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.


Happy and Healthy Families in 2021

The New Year often has us looking at goals and resolutions. I am not a big fan of New Year resolutions, they often set me up for failure. I am a big fan of New Year hopes. There is something about new beginnings that gives me a bit of excitement. I always liked the beginning of a new semester, the start of a new sport season, opening a new daytime planner, even the start of a new day. There are so many possibilities with new beginnings. 2021 is no exception……

My hope for all of us is a lot more happiness and health in 2021. How do we get there as a family? There are a few simple things we can do which can truly make a difference in our life and our children’s lives.

Sleep…we all need it. Without it we are less patient, more irritable, less energetic and actually less healthy. Studies show our risk for obesity and cardiac disease increases with poor sleep habits. Bedtime routines for our children and ourselves are very important. Think bath, book, bed! Good for adults too!

Cook together, eat together and don’t skip breakfast! Starting the day off right with breakfast that includes both carbohydrates and protein is important. Keeping blood sugars from crashing improves learning and behavior in both children and adults. Life is better when we aren’t “hangry”! We also know that children who help out in the kitchen are more likely to eat what is prepared and families who eat together are better connected and children are more likely to do better in school and have less behavioral problems.

Move! Exercise improves health and mood. Feel good hormones (endorphins) increase with movement. A brisk walk outdoors, a dance party in the house, playing at the playground, a quick game of basketball on the driveway or soccer in the yard makes everyone feel better. Physically tired children and adults sleep better too! It feels so good to be physically tired and not just mentally exhausted!

Unplug! Decreasing screen time can increase happiness! Put down the phone, turn off the TV, get off social media and this can result in more movement, less mindless eating, more conversation with family, and less competitive parenting/comparisons through social media. You will be more present instead of viewing the world through a screen. Get those board games out, sit and read, or simply share your day in conversation and improve the mood of your family!

Plan a little fun, be spontaneous, celebrate everything! Sometimes we need to simply plan a little fun. Do something a little out of the ordinary. Eat ice cream for dinner. Families that work fun into daily routines are happier. Why not celebrate “over the hump Wednesday” or “Fun Friday”? How can you make “Taco Tuesday” a little more fun? Keep it simple, but planning fun or a little crazy into your life can bring some welcomed stress relief and laughter into a week.

Outside everyday! Sunshine, fresh air and a little nature are all mood boosters for children and adults. There are very few days that the weather is too bad to be outside. There is no bad weather, just bad dressing! Hot or cold, dress for it and get a little fresh air.

Forgive and forget. We all need a little grace. Life is not perfect and neither are we. We will make parenting mistakes, our children will disappoint us, we will lose our temper, our children will throw fits or be sassy, and some days are more challenging than others. Forgive yourself, forgive your child, don’t hold grudges, start over every day or multiple times a day. Move on and hug your child, your spouse and yourself. Don’t dwell on the negative and your day will always be better.

We all can eat a little healthier, move a little more, enjoy the outdoors, unplug from our screens, give a little grace to others and hug a bit more. As I look at 2021, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we all can live a little better and love a little more. Be joyful!

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


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Joyful parenting….be mindful

  • Parenting is a gift….there is not doubt about it.  
  • It is a difficult job, no doubt about it.
  • Days can feel very long and mundane no doubt about it.
  • Society tells us we should be tired, we should be less happy raising children than our childless counter parts.
  • Studies show us that stressed unhappy parents raise children who are less happy and satisfied with life.  
  • Remember that we cannot give our children that which we do not have.  If we are not happy/joyful, we cannot give that happiness or joy to our children.

So how can we enjoy this wild ride of parenting and raise children in a home that is happy and joyful?  How can we look at our day to day life and realize that yes, the days may be long; but the years really are very short. I often remind parents, there are only 936 weekends from birth to age 18! Wow!

I have 6 simple tips that I believe will help you navigate these 936 weeks between birth and age 18 (believe me you will parent well beyond age 18!) with grace and joy. 

  1.  Balance your life.

Each day plan how you will achieve 4 goals. 

One goal for yourself  

What can you do for yourself today?  How can you fill your pitcher? An empty pitcher cannot give!  What fills you up? Prayer? Exercise? Long bath? Journal? Hobby? Chatting with friends? Reading?  Take 20 minutes a day to fill yourself. Actually set a goal for this and a plan!

