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

Parents and Grandparents, are your vaccines up to date?

Parents and Grandparents…you need vaccines too!  Protect the children you love and yourselves!

I had a new Dad to be come into our clinic yesterday.  He was requesting “that shot for new Dads so I won’t give my baby whooping cough.”  Yes!  I immediately praised him for being such a great Dad even before his little one entered the world, sat him down and gave the shot.  I talk a lot about the importance of vaccines for children, but there are several that are a must for adults too!  One of the most important for all adults, especially parents and grandparents of infants, is the Tdap because we want to cocoon our babies in protection from whooping cough.

The flu shot is another must for adults.  Flu season is upon us!  As fall approaches every year I get on my soap box preaching the necessity of a flu shot …be prepared!  Even when the flu shot is not a great match (this year is an example), getting it provides you and your children some protection.  Flu cases will be less severe if you have had the shot.  We need to protect the most vulnerable, our babies who are under 6 months of age and unable to receive a flu shot.

Remind your parents and grandparents that the shingles shot is a very good idea.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the shingles vaccine for adults age 60 and older to prevent shingles.  Shingles is a very painful disease that can result in a lifetime of post herpatic nerve pain. Adults who receive the vaccine decrease their risk by about 50% in developing the disease, and if they do develop shingles, the disease is less severe.  My parents have gotten the vaccine…encourage your parents too!

All adults age 65 and older should consider a pneumonia shot the PPSV23 and recently it has been recommended that seniors should also receive the PCV13 to further protect them from pneumonia.  Both are one time injections.

So, vaccines are not just for kids…many of us need to update our vaccines too.  Parents and Grandparents, make sure you have had your Tdap vaccine, flu shots are a must for everyone each year, and those who are 60 and older, consider the shingles vaccine and 65 and older the pneumonia vaccines.  Roll up your sleeves, sing your ABC’s or count to 10, and then go out for ice cream afterwards.  It is important to protect our children, ourselves and the special grandparents in our lives!

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


Keep your child’s smile healthy and bright!


Image courtesy of American Dental Association

I can remember that feeling of excitement when I first saw the top of a little tooth poking through our oldest child’s gum….I must admit I remember the shock the first time I felt that tooth when I was nursing too!

(Remember, children can bite only if latched incorrectly, and that is usually when they are “playing” at the end of a nursing. Put your child down and say, “that hurts!” If you put your baby down every time he or she bites or you break the nursing latch when you realize your baby is no longer sucking to eat…there will be no problems. Just because your baby is teething or has teeth is not a reason in itself to wean from the breast!)

We have always known that care of those cute little teeth was important, but there has been some recent changes in the recommendations of care. How we care for our child’s teeth will affect his or her health. Those baby teeth ARE important! Dental decay is an active infection in a mouth…and we want to protect those little pearly whites for the best smiles now and down the road!

Dental decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood! 24 percent of children in the U. S. have a cavity before age four! 53 percent by age 8 and 56 percent by age 15. There has been a significant increase of dental decay in children in the 2-4 year old age group. So, what are parents supposed to do to protect our little ones’ precious smiles? There is a plan!  http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/11/18/peds.2014-2984.full.pdf+html

