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

Healthy Eating Starts with Mom and Dad!

healthy eating

I often am asked how to develop healthy eating habits in children.  It is so easy to slip into the chicken nugget black hole when you have young children. 

With the obesity rate in children rising in this country, and heart disease in adults taking its toll, we as parents have to think about instilling healthy eating patterns in our children and maybe changing ours!  What can we do to prevent a child from only eating chicken nuggets, fries, and macaroni and cheese???  There is a solution….children learn what they see!

Think about the examples we may give our children.  Healthy eating starts with healthy attitudes about food.  Who better to help children form those attitudes but parents?

  1.  Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.  Sit down and have breakfast with your child. This first meal of the day should include a whole grain, fruit, dairy and a protein.  Protein keeps us from crashing around 10:00 and grabbing something sugary to help us hold it together! My Mom always told me breakfast was the most important meal of the day…it is!  Lesson number one!
  2. Serve appropriate portions.  Let your children see you scoop servings onto their plates and yours.  This is how children learn portion control…and remember theirs should be smaller than yours!
  3. Control your cupboards…you are the one with the purchasing power!  Limit the junk food, if the choice is not there, you will eat better and your child will follow.
  4. Drink milk or water with meals.  Limit the soda that your child sees you drink.  (When I needed my Diet Coke, I drank it out of a coffee cup.  No one wanted to share it then! Not healthy but sometimes necessary!)
  5. Shop for your food together when possible and let your children participate in preparing it.  Children who know where their food comes from and are involved in preparation will more likely eat it!
  6. Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups.  Your children MUST see you doing this.  Think about color, smells, and arrangement.  Make your foods look and smell good!
  7. Limit the salt and sugar.  Let your child really TASTE the food, not the salt.  Remember, children’s taste can be trained to appreciate the taste of the food and not the additives of sugar and salt.
  8. Eat the foods that you want your child to eat!  Expanding your child’s palate at a young age prevents falling into that black hole of a very limited diet.
  9. Do not label food “good” and “bad”.  Children must learn balance between healthy food and snack food.  If food is “off limits” it will become more desirable. Future healthy eating patterns are developed by teaching children to eat one cookie and not the package!   Everyone should have a cookie every once in a while!
  10. Enjoy meals as a family. Eating should never be a battle.  Do not force your child to “clean their plate” or “take 3 bites”.  Offer healthy food choices and leave the rest to your child. You provide your child decides!  Food, fun and family should always go together.

What tips can you share?  Share your family’s favorite healthy food choice…we all need some new ideas!

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


Ready, set, go….the holidays are here!

The holidays are HERE, and for parents of young children this season can be wonderful, but also full of challenges.  If you are looking for perfect holiday experiences, you are destined to be disappointed.  You can have a wonderful season with family, friends, AND sanity if you begin with realistic expectations.  Reality is that families may experience cookies that have too much icing and sprinkles, children who spill on their holiday shirts, a tree that has been “redecorated” by a toddler, and even a gift or two wrapped with the help of duct tape because the invisible tape ran out while wrapping last minute! The truth is that the holidays are truly about the relationships, not the details.  That is a big statement from me, because I can certainly get caught up in the details!  Over the years, I have learned that if parents are stressed during the holidays, then children also become stressed.

Here are some tips for decreasing parental stress so you and your child enjoy this wonderful time

  1. Set family priorities.  Discuss which traditions, decorations, parties and activities truly matter to you and your family.  Often doing less results in more fun! Decide sooner rather than later where you will spend the holiday. Remember your job is not to make everyone happy, but to build happy family memories for your child.
  2. Keep a little structure and routine.  Children behave better and sleep better when there is routine.  Make sure young children have enough “down time”.  Touch time can calm an overstimulated child
  3. Divide and Conquer. If you are hosting a holiday gathering, split up the responsibilities with guests, let everyone participate.  Remember that a spotless home only lasts a minute when you expect a houseful of friends and family. Make it presentable but it is not necessary for it to pass the “white glove test”!
  4. Keep a sense of humor.  Even the worst holiday disasters have the makings of great family memories.  Everything looks more perfect when looking back!
  5. Shop on-line. Buy the same gift for as many people as possible. (Think picture gifts…your child’s smiling face is the perfect gift for so many!)  Talk about limiting your gift list now.  Consider name draws, white elephant gifts, or simply the gift of time with family and friends!
  6. Don’t force a Santa visit.  If a Santa visit is in the plans, plan it well. Visit Santa when your child is well rested and not hungry.  Children who have entered the stranger anxiety phase, which can begin around 7 months and last through the toddler years, often don’t enjoy Santa.  Read about Santa, talk about Santa, wave at Santa from a distance and then try a visit.  If a visit is full of anxiety and tears, try holding your child next to Santa and snapping that picture quickly!
  7. Bake 6 dozen of the same kind of cookie rather than 6 different kinds.  Concentrate on the experience.  It is more important to have fun making cookies than to have beautiful cookies.  Remember your child will have fun helping only if you are having fun!  Children don’t care if they are icing slice and bake cookies or cookies made from scratch.
  8. Have a child friendly tree. I am often asked if I think a tree is worth it when there are active toddlers in the house.  ABSOLUTELY! Family traditions are like that connects  your family. Families with young children need to embrace a family friendly tree.  Decorate it from your child’s eye level down with safe unbreakable ornaments with plastic hooks.  Let your child explore those ornaments.  (Our tree was redecorated from a toddler’s eye level down on many days!  That is what made it so beautiful!)  Consider anchoring the top of your tree with fishing line to the wall, which will prevent a little one from pulling it over.
  9. Think simple. Enjoy the holidays through your child’s eyes.  A drive to look at lights, a cookie and hot chocolate, reading stories around the tree, singing holiday songs, making a wish with the turkey wishbone, and other simple activities usually trump more expensive holiday extravaganzas.
  10. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or your extended family.  Family visits are not times to discuss parenting philosophies or a child’s behavior.  Don’t engage in these conversations.
  11. Encourage your family to count blessings.  Teaching children to replace some of the “I want” with “I am thankful for” reduces stress and encourages gratefulness.