One goal for your husband/significant other

We often lose connection with the most important person in our life during the child rearing years. We must concentrate on maintaining that relationship. What small act can you do each day to remind this person that you love them. A quick love note? Sticky note on the mirror? Special dinner? Some one on one time? A simple thank you?  Actually set a goal for this and a plan!

One goal for your home

When our homes are in disarray, we often feel out of control. Plan one short task a day to keep your home in control.  This can be wiping out the bathroom sinks, mopping a floor, dusting one room, cleaning out one drawer, changing your sheets…one 20 minute task each day. Do NOT try to clean your whole house in a day….one simple task. Actually set a goal for this and a plan!

One goal for your children

I know, you do things for your child every single moment of the day! But, if you plan something fun for each day this brings some joy. Plan one thing to do that is simply fun.  The park? Library? A craft? Bake some cookies? Reading an extra story at bedtime? ….one simple activity.  Actually set a goal for this and a plan!

2. Ignore behaviors that are irritating…react unemotionally with your discipline.

  • Parents are trying to live up to standards that are often simply unattainable. We cannot provide endless attention and endless activities for our children. Children learn that behaviors such as whining, complaining, tantrums often result in more attention from Mom and Dad and even may result in more screen time or snacks as exhausted parents try to buy a little quiet. Remember, attention is attention to a child.  Even negative attention with yelling or arguing is attention. I often tell parents that paying attention to whining or annoying behavior is like scratching a bug bite, it increases the itch!   The more you pay attention to annoying behavior like whining….the more your child does it!
  • Don’t negotiate.  Children should have some input into decisions but at the end of the day you make the decisions. Toddlers and preschoolers need a simple explanation…not a dissertation. Teens will need a bit more discussion….but in the end the decision is yours. Once you begin the negotiation process, children think everything is up for debate. Give choices that are real and control over things children should have control over.
  • Give your child grace…forgive and forget. Let go….. Overlook small misbehaviors and pick your battles. Always end with a hug after discipline.

3. Do the unexpected

  • Break the rules……be a little silly. Stay in your PJs one whole day, have milk shakes for dinner, say yes a little more, celebrate everything! Try to learn from your child…learn to live in the moment.  When they are playing they are not thinking about what is happening next or what happened yesterday. They are enjoying right down…we are at risk of missing joy when we are constantly in a rush.
  • Give yourself grace…sometimes doing the unexpected is simply easier, and more fun. If doing the unexpected results in something not being accomplished on your list, give yourself grace.  Remember the laundry basket is never empty.

4. Play more

  • What is one activity or part of your day that you wish could be more fun or easier?  What can you do to make it more fun?  Work play into your day and enjoy it! Don’t think of the mess or the things on your list you are not doing. Remember to live in the moment and play is a child’s work!

5. Have less family screen time, put the phone away.

  • Screen time, especially social media, can cause us to concentrate on it and detach us from the people who are with us in the moment. Less minutes on screens results in more moments “in the moment” with family and friends.
  • Ask yourself what would happen if you were inaccessible for a period of time. Put down the phone.

6. Develop family traditions and rituals

  • Tradition is the glue to your family. Traditions create fun and supports your family morals and values. Daily rituals and traditions bring stability to your child and family. 


Joyful parenting is a mindset…

  • it is staying balanced, 
  • it is about playing, being silly and ignoring behavior that is simply irritating,
  •  it is about being mindful…keeping your mind in the moment and not on what is next or comparisons to others, 
  • it is about keeping your screen time to a minimum and concentrating on your husband, your child, and the life you have now,
  • it is about letting your child be a child and not worrying about over scheduling and competitive parenting,
  • it is about building a family with tradition and value,
  • It is about giving yourself, your spouse and yes your child grace….
  • Grace goes a long way in bringing peace and joy to you and your family.  Remember….936 weekends.

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


“We always do that!” Why Family Tradition is Important!

Our “traditional” Christmas tree.  A little more “perfectly” decorated than years past….there are ornaments even on the bottom of the tree now! 

If we are smart we listen to our children when they say “That is how we always do it!” or “That is what we always do!” even when we have only done it that way one other time.  Your child is not just talking about the good time he had, but the fact that it meant something to him and he thinks to you too.  One of my favorite quotes is from the book The Little Prince by  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “We live not by things, but the meaning of things.”  It is not what you do or eat that is important, it is the meaning and feeling that comes with what you are doing that is so important to your child.