  1. Brush with fluoridated toothpaste at the first sign of a tooth. (Yes you heard me right…that is a big change. Past recommendation was to use “baby toothpaste” without fluoride until age 2!) Starting to brush teeth from moment one teaches a lifelong habit for your child. At a minimum, the recommendation is to brush twice daily, morning and night. The most important brushing is the nighttime one before bed. Parents should use a very small amount of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) until age 3. (see picture above) After age 3, children and adults should use about a pea size amount of toothpaste. Parents should supervise tooth brushing until about age 8 when most children are proficient. It is not important to worry about what direction to brush on the tooth….just that all sides of the tooth and the gum line are brushed.
  2. Drink tap water! Many of us have become a bit of “water snobs” drinking only a certain brand of bottled water! Most bottled water does not have fluoride. Fluoridated water has been proven to prevent dental decay in children and adults! So fill up your child’s straw cup and get a glass for yourself too!
  3. Monitor sugar and sticky foods. We know that tooth decay increases when there is sugar on teeth for long periods of time. Children who drink sugared drinks (this includes juice!) sleep with bottles, or use a sippy cup with milk or juice in it all day are more prone to decay. Keep water in your child’s cup except at meals and stay away from a lot of sugared or sticky foods and treats.
  4. Prevent bacteria in the mouth. Tooth decay is caused by a bacteria called streptococcus mutans. Parents who have a history of poor dental health (lots of cavities) should be very cautious about sharing cups and cleaning those pacifiers in their own mouths! Transfer of that bacteria early on increases your child’s risk of early dental decay. Most importantly, parents should be sure that their own dental health is good…having active decay that is untreated increases the streptococcus mutans in your mouth increasing the likelihood your child’s mouth will colonize with it too. We want to be sure that the snuggles and kisses you give your child does not transfer bad bacteria…because those kisses are a necessity!!
  5. Find a dental home for your child. Your child should have a dental visit by age 1. Dentists are a huge part of your child’s health care just like your child’s doctor! Make every 6 month visits to your child’s dentist to promote good dental health. If your child sees the dentist for preventative care, there may never be a need to develop a fear…there will be no cavities!
  6. Ask about fluoride varnish. Fluoride varnish is a sticky resin of highly concentrated fluoride. Your child can have two or more applications per year and it is very effective in preventing dental decay. Some pediatricians are applying this at well child visits, and often dentists are using this instead of the fluoride rinse or gel of the past. A child can eat right away after this application and it actually will stay on the teeth for a longer time and can help restore early decay.

So those are some of the best tips to prevent dental decay in your child. The habits we form early in our child’s life will have long -lasting effects on their dental health and smiles in the future. Keep your child’s sweet smile bright!

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



Fun holiday eating for your child!

How about a fruit candy cane to encourage a little healthy eating?!

How about a fruit candy cane to encourage a little healthy eating?!

Wow, the weekend seems like it was only a few hours!  Busy times in all of our homes during the holidays.  I opened my refrigerator last night and was shocked at what I saw.  After a Christmas party at our home, my choices for dinner ingredients seemed to contain either sugar or cheese!  If you are like me, it is difficult to continue to eat in a somewhat healthy way during the holidays.  It is fun to have festive food, but continuous unhealthy choices can make you feel sluggish not to mention what it does to the waistline.  So, this week I commit to going back to 5 days of healthy eating, because I am sure the weekend will bring some more holiday eating again!  I found some great ideas to focus on some fun healthy holiday eating for your kids.  Give a few of these a try and then share some fun ideas you have too!  Remember, one of the keys to healthy eating, especially for toddlers, is having fun.  These ideas will give your child’s meals a little bit of the holiday spirit, but just might help him eat a few fruits and vegetables too!  Happy holiday eating!

Candy Cane Fruit

Slice strawberries and bananas.  Alternate the slices in the shape of a candy cane.www.kitchenfunwithmy3sons.com


Use Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese Wedges to form Rudolph’s head.  Place two mini-pretzels in the corners of the wedge for antlers.  Add raisins for eyes and a little red pepper for a nose!  www.cutefoodforkids.com

Holiday Wreaths

Cut cucumbers into one inch thick slices.  Scoop out a bit of the middle and fill with a favorite dip.  Put a few chunks of red pepper for berries around the edge.  www.superhealthykids.com

 Pasta Shish-ka-bobs

Cooked cheese tortellini, sliced cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices on a skewer

Fruit on a stick

Mandarin oranges, marshmallows, sliced strawberries, pineapple chunks, and banana slices on a skewer.  How about some yogurt dip too!

Mini cheeseburger on a stick

Place a chunk of whole wheat bread, meatball, chunk of cheese, sliced cherry tomato, and maybe even a pickle on a skewer!  Try a little ketchup for dip!

Frosty the Snow Man

Mini bagel spread with cream cheese.  Place a carrot stick in the center hole and use raisins to make the button eyes and a smile!

White Chocolate dipped Oreo Cookies…oh wait that is for ME…!  Have some healthy fun with food during the holidays with your child.  You will all feel better!

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


Holiday Wish Lists….

All kids have “wish lists”!  Should Santa bring it all?

This will definitely date me, but when our 4 children were young, the favorite “book” in the house at this time of year was the J.C. Penney’s catalog.  It was well used!  The pages were tattered, and the kids had toys circled and starred on every page, sometimes everything on the page!  It was definitely a “wish book”.  Some of those toys were circled every single year, but Santa never brought them.  Are my kids scarred because they didn’t get that snow cone maker or  cotton candy maker that they wanted each year, or how about that mini red convertible that they could drive?  No…I think they are just fine, and our Christmas mornings were full of joy and excitement every year.

