You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Raising an unspoiled child…how to strike that parenting balance


A spoiled child grows into an adult who feels entitled…how do you strike the balance between wants and needs as a parent?

It is so difficult to see your child upset, disappointed, or wanting something that you don’t feel is necessary or maybe can’t afford. There were many days when I questioned whether we should break down and buy an item that one of our kids “just HAD to have”, fold and give that cookie before dinner to keep the peace, or rescue a child from the consequence of a behavior because their tears broke my heart. There were days that I did…but I know that the lessons the kids learned when I did NOT were much more valuable.

When you bring home your precious baby, that first year there is very little difference between your child’s wants and needs. Everything your child wants IS a need. Your sweet baby communicates those needs loudly and clearly resulting in you feeding, holding, rocking, changing, and responding. As a parent, your quick response to those needs lets your child learn that he is loved and safe. Very important lessons!

Fast forward to a 3-year-old laying on the floor at the grocery store check-out line screaming for a package of M & Ms at 9:00 am. Does he need them? No, but he sure wants them! Is the behavior annoying, do you want to make it go away quickly? Yes, but purchasing the candy may not be the best lesson for your child!

What exactly is spoiling?

As parents we must teach our children how to navigate the world even when there is frustration or disappointment. Think no M&Ms at 9:00 am, not getting your attention when you are speaking with another adult, having to save money to buy those designer jeans, and dealing with sitting the bench during a basketball game. Our children must learn that when disappointment in life happens, when they must wait for something they want, or the world doesn’t revolve around their desires, that life doesn’t crash down around them and that they are still loved. Your child must learn that in life you must work hard, be patient, and “play nicely” to be happy and successful. Being loved does not mean there are no bumps in the road, being loved means you are taught how to navigate them.

Spoiling means your child will learn that they are entitled to things. This entitlement replaces the idea of hard work and patience to get or achieve things. Children who are spoiled often do not learn the difference between wants and needs. Spoiling is never due to giving your child the things he or she needs, the opposite is true. When your child has what they need, good behavior patterns can follow. Children need loving physical contact, soothing when upset, structure, routine, positive words, food, clothing, shelter, medical care, toys, …basics…these basics bring an emotionally solid foundation and feeling of security. How do you prevent the “spoiled brat” that none of us want to raise? How do you strike the balance as a parent? Of course there are times will give our children things they simply want; there is nothing better than seeing the excitement of getting something that is special Of course we are going to fold and stop the “madness” in the grocery store and give in to the M&Ms occasionally. Of course we will respond to the whining….but how do we strike the balance??

  1. Don’t buy things your child wants constantly.  Gifts are important parts of childhood…the holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions are wonderful, exciting times for your child. Receiving a gift every time you walk through Target and see the latest toy is not the best parenting choice. This results in a child who no longer appreciates but expects.
  2. Delay gratification.  Help your child develop patience. It is fine to tell your child “I will help in a minute when I finish this.” “That new Barbie is very nice, let’s write it down on your birthday wish list.” This will help your child learn that his world will not collapse when he does not get what he wants NOW. Delayed gratification teaches the difference between wants and needs and that others have needs too.
  3. Develop strong values and morals as a family, give together.   Raising an unspoiled child is not just about saying “no” to things, it is about developing a value based home. A home that has kindness, generosity, gratitude, hard work, and feelings as its core.  Teach what it feels like to make someone else happy. Point out when your child is kind.  Start talking about gratitude. Share what you are thankful for each day. A great time is during family dinners or right before bed. Ask your child to share 3 things each day he is thankful for….you share too!  Share as a family, donate used toys your child no longer needs, participate as a family in donations to charities…be sure your child is included! This is a great way to teach your child about the joy of giving and appreciation for what he has. There is happiness in appreciation; there is misery in concentrating on what you don’t have.
  4. Watch how much screen time your child has. Advertising knows how to send the message to your child on what he “needs”!
  5. Spoiling is not just too many things, it is an attitude too.  Don’t give into temper tantrums, this teaches that those actions result in “getting what I want”.  Have consistent consequences for unacceptable behavior; try not to fold because it is easier. Parenting is hard work!
  6. Let natural consequences of life happen for your child…bumps in the road happen, learning to handle that is essential.
  7. Give your child praise, but praise for specific behaviors or accomplishments. Constant blanket praising results in a child who feels the world owes him this. Let your child learn that positive actions feel good INTERNALLY!
  8. Give your child chores and responsibility. In the real world, we are all responsible for something. This fosters a good work ethic too.
  9. Remember, giving your child things does not replace your child’s need for your time.
  10. Live the values you teach. Your child learns what he sees. Does your child see you buying the newest and the best? Do you show your child that you often sacrifice and delay gratification? Talk to your child about what you want, but demonstrate that you might not need it!

Fostering an environment that doesn’t result in a child who feels entitled is not always easy. There will be times when your child may be unhappy, angry, or even throw a fit, but it is only for a brief time. Giving in affects behavior for the long-term. I am not telling you to make your child’s life difficult. There are certainly times that we will and should indulge our child. But remember, a spoiled child learns that behavior, it is a result of parenting. You cannot love your child too much…but sometimes loving your child means your child will not get everything he wants!

Wow…not sure this was a blog my son wanted me to think about before his “back to college” shopping this week…hmmm what does he NEED? :)

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.




Be prepared for the “what ifs”…and then relax!

