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

You both are ready…ditch those diapers!

So, your little one is growing up!  You are starting to see signs that potty training just might be in your child’s immediate future.  You are ready to help this process along….so what next?

When you think the time is right…

  • When you are ready and have no major stresses in your life.
  • When your child is showing increased interest in the potty.

1. Go buy “big girl” or “big boy” pants together.  Talk about not getting those special pants wet and dirty!

2. Start by using the potty several times a day on a routine.  Put your child on the toilet 20 to 30 minutes after every meal, before naps, right after naps, before bath…develop a routine.

3.  Feed your child fruits and fibers to keep stool soft.  Give your child plenty to drink so there are many opportunities to potty.

4.  You might try letting your child play in lukewarm water with toys as he or her sits on the potty…..it may encourage “peeing”.

5. When you are ready to potty train full go—-ditch the diapers!!  Diapers or pull ups make it difficult for a child to feel when they start to wet and give a sense of security.  Even the feel and learn type pull ups are not like the good ole’ fashioned cotton underwear!  You can put rubber pants or a disposable pull up over the underwear to help contain accidents.  Do not switch back and forth from diapers to underwear, this becomes very confusing for a child.  You can purchase car seat protectors for your trips out and about.

6. Start setting the timer for every hour and a half to two hours and announcing “it’s potty time!”  Try staying home for a few days and close to the potty to get the process started.  A weekend is a great time to start!

7.  Try letting your child run naked with a long t-shirt outside or inside on non carpeted floors for periods of time.  When you see your child begin to pee or poop, bring them to the potty.  This allows your toddler to feel and learn very easily.

8. Handle accidents with patience.  Very little reaction…just “oops next time we will use the potty!”  Remember this is a process!  When there is an accident, place your child immediately on the potty to “finish”.  This will help them equate the potty with the action.

9.  Be sure your child is really ready.  If you start too soon the road will be more difficult.  If you meet resistance, take a break for a couple of weeks and then try again.

10.  Adjust your attitude.  It is important that children are never forced, shamed or manipulated into using the toilet.

11.  Celebrate success.  Success is just sitting on the potty at first!   Decide what reward system you will use and what works for your child.    Some parents find sticker charts, songs, high fives, M & Ms or other special treats will do the trick.   M & Ms were perfect for us….one for my child and two for me!   Do not over celebrate as this can cause stress for some children, especially children who are real “pleasers”.

12. Do not teach any other difficult tasks during this time.

13.  Remember the mantra “two steps forward one-step back”.  Often children start well and then lose some interest or start having accidents.  Remember, it takes a lot of work for a toddler to figure this out!  Sometimes concentration is lost!

14.  Be sure to teach good hygiene.  Teach toddlers how to wipe bottoms, wash hands, and flush toilets with the lid closed.  Toddlers will not be able to completely wipe themselves, especially after a bowel movement, without help for some time, often until about age 5.

15.  Potty train for daytime only…leave night time training for later.  This is a different process!  Use diapers or disposable training pants for night time use, you can call them “sleeping pants” to keep from confusing your child.

So, give it a try if the timing is right!  Both you and your child will feel so accomplished.  Practice that celebratory “potty dance” and pick up some M & Ms to reward your child and yourself.  Tomorrow…a few “potty pitfalls” that can make potty training a little more challenging.

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


Will preschool help your child be academically successful?

kels on swing

Preparing your child for school success includes outings like this!  School readiness is not just about letters and numbers!

It is that time of year when parents are beginning to look at preschools for next year.  Sometimes I feel that there is more pressure on parents to find “just the right preschool” than deciding on a college!   Preschool is a must for some children, but it is NOT a must for every child.  Studies have shown us that children who have engaged parents who read to them and provide various activities at home but don’t attend preschool are not at any academic disadvantage.  Some recent studies continue to show us that any academic edge a child may receive from preschool may fade by the 3rd grade.

