raisingkidswithlove

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

What is on your fall bucket list?


Fall can be full of fun family activities…what is on your fall bucket list?  This was a Love family tradition….a hayride at the apple orchard!

Labor Day has passed, and that familiar feeling of “where did the summer go?” has come and gone.  Those autumn days are approaching and as much as I love summer, I love autumn too!  I like the change of seasons and autumn brings perfect opportunities for family togetherness and fun.  So, it is time to make the bucket list for the fall season.  What will you do to enjoy the upcoming autumn days?  What will you do to make memories with your child…every season brings new opportunities for enjoying the moment.  Here are a few things on my fall bucket list….share yours!

  1. A bonfire.  There is something about a blazing fire on a cool fall night complete with hotdogs and of course s’mores and hot chocolate.  This is a must at least once in the fall!  Keep your little one up past bedtime at least once to experience melted marshmallows and chocolate!
  2. A visit to the apple orchard.  Picking apples is a Love family tradition.  A trip to Stuckey Farm was always a highlight.  Kids love to learn where their food comes from and actually picking apples is a thrill.  No apple orchard trip is complete without a cup of cider and maybe a caramel apple!
  3. A fall hike.  I love to head out for a hike through falling leaves when the air is cool and crisp.  What a great way to let your child experience the wonders of nature when the leaves are beautiful shades of color.  Our hikes always ended with taking home favorite leaves and ironing them between wax paper for a place mat that week.  Create a fall craft with bits of the outdoors with your child!  Remember “Outdoors everyday!”
  4. Attend a fall festival.  There certainly are an abundance of festivals during the fall.  I love going through the booths looking for treasures and maybe sampling some of the “festival food” that is there.  Many of the festivals have children’s activities too.  Check out Indiana’s festival website: https://visitindiana.com/fall/?gclid=CP7q1ejgjc8CFRAvaQodT3IHAQ
  5. Plant some fall mums.  I love to switch out my tired summer flowers to some bright colored mums.  A few mum, gourds, and pumpkins and my home is ready for the change of season!  Let your kids pick out the funniest looking gourd and help decorate!
  6. Plant some spring bulbs.  What a great way to look forward to spring color.  Let your child help you plant a few bulbs and then remember to watch for them next spring!  Take a picture of you planting them together and then another when they bloom.  When that first bulb pokes its head up in the spring…everyone is excited!
  7. Pick out a pumpkin and carve it.  I still love to pick out the perfect pumpkin.  It must be big, fairly round and have a big fat stem!  Find the perfect one together and then let everyone join in the fun of getting a little messy cleaning out the seeds!  Make a happy Jack-o-lantern (or if you prefer scary, we always had to have 2, one happy one scary!) and light up the night.
  8. Rake leaves and jump in them.  I can remember our first home didn’t have many trees…we backed up to 3 other houses with children.  One Saturday we all raked the few leaves we had together and made a pile for the neighborhood kids to enjoy.  A pile of leaves and kids always results in fun.  I have to rake leaves in our home now…and if I have to rake, I will jump in them whether I have kids here or not!🙂
  9. Bake something pumpkin.  There is nothing better than the smell of pumpkin and spice in the house on a cool day.  Remember, baking and kids go together.  Love this recipe!  http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/10/moist-pumpkin-spice-muffins-with-cream-cheese-frosting/
  10. Go for a fall Sunday drive.  I love to take a leisurely driving tour of the fall colors, and it is even better if we stop for ice cream!  (it seems a lot of my bucket list revolves around food! :))
  11. Go to a Friday night football game.  We no longer have a high school son playing football (which means I no longer cringe quite as much when I see the receiver get hit!), but there is just something about a crisp Friday night supporting the local team.  If you can’t afford to head to a Colt’s game, or even if you can, a great affordable way to introduce your kids to the Friday night football experience is to head to your local high school and cheer on the team.  It is a great date night too!
  12. Hot cider on the back porch.  I love to heat the cider up from the apple orchard and sip it on my back porch on a cool fall afternoon.  Pick a day when your little one is napping and ignore your “to do list” and take a little breather for you.

So that is my Fall Bucket List…not real difficult, just simple fun.  Don’t let this season slip away without enjoying it.  Every season, every day, every moment is fleeting.  Give your child the gift of enjoying the moment you are in…so find yourself a leaf pile and jump in!

Share your fall bucket list!

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

Cindy

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.

Cindy

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 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.

Cindy

Preparing your child (and YOU) for the start of preschool!


