raisingkidswithlove

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

What should be in your child’s playroom?


The Holiday Season is here and the shopping has begun!  I was in Target this past weekend, the toy choices are overwhelming and expensive!  What are the best toys for your child?  Which toys will be fun and valuable for your child’s development? It is difficult to decide what toys are the best choice!

I can remember feeling like toys in our house multiplied every night. SURELY we didn’t have THAT many stuffed animals yesterday! Too many toys results in a child who doesn’t play with anything well, they become overwhelmed with the number of toys. Parents also can fall into the trap of buying the newest flashiest toy on the market. We all love our kids, so why wouldn’t we stand in line to buy the “most popular” toy of the season? Many of these flashy toys encourage a child to play passively, using no imagination or creativity. Toys should allow a child to play in several different ways. A child should be able to decide how to play with a toy, the toy should not determine how a child plays. Play is a child’s work, it is through play that a child learns how the world works. As you make that holiday wish list, here are what I think every child needs in his playroom. You might be surprised!

  1. Blocks and construction type toys

Wooden blocks, cardboard bricks, Legos, and magnetic tiles are all great choices. Depending on your child’s age, you will see children build towers, knock towers over, sort blocks by color, create designs, make roads for cars and tracks for trains and more.

  1. Art supplies

Creative juices start flowing when a child has a blank piece of paper, crayons, paints, markers, stickers, scissors and any other item you can find in the craft aisle to help with their masterpiece. Blank paper rather than coloring books will provide more encouragement for a child to create. Children age 2 and older love to create on an easel which allows for larger muscle movement which makes drawing and painting easier.

  1. Books….lots of them!

Provide books in bins so children can see the front of them.  The front of the book will interest a child more than the words on the spine of the book on a shelf. Provide books that have flaps, pop ups, and colorful pictures. A corner with a small chair or big floor pillow encourages reading.

  1. Play kitchen supplies and other child sized house hold items like keys, phones, brooms, rakes etc.

If space allows, a play kitchen is a great investment. Play food, dishes and utensils and other child sized household items encourages great imaginative play and cooperative play with others.

  1. Doll stroller or shopping cart

All children like to push dolls, stuffed animals, and other toys around.  Toddlers and preschoolers are “gatherers” and a doll stroller or shopping cart provides a way for them to collect “treasures” on walks outside or around your home.

  1. Dress up clothes

Role play is a great way to encourage imagination and development of social skills and empathy.  Keep those Halloween costumes out all year in an easily accessible dress up box.

  1. Puzzles

Puzzles help a child learn to problem solve, develop patience, practice persistence, and develop spatial awareness.

  1. Medical kit

Play helps a child work through scary or anxiety producing experiences.  All children like to give Teddy or Baby a check up and/or shot after a visit to the doctor.

  1. Musical instruments

Children love to create music.  Drums, xylophones, tambourines, shakers all help develop rhythm and a love of music. Children exposed to music and rhythm often are more successful in Math!

  1. Tools and play household items like a broom, vacuum, lawn mower etc.

Boys and girls love to hammer and build with “tools”. Allow your child to build. This is the basis of STEM education. Children also love to take on the roles they see at home, let them participate in chores and pretend with toys that look like Mom and Dad’s tools. A Swiffer or dust cloth is fun too!

  1. Tent or play house

Children love small places to hide, read, play quietly or play house, school, or camping. This play house or tent could be as simple as a large box or a blanket thrown over a card table.

  1. Dolls/stuffed animals

Playing with dolls or stuffed animals fosters empathy development. Pretend role play of Mommy and Daddy is very important.

  1. Balls

Throwing, catching, kicking are all developmental milestones.  Simple games with balls introduces cooperative play, taking turns and helps with fine and gross motor development.

  1. Shape sorter

This is a basic toy that will grow with your child.  Young toddlers will fill and dump, older toddlers will sort by shape and color, and often children will use it to gather other items. Another great sorting tool is your kitchen muffin tins! Have your child sort different cereals, different colored pompons, or any other item!

  1. Stacking cups

This less than $10.00 toy is a bargain!  This will last a child from 6 months through preschool.  Children bang them, stack them, pour and dump water and sand, “drink” from them and learn size and volume with them!

  1. Clay/Play-dough

Children will love to squish, roll, and create with clay. The use of hands to roll and shape creations develops fine motors skills used for writing.

  1. Pedal powered ride on toy

Learning to pedal is a developmental milestone for 2 to 3 year olds. Ride on toys get children needed outdoor time and exercise along with development of coordination.

  1. Cars, trucks, and or train

Children love toys that move. Purchase cars, trucks, and trains that are easy to handle and run on “kid power”.

  1. Farm or other toy with animals

Farm animals, dinosaurs, and/or zoo animals are a great way for children to learn about animals, habitats, and encourages imaginative play.  Dinosaurs are often a favorite too!

  1. Family games

Even preschooler can participate in family games. Think Candyland! (not my favorite, but there are many choices out there!) Board games help a child develop skills in handling winning  and losing, taking turns, and cooperative play. Board games are much more valuable than video games which do not provide as much person to person interaction.

And yes, sometimes just a large box or two, plastic containers or a few laundry baskets will provide hours of entertainment and imaginative play for your child! Toys do not need to be expensive!  Remember that a toy is only valuable if your child plays with it! Quality is more important than quantity of toys.  Often the best toys don’t come with batteries. And most important, allow your child to play freely…a child who plays well is learning!

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

Cindy

Oh what a difference a year makes! Growth and Development milestones the first year.


 

                                                       

From one day to one year, what a difference a year makes!                                                           

The first few months of my children’s lives sometimes felt like a blur.  Parents get VERY little sleep and are just trying to get to know their baby.  I can remember feeling that the first year just flew by and all of a sudden I would have a toddler on my hands!  There are so many changes that come so quickly with your baby that first year! 

During that first year, your baby is learning that he or she will be loved and cared for.  It is important to foster that development of trust.  Don’t let your baby cry for long periods of time, especially in the first 6 months.  Crying is your baby’s way of communicating.  Soon you will learn what different cries mean, like “I’m tired”, “I’m hungry”, “I’m wet”, “I need to be held”, “I am bored”….Responding to your baby’s needs helps your little one develop trust in you and the world.  You cannot spoil a baby!  Older children can be spoiled, but not infants, so just enjoy catering to their needs and loving your baby.

Growth and development should be steady and progressive.  That  is more important than comparisons with other children.  It is common for new parents to look at other babies and start to worry and compare.  Try not to compare, just know what important milestones your baby should be reaching.  Recently the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics revised the developmental milestones for children. Prior to this, the milestones were set for when about 50% of children would reach the milestone.  Often this resulted in a “wait and see” attitude.  The new milestones are set when 75% or the majority of children have reached the milestone. This resulted in some of the milestones pushed back just a bit, but also results in a referral when a child misses the milestone instead of a “wait and see” attitude.  The CDC has an app for your phone and detailed lists of the current milestones that can be accessed on the website. 

How big your baby is at birth is a poor predictor about the size of your child by adulthood.  The size at birth has more to do with the conditions of uterine development.  Most children will find their growth curve and stay at that curve.  A child that is smaller than 75 percent of other babies his or her age can be perfectly healthy, that may just be the growth curve that child has.  By the end of the 2nd year, the size of your child will more truly reflect his or her adult size.

We parents know that our children are special!  However, reaching developmental milestones faster than other children does not necessarily predict your child’s intelligence.   As long as your child is reaching his or her developmental milestones on target, there are no worries!

