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

Baby talk! Encouraging language development in your child.


Facial expressions are important in the development of language in children!

Talking to your child and using lots of animated facial expressions are important for your child’s language development!

Believe me, hearing the sweet voice of your child say “Ma Ma” or “Da Da” is one of those moments you always remember.  Later, I can remember thinking….”Maybe I should change my name, I am tired of hearing “MO-OMMMM!” Suddenly it was a two syllable word that rocked the house!  Now, I love hearing “Mom” when I get that phone call or one of the kids bursts through the door for a visit!  The fact is, language development in your child is exciting and fun, and early development is important.  Studies show us that the number of words your child hears is proportionate to the size of his or her vocabulary that is developed.  This is through direct spoken words to your child, through conversation or reading, not words heard from the TV or radio, or conversations around your child.  Some experts tell us that a parent should be saying 30,000 words per day to their child.  Wow, that is a lot of talking!  Now I tell you this as a fun fact, not to have you tally mark each word you say to your child!  I don’t want to add another task to your day, or worry to your list!  The 30,000 per day number does send the message home though that talk is important, and as parents we have to work at talking and reading to our children!  In this age of TV, computers, I-Pods and I-Pads, and smart phones; sometimes the spoken word and art of conversation is lost.  As a parent we need to bring that art of truly talking with our children back!

What can we do to foster language development in our children?

  • Talk to your child!  When your infant is looking at you or an object…talk to your child!  When your child coos, coo back…this is the start of the art of conversing.  Describe what your baby is seeing.  Talk about what you are doing during the day.  Read stories and talk about the pictures in board books.  Studies show who children that hear 30,000 words a day from birth to age 3 have better language skills at 3 but also have an academic edge still in 3rd grade…no matter the socioeconomic level!  TALK A LOT TO YOUR CHILD!  It can be the great equalizer for academic success!
  • Say it again.  This helps a child’s brain connect the sound and the meaning of words.  A 1 year old is able to say most of the sounds to put together words, they just don’t have the word!  Saying things over and over helps a child put those sounds they know into words.
  • Always respond to any of those sweet sounds your child makes.  When your baby coos, talk back.  When your child squeals with a favorite toy, talk about how much your child likes that special toy.  When your child babbles and reaches for an item, say what the item is before you give it to your child. Expand on your child’s sweet “words” by simply paying attention to them.
  • Take turns with your child.  This teaches conversation!  Blow on your baby’s tummy and wait for that giggle.  Do it again!   Play peek-a-boo and other games that encourage taking turns in conversation…cause and effect.
  • Look at your child.  Your child needs to see your face when you are talking.  Your child will look at your mouth to see how words and sounds are formed. When you make raspberries, your baby will make them too!  Your smiles, facial expressions and encouragement gives your child positive reinforcement.  Your child will make those sounds again when you pay attention.
  • “Motherese” or “Parents” is good!  The high-pitched sing-song voice most moms use to talk to their baby is good!  Babies like the pitch of this type of talk and the slow pace helps them understand better.  Teach Dad how to do it!
  • Give your child the opportunity to talk.  Don’t anticipate every need, allow your child to point and make attempts to ask for what he or she wants. Wait for the gesture or the word and then expand on it!
  • Narrate your day.  Talk to your baby as you change a diaper, give a bath, cook a meal.  Describe what you are doing and what your child is doing.  Sit next to your child and narrate his play.  “I see you picked up a red block.  Are you going to build?” “Oh you are rocking your baby.”
  • Expand your child’s communication.  When your child says “dog”, you can say “Yes that is a dog!  It is a brown dog!”
  • Read.  Reading is a great opportunity to engage with your child.  Your child will learn more words and will develop a love of books.  Hearing the same book over and over helps to make language connections in your child’s brain. Strive for 30 minutes of reading a day.  I love to “read children awake”.  When your little one wakes in the morning or after a nap, take a few minutes to gently wake up with reading.
  • Go on field trips!  Take your child to the grocery, the post office, on hikes…talk about what you see!  Watch your child, and see what he or she is interested in or excited about.  Talk about that rock or stick he or she picks up!
  • Use music.  Music encourages your child to pronounce words and practice putting sentences together.  Songs also help children remember things…I still can’t put things in alphabetical order without singing my A B C’s!  🙂
  • Play language games.  Point and name games like “Where is your nose?” “This is Mommy’s toes, where are your toes?”  Helps your child becomeaware of himself and make language connections, plus it is fun!
  • Don’t worry but refer early.  Your child’s brain is a sponge ready for speech development in the first 3 years. There is a wide range of normal with speech development, but early referral is always best. Every day work on providing the opportunities to allow your child’s speech to develop.  If you have questions or concerns, call your pediatrician or call your state’s Early Child Development Program.

Language Milestones from The American Speech – Language – Hearing Association

0-3 Months

  • Baby will startle to sound
  • Quiets or smiles when you speak to him
  • Recognizes your voice
  • Smiles at you
  • Coos

4-6 Months

  • Babbles and uses sounds with p, b and m
  • Laughs
  • Makes excitement sounds and unhappy sounds
  • Makes gurgling sounds
  • Likes music

7 Months – 1 Year

  • Likes “peek-a-boo”, “patty cake”, “soo big!”
  • Uses “speech” not crying to sometimes get your attention.
  • Uses gestures like pointing, putting arms up, waving.
  • Recognizes words that you say like “cup” and other common words.
  • Starts to follow 1 step directions.
  • About the first birthday will have about 2 or 3 words like ball, ma ma, da da, dog.

1 Year – 2 Year

  • Points to pictures in a book when named.
  • Knows animal sounds.
  • Points to a few body parts when asked.
  • Can say a two word question or sentence by age 2.
  • Vocabulary expanding every month.

2 Year – 3 Year

  • Follows two step directions.
  • Has a word for almost everything.
  • Is understood most of the time by those with him often.
  • Speaks in 2 to 3 word sentences.
  • Starting to understand concepts like big and little, up and down, in and on.

When do you refer?

  • A baby who doesn’t respond to sound or who doesn’t make vocal sound.
  • A child who does not point, or wave “bye bye” at 12 months.
  • A child at 18 months who uses gestures over words to communicate.
  • A child at age 2 or older who only imitates speech and does not speak spontaneously.
  • A child at age 2 who can’t follow simple 1 or 2 step directions.
  • A child at age 2 who parents are unable to understand at least 1/2 of the child’s speech, or a 3 year old child that a parent cannot understand 3/4 of the child’s speech.
  • A 4 year old child who is not understandable by others.
  • Don’t sit and worry….refer early.  Most speech referrals are made between 15 months and 2 years of age.

Remember, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are like little language sponges.  Talk, talk, talk, and turn that TV off!  Your child will soon be yelling “MO-OMMMMM!”….be careful what you wish for!!  🙂

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

Cindy

Keep your precious cargo safe by using a car seat correctly!


Parents must be sure that their child’s car seat is being used correctly…we all have precious cargo!

I read an study recently in the Journal of Pediatrics which really shocked me.

A total of 291 families (81% of those eligible) participated. Nearly all (95%) CSSs were misused, with 1 or more errors in positioning (86%) and/or installation (77%). Serious CSS misuse occurred for 91% of all infants. Frequent misuses included harness and chest clip errors, incorrect recline angle, and seat belt/lower anchor use errors. https://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(15)01459-6/fulltext

95% had errors in car seat installation of positioning! That is such a scary thought since car accidents are the leading cause of death for children.  But to be honest, car seats are not easy to install correctly!   The manuals are long and sometimes confusing, there are different recommendations by auto manufacturers, and I know the installation of a car seat has caused many an argument between Moms and Dads!

The newest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics state that until at least age 2 your child should sit in a rear facing seat and preferably a child should be rear facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer (that means your child most likely will be older than age 2 and still rear facing).  Children over the age of 2 may sit in a front facing seat with a 5 point harness until their weight and height exceeds the car seat’s recommendation for the seat.  A booster seat should be used until a child is 57 inches tall, which is the average height of an 11-year-old (wow…bet you didn’t realize that!)  No child should sit in the front seat until age 13! www.healthychildren.org

Types of car seats:

  • Rear facing only

This seat is used for infants up to 22 to 40 pounds depending on the seat.  They are small and have handles to carry the seat.  Some have a base that can be left in the car.

  • Convertible seats that can be used for rear facing

These seats can be used rear facing and then “converted” to forward facing when your child is older.  They are bigger than infant seats and do not have handles or a separate base.  They often have a higher rear facing weight and height limits which is great for larger babies.  They should have a 5 point harness.

  • 3 in 1 seats

These seats can be used rear facing, forward facing and as a booster.  They may be used longer by your child. (But remember every seat has an expiration date…about 5-6 years)

Installation for rear facing

 

  • The shoulder straps should be at or below your baby’s shoulders.
  • The straps should be snug (you shouldn’t be able to pinch any slack) and the chest clip should be at the nipple line.
  • The seat should be tight in the car.  You should not be able to move it more than an inch side to side or front to back.
  • Never put a rear facing seat in the front seat of a car!
  • Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your baby’s head does not flop down.  Many seats have an angle indicator or adjusters that can help with this.
  • I recommend having a certified car seat technician help install the car seat.  This will help with the many questions parents have and may even prevent Mom and Dad from having an argument!  🙂  Check out this website for great information on car seats, car seat recommendations and locations of car seat technicians in your area.  It is an excellent resource! http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm

Common questions parents have about car seats:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx

Rear Facing Seats

  • What if my child’s feet touch the back of the car seat?

No problem…your baby will cross his legs and find a comfortable position.  There are few reports of leg injuries from a crash with a baby in this position, but a leg injury is a much less severe injury than a head and neck injury which you are helping to prevent by keeping your child backward facing until age 2 or older.

  • What do I do if my baby is slouching in the seat?

You may put blanket rolls on both sides of your baby and a small cloth diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and your baby for a while until your baby grows a bit.  Do not ever put padding or blankets or anything behind your baby or add any car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the car seat.  Any additions to a seat may make it work a bit differently and provide less protection for your baby!

  • What do I do about winter coats?

Remember that thick winter coats, blankets, or clothing should not be put under the car seat harness or straps.  Dress your baby in thin layers and then tuck a blanket around your baby over the harness straps if necessary.

Installation of forward facing seats

  • Always know the restrictions of your model.  Know the maximum weight and height limits for your seat!
  • The shoulder straps should be in the slots that are at  or above your child’s shoulders. (This is the opposite from the rear facing position)
  • You may need to adjust the angle of the seat when you turn it to forward facing, check your car seat manual.
  • Choose to use the LATCH system if your car or van has it OR the seat belt.  Do not use both.  Check your car or van manual and your car seat manual for proper installation with the LATCH or seat belt. Latch does have a weight limit of 65 lbs total, meaning the weight of the car seat plus your child.  If the car seat and your child together weighs over 65 lbs, then you must use the seat belt to secure the seat.
  • Use a tether strap.  This is a strap that attaches to the top of the seat.  It is often on the seat back of the car or van.  This gives extra protection by not allowing the car seat and your child’s head to move too far forward in a crash.  All vehicles manufactured from 2000 on have them.  Check the weight limit for the use of the tether anchor.

Common questions about forward facing car seats

  • Where is the safest spot for the car seat in the back?

The safest spot is where the seat can be installed properly, it is convenient for you to use safely every time.  Some LATCH systems are only on the sides of the back seat.  Some car seats only fit well in the middle.  It depends on your car seat, your vehicle and the number of children you have on where is best for the car seat!

  • Should we use a car seat on a plane?

Most infant and convertible car seats can be used on planes.  The seat must have a FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approval label on it.  The FAA and the AAP recommend that children use car seats when flying until age 4.  This keeps your child safer during takeoff and landing and in turbulence.

So much information…but so important to keep your child safe.  We will continue the conversation over the next few days with more tips.  What car seat do you use?  Why do you like it?

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

You both are ready…ditch those diapers!


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

When you think the time is right…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cindy

The potty dance, M&Ms and other potty rewards!


The reward of choice at our house during potty training… one M&M for peeing, two M&Ms for pooping and Mommy always got some too!

We have talked about when to start potty training, how to “ditch the diapers” and get moving on the process, what to do with some “potty pitfalls” and a technique to help a resistant trainer…now, for the question your toddler will think is the most important…“What do I get when I potty?”  

As a parent, we quickly learn that children respond to reinforcement.  We can encourage behavior that we like with reinforcement, and unintentionally, we can encourage behavior we don’t like with reinforcement!  Rewards or reinforcement come in many different forms and different ones work for different kids!

The first thing to remember about children is that your attention is the biggest reward or incentive to a child.  That attention is so important in your child’s development.  This is the important part, attention is attention to a child.   Negative attention, lots of yelling, words, emotion and time spent on a negative behavior will probably increase that behavior!  So lots of yelling, words, emotion and time spent on potty accidents or pottying resistance will increase that type of behavior.  Ignoring or giving very little attention to potty accidents or pottying resistance will decrease that type of behavior.

So let’s talk about some incentives that have worked for toddlers that are working on that huge task of potty training.

  • Positive attention.  Hugs, words of praise, clapping, high fives, song singing, and yes the potty dance.  A little dance celebrating that poop or pee in the potty!
  • Stickers.  Many children after the age of 2 respond well to stickers and a sticker chart.  Let your child pick out stickers at the store and place that sticker on a chart when your child sits on the potty at first, and then later as they go poop or pee.  Some children prefer to “wear” their sticker, or even get to wear one and place one on the chart too.
  • Treats.  M & Ms were the treat of choice in my house with potty training.  As I have said, I used them to reward myself too for the success!  Again, you would start out rewarding for sitting on the potty and then eventually for going potty.  Other suggestions would be raisins, marshmallows, or any other treat that your child would not receive routinely.  Sometimes a jar of these treats placed in plain view is a motivator for children.
  • Dye the toilet water.  Put a few drops of red or blue food coloring in the water, when your child pees…wow it changes to orange or green!  A motivator for learning to pee on the toilet!  Also helpful when little boys are learning to aim a bit better.  A handful of Cheerios as targets also work.
  • Stamps.  Some children are more excited about stamps than stickers.  Put a stamp on your child’s hand, cheek, tummy, let them decide!  The problem may be convincing them to wash them off in the tub!
  • Coloring book.  Pick out a coloring book together.  Every time your child has success, let him color a page.
  • Marbles or coins.  Every time your child is successful, let him place a marble or coin in a jar.  After a certain number of marbles or coins, he gets a prize.  This works well for a child that has been progressing in potty training and is trying to go several days without accidents.  Not a good choice for the very start when children need an immediate reinforcement every time there is a success.

I know there are other incentives or reinforcements that have worked.  The point is, your child has to think the reward has value to him and it must be a reward and not a bribe.  A bribe is given before the potty success…a reward is given after a potty success.  Always reward, don’t bribe.  Rewards that are temporary also seem to be more effective too.  The sticker will be taken off, the stamp washes off, the candy is eaten…..this gives incentive to get another!

All of us respond well to positive reinforcement.  All of us like to be rewarded.  Find one that works for your child and your potty training experience will be a little easier.  It might be nice to find one for yourself too….wish they would have had peanut butter M & Ms when I was potty training my kids!

Share a potty training incentive that worked for you and your child!!  We all are in this together.  🙂

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

Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby


Our daughter Kelsey loving her solid foods!  She was needing a dunk in the tub after this meal!

I can remember the excitement of introducing the kids to their first tastes of “real food”.  The camera was ready, they were sitting up and eager, and that first bite often resulted in the funniest look as they had that first taste.

I know that starting solid foods often comes along with many questions.  What food is first?  What about allergies?  How much?  When?  And the list goes on and on.  To be honest, there are not many hard and fast “rules” that come with starting your little one on solids.  As with many issue of parenting, you may see many different suggestions and contradictory information which can increase your anxiety.    Like many of my parenting tips, I start by saying “Relax!”  There really is not a “wrong” way to do this!  So get your cameras ready….the introduction to solid food is a milestone for every parent and baby, and is darn cute too!

When is my baby ready?

The American Academy of Pediatrics tells parents that solid foods should be introduced between 4 and 6 months of age.  At any point between 4 and 6 months, it is just fine!  More important than age, we like to see that the baby is developmentally ready for solids.

Why should I wait until my baby is 4 to 6 months old?

Ideally, breast milk or formula should be the main nutrition for a baby’s first 4 to 6 months.  The foods that you introduce after that are really just supplemental to the nutrients in the breast milk and formula.  Solids are really an education in taste and texture for the first year of life.  Breast milk or formula is the core of your baby’s diet for the first full year providing at least 75% of your baby’s calories.  After a year, your baby will start to meet more and more of their nutritional needs through solid foods.  By age 3, a child should only be getting about 10-20% of their calories from milk, and the rest from solid foods.

Isn’t this different from when I grew up?

Maybe.  The school of thought regarding solids has changed over the years.   In the 1920’s, solid foods were seldom offered to babies before a year.  During the 1960’s and 1970’s solid foods often were fed to infants in the first three months.  There are pictures of me being fed rice cereal at just a few weeks of age.  (I AM pretty old!)  Moms were often told then that the cereal would help a young infant sleep through the night.  I promise it doesn’t!   Slowly, we have come almost full circle with the recommendation now to wait until your baby is at least 4 months old.

Why do we wait now?

We have learned that babies are just not developmentally ready for solids.  More important than actual age is your baby’s development.

  • Before 4 months of age, a baby’s digestive system is too immature for solids.
  • Before 4 months of age, a baby’s throat muscles are not developed for swallowing solids and there is a tongue thrust…food that is placed in the mouth is pushed back out with his tongue.  Most babies no longer have this tongue thrust by 6 months.
  • Before 4 months of age, your baby has no ability to tell you that he is full.  Until around 4 to 5 months, babies will not turn their head to refuse food.
  • Before 4 months of age, solid foods will result in your baby taking less breast milk or formula that has the correct amount of nutrients and fat for growth.
  • Solids should be introduced no later than 6 months.  Waiting too long for the introduction of solids can result in a delay in your baby’s eating and chewing skills, and recent studies now show that waiting longer than 6 months of age may actually increase food allergies.

What are some signs that might show my baby is developmentally ready for solids?

  • Your baby is between 4 and 6 months in age.
  • Your baby has at least doubled his birth weight.
  • Your baby can sit with support.
  • Your baby has good head and neck control and is able to turn his head to refuse food.
  • Your baby’s tongue thrust reflex is diminishing.
  • Your baby is breast-feeding more than 8 to 10 times a day and still wants more or your baby is taking 32 to 36 ounces of formula and wants more.
  • Your baby is reaching for your food, or shows an interest when you are eating.

What food should be first?