All week we have talked about what to do if…sometimes the “what ifs” can cause a lot of parental anxiety.  I can’t promise that your child will never have a serious injury, but I can tell you that most often the bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes of childhood are not serious and can be taken care of with a little bit of TLC and a fun bandage.  Being prepared to take care of these childhood mishaps and being prepared to handle the possibility of something more serious is important.  Have a plan, be prepared, and then enjoy the moments keeping the “what ifs” from ruining your every day joys.

Be prepared:

  1. Take a CPR class.  Hospitals, the local Red Cross, and other community groups offer CPR classes for parents.  Sign up for one…it takes a couple of hours and you will feel better knowing what to do in a “what if” situation.  Make it a date!
  2. Buy or make a first aid kit for your home and your car.  Be prepared with the supplies you need to take care of the little bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes and be prepared for the less likely “what if”.  Make it a family affair, shop for the items, put them in the kit, and talk about basic first aid.  A complete first aid kit would include:
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin (this would be for an adult if experiencing chest pain, never give aspirin to children)
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Calamine lotion
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Benadryl (pills for adults, liquid for children)
  • Bandages in various sizes (find fun ones for kids!)
  • Roll of 3 inch gauze
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Ace bandage
  • Triangular bandage or sling
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Antiseptic towelettes
  • Antibacterial hand gel
  • Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Sterile eye wash and eye patch
  • Instant cold pack
  • Plastic bags to dispose of contaminated trash
  • 2 pair of gloves
  • Thermometer
  • First aid booklet
  1. Keep emergency numbers and health information handy including, program them into your phone:
    • contact information for family doctors and dentist
    • local emergency numbers
    • poison control 1-800-222-1222
    • contact numbers for family members and/or friends
    • medical consent forms for each family member
    • medical history forms for each family member which would include allergies, routine medications, and a recent weight
  2. Write down the cross roads nearest your home.  Even with enhanced 911, sometimes there is a need for the nearest intersection and that information is difficult to retrieve in an emergency situation, or a babysitter may not know that information.  If you do not have a land line and rely on your cell phone only…this is very important!  Enhanced 911 will not be effective with your cell phone!
  3. Tell family members and anyone caring for your child where the first aid kit is!  It is no help to have it if no one knows where it is!  :)

Being prepared doesn’t mean you are expecting the worst, it is knowing that you are ready to handle the bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes of childhood and knowing that you could handle the unexpected.  Be prepared…preparation is good, worry is not, preparation allows you to enjoy everyday.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Burns, Bites, and Bumps on the Head!

One of the first words many parents teach children is “hot”!

Little fingers often explore hot curling irons, stove tops, fire places or other hot things.  About 40,000 children are burned each year and half of these burns happen to children under age 4.

Burns hurt!  Of course the best way to prevent burns is to protect your child with good child proofing in your home, but sometimes accidents just happen.

There are three levels of burns:

  • 1st degree burn is dry, red and painful
  • 2nd degree burn is red with blistering or moist skin and painful
  • 3rd degree burn is white or charred, leathery and not painful

Immediate treatment of minor burns includes:

  1. Calm and reassure the child, and yourself!
  2. Run cool water over the burn or cover with a cool wet towel for several minutes. The faster you can cool down the skin, the more likely the burn will be less severe.
  3. Cover the burn with a dry, sterile bandage or dressing.
  4. Protect the burn from pressure and friction from clothing.
  5. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort.
  6. If there is blistering over more than a small are of skin (2 to 3 inches) or if there is a burn on the hands, feet, face, groin area, bottom, or on a major joint, call your health care provider.
  7. If you have any concern or worry, call your health care provider.

 Do Not:

  1. …Apply ointment, butter, ice, or any household remedy to the burn.
  2. …Break the blister or cut away dead skin.
  3. …Remove clothing stuck to burn.

Bites, both animal and people!

Animal bites by familiar dogs are quite common.  At times, even the most docile family pet can bite a child when teased or irritated.  Children who are at eye level with dogs are most at risk.  Never trust your child alone with a dog…even the family pet.  We also know that some children can be bitten by other children, it happens!

  1. Clean the wound with soap and water, let water run over the wound for a few minutes.
  2. Dry the wound and cover it with sterile gauze.
  3. Always call your health care provider if an animal or human bite breaks the skin.  Many bites both animal and human require antibiotics to prevent infection.
  4. If your child was bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar or wild animal, report the incident to the local police.  Some animals may have to be captured, confined, and observed for rabies.  Do not try to capture the animal yourself!

Falls and bumps to the head are another common childhood accident.

There is nothing scarier than the sound of your child’s head hitting the floor!  Most childhood falls result in injury to the scalp only.  Those injuries are usually more scary than serious.  But how do you know?

  1. Superficial head/scalp wounds bleed ALOT.  The scalp is rich with blood vessels, so even small wounds bleed heavily.
  2. The “goose egg” that often appears is a result of the scalp’s vessels leaking blood under the scalp.  It is often immediate, and usually not serious.
  3.  Call the doctor if: 
  • Your child has lost consciousness; even for a moment
  • Won’t stop crying
  • Vomits
  • Is difficult to awaken
  • Seems off-balance and/or not acting like himself or herself

If your child is alert, comforts easily and is behaving normally after a head injury:

  • Apply an ice pack to the area for a few minutes every couple of hours.  If you use ice, always wrap it in a cloth or put it in a sock to protect the skin.  A bag of frozen peas works great!
  • Observe your child for the next 24 hours, if you aren’t comfortable with how your child is acting, give your healthcare provider a call.
  • If your child falls asleep, (often happens if a child has been crying and upset) check in once or twice to see if there is any change in your child’s color or breathing.  If all looks well, there is not need to keep waking your child.
  • If you are uncomfortable with your child sleeping, wake your child by sitting him or her up.  If your child fusses and then settles back down he or she is fine.  If he or she does not waken, doesn’t fuss, or is very lethargic, give your health care provider a call.