How do we as parents keep the holidays not “all about the gifts”?  So many of us want to make this time of year more stress free, happy, joyous, and centered on the meaning of the season, but gifts often take the center stage.  Our children can enjoy the magic of the season, they can have a wish list, but we must help our children understand the difference between wishes and needs, and how to be grateful and appreciative of those gifts that they receive.  We as parents need to be thoughtful when we buy our children their holiday gifts, and realize that our children don’t need everything on their wish list, and not getting everything on their wish list is actually better for our child!  Families have been brainwashed for years now.  In our minds, a lavish Christmas is a sign that we love our children more.  We are bombarded with materialism from every side.  We are told that the perfect Christmas only comes with money spent on decorations and many, many gifts.  We know that Christmas is not about “buying love”, but sometimes it is difficult to remember this.  As a parent, ask yourself…

“What is my most treasured holiday memory?”  Most often it does not include a gift.  The memories usually include activities, moments with family, and/or events.  Sit down as a family and talk about traditions that you would like to establish in your home.  Those moments of tradition will cement your family together.

When shopping for your children remember:

  • A large number of new toys and gifts can be overwhelming.  Receiving a few is still very exciting and when your child is not overwhelmed with too many toys, they will actually play with the toys more often.
  • The newest is not always the best.  More classic toys that can be played with in several ways are much more valuable.  Children learn through play by using their imagination and creativity.  Don’t invest in toys that are “one button wonders”; purchase toys that foster your child’s growth.
  • Buy toys that are developmentally appropriate and safe.  Even if you have a budding genius (don’t we all!) the age on the box is there for a reason.  Usually the recommended age is there for safety purposes, like choking hazards.  Remember too that toys that are not appropriate for your child’s developmental level will not advance him but frustrate him.
  • Life lessens are learned when your child does not receive everything that is on his or her wish list!  Remember, over indulging your child does not represent love and may actually set your child up for major disappointment later.  In life, we simply don’t always get what we want, but we can learn to appreciate what we have!

So, am I advocating a gift free Christmas?  Absolutely not.  Will I be shopping for my children hoping that I find a few gifts that my children need and yes a few that they just simply want for Christmas…absolutely!  But, I am reminding all of us that those gifts are not a definition of love…and that life will be just fine for all four of my children, even when that Ipad is not under the tree!

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


Keeping the Fun in the Holidays, and the Stress Out!

Every year when the holidays approach there is a “to do list” that can seem daunting.  The fact is, your child will enjoy the season more, and you will too, if you limit that list and some of the stress that comes with it! 

This year, promise yourself to enjoy the season and its magic with your child….here are a few suggestion that might help your level of holiday stress.  Share your tips with us too!