The first day of preschool can be difficult for your child and you!

The big yellow school buses are starting to show up around my house again.  My daughter has had her first day of teaching 4th grade and I know several college students who are moved in and studying hard.  I remember that familiar feeling of excitement and some sadness about my kids leaving and starting new beginnings that crept into my heart each year at this time.  Transitions can be difficult for parents and children.  (in my case transition was more difficult for me than my kids! 🙂 )  Many of your little ones will soon be starting Moms Day Out Programs or Preschool…are you and your child ready for that transition?  Sometimes dropping your child off at their school can result in a few tears from you and a few from your child.  Almost all children (and parents) have some separation anxiety at the start of preschool.  Sometimes children (and parents) revisit these feelings after holiday breaks, long weekends, and of course every fall as the new school year begins.  It is hard developmental work for a preschooler to transition to new routines, new places, meet new people and separate from Mom and Dad!  So give your child a little time and try a few of these tips to get through those first few weeks of school:

  1. Talk about school! Don’t just make general statements like “You will love it!”  “It will be so much fun!”  Talk about specifics.  What will your child do?  What kind of toys and activities will be there?  What is the daily schedule?  Drive by and point out where the school is.  Be sure to visit the school with your child at least once before the first official day.
  2. Add routine at home.  Start to structure your day at home a couple of weeks before school starts.  Practice transitioning in activities like snack, play time, and cleaning up.  Start earlier bedtime routines and wake up times if your child will be rising earlier for school.  Start laying out clothes the night before and eating breakfast quickly in the morning.  Practicing the morning routine helps remove stress that first few weeks of school.
  3. Read books about preschool.  Reading about the start of school helps open the door for conversations.  One of my favorites is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
  4. Have your own good-bye ritual.  Remember preschoolers have no real concept of time.  Saying  “I will be back in 3 hours!” means nothing.  Learn what the schedule is at school and tell your child that you will be back after the last story, or after snack…whatever the schedule is at school.  Keep your good-bye ritual simple.  If the good-bye is long and emotional (for you both) it will make your child more anxious (and you).  A simple hug, kiss, and a special private ritual like a high-five will work.  Using the same good-bye ritual will make transition easier.
  5. Never sneak away.  If you actually drop off in the classroom, get your child started with an activity and then say your good-bye.  Sneaking away will only increase your child’s anxiety.
  6. Get your emotions under control.  Your child will feed off of your anxiety.  Take a deep breath and save the tears for after you leave.  Your tears and constant “You will be fine…don’t worry!” comments only make your child more anxious!
  7. Try a transitional object.  Check with the school to see if your child may bring a comfort object “just in case”.  I sent a tissue with a lipstick “kiss” on it tucked in the pocket of my #3 daughter’s pocket when she had difficulty heading into kindergarten.  A lovey, family picture tucked in a backpack, or some other similar item can provide a little comfort when needed.
  8. Don’t be late…be early!  Being on time for pick up is so important! Children become very anxious if they are one of the last ones to be picked up, or they can’t see your car waiting in carpool line.  It is easy to try to  run one more errand when you have that free morning, but make being on time a priority.
  9. Give your child a big hug, kiss, and smile at pick up.  Sometimes a child will have an emotional reaction when he or she sees you at pick up, that often just means they have “held it together” for the day, and now the emotions flow.  That doesn’t mean the day was awful!
  10. Talk about the day.  Ask questions, “ooh and ahh” over the art projects, and talk about feelings if your child had a difficult time separating.  Give labels to those feelings and talk about strategies for the next time your child goes to school.  Talk about times when you were sad or nervous and what you did.  Don’t ignore the feelings…acknowledge and empathize.

Preschool, daycare,  grade school, high school (and college) are big transitions for your child and you!  A little preparation for both of you will help with the transition, but it still will tug at your heart-strings.  That is part of parenting…one heart tug after another…and the growth and development of one amazing child to an amazing adult.

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

Cindy

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.

Cindy

How do you play with a toddler?


“I think of play as a toddler’s number one essential vitamin.  He needs large doses of it every day.  Play:  Thrills the senses.  Helps toddlers master movement.  Stretches the mind.  Stimulates language use.  Boosts friend-making skills.  Stimulates the immune system.  Builds self-confidence.  Improves nighttime sleeping.”