By the end of the 2nd month your baby should:

  • Smile
  • Look at you!
  • Start to try to self soothe.  May bring hands to mouth and suck
  • Begin to smile at people
  • Start to coo
  • Turn towards sounds
  • Follow things with eyes
  • Pay attention to faces
  • Hold up head and begin to push up during tummy time

Activities for parents:

  • Talk to your baby
  • Show simple objects
  • Give your baby different looks at the world, change his or her scenery!
  • Play the silly face game, open and close your eyes, stick out your tongue etc.
  • Start the routine of a daily walk weather permitting
  • Help baby with tracking objects, babies love mobiles, shapes and movements
  • Imitate your baby’s sounds and expressions as your baby starts to learn to communicate

Your baby’s growth:

  • Growth will be about an ounce per day in the first 2 months
  • Growth will continue at about a pound a month after the first couple of months
  • Birth weight doubles by 5 months
  • Birth weight triples by one year

By the end of the 4th month your baby should:

  • Like to play and interact with you!
  • Copy some movements and even facial expressions like smiling
  • Babble even with expression
  • Cry in different ways for different needs like hunger, or being tired, or lonely
  • Reach for a toy or rattle
  • Track with eyes well side to side
  •  Be able to roll from tummy to back
  • Push up on elbows during tummy time
  • Like colors now and be drawn to them

Parent activities:

  • Continue to talk, talk, talk
  • Build reading into your daily routine
  • Respond to your baby’s coos and babbles…carry on a conversation!
  • Continue to show your baby the world!

By the end of the 6th month your baby should:

  • Recognize a familiar face and begin to have some stranger anxiety
  • Like to look at self in the mirror
  • Use vowel sounds when babbling and takes turns in a “conversation” with you!
  • Begin some consonant sounds when babbling
  • Respond when you say his or her name
  • Transfer things from hand to hand, easy to hold toys are important
  • Try to get things that are out of reach
  • Roll from tummy to back
  • Sit with support
  • Like to “stand” with you holding and might bounce
  • Start to push up and may rock back and forth on hands and knees
  • Start to scoot and move arms like a swimmer
  • Sometimes show frustration if he can’t reach something he wants
  • Teething may begin with the average baby cutting their first tooth by the end of the 6th month
  • Should start the “dropping game” between 7 and 8 months (helps your baby learn object permanence)
  • Should begin clapping between 7 and 8 months

Parent activities:

  • Remember stranger anxiety starts at about 6 months and peaks at about 9 months.  This is normal.  Help your baby by gradually introducing strangers.  A stranger is someone your baby does not see everyday!  Never force a situation quickly when your baby is afraid of a new face.  Hold your baby, sit on the floor and let your baby explore with you holding him or staying near at first.
  • Start to teach finger games like “so big”, waving “bye-bye”, playing patty cake
  • Continue to read and talk to your baby
  • Make sure you are establishing routines, especially bed time and nap time routines

By the end of the 9th month your baby should:

  • Begin to have favorite toys
  • Understand the word “no”
  • Copy sounds you make and gestures you make
  • Begin raking small objects to pick them up
  • Play peak a boo
  • Look for hidden items
  • Look where you point
  • Sit well without support
  • Gets to a sitting position on his/her own
  • Lift arms to be picked up

Parent activities:

  • Continue to play finger games like “Itsy Bitsy Spider”
  • Continue waving bye-bye
  • Build things for baby to crawl under and over
  • Let your baby play with every day objects like pots, pans, plastic containers
  • Encourage your baby to imitate your behavior like brushing hair, talking on the phone
  • Encourage pretend play with keys, phones, dolls, chunky trucks etc.
  • Play with pop up toys, a jack-in-the-box is a great way to teach object permanence
  • Play in and out games
  • Let your baby hold your fingers to walk

By the end of the 12th month your baby should:

  • Waves bye-bye
  • Understands the word “no” may briefly stop when he/she hears the word
  • Puts items into a container
  • Pull up to stand
  • Cruise around furniture
  • Drinks from an open cup with you holding the cup
  • Uses thumb and forefinger to pick up small items (pincer grasp)
  • Plays games with you like Patty Cake or So Big
  • Look for missing objects in last seen location
  • Say Ma Ma and Da Da
  • Start to show fear, will cry when you leave

Parent activities:

  • Help baby with push toys, wide based push toys that children can walk behind are fun!
  • Play games that the baby has a part in like puffing up your cheeks and letting her push the air out
  • Look at books and make up stories about the pictures
  • Teach body parts  Where is your nose?  Where is your tummy?
  • Play with musical instruments that shake and bang
  • Play music your baby loves to move and dance
 Enjoy the first year!  Your baby will grow and change more quickly than you can ever imagine.  Interact, smile, play, read to, cuddle, play music, walk, and just introduce your baby to the world!  The world is an exciting place through the eyes of a child.  Experience it with your child!

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

Cindy

Helpful websites:

www.cdc.gov

www.aap.org

www.infirststeps.com

Let’s talk toddler!


Kaitlyn was a typical toddler, she definitely had an opinion!

You wake up one day, and it is a whole new ball game.  You now have a toddler.  Toddlers are so much fun, but can also be a challenge.  We are not used to our child having an opinion, and a toddler has one and often expresses it very loudly!  Toddlers can be having a tantrum one minute and laughing the next!

Your toddler’s biggest developmental task is to start to develop independence.  Your child will begin to separate from you at times, and be very clingy at other times.  Every day and sometimes every minute, is a new adventure when you have a 1 to 3 year old!

Recently the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics updated the growth and developmental milestones for toddlers.  They moved the milestone back to when 75% of the children should reach it.  In the past, the milestones were set when 50% of the children were reaching it.  This change will hopefully remove the “wait and see” attitude and encourage parents and health care providers to refer when a milestone is not reached. There is an excellent app for your phone and easy to read milestone lists for each age group on the CDC website.

We know that toddlers are a bundle of energy.  Everything is an adventure!  Kitchen cupboards, knobs and buttons, computers, and even the drain in the tub is interesting.  Toddlers are busy discovering and really don’t have time for naps and potty training, although both are important for toddlers!  Toddlers are free little spirits and have very little self-control, which often results in your precious child throwing himself on the floor in a fit of frustration and anger.   To better understand your toddler, there are a few principles of toddler psychology…..

  1. A toddler is developing creativity, independence, curiosity, and imagination.  The whole world is open and exciting!  Your child is not misbehaving when he smashes peas, climbs on the table, or puts his finger in a place it should not be, he is exploring.  Exploration is developmentally appropriate for your toddler!
  2. A toddler has very little self-control and tolerance to frustration.  Sometimes it is so frustrating that a puzzle piece will not fit, or he can’t climb on the counter, or you break up his cracker that he wanted whole!  Because a toddler has very few words and a limited repertoire to handle frustration, the “logical” thing for him to do is melt down, kick, cry, and let his opinion be heard by all!
  3. Toddlers want attention.  Attention is attention to a toddler, whether it is negative attention or positive attention.  As parents, we need to limit our words of explanation to a toddler.  A 2-year-old doesn’t really care if he will fall off the table, he just wants to climb on it.  You will never convince him otherwise…there will be no moment of epiphany when he understands your safety talk!  We must not reinforce behavior by giving extended attention to unwanted behavior.  Give lots of positive words to positive behavior….very few words to negative behavior.
  4. Toddlers need predictability and routine.  Your child will behave much better when there is a routine in place at home.  The amount of frustration and the number of tantrums will decrease when you establish routines and rituals.
  5. Toddlers need some sense of control.  Give your child true choices.  “Do you want the bananas or the apple sauce?”   “Do you want to wear this shirt or this one?”  “Do you want to read your story before your bath or after?”  Do not give choices when there are no true choice.  Only ask a yes or no question if you are happy with the answer being “No!”
  6. Toddler temper tantrums are a result of frustration, being overly tired, being hungry and learning that they work!

 Most 1 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Plays games with you, like pat-a-cake
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Waves “bye-bye”
  • Calls a parent “mama” or “dada” or another special name
  • Understands “no” (pauses briefly or stops when you say it)
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Puts something in a container, like a block in a cup
  • Looks for things he sees you hide, like a toy under a blanket
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Pulls up to stand
  • Walks, holding on to furniture
  • Drinks from a cup without a lid, as you hold it
  • Picks things up between thumb and pointer finger, like small bits of food
  • 1 year olds should have tripled his/her birth weight
  • Take 1 to 2 naps a day and sleep 11 to 12 hours at night.  Be sure to have a good bedtime routine.