Traditionally babies have been started on an iron fortified, easily digested cereal, like rice.  This is because at 6 months of age, a baby’s natural iron stores from Mom are beginning to diminish.  So, most parents start with some type of cereal, often rice.  Other than the iron, there is not much nutrition in the rice cereal. I feel that a white rice cereal is not the best choice for a first food….there really is no hard and fast rule regarding what food you should start first.  There are many good options such as:

  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potato
  • Pears
  • Applesauce
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Strained meats
  • Whole milk yogurt

First foods should be single ingredients.  Foods should be introduced one at a time with a couple of days in between each new food so if there is any type of reaction you will know which food is likely the culprit!

Some will suggest that a parent introduce vegetables before fruits so the baby does not taste the sweet food first.  I don’t feel this is necessary.  Babies who are breast-fed have tasted sweet…breast milk is sweet!  No matter if a parent introduces fruits or vegetables first, babies will always prefer the sweeter taste.  So, it really doesn’t matter!  Introduce a vegetable, then a fruit, then a meat….whatever works for you and your child!

How do I start?

  1. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons of a single ingredient pureed food.  It should be a liquid consistency in the beginning.  Your goal is not to fill up your child’s tummy, but to expose him to the new taste and texture.  Be careful not to substitute food for breast milk or formula.  During the first year babies should still have 4-6 breast feedings or 24-36 ounces of formula in 24 hours.  If milk consumption drops, you may be feeding too many solids.
  2. Use your finger as the first spoon and have your baby suck the food off your finger.  You then can move to a rubber coated spoon.
  3. Offer the first meal when you are not in a hurry and your baby is not overly tired or too hungry.  I suggest you nurse or bottle feed first, and then an hour later try the solids.
  4. Always offer the new food in the morning so if your baby would have any kind of reaction or upset tummy, it doesn’t happen at night!
  5. Watch your facial expressions.  Babies learn what foods you like and don’t like!  Everything should be yummy!
  6. If your baby makes a face or gags with the new taste or texture, it does not mean that he doesn’t like the food.  It takes at least 10 to 15 introductions of a food before a baby can develop a like or dislike!  We want our babies to have a wide taste pallet!  Don’t limit your baby to only the foods you like, especially if you are picky!
  7. Watch carefully to see when your baby has had enough.  A baby may turn his head, close his mouth, bat the spoon away, or become fussy.  Do not force food.  Remember, the majority of your baby’s calories should be coming from breast milk or formula.
  8. It makes no difference to a baby if he gets green beans for breakfast!  There is no right or wrong food for each meal.
  9. Start with one meal a day and then move to twice a day.  By 9 months of age, most babies are enjoying solid foods and are eating 3 meals a day.
  10. There should be “dinner and a show!”  Babies like smiles, airplane spoons, songs, and fun with the meal.  Enjoy it!

Tips for making mealtime easier?

  1. Show your baby how you take a bite and enjoy your food.  This may encourage a reluctant eater.
  2. Use the upper lip to sweep food off the spoon.
  3. Dress yourself and your baby in clothes that won’t be hurt by a messy eater!  Many times I stripped my little ones down and sometimes a bath was necessary after the meal!  Babies are messy eaters….no way to get around that!
  4. Use suction cup bottomed bowels.  Keep your baby’s hands busy, give him a spoon to hold too!
  5. No pressure.  It is O.K. if your baby misses a meal.  If your baby is fighting the solid foods, skip a meal or two and then try again.  Remember, solids are mainly an education to taste and texture.  Your baby should be receiving most of his nutrition from breast milk or formula.

What about water and  juice?

Babies do not need any other liquid besides breast milk or formula for the first 4 to 6 months.  This means no juice or water.  Once solid foods are introduced, a baby should be introduced to a cup.  Water may be given in a cup with a meal.  Your baby will probably just take a few sips.  Juice is not recommended for the first year.  Juice provides very little nutritional value and has a lot of empty calories.

What about allergies?

Some health care providers may suggest waiting to start foods like eggs, fish, or peanut butter until your baby is older because of the risk of food allergies.  Studies have shown that avoidance of foods does not prevent the allergy and may actually increase the incidence of food allergies.  In January of 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines recommending that foods should not be avoided unless there was a significant family history of food allergies.  Check with your health care provider regarding his or her suggestions about these foods.

One food that should be avoided until after the first birthday is honey.  Honey carries the risk of your baby developing botulism.  This does not include honey that is in foods like crackers or cereal, only pure honey.

How will I know if my baby is allergic to a food?

If your baby has vomiting, diarrhea, a new diaper rash or skin rash including hives, or develops wheezing, then this could be a food allergy.  If your baby has gas, or a tummy ache it may just be a food intolerance.  If you think your baby has had an allergic response or an intolerance, you should stop giving the food to your baby.  You might try the food again in a couple of months if the reaction was mild and your baby may do just fine.  If there was a more severe reaction like vomiting, hives, or wheezing talk to your health care provider before giving the food again.

What about homemade baby food?

Some parents choose to make baby food.  To be honest, if you are waiting to start solids until your baby is 6 months old, your little one will not eat true puree food for very long.  Most babies will start finger foods at about 8 months and are eating mostly table food by  11 months of age.    It is not terribly difficult or time-consuming to make baby food.  You may choose to make all of your own, or use some store-bought and some homemade.  Your baby will also do just fine if you choose to use all store-bought.  Here are some tips for making your own.

  • You will need something to grind or puree food.  You might use a blender, food processor or simply a fork as your little one gets used to texture.
  • You will need storage containers like ice-cube trays or something similar.  There are trays made just for baby food, but ice-cube trays will work just the same.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and fresh, or frozen for the best nutritional value.
  • Wash your hands well.
  • Wash the fruit and vegetables well!
  • Bake, boil, or steam the vegetables or fruit.  You then can mash or puree using water or breast milk/formula.  If you boil the vegetables/fruit, use the leftover liquid to mash the food to prevent loss of nutrients in the water.
  • Peel and pit fruits and vegetables and strain if necessary.
  • You can use seasoning!  Babies like flavor!  Try to stay away from salt.
  • Remove skin and trim fat from meat.  You can puree cooked meat, or grind it, or simply cut it up into very small pieces for an older baby.
  • Freeze the food  in ice-cube trays.  Remove the cubes of food and store in labeled freezer bags.  One cube is about 1 ounce of food.
  • When ready, thaw the amount you will use.  If your baby does not eat all the food prepared in the dish, it must be thrown out, it cannot be saved.
  • Use caution heating with a microwave.  Microwaves can cause hot spots..be sure to stir and test the food.

