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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Puzzles help a child learn to problem solve, develop patience, practice persistence, and develop spatial awareness.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- Dolls/stuffed animals
Playing with dolls or stuffed animals fosters empathy development. Pretend role play of Mommy and Daddy is very important.
Throwing, catching, kicking are all developmental milestones. Simple games with balls introduces cooperative play, taking turns and helps with fine and gross motor development.
- 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!
- 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!
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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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!
- 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.
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
- Baby will startle to sound
- Quiets or smiles when you speak to him
- Recognizes your voice
- Smiles at you
- Babbles and uses sounds with p, b and m
- 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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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. 🙂