Most 15 month olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Copies other children while playing, like taking toys out of a container when another child does
  • Shows you an object she likes
  • Claps when excited
  • Hugs stuffed doll or other toy
  • Shows you affection (hugs, cuddles, or kisses you)
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Tries to say one or two words besides “mama” or “dada,” like “ba” for ball or “da” for dog
  • Looks at a familiar object when you name it
  • Follows directions given with both a gesture and words. For example, he gives you a toy when you hold out your hand and say, “Give me the toy.”
  • Points to ask for something or to get help
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Tries to use things the right way, like a phone, cup, or book
  • Stacks at least two small objects, like blocks
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Takes a few steps on his own
  • Uses fingers to feed herself/himself some food
  • 15 month olds will often take 1 nap a day and sleep 11 to 12 hours at night.
  • Not separate easily.  Separation anxiety peaks between 18 and 24 months.
  • Know the difference between how Mom and Dad parent and play.  Many will prefer one parent over the other at times.  Toddlers cannot intentionally do things to hurt your feelings at this age.  Connecting with one parent over the other may be because your toddler is learning male and female roles, may need more nurturing from mom or more physical play from dad.  Roll with it!

Most 18 month olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Moves away from you, but looks to make sure you are close by
  • Points to show you something interesting
  • Puts hands out for you to wash them
  • Looks at a few pages in a book with you
  • Helps you dress him by pushing arm through sleeve or lifting up foot
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Tries to say three or more words besides “mama” or “dada”
  • Follows one-step directions without any gestures, like giving you the toy when you say, “Give it to me.”
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Copies you doing chores, like sweeping with a broom
  • Plays with toys in a simple way, like pushing a toy car
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Walks without holding on to anyone or anything
  • Scribbles
  • Drinks from a cup without a lid and may spill sometimes
  • Feeds herself with her fingers
  • Tries to use a spoon
  • Climbs on and off a couch or chair without help
  • Toddlers at this age will start to develop separation anxiety. Always tell your child when you are leaving, never sneak out. Tell them you will return and they are safe.

Most 24 month olds can:

  • Social/Emotional Milestones
    • Notices when others are hurt or upset, like pausing or looking sad when someone is crying
    • Looks at your face to see how to react in a new situation
    Language/Communication Milestones
    • Points to things in a book when you ask, like “Where is the bear?”
    • Says at least two words together, like “More milk.”
    • Points to at least two body parts when you ask him to show you
    • Uses more gestures than just waving and pointing, like blowing a kiss or nodding yes
    Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Holds something in one hand while using the other hand; for example, holding a container and taking the lid off
    • Tries to use switches, knobs, or buttons on a toy
    • Plays with more than one toy at the same time, like putting toy food on a toy plate
    Movement/Physical Development Milestones
    • Kicks a ball
    • Runs
    • Walks (not climbs) up a few stairs with or without help
    • Eats with a spoon

Most 2 1/2 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Plays next to other children and sometimes plays with them
  • Shows you what she can do by saying, “Look at me!”
  • Follows simple routines when told, like helping to pick up toys when you say, “It’s clean-up time.”
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Says about 50 words
  • Says two or more words together, with one action word, like “Doggie run”
  • Names things in a book when you point and ask, “What is this?”
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” or “we”
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Uses things to pretend, like feeding a block to a doll as if it were food
  • Shows simple problem-solving skills, like standing on a small stool to reach something
  • Follows two-step instructions like “Put the toy down and close the door.”
  • Shows he knows at least one color, like pointing to a red crayon when you ask, “Which one is red?”
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Uses hands to twist things, like turning doorknobs or unscrewing lids
  • Takes some clothes off by himself, like loose pants or an open jacket
  • Jumps off the ground with both feet
  • Turns book pages, one at a time, when you read to her/him

Most 3 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Calms down within 10 minutes after you leave her, like at a childcare drop off
  • Notices other children and joins them to play
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Talks with you in conversation using at least two back-and-forth exchanges
  • Asks “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why” questions, like “Where is mommy/daddy?”
  • Says what action is happening in a picture or book when asked, like “running,” “eating,” or “playing”
  • Says first name, when asked
  • Talks well enough for others to understand, most of the time
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Draws a circle, when you show him how
  • Avoids touching hot objects, like a stove, when you warn her
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Strings items together, like large beads or macaroni
  • Puts on some clothes by himself, like loose pants or a jacket
  • Uses a fork

 Parenting activities for toddlers include:

  • Toddler “field trips”.  Bring your toddler to museums, parks, library story times, the post office, the grocery store, fire stations, apple orchards, and play groups.
  • Play matching games, sorting games, shape and color games and puzzles.
  • Read, read, read!  Try to read 30 minutes a day broken into short time slots.
  • Encourage crayons, finger paints, and clay to develop fine muscle control for writing.  Writing on an easel or blackboard is easier for young children because larger muscles are used.
  • Encourage water play, sand or dry rice play, filling and dumping.
  • Play with puppets.
  • Allow your child to feed himself, encourage use of utensils.
  • Help to expand your toddler’s language by talking to him.  Help him finish words and sentences.  If he says “cup”, you can respond, “You want your blue cup with milk.”
  • Play pretend with your toddler.  Play kitchens, dolls, stuffed animals, trains, cars, dress up….
  • Play follow the leader with your toddler.
  • Encourage rhymes and songs.
  • Play musical instruments with your toddler.
  • Respond to wanted behaviors with positive words and ignore unwanted behaviors.  Use time outs for behaviors like hitting, biting, and shoving.

At your child’s 18 month and 24 month well child visit, your healthcare provider should be screening for signs of autism.  Red flags that a parent might see are:

  • Your child repeats words but does not try to participate in conversations.
  • Your child does not respond to his name when you say it.
  • Your child does not make eye contact with you or others.
  • Your child avoids social contact or physical touch.
  • Your child has not developed speech or is losing words rather than building a vocabulary.
  • Your child does not play with toys like his peers and does not use imaginative play.
  • Your child seems to be under sensitive or overly sensitive to stimulations such as sound, touch, and texture.

Remember, if your child is reaching developmental milestones, no worries!  Many times children will not be able to do something that is expected because they have never been encouraged or have never had the opportunity.  Be sure to provide the opportunity for your toddler to reach milestones, even if it takes longer to allow your child to complete a task, or it is messy!!  If your child is not reaching developmental milestones, contact your doctor, and refer to your state’s early intervention program.  The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.

Important links that will help you: 

  • “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Campaign  
    This campaign educates parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, and it encourages developmental screening and intervention. It will give you tips on how to determine if your child needs screening.
  • Overview of Early Intervention
    Learn more about early intervention services from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.  Find out about your state’s early intervention program and how to access it.
  • Bright FuturesExternal Web Site Icon
    Bright Futures materials for families are available for parenting tips for children from birth to 21 years of age. This is provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Developmental Surveillance and Screening GuidelinesExternal Web Site Icon
    This American Academy of Pediatrics website provides guidelines on surveillance and screening for developmental delays in children.
  • National Association for the Education of Young ChildrenExternal Web Site Icon (NAEYC)
    NAEYC provides accreditation for early childhood programs and  preschools that meet certain standards. You can search for an accredited program or preschool near you.  NAEYC also provides resources, tools, and information for parents.

Toddlers can be exhausting, but exhilarating!  Looking through your toddler’s eyes, you will learn to enjoy the small wonders of the world again.  Tie up your running shoes, you have a busy toddler!   

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

Cindy

Get a little dirty…it is time to garden!


