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

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

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

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

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

1.  Dolls or stuffed Animals

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

2.  Blocks

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

3.  Puzzles

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

4.  Playhouse or Tent

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

5.  Shopping Cart

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

6.  Musical Instruments

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

7.  Dress up clothes

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

8.  Play Animal Set

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

9.  Play Kitchen

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

10. Tool kits and Work Benches

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

11. Ride on Toys

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

12.  Cars and Trucks

Big dump trucks, front loaders, and any kind of car are important for girls and boys.  What child doesn’t like to maneuver a car or truck and go “four wheeling” over the grass or in a sand box or dirt?  Cars and trucks are great for fine motor control, learning cause and effect, imaginative play, and constructive play.  Our girls didn’t think Barbie looked bad in a front loader either!

13. Items for an Art Box

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

14. Water or Sand Play

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

15. Balls

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

16.  And of course… Books

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

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

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


Why Being a Parent is at the Top of My Gratitude List


I am sitting this morning in the quiet, sipping my coffee, and making a gratitude list.  I must admit, it is very long.  It is so good for me to actually list what I am thankful for because in my everyday life, I often overlook some of my simple daily blessings.  My life with my husband who is best friend and love of my life and our four children and our son-in-law definitely tops my gratitude list.  Everyone will be home by Wednesday and the house will be lively.  Life is good.  I am grateful.  This time of year always turns my thoughts to gratitude, and I realize that simply because I am a parent, my blessing cup overflows. Our children have brought me a greater joy than any other aspect of my life.  I am grateful for so much in my life, but some of the reasons that I am grateful to be a Mom include:

The Experience of Parenting Love. 

From the moment I “fell in love” with each of my children, the definition of love changed. It was a mix of responsibility, awe, pride, exhaustion, frustration and wanting more for them than myself and an immense, heart expanding love.  All of this has a overflowed back to me. A total gift…so much more than I have given.

Enjoying the wonder of Life. 

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

Learning that there is more joy in the accomplishments of your child than in your own.

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

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

There is nothing like feeling loved.  Those beautiful wet toddler kisses, the quick hugs from my teenagers so no one would see, the high fives after a game, the looks from across the room that said “Thanks I love you Mom”, and the wonderful hugs and kisses as they walk in our door now as adults…that is the love I hold in my heart.

Loving my husband more. 

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

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

Kids definitely come with messes…but those messy times hold a special place in my heart.  I am so thankful I was the one who was blessed to put the bandages on knees, clean up sticky messes, and work through life’s problems.

Realizing that my children have helped me appreciate my own parents.

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

Realizing that my children have made me a better person.

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

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

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



The Holidays are Approaching….Need Tips on Coping?

Tis the season of great joy, happiness, perfect family togetherness,…..not always! 

The holidays are quickly approaching and for parents of young children this season can be wonderful, but also full of challenges.  If you are looking for the perfect holiday experiences, you are destined to be disappointed.  You can have a wonderful season with family friends, and sanity if you start with your expectations.  Most disappointment starts with expectations that are unrealistic.  The reality of most houses is that the turkey may be over done, the children have spilled on their outfits, the tree is leaning a bit and the gifts may be wrapped with duct tape!  The truth is that the holidays are all about the relationships, not the details.  That is a big statement from me, because I can certainly get caught up in the details!  If parents are stressed, who else becomes stressed???  Your children…

Let’s look at some tips for decreasing your stress and helping you and your child enjoy this wonderful time of year.