This year promise yourself to enjoy the season and it’s magic with your child, that will result in a “perfect” holiday season!

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



How to handle separation anxiety…or how to leave with a child holding on to your leg!

Nothing worse than leaving a child screaming for you not to go…but most kids will have separation anxiety at some point!

I watched a poor Mom try to leave her toddler in the child care area of the place I work out in the other day.  The toddler was screaming, hanging on her leg, and Mom looked like she felt like the worst Mom in the world as she pried the child off her leg promising she would be back soon.  I smiled at her and said, “It is hard, but I am sure he will be happy by the time you get a ½ mile in on that treadmill.”   She peeked her head back in just a moment later (I know she couldn’t have run a 1/2 mile that fast!), and he was playing happily.   I remember that feeling of dread when I would leave especially with our 3rd daughter; she always melted down and was totally pitiful.  I remember resorting to promising all kinds of fun activities and treats when I returned.  Not sure that was the best tactic, but it helped my “Mommy guilt” a little.

Separation anxiety is a given in most children.  Some children experience greater anxiety than others, and almost all parents feel just as bad if not worse than their screaming child when they leave.  Separation anxiety can start in infancy, peak in the toddler years, and then hopefully decrease by the end of the preschool years.

  • Infants usually will not start to show separation anxiety until they develop the concept of object permanence at about 9 months of age.  Before that point, out of sight is out of  mind for an infant.
  • Toddlers will usually experience separation anxiety, even if they did not seem to experience it as an infant.  Separation anxiety will be at its peak between 18 and 24 months of age.  Toddlers will express their dislike of separation very loudly!
  • Preschoolers will start to be able to handle separation a bit more easily.  Some 3 and 4-year-olds will learn that their expression of discontent when parents leave will have an effect on Mom and Dad, and often will manipulate parents when they find out it works!


  • Always say good-bye.  It is tempting to sneak out when your child is involved in an activity.  This makes it easier on you, but harder on your child.  Sneaking out can actually increase separation anxiety in a child.  A child will start to become anxious every time he doesn’t see you fearing you have left.  Always say good-bye but keep it short and sweet, the longer the good-bye, the greater the anxiety.  Be sure that you give your child a hug, kiss and  your total attention before leaving.  Do not be multi-tasking as you say good-bye.
  • Tell your child you will return and give them a “time”.  This means “kid time”.  Tell them what time by what they will be doing.  “I will be back after you sleep.”  “I will be back after snack time.”
  • Separate often.  That is the key to getting over separation anxiety.  A child will learn that Mommy and Daddy leave, but they come back.  Separation does not have to be long, but it needs to happen enough that your child can remember the last time.  If you are a stay-at-home-Mom, you need to plan time away from your child.  It is good for you and your child.  If your child is starting daycare or preschool, practice being away and leaving your child for periods of time.

Soon your child will learn that he or she can handle the world when Mom or Dad is not always in eye view, that means you will have to learn that your child can handle the world without you too.  I am still learning that lesson.

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


Does your family need a media diet?

screen time for kids

For years parents have been encouraged to limit TV and screen time for children…especially preschoolers. We have seen many studies that show children who watch too much TV are more likely to be overweight, have an increased risk of attention problems, and their play is truly interrupted. Children who are exposed to sexual programs are more likely to have sex earlier and TV violence and violent video games increase aggressive behavior. All this research has not decreased the amount of screen time families have, children continue to have lives filled with smart phones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, and yes….TV.

I just returned from a wonderful vacation with my husband. I knew when I left that cell phone usage was going to be challenging, and I must admit there was a bit of anxiety about losing that connection. What would happen if I could not check emails, get phone calls, or heaven forbid see Facebook and Instagram? I realized that as much as I preach about unplugging and keeping screen time to a minimum for our preschoolers and controlling it for our schoolagers and teens that I too am very dependent on my phone and other “screens.