 

It is that time of year when I am doing a bit of grumbling about all the yard work, but also looking forward to getting my perennial beds cleared and blooming, my cut flower bed planted and preparing my vegetable garden for this summer’s crop of tomatoes, beans and of course sunflowers.  I definitely am not a Master Gardener, but I have a special place in my heart for gardening and getting a little dirty.  I have very fond memories of my Grandfather and his vegetable garden and beautiful roses.  I would walk through his garden when I visited and help water and weed.  With his garden gloves on and a hat perched on the back of his head, he was a true farmer at heart.  He showed me how to eat a fresh tomato right off the vine and how to pinch a peach so the fuzzy skin would pull back and I could eat the sweet inside.  I guess my love of gardening started by watching my Grandpa and then my own father take pride in their gardens.  My dad still grows amazing tomatoes!

So many of our children have no idea where their fruits and vegetables come from or even what a fresh tomato really tastes like! With the new fruit and vegetable pouches, I sometimes wonder if many toddlers even know what a real vegetable LOOKS like!  There are many life lessons that can be taught by simply taking a small plot of land or a small container and growing something with your child!  There is no better way to instill a love of nature and to encourage healthy eating than growing a fresh fruit or vegetable as a family.

Children are natural gardeners—they are curious, they learn by doing, and they love to play in the dirt.  Gardening is good for families, it gives your family time together outdoors, and time to let your child get dirty for a purpose!  Children love to look for worms, love to plant seeds, water,  watch plants  grow, pick their crop and even try the harvest they have grown.  What a great way to get them to try green beans!  This helps cultivate their curiosity about nature, the earth and maybe even foster a love of gardening.  Children will also love the special time they spend with you.  Gardening teaches patience, responsibility and is like having a science lesson without even knowing it!  You might even find yourself feeling a little proud and definitely loving the taste of a fresh homegrown tomato!

Tips on gardening with children.

1.   Plan a small container garden or a small plot of land that is theirs.  Talk about a plant’s  need for sun, water, and food.  Put the garden in an area that can be seen easily by your child.  A plastic storage bin or any other container with holes poked in the bottom for drainage works great for this!  Keep it near your back door so your child can see it often.  Tomato plants or lettuce can actually be grown in just a bag of topsoil that you open and plant the seedlings in the bag.  What could be easier?

2.  A “yardstick” garden is plenty big for a child.  Take a yardstick and measure a garden that is 3 foot square.  A young child can reach all sides of the garden and will take pride in that little plot he can call his own.

3.  Gardens do not have to be square.  A “pizza” garden can be planted with wedge sections.  Put different plants in each wedge.  Plant ingredients that would taste good on a pizza!  This is a great way to grow an herb garden!

4.  Use a little imagination, children will love a sunflower house!  Plant large sunflowers in a semi-circle.  As they grow, tie the top of them together and your child can have a “secret” hiding place in your garden!

5.  Watering and weeding is not as much fun as planning and planting ( I don’t like it as well!).  For older preschoolers or school age children, put a gardening calendar in the kitchen or in your child’s bedroom with tasks to be completed.  Don’t force it, remember you are instilling a love of gardening!  Keeping your child’s portion of the garden small should keep the time necessary to only a few minutes a day.  Using a container garden really keeps it easy!

6.  Child sized garden tools make it easier and more fun. I have seen tools in the dollar area of Target!  I know if I had young children, the gardening boots and clogs I have seen would be a must, so cute!!  A gardening hat is a necessity,  protect yourself and your child from the sun.  What is cuter than your toddler gardener in a wide brimmed hat!  Don’t forget the sunscreen too.

7.  Let your child dig the holes for the seeds or the plants that have been bought.  Digging holes is a natural for kids!

8.  Encourage your child by planting seeds that mature quickly and are easy for them to handle.  Radishes and lettuce are great.  They germinate in a couple of days.  Bean seeds and sunflower seeds are easy to handle.

9.  Be sure to put the seed packet on a stake in the garden to remind them what they have planted and what it will look like.  Some discount stores even have little garden stakes that your preschooler could decorate!

10. Children love the unusual.  Many vegetables are available in different colors or sizes.  Speckled beans, red carrots, miniature cucumbers and pumpkins, purple beans, and grape tomatoes are just a few examples.  Try something really unusual by taking a cucumber or pumpkin bloom and placing it inside of a 2 liter bottle.  Shade the bottle with leaves from the plant and let the pumpkin or cucumber grow inside the bottle.  It is a great “show and tell” item when there is a large cucumber or pumpkin inside the bottle!

11. Add a bird bath  to attract birds.  Children can be responsible for refilling the bird bath!

12. Think about planting bright colored flowers that are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  Exploring the garden for butterflies, bugs, worms and caterpillars is great fun!

13. You might want to set a part of the garden for digging all summer.  Put your sandbox in the middle of your garden to make your garden kid friendly.  There were always a few cars or trucks around in the dirt of our garden.

14. You can have your child  make garden stones or markers for the garden.  Find larger stones and let them paint designs on the stones.  These make great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gifts for Grandparents!

15.  Have your child help build a scarecrow for the garden.  This can be a fun activity for late summer especially.

16.  Measure the sunflowers that you plant once a week and chart their growth.  If you have older children, planting sunflower seeds that mature in about 90 days is a great way to measure the length of summer.  When they bloom, it is time to go back to school!

17.  Try to grow organically as possible.  Mulch is a great way to cut down on weeds which will prevent the need for weed killer and mulch will keep the soil moister during dry spells.  Mix compost and/or topsoil into your garden each year to provide nutrients needed for plant growth.  By growing without chemicals, your child will be able to eat a tomato right from the vine…there is nothing better!

18.  Let your child harvest their own vegetables.  There is nothing better than picking your salad fixings for the day!  This will encourage your child to eat their vegetables I promise!  Your child will love to eat “garden to table”!

19.  Keep it fun…start small!  Most new gardeners try something too big and then quickly become discouraged with the experience.  Just grow one tomato plant and supplement your “garden” with a trip to the Farmer’s Market!  We always had enough green beans from our small garden for at least one dinner.  The kids would always ask, “Our these our beans?”  With a little white lie, our kids ate green beans the whole summer!

There are some great children’s books that can be fun to read with your child as you start your garden:

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
This is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schaefer
Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
Alison’s Zinnia by Anita Lobel

Get a little dirty….plant a few seeds and you will see your child’s excitement grow as the plants grow, and who knows you might just raise a kid that likes his vegetables!

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

Cindy

Take Care of YOU!


Motherhood is wonderful career….did I say career?  Yes!  No matter what your educational background is, what type of job you have now or have had in the past, or what your career goals are; as soon as you hold your baby in your arms, guess what…your career is motherhood.  The career of motherhood is very demanding.  It has multiple responsibilities, long hours, minimal financial gains and is a lifelong commitment.  Have you seen the YouTube video trying to hire for the position of Mom?  Wow, who signed you up for this job??

There is no other career that demands so much but rewards so greatly.  Motherhood is a unique profession that demands 24/7 responsiveness.  Unless Moms continually “refill” that internal pitcher that they pour out of daily, Moms will experience a change in energy, attitude and happiness.  Your “job satisfaction” will plummet unless you take care of yourself too and when you are depleted and stretched too thin, the most important people in your life suffer.  If you sacrifice too much without refilling yourself, you lose your best qualities that make you who you are.

This Mother’s Day week let’s commit to nurturing ourselves so that we can better nurture our children.  After all, isn’t that what we Moms do?

  1.     We must be healthy

  • Sleep.  Even a quick 20 minute nap will help rejuvenate.
  • Healthy eating.  Take your vitamins!  Low fat, high carb food like bagels, pretzels, and popcorn help to release “feel good” chemicals in our brain.  Don’t skip meals, high protein foods and whole grains give energy.  High fat foods drain energy.
  • Exercise.  Research tells us that exercise reduces stress.  It will give a sense of calmness and relaxation.  Besides, we need to be able to keep up with our kids!  Take a walk!
  • Go outside.  Natural light is essential to feeling energized and positive.  Even on cloudy days, a walk outside helps recharge you and increases natural feel good hormones.
  • What are your basic emotional needs?  Do you need inward time, to feel     mothered, to feel protected?
  • Laugh.  Laughter is a large part of feeling well.  Watch a funny movie, laugh at yourself.  Even smiling increases endorphins, the feel good hormones.
  • Find time to expand yourself.  Be creative, read a book, listen to music….use your brain!

 2.     We must be intimate

  • A woman who is intimate physically and emotionally with her partner is more relaxed, calmer and more confident.
  • Intimacy builds couple relationship.
  • Touch heals. Touch for women has been proven to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and bring a sense of peace.  Hold hands!
  • Keep the lines of communication open during the diaper years—the most  stressful time of raising children (until the teen years!!)  You can’t think that you will talk “later”.  You must do small things now to stay connected with your partner.
  • Celebrate each other!

3.       We must be idle

  • We must be willing to sit in a chair quietly.
  • Map out two or three-minute activities that you can do to give yourself time during the day.  For instance, take your morning coffee and drink it in front of the window for 2 to 3 minutes while your baby is entertained.  Will these short moments change your life?  Yes, you will become more satisfied which leads to a Mom who can nurture without resentment.
  • Plan for at least a couple hours a week for alone time. That might just be a long bath or a walk through Target by yourself!
  • Let go of the “completion complex”…there will always be laundry!
  • Meditate or pray, both relieve stress.  Slow down and breathe quietly, relax your muscles, and clear your thoughts.  Twenty minutes a day will bring peace to your life.

4.     We must always remember:  We are not steering this ship!

  • We must give up control over everyone’s lives.
  • We must be able to adjust to change.
  • Worry zaps energy and positive thoughts.  Schedule worry time.  Save all the concerns you have and only think about them once a day.  This will make you feel better and free up the rest of your day from negative thoughts and worry.
  • Choose our words carefully.  Remember what you say results in how you feel.
  • Lower the bar.  It is OK not to be perfect.  We feel inadequate when the bar is set too high.
5.     We must have friends
  • Have a conversation with a best friend.  Women need comfort and support from other women.  Share, you will find that all moms have similar challenges.  We are not alone.
  • Surround yourself with like minded moms.  Moms who parent like you will give you support.

 6.     We must love our lives TODAY and TODAY and TODAY

  • Step back and appreciate the moment several times a day.
  • Be grateful for the moment, feeling grateful is a real mood booster.
  • Write down why you are thankful, or the three best things that happened today.
  • Engage in positive thinking, and you will be more in control of your happiness.  Feelings follow thoughts.
  • Resist the temptation to pile more chores and responsibilities on our plates, focus on the important only.
  • Remember, we are useless to our families unless we fill ourselves up.

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

Cindy

Sunshine, summer, and sunscreen!


Sunshine certainly is good for our soul, but we know it can also cause a painful sunburn. Use of sunscreen should be added to your “to do” list before your child heads out the door to play. This past weekend I strolled through the aisle of sunscreen and realized there are simply too many choices! A quick check of a sunscreen’s label will make the choice much simpler. So….what is the best choice for your child? Here are the most important things to remember:

  1. Children under 6 months of age should be protected from the sun as much as possible. This means shading your child with umbrellas, awnings, trees, and protective clothing. When you cannot protect your child from the sun…then use sunscreen where needed. All labels will say not recommended for children under 6 months of age, but you must use sunscreen if you cannot effectively shade your child.
  2. SPF protective clothing is wonderful! Rash guard shirts, swim suits, and hats are available at relatively inexpensive price points. Clothing that is SPF protective is easier than applying sunscreen to those areas!
  3. Choose sunscreen that states it is “broad spectrum”. That means it protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  4. Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30.
  5. There is NO waterproof sunscreen, only water resistant. The label will tell you if it is 40 minutes or 80 minutes of water resistance. ALL sunscreen needs to be reapplied after leaving the water and towel drying no matter how long your child has been in the water.
  6. The best choice for sunscreen has zinc oxide or titanium oxide as the active ingredient. These are mineral based sunscreens and not a chemical based sunscreen. This mineral based sunscreen is gentler on your child’s skin and there are some studies that chemicals like oxybenzone can affect normal hormone levels in children. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are ingredients in most diaper rash creams and are very safe!
  7. If you have no other option than a chemical based sunscreen then use it! No sunscreen is more dangerous than using the chemical based sunscreen.
  8. Choose a lotion over a spray. I know sprays are convenient, but often the coverage is poor (try spraying a wiggling toddler!) and inhaling the spray may irritate a child’s airway.
  9. Use enough sunscreen! Adults should use about an ounce of sunscreen (think the amount of a shot glass) and a child needs approximately half of that or enough sunscreen to fill the palm of your child’s hand. If that 8 oz tube of sunscreen has lasted you more than 3 weeks, you aren’t applying enough!
  10. Re-apply at least every two hours, more often if your child has been in the water, sweating, or you have towel dried them.
  11. The most expensive sunscreen may not be the best sunscreen! READ the label…pure and simple. Very few ingredients are needed, zinc oxide or titanium oxide is the most important ingredient on the label.

Summer fun in the sun is a must for children….and so is protection of their skin when in the sun. During childhood, children usually receive about 25% of their lifetime sun exposure. Unprotected sun exposure as a child can result in skin cancers later, so protection from sunburn is essential. So, stock up on safe, effective sunscreen for your family and enjoy the summer sun!

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

Cindy

Protecting your child from bug bites


Protection from ticks and mosquitoes is important for your child!

Today is beautiful, and I hope most of you have your children outside at some point!  Children both love and NEED to be outdoors.  Outside activity is an important part of a healthy child’s life, and it helps children get good and tired too!  I know one of the biggest reasons I encouraged outdoor play was that it provided me with a good long nap from my children in the afternoon.  A method to my parenting madness!

With spring and summer upon us, the pesky bugs will soon be too!   Not only are these insects just plain annoying, they can carry dangerous diseases to your children.  Most children have mild reactions to bug bites, but some children (are they just sweeter?) really seem to attract those insects and those bites result in large red welts that make them miserable.  West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and the recent outbreak of Zika Virus are diseases that could result from insect bites too.  So, if we want our children outside and we don’t have a protective “bee suit” in the house…what are we to do?

The use of insect repellents are recommended by the American Academy of  Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control.  Although most of us hate to put chemicals on our children, DEET used correctly is one of the best protectors for your child.  The amount of DEET in insect repellents varies from less than 10% to more than 30%.  Studies show us that the higher concentrations of DEET protect for longer periods of time, but not more effectively. So a repellant with 10% DEET will protect for about 2 hours, 24% about 5 hours, and at over 30% there is very little increase in protection.  The AAP recommends using a concentration of DEET between 10 and 30 percent.  Most of our children will not be outside in an area with biting insects more than 2 hours at a time…so 10% DEET should be enough the majority of the time.

How to use insect repellent safely:

  • Always read the label.
  • Do not use DEET on children under 2 months of age.
  • Do not use a concentration of DEET greater than 30%, usually 10% will be adequate.
  • Only apply the repellent to the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin.
  • Use a small amount just to cover the area, thicker layers are not more effective.
  • Do not spray repellents on your child’s face.  Put the repellent on your hands and rub on your child’s face being careful around eyes, and mouth.
  • Do not put repellent on your child’s hands.  Do not apply to open areas like cuts.
  • Spray repellents in open areas, do not breathe them in.
  • Wash your child with soap and water to remove the repellent when he comes inside.  Wash your child’s clothes before he wears them again.
  • Do not use sunscreen/insect repellent combinations.  You will need to reapply the sunscreen and the repellent should not be reapplied.
  • Cover your child’s exposed skin with long pants and sleeves if you know he will be in an area with a lot of biting insects. This will decrease the skin area that will need repellent.
  • Try to avoid dusk, the “buggiest” time of day!
  • Remember DEET is NOT effective on stinging insects like bees and wasps.