Prevention of head injuries is always best!  Be sure that your child wears a bike helmet when biking, skating, riding a scooter, or being towed on or behind a bike.  (Parents, set a good example and wear your helmet too!)  Be sure that football equipment is in good shape and fits properly.  If you ever question that your child has a concussion, keep them from playing until they are cleared by the doctor and symptom free!

Preparation is the key to handling common injuries during childhood.  Don’t over-react, but look at the situation and respond appropriately. Remember, your anxiety increases your child’s! More First Aid tips to come!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Breaks, Sprains, and Nursemaid Elbow….oh my!

Nursemaid’s elbow is a common toddler injury…and this is one of the most common ways for it to happen!

Unfortunately, sometimes childhood comes with broken bones, sprains or the common nursemaid’s elbow injury.  Best treatment for all three is staying calm, immobilizing the area and seeking medical help.  That bubble wrap sounds better and better, right?  :)

Suspected Broken Bone or Sprain

  1. If the injury involves your child’s back or neck, keep your child and yourself calm, and do not let anyone move your child.  Call 911.
  2. If you suspect a broken bone, leave it in the position you found it and splint the injured limb.  A splint can be made from boards, broom handles, a piece of cardboard or a couple of magazines wrapped around the injured area.  The splint should extend beyond the joint above and below where the suspected injury is.
  3. Put ice or a cold pack on the area.  Do not put the ice or cold pack directly on your child’s skin, place a towel between it.  A bag of frozen vegetables works great!
  4. Stay calm, and try to keep your child calm.  Call your child’s medical provider or go directly to the Emergency Room.
  5. Sprains are very painful and usually swell and bruise fairly quickly.  It is often difficult to tell the difference between a sprain and a break.  If you are unsure, call your child’s health care provider or head to the Emergency Room.
  6. Sprains are best treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).  Do not put heat in any form on the injured area for at least 24 hours.  Heat will increase swelling and pain.  Elevate the injured limb and try wrapping it with an elastic bandage.  This will help control the swelling…but not too tight!  Be sure fingers or toes are still pink and warm!
  7. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen will  help with the discomfort.

Nursemaid’s Elbow

Nursemaid’s elbow is a very common injury especially during the toddler years.  It is sometimes called “toddler elbow”.  This injury usually happens when a child’s arm is pulled when it is extended, so when a parent is holding a toddler’s hand and the child falls, or a parent swings a child while holding his hand or a “wet noodle” toddler is picked up by the hands when he is refusing to go somewhere.  This injury is when the radius (a bone in the forearm) slips partially out of place at the elbow.  It is common in young children because often their little joints are loose.  A child with a nursemaid’s elbow will usually have pain in the elbow and then refuse to use it.  There is not a lot of pain after the initial moment, no swelling, and no real deformity.  The child will just hold the arm at his side or slightly bent and will often cry if you try to get him to use the arm.

  1. Apply ice or cold pack at the joint.  Remember, not directly on your child’s skin!
  2. Splint the arm in the position your child is holding it.
  3. Call your health care provider or go to the Emergency Room.
  4. The “fix” is simple and quick, usually just a simple movement of the arm.  There is very little discomfort with the “fix” and the child will be using the arm again within a few minutes.
  5. A child who has had this injury is more prone to it again…be careful about lifting a child by the hands!  I always cringe when I see a parent swinging their child playing “airplane”!

We parents never want to see our child injured, but sometimes it just is part of life with a child.  We can’t protect our children from all injury, but we can provide a safe home and play area and if an injury occurs, we can be prepared.  Stay tuned, the best items for a first aid kit is next.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Friday….celebrate with a little R and R.

My favorite day of the week is here again.  I am looking forward to a “date night” tonight.  Even with being an “empty nester”, a date night sounds exciting.  It is nice to be out and concentrating only on each other and not the pile of laundry that still is sitting in my laundry room. Out of site, out of mind, right?  I hope that you take the time to make plans to “reconnect” with your partner, your children, and yourself.  Sit down and make 3 goals today for the next week.  Think of 1 thing you can do for yourself to refill that pitcher, 1 thing to do for your children that might break up the regular routine of the week and make life more fun, and 1 thing to do for your partner to stay connected.  These might be just small changes in your life.  A sticky note here, a lunch surprise there, a candle at dinner, a half hour of reading…..simple ways to reconnect, refill, and enjoy the moment.

Tips on getting a little R and R during your week:

  • When your child takes a nap, lie on the couch for just 10 minutes.  Do not make a bee line to the computer or your list of chores or flip on the TV.   Let your mind wander. Let your mind rest, staying “plugged in” doesn’t allow that to happen.  Sometimes actually take a nap!  :)  But you deserve at LEAST 10 minutes.
  • Redefine what really needs to be done.  Remember, your standards may have to be a bit different when you have young children.  If you have hugged your child, everyone had at least one clean item to wear, there was something fairly healthy to eat in the house and you have “connected” with your partner for just a few minutes, your day was hugely successful!
  • Be protective of your nighttime sleep.  Go to bed early, keep the TV off, practice relaxation prior to bed, and turn the baby monitor down so that you hear only when your baby REALLY needs you and not just normal “baby” sounds.  Remember, your baby WILL eventually sleep through the night, and you WILL hear your baby if your baby needs you.