There are many books with tips and recipes for making baby food.  Some of my favorites include:

Super Baby Food   By:  RuthYaron

Baby Bites   By:   Bridget Swinney

Top 100 Baby Purees:  100 Quick and Easy Meals for a Healthy and Happy Baby   By:   Annabel Karmel

So, the introduction of solids really should not make you anxious, it should be exciting and fun!  Enjoy this milestone for you and your baby!  Your baby’s first taste of solid food only happens once!  Don’t over think the process.  Get ready for dinner and a show!

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

Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics

www.askdrsears.com

www.napnap.org

www.superbabyfood.com

www.wholsomebabyfood.com

 

Your child’s temperament….continued!


See the difference?  Same activity…four different children, several different reactions…embrace your child’s temperament!

There are a few more traits that make up your child’s temperament.  Picking up from yesterday….

5.  Sensory Threshold

How sensitive is your child to physical stimuli?  Does your child become overly stimulated in a room full of noise or people?  Does your baby cry when he or she has been passed from person to person for a period of time?   Does texture of food bother your child?  Does your child respond positively or negatively to the feel of certain material or clothing?  Do the seams on socks need to be straight?! (my #3 daughter had her shoes off immediately if those seams weren’t straight)

Parenting the highly sensitive child:

  • Learn tolerance of unusual complaints..like socks that are not straight!
  • Try not to be annoyed by the fixing of socks, or cutting off of tags, or not buying “itchy” clothes.  Being sensitive to that will decrease the whining.
  • This child may have a low pain tolerance; little hurts need lots of TLC.  Dramatic reactions are common.
  • Learn to keep lights low, noise level low, and keep your child close with some physical contact when in new stimulating situations.
  • The highly sensitive child often is often creative and empathetic.

Parenting the less sensitive child:

  • Be aware if you have a less sensitive child so something is not missed.  They will tend to live with a minor ache or pain for quite a while.
  • Talk about feelings of others, help build empathy.  Point out when feelings are hurt, when apologies are needed.  Help your child become aware of how their behavior or actions impact others.

6.  Approach/Withdrawal

This is how a child responds to a new situation or strangers.  Is your child always ready to try something new?  Does your child make a new friend easily?  Is your child very curious?  Or, is your child cautious and slow to warm up to others?  Slow to warm up children are often resistant to new situations, activities, and people.  These children will often think before they act and are less impulsive.  This is a positive during adolescence!

Parenting the approachable child:

  • Encourage your child’s eagerness and curiosity….do not squelch their enthusiasm!
  • Expose them to new experiences and people.
  • Encourage them to commit, sometimes this child has a difficult time finishing a task.  These children can be social butterflies.
  • Encourage quality time with friends to help develop “best friend” type relationships.
  • Relax, enjoy their social behavior but be sure to talk to your child about asking permission from you before he or she speaks to people who are unfamiliar.  Children who are very approachable do not “know a stranger”.  You must not scare them, but protect them.

Parenting the less approachable child or slow to warm:

  • Do not label your child as “shy” or “quiet”; this type of child is thoughtful, reserved, or cautious.
  • Ease your child into meeting new people and new experiences slowly, show pictures of relatives if you are visiting.  Talk about what you will be doing, prepare your child.
  • Avoid putting your child in the spotlight or center of attention if uncomfortable.
  • Help your child problem solve, find solutions for when he or she is uncomfortable.  Have them go with a friend to group activities, find familiar faces in a room of people, have preplanned conversation or talking points when meeting new people.  Do not discourage your child from going places and doing things because they are uncomfortable.
  •  Encourage your child to try new things, do not allow them to become a “home body”.
  • Do not talk or answer for your child; allow him or her to respond, give them time to speak.

7.  Adaptability

This is how easily a child can handle transition or change.  Does your child have problems with change in routine or moving from one activity to another?  How long does it take your child to be comfortable in a new situation?

Parenting the flexible child:

  • A flexible child is easier many times because he or she tends to be “easy going”.
  • Flexible children still need routines but they will not melt down if that routine is not always followed.
  • This type child will flip from task to task, but will have to be reminded to finish.  Written reminders, calendars, and charts will help keep your child on task.  Try not to nag.
  • Allow for natural consequences when things are not completed…don’t rescue an older child from consequences.  Life lessons are very important.

Parenting the inflexible child:

  • A child who adapts more slowly will usually not rush into dangerous situations and may be less peer influenced.  A good thing during the teen years!
  • This child does better when he or she knows what to expect, help them know what is coming up.
  • Give warnings before changing activities.  “After breakfast we are going to the store.”  “In 5 minutes we are going to the store.”  “One more minute, put your puzzle away, we are going to the store.”  This “warning system” will help your child switch activities without a meltdown.
  • Try new routines out first before they have to do it (a run through morning before the first day of school, visiting the preschool before the first day, introducing a babysitter before you leave the first time)

8.  Persistence

This is how long a child will continue with an activity when there are obstacles.  Will your child keep working on a puzzle when he or she is having a difficult time—or do they move on?  Is your child patient when he or she is waiting for you to fix their meal?  Does your child have a strong reaction when they are interrupted from an activity?

Many times a child that continues an activity when asked to stop is labeled stubborn and a child who works at a puzzle that is difficult is labeled patient.  Both of these children are persistent!

A child who is persistent will be able to reach goals easier.  A child who is less persistent may have great people skills because he or she reaches out to others for help.

Parenting the persistent child:

  • A persistent child has a trait that will serve him or her well in adulthood, but can drive a parent crazy!  A persistent child will often not take the word “no” well.  Give a choice whenever possible, “Do you want to brush your teeth first or put your PJs on first?”
  • Give time limits when there is not unlimited time for a task.
  • Step in if your child is becoming extremely frustrated in trying to complete a task, but allow your child to try!
  • Know how not to engage in an argument with the older persistent child.  Remove yourself from the room when the discussion is over.

Parenting the non persistent child:

  • A less persistent child usually is compliant, but often gives up on a task easily when the task does not come easily.
  • This child needs gentle encouragement and sometimes a helpful hand.  Many times “you can do it” is not enough, the parent actually has to help the child physically start a task to help jump-start the child.  Start a task, not do it completely!
  • Success with difficult tasks breeds persistence.