Dr. Harvey Karp, MD  The Happiest Toddler on the Block                                                   

Toddlers love to play, and the fact is, they must play! Play is the basis of learning for a toddler.  So yes, when a toddler squirts a banana out between his fingers, there is learning going on!  Toddlers learn how to manipulate their world through play…and one of the biggest parenting responsibilities is to provide opportunities for your child to have free play.  Developmentally many toddlers have separation anxiety, so they want to be near you when then play, but toddlers do not need you to lead their play.  Play for a toddler is based on exploration.  Too often parents want to “show” a toddler how to play…after all we know how that toy works, we read the directions!  Toddlers enjoy play more and learn more when they figure out their own “right way” to play with a toy; and it often is different from the directions.  The process of discovery through play is the tool to learning.

So how do you play with a toddler?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Give your toddler physical help when needed.  Often toddlers know what they want to do, but don’t have the gross or fine motor control to actually act out their plan.  This will often lead to frustration.  A parent can help but not complete  a task of play for the toddler.  Example:  A toddler may want you to show them how to fill a  bucket to make a sand castle, but doesn’t want you to guide the entire process.  I always had to remind my builder husband of this…he wanted to build the castle!
  • Be a partner.  Many games need a partner.  A toddler can’t play ball without someone rolling or tossing the ball to him.  Let your toddler play the game until he or she is finished–not you.  Repeating a game many times is how a toddler masters a skill.  Don’t toss a ball a few times and quit when you are  bored!  Over and over again is how play works for a toddler!
  • Demonstrate.  A toddler will like to be given demonstrations on how things work or even suggestions.  Let your child be free to use your suggestion or not.  Do not interrupt his play to bring another idea or “show you how to do it”.  Let your toddler lead the play.
  • Help with concentration.  A toddler’s attention span is only a few minutes especially if the play involves sitting still.  If a parent sits with a toddler to talk, and encourage during a task, then the toddler will be able to  concentrate longer and might be able to complete a difficult task like a puzzle.  Encourage but don’t do it for your toddler.
  • Help your toddler play with others.  Toddlers will enjoy playing next to other children not really with other children.  Parallel play is common at this age.  Children will play next to each other without really cooperating.  Toddlers are not developmentally mature enough to be left with another child to “fight it out”.  They are not capable of sharing or playing fair without help.  Give two toddlers similar materials or toys and let them play as each of them wishes without interference from each other.  Eventually toddlers will  begin to talk to each other, and a friendship will begin to develop.  Often it is helpful for a toddler to play with older children too.   Older children provide good examples of imaginative play, problem solving, sharing and it helps the older child develop leadership skills too.  Guide your toddler in sharing…show them how to do it.  Eventually they will develop the capacity to share, but only after being shown many times.
  •   Be a good role model for your child when you play.  Ask if you may take a toy and use the words please and thank you.  When your toddler shares with you, praise your child for good sharing.  Choose cooperative games like playing ball, and other activities that take turns.  This helps teach a toddler good social skills        necessary for cooperative play.  Be patient, your child will be capable of sharing and playing with other children some time between the age or 2 and 3, if you have given your toddler the opportunity to develop the skill!
  • Beginning at 18 months encourage imitative and imaginative pretend play.  This is a very important step for your toddler.  Your child will start to imitate important people in his or her life, that would be you!!  Soon that play will change from simply imitating to imaginative play.  Your toddler will take a block and pretend it is a cell phone, or will play “house” with your pots and pans.  This starts symbolic thinking which is very important in developing math and reading skills later.  Imaginative play also teaches empathy…it helps a child start to learn how others feel.  It is fine for your little boy to play pretend with dolls and for your little girl to play pretend with trucks!!  Imaginative play also improves language.  Listen to your toddler, he will self talk as he pretends and will often tell you what to say when you are playing with him!  Join in the conversations!
  • Let your toddler play with safe every day items.  We all know it…your child’s favorite toy may just be the plastic containers in the kitchen, the laundry basket, a silky scarf, or a box!  Expensive toys really are not needed…your imaginative, creative toddler will play with every day things and enjoy it!  These items spark creativity and imagination, so save some money and encourage this!  Remember, a blanket over a card table works just as well as that expensive play house!
  • Get a little messy!  Toddlers love sensory play.  Get out the water, the finger paints, the pudding, the play dough, put on an apron and have fun!  Toddlers need messy creative play.  This will bring out the kid in you too!

So playing with your child is not rocket science.  It is letting your child discover his or her world safely and creatively.  So, sit on the floor, watch your toddler, participate in the play your toddler leads, keep the TV off, and get the plastic kitchen containers out and maybe a little pudding paint…it is going to be a fun 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.