Now, celebrate Friday.  Remember, small celebrations make life much more interesting.  Don’t allow another day to go by without celebrating SOMETHING…maybe just the fact that Friday is here….I know I am celebrating Friday!  TGIF!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Stuttering or stammering…should you worry?

excited child

Often toddlers who are excited or hurried will begin to stutter…it often will correct itself over time!

I love watching old video movies of our kids.  There little faces are darling, but what I love most are their voices.  Those sweet “little kid” voices…full of excitement, wonder and curiosity.  I can close my eyes and just remember the moment.  Often their voices bring back more sweet memories to me than their pictures!  The excitement in the videos results in squeals, giggles, and words that are fast and furious….sometimes there might be a bit of stuttering as their little brains worked so much faster than the words could be spoken.

Parents of toddlers will often worry about the development of the occasional stutter, or speech disfluency with their child’s speech.  Often this can come off your worry list.  Many toddlers between the age of 2 and 5 will have some disfluency when they are excited, there is a lot of stimulation or distraction.  It occurs more often in boys.  A 2-year-old who starts to repeat syllables or short words and begins to use more words like “um”, “uh” or has long pauses is most likely having some normal disfluency.  Most often this disfluency begins when there is a burst of new vocabulary.  Children who begin to stutter before the age of 5 usually will not need speech therapy…it will go away on its own.  What can a parent do to help???

  • When your child begins to stutter or gets stuck on a word, keep normal eye contact and wait calmly for him to finish.  Do not jump in and finish the sentence for him.
  • Talk in a slow relaxed way.  If you are rushed, your child may try to speak in a rush to keep up with you in the conversation.
  • Keep a relaxed expression on your face when your child is speaking…if you look frustrated or worried your child will become more self-conscious.  If your child senses your worry….he will too!
  • Don’t correct him, just repeat the sentence fluently so he hears how it should sound and knows you understood him.
  • Have time every day for just casual non hurried conversation.
  • If you are busy, your child may feel hurried and pressured to get the whole sentence out fast.  If you are busy, promise that in a moment you will sit down to listen, and then don’t break that promise!
  • Don’t tell your child to “slow down” or “take a breath”.  This only points out the problem and could make him more nervous which can increase the stuttering.
  • When your child finishes a difficult sentence, let him know that you are proud and that “Wow, sometimes talking can be tough!”  Sympathize with his learning of a new skill.
  • Encourage your child to tell you stories that he knows well…ones that don’t take a lot of thought.  Have him “read” a familiar story to you.
  • Sing lots of simple songs and recite nursery rhymes.  Songs and rhymes are usually easier than just free speech.

If your child continues to have stuttering or disfluency at age 3, you might consider having your child evaluated by a speech and language pathologist.  Earlier treatment may be more effective.  Red flags of a possible more long-term problem with speech fluency often will have some of these signs:

  • Tension in facial muscles as they struggle for a word.
  • A rise in pitch of their voice with the stutter.
  • Real effort noted when trying to speak.
  • Attempts to avoid the stutter by changing words or will begin to give up or refuse to speak.
  • An increase in stuttering that has become worse instead of better over time.
  • Stuttering that continues after the age 5.

So, most often disfluency, stuttering or stammering will correct itself in young children.  Be sure and record your child’s sweet little voice…there is nothing like it!  It will be wonderful to listen to it in the future; especially during those challenging preteen and teen years…there is something about that voice with the eye roll that isn’t near as sweet……  :)

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Baby talk! Encouraging language development in your child.

Facial expressions are important in the development of language in children!

Talking to your child and using lots of animated facial expressions are important for your child’s language development!

Believe me, hearing the sweet voice of your child say “Ma Ma” or “Da Da” is one of those moments you always remember.  Later, I can remember thinking….”Maybe I should change my name, I am tired of hearing ‘MO-OMMMM!’ ”  Suddenly it was a two syllable word that rocked the house!  Now, I love hearing “Mom” when I get that phone call from college, or one of the kids bursts through the door for a visit!  The fact is, language development in your child is exciting and fun, and early development is important.  Studies show us that the number of words your child hears is proportionate to the size of his or her vocabulary that is developed.  This is through direct spoken words to your child, through conversation or reading, not words heard from the TV or radio, or conversations around your child.  Some experts tell us that a parent should be saying 30,000 words per day to their child.  Wow, that is a lot of talking!  Now I tell you this as a fun fact, not to have you tally mark each word you say to your child!  I don’t want to add another task to your day, or worry to your list!  The 30,000 per day number does send the message home though that talk is important, and as parents we have to work at talking and reading to our children!  In this age of TV, computers, I-Pods and I-Pads, and smart phones; sometimes the spoken word and art of conversation is lost.  As a parent we need to bring that art of truly talking with our children back!

What can we do to foster language development in our children?