9.  Mood

This is how your child reacts to the world—is it primarily in a negative way or a positive way?  Does your child see the glass as half full or half empty?  Is your child generally in a good mood or generally in a serious mood?  Is your child joyful and pleasant?  Does your child smile and laugh easily?  Is your child more whiny, complaining, or crying more often?

Parenting the little optimist:

  • These children are usually a real joy to be around, but there are some challenges.
  • Sometimes it is difficult for this child to approach something seriously.  A parent may need to bring a child “down to earth” and talk about safety issues, reality, etc.
  • Be careful not to crush an optimist’s spirit

Parenting the little pessimist (or as I like to say,  realist):

  • These children are often more challenging than the optimist, and need a loving parent to guide them through childhood pointing out the small joys in life.
  • These children are usually emotionally intense too, so they will often let others know about their disappointment quite loudly!  Often parents will respond with anger or frustration.  This usually will not defuse the situation.
  • It is hard to be a constant “cheerleader” but a parent’s optimism will often help a child open his or her eyes to the good.  End every day with asking “What was the best part of your day?  What will we do tomorrow?”  This helps focus on optimism.
  • Watch the friends your child keeps, two pessimistic people pull each other down.  Encourage relationships with people who uplift your child’s mood.
  • Do not label your child as a “pessimist”…look at your child as one who is a realist.  Help your child dream a bit about what “could be”.

So all of these traits combine to form your child’s temperament, and remember there is no good or bad temperament!  Understanding your child’s temperament does not excuse undesirable behavior, but it might help you understand why your child behaves or reacts in a particular way.  You may change your thinking about your child that is active and into everything from being “difficult” to just “curious”.  You might see your shy or slow to warm child as more “sensitive and thoughtful”.  All types of personalities have strengths and challenges, and our job as a parent is to work with our children and help them embrace their temperaments to become the best adult possible.

“Kids come with their own ingredients—you have to work with them and cook the best way you can.”  Ari Brown  M.D.

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

A little of this and a lot of that….what makes up your child’s personality?


Can you tell they have different temperaments??  The parenting technique that worked for one, didn’t necessarily work for the other!

Over the next few days, let’s look at the 9 personality traits that make up each of our temperaments.  I know I can pick out myself in these traits and my children.  Remember a parent must work hard at parenting according to a child’s temperament.  The rules in our house were always the same, the approach with each child may have been a bit different.

1.  Activity Level

Remember most young children are busy.  Your child’s activity level should be compared to other children of the same age.  How active is your child in general?  Does your infant always wiggle and move?  Is it difficult to change a diaper?  Is your child in perpetual motion or does your child prefer quiet activities and is content “watching the world”?

Parenting the active child:

Your child is not moving and fidgeting to annoy you!  This is how your child is wired.  Give your child lots of time for active play every day.  Be creative in looking for ways to allow your child to “blow off steam”.  When your child has had plenty of energy outlets, then he or she will be able to be calmer when needed.

  • Offer a safe environment for an active child to explore his or her world
  • Daily activities liking getting dressed may be easier when allowing your child to help
  • Plan ahead to allow your child physical activity before quiet times
  • Do not set unrealistic expectations of long periods of quiet sitting.  Keep a bag of quiet activities for use when you are in need for “quiet sitting”.
  • Active children often learn best by using action and their senses, be your child’s advocate with teachers…..let teachers know ahead of time that your child has an active temperament.  A child with who simply has an active temperament should not be labeled hyperactive!

Parenting the less active child:

Parenting the quieter less active child can be challenging too.

  • Slowly introduce activities that involve action.
  • Engage your child in an activity by demonstrating first, or by having him or her watch another child.
  • Allow for extra time for a less active child to get organized and moving in the morning.
  • Encourage healthy activity.  Many less active children are not naturally inclined to participate in sports.

2.  Distractibility

This is the amount of concentration that child shows when he or she is not particularly interested in an activity. Is your baby distracted when you are nursing or feeding a bottle by noises and sites around him or her?  Is your toddler or preschooler sidetracked by every bug, bird, or even his or her own thoughts or daydreams?

Distractibility shows how easily other stimuli will disrupt a child.  Remember that children in general are distractible….this is always in comparison to other same aged children.  This trait can be a positive when it is easy for a parent to distract a child from an undesirable behavior, but it can also be a negative when a child is so distracted he or she cannot finish tasks.

Parenting a distractible child:

  • Be sure that you have your child’s full attention when talking.  Do not shout instructions from the next room, make good eye contact.
  • Keep instructions simple and to the point.
  • Redirect gently…..”Got your shoes on yet?”
  • Be sure to decrease external stimuli when you see your child is distracted or overwhelmed.
  • Remove external distractions like the TV when you are trying to help your child focus.
  • Break up tasks into manageable pieces.
  • Give breaks when the child’s distraction level increases when trying to stay on task.
  • Be your child’s advocate with teachers, let them know ahead of time about your child’s temperament

Parenting the less distractible child:

  • Be sure to give your child a break, children that are very focused often will not stop an activity on their own.
  • Make sure you have eye contact when speaking or giving direction to your child.  A very focused child may not hear a parent.
  • Give a warning to your child when it is about time to switch activities.  “We will need to put away the book in just a moment so we can get ready to leave.”  Children that are very focused will often melt down when changing activities.

3.  Intensity of emotional response

Intensity is the level of response a child has to situations.  Does your child react big to everything?  Does your child’s cry escalate?  Does the whole world know when your child is happy, excited, or sad?

Is your child’s reactions mild?  Do you have to guess what your child is feeling?  Is your child mellow?

Parenting an emotionally intense child:

When a child is very emotionally intense, often a parent responds the same way.  If a child is screaming with a tantrum, this may result in you yelling too.  This often just causes the child to escalate. A quiet response will help an intense child learn control.  An emotionally intense child can be exhausting!

  • Help your child learn to express emotions in an acceptable way.  Give young children ways to express anger or frustration, especially a child that does not have many words yet.  Try letting a child stomp their feet or hit an “angry” pillow.
  • Introduce new experiences slowly this will help an emotionally intense child feel more control and prevent a meltdown.
  •  Big reactors tend to react to physical stimulation too, so try to keep their little world calm when a child starts to escalate.
  • When you are feeling angry, stop.  Stop yelling, talking, and moving.  Take a break so you don’t increase your child’s reaction
  • Put some space between you and your child.  Use time out for you to  take a break too!

Parenting a child that is less intense:

A child that is not emotionally intense can be challenging too.  Often these children are hard for a parent to read.  They do not express their feelings well, so they tend to withdraw, mope, or be moody.  These children need help learning how to express how they feel.

  • Describe what your child is feeling.  “It is so frustrating when the tower keeps falling over!”
  •  Discuss different feelings, read books about feelings.
  • Older children especially need to be drawn out; do not let older school age children or teens mope and withdraw.  Give them tools to talk about their feelings.

4.  Regularity

This trait shows a parent how scheduled a child needs to be.  Does your child need to eat and nap at very predictable times or can your child “go with the flow” a bit more.  How flexible is your child?

Parenting the regular rhythm child:

  • This child does best with regular meals, nap times, and bedtime.
  • Keep things predictable.
  • Plan outings and activities around your child’s regular routine.

Parenting the less regular child

  • Routine is still important for a less regular or more flexible child.  Maintain a consistent schedule, but allow flexibility.
  • Have a regular bedtime, but allow for your child to read quietly in bed.  Do not force rigid sleep patterns.
  • Relax when your child is off schedule, less regular children adapt easily!

Look for tips on the other 5 personality traits tomorrow!!!

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

Cindy

Sleep…we all want it and need it!


Sleep…when you don’t have it that is when you realize how much you miss it, at least for adults!  I can remember those days when all 4 kids were small, and sleep was a precious commodity.   There were some mornings that I looked at the clock when I woke up and counted how many hours until I could sleep again!  There were always those nights that were either too short or at least too interrupted to feel rested.  If I wasn’t rested, at least one child wasn’t either.  That is not a good combination, a tired Mom and a tired child usually makes a long day.  It is so frustrating to know that your child is tired, but just can’t settle to sleep, there is no “on/off” switch for kids!  If there was, I would have flipped it “off” on many occasions!

Sleep is so important for children; it is a true health issue.  Families are so busy that often sleep is not a priority, and it needs to be!  Not “depositing” valuable sleep into your child’s “sleep bank” can result in sleep deprivation, and that can cause real problems for you and your child’s development.

Dr. Marc Weissbluth MD is one of my favorite sleep experts.  His book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is one of my “go to” books for sleep questions.  He tells us that:

“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.”

So healthy sleep includes the correct amount, sleep time that is uninterrupted or good quality, and age appropriate naps.  Children who are not getting the proper amount or quality of sleep can be over stimulated, whiny, aggressive, hyperactive, and chronic sleep deprivation may even affect the neurological development of a child.

So, how long should your child sleep? 

Newborn to 2 months           16-18 hours in a 24 hour period               3-5 naps a day

2 to 4 months                           14-16 hours in a 24 hour period                3 naps a day

4 to 6 months                           14-15 hours in a 24 hour period                3 naps a day

6 to 9 months                           14 hours in a 24 hour period                       2 naps a day

9 to 12 months                         14 hours in a 24 hour period                       2 naps a day

12 to 18 months                       13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period              1-2 naps a day

18 months to 2 years             13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period             1 nap a day

2 – 3 years                                  13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period             1 nap a day

3 – 5 years                                  11 – 13 hours in a 24 hour period              maybe 1 nap a day

Remember…this is a guideline but most children will fall within these guidelines.  Most parents under estimate the number of hours of sleep their child needs.

Your child’s quality of sleep is important.  Your little one must be able to cycle through the stages of sleep to get the optimal benefit from sleep.  The quality of sleep is what is so important in your child’s neurological development.

Now I hear parents saying…”How can I make my child sleep?”  The truth is, you can’t.  You can make it easier for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep but you can’t force sleep.  All children have a rhythm to their sleep pattern.  In the first few months that rhythm is almost non existent.  As your baby approaches the end of the 3rd month, you will begin to see a bit of predictability and rhythm.  When you help your child find his or her rhythm with a calm routine and by watching for sleep cues, then your child’s sleep becomes deeper and more effective.  A rested child sleeps better….a child who sleeps better is more rested…it is a cycle.

So, as parents we must protect our child’s sleep.  We help our children establish good sleep habits…it is so much easier to form good habits than break bad ones!  So, give sleep the importance that it is due and your life will be easier and your child will be healthier, happier, less demanding, and more fun to be around.  The bonus will be that you might get a little more sleep too!

Stay tuned all week for tips on forming good sleep habits, breaking bad sleep habits, and tools to tackle sleep strategies for your child.  Maybe a little bedtime reading for 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

“Sleep like a baby” Really?


Establishing a calming routine before bed is important!

When I brought our oldest Corri home from the hospital, I thought I knew about the sleep patterns of infants.  After all, I had the degrees to prove that I was an “educated” Mom!  The truth is, nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep that new parents usually experience.  Quickly my plans to reorganize my closets during Corri’s long daytime naps (don’t newborns sleep all the time?) went by the way side.  Yes, newborns DO sleep a lot…just in very short intervals.  Corri never slept long enough for any reorganization of closets, and when she did sleep I was too tired to reorganize.  Oh, the lessons of a new parent!

Sleep is VERY important for our babies, and for you!  There are some sleep tips for new parents that will help your baby “learn” to sleep and establish good patterns for the future.  I firmly believe that our children are largely sleep deprived because of our busy schedules.  Good sleep is essential for healthy children, clear through the teen years!  Many of the healthy sleep habits you establish with your young children will result in healthy sleep habits for a lifetime.

The first 3 months of a baby’s life there is no real routine.  Anything that you read that tells you that you can establish or “force” routine at this age is mistaken.  I do not think that baby  sleep training books are valuable at this age, and they can really be destructive to your baby’s establishment of good sleep habits.  Your job as a parent during the first year is to help your baby realize that the world is a great place!  When your baby cries, you need to respond.  Baby will quickly learn to trust you and feel loved.  You cannot spoil a newborn!  You CAN spoil an older child, but that discussion is for another day!

Newborn sleep patterns are different from adults.  They have sleep cycles that are much shorter than ours, and have longer patterns of active sleep rather than deep sleep, especially in the first 3 months.  Parents often complain that their infant will “cat nap” .  This is a fairly normal pattern during the first 3 months of life.  Very young infants do not know how to self soothe either.  Those skills develop after the first 3 months also.  Here are a few tips that will help establish good sleep habits for the future.  Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel, life will become easier after the first few months.

1.  Know your baby’s sleep cues…do not let your baby become over tired.

Most parents in the beginning have a bit of a difficult time learning sleep cues.  Newborn babies should not be up longer than an hour and a half to two hours maximum.  If your baby becomes overly tired, it is much more difficult for your baby to sleep!  Look for your baby to rub at his or her eyes, begin to blank stare and not engage, yawn, and fuss.  When you see some cues, take a look at the length of time your baby has been awake.  The next time your baby is awake, start the process of putting him or her down for a nap 15 minutes earlier.  This way you never miss the window of opportunity, an overstimulated baby does not sleep well.  You often will feel like all you have time for is a feeding, a diaper change, a small amount of interaction and then your baby is ready to sleep again!

2.  Swaddle your baby.

Newborns until the end of the 4th month have a reflex that causes them to startle.  You often will see your baby twitch, grimace, have a sweet sleep grin and jump during the early active sleep pattern.  The twitching and jumping or moro reflex as it is called, will wake your baby.  If you swaddle using a light blanket or a swaddle sleep sack, your baby will not wake with a startle as often and will feel more secure.   Many moms and dads will tell me their baby does not like the swaddle.  I encourage you to try it again.  Try swaddling your baby before a nursing or feeding, or before you begin to rock your child to calm.  Most of the time babies will relax into the swaddle and love it!  They look like a cute baby burrito!

3.  Try white noise.

Babies heard white noise inside mom’s womb during the entire pregnancy.  This sound is very calming to a newborn.  My 2nd daughter loved the sound of a blow dryer.  She was a fussy baby, and quickly my blow dryer became part of the decor of my family room.  Now, there are white noise machines, white noise phone apps, and white noise CDs that parents swear by, a much better look than the blow dryer!  White noise can be part of a “switch” that helps soothe a fussy baby.  You might even try getting your face down by your baby’s ear and “shsh shsh shsh”, which will work too.

4.  Provide day and night light rhythm. 

Many newborns get their days and nights mixed up.  There is nothing worse than an infant that sleeps well during the day and is up all night!  Moms often notice that babies before birth are more active at night too!  To help your baby learn the day and night pattern, keep the daytime hours light with normal noise patterns in your home.  Light on our eyes helps to cue our bodies to when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep.  That is part of the reason we feel so sleepy during the gloom of dark winter days!  Stand in front of a window with your baby and expose your baby to natural light.  Do not darken the rooms for your baby to nap during the day and keep regular noise in the house.  No tip toeing!  In the evening, start to dim lights and keep things calm and quiet about an hour before “bedtime”.  Then with every nighttime feeding keep the room dark, do not change the diaper unless it is dirty, and do not interact.  Just feed your baby and put back to bed.  Eventually your baby will learn the difference between day and night and sleep more soundly and longer during the night hours.  This pattern of day and night will help older children and adults fall to sleep more easily too!

5.  Wake your baby to eat during the day.

Do not let your baby sleep longer than 3 hours during the day.  Wake your baby to eat, and unless your doctor advises you differently, never wake a sleeping baby at night!  You want your baby to receive most of their nutrition during the waking hours, and less at night.

6.  Move with your baby!

Movement will calm a baby to sleep.  Rocking, swinging, and wearing your baby will all help lull your little one into a deep sleep pattern.  Rocking to sleep is fine in the early months.  Many parents have a hard time transitioning from the swing or arms to bed without the baby waking.  Do the limp arm test!  Remember that babies have a very active sleep pattern before they move into a deep sleep.  If you try to transfer when your little one is still grimacing, sleep grinning, or you see rapid eye movement under closed eye lids, most likely your baby will wake quickly.   Rock or provide movement until your baby has transitioned from the active sleep pattern to a deep sleep.  You will be able to pick up your baby’s arm and feel that it is limp.  When you see that, then it is much easier to place your baby in the crib and your baby stay asleep.

7.  Use a pacifier.

Babies need to suck many times to sleep soundly.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier at sleep as a deterrent to SIDS.  Sucking calms a baby.  A baby that tends to become over stimulated easily often needs more suck time.  I am a big believer in the pacifier or a thumb or finger sucker resulting in a calm baby.  We can worry about the habit later!

8.  Establish a sleep routine.

The earlier your baby connects routine with sleep the better.  Do the same thing every time you put your baby to bed and quickly your child will connect those activities with sleep.  This pattern will develop good sleep patterns all the way to adulthood!  So, plan the feeding, bathing, massage, rocking, singing, reading pattern that works for you!  Keep the routine simple and repeatable.  The bedtime or nap time routine should not be longer than about 20 minutes.  You can establish a bedtime for your baby even though you know you will be up again!  Just treat every feeding after “bedtime” as a night-time feeding.  Children in general are wired early to bed early to rise!  Have an early bedtime for a good sleeper and for you to have an evening of “adult time”.

9.  Do not let your baby “cry it out” until after 6 months.

The first 6 months parents need to respond to a crying baby at night.  After 6 months, most babies are developmentally ready to sleep a stretch through the night. When you are emotionally ready and after your baby is at least 6 months old, you can do the “baby shuffle” and check on your baby every 5 to 10 minutes without picking your baby up.  Comfort your baby with a “shh” go to sleep, a pat and then leave.  The first night you may be “shuffling” in and out of the nursery for an hour or more. The 2nd night will be shorter and usually by the 3rd or 4th night your baby will comfort to sleep on his or her own.  You must be consistent and not give in.  Soon you will put a drowsy baby to bed and your baby will be able to fall asleep without your assistance!

10.  Even with doing all the “right things” babies have sleep disturbances.

Children will have periods of sleep disturbances through all developmental stages.  With each new skill a baby learns, example rolling over, there will often be a sleep pattern disturbance.  Babies like to practice at night!  There is also teething, separation anxiety, illness….many reasons you will see disturbances even when you are doing all the right things in establishing good sleep patterns.  Always go back to the basics each time.  Good sleep is essential! Teaching healthy sleep patterns is a huge gift to your child, and you!

Soon you will be getting longer stretches of sleep….until those darn teen years creep up and you find yourself waiting up for your child!  That is another issue another day!  🙂

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

I love these sleep resources:

Sleep What Every Parent Needs to Know

American Academy of Pediatrics Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP Editor in Chief

The No-Cry Sleep Solution 

Elizabeth Pantley

The Happiest Baby on the Block

Dr. Harvey Karp

Sweet Dreams

Paul M Fleiss, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P

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