Families are so connected to their screens we have not been very effective limiting time on them for our children. The average child spends about 3 hours in front of a screen each day. Teens have much more! So, maybe we need to look at controlling the type of screen time our children have, not just the amount. A study published last Februrary by Dr. Christakis showed that if we can’t decrease the hours of screen time, but we use those hours for “pro social” programs or video games the result is positive.  Children’s behaviors improved when the programming was controlled.  Maybe it is time for every family to start a “media diet”. Great….another diet to look at, right? This one is different…so grab some of that Halloween candy and let’s chat.

  1. Don’t be controlled by your emails and social media. Pick certain times of the day that you will check these. Try catching up first thing in the morning, at nap time, and in the evening. Don’t be tethered to every email notification or push message from your social media! If we stop interacting to check out the latest post we send the message that our phone is more important than our child!
  2. Every home should have areas which are screen free. All meals should be eaten without phones or TV. This encourages family conversation. We know that children who have family meals complete with conversation have better grades, less drug use, and better life choices. So, turn off the TV and talk.
  3. Make a commitment to keeping your child’s bedroom screen free. TVs and computers in the bedroom increases screen time and can result in your child viewing inappropriate shows or information. Parent of teens, consider “checking in” the phone in the evening so your teen isn’t tempted to be texting and surfing all night.
  4. Be aware of how much your child is on a screen and what your child is viewing. Keep a log for a week and track the amount of time and the content of the shows, games, etc.
  5. Make sure you are watching what your child is watching. Sit down and watch the TV shows, play the video games, learn what it is that your child is seeing. Be sure you have rules in place for older children especially. What shows or games are acceptable? Be sure you are clear.
  6. Use your DVR. What a great tool to limit advertisements (this will cut out about 10 minutes of screen time per hour show!), fast forward through inappropriate scenes, and most importantly to stop a program and have a conversation about what was just seen. “How do you think that person felt when this happened? Was that a good choice?”
  7. Plan specific times of day that your child will be allowed screen time. Control the amount by limiting it to 30 minutes here and 30 minutes there. If it is a part of the daily routine and not just constantly on as “background” in your home, the amount of screen time will be decreased and your child will spend time playing in other creative ways. Don’t channel surf…when the show is over, turn it off!
  8. Be sure that you read about what your child wants to watch. A great guide to this is Common Sense Media. This will review shows, movies, and apps to see if they are appropriate. Remember, you are the parent and you have the ability to control what programs, games, and apps are brought into your home. Controlling what your child sees is more important than how much.
  9. Keep your computers and tablets in public areas of your home. It is too easy for kids to be exposed to inappropriate material if left unsupervised!
  10. Be aware of the social media sites kids are using (Facebook is no longer cool!) Don’t allow preteens to have social media accounts and monitor your teen’s site. Give continual reminders that what is put on social media is always permanent….even if it is “snap chat”. Go over “manners” and kindness for social media…it is so much easier to bully on line than it is face to face.

Taking control of the screen time in your home is essential. Technology is here to stay, and it has so much benefit if used correctly. So, unplug for periods of time during your week (it really is refreshing), keep conversations going using real words and eye contact, make TV time a family plan, control what your child sees and plays….and remember that your child can never “unsee” an image, so protect them from seeing something that could be damaging to their young minds. Let’s all commit to putting our families on a media diet!

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



Do Parents Need a “Media Diet”?

mom baby and phone

What are we and our kids missing when we are “plugged in” to a screen rather than each other?

I have become connected to my phone….more than I ever would like to admit that I am.  I didn’t always have a “smart phone”, but I now can’t imagine not having constant connection.  Because of this, I have frequently caught myself on my phone at times that are truly inappropriate.  My love affair with my phone and constant “connection” may just be a bit out of control.  Evidently I am not alone, according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s Internet Trends report, those of us with smart phones check them every six and a half minutes or 150 times a day.  Wow, what could I get accomplished in that amount of time, or better yet, what conversations am I missing out on?

As parents, we need to show our children that they are more important than our email, twitter, or Facebook pages. It is really difficult to be fully engaged when our phone is between us and our child or even our husbands!  I do worry about the relationships that this generation of children may form in the future, will they be based on a screen or true engagement?

So, as guilty as I am of being too attached to my beloved smart phone…how do I break away?

  • Stop and ask….do I need to look at the phone right now?  Unless there is an emergency phone call, there is no reason to disengage from your husband, child, or friend to look at a screen.  The here and now….the real in front of you always trumps a screen.
  • Acknowledge that there is a rush when there is a “like” on a Facebook post, or a new follower on Pinterest and there might even be a bit of anxiety when you ignore the urge to check your phone.  Move on, the moment of the present will give you more of a rush than a look at a screen will ever give.  I have found if I ignore the temptation and direct back to the here and now, the urge to “check” leaves quickly….kind of like the urge for chocolate! 
  • Remember that even if you are not totally enthralled with a game of Candyland at the moment, showing your child that you feel  being with him is important enough that the phone is not in your hand will build a relationship that hopefully will result in your 13-year-old feeling comfortable sharing with you in the future.  Paying attention when your child is young results in a relationship that is solid during those teen years. I am glad I didn’t have to deal with this temptation as a young Mother. 
  •  I am trying to set specific times during the day to check my phone, not just when a whim hits me.  This may decrease the number of times that I check my phone when my family is around.  Phones should be turned off during dinner hours or family time.  Nap times may be a good time to “check-in” or if necessary to check in when children are with you, think about a timer to keep you focused on work for a short amount of time.  Telling your child that you will be on your phone or computer until the timer goes off gives a specific ending time for you and your child.
  • There are times when you do get sucked into the world of the smartphone….then you need to say “Hey, I am sorry guys….Mommy is putting the phone away, I am back.”  Then truly be back.  You can handle the separation from your phone, there will be no permanent disability if the phone is not connected to you.  It is much easier to handle that separation than a separation from a child because he or she never received the attention needed for a relationship to thrive.