  • Talk to your child!  When your infant is looking at you or an object…talk to your child!  When your child coos, coo back…this is the start of the art of conversing.  Describe what your baby is seeing.  Talk about what you are doing during the day.  Read stories and talk about the pictures in board books.  Studies show that children that hear 30,000 words a day from birth to age 3 have better language skills at 3 but also have an academic edge still in 3rd grade…no matter the socioeconomic level!  TALK A LOT TO YOUR CHILD!  It can be the great equalizer for academic success!
  • Repeat.  This helps a child link sound and the meaning of words.  By the time a child is about 1, they have most of the sounds that put words together, they just don’t have the words!  Repetition helps a child put those sounds into words.
  • Always respond to any sound your child makes.  When your baby coos, talk back.  When your child squeals with a favorite toy, talk about how much your child likes that special toy.  When your child babbles and reaches for an item, say what the item is before you give it to your child.
  • Play taking turn games.  This teaches conversation!  Blow on your baby’s tummy and wait for his response.  Repeat it again.  Play peek-a-boo and other games that encourage taking turns in conversation…cause and effect.
  • Eye contact.  Your child needs to see your face when you are talking.  This helps your child see how the words are formed by watching your mouth.  Your smiles, facial expressions and encouragement gives your child positive reinforcement for their attempts in communicating.
  • “Motherese” is good!  The high-pitched sing-song voice most moms use to talk to their baby is good!  Babies like the pitch of this type of talk and the slow pace helps them understand better.  Teach Dad how to do it!  It tends to come more naturally to Moms.
  • Give your child the opportunity to talk.  Don’t anticipate every need, allow your child to point and make attempts to ask for what he or she wants.
  • Narrate your day.  Talk to your baby as you change a diaper, give a bath, cook a meal.  Describe what you are doing and what your child is doing.
  • Expand your child’s communication.  When your child says “dog”, you can say “Yes that is a dog!  It is a brown dog!”
  • Read.  Reading is a great opportunity to engage with your child.  Your child will learn more words and will develop a love of books.  Hearing the same book over and over helps to make language connections in your child’s brain.
  • Go on field trips!  Take your child to the grocery, the post office, on hikes…talk about what you see!  Watch your child, and see what he or she is interested in or excited about.  Talk about that rock or stick he or she picks up!
  • Use music.  Music encourages your child to pronounce words and practice putting sentences together.  Songs also help children remember things…I still can’t put things in alphabetical order without singing my A B C’s!  :)
  • Play language games.  Point and name games like “Where is your nose?” “This is Mommy’s toes, where are your toes?”  Helps your child become
  • aware of himself and make language connections, plus it is fun!
  • Don’t worry but refer early.  There is a wide range of normal with speech development.  Don’t obsess and worry over your child’s development of speech.  Every day work on providing the opportunities to allow your child’s speech to develop.  If you have questions or concerns, the earlier you refer for evaluation, the easier most speech delays can be handled.

Language Milestones from The American Speech – Language – Hearing Association

0-3 Months

  • Baby will startle to sound
  • Quiets or smiles when you speak to him
  • Recognizes your voice
  • Smiles at you
  • Coos

4-6 Months

  • Babbles and uses sounds with p, b and m
  • Laughs
  • Makes excitement sounds and unhappy sounds
  • Makes gurgling sounds
  • Likes music

7 Months – 1 Year

  • Likes “peek-a-boo”, “patty cake”, “soo big!”
  • Uses “speech” not crying to sometimes get your attention.
  • Uses gestures like pointing, putting arms up, waving.
  • Recognizes words that you say like “cup” and other common words.
  • Starts to follow 1 step directions.
  • About the first birthday will have about 2 or 3 words like ball, ma ma, da da, dog.

1 Year – 2 Year

  • Points to pictures in a book when named.
  • Knows animal sounds.
  • Points to a few body parts when asked.
  • Can say a two word question or sentence by age 2.
  • Vocabulary expanding every month.

2 Year – 3 Year

  • Follows two step directions.
  • Has a word for almost everything.
  • Is understood most of the time by those with him often.
  • Speaks in 2 to 3 word sentences.
  • Starting to understand concepts like big and little, up and down, in and on.

When do you refer?

  • A baby who doesn’t respond to sound or who doesn’t make vocal sound.
  • A child who does not point, or wave “bye bye” at 12 months.
  • A child at 18 months that uses gestures over words to communicate.
  • A child at age 2 or older that only imitates speech and does not speak spontaneously.
  • A child at age 2 who can’t follow simple 1 or 2 step directions.
  • A child at age 2 who parents are unable to understand at least 1/2 of the child’s speech, or a 3 year old child that a parent cannot understand 3/4 of the child’s speech.
  • A 4 year old child who is not understandable by others.
  • Don’t sit and worry….refer early.  Most speech referrals are made between 15 months and 2 years of age.

Remember, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are like little language sponges.  Talk, talk, talk, and turn that TV off!  Your child will soon be yelling “MO-OMMMMM!”….be careful what you wish for!!  :)

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


The preschool years!

Dress up and pretend play is part of a preschooler’s life!  Kelsey and Kaitlyn getting ready for a “fancy” tea party we had with friends!

One of my favorite stages is preschool age, age 3 to 5.  Those years in our house were full of imagination, dolls, trains, budding friendships, energy, and questions!  Preschoolers can now run, jump, climb, and pedal a bike.   They no longer “toddle”!   Tumbling and outdoor playgrounds are favorites.  Fine motor control is becoming more defined.  They are starting to cut with scissors, hold pencils like an adult, and string beads.  Blocks, Legos and other construction materials are a favorite along with anything to role play like dress up clothes and dolls.

