DIY wooden crate toy storage

DIY wood crate Montessori toy storage

Recently one of my lovely Instagram followers remarked that I haven’t posted a home update in a while. True! After buying our first home, decorating it, and having a baby within the last two years, things have quieted down on the interior decorating front. We’ve found a kind of equilibrium, and now it’s mostly about keeping things neat—which is harder than you think.

One quick update we’ve done was to repurpose our vintage wooden crates. These crates have been the gift that keeps on giving. We used them as a TV cabinet almost five years ago, then turned them into hallway storage for our current home. Now, we’ve repurposed them as DIY wooden crate toy storage for our toddler.

Toy storage idea from wooden crates

We cleared out our coffee tables to make our living area a big play space for Tala. Having an idea of Montessori principles for decorating kid’s spaces—I went to a Montessori preschool—I thought it would be good to put Tala’s toys in open shelving at her height. It turned out to be a great decision.

From about 1 year and 9 months, Tala has been able to pick and choose what toys she wants to play with. Even better: she puts them away herself. This is absolutely the best part and a huge relief for us parents. I started teaching her with a pack-away song. Now that she’s 2 years old, I don’t even need the song anymore, I just tell her it’s time to put her toys back.

Montessori play with DIY wooden crate toy storage

Because of the limited storage space, we’ve also had to choose the toys and books. we keep out. If it doesn’t fit in the shelf, we give it away or keep it for later. This is great in a few different ways.

First, it reminds me to pay close attention to what she’s playing with, what she’s ignoring, and how she’s playing. For example, I know within the last three months she’s moved from puzzles to pretend play, and with books she’s done with repeating new words and has moved on to acting out the scenes we read about (with props and all!).

Second, by rotating toys instead of buying new ones , we get to bring out toys that she’s forgotten about and still give her the excitement of a “new” toy. It’s kind of sneaky, but honestly at this age she doesn’t know the difference—and we can use the money for other things.

Third, it’s done wonders to help prevent toddler toys from taking over our home. Tala doesn’t really play in the kitchen or hallway or other weird spaces, because she knows she has her own space with all her favorite things.

DIY wooden crate toy storage for toddlers


Commercial break: can you believe how pudgy and babyish Tala still is in these pictures?! We rearranged the crates and took these photos in January (sorry, bad blogger). Now, she’s definitely more little girl than baby. But she still uses the storage in the same way.

Toddler toy storage from wood crates

Some tips to consider if you’d like to repurpose wooden crates as toy storage:

Consider your child’s personality. We are fortunate to have a toddler who is not “climb and destroy” type, so we felt very comfortable doing this. I know other parents who wouldn’t dream of it. But it’s also possible to teach kids that the shelves are not for climbing. You’d have to do it for other pieces of furniture anyway, right?

Toddler-proof your wooden crates. Sand down wood to prevent splinters. Hammer back or pry out any nails that may cause injuries. Reinforce your shelves with non-nail alternatives—we used rope to tie the crates together in the back.

Try out different configurations. Mix and match! Stack crates horizontally for books and smaller toys. Line them up vertically for bigger toys. Just make sure to keep everything within your child’s height.

I have another DIY wooden crate project up my sleeve, but first I’d love to know what you think of this one. Do you use wooden crates at home and how do you use them?

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DIY Halloween costume: Toddler Cleopatra

As a girl who went trick-or-treating every year while I was growing up, I really miss Halloween. That’s because Halloween is a non-event in the Netherlands. Though it’s gaining popularity, especially in cities like Amsterdam with large international communities, Halloween events are few and hard to find.

If you’re lucky enough to find a Halloween party, people rarely go all out to dress up. Remember my Angry Birds maternity Halloween costume? I wore that to an expat Halloween party where, like, four people wore something vaguely resembling a costume. Pfff.

When our babysitting coop announced a Halloween meetup, I decided to just go for it and make Tala a DIY Halloween costume. And why stop there when Mama and Papa could wear matching costumes too?

So, here’s a family Halloween costume idea that reflects the true power relationships in our family: Cleopatra and her slaves.

Cleopatra costume toddler and family

Because, truth is, in a household with a toddler, the toddler rules!

The idea started with Tala’s hair. I racked my brain for a fictional character with black hair and blunt bangs, who could come with a couple of matching characters. Then it hit me: Cleopatra.

Halloween costume inspiration Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

I must’ve spent hours poring over pictures of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. With 65 costume changes throughout this ruinously expensive 60s film, there was a lot of inspiration! Eventually I said, “Well, eff the first look, what mother on earth has time for that?!” and decided that Tala’s Cleopatra DIY Halloween costume would be inspired by elements from the second and third looks pictured here.

Here’s how it turned out.

Cleopatra DIY costume toddler

Gotta tip my hat to DIY bloggers here, because taking step-by-step pictures and a final, decent picture for a DIY blog post is hard. Believe me, I tried—and failed miserably.

Halloween costume Cleopatra toddler DIY

What I can do, however, is just give you a quick run-down of what I used and how I did it. Oh, and show you more pictures of Toddler Cleopatra, of course!

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Party DIY: Hand-lettered balloons

Did you see the hand-lettered balloon garland I made for Tala’s first birthday party? I wanted to write a separate post about this fun little DIY project because I enjoyed doing it so much.

DIY hand-lettered balloon garland

Aside from the balloon garland, I also hand-lettered individual balloons and floated them around the cafe. Tala is already used to hearing English, Filipino and Dutch, so I used a combination of fun party words from those three languages.

Hoera! Party balloons DIY handlettering

Hoera (pronounced hooh-rah) means hurray!

Leuk! Party balloons DIY handlettering

Leuk! is Dutch for nice, fun, or cool. The Dutch say it so often, in the beginning I was paranoid that people were being sarcastic with me.

Yehey! Party balloons DIY handlettering

We also had Super! Yay! and Yippee! And of course, I couldn’t leave out our very own Yehey!

This was so much fun for me. I’ve always loved hand lettering—just ask my high school classmates and look at my old textbooks. Plus, it’s easy! Anyone can do it and it doesn’t take much time. Here’s how to DIY your own hand-lettered party balloons.

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Hanging up the duyan

A while back, I blogged about my desire for a traditional Filipino duyanor hanging bassinet, for the baby. My mom presented me with one last Christmas, and after lots of plastic cling wrap and two plane rides, our duyan arrived safely in Amsterdam.

Plain rattan didn’t quite go with our baby room’s color scheme, so Marlon and I decided to give the traditional duyan a bit of a modern makeover. Inspired by the ombre trend, Marlon and I used leftover paint from our baby room bookshelves to create a gradient effect. We applied three shades of powdery pink, starting with the lightest shade then and blending them as we went along.

Ombre bassinet DIY

After revamping the duyan, we had to find a place for it. I wanted Tala to sleep in our room in the early months, but we didn’t have enough space to hang the duyan by the bed.

Since we had found a great deal on a second-hand Stokke Sleepi, Marlon and I decided to make that her main crib and install the duyan on the balcony instead. Luckily, our apartment’s previous owners used to hang a hammock on the balcony, and they’d left a few heavy-duty hooks in the ceiling. Marlon tapped into his inner Boy Scout to rig the rope and secure it with a few well-placed knots…

Tala sleeping in her duyan

… and voila! One fully functional duyan, ready for gentle breezes and sunny days.

With the arrival of a long-delayed spring, we’re finally getting to use the duyan. We had great sunny weather last weekend, so we put the mattress and beddings from her Stokke crib in it and put her down for a nap while we enjoyed our first al fresco lunch of the season.

Baby sleeping in duyan

So many of my baby essentials are from home. The makeshift sun shade is one of our dozens of bird’s eye cloth diapers from Landmark, and it’s secured with pastel bull clips from National Bookstore. This is a Filipino baby, after all!

Tala in her duyan

Now that we’ve managed to import and install a traditional Filipino duyan, I’d love to get more use out of it. If only it was as easy to bring over some Filipino sunshine!

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Adventures in babywearing

One of the highlights of my week was learning how to carry Tala in a wrap. Babywearing, the practice of carrying a baby on the body in a sling, wrap or carrier, was something I really wanted to try.

While I was pregnant, I made my own DIY wrap inspired by the Moby Wrap. This popular brand-name wrap is basically a long piece of fabric that enables you to carry the baby close to your body, distributing weight over your back and freeing up your arms.

Making my own wrap was as simple as buying five meters of cotton jersey for €3 per meter. I didn’t even need to hem or serge it because this type of fabric doesn’t unravel. A slightly stretchy fabric like cotton jersey is suitable for wrapping newborns up to about 15 lbs; after that, more supportive fabrics like linen or cotton are recommended.

After a few false starts and many Youtube videos (this tutorial was the one that finally did it for me), I finally succeeded in putting Tala in a wrap. From then on, life with our newborn just got easier.

DIY stretchy sling for newborn

There are lots of reasons to try—and love—babywearing. According to this article, babies worn in a sling or carrier fuss less—apparently, 43 percent less than babies who aren’t.

At this age, Tala can’t handle too much stimulation; facing inwards against me, she’s less likely to be overstimulated by the outside world. Instead, she’s comforted by things she knows: the sound of my heartbeat, the smell of my skin, the closeness of my body.

She can sleep for hours this way, and sleep can only be a good thing for both mother and baby. She’ll even sleep past feeding time, only waking up for a feed if I take her out of the wrap. Bonus: she doesn’t wake up ready to attack the boob like a ravenous barracuda. That’s happened before and believe me, it’s not my favorite thing.

After nearly three weeks of having my arms full, it’s awesome to use my arms again. I’ve vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, blogged, put on makeup, even cooked and ate meals, all while wearing Tala. Okay, I did have to pick rice out of her hair a few times. But she never seems to mind… she’s always conked out, asleep!

Finally, I just love to have her this close to me—”close enough to kiss” is the rule of thumb for front carrying. To me, it’s the closest thing to being pregnant again. It’s instinctive and natural, to be able to go about my day without having to think about how to take care of her.

Mommy and Daddy babywearing stretchy sling

As for Daddy… well, Marlon loves it! I think he was sold when using the sling gave him a few precious hours to catch up on UFC and wrestling after dinner one evening. He says we’ll keep her in it until she’s 15.

So far, I’ve only used the wrap at home. My next babywearing adventure will be stepping out with Tala in it, and getting things done in the world beyond our door. Stay tuned!

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