Cindy

Starting solid foods….there really is not a lot of rules!


baby solid foods

Starting solid foods can be stressful…so it seems.  So many of my conversations with parents who are starting foods, thinking about starting foods, or in the middle of food introduction are full of anxiety and questions.  It really should not be.  There are very few guidelines that parents really need to follow.  Many of the “rules” of starting solid foods are not based on a lot of science, but are based on culture and “what grandma did”.  So what is all the worry about??  What are the “rules”?

Let’s keep it simple.

1.  Children should start solid pureed foods when they are developmentally ready for food, usually near the 6 month mark.  Usually at this age healthy children who are developing normally should be showing some interest in foods, sitting up fairly well, and their tongue thrust should be minimal.

2.  First foods are really “practice foods”.  Your baby is trying out new tastes and textures, but their main nutrition should be coming from breast milk or formula.  Solid foods are complimentary the first year.

3.  Pureed foods do not have to be the traditional baby foods…give your baby new and interesting tastes!  There really is no scientific base to withholding any foods, even foods that are traditionally high allergen foods like eggs and peanut butter.  The only food your child should NOT have is honey in the first year.  Introduce new foods every few days and enjoy.

That is really it!  So there really is no need for a schedule, a flow chart or an excel sheet to introduce your child to foods.  Honest…

Even with these simple “rules” there are lots of questions.  Here are some of the most common questions/worries that I hear:

1.   Should I start with rice cereal first? 

Traditionally rice cereal has been the first food for babies in this country…for years!  Why?  Well, it is convenient, it is easy to mix and feed, and it is iron fortified.  Iron stores from Mom may begin to deplete after the first 6 months, so foods with iron are often started first.  There is a lot of debate about white rice cereal, but rice cereal does not HAVE to be first.  There is certainly other whole grain cereals with iron fortification and there is no reason why a baby can’t have pureed meats at 6 months too.  I think we should look at other foods besides rice for a first food.

2.  Should I start with green vegetables first, then yellow, and then fruit?

Don’t have to……there is no evidence that shows if you give your baby green vegetables first he will like vegetables any better or like sweet things less.  No matter what order you introduce foods, all children (adults too) will like the taste of sweet better.  Besides, if you breast feed, your baby has already tasted sweet…your breast milk.  Don’t worry about what color vegetable or what fruit you should introduce when, just offer your baby a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.  You can introduce carrots one day, applesauce a few days later, and then peas…the order doesn’t matter.

3.  Is it healthier to make my baby’s food?  Does it have to be organic?

Many parents worry about the fact that they don’t have time to add baby food making to their “to do” list, but it seems that everyone is telling them that “good parents” provide homemade organic baby food.  Like parenting issues in general, there is always different options for different families.   There certainly are many ways a parent can provide healthy food for their child.  Some parents buy only organic, local food and have special recipes for homemade baby food, some parents shop aisle 2 and pick up whatever food is in stage 1, and other parents go half and half; making some food and buying some. The truth is, your child will not be on pureed foods very long.  I think the sooner your child begins to eat what you are fixing the rest of the family, the better.  Children like foods that have normal seasonings and a wide variety of tastes. Try to make at least some baby food…that means add a little water, breast milk or formula and take a fork and mash or use a blender to puree food for your baby, it is that simple.  Soon your baby will be eating what you do with just a little mashing.

Organic foods have not been proven to provide better nutrition, but the foods do decrease exposure to pesticides.  If your budget doesn’t allow the purchase of organic foods, it is more important to provide a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you want to spend a few dollars on organics….stick with the “dirty dozen”.  Remember organic processed foods like crackers or macaroni and cheese really don’t have a health benefit at all….

4.  You want my baby to eat what I do?

If you are having green beans for dinner…then mash or puree some for your baby.  If you are eating fast food…then no!  If you think your child can’t have what you normally eat, then think about what you normally eat.  I find a lot of parents begin to eat much more healthy when they have a child beginning to eat solid foods.  Remember, the best way to teach healthy eating is being a good role model.

5.  Can’t I start food a little earlier….I need some sleep at night and wouldn’t that help my baby sleep better?

Food does not help a baby sleep at night better….nothing in research has ever shown us this.  Starting solids too early may result in an increase risk of obesity or maybe even a tummy ache because your baby is not able to digest the food well yet.  Starting solid foods is a developmental milestone not a way to “tank up” your baby for sleep.  Early food introduction will not increase your sleep…

6.   Babies can’t eat eggs or peanut butter can they?

The only thing a healthy baby who is not in a family with many food allergies or intolerances can’t have is honey.  That is it!  Babies under a year are at risk for botulism when eating honey, but nothing else that is healthy is off-limits.  There is no waiting for yogurt, eggs, meats, cheeses, fish….nothing….if it is not a choking hazard, then let your baby try it.

