Use Those Hands to Finger Paint!

This week Logan called a few of his friends to join him for an impromptu finger painting party post-swim.  The kids (ages 19 months to 6 years) loved it!  Finger painting is so easy to do and so much fun!  All you need is some thick white paper, finger paints (we use Crayola washable finger paints, which you can easily buy on Amazon or at Central Chitlom), and little hands.  Enjoy!

My little artist

Finger painting with friends

Finger painting quickly became body painting for the older ones

Artistry in motion

The Beauty of Bilingualism

Just in cased you missed it, here is a very recent NYT article describing the benefits of bilingualism:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html

We are so fortunate to live in a city where so many different languages are spoken.  What a gift to allow our children to be exposed regularly to other languages by neighbors, friends, and caretakers alike.

Cavities, General Anesthesia, and Surgery

Just a day after I posted my previous entry about feeding your toddler, I stumbled across the following article in the NY Times about the astounding rise in young children with cavities who must undergo general anesthesia and surgery to correct their problems.  I found it apropos to share the article not only because of my last entry, but because we have family and friends whose children have endured the same difficulties.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/06/health/rise-in-preschool-cavities-prompts-anesthesia-use.html

I would be lying if I said that we don’t struggle every now and then to get Logan to brush his teeth.  Some nights are fairly easy, other nights are harder.  In fact, I’ve never heard of a toddler who enjoyed brushing his/her teeth (if you have one, please let me know how you do it)!  The best technique we’ve discovered is to let our little guy brush everyone else’s teeth first; this includes model cars, airplanes, characters in books, and Mommy and Daddy of course.  Then, and only then, is he pretty chill about us brushing his teeth.  It’s usually a 10-15 minute process, but it works.  We are good about letting him “brush on his own” as well, although this generally consists of him dipping and re-dipping the toothbrush in a cup of water and sucking on the toothbrush itself.

To reduce the risk of cavities even further, think twice about bottles in bed, a constant supply of juice during the day, forgoing fluoride (if you brush with bottled water), skipping a nightly cleaning because your toddler is cranky, or altogether putting off the process of brushing teeth because your toddler just doesn’t like it.  General anesthesia and surgery are two things that shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially in such a young person.

Find of the Week: The Jackpot for Car Enthusiasts

The first word our toddler says in the morning is “car.”  The last word he says at night is “car.”  I’m pretty sure I’ve even heard him say “car” in his sleep.  We’ve determined that most of this is a result of genetics.  Both of Logan’s grandfathers have collectively been proud owners of Porsches, BMWs, Audis, and Corvettes.  Logan’s dad is a regular subscriber to Car and Driver.  There are actually times that I find myself wrestling Car and Driver away from Dad so that Logan can get his fill.  Other times, I find them watching youtube clips from The Fast and Furious or various versions of “Addison’s Pimped Car Slide Show,” oohing and ahhing at the screen.  They can often be found playing race car video games at different locations around town (as evidenced by the below).  At home, our coffee table has become a race track.  Given the persuasions of his genealogy, I’m guessing this is not just a passing phase.

It was a close race, but in the end Daddy prevailed

Logan even managed to pull his Gran into the youtube car action during her last visit

So, when my husband and I discovered a table full of “pull back” model car replicas outside of Central World, we knew we had hit the jackpot.  Dozens of model cars to choose from (what you see on the table is only a small fraction of what the vendor has stored underneath his booth) – Lamborghinis, Hummers, Volkswagen Beetles, Ford GTs, Porsche Carreras, BMW M5s, Audi Q5s, Dodge Rams . . . name your car, and this guy probably has it.  In fact, you can even find concept cars at this guy’s table, our latest purchase being a Volkswagen Microbus Concept that never made it to production – how’s that for a good selection?

You think this is impressive? Ask to see Mr. Cat’s under-the-table stash!

So who is the man with the cars?  His nickname is Khun Maaeo (yes, Mr. Cat – fitting, don’t you think) and his booth is located on Rajadamri Road, just to the right of Central World. One look at us, and Khun Maaeo started at 199 baht for the mid-size models and 259 baht for the larger ones.  Just like any outdoor vendor in Thailand, prices are very bargain-able.  The absurd thing is, a quick online search shows that similar (although, undoubtedly, much higher quality) model cars can cost up to hundreds of dollars.  Unless you’re going for a very fancy, collectible showcase of model cars, I tend to think the $3-5 type will suit a car-crazed toddler just fine.  Our yellow Porsche Cayman has suffered a side-view mirror casualty, but so far that has been our only casualty — which is pretty impressive given the amount of use Logan’s cars get everyday.  So if you have a car-happy toddler at home and you happen to be out on the town and find yourself near Central World, visit Mr. Cat.  Any one of the cars is bound to bring your toddler hours of joy.