There are 3 important “anchors” in a family, our family values, our family rules, and our family rituals and traditions.  If we don’t take time to develop each of these….we usually will run on a “default” mode of doing what is easy at the time.  Being intentional as a family is very important.

Values… what is most important to your family.  Values are what you want to pass to your children.  For some families these values may center around religion, or the value of education, or the value of respect and kindness, or the value of taking care of our earth. In order for a value to become a part of  your child there must be “rules, rituals and traditions” that follow these values.  If religion is a value, your family might attend church together, participate in family prayer, and become involved in activities which reflect your beliefs. If education is a value, your family might read together, limit screen time and have rules regarding homework and effort in school. If kindness and respect are values, your family may have rules about conflict resolution, sharing,  guidelines on the words that are spoken, and even family “missions” of kindness in the community.

Traditions and rituals are planned or intentional.  These are family activities that have a purpose or meaning behind them and support your family values. Some are simply daily rituals, like bedtime routines and family dinners.  Some are weekly rituals like Friday pizza nights or movie nights.  Some occur with the season or with family milestones like the traditions of the holidays or 1st day of school pictures and birthdays.  Some traditions are simply fun. These daily, weekly, and seasonal rituals and traditions tell your child what is important to your family.  Some you plan to start…some happen accidentally and then you plan to repeat!

Creating your own special rituals and traditions now and repeating them throughout your child’s life will help your child feel secure, will provide stability, and a sense of pride and belonging to your family. Even during a family crises, the fact that a bedtime ritual or a Christmas celebration looks somewhat the same brings a sense of security and stability to a child and to you as a parent!

Four reasons tradition is important to a family:

1.  Traditions help make life predictable.  Rituals that are followed daily, weekly, and yearly such as family dinners, nightly stories, spring picnics, holiday songs etc. helps make children feel secure.  Their world is often unpredictable—keeping things predictable at home gives security.

2.  Traditions give families a time to connect.  Life is busy and sometimes this can give families a feeling of disconnect. Family meals, stories, game nights etc. help us reconnect and start talking.  Soon we know what is going on in our children’s lives.  We know when there is exciting news, when there is difficulty, and when a child is happy or stressed. Traditions will also just bring simple fun….who doesn’t need a little of that!

3.  Family traditions teach children family values.  Service work, religious ceremonies, concern for the environment and many other values can be established through family traditions and rituals.  These are values that when they are reinforced with traditional activities, your child will bring them with him to adulthood. The only way your child knows if something is valuable or important is through the activities that surround that value.

4.  Traditions form a family identity and connection.  A child who feels connected to his family may not look for other groups to identify with that may not be the best choice. All of us want to feel connected, and children will search for connection.  Research shows us that children who have close family identity/connection have a better self image and are happier and more successful.

Traditions and rituals can be very simple…it is the act of repeating them, allowing them to change with your family’s “season in life” and keeping them fun that is key.  If something is not fun or causes stress then let it go!

Don’t get hung up on creating the perfect rituals, let them happen naturally based on what your family enjoys and values. Many rituals and traditions just happen.  The wonderful thing about a young family is that you have the opportunity to create your own unique family traditions  and rituals from scratch.  Some you will come up with on your own, some you will borrow from your childhood and some you will discard from your past, but the traditions you repeat will become part of who your unique family is.

Some suggestions to try during the holiday season:

  1. Take a drive in pajamas to see the holiday lights.
  2. Take a hike in a local park and find some natural decorations for your tree or to make other holiday decorations.
  3. Make a homemade Christmas tree ornament.  Date it, and each year you will add to the collection.
  4. Bake Christmas cookies and share with friends and neighbors.
  5. Draw Secret Santas in the family.  Each Secret Santa will complete a kind deed for the family member he or she drew.
  6. Have a traditional Christmas breakfast, or Christmas Eve dinner.
  7. Attend religious services together.
  8. Lay a piece of straw in the Baby Jesus’ bed each day if a child has done a good deed.
  9. Read a holiday story each night.
  10. Have a traditional Advent wreath or Advent calendar.
  11. Have a Christmas countdown chain.  Make a construction paper chain and tear one link off each day until Christmas.  Write an activity on each chain link that you will do that day.
  12. Camp out under your Christmas tree one night.
  13. Go caroling.
  14. Make a birthday cake for Jesus.
  15. String popcorn for your tree.

And the list can go on and on….share some of your favorite traditions and rituals!

Remember, family tradition endears your child to your family and establishes an everlasting family bond. The celebration, the meal, and the activities do not need to be perfect, the perfection comes from a celebration steeped in tradition and full of fun memories that draw a family together….that is perfection

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


2020, will our holidays be different?

2020, the year everything is a little different, even the holidays!  What have we learned from the year of Covid-19?  I hope we have learned that “things” are not as important as relationships…that simple is more rewarding than elaborate….that respect of feelings different than our own is essential….that perfection is never a realistic option….that gratefulness brings optimism, diminishes stress/anxiety and fuels joy….and that everyone deserves a little grace!

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, gatherings truly matter to you and your family.  Sometimes more fun results from doing less!
  2. Discuss family gatherings.  Consider if you need and want to host family gatherings this year, and if so discuss what your plan is for safety or be creative in your celebration. Will you celebrate virtually with extended family? Will you limit the size of your gathering? Will you be able to spend time outside? Make a plan and communicate, and then give respect and grace to everyone who has different feelings than you. Those feelings are not wrong, just different. We must be comfortable with OUR decisions.
  3. 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! End each day with what you are grateful for…no matter how small. Gratefulness results in optimism and joy.
  4. Keep a sense of humor.  Even the worst holiday disasters have the makings of great family memories.  Everything looks more perfect when looking back!  “Remember 2020” will be a phrase repeated in all of our lives for many years to come.
  5. 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.
  6. Shop online. Buy the same gift for as many people as possible. (Think picture gifts…your child’s 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 even online! This is the perfect year to scale back and place priorities in the correct places.
  7. A visit to Santa may have to be creative!  This may look very different this year. Be creative.  Maybe a visit to Santa at a distance, via Zoom, or enlist a “Santa” that you know! Remember, many children age 7 months through age 4 are reluctant to visit closely with Santa anyway! The magic of Santa does not have to include a visit!  Read about him, tell stories about him, allow your child’s imagination to work. Photo shop Santa into a picture in your home….your child will be amazed.  www.icaughtsanta.com  Love this website!!!  
  8. Make 5 dozen of the same kind of cookie rather than 5 different types of cookies.  Concentrate on the people rather than objects.  It is more important to have fun making cookies than have beautiful cookies. Your child will not remember if the cookies they decorated were homemade or store bought, they will only remember that they decorated them and the fun surrounding it!
  9. 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!) 
  10. Don’t expect perfection from yourself, your child 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 is criticized, ignore it but 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!
  11. Exercise, breathe, get fresh air, sleep, remember to eat well and take a break each day.  End each day with a positive thought about your day and the plans for tomorrow.
  12. 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 the holidays in 2020?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Know what a serving size is….

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

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

Provide two healthy snacks a day…

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

Provide healthy choices at meals

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

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

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

Get your child excited about healthy food….

Eat breakfast every day…

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

Establish good sleep habits…

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

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

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

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


Yes, your child can trick or treat safely in 2020!

Halloween is just around the corner.  As with everything in 2020, things might be a bit different this Halloween.  Children have sacrificed greatly over the last 8 months with remote learning, loss of graduation celebrations, sports that have been cancelled, birthday parties that were different, play dates cancelled and so much more.  Halloween celebrations are such fun for our children, what can we do safely?  In my opinion….Halloween does not need to be cancelled, let our children have fun with costumes and Trick or Treating by adding just a few safety changes.  I know I will be masking up and eating a few Snicker Bars! Don’t let Covid-19 take this fun from your child!


  • Incorporate a cloth mask in your child’s costume. Super heroes wear masks….so does everyone else during 2020!  Be careful adding decorations to the mask like paint because of the risk of harmful fumes.
  • Masks which are part of a purchased costume should not replace a cloth mask for your child. Be careful about putting a costume mask OVER your child’s cloth mask, it may make breathing difficult. 
  • As always, be sure that your child’s costume allows your child to see well and for others to see them.  Reflective tape/material, flashlights, and the use of face paint or masks that allow children the ability to see well are the safest!