  1. Set priorities.  Sit down and discuss which traditions, decorations, parties truly matter to you and your family.  Sometimes more fun results from doing less!
  2. Accept help.  Consider if you really need and want to host family gatherings this year, and if so split the responsibilities with others.  Remember, a clean house only lasts a minute when you expect a houseful of guests!  Make your home presentable but not necessarily ready to pass the white glove test!
  3. Plan ahead.  Break big jobs down into small steps.  Try to be realistic about how long it takes to get things done with young children in the house and allow for the unexpected.
  4. Stop negative thoughts.  If you find yourself feeling inadequate or thinking that you are letting others down remind yourself that your little one is who is most important.  You are a Mom or Dad first!
  5. Keep a sense of humor.  Even the worst holiday disasters have the makings of great family memories.  Everything looks more perfect when looking back!
  6. Keep your child’s age and temperament in mind when planning the schedule.  Do not schedule too many special events in a row.  Try to be sure that your child has quiet time or “down time”.  Touch can calm stress in a child and you.
  7. Shop on-line. Buy the same gift for as many people as possible. (Think picture gifts…your child smiling face is the perfect gift for so many!)  Think about limiting your gift list now.  What about a family name draw? White elephant gift? Shopping takes patience and shopping with a young child takes a saint!  Try to swap babysitting.  Have a plan when you do shop, children do best when on the move.  Bring plenty of snacks and know when it is time to stop.  Be the adult, don’t melt down when your child does!
  8. Make Santa a solo event! If a visit to Santa is in the plans, do just that!  Visit Santa when your child is well rested.  Children that have entered the stranger anxiety phase, which can begin around 7 to 8 months and last into toddler hood, often don’t enjoy the Santa visit.  Read about Santa, talk about Santa, wave at Santa from a distance and then try a visit.  TRY…don’t force your child to sit on Santa’s lap if there is anxiety and tears. Stand next to Santa for the picture or sit on his lap with you holding your child.  If all fails…photo shop Santa into your picture!  www.icaughtsanta.com  Love this website!!! 
  9. Make 12 dozen of the same kind of cookie rather than 12 different types.  Concentrate on the people rather than objects.  It is more important to have fun making cookies than have beautiful cookies.
  10. Make your tree child friendly!  I am often asked if I think a tree is worth it when there are active toddlers in the house.  ABSOLUTELY, remember family traditions glue your family together.  Make your tree family friendly.  Decorate it from your child’s eye level down with safe unbreakable ornaments with plastic hooks.  Let your child explore those ornaments.  (Our tree was redecorated from 2 feet down on many days!  That is what made it so beautiful!)  You might think about anchoring the top of your tree with fishing line to the wall, which will prevent a little one from pulling it over.  A wide based tree stand is a must.
  11. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or your extended family.  Family visits are not times to reform your nieces and nephews or discuss parenting views!  Your child is your responsibility!  Any comparisons of children are not important.  If your child or you are criticized, ignore, if you or your child is complimented…enjoy!  Do not pick battles with family members during gatherings, those battles are seldom worth it to you or your child.  Be flexible!
  12. Exercise, breathe, remember to eat well and take a break each day. 
  13. Include your child in holiday activities—it creates roots, bonds, and traditions that will strengthen your family and will create joy and many memories.  Appreciate the moments, they are but a moment!

What are your tips to enjoy more and stress less???

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



Infants need play time too!

You are your baby’s first toy! 

Play time is important for infants too!  Infants play by moving, by looking (especially you and that funny face), by exploring with hands, feet, and mouth, and by interacting physically (a little tickle), emotionally, and verbally.  The time your baby spends playing with you is invaluable.  You don’t have to “teach” as you play, your baby is learning by just interacting with you!  You are your baby’s favorite toy! 

Let your baby look at you! 

Your baby is completely enthralled with YOU!  Look at your baby and make silly faces.  You will be amazed by your sweet baby trying to imitate some of your silly faces!  Smile, coo, stick your tongue out…your baby will love it! If your baby keeps looking away, then he or she may have had enough of your silly face for a while, be careful not to over stimulate. This little game stimulates your baby’s social, visual, and emotional development.  This teaches your baby ways to seek and receive your attention and affection.  Who knew that you could be entertained by just looking at your baby!  You and Dad have a new evening entertainment!

Play with touch!

Who doesn’t want to touch that soft baby skin?  Touch your little one with different textures.  Tissues, a blanket, the tip of your finger, a cotton ball…explore different touches across your baby’s tummy or cheeks.  Talking makes this even more fun for your baby.  “Doesn’t that tickle? OOOh feel good?”  Watch your baby and you will be able to tell what his favorite is.  Soon your little one will start to kick and get excited when you just start to touch his little belly.  Touch teaches sensory awareness, verbal interaction and body awareness.

Give your baby something to look at.

A mobile is a great first toy for your child.  It can be colorful or black and white with some accents of red, but your baby will love watching it!  Be sure to take the mobile down once your child can reach it or is starting to try to sit up.  The mobile provides visual stimulation and spatial awareness for your baby.

Try a little game of “The Voice”.

No, you can’t tell if your baby has a singing voice yet, :)  but your little one loves the sound of your voice.  He or she has heard your voice even before birth!  Put your baby in the center of the room and walk around the room singing and talking or making funny noises.  Your baby will begin to look for where you are!  Combine a little “Peekaboo” with it!  Your baby will love it.  This will help your baby develop listening skills and it helps develop a sense of trust in you as you disappear and come back!

Take your child on a tour.

Your home and backyard may be familiar to you, but your baby will love the change in scenery.  Carry your baby around the house and you will find all kinds of neat things.  Talk about what you see and what things do.  Light switches are amazing!  Head outside and discover the grass, the leaves, brush a flower across your little one’s cheek, introduce your child to the world!  New sights, sounds and textures are exciting for your baby, and talking about them builds language skills too!  Introducing your baby to the world may just help you appreciate the little things again too!

The oldies but goodies…all the finger plays you used to know

Games like Peek-a-boo, So Big, Patty Cake, This Little Piggy, Itsy Bitsy Spider are fun for you and your baby.  These finger plays and songs teach socialization skills, fine motor skills, object permanence, and are just plain fun.  If you don’t remember these oldies but goodies, look them up online or check out a book at the library.

Make an obstacle course.

Your new little crawler will love to crawl over and under things.  Get those pillows and cushions off the couch and start encouraging your baby to climb up and over, crawl, and tumble.   This is fun and helps build gross motor skills and coordination.  It might get your little one good and tired for a great nap too!

Try the fill and dump game.

Once your baby is sitting up and is developing some hand coordination, filling and dumping will be a favorite activity.  Stacking cups, measuring cups, plastic containers all work well to fill up with water in the bathtub, sand, blocks, raw rice or any item that can be scooped up and dumped.  Your baby will work on fine motor control, hand-eye coordination, and words like “full” “pour” “all gone” “empty” and others.

Stacking and knocking over.

Stacking will soon become the next fun activity.  Those same stacking cups can be used to build a tower and knock it down.  Blocks, stacking rings, plastic cups, books…anything can be used to stack and knock over.  This helps with fine motor development and cause and effect.

These are just a few examples of the type of play your infant will love the firs 12 months of life.  Don’t rush out and buy lots of expensive toys, you will be your child’s favorite toy these first few months.  There is no rush to “get ahead”; your child will learn all that he or she needs to learn with simple play.  The pressure to get ahead often takes away the most valuable tool for learning…play.  Be a kid again and fill your child’s day with play!  Have fun!

What is your favorite activity with your infant?  Post  some of your ideas!

Follow Raising Kids With Love on Facebook for more tips!

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


Being a parent, is at the top of my Gratitude List….


I am grateful for my life as a Mom….

I am sitting this morning in the quiet, sipping my coffee, my college  aged son is soundly sleeping upstairs,  all four of our children will be home by Wednesday and the house will be lively.  Life is good.  I am grateful.  This time of year always turns my thoughts to gratitude, and I realize that simply because I am a parent, my blessing cup overflows. My children have brought me a greater joy than any other aspect of my life.  I am thankful for my four children for many reasons, but some of the reasons that I am grateful to be a parent include:

·        Parenting Love.  From the moment I “fell in love” with each of my children, the definition of love changed.  A mix of responsibility, awe, pride, wanting more for them than myself and immense love…which has all overflowed back to me, a total gift.

·        Enjoying the wonder.  Being able to enjoy the moments of childhood wonder again, reliving those moments of awe and magic. Experiencing the world new again, even participating in those school projects that I actually learned more from the 2nd (3rd and 4th) time around! (I finally know the state capitals!)  It continues as I watch them as young adults finding their passions in life….the world is completely open to them!

·        Learning that the greatest joy is the joy experienced through a child. The greatest pride is in the accomplishments not of yourself but of your child, and the greatest accomplishments are not material but that moment that you realize your child is a wonderful human being.  There is nothing better than seeing your child become a caring, passionate, adult.

·        Remembering the hugs, kisses, smiles, high fives, and “the looks” I have gotten from each of my kids that showed me I was loved.  Experiencing now, the “I’m home” hugs as they return home from their world now.

·        Loving my husband more.  Children expanded the love I have for my husband.  I loved him with my whole heart before children, but even loved him more and yes maybe differently when I saw him become the amazing Dad he is.  I continue to love him more at each day in our life as he continues to “father” our children at each season in their lives.

·        Remembering the sticky fingers, messy bedrooms, late night “emergency talks” and yes loads of college laundry that have made me feel like a Mom.  Nothing like feeling needed….

·        Realizing that my children have helped me appreciate my own parents.  Until you are a parent, it is difficult to “get it”.  As the years pass, I realize over and over again what sacrifices my own parents made for me; the lessons they taught, the love they lavished, and the roots they gave.  I think that by becoming a parent, you realize more the blessing of your own parents.  There becomes this special bond…a kind of “parenting club” where you finally “get it”.  I am more aware each year of the blessing of my own parents, and am more grateful than ever for their example to me.