Three Toddler-Friendly Weekend Escapes from Bangkok

Bangkok.  Bustling, boisterous, beguiling Bangkok.  A vibrant, exciting city to live in, but let’s face it, sometimes you just need to a break; an escape for the soul, if you will.  About once a month when we decide a weekend excursion out of the city is in order, we generally look for a place that Bangkok is not:  calm, quiet, and green.  We aspire for our toddler to hear, see and experience nature, to star-gaze, to bob in the ocean, to sink his feet into green grass, to run, trip, and tumble across great expanses.  If you want to get technical, you can do almost all of those things in Lumpini Park, but bobbing in the murky green water with the monitor lizards is not really the kind of nature we’re looking for.

During our first year and a half in Thailand, we’ve discovered many getaway gems, but it is the following ones that keep us going back for more.  They are toddler-friendly, reasonably-priced, and an easy two-to-three hour drive out of town.  They require minimal planning and reward with maximum enjoyment; altogether a pretty sweet deal.

  1. Rim Phae Beach, Rayong

When the sand and surf call, we head southeast.  Our family has traveled to Rim Phae Beach at least half a dozen times; enough to consider it our “home away from home.”  We stay in a small community of large homes on the beach.  The three-story, three-bedroom homes are ideal for a quiet family-only getaway, or can easily accommodate two-to-three families for a regaling weekend away.  We spend our days swimming in the pool, playing in the sand, taking dips in the ocean, grilling on our patio, strolling down the beach in search of local cuisine, admiring the bright orange sunsets – you get the point.  When it’s too hot out to play, we jump in the car and visit Rayong Aquarium (for 30 baht/person, admission is a steal!), check out surrounding local villages, or nap.  If we’re feeling particularly adventurous, we hire a speedboat from our beachfront to Koh Samet – a 20-minute jaunt away.

Giggles on Rim Phae Beach

Crystal Beach is lush, serene, and private.  While it pains me to give away details on our best kept getaway secret, I would feel remiss in my toddlejoy duties if I didn’t, so here goes:

  • Drive:  2.5 hours (part highway, part local roads)
  • Stay:  The Crystal Beach House or Rayong Beach Villa
  • Expect to pay:  Around 6,000 baht/night (if you share with another family, split the cost and it becomes 3,000 baht/night, etc. etc.)
  • Bring:  sunscreen, beach/pool toys, food for grilling

2. Khao Yai

When the mountains call, we head northeast.  Billing itself as Thailand’s wine and cowboy country, Khao Yai boasts an eclectic mix of steakhouses and wineries.  As you drive past vacation homes and restaurants, you are oddly-reminded of Tuscany, Napa, and Bordeaux.  Khao Yai is also home to Thailand’s largest national park, Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site.  The air is fresh, the surrounds are green and rolling, and the wildlife is plentiful.  Khao Yai is where we go to really relax.  And dare I forget to mention, Khao Yai is where Logan goes to get his tractor and golf cart fix (as evidenced by the pictures below).  There is plenty to do in Khao Yai, but what you should not miss is the following:  a trip to Khao Yai National Park (whether a two-hour drive in the park to satisfy a baby/toddler nap session or a guided hike); an afternoon lunching at PB Valley Khao Yai Winery (eat the food, perhaps skip the wine); and a visit to Chokchai Farm (if you’re not up for the entire three-hour tour of Chokchai, you can ask to meet up with the tour at specific points, such as the petting zoo).  There are a bundle of places to stay in Khao Yai, so make sure to do your research.  Use Agoda to book in order to get the best deals.  We have been so spoiled by one resort in particular, that we refuse to stay anywhere else (details below).

In tractor heaven at PB Valley Winery

Sweet electric ride at the Muthi Maya

  • Drive:  2 hours (mostly highway)
  • Stay: Kirimaya Resort (hotel) or Muthi Maya Resort (private pool villas)
  • Expect to pay:  On Agoda, rates usually run USD 148/night for a standard room at the Kirimaya, and USD 237/night for a private pool villa at Muthi Maya
  • Bring:  hiking clothes, bathingsuits, bug spray

3. Kanchanaburi

When we’re tired of going east, we go northwest.  In a full admission of honesty, we’ve done Kanchanaburi far fewer times than Rayong and Khao Yai.  In fact, we’ve only done it once.  But I can tell you, one trip is enough to know we’ll be going back.  Although a little bit more difficult to reach than Khao Yai, it has all of the natural beauty of Khao Yai and then some.  It is not as crowded or as developed as Khao Yai, and if you’re a true adventurer, it offers bundles of waterfalls, springs, and day-hikes to explore.  If you’re the athletic type, keep an eye out for the River Kwai International Half Marathon, which takes place in Kanchanaburi every year.  Couple a short getaway with the success of completing a half-marathon, and I’d say you have a pretty good weekend on your hands.  As for accommodations, utilize Agoda to find the best deals and the resort of your choice.  We really enjoyed the private pool villa at the Mida Resort (details below), which is located on a beautiful swath of the River Kwai.

Enjoying the natural beauty of the River Kwai

Checking out the resort with mommy

Swimming at our private pool villa (yes, colorful balls included)!

  • Drive:  2.5-3 hours (some highway, mostly local roads)
  • Stay:  Mida Resort
  • Expect to pay:  On Agoda, rates usually run USD 59/night for a superior room or USD 157/night for a one-bedroom private pool villa
  • Bring:  hiking clothes, bathingsuits, bug spray