So, do I think preschool is a waste?  Absolutely not, I feel it is very advantageous to those children that have fewer opportunities.  I also think that with Kindergarten now being a full day, a year of preschool often helps children adjust to the rigor of school.  It has become more necessary for children to have at least one year of preschool to help with the adjustment, prepare the child for following directions, learning to sit still for periods of time, and the general routine of school.  However, I do think that the choice of preschool attendance for 2 and 3 year olds from families who are able to provide outings, hands on activities, and reading at home is an option.  Many children LOVE their preschool experience, and Moms often enjoy some time to themselves.  Children also can learn very valuable social skills and have the opportunity to participate in some play activities that are not always offered at home like finger-painting and other messy play.  However, everything that a quality preschool offers can be offered at home by a loving, involved and active parent, if they would like.  At times I think parents are sent the message that they are not capable of providing the necessary experiences for their child to develop well and be successful in school.  Parents feel inadequate in the task of preparing their preschooler for academic success.  This is simply not true.  Attending preschool will not insure that a child will be more successful in school and unfortunately will not guarantee admission to Harvard!  More important than letters and numbers, a preschooler needs to develop life skills, social skills, self-confidence, and emotional maturity to be successful in school. To help with success in kindergarten, a child needs these basics:

  1. Good physical health so their natural abilities can grow and mature.
  2. Appropriate emotional maturity and self-confidence so they can accept new challenges.
  3. Good language skills so they can ask questions and participate in group activities.
  4. Good social skills so they will be able to share and interact with other children.
  5. Good listening skills to be able to follow directions.
  6. Familiarity with letters, letter sounds and numbers.
  7. The ability to sit still for short periods of time.

We are finding that a child does not need a structured academic program in a preschool; he or she needs the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills.  Children who do not have that opportunity at home will benefit from a preschool program.

Young children learn best through playing, exploring, and discovering.  Imaginative play will actually improve high level thinking which improves a child’s chances of school success. Forcing pencil and paper academics and academic drills too early might actually decrease a child’s natural desire to explore and learn!

What makes a good preschool?

  •  A preschool should be convenient for parents!  If it causes stress to get to school because of location or time of day, it will not be worth it to you or your child. 
  •  Children should be active in the classroom playing and/or working in groups or stations.
  •  There should be hands-on materials and activities available.  Pretend play items; dress up clothes, water play, easels, painting, clay etc.
  •  Children should have individual time and group time with the teachers.  There should be 1 adult/teacher for every 4 to 5 children.
  • Children should have their work displayed in the classroom…and it should not all look the same!  Children should have the opportunity to be creative with projects.
  • The learning of numbers and letters should be embedded in activities throughout the day, not in concentrated lessons or drills.
  • There should be outside play daily (weather permitting).
  • There should be a developed curriculum that provides some structure to the day.
  • Teachers should have an Early Child Development background/education.
  • There should be a stable teaching staff with little turnover.
  • Music should be incorporated into the curriculum.
  • Daily life skills should be incorporated into the curriculum like buttoning, shoe tying, putting on jackets, picking up toys, sitting for short periods to listen and following directions.
  • There should be opportunity for children to socialize in play with other children freely learning sharing, taking turns, and other social skills.
  •  Children should be read to in groups and individually.
  • “Field trips” to experience the world should be included in the curriculum.  Trips to apple orchards, parks, the zoo, nature centers and other community destinations are important.

What can you do at home?

  •  Provide time for imaginative play.  Be sure that you have toys that encourage creativity and imagination.
  •  Provide time to use paint, clay, scissors, crayons, chalk, water play, and other tactile fine motor play.
  •  Provide outdoor play daily (weather permitting).
  • Expose your child to the world by going to the grocery store, post office, library, zoo, park, nature center, apple orchard, pumpkin patch, and other places.  Talk about your outings!
  •  Read daily.  Provide books that your child can “read” alone.
  • Talk about stories that you read.  Ask your child what will happen next!  Let your child tell you the story.
  •  Provide music.  Sing songs and dance.  
  •  Point out letters on signs, talk about funny words, find words that rhyme, talk about the sounds that words begin with.
  •  Point out numbers, count items when playing, incorporate counting into everyday life.
  •  Have a routine at home; following routines will help when your child has structure and routine at school.
  •  Allow your child to dress himself. Practice buttoning, shoe tying, independently going to the bathroom, hand washing, and other    independent life skills.
  •  Give your child directions to follow. Start with one step directions and then move to two steps, and three and four step directions. 
  •  Give your child developmentally appropriate chores or responsibilities.  (Pick up toys, carry dishes to the sink, put dirty clothes in the hamper etc.) 
  •  Provide sorting and sequencing opportunities.  Use a muffin tin for your child to sort different cereal, colored pompoms, letters, or other items.  Let your child help you sort socks!
  •  Help your child recognize his or her name in print.
  •  Talk about shapes your child may see around the house or outdoors.
  •  Provide opportunities for your child to play with children his or her own age.