·        Realizing that my children have made me a better person.  Our children have brought me challenges that have made me stronger, made me admit my weaknesses and accept them, focused me on prayer and have helped me ever expand my capability to love. Yes….each of them have made me a better person…

Yes, being a parent is at the top of my Gratitude List this Thanksgiving.  My heart is full…Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, may your heart be full of gratitude too.

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


What I think every child should have in their play room…

How many toys does your child need?  Your child does not need lots of toys…just toys that will be used a lot!

We have talked a lot about play and its importance.  Now take a look around, what toys do you have in your home that encourage play and all the benefits that come with it? I recently walked through the toy section of a big box store and completely understood why parents and grandparents have a difficult time deciding what toys are the best choices to purchase for their child or grandchild! The shelves were filled with electronic toys and the “newest and best” toys based on the latest TV show or movie. The educational aisle had so many choices, it was overwhelming

Number one, it is not necessary to purchase the biggest or most expensive toy to get the best!  In fact, some of the least expensive toys provide the most bang for your buck!  So what toys on those store shelves are worth putting in your cart?  Here are my toy picks for every home with children.  Many of them are “classic” toys…that does not mean “old fashioned” because many of the more classic toys today have new twists that make them even more fun.  Classic toys simply mean toys that can be played with in many ways using your child’s creativity and imagination.  So here are my picks…do you have any to add?

1.  Dolls or stuffed Animals

How many homes with children don’t have at least 10 of these?  They sometimes seemed to multiply over night in our house. (Can they breed?!)  However, they are valuable to children, yes boys and girls!  Dolls and stuffed animals give children an opportunity to model caring loving behaviors they see in other people.  Rocking, feeding, and even practicing bedtime routines and house rules.  I had one daughter who often had her doll in “time out” “thinking about it”; wonder where she heard that?

2.  Blocks

Blocks and lots of them are the perfect toy for children.  Young children can play with blocks by picking them up and mouthing them (be sure they are large enough not to be choking hazards), toddlers begin to stack blocks and knock them over (learning cause and effect here!) and soon you may have a little architect on your hands building elaborate castles, roads for cars, and houses for Barbie.  Different types of building blocks are great to have around, the favorite Lego’s, Tinker Toys, Bristle Blocks, and any other building set that tickles your child’s creativity.  With the three girls in the house and a boy, we had a set of very popular pink Lego type blocks that eventually made their way into the classic Lego blocks…some interesting buildings were built with those multiple colors!

3.  Puzzles

A puzzle provides quiet activity, fine motor development, stretches your child’s patience and gives your child a real sense of accomplishment when the puzzle is complete.  There are many different types of puzzles and children as young as 18 months will learn how to complete chunky, easy to manipulate, wooden puzzles.  Here is a tip I learned…if you have a lot of different puzzles.  Give each puzzle a number.  Number the back of the pieces and the board with that same number and it is much easier to find the right pieces for the right puzzle if all of them happen to get dumped out! (Or should I say when they all get dumped out!)

4.  Playhouse or Tent

Every child likes some small “house”, it will become a fort, cave, house, store, school room…and the list is as big as their imagination.  Even young babies love to crawl in and out of a small tent or playhouse and play peek-a-boo and older school age children will still use it for their “club” meetings.  You can build a tent with a blanket and card table, buy a collapsible tent, use a big cardboard box with a door cut out, or purchase a true “play house”…but your child will use this toy for many years in a multitude of imaginative play scenarios.

5.  Shopping Cart

There are few toys that are more of a favorite than a shopping cart.  If the cart is wide based and sturdy, it can be used for a pre-walker learning to balance. Of course it will be used for pretend trips to the grocery store but you will be amazed at its other uses.  It will become a gathering cart; toddlers love to gather items throughout the house or outdoors.  It could become a doll or stuffed animal stroller, a car, or even help with clean-up of toys!

6.  Musical Instruments

Children love music and they love creating it too! (Although there were times that I would argue that it wasn’t music!) Banging, shaking, cymbal clanging, guitar playing, and horn blowing will build a child’s confidence and maybe ignite a passion for music.  Rhythm in music has been shown to improve math skills down the road too.  Complete sets of musical instruments are in stores, but often an oatmeal container, a pot with a wooden spoon, or a water bottle filled with dried beans (with the lid secured tightly with electrical tape) will serve just as well.  Start your own tradition of marching in a band to bed or to pick up toys, put on a show for Grandma, or play along with your favorite music on the iPod, but ignite your child’s love of music.

7.  Dress up clothes

What a better way to play pretend than by dressing up like someone else.  Keep those Halloween costumes out all year and let your child be that super hero, monkey, fire fighter, Mommy or Daddy, nurse, doctor, or anyone else they want to “try on”.  Dress up helps a child explore different roles and expand their imagination.

8.  Play Animal Set

Most children love farm and zoo animals and often learn animal sounds before animal names.  Driving tractors and manipulating the different animals and people will develop fine motor skills, imagination, and language.  Who doesn’t remember playing with the red barn that “moos” when the barn door is opened?!

9.  Play Kitchen

A play kitchen is a favorite toy of boys and girls alike.  Children love to play with pots and pans and play food.  Both boys and girls will “cook”, practice manners, plan healthy or not so healthy meals, learn about hot and cold, serve dolls and you many a meal, and will play pretend over and over again.  Pretend kitchen type toys are one of the best toy investments for your child.

10. Tool kits and Work Benches

A hammer is a must for girls and boys.  Noisy banging, using a screwdriver, and “fixing” all kinds of things is great fine motor and imaginative play.  This type of play just may ignite a child’s curiosity about how things work. Our girls were happy simply pounding the wooden pegs with the hammer…our son ended up with a “play” screwdriver and unscrewed the bottom door hinges on our upstairs doors!

11. Ride on Toys

All children need some type of ride on toy and a toy that they can eventually pedal.  Children need the gross motor development but it will also help with imaginative play.  Hopping into that car and waving good-bye when “going to work” or buckling that bear into the seat for safety or going on some exciting trip will all develop your child’s imagination and creativity.  Going on a bike ride in your neighborhood and discovering the other side of the block is a great adventure…and a great way to ensure a good nap that afternoon!

12. Items for an Art Box

Paper, chunky crayons, washable markers, paint, play dough, glue, glitter, stickers, pom poms, feathers, jewels, bottle caps, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and so much more can be put in an art box for your child.  Let your child get messy and creative.  Provide free art time and watch your child get excited about what he can create.

13. Water or Sand Play

Children love to pour, scoop, and dump water, sand, or raw rice.  You can purchase a sand or water table or make your own with a plastic container.  Let your child see what floats, how much water fits in a cup, pour rice or sand into containers, watch how ice melts, dig and find treasures and enjoy learning many spatial concepts while playing.

13. Balls

What toy box is complete without a ball?  All types of balls are available now.  Find balls that are easy to grip for younger children and balls that are big enough to kick and catch.  A simple game of ball helps a child develop gross motor skills, hand eye coordination, cooperation, and turn taking…not to mention being introduced to team sports.

14.  And of course… Books

No child’s area of play is complete without books…lots of them.  Books that can be chewed on, books that have flaps and pop ups, classic books, new books, colorful books, silly books, and most important, books that you read often to your child.  Reading is the key to academic success in the future and opening up the world in general to your child.

There is my list of toys for your play area…most are classic toys that will last and provide many hours of fun and learning for your child.  I bet they will even bring back some happy memories you have of playing as a child!  You don’t need lots of toys; just toys that your child will use a lot!  What toys do you remember were your favorite?

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


Healthy Eating Starts with Mom and Dad!

healthy eating

I often am asked how to develop healthy eating habits in children.  It is so easy to slip into the chicken nugget black hole when you have young children. 

With the obesity rate in children rising in this country, and heart disease in adults taking its toll, we as parents have to think about instilling healthy eating patterns in our children and maybe changing ours!  What can we do to prevent a child from only eating chicken nuggets, fries, and macaroni and cheese???  There is a solution….children learn what they see!

Think about the examples we may give our children.  Healthy eating starts with healthy attitudes about food.  Who better to help children form those attitudes but parents?

