The Top 10 Must Have Baby Items

What we used and loved when our kids were babies

I love working with families and one of the best things is chatting about babies. During the lockdown I really missed organising my baby sign language workshops and being in a room full of babies. I can’t wait to start again soon!

Often at the end of a workshop we would get into a discussion about our favourite baby products. My youngest is 3 now and we’re moving out of the baby stage, so I thought I’d make a post about our favourite affordable must have baby items so that I can send new parents to this list. I’ll also include the baby books that had the most impact on me.

Let me know if you try any of them and how you like them!

1. Tea Thermos Mug for Mum – First let’s take care of mum! This is a MUST otherwise once your baby arrives you will NEVER drink a hot drink again. Seriously, don’t hesitate, get the mug and always enjoy your favourite beverage hot. Life-changing.

2. The best sippy cup – this one doesn’t leak and it helps your little one learn how to drink from a cup. We skipped bottles and went straight to this with our daughter, it’s brilliant. Make sure to use the lid when you put it in your bag though.

3. Cotton muslins – You can use these for anything, they’re so good. Get the regular sized ones and use them as washable nappies, spit up cloths, bibs, protection for your clothes/sofa/car, wiping up cloth, a tie up bag to carry apples or other food… Get the big ones and the list of uses is endless! I’ve used our big ones as a pram cover to keep the sun off, a swaddle, a cot sheet, a pram sheet, a blanket to sit on in the garden, a table cloth for our balcony table, a sarong wrap for me on holiday, a towel, it makes a great hair towel, superman cape for older sibling…

4. Soft finger toothbrush – Get baby used to brushing before their teeth arrive and this is a great way to gently take care of those first tender milk teeth.

5. Boba Baby Carrier – This thing was life-saving with our first baby. He was sensitive and would never nap in his bed, only on us! We liked this carrier because it was quick and easy to adjust so my husband and I could both use it regularly. I also enjoyed wearing it on my back when he was a bit bigger so I could move around and do things.

6. Bath Flower – I was never confident about using the baby bath, it was heavy and difficult to empty and my babies were so slippery! I used to make my husband do bath time. That changed when I found the bath flower, it’s so clever. It’s a cushion that can change any sink into a safe bathing space for your baby. We had a big yellow one. Such a great prop for taking cute baby photos too.

7. Fleece backed bibs – I tried a lot of different bibs, but my favourites were the ones that the drool didn’t get all the way through. Soggy bibs are just yucky! These are fleece backed and work perfectly, they absorb the slobber on the top and keep baby dry underneath.

8. Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting by Janet Landsbury. This book had a great impact on the way that I thought about my babies. Babies are not helpless but rather whole people who happen to be dependent on us. This mind-shift made me more patient, understanding and respectful of my babies and made me more determined to communicate with them from day 1.

9. The Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Years by Dr. Walter Cook M.D. and Dr. Kelsey Klaas M.D. This reference book is very reassuring. There is a lot of very well researched and carefully considered information to get you through the most bewildering things that happen to you with a newborn in the family!

10. The Wonder Weeks by Xaviera Plooij, Frans X. Plooij PhD and Hetty van de Rijt PhD. This book is full of science-based baby development outlined month by month in a very accessible way. Learn when to expect development leaps, fussy periods and document your baby’s progress all in one book. Fascinating!

Last but not least, surprise number 11, download my own book about Infant Communication for free. I answer the most common questions I’ve been asked over the last 6 years of developing my method to help you connect and bond with your baby while kick-starting their development in all your languages.

Enjoy these fleeting precious months with your baby and let me know how you get on. I hope these tips will help you get off to a good start 🙂

*Note, there are affiliate links in this post. I might receive a few pennies on items you purchase using these links. You don’t pay extra, you just save time because you don’t need to search for these things yourself. I have personal experience with all these items and they were very useful for our family. I hope you enjoy them too.

How to help children learn to read in multiple languages

Should I teach my child to read in more than one language at the same time?

I am raising trilingual kids and my eldest will start learning to read in Dutch at school soon. He’s shown a lot of interest in reading at home. He often sits in during my classes so he’s already reading quite a lot in English. Italian in comparison to English is quite simple to read and so he’s been experimenting with that too.

However, when I spoke to his school teacher about his situation she advised us to stop teaching him to read in our home languages while he’s learning to read in Dutch. I trust his teacher, but I wanted to do some more research about how to support children in this situation.

