Your Toddler Will Make a Mess: Two Amazing Tools for Cleaning Up After Them

I just added two cleaning devices I wouldn’t want to live without onto my Mamajamas list.

As my child has gotten older, the idea that I own a cream colored couch seems more and more preposterous. Granted, I got it on Craigslist, but it’s a nice Pottery Barn Sectional, and I’m attached to it. But let’s be honest, with a toddler around, my poor couch takes a real beating.

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So I originally looked into upholstery cleaning services, and they are not cheap! I’d be spending a fortune trying to keep up with all of the dirt and food stains (and coffee and wine stains–okay, so I can’t completely blame my toddler). Instead, I found my new favorite cleaning product of all time, the Bissell Little Green ProHeat Multi-Purpose Cleaner. This little guy steam cleans all my couches and chairs no problem and also the rugs. It’s pretty much a miracle product.

It’s a little annoying that they make you buy their cleaning solution for the machine, but I do appreciate that they offer a green cleaning product (although I can’t vouch for how “green” it actually is).


Second, if your child is like mine, they have gone (or are going to go) through a very long phase of messy eating. Whether it’s unintentional spillage, or the dreaded “dropping and throwing food to see what will happen” stage, keeping my kitchen floor clean is a constant struggle (and the only time I’ve seriously considered getting a dog).

At first, I was using the swiffer wet jet, and it worked okay, but it felt really wasteful with all those disposable pads, expensive (because you had to buy your pads and their brand of cleaning solution), and their cleaning solution was really stinky and toxic smelling.

In searching for an alternative, I discovered the incredible Rubbermaid Microfiber Spray Mop.

You add your own cleaning solution (I just use vinegar!) and it comes with two washable pads. Problem solved. I love this thing.

Parenthood is messy. The need for me to constantly be cleaning up after my child was one of the life changes I most underestimated before having a child. I would have never appreciated these products pre-kids, but now I’m so grateful for tools that can make my life just a tad bit easier!

The Pacifier Fairy Failed

Back in September, I wrote this breezy post on how easy it was to get rid of our son’s pacifier. I was feeling very smug right about then. 

Let’s recap. Son loves pacifier to sleep. Son gets mouth full of canker sores due to bad virus. Parents use this opportunity to take away his pacifier via the tried and true “Fairy” method. After first few days, son seems to be handling it okay. Son only asks about pacifier once. Parents are quietly struggling with new sleep issues from said  weaning, but figure like most transitions, this too shall pass.

What I didn’t realize then was that though he was okay with the transition mentally, physiologically he had a very tough time falling asleep without his pacifier.  Over the next two months, he would wake up crying at least two times a night. He couldn’t fall back asleep for almost an hour each time. He also started waking up at 5:30-6:00am. Though this left him (and us!) exhausted during the days, sans pacifier he couldn’t figure out how to take his naps anymore–so those left us too. Without his nights and naps he would often cry his way through his daily transitions.

It was incredibly difficult for us to see him struggle like this. After two months of this, we couldn’t take it any longer.

So what did we do?

We reintroduced the pacifier.

At first I felt like a total failure for doing this. In the infinite black hole that is online mom forums, I could find no precedent. Who reintroduces a pacifier to their child at 3 years old? Also, wasn’t I damning him to a life of messed up teeth through this prolonged use?

But you know what? Now I’m so happy we made that decision. The day the pacifier came back, we got our son back. And our good life back. He went from an exhausted mess of a toddler, to the wonderful little man we know and love so much. He’s back to sleeping through the night until at least 7:30-8am. And back to napping almost every day.

And all it took was that darn little piece of rubber. We’ll worry about weaning him from it again in a year when he’s a little more mature and he doesn’t nap anymore.

Why do I share this marvelous failure with you?

Too often, all I read on these types of blogs are the successes. And successes are great.

But in this failure, I learned to do what I think is right for my child. And not get super caught up in following the “right” way to parent. I learned that I don’t have to strictly adhere to any guidelines that tell me when I absolutely need to do things. I learned that development is not a race.  I learned to listen to my instincts and listen to my child.

I also learned that sometimes what feels like a failure initially, can actually be a big victory.

The other day I told my pediatrician a condensed version of this saga and she was great. She said something to the effect of “Don’t worry about it. If your kid couldn’t transition within two weeks that means he obviously wasn’t ready. Try again down the road. And by the way, there is no real evidence anyhow that pacifiers contribute to overbites.”


ImageI read an article yesterday about a mom whose autistic son reacts really strongly (ala class A meltdowns) every time there is a break in his routine.

My husband and I just finished a marathon heart-to-heart the night before about how we can provide more consistency in routine to our own, particularly sensitive, 3-year old.

Now our situation is probably more of an edge case. While not autistic, we have always known our little guy is sensitive to changes in his surroundings (and his environment in general — for other parents with sensitive children, it was really helpful to read this book).

But even if you don’t have a sensitive child, I think all kids thrive on predictability and routine to make sense of a world that can be chaotic and overwhelming.

But anyhow, back to our situation, to further complicate matters, my husband and I have always preferred to live lively, hectic lives (the following may make you feel better about the stability of your own situation):

So, for example:

  • Our work schedules are flexible, but inconsistent. Even though we get to spend lots of quality time with our son, he often doesn’t know who is caring for him when, and what time we will be home.
  • We recently did a major home renovation which lasted six months, so there are still lots of workers coming in and out of our house.
  • He’s been on at least 75 flights (which does sound crazy — but it’s been mostly for family reasons and breaks down to about once a month over 3 years).
  • He moved 4 times in the first 2 years of his life — including across the country.

These breaks in routine have manifested mostly in sleep problems, but also in some recent intense cries during times of transitions. Travel is especially hard, and we usually suffer through about two tough days pre-travel and a week post.

So here is what we’ve done (or are trying to do) to create more consistency of routine for our little guy:

  • Cut all non-necessary travel (we tried to go with him to SXSW when he was 5 months old and vowed to never to do  a trip like that again — but then we continued to have a crazy travel schedule. But we’ve recently decided that we should only travel for important events, weddings, and family).
  • Try to have only one transition occur at a time. We’ve learned that combining events, like for example, taking away the pacifier a week before we have a trip scheduled, is a recipe for disaster. Now we plan each transition carefully (or try to), so they are spaced out and come one at a time.
  • Talk about “the plan” — a lot. As part of our bedtime routine, we always talk about what the day will be like tomorrow. We’ve also made a book that shows his routine and has pictures of his caregivers that can be swapped in and out of the day.

This is all still a work in progress for us. Please leave a comment if you have other suggestions that have worked well for you.



I thought this video was pretty interesting.

Montessori is also big on “respecting the child.” The Parent-Child Class we’ve taken with our son here in Boston is all about this. It helped show me that my young child was actually more capable than I had assumed.

I remember being stunned when my 1 1/2 year old (who pretty much used mealtimes at home as a chance to explore Newton’s first law of motion) sat in a little chair with a bunch of other toddlers for snack time at the class. He ate nicely (using his spoon!), poured his water from a little glass pitcher and drank from a tiny glass cup. He even helped to clean up afterward!

Although, even with the Montessori class help, I can’t say I still don’t catch myself sounding like this guy sometimes… Parenting is hard!