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

Break the Ice and Let a Child Warm Up…It Helps with Stranger Anxiety and Separation!

christy and noa

My Sister Christy and her sweet Noa….I finally got a snuggle from Noa after “breaking the ice” with a few high fives and singing “Pony Boy”.  

This past weekend we had a family gathering and I was able to visit with my youngest sister’s children. I don’t see them often, but when I do I can’t wait to give both of them a snuggle and I love to steal some time with them. I always have to “restrain” myself because my first inclination is to swoop them up and give them a big hug and kiss. I know better…but it is so hard to resist those cute little cheeks and big brown eyes. I learned quickly again this weekend that starting slowly is the key and being satisfied with a “high five” at first might be the best way to some real snuggle time later.

Separation anxiety and stranger anxiety is real in children. It can vary between kids, but most infants and toddlers experience some degree of it. There are some children who will melt down if Mom is merely out of sight and some children who are more social butterflies. Some children begin with tears as an infant and struggle through the preschool years and some children react intensely but for only a few months. All of this is normal…none of this means you as a parent are doing anything wrong. Separation issues actually mean that your child has a wonderful attachment to you! Knowledge of that doesn’t make it any easier to see your child cry and reach for you as you leave or see your child cry as a loving Grandma, Aunt, Uncle or dear friend attempts to love on them. So how do we help our kiddos get through it?? Here are a few milestones….

  • Infants develop separation anxiety around the time they develop object permanence at about 9 months. Some infants will display this as early as 4 to 5 months but most are later.  Stranger anxiety begins around the 5 to 7 month age.
  • Toddlers experience the peak of separation anxiety at about 18 months of age. Their separation anxiety can result in temper tantrums, loud tears, and physical acting out… they are difficult to handle!
  • Some preschoolers will still show anxiety when Mom and Dad leave, but are much better able to handle the separation. Parents should definitely work with being consistent in leaving preschoolers and develop rituals that are meaningful when they leave and return.

So what does a parent do when an Aunt (like me) goes to swoop up their child resulting in lots of tears??

  1. Introduce slowly. Warn friends and relatives that your child is struggling with some separation or stranger anxiety. Introduce new people when you are holding your child. Don’t force the issue. Suggest a slow “get to know you” with giving a high five rather than a hug and kiss at the beginning or sitting on the floor playing or simply smiles and conversation in the safety of your arms. Adults need to understand that forcing a child to come to them only increases the anxiety!
  2. Develop some good bye rituals that you and your child own. Special kisses, snuggles, secret handshakes…whatever you develop that is special to you and your child will work. Keep the good-bye brief and consistent each time. Never sneak away, always say goodbye with a promise that you will return.   Use “kid time” meaning telling your child a time that he or she understands. “When you wake up from your nap, Mom will be home.” “After you eat your snack, I will be home.” If you are going to be gone for a couple of days, speak about it in terms of number of “sleeps” and leave a calendar to mark off or a construction paper chain that can be torn so your child can visually see when you will be home again. Remember, they do not have a concept of time, but children do know their routines! Be sure if you make a promise of when you will return, you keep it!
  3. Practice makes perfect. Children need to practice separating from parents. Go to the gym, use a babysitter, leave your child with Grandma or a trusted friend, practice your good-bye ritual and then return with lots of hugs and kisses. Learning that Mom and Dad leave but always come back is an important lesson for your child. It is great practice for you too! Sometimes our anxiety when leaving our child is transferred to our child…remember your child reads your anxiety and if Mom and Dad are nervous, then your child will be too!

After giving my sweet niece some time, a few high fives, and a little “Pony Boy song” she finally came to me for some snuggles before the night was over. Most likely I will have to start over the next time I see her…but practice makes perfect! Watching her with my sister and brother-in-law, it is easy to see why she thinks her Mommy and Daddy are pretty special…I agree with her!

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


How to handle separation anxiety…or how to leave with a child holding on to your leg!

Nothing worse than leaving a child screaming for you not to go…but most kids will have separation anxiety at some point!