Repellents that do NOT work

  • Wristbands with chemical repellents
  • Dryer sheets pinned to your children (A big trend a few years ago!  I once saw an entire preschool class of children on a playground all equipped with dryer sheets!)
  • Garlic (would keep other people away! )
  • Ultrasonic devices that give off sound waves
  • Bug zappers (may actually increase insects in the area)

Other repellents:

So the bottom line is, insect repellents are a better alternative that the potential complications from a disease carrying insect. Be smart and use repellents safely.  Protect your child with clothing and by avoiding the time of day/night and areas where insect bites would be more common.  Check your child for ticks daily and remove any tick with a tweezers and clean with soap and water.  Lastly, put this at the bottom of your worry list….outdoor fun is essential for children!  Protect them with common sense and enjoy the outdoors…don’t let the bugs scare you off!

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

Cindy

Reference:  www.healthychildren.org

 

Baby Sign…How do you start?


Teach your child sign…help him express his feelings!  The “I love you” sign can be used as a special sign for many years to come!

How do you start?

1.  Familiarize yourself with signs through books, websites or other sources. 

  • There are many resources on the web…don’t try to learn all the signs, you will be starting with just a few!

2.  Be realistic

  • Feel free to start signing with your child at a young age, but most children aren’t able to communicate using signs until around 9 months at the earliest!  (yes even your extremely smart, gifted child!:)) Children must be able to engage with you and then have the fine motor control to make the sign (or at least something similar to the sign).  This will happen around that 9 or 10 month mark.

3.  Choose a sign.

  • Most parents choose a sign that involves eating such as milk, eat, more and all done.  This will let your child to ask for things that he or she may need.  These words give your child a bit of “power” to obtain things they want!
  • You may also want to choose a few signs that may be exciting to your child.  Words like Mommy, Daddy, and Dog or other words that are common in your child’s world.
  • You will want to choose about three signs that you will work on with your child.  Show the sign before, during and after the activity and every time you do the activity.
  • There are a few websites that have pictures and directions for some of the most common signs a parent may use.  A great site is http://www.babysignlanguage.com  This site has a video showing each sign.

4.  Make it interactive

  • Hold your baby on your lap and try helping him make the signs with his hands.  Talk while signing to give the sign context or meaning.  Remember, your baby will be able to understand your words and the sign before he will be able to make the sign!

5.  Be consistent.

  • Use the sign every time you do the activity.  Consistency is the key. If you are giving your baby milk, sign and say “milk”,  give your baby a bottle or nurse and sign and say “milk” several times while your baby is eating.
  • Work the signing into everyday life.  Don’t just sign at home–sign when you are out and about and encourage anyone who is with your child consistently to use the signs too.

6.  Use your chosen signs until your baby begins to sign back to you.

  • When your baby connects or understands a sign, then you may choose another sign and start the process over.  Do not drop the signs your baby has learned.  The more signs your baby learns, the easier it will be for him to pick up new ones.  As soon as your baby links the sign to the word, the flood gates tend to open!  Suddenly your child will begin to pick up on new signs readily.  This is how verbal expressive language develops too!

7.  Expect your child to recognize a sign before he can actually sign it back to you. 

  • This is just like the spoken word.  A child will understand a sign or a word before he or she is able to sign the word or speak it.  Don’t give up, keep signing.  You will start to see your child get excited when you sign “milk”, “eat”, or “book” as your child understands what the sign means.

8.   Expect that your child may start out using the same sign for several things.

  • This is like verbal expression when a child uses the word Ma Ma for every female adult.  Do not become frustrated.  Continue to be consistent in the signing and your child will “get it”.

9.  Expect a signing increase when a child realizes that a sign will get him something!

  • Your child will start to soak up signs like a sponge–just as he will  when he becomes verbal.   It is so exciting to see your child get excited about communicating.

10.  Be happy, sign with enthusiasm.  

  • An excited parent who signs will make a child want to sign.
  • Read books and sign as you read.  Show your child the sign for animals, cars, trucks, whatever you are reading about!  Pick out signs that your child is interested in!
  • Be expressive.  Use your face, body and hands when you sign.  Make it fun and interesting.  Make good eye contact with your child when  you sign.
  • Play games to encourage signing.  Blow bubbles outside and then stop, push your child in a swing and then stop, and then sign the word “more”.   Introduce the sign for “please” and “thank you”.  This early introduction to manners will continue when your child is verbal.

11.  Be open to interpretation.

  • Your child will not make a sign correctly the first time–just like learning to talk. Get excited with any general attempt at the sign, then show the correct sign to your child as you say the word.
  • Reinforce any sign your child attempts, as your child develops better fine motor skills, the signing will become more clear.

12.  Praise.

  • Be excited when your baby signs words!  Give lots of positive reinforcement for any attempt!

13.  Be patient.

  • Babies can take weeks or even months before they make their first sign.
  • The perfect time to start is about age 6 months, many babies will attempt their first sign at about 9 to 10 months.
  • It is never too late to start signing.  Children who are very frustrated because of a lack of communication between 16 and 30 months will pick up sign language quickly.

14.  Keep Talking!!

  • Sign should never replace words!  Spoken words are important for language development.  Talk and sign….then talk some more!  The number of words your child hears is directly related to language development.  Let your child see your mouth as you speak and your hands as you sign.  Face to face interaction is important for their language development and helping children understand emotions.
The  most common words parents sign:  (click the link to see a video of the sign)
  1. Mommy 
  2. Daddy 
  3. Other family members:  brother, sister, grandma, grandpa
  4.  dog or cat
  5. Milk
  6. More
  7. Please 
  8. Thank you
  9. Happy
  10. Book
  11. “All Done”
  12. “Help”

Children often will lose the sign as the verbal word is developed; but you can keep the signs by continuing to use them with the word .  Use of signs is a great way to get messages to your child when you are not in speaking distance or are in a crowd.  How nice it is to sign the word “potty” without having to yell it across the room!  More wonderful is seeing my kids sign “I love you” out the car window as they drive off!

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

Cindy

Is it time to ditch the diapers?


I think she had to go!  🙂

There are definitely parts of parenting that I like less than others.  I know when potty training time rolled around for each of the kids, it was one of those moments when a crazy thought like, “How bad would it be to skip this?”  would cross my mind.  The next time that thought would cross my mind would be around 3rd grade when it was time to memorize multiplication tables!  But, I made it through potty training with all 4 kids and all 4 of them know their times tables….so I guess I can add those to my parenting successes list!

When is a child ready for the big step of potty training?   The average age of potty training has slowly creeped up to around age 3.  I think there are a couple of reasons for this.  One, we are very busy families.  Families are on the go, and routines are busy.  Potty training takes some consistent effort and time, many times it is hard to find consistent time at home near a potty!  The other big reason I feel that potty training is later is disposable diapers.  Disposables wick “pee” so well from the skin, that it is difficult for a child to even know when he or she is wet!  Disposable diapers and disposable training pants are being made larger and larger, so the need to potty train becomes later and later.

Using the potty is a huge accomplishment!  It is a very complex achievement.  First a child has to be aware of the sensations of a full bowel and bladder.  Next the child learns that these feelings result in a “pee” and a “poop”.  The child then must learn how to remove clothes, sit on a potty and hold the pee and poop until he is ready to go, and then finally release those muscles necessary to let the pee and poop come out!   No wonder it is such a task to learn!!

Potty training is a learning process not a disciplinary process, there should never be a punishment connected to using the bathroom.   I don’t believe that most children can be trained in just a few days!  Your child has to understand what you want, and how to do it.  They have to understand their body sensations, learn to constrict sphincter muscles, and then relax those muscles to potty.  Children also must be motivated and want to please you.  If your child is showing an interest in imitating it is a good time to start.

Children will not potty train on their own.  Parents must wait until their child is developmentally ready—have patience with the process, but also must initiate it.  Children will not just wake up potty trained one morning!  Children need the guidance and patience of parents to learn to use the potty and eventually gain control of their “pee” and “poop”.