  1. Holidays can be very difficult for a child especially if they tend to get over stimulated like infants and toddlers.  Provide quiet “touch time” with your child each day, and remove stimulation if your child becomes very fussy or clingy.  Try to plan just one major activity a day.
  2. Know your child’s developmental level–handling excitement and managing disappointment are sophisticated skills for children under age 8.  Know that socially unacceptable behavior may occur!
  3. Think about how you handle stress in general and holiday stress in particular.  Children observe our behavior and learn from what they observe. Model good coping skills for your children.
  4. Encourage thinking of others and our many blessings.  Talk about the gifts and blessings that your family enjoys and the importance of sharing with those less fortunate.  Removing some of the “I want” and replacing it with “I am thankful for…” can reduce stress.
  5. Provide structure and routine.  Children behave better, sleep better, and are less fussy when there is routine.  That doesn’t mean that you have to stick to your every day routine, but make sure you are planning for nap time and planning for quiet times.  Be your child’s advocate, when your child needs down time, insist.
  6. When visiting family and friends, there may be many new faces for your child.  Introduce unfamiliar people slowly.  Hold your child as they get to know others.  Do not let your baby be passed around among many new people.  Stay where your child can see your familiar face.  Your child may be happy being held by others if he or she can see you.
  7. When spending the night away from home.  Try to keep the familiar bedtime ritual used at home.  Be sure that you have a safe sleeping area for your child.  Bring a pack-n-play or be sure that the crib that is provided is safe.  Don’t forget that special “lovey” or book that your child needs to sleep!
  8. Be careful introducing lots of new foods in your child’s diet and your diet when nursing.  Tummy aches can be a problem when there are lots of new foods, but relax; the holidays bring some extra sweets.  Teach that cookies and treats are fine in moderation.  Allow your child to indulge!
  9. Set appropriate boundaries and limits.  Toddlers need limits in order to feel secure.  If you must discipline, be respectful of your child, especially older children.  Discipline in private.
  10. Carve out quiet time with each child.  Quiet time in the evening is a must after an active day.

Tips on family gatherings, shopping, Santa visits and more to come…what tips do you have to help families enjoy the holidays?

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



Trick or Treat….Safely!!

There are few more fun times for a child than Halloween!  Make sure the fun is safe fun!  Our little clown had a wonderful time!

I was at Target today buying my Halloween treats for my little trick-or-treaters that will visit our house this next week.  (May be a bit early….I have a history of eating the first round of treats I buy!)  I remember fun Halloweens when the kids were little.  Our little clown was scared of herself at first when she looked in the mirror! As soon as we took off her “clown hair” and showed her that it was still her under that wig the tears stopped and the fun began. “Painting” your child’s face while they watch in the mirror may help that…a lesson we learned!   I bought some healthier options like Halloween pretzels, raisins and Play-dough, but also stocked up on some chocolate (maybe quite a bit of chocolate).  Remember, everything in moderation is fine!

Halloween is an exciting night for most children, but we want it to be a safe night too.  Here are some tips to think about:

  • Think about using a glow stick, flameless candle, or flashlight in your Jack-O-Lantern.  A little ghost kicking over a candle lit pumpkin could be dangerous!
  • Keep your porch light on and be sure that your front porch is clear of any “tripping hazards”.  Falls are the most common injury on Halloween.
  • According to www.safekids.org only 1/3 of parents talk to their children about Halloween safety!  Every year we need to remind our children about basic safety…children, cars, costumes, candy, and dark can be a dangerous mix.
  • Adults, we need to be extra cautious and slow our driving down.  Children dart quickly when there is excitement and candy.  S-L-O-W is the name of the game when driving.
  • Our little ghosts, princesses, super heroes, and goblins need to have safe costumes.
    • Only about 18% of children have reflective tape on their costumes.  This is an easy way to make your child more visible and safe.
    • Costumes are safer when there is no mask.  Let your child’s cute face show with a little bit of Halloween make-up…a much better choice for safety.
    • Safe shoes and well-fitting costumes will keep your child from tripping and falling!  Costumes that are big and flowing can be a fire hazard with Jack-O-Lanterns and candles.
    • A Flashlight is fun at night and helps your child see and be seen.
  • Make sure that an adult is with your child until at least 12 years of age.  Trick-or-Treat in neighborhoods that are familiar.  Carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Teach your child to cross at the corners and look both ways.  Be sure cars have stopped before your child ventures into the street.  Stay on sidewalks when possible.
  • Check your child’s treats for choking hazards and to be sure that they are safe and wrapped.  Discourage your child from eating treats until you are home and the treats are checked.
  • Make sure your child knows not to enter a house unless you give them permission.
  • This is a great time to practice manners….a “thank you” after a treat is great practice!
  • Have a healthy dinner before going out.  Fill your child’s tummy with some nutritious food to balance the snacks later!
  • Relax…being a kid includes eating Halloween treats.  Teach the healthy view of moderation.  Allow a few treats over the next few days…those memories of treats, costumes, and after dark walks through the neighborhood are precious, make sure your child has some!  I miss my four little goblins!!  🙂

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Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember 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.


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