We all want our children to be successful in school.  I believe however that the most important skills our preschool aged children need are not academic but social.  Children are very pliable; we can teach a child to do many things at a very young age.  We can teach a 2-year-old to recite numbers and letters, and we can even teach many 4 year olds to read….but I question at what cost?  Will our children develop those skills that are truly needed for success in school?  The skills that will allow him or her to problem solve, interact socially in a respectful and appropriate manner, follow directions and listen, and think with innovation and creativity; those are what are most important.  So whether your child is in preschool or at home, be sure you are opening up the world to him or her, not pressuring academics too early and then your child just might end up heading to Harvard!  What are your thoughts?

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 child care dilemma, how do you choose?

Tragically, we sometimes see in the news a report about a child’s injury or death in a day care setting.  This is certainly rare, but the safety of child care is a topic that needs to be discussed for all new parents.  As parents, there ARE times that we will not be able to care for our child.  Some of us work outside of the home, and all of us need and deserve the occasional day or evening away.  Finding  daily child care or just occasional child care is a source of worry and anxiety for most parents.  How do you find a caregiver that you trust for your precious child? First START EARLY!  It takes time to do your research and find the best caregiver for your child!  Do not rush the process and always trust your gut! If a child care center, home or sitter does not feel right to you, then it isn’t!   Ask friends, family members, and other parents for their suggestions.  The best referral comes from a parent that uses the child care provider.

There are resources in each state that will help you get started with your search.  Child Care Aware is a website that you can access.  This site will direct you to your area’s child care referral system.  This will give you the local licensed and unlicensed day care centers, in home day cares, and church ministries.  By using the Child Care Aware website you will also be able to access any violations these centers may have. The  National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care produced a list of guidelines for parents that are looking for childcare.  These guidelines are as follows:


  • Are children supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping?
  • How do the caregivers discipline children? (Hint: Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent, and fair.)

 Hand washing and Diapering

  • Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom or changing diapers?
  • Is the place where diapers are changed clean?
  • Do caregivers always keep a hand on the child while diapering?
  • Do caregivers remove the soiled diaper without dirtying any surface not already in contact with stool or urine?
  • Do caregivers clean and sanitize the surface after finishing the changing process? (Hands should be scrubbed with soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds and then rinsed and dried. The water faucet should be turned off with a paper towel.)

Director Qualifications

  • Does the director of a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
  • Has the director worked in child care for at least two years?
  • Does the director understand what children need to grow and learn?

Lead Teacher Qualifications

  • Does the lead teacher in a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
  • Has the teacher worked in child care for at least one year?
  • Does the teacher give children lessons and toys that are right for their ages?

Child:Staff Ratio and Group Size

  • How many children are being cared for in the child care program?
  • How many caregivers are there? (Your child will get more attention if each caregiver has fewer children to care for. The younger the children are, the more caregivers there should be. For example, one family home caregiver should only take care of two infants.)


  • Is your child up-to-date on all of the required immunizations?
  • Does the child care program have records proving that the other children in care are up-to-date on all their required immunizations?

Toxic Substances

  • Are toxic substances like cleaning supplies and pest killers kept away from children?
  • Has the building been checked for dangerous substances like radon, lead and asbestos?
  • Is poison control information posted?

Emergency Plan

  • Does the child care program have an emergency plan if a child is injured, sick, or lost?
  • Does the child care program have first-aid kits?
  • Does the child care program have information about who to contact in an emergency?

 Fire/Emergency Drills

  • Does the child care program have a plan in case of a disaster like a fire, tornado, flood, blizzard, or earthquake?
  • Does the child care program do practice drills once every month?

Child Abuse

  • Can caregivers be seen by others at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver?
  • Have all caregivers undergone background check?
  • Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?


  • Does the child care program keep medication out of reach from children?
  • Are the caregivers trained and the medications labeled to make sure the right child gets the right amount of the right medication at the right time?

Staff Training/First Aid

  • Have caregivers been trained how to keep children healthy and safe from injury and illness?
  • Do they know how to do first aid and rescue breathing?
  • Have they been trained to understand and meet the needs of children of different ages?
  • Are all child care staff, volunteers, and substitutes trained on and implementing infant back sleeping and safe sleep policies to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, crib death)? (When infants are sleeping, are they on their backs with no pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, or other soft bedding in the crib with them?)


  • Is the playground regularly inspected for safety?
  • Is the playground surrounded by a fence?
  • If there is a sandbox, is it clean?
  • Are the soil and playground surfaces checked often for dangerous substances and hazards?
  • Is equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it

National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (1-800-598-5437)

What do you do when you need an occasional babysitter?