I remember spending the morning at a park when my children were young.  Often our conversations were about the birds, or the clouds in the sky, or maybe even the ants on the sidewalk.  On my afternoon run the other day, I saw a young Mom pushing her child in the swing with one hand and texting with the other.  Her eyes were on her phone.  She had her child outside enjoying the wonderful afternoon, but she was missing the best part, the joy of engaging with her child.  She was missing her child’s giggle and the opportunity to tickle her child’s tummy as she swung forward and to kiss those little toes as they reached the sky…..moments that a phone could never match, and moments her child will truly miss.

As I think about my own new obsession, I realize that there are times that I am missing out on wonderful conversations with my husband, or a moment of peace and silence without stimulation, or even an uninterrupted enjoyment of a sunset because my phone “pings” telling me that I have a message, or a new follower.  That moment of “rush” when I hear the phone can never be as good as that moment of engagement that I miss.  My smart phone has not made me a better wife, mother, or conversationalist….it has only spread me thinner.  I pledge now to be a better steward of my phone…so my relationships in life are not with a screen, but with those I love.  You have a tougher challenge as young Moms because screens are a much bigger part of your life with your children than I could ever imagine when my kids were young.  It will take a real effort and plan to keep those screens from “stealing” those moments of parenthood that can never be replaced.  I am going on a diet this week….a smart phone diet, want to take the challenge with me?

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



How do you play with a toddler?

“I think of play as a toddler’s number one essential vitamin.  He needs large doses of it every day.  Play:  Thrills the senses.  Helps toddlers master movement.  Stretches the mind.  Stimulates language use.  Boosts friend-making skills.  Stimulates the immune system.  Builds self-confidence.  Improves nighttime sleeping.”

Dr. Harvey Karp, MD  The Happiest Toddler on the Block                                                   

Toddlers love to play, and the fact is, they must play! Play is the basis of learning for a toddler.  So yes, when a toddler squirts a banana out between his fingers, there is learning going on!  Toddlers learn how to manipulate their world through play…and one of the biggest parenting responsibilities is to provide opportunities for your child to have free play.  Developmentally many toddlers have separation anxiety, so they want to be near you when they play, but toddlers do not need you to lead their play.  Play for a toddler is based on exploration.  Too often parents want to “show” a toddler how to play…after all we know how that toy works, we read the directions!  Toddlers enjoy play more and learn more when they figure out their own “right way” to play with a toy; and it often is different from the directions.  The process of discovery through play is the tool to learning.

So how do you play with a toddler?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Give your toddler physical help when needed.  Often toddlers know what they want to do, but don’t have the gross or fine motor control to actually act out their plan.  This will often lead to frustration.  A parent can help but not complete  a task of play for the toddler.  Example:  A toddler may want you to show them how to fill a  bucket to make a sand castle, but doesn’t want you to guide the entire process.  I always had to remind my builder husband of this…he wanted to build the castle!
  • Be a partner.  Many games need a partner.  A toddler can’t play ball without someone rolling or tossing the ball to him.  Let your toddler play the game until he or she is finished–not you.  Repeating a game many times is how a toddler masters a skill.  Don’t toss a ball a few times and quit when you are  bored!  Over and over again is how play works for a toddler!
  • Demonstrate.  A toddler will like to be given demonstrations on how things work or even suggestions.  Let your child be free to use your suggestion or not.  Do not interrupt his play to bring another idea or “show you how to do it”.  Let your toddler lead the play.
  • Help with concentration.  A toddler’s attention span is only a few minutes especially if the play involves sitting still.  If a parent sits with a toddler to talk, and encourage during a task, then the toddler will be able to  concentrate longer and might be able to complete a difficult task like a puzzle.  Encourage but don’t do it for your toddler.
  • Help your toddler play with others.  Toddlers will enjoy playing next to other children not really with other children.  Parallel play is common at this age.  Children will play next to each other without really cooperating.  Toddlers are not developmentally mature enough to be left with another child to “fight it out”.  They are not capable of sharing or playing fair without help.  Give two toddlers similar materials or toys and let them play as each of them wishes without interference from each other.  Eventually toddlers will  begin to talk to each other, and a friendship will begin to develop.  Often it is helpful for a toddler to play with older children too.   Older children provide good examples of imaginative play, problem solving, sharing and it helps the older child develop leadership skills too.  Guide your toddler in sharing…show them how to do it.  Eventually they will develop the capacity to share, but only after being shown many times.
  •   Be a good role model for your child when you play.  Ask if you may take a toy and use the words please and thank you.  When your toddler shares with you, praise your child for good sharing.  Choose cooperative games like playing ball, and other activities that take turns.  This helps teach a toddler good social skills        necessary for cooperative play.  Be patient, your child will be capable of sharing and playing with other children some time between the age or 2 and 3, if you have given your toddler the opportunity to develop the skill!
  • Beginning at 18 months encourage imitative and imaginative pretend play.  This is a very important step for your toddler.  Your child will start to imitate important people in his or her life, that would be you!!  Soon that play will change from simply imitating to imaginative play.  Your toddler will take a block and pretend it is a cell phone, or will play “house” with your pots and pans.  This starts symbolic thinking which is very important in developing math and reading skills later.  Imaginative play also teaches empathy…it helps a child start to learn how others feel.  It is fine for your little boy to play pretend with dolls and for your little girl to play pretend with trucks!!  Imaginative play also improves language.  Listen to your toddler, he will self talk as he pretends and will often tell you what to say when you are playing with him!  Join in the conversations!
  • Let your toddler play with safe every day items.  We all know it…your child’s favorite toy may just be the plastic containers in the kitchen, the laundry basket, a silky scarf, or a box!  Expensive toys really are not needed…your imaginative, creative toddler will play with every day things and enjoy it!  These items spark creativity and imagination, so save some money and encourage this!  Remember, a blanket over a card table works just as well as that expensive play house!
  • Get a little messy!  Toddlers love sensory play.  Get out the water, the finger paints, the pudding, the play dough, put on an apron and have fun!  Toddlers need messy creative play.  This will bring out the kid in you too!

So playing with your child is not rocket science.  It is letting your child discover his or her world safely and creatively.  So, sit on the floor, watch your toddler, participate in the play your toddler leads, keep the TV off, and get the plastic kitchen containers out and maybe a little pudding paint…it is going to be a fun 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.


Infants need play time too!

You are your baby’s first toy! 

Play time is important for infants too!  Infants play by moving, by looking (especially you and that funny face), by exploring with hands, feet, and mouth, and by interacting physically (a little tickle), emotionally, and verbally.  The time your baby spends playing with you is invaluable.  You don’t have to “teach” as you play, your baby is learning by just interacting with you!  You are your baby’s favorite toy! 

Let your baby look at you! 

Your baby is completely enthralled with YOU!  Look at your baby and make silly faces.  You will be amazed by your sweet baby trying to imitate some of your silly faces!  Smile, coo, stick your tongue out…your baby will love it! If your baby keeps looking away, then he or she may have had enough of your silly face for a while, be careful not to over stimulate. This little game stimulates your baby’s social, visual, and emotional development.  This teaches your baby ways to seek and receive your attention and affection.  Who knew that you could be entertained by just looking at your baby!  You and Dad have a new evening entertainment!

Play with touch!

Who doesn’t want to touch that soft baby skin?  Touch your little one with different textures.  Tissues, a blanket, the tip of your finger, a cotton ball…explore different touches across your baby’s tummy or cheeks.  Talking makes this even more fun for your baby.  “Doesn’t that tickle? OOOh feel good?”  Watch your baby and you will be able to tell what his favorite is.  Soon your little one will start to kick and get excited when you just start to touch his little belly.  Touch teaches sensory awareness, verbal interaction and body awareness.

Give your baby something to look at.

A mobile is a great first toy for your child.  It can be colorful or black and white with some accents of red, but your baby will love watching it!  Be sure to take the mobile down once your child can reach it or is starting to try to sit up.  The mobile provides visual stimulation and spatial awareness for your baby.

Try a little game of “The Voice”.

No, you can’t tell if your baby has a singing voice yet, 🙂  but your little one loves the sound of your voice.  He or she has heard your voice even before birth!  Put your baby in the center of the room and walk around the room singing and talking or making funny noises.  Your baby will begin to look for where you are!  Combine a little “Peekaboo” with it!  Your baby will love it.  This will help your baby develop listening skills and it helps develop a sense of trust in you as you disappear and come back!

Take your child on a tour.

Your home and backyard may be familiar to you, but your baby will love the change in scenery.  Carry your baby around the house and you will find all kinds of neat things.  Talk about what you see and what things do.  Light switches are amazing!  Head outside and discover the grass, the leaves, brush a flower across your little one’s cheek, introduce your child to the world!  New sights, sounds and textures are exciting for your baby, and talking about them builds language skills too!  Introducing your baby to the world may just help you appreciate the little things again too!

The oldies but goodies…all the finger plays you used to know

Games like Peek-a-boo, So Big, Patty Cake, This Little Piggy, Itsy Bitsy Spider are fun for you and your baby.  These finger plays and songs teach socialization skills, fine motor skills, object permanence, and are just plain fun.  If you don’t remember these oldies but goodies, look them up online or check out a book at the library.

Make an obstacle course.

Your new little crawler will love to crawl over and under things.  Get those pillows and cushions off the couch and start encouraging your baby to climb up and over, crawl, and tumble.   This is fun and helps build gross motor skills and coordination.  It might get your little one good and tired for a great nap too!

Try the fill and dump game.

Once your baby is sitting up and is developing some hand coordination, filling and dumping will be a favorite activity.  Stacking cups, measuring cups, plastic containers all work well to fill up with water in the bathtub, sand, blocks, raw rice or any item that can be scooped up and dumped.  Your baby will work on fine motor control, hand-eye coordination, and words like “full” “pour” “all gone” “empty” and others.

Stacking and knocking over.

Stacking will soon become the next fun activity.  Those same stacking cups can be used to build a tower and knock it down.  Blocks, stacking rings, plastic cups, books…anything can be used to stack and knock over.  This helps with fine motor development and cause and effect.

These are just a few examples of the type of play your infant will love the firs 12 months of life.  Don’t rush out and buy lots of expensive toys, you will be your child’s favorite toy these first few months.  There is no rush to “get ahead”; your child will learn all that he or she needs to learn with simple play.  The pressure to get ahead often takes away the most valuable tool for learning…play.  Be a kid again and fill your child’s day with play!  Have fun!

What is your favorite activity with your infant?  Post  some of your ideas!

Follow Raising Kids With Love on Facebook for more tips!

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


Children’s reaction to the recent national tragedies, how can a parent help.


The last few weeks it has been very difficult to watch the news, anyone who has a heart has felt it break. Our nation has experienced hurricanes, floods, and now a tragic mass shooting.  Daily we have seen images of hurt, pain, and fear.   We have seen families who have lost their homes, belongings and livelihoods. We have seen children whose wide eyes are filled with fear and confusion; and we have experienced it through news and social media which allows us to almost feel as if we were there.  The last month has been saturated with tragedy.  Where do we go from here with our children?  If you are a child watching the news, this never stops.  The rain and wind blowing happens every day, children and families being rescued in boats happen over and over again, and the screams of fear and gunshots continue all day long.  If a child is younger than 5 they are still trying to figure out their world.  What is real?  What is pretend?  They may think these terrible events happen over and over again day after day because of the news coverage that is playing in their background.

Children age 3 and under absorb the pain and fear from around them.  They may not understand why, but they feel their parent’s fear.  They feel the increase in tension, they feel the lack of joy and laughter, they feel the change in routine as we are glued to the news.   Young children simply need to know that they are safe.  They feel this safety and comfort in routine and favorite rituals.  This is their security. They should not have exposure to the media and adult conversations about the tragedies or disasters that may surround them.  They need time with Mom and Dad and other adults who love them.  Children will feel a parent’s fear, so we must try to keep our youngest children cocooned in love and routine.

Preschool aged children from age 4 to 6 know much more than what most parents think.  They hear conversations, watch the TV when it is on, and feel the fear or tension in a home.  Magical thinking is very common at this age, so children will “fill in the blanks” with their thoughts.  They often think they may be the cause of some of the tragedy.  Their “time out” yesterday may in their mind have caused the storm.  At this age, children are not able to comprehend time, or the idea of “forever” in death.  Preschoolers exposed to these tragedies may develop new fears, have nightmares, and might wonder if the tragedies they see on TV or hear Mom and Dad talking about will happen to them.  Often preschoolers will ask questions, but they don’t need answers that include every detail.  Simple answers will alleviate their curiosity without elevating their anxiety.  Most of all they need to know that you will keep them safe.

Preschoolers will often try to make sense of an event through play.  You might see a child who experienced a hurricane actually “play hurricane” to work through the experience. You may see a child draw pictures showing what they felt, feared or experienced. This type of play gives a child a way to work through their thoughts, fears and anxieties. Sometimes the play might be disturbing to parents, such as a child playing that children are running from gunfire, but it is best for a parent not to stop the play unless a child is playing in a way that could result in injury.  Later a parent can then talk about the play with the child and again explain how they will keep them safe.

School age children often are working on rule following, what is good and bad, right and wrong.  Because of this normal growth and development, when they see natural disasters or tragedies they often want to do something to help.  Parents can assist school  age children in finding a way to give assistance through local charities.  Often children who are a part of responding to the needs of the victims feel less stress and anxiety.  Children who have families with religious roots can also rely on prayer to help a child work those feelings.  Concentrating on the “heroes” of the moment, those first responders, charities, and wonderful stories of selflessness that always surface during a tragedy are good conversation topics for parents of school aged children and older. School aged children often will have physical complaints like headaches and tummy aches when they are stressed or anxious.  Having open conversations about what they know about an event and how they are feeling is important.  Talking honestly with a school aged child regarding how you can stay safe such as putting an emergency kit together as a family, talking about weather alerts and safe places, and gun safety is important.  Remember not to let your emotions take over and that your message is always that you will keep them safe.  School aged children need normal routines and rituals, adults who reassure them and listen to their questions and answer honestly, and controlled exposure to the news and adult conversations regarding the events.  Again, children should be allowed to be children and not burdened with adult worries.

Teenagers are extremely aware about the world and events around them.  They are very connected to social media and have information at their fingertips.  They often know much more than their parents think, and many times don’t like to share their feelings with parents.  Teens harbor intense feelings during this stage of growth and development that can become even more intense when they see disasters or tragedies.  Their friends are very important and their friends’ reactions can actually fuel their feelings.  Teens will watch adults carefully to determine how they should react.  They worry about their future and how events may influence their future goals and life.  They need open conversations with trusted adults who speak the truth and give solid suggestions for them.  What can they do?  How can they help? What can we do as a family or society to change this? Motivating teens to act is the best way for them to work through their intense emotional responses.  But once again, routine will help a teen get back to feeling in control.  Many teens will jump right back into friends and activities to escape the feelings that can be so intense. Respect how your teen learns to handle their emotions.

So as parents, we must keep our feelings and anxiety in check around our children.  Our children MUST feel that the world is a manageable place and as parents, we will keep them safe at all costs.  Our younger children need to be protected from adult conversations and too much exposure to the news.  Our older children need our honesty, time to ask questions and time to discuss.  We need to help them navigate the information they hear and develop a positive action/response to an impossibly tragic event.   Most importantly, our children need to be children…..protect them from exposure to those topics they can’t process except with anxiety.  Hug your family extra tight today, do something that is positive for those victims who are suffering, and concentrate on and enjoy the small joys and blessings in your life.  We are a strong nation made up of strong, caring people….we always come together at the worst of times, we will survive and become a stronger, more caring nation. Look around, there are heroes among us!

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







It is that time of year….time for a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older!










It is the time of year when I start my daily reminders to parents (I sometimes can be annoying, I guess)… but it is time…time for that flu shot!  Put your excuses away, everyone 6 months and older should receive a flu shot, no ifs, ands, or buts!  It seems that there are always a lot of questions about the flu shot, and lots of excuses too! Here are answers to the most common questions I have heard…

  1. When should I receive it?

The time is now…it takes about 2 to 3 weeks for your body to build up antibodies for influenza.  Flu season can begin as early as October, but usually peaks in January and February and can last into May.  There have been some early influenza cases this fall!

  1. Why should everyone get the flu vaccine?

The flu is a miserable illness.  Many people don’t realize how sick they can be if they get true influenza.  Healthy adults who are infected with the flu are often unable to work, have a difficult time caring for families, and most importantly can spread the flu to others.  Those adults over 65 are at most risk for flu related deaths.  Depending on the year and the flu strain, sometimes the flu will affect children more seriously. Babies under 6 months of age need to have a “cocoon” of protection around them since they are too young to receive the vaccine.  That means anyone who has close contact with an infant should be immunized against the flu…parents, grandparents, siblings, and daycare providers. Pregnant women are also more at risk for complications from the flu.  The Flu vaccine is safe during pregnancy, and it protects your unborn child and your baby after birth! When healthy adults are vaccinated, they are protecting themselves, the elderly, the chronically ill, and babies!  So take one for the team!!    If you can keep yourself and your family from getting sick, then the flu shot is an easy decision!

  1. Why do we need a flu vaccine every year?

Flu viruses change…and then flu vaccines change too.  Studies are conducted to try to predict what flu viruses will be most prevalent each year.  The vaccine is different this year from last year.  Even if you had influenza last year, your immunity will fade over time.   The flu vaccine serves as a boost to our immune system to help prevent the flu and it hopefully protect us from the “flu strain of the year”.  Sometimes the flu vaccine is less effective than other years, but even in those years, a flu vaccine will result in a less severe case of influenza if you do become ill.

  1. Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

No!  The flu vaccine is an inactivated virus…you CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine.  Most side effects are very mild.  There may be some soreness at the injection site, very few children even have fever.

  1. Last year I got the vaccine, and our whole house still came down with vomiting and diarrhea!

The flu vaccine will not protect against other viruses other than influenza.  The influenza virus is a respiratory flu, not the stomach flu! Influenza can result in pneumonia, severe ear infections, wheezing, high fevers, dehydration and just feeling miserable!

  1. Who receives two doses?

All children between 6 months and 8 years who have never had a flu vaccine will need 2 doses at least 4 weeks apart.  If your baby turns 6 months old during the flu season, he or she should receive the vaccine!  If your child is older than 8 or had 2 doses in prior years, then he will only need 1 dose of the flu vaccine.

  1. My child is allergic to eggs, so we can’t have the vaccine.

Research shows that even children and adults who have egg allergies can receive the flu vaccine without a problem.  The American Academy of Pediatrics stated this year in their recommendations for the 2017-2018 flu vaccine “All children with an egg allergy of any severity can receive influenza vaccine without any additional precautions beyond those recommended for any vaccine.” 

September 2017 From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement

  1. What happened to the flu mist?

Just like last year, your only option is the flu shot.  Unfortunately, the nasal mist was not as effective as the shot.  So, the small “poke” is a must again this year.  Be honest with your children that this small “ouch” will protect them from becoming very sick.  Infants will calm very quickly after the vaccine with sucking and cuddling.  Older children can be taught to take deep abdominal breaths and blow out a “candle” to try to relax or sing their A B C’s or count to 10.  The small “ouch” will be over before they know it and a celebratory “high 5” and a treat (ice cream cones were always my kids’ favorite) will make that “ouch” memory fade.

I will be on my soap box about flu vaccines for a while because they are so important to so many people. Get the vaccine for the health of yourself and your family AND get it for those babies who aren’t old enough to receive the vaccine and the elderly whose immune system doesn’t always respond fully to the vaccine, and the chronically ill who may not be able to receive the vaccine…protect them too.  So it is time…get that flu vaccine for everyone that you love, it is important!

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


Toddler bedtime blues

Time for that nap!  Don’t miss the window for naps….toddlers need naps to sleep well at night!  Establish good sleep routines for naps and night-time!

It was 8:30,  I was tired, and my 2-year-old seemed to be gearing up for the evening.  My patience was short and soon everyone ended up melting down.  Not a very pleasant way to end the day!  I hated when an evening in our home ended in a melt down!  I always felt like such a terrible Mom, but evenings like that made me re-group and remember that naps, early bedtimes and calming routines were the cornerstone to good sleep for everyone.  Besides, when the kids were in bed early, I always had time to take a breather, visit with Brad and reward myself with a bowl of ice cream for making it through another day!

Often children are sleeping pretty well as they enter the toddler years, and then it seems that overnight, bedtime becomes a battle.  So many parents will tell me that their toddler “must not require much sleep” because they can’t get them to sleep in the evening.  Soon the pattern becomes a toddler who is up until late, a parent that has no down time, and a household that is stressful every evening.  The fact is, toddlers need about 13 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  Without that sleep, tantrums increase, whining becomes the norm, and a toddler’s day is not filled with discovery and play but frustration and tears.   These are some reasons families with toddlers often develop “bedtime blues”.

  • If a toddler is  not sleeping enough—they are harder to get to sleep consistently.  How hectic are your days?  If he is over scheduled or over stimulated you might want to slow it down for sleep’s sake.  When a child is constantly on the go, it is hard to settle down for sleep.  We need positive associations with sleep, not negative ones brought on by tantrums, yelling and harshness prior to bedtime.
  • Separation anxiety is a true toddler fear, often this separation anxiety is the start of sleep problems during the toddler years.
  • Toddlers are exploring control and testing.  Your child will test to see if bed time is negotiable!  Sometimes a tired parent will give in pretty easily setting the precedent for the following nights.
  • Toddlers don’t want to miss anything!  They realize that life goes on when they are napping or sleeping.
  • Most parents underestimate their child’s need for sleep.  Toddlers need between 13 and 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  An increase in tantrums, whining, crying, even misdiagnosis of hyperactivity can come from a child who is chronically sleep deprived. Toddlers are wired “early to bed, early to rise” !
  • Sleep is a health issue.  Parents need to control this health issue just like you do routine health care.  You wouldn’t let a child eat whatever they want for dinner, and you shouldn’t let a child decide his or her own bedtime.  Sleep is a basic need like food or clothing, and you are the parent!
  • There is no research that shows that letting a toddler fuss it out to sleep causes any psychological damage.  A child who is consistently loved and cared for during the day will thrive, even if there are several nights of “crying it out” to go to sleep.

So what is a parent to do?

1.  Watch your toddler’s behavior and do not let them become overly tired.  Remember that an overly tired toddler has a difficult time going to sleep and staying to sleep.  Usually, a toddler should not be up longer than a 5 hour stretch.  If your toddler rises at 7:30 in the morning, he or she will be ready for a nap about 12:30.  There should be about 5 hours between the nap wake time and bedtime.  So a toddler that sleeps from 12:30 to 2:00 or 2:30 is ready for bed by about 7:30 in the evening.

2.  Create a reasonable bedtime routine.  The routine should be calming and repeatable each evening.  Don’t let this routine take on a life of its own!  Thirty minutes of bedtime preparation is all that is needed.  A routine that is predictable will help your toddler calm down and know that bedtime is near.  This routine should include calming the house about an hour before bed by dimming the lights and turning off the TV.  Establish a routine that both you and your child enjoys.  This routine might include taking a bath, brushing teeth, cuddling and reading a story, singing a song, saying prayers, talking about the day and planning tomorrow, providing a “lovey”, and giving another snuggle before leaving the room.

3.  After the routine, your child may call or cry for you.  Be strong and consistent.  You can peek in and tell your child that it is night-time and time to sleep, but do not go back and rock and comfort to sleep.  Your child will learn to fall asleep on his or her own.  This is a learned skill, and an important one!  Give your child suggestions.  “You don’t have to sleep, just read your books or snuggle with your bear.”  Leave a night-light on if necessary.

4.  Establishing a sleep routine usually takes about three to four  nights of consistency.  Parents need to be on the same page and tackle this as a team!  Do not confuse your child with two different approaches to sleep.  Make a plan, and stick to it.  Remember that sleep is a health issue, you are being a good parent!

If you establish good sleep habits with your toddler, your daytime hours will be much more fun!  It is amazing how the “terrible twos” may just become terrific if you have a child that is not overly tired.

More to come….how to handle specific night-time challenges!

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


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