Trick or Treating:

  • Trick or Treating outdoors is best. Indoor haunted houses and parties are not as safe.  Replace haunted houses with outdoor corn mazes or spooky outdoor scavenger hunts with prizes.
  • Do not congregate in large groups on the street or on porches, maintain social distancing.
  • Make sure your kids are washing hands/using hand sanitizer frequently.
  • It is ALWAYS safer to check your child’s treats at home before they indulge.  Have them wash hands or use hand sanitizer after opening treats and before eating or wipe the treats off before opening  the packaging.   
  • When giving out treats, don’t forget your costume and mask! Wear a cloth face mask! Use hand sanitizer or wash hands before giving out treats.
  • Place a bottle of hand sanitizer out on the porch for families to use.
  • Consider sitting on your front porch and watching the kids walk up to your home and pick up their individually packaged treats.  You can enjoy the Trick-or Treat parade of kids without close contact.
  • I always love to have treat options for children who have food allergies such as bouncy balls, stickers, crayons, spider rings, etc. This year non- food items may be a great safe option for all trick or treaters!

If Trick or Treating is cancelled in your area or you are not comfortable participating, there are still many fun activities you can do with your child.. 

  • Decorate or carve pumpkins
  • Roast pumpkin seeds
  • Decorate your yard with Halloween spookiness
  • Have a scavenger hunt inside with family or outdoors with a few close friends with clues and hidden treats
  • Watch Halloween movies
  • Hold an outdoor Halloween movie night with social distancing
  • Decorate Halloween themed treats such as sugar cookies and cupcakes
  • Have hot cider and donuts at home or on your porch with a few friends who are distanced
  • Have a virtual Halloween Parade via Zoom with friends and family

Share other ideas!

2020 has brought so many changes to our lives. Many celebrations have changed and there have been many disappointments for our children. Let’s not make Halloween be another….let our children celebrate safely…

I know I will be eating my share of chocolate and drinking some cider.  Enjoy.

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


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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.

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 over in both directions
  • 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
  • Pick up small things with thumb and index finger “pincer grasp”
  • Play peak a boo
  • Look for hidden items
  • Look where you point
  • Sit well without support
  • Start to scoot and crawl
  • Start to pull up to stand between 9 and 12 months

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:

  • Point at items
  • Pull up to stand and may walk
  • Cruise around furniture
  • Squat and stoop to pick up things
  • Throw a ball
  • Understand one step directions from you
  • Turn pages of a toddler board book
  • Look for missing objects in last seen location
  • Say Ma Ma and Da Da and maybe a few other words like ball, dog
  • Start to show fear, will cry when you leave
  • “Help” get dressed by holding out arms etc.
  • Put things in a container, takes things out, likes to dump items

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.


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Are you a worry wart? Learn to stop so you can enjoy parenting.


If you worry about what might be…and wonder what might have been…you will ignore what is. Anonymous

I admit it, I worry.  I may even call myself a worry wart.  Over the years, I have worried over some pretty silly things.  Did it matter that my daughter wanted to wear a pink dress up tutu for 5 straight days everywhere?   Hmmmm….no.  Did my son with the 104 degree temperature have a rare childhood disease?  No.   Did I really think he did?   Not really, but was the thought in my mind….yes.  Have my children ever contracted a disease because my home was dirty?  Nope. Have I worried about dust and dirt in the house?  Unfortunately, yes.  Did grounding my daughter from a dance upset her to the point that she hated me?  Yep. Does she love me now?  Yep.  Did she love me 48 hours after the dance?  Yep.  Did it matter that my toddler son hated vegetables?  Is he healthy now? Does he like them now?….I suppose it mattered, he is healthy and no he still does not love vegetables.  Am I a bad Mom because of that…NO!

Over the years I have gotten better with my worry, but I still battle with worry thoughts that don’t really matter.  I think most parents harbor worries about their children that simply aren’t worth the space they take up in their brain.  There is a study that states only 15% of what we worry about actually ever occurs.  I love a quote from Mark Twain, “My life has been filled with calamities, some of which actually happened.”  Our worries so often are about calamities that will never happen, but somehow worrying gives us a feeling that we have control over the uncontrollable.  The worry about what people thought of my mothering when my daughter was wearing the pink tutu complete with a plastic pink headband for 5 days was really out of my control.  People think what they think!  The worrying about a rare childhood disease will not PREVENT it from happening…it only increases anxiety.  Worry solves nothing.  With the media broadcasting about bullying,  childhood health issues, pandemics, obesity, evils of the internet, kidnapping, drug use, accidents, elections….the list goes on, how can any responsible parent relax and not worry???

