every morning. I may have a slight caffeine problem. If friends or family ask for coffee, I make them some. If they don’t ask, I just make it for me.
Original Coffee soap from Early Grave Coffee Company (photo courtesy of Early Grave Coffee Company)
TRDB: Is this your full-time job, or is it a side gig at the moment?
Ty:It’s funny you should ask about full-time jobs. I just left mine. I was working 60 hours a week between 2 jobs, working my various hobbies and side hustles, finding time to maintain the house and actively participate in my relationship with Haley, my wife, and raising my son as well as producing his YouTube channel, Bad Dad. I worked in management for a Fortune 500 retail company, but the moment my son was born I knew that I wanted out. I had been trying to secure a position where I could work from home when they eliminated my job. I had options to stay and they were more than accommodating, but I am proud to say that I chose to leave and pursue my real dream of being a full-time stay-at-home dad. To be truthful, I am totally terrified. We weren’t prepared to potentially make it on just Haley’s income, and there are tons of unknowns that we will have to work through over the next year or two. However, we are optimistic that we will make it work.
So to answer the question, I guess we’ll see what Early Grave is. For now just a side gig. This time next year it could be a life insurance company for all I know. If it’s not apparent by now let me be the first to tell you; I’m just making it up as I go along.
TRDB: What advice do you have for dads who would like to start side gigs?
Ty: If it sparks my interest, I try it. If I like it, I keep doing it. When I realize I don’t like it anymore, I stop. Also, I try to address different parts of my life with different projects. I make coffee because at this point I don’t think I could survive without it. That’s a passion for me and me only. I have a YouTube channel because I wanted a creative outlet that was just for Gideon and I as father and son. I now make soap as a means of connecting with my mom. I hate video games but I try to find ones I like because Haley loves them and it’s a way for us to connect. Lastly, I don’t take any of these things too seriously. As soon as I start treating these hobbies like jobs and give myself deadlines or schedules or budgets I lose interest. For example, I usually film YouTube videos with Gideon on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, but sometimes it’s Monday and sometimes it’s at night and sometimes it’s not at all. I have to force myself to embrace the spontaneity, especially in dealing with a toddler.
Goofing off at the airport (photo courtesy of Ty Collum)
TRDB: Do you have any time management tips you’d like to share with other dads? How can dads spend time with their children while working at a full-time job (and sometimes juggling side gigs as well)?
Ty:Time management, what a subject.
As much as I hate to say it, I thrive on an insanely busy schedule. I don’t always like it, but at the end of the day I find more joy in reflecting on everything I’ve accomplished than in having to always move my to-do list to tomorrow. I always tell myself, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I wasn’t always like this, though. My teenage self wouldn’t even believe that I could survive on 4 hours of sleep or less a night.
I do this because it’s important to me. I always felt a lack of purpose until Gideon was born. He was the catalyst for so much positive change in my life.
As far as tips go, I would say if it’s important to you, do it. MAKE it happen. If I feel out of balance I add or take away something until I find balance again. In my case I’m usually adding, but in the case of my job, obviously I took away something major. The point is I don’t accept what others might say is possible or impossible and instead I choose to find out for myself. The outcome is usually that I DID have time to do that one more thing on a regular basis, or I AM capable of accomplishing a task or list of tasks that I was told or believed was impossible for me.
Think about that one thing you’ve always or lately wanted to do. Now go do it. Wake up earlier. Stay up later. Call or text or email or fax whoever you have to, reschedule what you need to reschedule, but MAKE IT HAPPEN. You can think about how tired you were AFTER it’s finished.
One more thing. While you’re making it happen, and for everything that you do, live in that moment. Put your phone down and FEEL what’s happening. Actively participate in the moments in your life and you will quickly realize why it’s so important to be exactly where you are. That will motivate you to keep making it happen in the future.
TRDB: As a dad of a 19 month old, do you have any words of wisdom for new dads?
Ty:The most important advice I was given in the moments before my son was born was this: “Don’t take advice from anybody.” I parent how I parent, and you’ll parent how you parent. What is stellar advice for me might be terrible advice for you.
With that being said, here’s what I feel is good advice. Love with all your heart. Be present. Get on the floor and play, or slide down the slide, or roll down the hill, despite how itchy you may get. Make all decisions in the interest of how it will positively affect your child, your spouse, and anyone else around you. Accept mistakes and learn from them. No one is 100% prepared to be a parent. Think about what you want to teach your child and teach it. If they aren’t learning it, try a different approach. Ignore what other parents say about snack times and nap times and bed times and who-cares-what-else times. Just do your best, and you’ll be okay.