  1. Start early—don’t wait until the last moment to try to find a sitter.
  2. Recruit from relatives, friends and neighbors.  Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for suggestions.  You can ask churches, high schools, your doctor, local colleges.  Network!
  3. Think about “training” a sitter.  Use a “mother’s helper” while you are in your house.  Have a younger sitter come to your house and help you out while you are there.  Gradually give more responsibility until you are comfortable leaving for shorter and then longer periods of time.
  4. Ask questions about a potential  sitter.
  • What other childcare experience do you have?
  • What are the ages of other children you have watched?
  • How would you handle certain, possibly difficult situations that might occur?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with children?
  • Tell me about school, sports, activities etc.
  • Do you know CPR or emergency procedures?  If you have a sitter that you may use frequently—why not pay for him or her to become CPR certified and take a safe sitter class?
  • How much do you charge?
  • References?
  • Questions for me?

5.  Orient a new sitter to your home.   Point out where phones are, fire extinguishers, circuit breakers, first aid kit, what is off limits to the kids, how to lock doors etc.

6. Discuss how they are to get in touch with you.

7.  Review rules of the home including those for meals, pets, TV, computer time, and play.

8.  Explain possible behavior problems and how you would want them to be handled.

9. Introduce the sitter to your child and let them get to know each other.   Allow some time together before you leave.

10.  Leave a list of activities that your child would like and any bed time routine.

11.  Make sure you leave your address, nearest crossroads, and any emergency numbers written by the phone.

12.  Discuss what food is available to the sitter and what activities for the sitter  you feel are appropriate once the children are in bed.

13. When you return home ask the sitter how things went and if your child is verbal, ask your child how he or she liked the sitter!  Children are very honest!

Your work is not finished once you find the child care facility or occasional sitter for your child.  As a parent, you must stay involved.  Continue to ask questions and make surprise visits. Your child is your most precious possession, and you must be your child’s advocate for safe and loving care when you are not there!

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


It is a New Year…New Beginnings for 2017

2017….What are your hopes for your family?


Here it is the 3rd of January and I am just beginning to think about this New Year!  Our holiday season was filled to the brim with family, fun and wonderful memories.  The time certainly went quickly and suddenly it is the 3rd of January 2017!  There really is no magic to the first of January (or January 3rd!), but this time of year always brings me to moments of reflection (after the holiday chaos calms down!).  I usually have thoughts of ways to improve, some new goals and maybe a new mindset.  However, the first of January really is no different from the start of every day, it is simply a new beginning.  New beginnings are wonderful; it is a clean slate…a chance to do better or be better, a chance to enjoy more…a chance to love more.  So here is to new beginnings…whether it is January 1st 2017, January 3rd 2017, or even the new beginning of every morning! (I love the idea of starting over each day…kids are great at this!)  Here are a few hopes/goals that I have for families in 2017….(and that includes my family!)

  1. Families will begin each day with excitement and end each day with gratitude. My mantra this year will be “Grateful no matter what!”  I believe every child should go to sleep thinking of the good things of that day and wake up with thoughts of the good things to come.
  2. Families will put down the phone, IPad, or turn off the TV increasing time for creativity, imagination, discovery and reading both for parents and children! Children need to see us be creative and read…I am going to read at least 6 books strictly for pleasure this year. (I now have it in writing….with witnesses!)
  3. Families will all live and love in the moment, realizing that parenting is a process over many years.  One success or one failure does not determine our effectiveness as parents! Children have good days and challenging days…every day presents moments to love, teach, and cherish.
  4. Families will use words to build up each other …positive words results in positive feelings and actions. Less yelling and more praising.
  5. Parents will share positive parenting stories. So often I feel we pull each other down when we only talk about negative parenting experiences. Let’s help each other be positive about our lives as parents and families!  Share today what makes your family wonderful!
  6. Families will eat together at least a couple of times a week and will try some new and healthy foods! I have a few new healthy recipes ready to go…new grains and vegetable combinations in many of them! (I will report back…there was a bit of groaning with the recipe I am trying tomorrow!)
  7. Families will embrace the temperament and personality of each family member, building on strengths and uniqueness and accepting each others’ weaknesses and challenges. After all, this is how the world works!
  8. Families will find ways to foster service. Together we will look for opportunities to volunteer, serve others, and help children to develop a passion for doing good for others.  This can only result in a better world in which to live. Find one new way to make someone else feel good this year…do it as a family!
  9. Parents will take time for themselves both individually and as couples. They will nurture adult relationships and friendships, and take the alone time that is needed for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Happy parents make happy families!
  10. What is your hope for parents and families in 2017???  Share your ideas for number 10!!

