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??
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
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.
- 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!
- 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….
- Go to local Farmer’s Markets and let them pick out fresh produce.
- Start a garden and grow some vegetables of your own.
- Give them age appropriate jobs in the kitchen. Letting children help prepare healthy foods encourages healthy eating and excitement!
- Get creative and expand everyone’s palates. Try new foods!
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…
- Making sure your child gets good sleep can help prevent obesity! Research has shown that people who sleep less than the recommended amount gain weight faster. One theory is that fatigue decreases activity or may increase appetite.
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.
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.
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
- Baby will startle to sound
- Quiets or smiles when you speak to him
- Recognizes your voice
- Smiles at you
- Babbles and uses sounds with p, b and m
- 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!! 🙂
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.