The preschooler’s mind is like a sponge.  Have you ever spent the afternoon with a curious preschooler?  Learn to answer the question “Why?”  I know I bought a book about how things work to try to keep up with my son when he was 5!  A preschool aged child looks at the world with imaginative eyes, and has very magical thinking.  Sometimes they tell “stories” and it is difficult for them to tell the difference between what is “real” and what is “pretend”.  Be prepared for some “tall” tales.

Board games are fun at this age, but at 4 and 5 children can have a very difficult time if they don’t win.  They are not very good sports!  It is important to play games and talk about the feeling of losing and winning.  A preschooler’s vocabulary will be quite large, and often they will sound much more adult than their emotions are.  They are verbal and bossy!

Such a fun age.  Children at this age will embrace the world around them and want to do it all.  Have fun doing all the “kid” activities in your community and watching your child start to form real friendships.  Here are a few milestones you should be seeing in your 4 to 5-year-old child as they prepare to enter kindergarten in the near future!

Large motor skills for a 4-year-old

  • Stands on tip toes
  • Walks up and down stairs using alternating feet
  • Runs
  • Kicks a ball
  • Rides a tricycle
  • Stands on one foot for at least 5 seconds

Large motor skills for a 5-year-old

  • Throws a ball overhand
  • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
  • Kicks a ball forward well
  • Hops on one foot
  • Stands on one foot for at least 10 seconds
  •  Skip with alternating feet
  • Swings
  • May learn to ride a two-wheel bike

Fine motor skills for a 4 and 5-year-old

  • Cuts a straight line with scissors
  • Turns the pages in a book one at a time
  • Uses eating utensils well
  • Begins to copy capital letters and shapes
  • Draws a 4 to 5 part person
  • Can button and dress self
  • Can learn to tie at 5
  • Can build a tower of 6 to 9 blocks
  • Can string beads and lace “sewing cards”

Language skills for a 4 and 5-year-old

  • Answers simple questions
  • Asks questions
  • Speaks clearly enough that strangers can understand
  • Speaks in complete sentences
  • Beginning to use adjectives, pronouns, and prepositions
  • Can say first and last name
  • At 5 should be learning address

Social skills for a 4 and 5-year-old

  • Becomes more social, may have a “best friend”
  • Starts to play more with the same gender
  • Will play cooperatively
  • Can be very bossy
  • Will take turns and share with some encouragement
  • Starts to develop empathy for others
  • Not ready for competitive play, hates to lose
  • Learning rules of games
  • Likes group pretend play, will play “house”
  • Likes dramatic play with dolls, puppets, and figurines

Intellectual skills for a 4 and 5-year-old

  • Can name at least 4 colors
  • Can identify some numbers,  letters, and shapes
  •  Is able to count items
  • Can sort items using several characteristics like color, shape, or purpose
  • Remembers parts of a story and can tell you what comes next
  • Understands same and different
  • Can play simple board and card games
  • Beginning to understand time
  • Starts to understand time
  • recognizes name and beginning to write it
  • Interest in nature and science and how things work
  • Will be curious about their body, will ask about body parts…give the correct names!
  • Will be curious about “where babies come from” give small amounts of information at a time until they are satisfied.
  • Will be aware that girls and boys look different, may play “doctor”…teach children what is private, that no one touches in the bathing suit zone, and keep conversations open so children feel comfortable asking questions, remember children may ask sexual questions, but they do NOT have sexual feelings at this age!  Relax!

Parenting tips

  • Read, read, read to your child!  Take them to the library and help them develop a love for books and reading.
  • Give your child simple chores in the house.  Give praise for their help!
  • Provide social interaction for your child.  This helps them learn the value of friends, cooperative play, empathy, and sharing.
  • Be very consistent with discipline.  Give expectations of the behavior you expect prior to going anywhere.  Follow up with consequences when your child does not follow the expectations.  Do not melt down yourself, no emotion, loving discipline.  Time out still works!
  • Speak to your child in complete sentences using adult words.  This will help your child develop good grammar and use correct words and phrases.
  • Help your child problem solve step by step.
  • Give your child choices each day…clothing, some snacks, books to read etc.  This gives a feeling of control and increases cooperation.
  • Explore your community with your child; the zoo, museums, parks, nature centers, playgrounds…..build your child’s interests!  They are ready!

Important links that will help you: 

  • “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Campaign  
    This campaign educates parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, and it encourages developmental screening and intervention. It will give you tips on how to determine if your child needs screening.
  • Overview of Early Intervention
    Learn more about early intervention services from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.  Find out about your state’s early intervention program and how to access it.
  • Bright FuturesExternal Web Site Icon
    Bright Futures materials for families are available for parenting tips for children from birth to 21 years of age. This is provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Developmental Surveillance and Screening GuidelinesExternal Web Site Icon
    This American Academy of Pediatrics website provides guidelines on surveillance and screening for developmental delays in children.
  • National Association for the Education of Young ChildrenExternal Web Site Icon (NAEYC)
    NAEYC provides accreditation for early childhood programs and  preschools that meet certain standards. You can search for an accredited program or preschool near you.  NAEYC also provides resources, tools, and information for parents.

Every day is an adventure with your preschooler.   So, begin to prepare for the endless questions, pull out the board games, (my least favorite is Candyland, my suggestion is stack the card deck so it doesn’t last forever!), find some dress up clothes and play house, plan some play dates and sit back and watch your child grow!  Before you know it, your preschooler will be heading to kindergarten!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Is my child reaching developmental milestones?