Dr Ute Limacher-Riebold is a language consultant and specialises in helping families navigate this type of situation. We had a chat about this topic and recorded it, perhaps it will help your family too.

Watch it here:

How will this help your family? Let us know in the comments.

You can get in contact with Ute, check out her profile on our community page here:

Email to book English lessons here:

info @ English Voice

How can I help my child who is struggling to read?

Find out what to do if your child doesn’t want to read. Let’s light the spark.

Guest Post by Louise Alexander

Reading is an important part of a child’s emotional and intellectual development. Time and again, research shows that children who enjoy reading have an easier time understanding and learning other academic subjects. It develops vocabulary, increases attention span, promotes analytical thinking – all skills that enrich our appreciation of the world.

But a love of reading doesn’t always come naturally and some children need a little encouragement. A reluctance to read is not uncommon and fortunately there are many strategies that we can use to motivate children to read, the most important one, of course, being keeping it fun!

What else can you do to help?
  • Set time aside to read aloud together every day. Reading and hearing stories helps children to master concepts such as logic, judgement and cause and effect. Special time reading with a parent will help them to make good associations with reading and books.
  • Make books and magazines visible everywhere in your home – on shelves, in baskets, or perhaps in a special cosy reading corner.
  • Help them find books that reflect their other interests, and let them choose what to read. Try lots of different genres, such as fiction and non-fiction, books, magazines or graphic novels. Sometimes reluctant readers find non-fiction books that they can easily dip in and out of more accessible.
  • Encourage everyday reading activities, like reading menus, recipes, road signs, the weather forecast or other practical information. This helps to develop reading skills in a non-intrusive way.
  • Talk to your children about what they are reading. Encourage their curiosity; what has piqued their interest and where can they find out more? What kind of activities are they inspired to try out?

The book boxes designed by A Pocketful Of Books encourage this curiosity and help kids find books that they really enjoy. Each box really brings the book to life with surprise gifts and a tailor-made magazine packed with fun facts and activities, all inspired by the book – from art and craft to brain teasers, experiments and more.



It’s ready! The English Voice Academy Press

Get our community newspaper!

My son and I have been working hard for several weeks to bring you the best newspaper we could. So many of you have contributed a piece, thank you.

This first issue is full of articles, art, pictures, poems and puzzles all related to the seasons.

Just look how gorgeous the front cover is. It’s a piece of art by our 10 year old student Elina.

You can get your free copy of the English Voice Academy Press here:

We would love to hear what you think of our newspaper. Also send ideas for a theme for issue two. When you’ve finished a colouring page make a photo of it and send it to us by email so we can share it with everyone.

Email us at: info @

Call for Entries!

Contribute to our new journal, The English Voice Academy Press.

Let’s bring our community together

During these long grey winter days school remains closed. Parents are forced to invent ever new ways to keep their kids busy. Others live alone and have many hours to fill.

Would you welcome a small distraction? Would you like to see your name in print? Or is your little one a budding writer or artist?

My son and I have a newspaper project and would like to open it up to the English Voice community. Please join us! We’re welcoming submissions for the brand new English Voice Academy Press. Check out what we’re looking for below.

Submission information

We will accept any type of submission; poems, short stories, articles, recipes, photos or drawings.

The theme for this issue is: The Seasons

Anyone at any age is welcome to contribute to our new journal.


  • Entries should be in English (mostly).
  • Entries should relate to the theme: The Seasons.
  • Texts should be maximum 500 words long.
  • We can only accept digital files.
  • This is a family journal, please make sure material is appropriate.
  • Your submission must be your own original work.
  • Anyone is welcome to submit something but we cannot promise to use everything.
  • Participation is free.
  • Submit your piece by the 7th February 2021 at the latest.

Send your entry or any questions by email to info @ EnglishVoiceAcademy .com

Digital copies of the journal will be ready to distribute the last week of February for free and a limited number of print copies will be available at cost.

5/2/21 Update:

We are very excited to have received some beautiful pieces of work for our newspaper. Now we are in the production phase and can’t wait to announce distribution by the end of February.

Make sure to sign up here to receive your digital copy:

Print copies can be ordered by emailing us here before the end of February 2021: info @ EnglishVoiceAcademy .com

Gift pack for pre-schoolers

Have You Heard of a Kuku Bird?

A great family quality time gift!