  1.  Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.  Sit down and have breakfast with your child. This first meal of the day should include a whole grain, fruit, dairy and a protein.  My Mom always told me breakfast was the most important meal of the day…it is!  Lesson number one!
  2. Serve appropriate portions.  Let your child see you scoop servings onto their plates and yours.  This is how children learn portion control…and remember theirs should be smaller than yours!
  3. Control what food is in your home…you are the one with the purchasing power!  Limit the junk food, if the choice is not there, you will eat better and your child will follow.
  4. Drink milk or water with meals.  Limit the soda that your child sees you drink.  (When I needed my Diet Coke, I drank it out of a coffee cup.  No one wanted to share it then! Not healthy but sometimes necessary!)
  5. Shop for your food together when possible and let your children participate in preparing it.  Children who know where their food comes from and are involved in preparation will more likely eat it!
  6. Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups.  Your children MUST see you doing this.  Think about color, smells, and arrangement.  Make your foods look and smell good!
  7. Limit the salt and sugar.  Let your child really TASTE the food, not the salt.  Remember, children’s taste can be trained to appreciate the taste of the food and not the additives of sugar and salt.
  8. Eat the foods that you want your child to eat!  Expanding your child’s palate at a young age prevents falling into that black hole of a very limited diet.
  9. Do not label food “good” and “bad”.  Children must learn balance between healthy food and snack food.  If food is “off limits” it will become more desirable. Future healthy eating patterns are developed by teaching children to eat one cookie and not the package!
  10. Enjoy meals as a family. Eating should never be a battle.  Do not force your child to “clean their plate” or “take 3 bites”.  Offer healthy food choices and leave the rest to your child. Food, fun and family should always go together.

What tips can you share?  Share your family’s favorite healthy food choice…we all need some new ideas!

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


Detergent pods, they look like candy to a child!

These convenient laundry detergent pods are brightly colored and bite sized.  Keep these out of reach…there have been reports of children  becoming very ill when they have bitten into the pod.

There is a new study being published in the December 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics Journal, Pediatrics this week regarding these laundry pods.  We knew there was some danger in these pods and young children, but this study shows us just how big a problem they are.  According to this study, during 2012 and 2013, the first two years these pods hit the market in large quantities, an average of one child a day ended up in the ER from ingesting the detergent.  Poison control centers had more than 17,000 calls or in other words about 1 call an hour regarding these pods.  Most of the problems occur in children between the ages of 1 and 2.

Ask any Mom or Dad who has a young child what one of their biggest worries would be, and somewhere near the top of that list would be choking or poisoning.  We know that young children tend to be very curious, and as they explore, everything goes into the mouth.  Most parents work very hard to lock up poisons, latch cabinets, and put dangerous items out of reach, but sometimes there are items that are dangerous that we just don’t think about.  One of those items might be the laundry detergent pods that are currently marketed by several companies.   These pods are brightly colored little packets that have very concentrated laundry detergent and other cleaning agents in a convenient dissolving pod that you throw into the washer, no measuring and no mess.  Sounds pretty convenient!  The American Association of Poison Control Centers warned parents against these cute, convenient laundry detergent pods in 2012.  Between May 17 and June 17, 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that over 1/2 of the 1,008 cases of laundry detergent poisoning resulted from children biting into these pods.  Some of these children became seriously ill very quickly.  Every year there are children who get into laundry detergent, but most of  these children get an upset tummy and do not become very ill, it seems that children who eat these pods become very ill very quickly.

Why is this laundry detergent so tempting?  I looked at them in the store and they are brightly colored, squishy and fun to touch, and they really do look like a piece of packaged candy.  I can see that these pods would definitely be tempting to a small child.  Because they are made to dissolve in the washer, the concentrated detergent and packaging will  dissolve very quickly in a child’s mouth resulting in the detergent entering a child’s system very quickly too.

The poison center warns parents to keep these pods, like all cleaning supplies, out of reach.  Even those detergent pods that are in difficult to open packaging are not truly safe.  We know  that any self respecting toddler can get into a child proof lid faster than an adult…so put those laundry pods out of reach!  Dishwasher detergent pods carry the same risk, those also need to be up and away.

So parents, here we go again, let’s protect our kids and spread the word about these cute, brightly colored, bite size laundry and dishwasher pods.  If you are using these convenient detergent pods, keep them out of reach.  If you think your child has eaten even a small amount from one of these pods, call Poison Control immediately at 1-800-222-1222.  Do not wait to see if your child has a reaction since children seem to become severely ill fast.  Kids do the darndest things…and one of those may be to take a bite out of a laundry detergent pod.  Protect your child, keep dangerous items out of reach, and post the poison control number at all of your phones and in your cell phone now.  While you are in the laundry room….check that dryer vent too!  Dryer vent lint is a common fire hazard in our homes!

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



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