My husband and I went out to breakfast this morning and he was “flirting” with another girl!  He is a sucker for cute cheeks and bright smiles.  We saw a darling baby with both and a big bow headband to top it off!  The parents allowed us to ooh and ahh over their precious daughter and later we were talking about how we loved that sweet stage of development when our children would give us that toothless grin.  Each developmental stage has milestones that parents love, and we want all children to reach those milestones on time.

Developmental milestones are things that most children do at certain ages.  Reaching those milestones show us that children are developing well.  There is a wide range of normal with development, but there are certain red flags when parents should alert their child’s doctor.

We hear a lot about autism.  Early detection of autism or any developmental delay is important so that a child can receive help early.  Early detection and intervention makes a huge difference for children!  Your child’s doctor should be looking at your child’s growth and development at each well child check.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s physician screen for developmental delays or early signs of autism at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 to 30 months.  Parents too can look for red flags that may need to be discussed with their child’s doctor.

Red Flags

Age 2 to 3 months

  • Your baby does not make good eye contact with you.

Age 3 months

  • Your baby does not smile at you.

Age 6 months

  • Your baby does not laugh.

Age 9 months

  • Your baby is not babbling or making consonant sounds.

Age 12 months

  • Your baby does not turn to you when you call his or her name.
  • Your baby does not wave bye bye with encouragement.

Age 12 to 14 months

  • Your baby does not have any words.

Age 14 months

  • Your baby does not point at things.

Age 18 months

  • Your baby does not pretend.

Don’t panic if you do not see one of these milestones, many times with encouragement or by providing increased opportunity children reach the milestone.  However, a conversation with your child’s doctor is important.  Because you are a parent, you know your child best!  If you have concerns, be sure that you insist that you have time to discuss them with your child’s doctor.  Every state has an early intervention program that can assess if a child has a developmental delay from birth to age 3.  These programs are free and referrals can be made by a health care professional or by a parent.  Indiana’s early intervention program is First Steps.  Any parent can access their states early intervention program by calling The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities at 1-800-695-0285.  This center can give you your state’s early intervention program’s contact information.

If your child is age 3 or older and you have concerns, the public school system will complete the evaluation.  Contact your local elementary school or school board and they will give you the information needed to obtain developmental screening for you child.

Most importantly, if you are concerned about your child’s development, don’t wait!  The earlier your child gets help, the more successful it is!  You are the parent, you are your child’s advocate! 

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Helpful websites:




Sleep like a baby…really?

Establishing a calming routine before bed is important!

When I brought our oldest Corri home from the hospital, I thought I knew about the sleep patterns of infants.  After all, I had the degrees to prove that I was an “educated” Mom!  The truth is, nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep that new parents usually experience.  Quickly my plans to reorganize my closets during Corri’s long daytime naps (don’t newborns sleep all the time?) went by the way side.  Yes, newborns DO sleep a lot…just in very short intervals.  Corri never slept long enough for any reorganization of closets, and when she did sleep I was too tired to reorganize.  Oh, the lessons of a new parent!

Sleep is VERY important for our babies, and for you!  There are some sleep tips for new parents that will help your baby “learn” to sleep and establish good patterns for the future.  I firmly believe that our children are largely sleep deprived because of our busy schedules.  Good sleep is essential for healthy children, clear through the teen years!  Many of the healthy sleep habits you establish with your young children will result in healthy sleep habits for a lifetime.

The first 3 months of a baby’s life there is no real routine.  Anything that you read that tells you that you can establish or “force” routine at this age is mistaken.  I do not think that baby  sleep training books are valuable at this age, and they can really be destructive to your baby’s establishment of good sleep habits.  Your job as a parent during the first year is to help your baby realize that the world is a great place!  When your baby cries, you need to respond.  Baby will quickly learn to trust you and feel loved.  You cannot spoil a newborn!  You CAN spoil an older child, but that discussion is for another day!

Newborn sleep patterns are different from adults.  They have sleep cycles that are much shorter than ours, and have longer patterns of active sleep rather than deep sleep, especially in the first 3 months.  Parents often complain that their infant will “cat nap” .  This is a fairly normal pattern during the first 3 months of life.  Very young infants do not know how to self soothe either.  Those skills develop after the first 3 months also.  Here are a few tips that will help establish good sleep habits for the future.  Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel, life will become easier after the first few months.

1.  Know your baby’s sleep cues…do not let your baby become over tired.

Most parents in the beginning have a bit of a difficult time learning sleep cues.  Newborn babies should not be up longer than an hour and a half to two hours maximum.  If your baby becomes overly tired, it is much more difficult for your baby to sleep!  Look for your baby to rub at his or her eyes, begin to blank stare and not engage, yawn, and fuss.  When you see some cues, take a look at the length of time your baby has been awake.  The next time your baby is awake, start the process of putting him or her down for a nap 15 minutes earlier.  This way you never miss the window of opportunity, an overstimulated baby does not sleep well.  You often will feel like all you have time for is a feeding, a diaper change, a small amount of interaction and then your baby is ready to sleep again!

2.  Swaddle your baby.

Newborns until the end of the 4th month have a reflex that causes them to startle.  You often will see your baby twitch, grimace, have a sweet sleep grin and jump during the early active sleep pattern.  The twitching and jumping or moro reflex as it is called, will wake your baby.  If you swaddle using a light blanket or a swaddle sleep sack, your baby will not wake with a startle as often and will feel more secure.   Many moms and dads will tell me their baby does not like the swaddle.  I encourage you to try it again.  Try swaddling your baby before a nursing or feeding, or before you begin to rock your child to calm.  Most of the time babies will relax into the swaddle and love it!  They look like a cute baby burrito!

3.  Try white noise.

Babies heard white noise inside mom’s womb during the entire pregnancy.  This sound is very calming to a newborn.  My 2nd daughter loved the sound of a blow dryer.  She was a fussy baby, and quickly my blow dryer became part of the decor of my family room.  Now, there are white noise machines, white noise phone apps, and white noise CDs that parents swear by, a much better look than the blow dryer!  White noise can be part of a “switch” that helps soothe a fussy baby.  You might even try getting your face down by your baby’s ear and “shsh shsh shsh”, which will work too.

4.  Provide day and night/ light rhythm. 

Many newborns get their days and nights mixed up.  There is nothing worse than an infant that sleeps well during the day and is up all night!  Moms often notice that babies before birth are more active at night too!  To help your baby learn the day and night pattern, keep the daytime hours light with normal noise patterns in your home.  Light on our eyes helps to cue our bodies to when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep.  That is part of the reason we feel so sleepy during the gloom of dark winter days!  Stand in front of a window with your baby and expose your baby to natural light.  Do not darken the rooms for your baby to nap during the day and keep regular noise in the house.  No tip toeing!  In the evening, start to dim lights and keep things calm and quiet about an hour before “bedtime”.  Then with every nighttime feeding keep the room dark, do not change the diaper unless it is dirty, and do not interact.  Just feed your baby and put back to bed.  Eventually your baby will learn the difference between day and night and sleep more soundly and longer during the night hours.  This pattern of day and night will help older children and adults fall to sleep more easily too!

5.  Wake your baby to eat during the day.

Do not let your baby sleep longer than 3 hours during the day.  Wake your baby to eat, and unless your doctor advises you differently, never wake a sleeping baby at night!  You want your baby to receive most of their nutrition during the waking hours, and less at night.

6.  Move with your baby!

Movement will calm a baby to sleep.  Rocking, swinging, and wearing your baby will all help lull your little one into a deep sleep pattern.  Rocking to sleep is fine in the early months.  Many parents have a hard time transitioning from the swing or arms to bed without the baby waking.  Do the limp arm test!  Remember that babies have a very active sleep pattern before they move into a deep sleep.  If you try to transfer when your little one is still grimacing, sleep grinning, or you see rapid eye movement under closed eye lids, most likely your baby will wake quickly.   Rock or provide movement until your baby has transitioned from the active sleep pattern to a deep sleep.  You will be able to pick up your baby’s arm and feel that it is limp.  When you see that, then it is much easier to place your baby in the crib and your baby stay asleep.

7.  Use a pacifier.

Babies need to suck many times to sleep soundly.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier at sleep as a deterrent to SIDS.  Sucking calms a baby.  A baby that tends to become over stimulated easily often needs more suck time.  I am a big believer in the pacifier or a thumb or finger sucker resulting in a calm baby.  We can worry about the habit later!

8.  Establish a sleep routine.

The earlier your baby connects routine with sleep the better.  Do the same thing every time you put your baby to bed and quickly your child will connect those activities with sleep.  This pattern will develop good sleep patterns all the way to adulthood!  So, plan the feeding, bathing, massage, rocking, singing, reading pattern that works for you!  Keep the routine simple and repeatable.  The bedtime or nap time routine should not be longer than about 20 minutes.  You can establish a bedtime for your baby even though you know you will be up again!  Just treat every feeding after “bedtime” as a night-time feeding.  Children in general are wired early to bed early to rise!  Have an early bedtime for a good sleeper and for you to have an evening of “adult time”.

9.  Do not let your baby “cry it out” until after 6 months.

The first 6 months parents need to respond to a crying baby at night.  After 6 months, most babies are developmentally ready to sleep a stretch through the night. When you are emotionally ready and after your baby is at least 6 months old, you can do the “baby shuffle” and check on your baby every 5 to 10 minutes without picking your baby up.  Comfort your baby with a “shh” go to sleep, a pat and then leave.  The first night you may be “shuffling” in and out of the nursery for an hour or more. The 2nd night will be shorter and usually by the 3rd or 4th night your baby will comfort to sleep on his or her own.  You must be consistent and not give in.  Soon you will put a drowsy baby to bed and your baby will be able to fall asleep without your assistance!

10.  Even with doing all the “right things” babies have sleep disturbances.

Children will have periods of sleep disturbances through all developmental stages.  With each new skill a baby learns, example rolling over, there will often be a sleep pattern disturbance.  Babies like to practice at night!  There is also teething, separation anxiety, illness….many reasons you will see disturbances even when you are doing all the right things in establishing good sleep patterns.  Always go back to the basics each time.  Good sleep is essential! Teaching healthy sleep patterns is a huge gift to your child, and you!

Soon you will be getting longer stretches of sleep….until those darn teen years creep up and you find yourself waiting up for your child!  That is another issue another day!  :)

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


I love these sleep resources:

The No-Cry Sleep Solution 

Elizabeth Pantley

The Happiest Baby on the Block

Dr. Harvey Karp

Sweet Dreams

Paul M Fleiss, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P



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