Let go of the anxiety….starting foods should be fun and exciting for you and your baby.  Offer new tastes, new textures, and healthy food.  Soon you will see that your child just might LIKE brussel sprouts….even though you never did!  Let your child try it all….and maybe your diet will improve 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.

Cindy

o.

Picky Toddler Eating


Our daughter, Kaitlyn, the picture of  toddler pickiness!

Why is it that we parents worry so much about how much our child is eating?  I can remember thinking that how well Kaitlyn ate that day, determined how well I had parented.  Not true!  Children under the age of one usually nurse or formula feed well, and are eager for the introduction of solid foods.  But seemingly over night, our toddlers start to have an opinion about what we feed them!  I can remember being very frustrated because I was providing her with this wonderfully healthy meal, and often all she wanted was bananas!  To make it more confusing, the next day she may have thrown all those bananas off her tray!  My darling daughter was a typical toddler, and with toddlers, meals are often a challenge.  Why?

1.Toddlers have slowed down in growth.

The first year of life a child grows very quickly, between birth and a year most children triple their birth weight!  A toddler grows much more slowly and seems less hungry.

2.  Eating interrupts a toddler’s activity.

Toddlers are busy…any parent can tell you that.  Sitting for any length of time just isn’t on the toddler’s agenda!

3.  You can’t force a toddler to eat.

A parent’s job is to present a toddler with a wide taste pallet of healthy foods every day.  It is up to the child to eat them!  The more you force, the more most toddlers turn up their noses.  A healthy child offered healthy food will NOT starve themself!

4.  Toddlers usually eat one good meal a day.

Often toddlers will eat a good breakfast, an OK lunch and pick at dinner. Toddlers only need about 40 calories an inch. (Now don’t get that calculator out for your child!)  Most will only need about 1000 to 1200 calories a day.  By dinner, many toddlers have eaten their required calories for the day!

5.  Toddlers like to binge on one food.

Food jags are common in toddlers.  One day you can’t fill them up on green beans, and then two days later it is bananas.    Some days a toddler may eat only fruit, the next day they may fill up on protein.  What a toddler eats over a week is a better picture of their diet intake.

So what is a parent to do….

  • Relax!
  •  Offer food frequently!  Toddlers need 3 meals and at least 2 snacks offered each day.  Toddlers behave better when they are eating frequently.  Their tummies are small and temper tantrums increase when blood sugars are low.  Try planning snacks from at least 2 food groups 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Dip it!  Toddlers like to dip everything.  It is fun, and it is messy…two essentials for toddler eating!  Humus, yogurt, cottage cheese, guacamole, melted cheese, salsa, peanut butter and even ranch dressing are some essential dips for toddlers.
  • Hide it!  Hide the broccoli under cheese sauce, shred the vegies and mix them in humus or cream cheese and spread on a tortilla and cut into pin wheels, puree vegies and add them to pasta sauce, lasagna, meatloaf.  Make “orange ” pancakes with sweet potato puree or carrot puree and a dash of cinnamon.  Get sneaky!   When you hide vegetables, make sure you include some on your child’s plate so they learn what a balanced diet looks like.
  • Be creative!  Kids like fun.  Make faces on sandwiches, use cookie cutters and cut shapes in pancakes and bread, make shish-ka-bobs with fruit and pretzel sticks, make party bananas with sprinkles, serve fruit and yogurt in an ice cream cone, try smoothies….
  • Remember the toddler serving size!  A serving size is a tablespoon per year.  One serving of vegetables for a 2-year-old is two tablespoons!  Many times we are trying to serve our toddlers adult size portions!  The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great “sample” daily meal plan.  Take a look!
  •  Don’t let your toddler “drink” his calories.  A toddler should only have  16 to a maximum of 20 ounces of milk a day.  That is much less than the 28 to 32 ounces most were drinking before becoming toddlers!  If your child drinks too much cow’s milk, he will not eat solid food calories!  Too much milk provides too little iron and other needed nutrients!  Juice should be limited to only 4 to 6 ounces a day, better to have the whole fruit than just the juice!
  • Let your child “shop” for food.  Give your child a few dollars and let them “shop” in the produce section.  Your child will be more likely to eat the food he or she “buys”!  You might learn to cook and eat a new fruit or vegetable too….you never know what your child may pick out!  (this is how I learned to fix spaghetti squash!)
  • Let your child “help” prepare food.  A child who watches a parent make dinner and “helps” will often be more likely to eat!  Let your child have a few choices, control is important for toddlers.
  • Let your child be messy.  Toddlers explore food with their mouths, taste buds, and hands.  They smash food, throw food, spread food, “paint” with food and generally need a bath after most meals.  You must allow your toddler to feed himself.  You must introduce spoons and forks, and be patient with the fact that it takes time and messes to learn how to use them!
  • Don’t battle…try a “No thank you bite”.  Toddlers have opinions, and sometimes they are very strong!  The more battle there is in a meal, the more likely you will lose!  Offer healthy foods and a variety of foods.  If your toddler refuses to try something, introduce a “no thank you bite”.  One bite and then he can refuse more.  You might even ask your child to “kiss” the food, not even take a bite.  This may provide just a small enough taste to convince your child to take a bite!  Remember, it takes 15 to 20 introductions to a food before your child will develop a definite like or dislike!