So is your child ready for the big step?   Most children have the muscle control to potty train between 18 months and 3 years of age.  Here are a few things to look for when deciding if you both are ready to tackle this process:

  • Is your child aware of the need to go?  Does your child tell you or do you see a change in facial expression?  Does your child hide to have a bowel movement?
  •  Can your child say or sign words such as wet, dry, potty and go?
  • Is your child demonstrating imitative behavior?
  •  Does your child dislike wet or dirty diapers?
  •  Is your child able to stay dry for at least 2 hours or wake up dry after a nap?
  • Is your child able to pull elastic waist pants up and down?
  • Is your child anxious to please you?
  • Has your child asked to use the potty?
  • Make sure there is not a stressful situation in your life such as weaning, birth of a new baby, change in childcare etc.  Wait 4 to 6 weeks after the stressful situation before beginning.

Pre potty training or getting ready!

If your child is 18 months or older…you can begin with these steps so you are ready when your child shows signs of readiness too!

  • Name urine and bowel movements.  Describe what your child has done using the words you have chosen.  There are no “perfect” words, call it what it is!  🙂  My husband wasn’t thrilled when I was telling our son to “tinkle”, be sure you both agree and are consistent!  When you see your child begin to have a bowel movement or urinate, describe what he or she is doing.   “Go potty”—say this as you see signs your child is pooping or peeing.  Describing to your child that they should pee or poop when they feel the pressure, helps to define to them what it is you want them to eventually do on the potty.
  •  Let your child watch you use the toilet.  This will get your child interested and show them what that toilet is for!  Gone are your days of privacy!!
  • Change your child’s diaper as soon as it is wet or dirty to prevent your child becoming comfortable with the feel.
  • Drop the poop into the toilet with your child watching.  Encourage your child to help flush the toilet.  This will also show your child what goes in the toilet!  Flushing is usually very exciting too!
  • Purchase a potty chair.  You can line the receptacle with plastic wrap—then you can wrap up any poop or pee and dispose of it easily with very little clean up. Or, you can purchase a seat that fits on the adult toilet.  I have used both but preferred the latter, much easier with clean up.  If you use the seat that fits on the adult toilet, be sure that your child has a stool to put his or her feet on, it is hard to have a bowel movement with feet dangling!  The potty chair can be moved to any place in your home and is better for children that have some fear of the “higher” toilet.  See what is best for both of you.
  •  Allow your child to sit on the potty clothed.  Let your child sit dolls or stuffed animals on the potty. This will familiarize your child with the potty slowly.  Reward or celebrate when your child sits on the potty.
  •  Buy a “potty book” or movie to start talking about big children using the potty.  Here are some cute examples…    
  1.  Everyone Poops By Taro Gomi
  2. I Want My Potty By Tony Ross
  3. My Big Girl Potty By Joanna Cole
  4. My Big Boy Potty By Joanna Cole
  5. Once Upon a Potty By Alona Frankel
  6. The Princess and the Potty By Wendy Cheyette Lewison
  7. What Do You Do with a Potty? By Marianne Borgardt  (a pop up book)
  •   Have a basket of toys or books that are only used while on the potty.  This will make potty time more fun.

So, this is the starting point!  Your child is  between 18 months and 2 years, you can begin to introduce the concept.  When your child starts to exhibit some signs of readiness….the next step is giving it a try!  More to come on this tomorrow!

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

Cindy

Childproofing 101


childproofing

Staying ahead of kids in order to keep the house safe is no easy task….some days I would have been better off wrapping my four in bubble wrap!  

New parents have so much to do!  It seems the “to do” list is never-ending.  At the top of every parent’s “to do” list should be child proofing.  Keeping your precious little one safe is a #1 priority, and no simple task.   Children are curious, quick, and smart!  Just when you think that you have your child protected, you find your child standing in the center of the kitchen table swinging from the overhead light….or at least it seems that way!  The truth is, accidents are the leading cause of injury and death in children.  So many of these tragedies can be prevented with a little preparation.  Child proofing is a MUST but, NOTHING replaces supervision.  Child proofing slows a child down but does not totally prevent injury.  Think about child proofing in layers….putting dangerous items in an upper cabinet and then latching the cabinet.  We all know that any self-respecting toddler can push a chair over and reach that cabinet!  Over the next few days, check back and we will go over a room by room check for child proofing and common mistakes that parents make!

General tips:

  • Child proof ahead of your child!  You never know the first time your child will roll over, begin to crawl, or pull up.  Child proof before it is a must.
  • Get on your child’ level to child proof.  That’s right, crawl around and see what your child sees.  You will be surprised at the number of dangers that lurk at your child’s eye level and not yours.
  • Sign up to receive e-mail recall notifications at www.cpsc.gov  New parents have so much baby equipment!  It is hard to keep track of any recalls or safety notices.  By signing up for e-mails on recalls you will be able to make sure your baby equipment is safe.
  • Keep a notebook or spreadsheet with a list of all your baby equipment including serial numbers, and date and place of purchase.  This is a quick reference guide for you to flip to when you receive a recall notice.  Much easier than trying to find the numbers on your baby equipment and remember when and where you purchased it!
  • Take a CPR class for parents!  Local hospitals, the Red Cross, and other agencies offer CPR classes for parents.  Sign up and be a prepared parent….knowledge is the key to peace of mind for you and protection for your child.
  • Install outlet covers in every room.  There are sliding outlet plates that replace your existing outlet plate and have a sliding “door” that slides to cover the outlet.  These are less of a choking hazard.
  • Remove rubber caps off of all door stoppers, they are choking hazards.
  • Keep dangerous chemicals out of reach and locked up, provide a double layer of protection.
  • Program the Poison Control phone number in your cell phone for quick use 1-800-222-1222.
  • Use cabinet and drawer latches.  There are many to choose from!  Pick one that can be installed easily, there are adhesive mount latches for those areas that a parent may not want permanent mountings.
  • Always use the safety belts in bouncy chairs, high chairs, swings…whenever there is one provided!
  • Shorten or go cordless on curtain and blind cords.
  • Know the names of the plants you have in the house, in case one is eaten!  Put all plants out of your child’s reach.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor.  Make sure there is one outside of bedrooms.
  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom and on every level of your home.  Check the batteries every 6 months.
  • Use corner bumpers on furniture with sharp edges.
  • Install window guards for all windows above the first level of a home.  Windows that can be opened more than 4 inches are dangerous.
  • Secure all heavy furniture to the wall.  Every year thousands of children are hurt when furniture is pulled over on them.  Children pull out dresser drawers and use them as steps too.  Keep the tops of furniture cleared of tempting items like toys, and knickknacks to deter a child from climbing up to reach them. This would include tall dressers, entertainment centers, book cases, and large screen televisions.
  • Turn the water heater down to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees F.
  • Keep lighters, matches and lit candles out of reach.
  • Install gates at the top and bottom of stairways.  Do not use pressure mounted gates at the top of stairs.
  • Fire arms should be locked up with a trigger lock in place.  Ammunition should be stored and locked separately from the fire arm. Do not keep fire arms loaded in the home. Teaching children about gun safety does NOT negate the need to lock up your guns.  Children can’t be trusted around fire arms!
  • Make a plan for fire evacuation.  Talk with all members of the family and practice with a fire drill! Buy an escape ladder to store under your bed if you live in a two story home.
  • Test homes built before 1978 for lead paint.  For information about getting paint samples go to the National Lead Information Center’s website.
  • Look for a safety store at your closest children’s hospital.  These stores will sell child proofing products at cost and have safety experts there to answer questions.  If you live in Indiana, the Riley Safety Store is available at several Indiana University Hospital sites.  For more information visit RileyHospital.org, or call toll free 1-888-365-2022 or e-mail kids1st@iupui.edu.
This will give you a start!  Remember, a little prevention goes a long way, but never replaces supervision.  So, get down on those hands and knees and take a look at your home…then make your home as safe as it can be so your child can explore their world!