This winter season, snuggle up with your kids and enjoy a fun-filled storytime followed by a playful craft activity. Created in collaboration with Yoko at Collectionaise, this gift is designed for 2- 5 year olds to enjoy.

When you purchase this product, you will receive a happy post gift parcel which includes your copy of the Kuku Bird book, materials & instructions for the craft activity, and links to access two videos.

Sit back and enjoy the story about a Kuku Bird and complete the experience with a creative activity designed by Yoko. Your child will love transforming into his or her own Kuku Bird!

What’s in the box?

  • The original children’s book, Have You Heard of a Kuku Bird? (softcover, €11.99)
  • Video of me reading the book with my kids, join in with us and also sing along with Yellow Bird, a fun Caribbean calypso.
  • Video & printed tutorial “How to Craft Your Own Kuku Bird Mask”
  • Materials pack with everything you need to craft the above Kuku Bird mask
  • Delivery cost within the NL is also included in the price

about the book

Have You Heard of a Kuku Bird? is a children’s book that reminds us all to be cheerful, thoughtful and helpful. In a hidden valley full of nature and sunshine, there lives a flock of colourful Kuku birds. One morning, one of them wakes up to find the rest of the nests empty. Where have they gone? And what will this Kuku bird do? You and your child will love the colourful and vibrant artwork.

Pre-0rder your copy today and have loads of fun with your little one during the school holidays!

Order here:

Online Storytime is back!

During the springtime when the Netherlands first went into lockdown, closing the schools and childcare, we started a new class for pre-schoolers – Online Storytime. 

It was so fun to spend time with you online and see your little people joining in, showing us their toys and singing nursery rhymes. My kids loved it too.

I’m very happy to announce that we’re bringing it back!

Online Storytime
We’ll read beautiful books from our family library, most probably those in our extensive Julia Donaldson collection.
Your kids will hear rhyme which is very important for learning to read.
We’ll sing together. Each week I’ll send you the link to a video of us singing the nursery rhyme so you and your child(ren) can prepare and learn the song. 
At the end we can have a little chat and your children can show us their toys (as time allows).

When: Wednesdays at 4pm for 30 minutes (starting Wednesday 18th November)
Where: Online via Zoom
For who: 2-5 year olds – although slightly younger or older kids will find this fun too
How much: €15 per family, all siblings welcome 
Payment and conditions: I will send you a tikkie or invoice for 4 lessons, you can use them over 5 weeks. No minimum attendance, class always goes ahead. There are no lessons during school holidays.
How to enroll: Send us an email at: info @

Join us and get your little one(s) started with English! 

Free Online Workshop

I’m excited to be collaborating with Nina Bogerd at Birth Your Way this month! We’re coming together to offer you a free online workshop on getting started with baby sign language.

In this one hour workshop you will hear my story and find out how I can help your family build better communication right from the start.

You will learn about the benefits of signing, especially how it supports multilingual families.

I will teach you the 5 most useful signs and when to use them with your baby.

You will be introduced to my complete proven step by step online course that will make sure your baby can communicate with you before they can talk.

I look forward to answering your questions.

  • When: Saturday 21st 2020 4pm (CET Amsterdam) for approx. 1 hour.
  • Where: Online via Zoom
  • For who: For expecting couples, new parents and families with toddlers
  • Price: Free – Workshop attendees will receive a €25 voucher that they can redeem when enrolling for the Infant Communication Baby Sign Language Online Course.

Where are you? You can join us for this online workshop via Zoom from anywhere in the world!

Sign up here to receive details and the Zoom link in good time:

I just wanted to let you know that we’ve been practicing a lot with our little one and he is signing back to us!!! It has been an amazing journey to see him get to this point.
Laura – South Holland

Dr. Nina Bogerd is a passionate expat doula and childbirth educator, she is a HypnoBirthing The Mongan Method practitioner and owner of Birth Your Way. Nina focuses on providing professional, knowledgeable and dedicated support to expat families residing in The Netherlands. With her deep understanding of the needs that expecting expat families have, Nina supports them on their unique birthing journey in the Dutch healthcare system while respecting the cultural background. Nina stands for empowerment and creation of magical memories when expat families are birthing far away from home. Nina is an outdoor enthusiast and philanthropist, supporting expecting refugee families.

The 5 Day Challenge

Get started with baby sign language and enjoy less fussing and more fun with your baby

Announcing a brand new mini training program:

I’m looking forward to teaching you the 5 signs I found most useful when my babies were small. The same 5 signs that have helped many families like yours enjoy better communication with their preverbal babies.

