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

Think about a straw cup instead of a sippy!


straw cup

Sippy cups are everywhere…there are aisles and aisles of them at most discount and baby stores. Cups with soft spouts, cups with hard spouts, cups with valves, cups without valves, cups with straws, cups with handles, and cups of every color and size. Choices, choices and more choices! Once again it seems a parent needs a class on how to choose a sippy cup. I am going to make it easy for you….

Sippy cups are a transitional cup…..Transitional! That means it is a cup for a child to use for a short period of time when transitioning from a breast or bottle. Children are developmentally capable of drinking from a lidless cup with very few spills by age 3. Capable if we allow them to develop the skill.

A cup should be introduced at about 6 months when a child starts solid foods. I have always recommended a sippy cup with a hard spout and without a valve. I now feel that a child should use a straw cup over a sippy cup. Children often use sippy cups like a bottle. Their heads are tipped back and they suck on the spout just like a nipple. When children suck, their jaw, lips and tongue all move simultaneously. This motion does not allow the jaw, lips and tongue to work separately which is necessary for speech. The tongue also is in a forward position pushing on the teeth, which can cause a misshapen mouth and a tongue thrust. This all can result in problems with speech and articulation.  The use of a straw cup will often prevent this from happening.

So, introduce a valveless hard spout sippy cup with meals at about 6 months of age. Start working with your child to use a straw cup. Usually by 9 months of age a child is able to use a straw. You can start by using a cup that can be squeezed, put gentle pressure on the cup to bring fluid up into the straw. Try using an open or lidless cup with meals and save the straw cup for times that you are away from the table and want to prevent spills. Your child can also practice with an open cup in the bathtub…no worries about spills there! So parents, let go of that sippy cup! Allow your child to learn how to drink with a lidless cup and use a straw cup when spills need to be prevented. Their teeth and their speech will thank you. Relax, there will be a few spills, but there is no reason to cry over spilled milk!

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

Should you worry about heavy metal contaminants in your baby’s food?


By: Cindy Love MSN CPNP

The introduction of solid foods is often an exciting time for babies and parents.  Is there anything cuter than your baby sitting in a high chair with food spread from ear to ear exploring the new taste of sweet potatoes? Having access to healthy food is key to a child’s proper growth and development. With the recent reporting of the presence of heavy metals in most commercial baby foods, parents are adding another worry to their parenting worry list. Toxic metals like lead, arsenic and mercury are often found in soil and water. So, food grown in this soil will take up these contaminants.  Additional contamination can occur during manufacturing and packaging of processed foods. Children’s developing brains are more likely affected by these heavy metals which can affect learning and behavior. Parents need to remember many things influence a child’s brain development and this heavy metal exposure is just one of them. However, any way that we can limit our child’s exposure to these contaminants will be a benefit.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the low level of heavy metals found in baby foods are most likely a small part of a child’s overall exposure to heavy metals.  We as parents need to work on limiting this exposure in all aspects of our children’s lives.  So what can we do to prevent the exposure?

  1.  Buy organic? Buying organic does not prevent heavy metal exposure. Some of the baby foods tested that were labeled organic actually had some of the higher levels. Organic food will limit pesticide and chemical exposure but not heavy metal exposure.
  2. Make your own baby food. Making your own baby food will help limit any heavy metal contamination from the manufacturing and packaging process; but this will not prevent the contamination of the food from the soil and water.
  3. Limit your child’s rice intake. Arsenic exposure is seen in diets high in rice content.  Rice cereal often is one of the first foods introduced to babies. Choose instead a whole grain cereal such as oatmeal, wheat, or barley.  Many toddler foods/snacks such as puffs, combination meals (chicken, vegetables and rice), and teething cookies (Mum Mums which are rice rusks) are high in arsenic. Choose snacks like puffs made with other grains, cheese cubes, frozen fruit to help with teething pain, and combination meals without rice.
  4.  Serve a variety of foods. This provides a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins which will lower the exposure of contaminants from single food choices. Sweet potatoes and carrots have some of the highest levels of contaminants, so including many other vegetables along with sweet potatoes and carrots will lessen exposure.  Wash all fruits and vegetable well in cool water before serving. 
  5. No juice for children under age 1. Very limited juice for children over age 1 (4 to 6 oz/day). Juice, especially apple juice, has higher levels of contaminants than the whole fruit. Choose the whole fruit which has more nutrients and fiber.
  6. Do not use rice milk as a milk substitute for toddlers and older children. Rice milk contains significantly high levels of arsenic. If your child has dairy allergies, talk to your pediatrician for other choices!
  7. Serve fresh whole foods. This is always better both for nutrition and the prevention of exposure to harmful additives and heavy metals during processing and packaging.
  8. Serve fish that is known to be lower in mercury. These choices would include light tuna, salmon, cod, and white fish.  Fish is a healthy source of protein!
  9. Don’t smoke or vape. A child’s second hand exposure (breathing in the smoke) or third hand exposure (clothing of a smoker/vaper) will increase exposure to cadmium and lead.
  10. Check older homes for lead paint.  Exposure to lead through chips/peeling of lead paint is the most common way for children to develop high lead levels.

We can’t prevent 100% of a child’s exposure to these heavy metal contaminants, but we can do our best to limit the exposure. Do your best, provide whole fresh foods as often as possible, limit the amount of rice based snacks and foods, and serve a variety of foods… then relax and enjoy that sweet face covered in food grinning at you!

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

Additional resources:

Tips to Reduce Arsenic in Your Baby’s Diet

Heavy Metals in Baby Food and Fruit Juice: Advice for Parents from Environmental Pediatricians

5 Baby Foods with Arsenic and Lead and Safer ChoicesEverything You Need to Know About Heavy Metals and Contaminants in Baby Food

This Valentine’s Day, Commit to 4 Goals….


Valentine

Commit to your relationships with 4 simple goals…..

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Walking into Target, the aisles are full of pink and red and signage promising if you purchase this your Valentine will forever be yours! Yes, Valentine’s Day may be a marketing ploy more than a real day to celebrate love, but it is a great time to stop and think about your relationship at home. Let’s be honest, parenting can be tough. It takes a lot of effort to raise children, and there are points during the child raising process that there just does not seem time for anything else! But the fact is, time spent on your relationship with each other is vitally important for your happiness and your child’s. So often the blessing of children results in both parents totally concentrating on their children and not putting any effort into their relationship with each other. I was guilty of this at times. When our four children were younger, I can remember times when the only conversation I had with my husband revolved around if we had enough milk and who was driving to the next sporting event! Not a whole lot of romance there….but more importantly not a whole lot of relationship building. A relationship will not stay healthy for 18 years if there is only effort put forth on raising children! So as Valentine’s Day approaches, take a moment and thing about investing in each other……a few thoughts to get the process going….

One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was from a book Creative Counterpart. Over the years I have put this philosophy to work, recommitting to this over and over again when life became unbalanced.

Set four goals each day.

  • One goal should be for you. Something that you will do that day to “fill yourself up.” Remember an empty pitcher cannot give anything. Some days that might be 30 minutes of reading, maybe time to reflect, maybe a run, or possibly a big bowl of ice cream and chocolate! Something for yourself.
  • A second goal should be for your husband. Not something for him to DO, but something you do for him. I call it every day intimacy…this might be concentrating that day on giving a compliment or two, maybe leaving a post-it love note, an extra kiss or cuddle for no reason…something to build relationship.  Get creative!
  • A third goal should be for your child. Something little you will do extra with him or her. Maybe you will read an extra story, or you finally will get the finger paints out, or bake cookies, or just a few minutes of extra cuddle time before bed.  Again, these are small goals…nothing crazy like trips to Disney.
  • Finally a goal for your home. Kids and life can result in chaos in a home. I am not talking about a goal to wash walls and baseboards, but a small daily goal to control the chaos. Maybe today you will wipe out all the bathroom sinks, tomorrow you will put the laundry away, or maybe you will dust or vacuum one room.  These small goals will result in a home that feels more content rather than chaotic.

Those four daily goals will bring balance to your life. Every day kindness will become a habit and some of the negativity that creeps into many relationships when kids become the center of life will be squelched. Take time to remember why you fell in love.

Recommit to living your life and not being dragged along for the ride. Fill yourself up, give to your relationships, and take a bit of control in your home. Now fold to the pressure and go buy Valentines for your special someones…everyone needs to be reminded that they are loved.

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

Will preschool help your child be academically successful?


kels on swing

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes a good preschool?

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

What can you do at home?

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

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

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

Cindy

           

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.

Cindy

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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. 

Recap….

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.

Cindy

“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.

Cindy

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.

Cindy

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.

Cindy

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