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

Cindy

Don’t Parent with Fear, Protect Your Child with Empowerment


Do you have a parenting worry list?  I do….even with adult children I still have a list of things that I “worry” about.  Everything from “Are they working too hard and getting enough sleep?”, “Are they safe when they travel?” to “Are they really happy?” is on that list! I really believe that you never really exit that parenting role completely, so maybe there will always be a few items on my worry list.  There are few things that bring more anxiety to a parent than their worry about the safety of their child.  At the top of many parents’ worry list is the fear of their child being abducted or sexually abused.  The statistics can cause most of us to lose sleep….in general most studies show that about 20% of adult females and about 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual abuse incident. The U.S. Department of Justice states that 90% of the victims know their perpetrator in some way. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2020 91% of missing children were runaways, 5% were family abductions, 1% were lost children, 3% were young adults between age 18 and 20 and less than 1% were nonfamily abductions.

With this knowledge, we as parents may need to change the education we are giving our children. Maybe the traditional Stranger Danger is not the most valuable approach to keeping our children safe.  Let’s start empowering our children, not teaching by fear.  Let’s move to teaching our children that they own their body; they are the “boss” of their body and they must keep it safe and healthy. 

So how do we start?

Respect our children’s feelings.

 Beginning at age 5 to 6 months, many infants experience stranger anxiety and between 18 months and 2 years most toddlers experience separation anxiety.  These are normal developmental stages, but we need to respect those feelings of anxiety. Introduce “strangers” or new faces slowly, don’t force your child to go to someone he or she is unsure of or sneak away if you are leaving your child with a babysitter. Sit down, slowly introduce, help your child feel comfortable and if you are leaving, say good-bye. This is the first opportunity to say to your child, “I am listening, I understand you are scared or uncomfortable.”  This respect of their feelings builds trust allowing your child to share these feelings verbally later. This builds a trusting relationship between adult/parent and child.

Don’t force a child to hug or kiss anyone even a family member.

Help a child determine what is appropriate touch for the people around them, forcing sends an unsafe message of the child not being “the boss of their body”.  Give choices to help them determine what is socially appropriate and comfortable for them.

“Say high to Aunt Susie, give her a hug or high five.”

“Say good-bye to Grandma, give her a kiss, hug or high five.” 

“Say thanks to the lady at the bakery, give her a high five or thumbs up for the cookie.”  

“Thank the librarian for helping you find the book about dinosaurs.”

These prompts help a child learn the when and with whom hugs and kisses are socially appropriate and comfortable for them. This allows your child to feel ownership of their body.  There are many reasons why a child might be uncomfortable or shy with new people or family members. It is fine for them to decide between a kiss, hug, high five, fist bump, thumbs up, or a simple thank you is most comfortable for them. 

Call your child’s body parts the correct name.

Cute nicknames for private body parts teaches children that those body parts are embarrassing or uncomfortable.  When children are uncomfortable talking about their body, they are less likely to share about their body. We don’t want to increase secrecy or uncomfortableness about a child’s body or sexuality. Call it what it is….and don’t react with anger when the “potty humor” begins with a toddler or preschooler. Ignore this and it will soon pass!

Begin talking about “private body parts” at about age 2. 

Potty training is the perfect opportunity to introduce a concrete way for children to understand where their “private parts” are. Tell your child that their private parts are where their bathing suit covers. Explain that no one but Mommy or Daddy, or a doctor or nurse when Mommy or Daddy is there, should look at or touch their bathing suit area. Casually speak of their private parts when bathing, changing for the pool, or using the bathroom. 

Introduce the concept of “Good Touch/Bad Touch” around age 2 or 3. 

Remember this should include that a good touch makes you feel good and a bad touch hurts or makes you feel bad or uncomfortable.  Bad touch is not only in the bathing suit area, this can include hitting, shoving or even stroking an arm or back that just doesn’t feel right. Give your child permission to say “stop hitting me”, “don’t shove me in line”, “I don’t like being tickled”, and even expand this to hurtful words, “When you called me that, it hurt my feelings.” 

Tell your child “you are the boss of your body”. 

Empower your child to keep their body safe and healthy. When you buckle into a car seat or put on a bike helmet, talk about keeping their body safe, when you give them a healthy meal talk about fruits and vegetables keeping their body healthy.  Tell your child they are in control of keeping their body safe and healthy. You want your child to value and take care of their body and learn to set healthy boundaries.  This belief of “being the boss of their body” can empower them to say no to risky or dangerous activities when they are older.

Role play how to respond when someone hurts them or makes them feel uncomfortable.

“Stop hitting me, that hurts!” “ Stop! Those words hurt my feelings.” “Stop touching me!” Role playing helps your child have a plan. If you see an incident at the park between children, give your child the words to say, don’t immediately “fix” the situation unless it is dangerous.

Keep talking.

The more often the topic is addressed the more comfortable your child will be. When you are giving baths, or dressing for the pool, casually mention where your child’s private parts are. When you are on the playground, talk about how to react if a child pushes in front of a line for the slide or says something unkind. Keeping the tone casual keeps the conversation safe and open making it easier for your child to share.

Don’t talk about strangers, talk about “tricky people”.

We all interact with people we don’t know every day.  We don’t want children to be raised in fear of everyone they don’t know. We know most abductions are by people a child knows or is at least familiar with.  A “tricky person” is someone who is either familiar with your child or has become familiar by speaking with them and gaining their trust. Tricky people don’t feel like a scary stranger but may try to trick a child into a situation that is not safe.  Instead of talking about “stranger danger” talk about the feeling of “uh oh”. Teach your child to trust their gut, when something feels uncomfortable teach them to say “no” or “stop” and leave.  Tell your child to share with someone they trust when they have that “uh oh” feeling. 

Help your child interact with “strangers” when you are with them in a safe situation. Encourage older children to order their dinner at a restaurant, help younger children introduce themselves to a child at the park, help your child say hello to the librarian or store clerk. Point out when a “stranger” was kind or helpful. People we don’t know are a part of everyday life and most are good people who will help your child if needed! Fear is not the solution to keeping your child safe! Teaching your child to listen to that inner voice or “uh oh” feeling is a key to staying safe.

Teach the difference between a secret and a surprise.  

Be sure you use the correct terminology and reinforce that families do not have secrets. A birthday gift for Dad is a surprise, not a secret. Children should never be told to keep a secret from their parents.

Have at least 5 adults in your child’s life who they trust.

Help them surround themselves with safe adults who love them. Children need adults other than their parents who will protect them and listen to them. This is especially true as your child enters school. These adults can be grandparents, close friends, an Aunt or Uncle, a teacher, a pastor or minister, there are many trusted adults who care for your chid.

Establish safety rules.

  • I will always play where I can see my mom, dad, or responsible adult who is with me.
  • I never go anywhere with anyone without checking with my mom or dad or responsible adult who is with me.
  • I will never eat any treat without checking with mom, dad or responsible adult with me.
  • I am the boss of my body. I can say yes or no to anything about my body.
  • Everyone’s bathing suit area is private.
  • I don’t keep secrets and no one should tell me to keep a secret from mom and dad.
  • If I get lost I can stay in one place and call for mom or dad or go find another mom to help me. (every child knows what a mom looks like, in most situations this is a safe individual for a child to ask for hep)
  • Grownups don’t ask kids for help (“Help me find my dog”, “Help me carry this to my car”) If they do, I must ask for permission from my mom, dad or responsible adult with me.
  • I listen to my voice inside or the “Uh oh” feeling. If something feels bad or wrong I will stop, yell for help, and tell mom and dad.

Good books to help with your conversations:

I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private By Zack and Kimberly King

Miles is the Boss of His Body By Samantha Kurtzman-Counter Abbie Schiller

Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) By Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

We want our children to grow up confident, safe and happy….empowered that they are able to navigate this world successfully. Living in fear never results in someone who feels confident and happy.  Protect your child by empowering them!

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

Cindy

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