Worry is only effective if it results in a plan of action.  Once you have a plan, put the worry to rest.  If the worry is not worth a plan of action (the pink tutu) then put it to rest.  If your worry does not result in a plan, then it only serves to bring anxiety, generate more concern, and possibly create tension or anxiety in your child.  Worry is contagious.  Chronic worry can send a message to your child that you believe that only the worst will happen in life, and that life is full of treachery.

So what is a parent to do?

1.  Worry well.  We will all worry…so do it well.  Look at your thoughts and determine if this worry is one to take action on.  If so, then make a plan…even write it down.  Then, put the worry to bed.

2.  Remove the extreme, concentrate on the positive.   Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen?  If it does happen, what will you do?  Most of the time, if we are honest, the worst case scenario is still one we can manage.

3.  Be real…is this worth the worry?  If the worry is one that chances are will never happen….then remove it from your mind.

Most of our worries are statistically not worth the worry.  Although always tragic, the biggest worries parents have about serious diseases, kidnapping, school shootings, and abuse;  statistics tell us those worries should not be at the top of our list.  According to statistics, worries about car accidents, head injuries, water accidents should be at or near the top of our list; and those worries can be largely prevented.  Studies show us that if we buckle our child up in a car seat correctly, teach our older children to use seat belts consistently, teach our children to always wear a helmet when riding bikes, skateboards, and scooters, teach basic water safety and never leave our child unattended near or in a body of water then we have greatly reduced, some experts say by 70-90 percent, the most prevalent causes of death and severe injury for our children.  Those worries now can come off our list.

So, although worry is a natural part of parenthood and more of a challenge for some of us, it can be controlled and a large part of it eliminated.  I know that I am much happier when my worry list is small.  Worry robs me of time and energy to enjoy where I am presently.  As we start the week, commit to only worrying if it is worthwhile;  meaning you can actually control the situation and do something to prevent the problem.  Write your worries down and see if they really make sense.  Then take a deep breath, pour yourself a cup of something relaxing (Tea? In my case, I may opt for a glass of wine!)  put a helmet on your child, don’t worry about the pink tutu and enjoy.

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


Play is important child’s work!

If you are a kid…then play is your work!  If you are an adult…then learn to play!

Sit for a moment and watch your child.  Just watch…don’t jump in and give your child something to play with…just watch what your child will do.  Children, if left alone and given the opportunity,  will play happily with whatever is there.  We parents don’t have to do anything or buy anything!  Wew!  One less thing on your “to do” list!  As a matter of fact, parent led play or very organized play is not as valuable as your child  playing on his own!

There has been a decrease in the amount of free play time our children have over the last 50 years.  Our children now have less recess time at school, go to preschool at an earlier age, have more toys than children of years ago, watch more TV and play video games, play on more organized sports teams and at a younger age…all of this combined has resulted in less true free play time.  Much of our children’s play has become adult led and organized.  So, why is this a problem?  Child led free play is so much more valuable!  Free play is a child’s work and it…

  • Helps children learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate
  • Helps children build a foundation for problem solving
  • Helps children figure out the world they live in
  • Helps children develop decision making skills
  • Helps children find their interests and passions
  • Helps develop imagination
  • Helps children try on different roles, learn empathy for others
  • Helps increase language skills
  • Helps foster creativity
  • Helps children learn about nature and their environment

Adult led organized play can stifle all of this child’s work. Adult led play forces children to play according to adult rules and this decreases their creative play and their development of leadership skills.  Watch your child, they often play with a toy much differently than the way a toy is “supposed” to be used!  If left alone, a child will create all kinds of ways to play with a simple toy, if it is not a “one button wonder”.  So many of the newer toys do one thing with a push of a button, these types of toys leave little to a child’s imagination or creativity.   Going back to some of our basic toys like blocks, puzzles, stacking cups, books and dress up clothes may be much more valuable to our children’s development.   Research also shows us that a child really only needs 30 minutes of adult led play a day but at least 60 minutes of child led play a day.  So often we parents feel like it is our responsibility  to lead our child in play!  Child led play is also better than play that is “entertainment” based like TV, video and computer games, and movies.  The less screen time a child has before the age of 2 the better!  This type of “play” decreases creativity and active play which may be part of the reason we are struggling with an increase in childhood obesity.

Play at every stage of development in childhood is more than just  fun, it is a child’s right and a necessity.  As a society, I think we underestimate the importance of play.  Do you want your child to be happy and successful?  Don’t tell your child to just “hit the books” but tell him to “go play.”

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


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