I watched a poor Mom try to leave her toddler in the child care area of the place I work out in the other day.  The toddler was screaming, hanging on her leg, and Mom looked like she felt like the worst Mom in the world as she pried the child off her leg promising she would be back soon.  I smiled at her and said, “It is hard, but I am sure he will be happy by the time you get a ½ mile in on that treadmill.”   She peeked her head back in just a moment later (I know she couldn’t have run a 1/2 mile that fast!), and he was playing happily.   I remember that feeling of dread when I would leave especially with our 3rd daughter; she always melted down and was totally pitiful.  I remember resorting to promising all kinds of fun activities and treats when I returned.  Not sure that was the best tactic, but it helped my “Mommy guilt” a little.

Separation anxiety is a given in most children.  Some children experience greater anxiety than others, and almost all parents feel just as bad if not worse than their screaming child when they leave.  Separation anxiety can start in infancy, peak in the toddler years, and then hopefully decrease by the end of the preschool years.

  • Infants usually will not start to show separation anxiety until they develop the concept of object permanence at about 9 months of age.  Before that point, out of sight is out of  mind for an infant.
  • Toddlers will usually experience separation anxiety, even if they did not seem to experience it as an infant.  Separation anxiety will be at its peak between 18 and 24 months of age.  Toddlers will express their dislike of separation very loudly!
  • Preschoolers will start to be able to handle separation a bit more easily.  Some 3 and 4-year-olds will learn that their expression of discontent when parents leave will have an effect on Mom and Dad, and often will manipulate parents when they find out it works!


  • Always say good-bye.  It is tempting to sneak out when your child is involved in an activity.  This makes it easier on you, but harder on your child.  Sneaking out can actually increase separation anxiety in a child.  A child will start to become anxious every time he doesn’t see you fearing you have left.  Always say good-bye but keep it short and sweet, the longer the good-bye, the greater the anxiety.  Be sure that you give your child a hug, kiss and  your total attention before leaving.  Do not be multi-tasking as you say good-bye.
  • Tell your child you will return and give them a “time”.  This means “kid time”.  Tell them what time by what they will be doing.  “I will be back after you sleep.”  “I will be back after snack time.”
  • Separate often.  That is the key to getting over separation anxiety.  A child will learn that Mommy and Daddy leave, but they come back.  Separation does not have to be long, but it needs to happen enough that your child can remember the last time.  If you are a stay-at-home-Mom, you need to plan time away from your child.  It is good for you and your child.  If your child is starting daycare or preschool, practice being away and leaving your child for periods of time.

Soon your child will learn that he or she can handle the world when Mom or Dad is not always in eye view, that means you will have to learn that your child can handle the world without you too.  I am still learning that lesson.

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


Simple steps to prevent childhood obesity…we can do it!

We all have heard that childhood obesity is a major health issue in our country.  Children who are overweight will be more likely to be overweight adults and develop significant health issues.  We hear so much in the media about what to eat, what not to eat, how to cook, how much exercise we all need, and frankly sometimes it is simply overwhelming to parents.  We all are busy and many times the drive through at the fast food restaurant just calls our name at the end of a long day.  We can develop healthy patterns as families to guide our children to healthy lifestyles.  These healthy patterns can be simple…it is just getting started.  So, parents….let’s get started!

Breastfeed when possible and no solid foods before 4 months of age…

  • A recent study showed that with children who were breastfed for at least four months, the timing of solid food introduction did not affect the obesity rate of the child at age 3.  Children who were never breastfed or who stopped breastfeeding before age 4 months and were given solid foods before the recommended 4 months of age were 6 times more likely to be obese by age 3.

Know where your child is…(know where you are too!)

  • At your child’s 2 year old well child visit, your pediatrician will calculate his body mass index (BMI). This is a better indicator of weight issues than simply where your child is on the growth chart.  A child with a BMI greater than the 85th percentile for his age and sex is overweight, a BMI greater than the 95th percentile determines that your child is obese.
  • Children that have parents who are overweight have an increased risk to become overweight too.

Know what a serving size is….

Remember, children need child size portions!  A tablespoon per year equals a serving.  This is a simple guideline.  For a child age 2 to 3:

  • Grain Group: About 3 ounces of grains per day, half of them whole grains. That is about three regular slices of bread or one slice of bread plus 1/3 cup cold cereal and ¼ cup cooked rice or pasta.
  • Vegetable Group: 1 cup raw and/or cooked vegetables per day. (no ketchup is not a vegetable J, but tomato pasta sauce counts!)
  • Fruit Group: 1 cup fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.  Juice should be kept at a minimum.  Whole fruits are better than juice!
  • Dairy Group: 2 cups per day. Whole milk is recommended for children younger than 2, low-fat after age 2.
  • Meat and Beans Group: 2 ounces total per day. Options include one ounce of lean meat or chicken plus one egg or 1 ounce of fish plus ¼ cup of cooked beans (black, pinto, etc.).
  • Oils: 3 teaspoons or less per day of liquid oil or margarine.
  • For more information about eating plans and serving sizes for other aged children, visit MyPyramid.gov.

Provide two healthy snacks a day…

  • Unhealthy snacks fill up small tummies so children don’t eat the nutrient dense foods they need.  Try giving fruits and vegetables as snacks.  These foods are low-calorie, high fiber, and full of vitamins and antioxidants.  Giving these foods when your child is hungry encourages your child to give them a try.
  • Juice should be at a minimum…and no soda at all!
  • Keep healthy snacks in plain sight.  A bowl of fruit on the counter, fresh cut up vegetables on the first shelf in the refrigerator, dried fruit and trail mix in the pantry.
  • Don’t let your child eat because of boredom.  If your child has eaten well and had a healthy snack but still is begging for more…then suggest another activity.  Ask you child what he would like to do besides eat.  Help your child distinguish between “I’m bored” and “I’m hungry.”
  • Make snack time planned…no grazing throughout the day.  Have your child sit on the floor or at the table for snack time.  Mindless eating is an unhealthy habit!

Provide healthy choices at meals

  • Serve whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Whole milk until age 2 and then low-fat or skim milk after age 2.
  • Full fat yogurt until age 2 and then lower sugar and low-fat yogurt.
  • Serve lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish and lean beef cuts and pork cuts.  Remove fat and skin.
  • Bake, broil, poach, grill, or steam when preparing meat, fish, and chicken.
  • Use vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, and sunflower.
  • Encourage fresh fruits and vegetables in season, frozen next and canned last.  Have fruits and vegetables at EVERY meal.
  • Limit fast food to an occasional meal only.
  • Treats can include frozen fruit bars, frozen yogurt, low-fat pudding, angel food cake, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, and of course…the occasional Oreo!  Balance and moderation are important to teach children so they do not “binge” later.

Don’t force your child to be members of the “Clean plate club”…

  • Forcing children to eat everything that is put on their plates often leads to overeating.
  • Focus on the quality of the food your child eats and no the quantity.  Let your child learn what it feels like to be full and what it feels like to be hungry.

Get your child excited about healthy food….

Eat breakfast every day…

  • Start every day out right with a healthy breakfast.  Children often eat their best meal of the day in the morning.  Include healthy grains, fruits and proteins to give your child a great start.
  • Children and adults who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.

Establish good sleep habits…

Get your child active…60 minutes of active play at least every day…

  • Get outside every day.
  • Choose developmentally appropriate activities.  Be careful about organized sports too early…burnout can happen.  Let your child just be a kid and play!!!
  • Provide active toys.  You should have balls, jump ropes, bikes and other active toys.
  • Be a role model.  Build physical activity into your daily life so you can keep up with your children and feel better!
  • Turn off the TV and limit computer time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time a day after age 2.  That includes video games, TV, movies, and computers.

There is so much that parents can do to prevent childhood obesity and lifelong weight issues and medical problems.  Outdoor play, limited TV, limited fast food, healthy food choices, teaching appreciation for good foods, and soon everyone in the house is feeling better, having fun, and living a healthier lifestyle. We can do this Moms and Dads!

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 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.


Stuttering or stammering…should you worry?

excited child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baby talk! Encouraging language development in your child.

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

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

Believe me, hearing the sweet voice of your child say “Ma Ma” or “Da Da” is one of those moments you always remember.  Later, I can remember thinking….”Maybe I should change my name, I am tired of hearing “MO-OMMMM!” Suddenly it was a two syllable word that rocked the house!  Now, I love hearing “Mom” when I get that phone call 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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