Remember, a parent’s job is to PROVIDE healthy meals and snacks….a toddler’s job is to DECIDE what he or she will eat that day. If left alone, toddlers will usually balance their own diet if we just provide good choices.  Relax….

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

Cindy

Helpful Websites:

www.annabelkarmel.com

www.wholesometoddlerfood.com

http://weelicious.com/tag/toddler-recipes

Early to bed and very early to rise…that is a toddler!


Kelsey up and at ’em bed hair and all…always smiling and more chipper than me at her early wake time!

Oh I remember those mornings…waking to the sweet cry or call from my toddler’s room at hmmmm 5:00 am?  Neither of us was really ready to start the day, and both of us were crabby by 9:00 am!  Early morning waking and toddlers seem to go together.  A very common question that many parents have is, “How can I get my toddler to sleep later in the morning?”  ” What is a “normal” wake time for a toddler?”

The first answer is…there is no “normal”.  Every child is certainly different.  There always is that parent that has a 2-year-old that sleeps until 8:30 every morning.  That was never me, and most of us will not have a toddler that lounges in bed in the morning!  In general, toddlers are wired early to bed and early to rise.  Many children will wake up by 6:00 am, so if you are not a morning person, you will become one! (Maybe with the help of coffee!)  Toddlers will sleep about 11 to 12 hours at night, so with a bedtime of 7:00-7:30 pm that gives them a wake time of 6:00 to 7:00 am.   Pushing back the bedtime until later will usually backfire for most children.  A late bedtime usually results in an earlier wake time because the toddler will become overly tired.  I know that does not make logical sense, but that is a toddler!   Here are a few tips that might help that extra-early waker:

  • Adjust your expectations.  A wake time of about 6:00 to 6:30 is within the range of normal for a toddler.  Make sure you are in bed earlier too!
  • Adjust your child’s bedtime.  Early to bed is a great habit for children.  A child that is up too late and becomes overly tired will wake earlier.  Sleep begets sleep in toddlers.  A bedtime by 7:30 to 8:00 pm is an important sleep habit, and it gives you a bit of an evening too.
  • Purchase black out shades.  Most children are light sensitive…early light will wake them and light in the evening (daylight savings time) will keep them awake.
  • White noise may help too.  If you have a noisy street in the morning, try white noise to keep your child from being disturbed.
  • If your child wakes before 6:00 am, tell him it is still nighttime and let them him fuss it out a bit.  (Turn down the monitor if you are still using it, he will be fine!)  Do not bring the toddler to your bed.  Neither of you will sleep and this will become a habit!  Keep a few books or lovey in bed with your toddler so that he can entertain himself quietly and hopefully go back to sleep.  Soon, he will wake and then learn to fall back to sleep.  Most of the time, the very early-wakers are arousing during their last sleep cycle and need to go back to sleep.  After a few days of fussing, most children will no longer cry for you at the early waking, they will simply roll over and go back to sleep.
  • For a toddler age 3 or older, try a nightlight with a timer.  Tell your child when the nightlight switches off, it is morning and he can call you.
  • You can also try “wake up” clocks that turn green when it is time to get up!

Be patient, most toddlers have periods of sleep issues.  Stick to your routine, be consistent, and follow the “early to bed, early to rise” guideline…for yourself too!  A cup of coffee and the sunrise can be a beautiful thing…just go with it!

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

Cindy

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.

Cindy

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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