The challenge:

-Every day for 5 days you’ll receive a 2 minute video and an action point that can be completed in a couple of minutes

-Can you learn all 5 signs? Will you start using them with your baby?

-You’ll be in good company, doing the challenge together with other families in our community

-If your baby is older than 9 months there is a good chance they will sign back to you before the end of the challenge!

The FREE challenge will run from Monday 14th-18th September 2020, sign up here to receive the videos directly to your inbox:

Free 5 Day Challenge Sign Up

How to learn another language – Part 2

Part 2: Receptive Skills – Reading and Listening

In part 1 of this series, 5 questions every language student should ask themselves, we looked at some ways you can stay motivated on your language journey. Now we will focus specifically on what you can do to improve your receptive skills (reading and listening). The lifelong language learning skills discussed in this article are aimed at intermediate level learners of any language, but these ideas can be adapted for lower or higher levels with a little bit of creativity.

First things first. Before anything can come out of your mouth in a new language, something has to go into your brain. If you have ever tried to learn another language, you might have noticed that to start with using your receptive skills was much easier than using your productive skills (speaking and writing).

Have you ever stopped and thought about how you read in your mother tongue? Now might be a good moment to do so. Did you realise that you probably don’t read every single word?

Notice what and how you read over the next 48 hours. Emails, text messaging, news articles, adverts, we speed read them all trying to get the general meaning and main points (skimming) or locating specific information like a time or an email address (scanning). Interestingly the skills we use when reading in our native language rarely transfer effortlessly into our new language. We have to consciously work on them.

How to read a news article:
1. Look at the headline and the pictures that accompany the text. Think about what you will read. What do you know about the subject already?
2. Skim the text quickly for general understanding. Were your predictions correct?
3. Read the text a second time, this time for detailed understanding. Scan for who, what, when, where and why.

That’s it, you’re done! You didn’t even need to read or comprehend every word to get a satisfying level of understanding. If you want to, you can take a minute to process the text for useful language. Underline words you want to look up, words you would like to use, synonyms etc.

Learning about text composition:
1. Find a newspaper article online that looks like it might be interesting to you. Don’t read it yet. Print it out.
2. Cut it up into paragraphs and mix them up.
3. Make yourself a cup of tea.
4. Read the headline/title. What does it make you think of? What do you already know about this topic?
5. Take some time to read some of the paragraphs (in any order), does what you read confirm some of your ideas from step 4?
6. Try and put the article back into the correct order. Think about what you would expect to read in the first and last paragraphs. Then fit in the middle ones.
7. Read it through from the beginning, does it read well? Do you want to change around any pieces?
8. Finally compare it to the original version online.

Tip: Look for links between paragraphs by asking yourself questions:
-Who (or what) are they talking about? Are they mentioned again?
-When did this happen? Are they talking about the past, present or the future? Do the tenses/time references match?
-Are there any connecting words (eg. But or however for contrast / furthermore or and for giving more information)

You can attack the listening skill in a similar way to reading. Note when and how you listen in your mother tongue. I listen a lot to the radio. But I don’t listen carefully to every word when the DJs are speaking. I tune in and out depending on whether the topic being discussed interests me. Or if I’m at a train station I prick up my ears when I hear my destination mentioned, but the rest of the time I don’t pay attention to the announcements. Can you apply the same listening techniques to your new language?

It’s a good idea to connect listening activities to habits you already have. I’m currently working on my Italian at the same time as taking a Dutch beginner course. To make sure I work on my listening skills in each language I have assigned a different language to regular activities. I listen to Dutch radio and my Dutch coursebook CD in the car. I listen to Italian radio when I’m hanging out at home. Unpleasant housework (washing up) is accompanied by podcasts from my favourite London radio station in my native tongue, English.

Have you ever tried watching TV in your new language? Maybe you can re-watch your favourite film or TV series. Make the most of the internet, there are plenty of free online resources that you can use to improve your receptive skills.

Try and apply these tips in the next week and see how you get on. Measure your progress (for some ideas on how to do that check out part 1 in this series). Tell me how it goes!

In part 3 we will cover how to work on those scary productive skills.

For more useful information like this, please sign up for our mailing list using the form in the side bar on the right.

For information about English language courses in the South Holland area you can email me at info @ englishvoice .nl

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash