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I don’t know what it is but my baby won’t take off her ballet shoes. At age four, it’s hard to make her listen to me about clothes anyway. Now it’s the ballet shoes!

When I was growing up, most of my friends gloated about having started ballet when they were three years old. So when Maya started pre-school at 2.5, I knew it was also time for ballet. For the past 18 months, she’s been going to bi-weekly ballet classes. What started out as fun dance and music sessions is slowly turning into a more serious undertaking. “Miss Elizabeth this, Miss Elizabeth that” and many home sessions of plies and sways and chasses.

As a working mom, I can barely keep up with the various little needs of preschool so luckily I can buy everything ballet online! Make sure to check out the Danskin web site for most of your dance needs for little girls. From shoes to tights to leotards, you’ll find it on Danskin along with great service. For shoes, we chose Capezios from Zappos because you never know which shoe will fit best and you can always send them back free of charge.

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My daughter’s hair is a lot longer than mine. In fact, if it doesn’t get trimmed every couple of months, it will reach her ankles within the year. And she’s not even four yet. OK, maybe I’m exaggerrating.

The truth is I battled coarse, thick hair all my life. Some would say it’s a blessing to have such thick hair. I didn’t think so until much later in life when I finally discovered leave-in conditioners and softening treatments. So for most of my childhood, I walked around with a bird’s nest on my head.

Needless to say, when my daughter was born with a four-inch mohawk, I wasn’t surprised. When she turned a year old, she got her first haircut and battling her frizzies has been a full-time job of mine ever since.

After the early baby days, we got hooked on California Baby‘s Calming shampoo and conditioner. As soon as I saw the bottle at Whole Foods I was hooked because the little girl looked just like my daughter. I couldn’t believe it!

To this day, Maya thinks the photo on the bottle is a picture of herself. The resemblance is uncanny. Soon after, we also discovered the detangler, which put an end to hairbrush drama mutually endured daily.

Another favorite bed-head solution is Noodle & Boo‘s conditioning hair polish. This newcomer to the market is from a product line started by a mom whose sons suffered from extremely sensitive skin and were prone to eczema. I can relate, as we also had bouts of extremely dry skin with Maya and that’s what led me to California Baby in the first place.

I don’t know if it’s the sweet smelling spray or the gorgeous packaging but I think we may just have a new must-have in the house. Both product lines are available for sale online and worth every penny!

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These chalkbooks are brilliant! We only have the Animal Friends but can only guess that the Numbers, Colors and Opposites editions are probably as charming.

My daughter was only about two when I got this for her and she’s as interested in it two years later. It’s educational, tactile and fun — and most importantly, doesn’t make a big mess the way chalk activities usually do.

In our version, each page features a different animal. On the left hand page, your child can draw free hand, perfect for little ones. On the right side, she can practice her letters.

At $12.95 a book, it’s another smart toy that’s durable and will last a long time! Click here to buy.

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I can’t get my daughter in the bath willingly and once in, she doesn’t want to come out. “Ten more minutes,” she begs for a good half hour when I almost always have to bribe her before she’ll agree to let me wash her long hair.

A while ago we discovered a variety of fun bath time activities from Alex Toys. The result was Maya walking her self to the bathroom and undressing. The crayons were such a big hit that soon after I was looking for a cure for pruny fingers and toes.

Luckily Alex also makes toys for hair shampooing fun which makes it easier to get to that stage. Most Alex Toys are available on Amazon.com as well as the manufacturer’s web site. They are all of excellent quality and will last a long time.

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When I first got the Brain Quest for threes and fours for my daughter, who at the time was a little over two, all I was hoping for was a quiet activity to take along to restaurants and such.

This two-deck question and answer activity toy prooved a lot more useful than that. I was not only amazed at how many of the questions Maya could actually answer, but also found satisfaction in teaching her new words and concepts.

Now almost four, she can zoom through the majority of the deck very quickly. We’re definitely graduating her to the next one and can’t help but gloat about this excellent toy. At $10.95 on Amazon, it is truly a bargain! Especially considering it has been one of her favorite restaurant and plane-ride activities for the past two years. That’s a lot of tantrums avoided at pennies a tantrum!

Make sure to research an age-appropriate version on the Brain Quest web site before you buy. You can also download coloring activities here.

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Releasing today is Julia Gran’s Big Bug Surprise from Scholastic. Ms. Gran had last made an appearance as the illustrator of Princess Penelope in 2003 and Princess Penelope Takes Charge in 2006, and is definitely one of the wittiest children’s artists of all time. The Big Bug Surprise is her writing debut.

I have a girly girl in my house who loves all things princesses and has never, ever showed any interest in things of nature. Currently, she refuses to wear pants, likes to wear her very long hair “long,” and definitely doesn’t want to get her brand new black patent leather Mary Janes dirty in any way.

Somehow, the Big Bug Surprise was a big hit as soon as I brought it home.

This is the story of Prunella who wears pigtails and loves to talk about bugs. Although throughout the book adults keep protesting “Not now, Prunella,” she doesn’t give up. She knows so much about bugs and ends up saving the day when the time comes thanks to her bug knowledge. The last page of the book is a mini-glossary for inquiring minds: insects, dragonflies, honeybees, dung beetles and spiders are all given a chance to shine in this star-studded bug story.

I can’t tell you how, but thanks to this book, princesses and bugs now share Maya’s fascination Richter. Join in the fun: as always, you can buy it at a discount on Amazon.

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She says pajama, I say pyjama. Whatever you call it, did you know pajamas originated in the Far East? I had no idea! I do know however that we’re definitely starting our annual new pajamas and underwear to celebrate the New Year tradition tonight.

The book that will accompany this new tradition is one of our all time favorites, Sandra Boynton’s Pajama Time!

Whether you read it a bit squarish or jam to it with a jazzy tune, this colorful tribute to pajamas and bedtime routines is another toddler classic that will bring on the smiles.

If you are a Sandra Boynton fan already, make sure to visit the official Sandra Boynton web site for a full listing of silly favorites and “nifty music.”