Let us all start each day with the resolve to love more, enjoy more, smile more, be grateful and be our best.  That mindset will allow us to parent in the best way…one moment at a time.  Happy New Year!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



Does your child have “selective hearing”?

Selective hearing?  Yep, every kid has it!

Selective hearing…every child has it, (some adults too!)  I can remember thinking one of my children in particular may have had a hearing deficit, but it only showed up sometimes!  Asking her to pick up her shoes resulted in a no response, but she could hear my husband and I whispering in private from upstairs!  Children often learn how to “tune out” certain conversations during the preschool and school age years, but there are a few things parents can try in order to help them switch their hearing to the “on” position!

1.  Don’t give too many details at once…or no details at all!

Kids can only pay attention to a few instructions at the same time, but if there are no details children may ignore your request because there is no specific instructions.  When you are asking your child to do something, keep it simple.  “Put the book away, go upstairs, put your p.j.s on, brush your teeth and crawl in bed.” will not work but neither will “Get ready for bed.”  Try breaking your instructions down into two parts.  “Put your book away it is time for bed.”  “Now let’s head upstairs to put your p.j.s on and brush your teeth!”  Dwelling on a topic for too long with lots of instructions will make your child “tune out” and giving no direction may result in your child either not taking you seriously or skipping important steps (like tooth brushing) in the process.

2.  Deliver the message with your eyes and hands!

Children “hear” you better if you engage more than just their ears.  In other words, make eye contact and use touch.  Face your child when you are speaking, maybe even getting down to his eye level (or up in my case now!)  and put your hand on his arm or shoulder when giving instructions.  This will help your child put his focus on what you are saying.

3.  Ask your child to repeat what you said.

Often children will say “O.K.” and have no idea what they just agreed to!  If you want to be sure your child has really heard what you said, ask him to repeat.  This will prevent the claim that he never heard you!

4Don’t get stuck on “replay”!

If you continually repeat the same instructions over and over with no consequences, kids get conditioned to the sound of your voice and realize that they may be able to wait to respond until the 5th request before you get serious.  Give instructions, if there is no response, repeat them with a consequence tagged on the end.   If there still is no response…the consequence must happen.  “Time to pick up the toys for dinner, please.”  No response…”If the toys are not picked up now, they will be put away for tomorrow.”  No response…the toys that are out are in “time out” for tomorrow.  If this happens consistently, then your child will learn to listen the first time.

If your child does respond on the first try…be sure to compliment the good listening he had!

5.  Make listening fun.

Try adding a few “fun” instructions in the mix.  “Time to head to bed, let’s leap frog to the stairs.”  Be a little goofy…put some fun in your life, add goofy instructions and get a laugh and a child who really concentrates on what you are saying.   Try listening to other sounds too.   Let your child “tune” their ears in by listening to music, birds on a walk, the crunching of leaves, the sound of water…point out other sounds in the world and develop your child’s listening skills.

6.  Try whispering.

Really?  Yes!  I found that sometimes the quieter I spoke, the more important my children thought the message was!  If you get good eye contact and speak softly…children have to stop and really listen.  My kids knew that if I was talking quietly, I was serious…and I usually got some results!

7.  Set a good example.

Think about it…how often do you give your child undivided listening?  How often do you simply respond, “In a minute” or “Maybe”.  How often are you on the computer or your phone when your child is trying to talk to you?  If you don’t show your child how to pay attention and truly listen, then your child may not see the importance or develop the skill.  Focus on communicating with your child…that means no texting as your child is trying to tell you about his day!  Make eye contact, respond to his words, and ask questions.  Your child will feel valued and will understand what it feels like to have someone engaged in their words if you take the time to really listen to him.

So try these tips for the “selective listener” in your house….hmmmm my kids are gone, but I may have a husband that this may work on too!  🙂  Happy listening!

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


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

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

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

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

1.  Dolls or stuffed Animals

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

2.  Blocks

Blocks and lots of them are the perfect toy for children.  Young children can play with blocks by picking them up and mouthing them (be sure they are large enough not to be choking hazards), toddlers begin to stack blocks and knock them over (learning cause and effect here!) and soon you may have a little architect on your hands building elaborate castles, roads for cars, and houses for Barbie.  Different types of building blocks are great to have around, the favorite Lego 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!!  🙂

Like Raising Kids with Love on Facebook!  Join our conversations and share your thoughts!

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


%d bloggers like this: