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.


Protecting your child from bug bites

Protection from ticks and mosquitoes is important for your child!

Today is beautiful, and I hope most of you have your children outside at some point!  Children both love and NEED to be outdoors.  Outside activity is an important part of a healthy child’s life, and it helps children get good and tired too!  I know one of the biggest reasons I encouraged outdoor play was that it provided me with a good long nap from my children in the afternoon.  A method to my parenting madness!

With spring and summer upon us, the pesky bugs will soon be too!   Not only are these insects just plain annoying, they can carry dangerous diseases to your children.  Most children have mild reactions to bug bites, but some children (are they just sweeter?) really seem to attract those insects and those bites result in large red welts that make them miserable.  West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and the recent outbreak of Zika Virus are diseases that could result from insect bites too.  So, if we want our children outside and we don’t have a protective “bee suit” in the house…what are we to do?

The use of insect repellents are recommended by the American Academy of  Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control.  Although most of us hate to put chemicals on our children, DEET used correctly is one of the best protectors for your child.  The amount of DEET in insect repellents varies from less than 10% to more than 30%.  Studies show us that the higher concentrations of DEET protect for longer periods of time, but not more effectively. So a repellant with 10% DEET will protect for about 2 hours, 24% about 5 hours, and at over 30% there is very little increase in protection.  The AAP recommends using a concentration of DEET between 10 and 30 percent.  Most of our children will not be outside in an area with biting insects more than 2 hours at a time…so 10% DEET should be enough the majority of the time.

How to use insect repellent safely:

  • Always read the label.
  • Do not use DEET on children under 2 months of age.
  • Do not use a concentration of DEET greater than 30%, usually 10% will be adequate.
  • Only apply the repellent to the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin.
  • Use a small amount just to cover the area, thicker layers are not more effective.
  • Do not spray repellents on your child’s face.  Put the repellent on your hands and rub on your child’s face being careful around eyes, and mouth.
  • Do not put repellent on your child’s hands.  Do not apply to open areas like cuts.
  • Spray repellents in open areas, do not breathe them in.
  • Wash your child with soap and water to remove the repellent when he comes inside.  Wash your child’s clothes before he wears them again.
  • Do not use sunscreen/insect repellent combinations.  You will need to reapply the sunscreen and the repellent should not be reapplied.
  • Cover your child’s exposed skin with long pants and sleeves if you know he will be in an area with a lot of biting insects. This will decrease the skin area that will need repellent.
  • Try to avoid dusk, the “buggiest” time of day!
  • Remember DEET is NOT effective on stinging insects like bees and wasps.

Repellents that do NOT work

  • Wristbands with chemical repellents
  • Dryer sheets pinned to your children (A big trend a few years ago!  I once saw an entire preschool class of children on a playground all equipped with dryer sheets!)
  • Garlic (would keep other people away! )
  • Ultrasonic devices that give off sound waves
  • Bug zappers (may actually increase insects in the area)

Other repellents:

So the bottom line is, insect repellents are a better alternative that the potential complications from a disease carrying insect. Be smart and use repellents safely.  Protect your child with clothing and by avoiding the time of day/night and areas where insect bites would be more common.  Check your child for ticks daily and remove any tick with a tweezers and clean with soap and water.  Lastly, put this at the bottom of your worry list….outdoor fun is essential for children!  Protect them with common sense and enjoy the outdoors…don’t let the bugs scare you off!

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


Reference:  www.healthychildren.org


Summer…what will you do?


Well, Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner, and the first week of “summer” is quickly approaching.  There is just something about summer, a feeling of relaxation and freedom.  Even with grown children I look forward to the last day of school and the anticipation of long summer evenings and less rush in our life.  I guess summer is really a mind set.  Well, it is time to enter the “summer mindset” and enjoy.  Summer is fleeting, the moments move quickly, and before we know it the fireflies are gone replaced by fall colors.  So start that summer bucket list…what will you and your child do to build memories of  the LONG summers of childhood; the kind that seemed to be lazy and filled with true summer fun.  Here are some suggestions for your summer bucket list, I know these are on mine!

  1. A trip to the beach.  Any beach!  Something about sand and summer.  Be sure to bring sand toys and a full afternoon.
  2. Berry picking.  Berries are in season all summer.  Strawberries now, then black raspberries, red raspberries and blueberries.  Nothing better than a berry straight from the vine and then a shortcake or cobbler that evening for dessert.
  3. Evening bike rides.  After the heat of the day, a cool evening ride down the Monon Trail is such a wonderful end to a day.  Of course, it is even better when we stop for ice cream before we head home.  Best when I can convince my husband it is not a competition!
  4. Free summer concerts.  I love to head to the summer concerts that are offered all over the area.  Pack up the kids, a few snacks and a blanket and head out to a little music under the stars.  Kids love to twirl and dance to the music and what a wonderful way to introduce all the different music varieties to your children, for free!  Try going kidless too…what a great date night!
  5. Baseball.  What is summer without it?  Take in a game and don’t forget the peanuts and popcorn.  Victory Field offers wonderful grassy seats on the hill!
  6. A trip to the farm.  For this city slicker, a trip to the local dairy farm is always a treat.  Take a tour of Trader’s Point Creamery, enjoy the beauty of the area and sample some ice cream, or just take a drive outside the city through farm country.  Stop at roadside farm stands and sample the taste of summer.
  7. Hit the local drive-in root beer stand.  I think this is a memory from my childhood that just screams summer.  I can remember the excitement of having the tray hooked to our car window and the “baby” mugs of root beer being delivered right to the car.  Healthy eating??  Not so much.   Great memories?…absolutely.  Memories win in this case.
  8. Lunch time picnics.  No work, no real planning, no mess…just PB&J and relaxation on a blanket.  A little running or rolling down a grassy hill and great naps after!
  9. Fireflies.  Summer brings the magic of fireflies.  Even the youngest child and oldest adult can be mesmerized by looking at a backyard “light up” with flashes of magical light.  Be sure to stay up past your child’s bedtime for the show…at least once.
  10. Popsicles.  Cold, juicy and dripping down your arm…pure summer.

So that is the start of a Summer Bucket List…simple right?  Just sit for a moment and think about the days ahead.  Don’t let the summer days slip by without experiencing the lazy, hazy days. No pressure, just experience it.  Give your child the memories of LONG summers…even though the moments go quickly.  Share your list!

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


Sunshine, summer, and sunscreen!

Sunshine certainly is good for our soul, but we know it can also cause a painful sunburn. Use of sunscreen should be added to your “to do” list before your child heads out the door to play. This past weekend I strolled through the aisle of sunscreen and realized there are simply too many choices! A quick check of a sunscreen’s label will make the choice much simpler. So….what is the best choice for your child? Here are the most important things to remember:

  1. Children under 6 months of age should be protected from the sun as much as possible. This means shading your child with umbrellas, awnings, trees, and protective clothing. When you cannot protect your child from the sun…then use sunscreen where needed. All labels will say not recommended for children under 6 months of age, but you must use sunscreen if you cannot effectively shade your child.
  2. SPF protective clothing is wonderful! Rash guard shirts, swim suits, and hats are available at relatively inexpensive price points. Clothing that is SPF protective is easier than applying sunscreen to those areas!
  3. Choose sunscreen that states it is “broad spectrum”. That means it protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  4. Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30.
  5. There is NO waterproof sunscreen, only water resistant. The label will tell you if it is 40 minutes or 80 minutes of water resistance. ALL sunscreen needs to be reapplied after leaving the water and towel drying no matter how long your child has been in the water.
  6. The best choice for sunscreen has zinc oxide or titanium oxide as the active ingredient. These are mineral based sunscreens and not a chemical based sunscreen. This mineral based sunscreen is gentler on your child’s skin and there are some studies that chemicals like oxybenzone can affect normal hormone levels in children. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are ingredients in most diaper rash creams and are very safe!
  7. If you have no other option than a chemical based sunscreen then use it! No sunscreen is more dangerous than using the chemical based sunscreen.
  8. Choose a lotion over a spray. I know sprays are convenient, but often the coverage is poor (try spraying a wiggling toddler!) and inhaling the spray may irritate a child’s airway.
  9. Use enough sunscreen! Adults should use about an ounce of sunscreen (think the amount of a shot glass) and a child needs approximately half of that or enough sunscreen to fill the palm of your child’s hand. If that 8 oz tube of sunscreen has lasted you more than 3 weeks, you aren’t applying enough!
  10. Re-apply at least every two hours, more often if your child has been in the water, sweating, or you have towel dried them.
  11. The most expensive sunscreen may not be the best sunscreen! READ the label…pure and simple. Very few ingredients are needed, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is the most important ingredient on the label.

Summer fun in the sun is a must for children….and so is protection of their skin when in the sun. During childhood, children usually receive about 25% of their lifetime sun exposure. Unprotected sun exposure as a child can result in skin cancers later, so protection from sunburn is essential. So, stock up on safe, effective sunscreen for your family and enjoy the summer sun!

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


Don’t Parent with Fear, Protect Your Child with Empowerment

Do you have a parenting worry list?  I do….even with adult children I still have a list of things that I “worry” about.  Everything from “Are they working too hard and getting enough sleep?”, “Are they safe when they travel?” to “Are they really happy?” is on that list! I really believe that you never really exit that parenting role completely, so maybe there will always be a few items on my worry list.  There are few things that bring more anxiety to a parent than their worry about the safety of their child.  At the top of many parents’ worry list is the fear of their child being abducted or sexually abused.  The statistics can cause most of us to lose sleep….in general most studies show that about 20% of adult females and about 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual abuse incident. The U.S. Department of Justice states that 90% of the victims know their perpetrator in some way. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2020 91% of missing children were runaways, 5% were family abductions, 1% were lost children, 3% were young adults between age 18 and 20 and less than 1% were nonfamily abductions.

With this knowledge, we as parents may need to change the education we are giving our children. Maybe the traditional Stranger Danger is not the most valuable approach to keeping our children safe.  Let’s start empowering our children, not teaching by fear.  Let’s move to teaching our children that they own their body; they are the “boss” of their body and they must keep it safe and healthy. 

So how do we start?

Respect our children’s feelings.

 Beginning at age 5 to 6 months, many infants experience stranger anxiety and between 18 months and 2 years most toddlers experience separation anxiety.  These are normal developmental stages, but we need to respect those feelings of anxiety. Introduce “strangers” or new faces slowly, don’t force your child to go to someone he or she is unsure of or sneak away if you are leaving your child with a babysitter. Sit down, slowly introduce, help your child feel comfortable and if you are leaving, say good-bye. This is the first opportunity to say to your child, “I am listening, I understand you are scared or uncomfortable.”  This respect of their feelings builds trust allowing your child to share these feelings verbally later. This builds a trusting relationship between adult/parent and child.

Don’t force a child to hug or kiss anyone even a family member.

Help a child determine what is appropriate touch for the people around them, forcing sends an unsafe message of the child not being “the boss of their body”.  Give choices to help them determine what is socially appropriate and comfortable for them.

“Say high to Aunt Susie, give her a hug or high five.”

“Say good-bye to Grandma, give her a kiss, hug or high five.” 

“Say thanks to the lady at the bakery, give her a high five or thumbs up for the cookie.”  

“Thank the librarian for helping you find the book about dinosaurs.”

These prompts help a child learn the when and with whom hugs and kisses are socially appropriate and comfortable for them. This allows your child to feel ownership of their body.  There are many reasons why a child might be uncomfortable or shy with new people or family members. It is fine for them to decide between a kiss, hug, high five, fist bump, thumbs up, or a simple thank you is most comfortable for them. 

Call your child’s body parts the correct name.

Cute nicknames for private body parts teaches children that those body parts are embarrassing or uncomfortable.  When children are uncomfortable talking about their body, they are less likely to share about their body. We don’t want to increase secrecy or uncomfortableness about a child’s body or sexuality. Call it what it is….and don’t react with anger when the “potty humor” begins with a toddler or preschooler. Ignore this and it will soon pass!

Begin talking about “private body parts” at about age 2. 

Potty training is the perfect opportunity to introduce a concrete way for children to understand where their “private parts” are. Tell your child that their private parts are where their bathing suit covers. Explain that no one but Mommy or Daddy, or a doctor or nurse when Mommy or Daddy is there, should look at or touch their bathing suit area. Casually speak of their private parts when bathing, changing for the pool, or using the bathroom. 

Introduce the concept of “Good Touch/Bad Touch” around age 2 or 3. 

Remember this should include that a good touch makes you feel good and a bad touch hurts or makes you feel bad or uncomfortable.  Bad touch is not only in the bathing suit area, this can include hitting, shoving or even stroking an arm or back that just doesn’t feel right. Give your child permission to say “stop hitting me”, “don’t shove me in line”, “I don’t like being tickled”, and even expand this to hurtful words, “When you called me that, it hurt my feelings.” 

Tell your child “you are the boss of your body”. 

Empower your child to keep their body safe and healthy. When you buckle into a car seat or put on a bike helmet, talk about keeping their body safe, when you give them a healthy meal talk about fruits and vegetables keeping their body healthy.  Tell your child they are in control of keeping their body safe and healthy. You want your child to value and take care of their body and learn to set healthy boundaries.  This belief of “being the boss of their body” can empower them to say no to risky or dangerous activities when they are older.

Role play how to respond when someone hurts them or makes them feel uncomfortable.

“Stop hitting me, that hurts!” “ Stop! Those words hurt my feelings.” “Stop touching me!” Role playing helps your child have a plan. If you see an incident at the park between children, give your child the words to say, don’t immediately “fix” the situation unless it is dangerous.

Keep talking.

The more often the topic is addressed the more comfortable your child will be. When you are giving baths, or dressing for the pool, casually mention where your child’s private parts are. When you are on the playground, talk about how to react if a child pushes in front of a line for the slide or says something unkind. Keeping the tone casual keeps the conversation safe and open making it easier for your child to share.

Don’t talk about strangers, talk about “tricky people”.

We all interact with people we don’t know every day.  We don’t want children to be raised in fear of everyone they don’t know. We know most abductions are by people a child knows or is at least familiar with.  A “tricky person” is someone who is either familiar with your child or has become familiar by speaking with them and gaining their trust. Tricky people don’t feel like a scary stranger but may try to trick a child into a situation that is not safe.  Instead of talking about “stranger danger” talk about the feeling of “uh oh”. Teach your child to trust their gut, when something feels uncomfortable teach them to say “no” or “stop” and leave.  Tell your child to share with someone they trust when they have that “uh oh” feeling. 

Help your child interact with “strangers” when you are with them in a safe situation. Encourage older children to order their dinner at a restaurant, help younger children introduce themselves to a child at the park, help your child say hello to the librarian or store clerk. Point out when a “stranger” was kind or helpful. People we don’t know are a part of everyday life and most are good people who will help your child if needed! Fear is not the solution to keeping your child safe! Teaching your child to listen to that inner voice or “uh oh” feeling is a key to staying safe.

Teach the difference between a secret and a surprise.  

Be sure you use the correct terminology and reinforce that families do not have secrets. A birthday gift for Dad is a surprise, not a secret. Children should never be told to keep a secret from their parents.

Have at least 5 adults in your child’s life who they trust.

Help them surround themselves with safe adults who love them. Children need adults other than their parents who will protect them and listen to them. This is especially true as your child enters school. These adults can be grandparents, close friends, an Aunt or Uncle, a teacher, a pastor or minister, there are many trusted adults who care for your chid.

Establish safety rules.

  • I will always play where I can see my mom, dad, or responsible adult who is with me.
  • I never go anywhere with anyone without checking with my mom or dad or responsible adult who is with me.
  • I will never eat any treat without checking with mom, dad or responsible adult with me.
  • I am the boss of my body. I can say yes or no to anything about my body.
  • Everyone’s bathing suit area is private.
  • I don’t keep secrets and no one should tell me to keep a secret from mom and dad.
  • If I get lost I can stay in one place and call for mom or dad or go find another mom to help me. (every child knows what a mom looks like, in most situations this is a safe individual for a child to ask for hep)
  • Grownups don’t ask kids for help (“Help me find my dog”, “Help me carry this to my car”) If they do, I must ask for permission from my mom, dad or responsible adult with me.
  • I listen to my voice inside or the “Uh oh” feeling. If something feels bad or wrong I will stop, yell for help, and tell mom and dad.

Good books to help with your conversations:

I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private By Zack and Kimberly King

Miles is the Boss of His Body By Samantha Kurtzman-Counter Abbie Schiller

Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) By Jennifer Moore-Mallinos


Sexual Behaviors in Young Children: What’s Normal, What’s Not?

We want our children to grow up confident, safe and happy….empowered that they are able to navigate this world successfully. Living in fear never results in someone who feels confident and happy.  Protect your child by empowering them!

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


When Mom ain’t happy….then no one is happy!

When Mom ain’t happy…no one is happy.  We have all heard that saying and in actuality it has a lot of truth to it.  If Moms are unhappy, then their families suffer.  Moms that are stressed have less patience with their spouses and children and have less fun and engagement with their family.  Families benefit when Mom feels good!  So lose the guilt and do something for yourself….after all you are helping your family!
How do we do it?

1.  Balance

A Mom who is out of balance probably has too much on her plate.  There must be a balance between kids, work, and the home.  Everyone needs 15 minutes a day of time alone.  I am an early riser and that is my time for a few minutes of reflection before my day begins.  Find out when you can fit those 15 minutes in your day to balance yourself.  Then during that time, reflect on your day and decide your priorities and put some perspective to those priorities.  Always ask yourself, “Is this a have to…and what would happen if I didn’t?”  Suddenly your life will become a little more balanced by embracing what is most important during this particular season of your life.  Remember, there is a time for everything in life.  You can have it all, just not all at once!

2.  Delegation without guilt.

Ask for help and then allow your kids and your spouse to help without guilt.  Build chores into your child’s daily life, giving responsibility helps your child build self-confidence.   Ask for help from your spouse and be happy with the help you receive!  Remember you must ask not just wish for help!  Give Dad a job to own, and let him do it his way!  Moms who are “gatekeepers” for their baby discourage Dads from parenting.  You don’t have to do it all….if you try everyone will be unhappy!

3.  Carve out time creatively.

Moms can actually carve time out for themselves right in the middle of caring for their kids!  You need to learn to be ready to grab those minutes here and there throughout the day.  Bring that magazine or book and read it in carpool, or waiting for a sports practice to be over.  Listen to a podcast or music that YOU enjoy when you are running errands with the kids in the car.  Build some exercise into your day when you take the kids to the park.  Soak those feet in the tub while your kids play in the tub and give yourself an at home pedicure.  Find ways to take care of yourself while still caring for your kids!  It is important for your children to see that you value yourself, that builds their respect for you.  Don’t give up who you are when you become a Mom!  You can still keep your interests, a Mom is a big part of who you are, but not the ONLY part of who you are!

4.  Plan a monthly date with your spouse and a date for you alone.

Reconnect with your spouse at least once a month on a “grown up” date.  Keep it simple and keep it cheap but it must be time away without kids.  The rule is:  No talking about the kids, just talking with each other. This will allow you to connect with each other!  Set a date once a month for you too…this can be a Saturday of shopping, time for a haircut, nails, a walk in the park, time to take a class whatever you alone would like to do.  Get both of these dates on the calendar…make it a standing date.  Treat it just like an appointment, no cancellation allowed!  You must refill yourself in order to give of yourself!

Remember…if Mom ain’t happy….then no one is!  Give your kids a gift; take care of yourself so you can take care of them.  Keep the family happy!  Happy Mother’s Day to all of you great Moms!

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


Parenting advice…a hindrance or a help? It can be both!

New parents will always receive advice…from many different people!  Don’t be too quick to judge, there are many “pearls of parenting” that you just might learn!  Parent with an open mind to advice, but make your own parenting decisions.

I am slowly learning how to be a parent of  adult (adult? really?) children.  It is not an easy transition, let me tell you!  After all, I DO know what is best for my kids (at least I think I do)!  I do have life experience and a little bit of wisdom at my age.  When the time comes that we are blessed with grandchildren,  I am sure that I will have to be careful as  I  know that I will want to give tidbits of unsolicited parenting wisdom.  I am beginning to realize how difficult it is to step back as a parent and allow adult children to live their lives without my guidance.  Once again, my respect and appreciation for my own parents has grown…you never know what it is like to be a parent until you are in the middle of it, and that includes being a parent of an adult child!

Well here you are; a new parent.  Everyone wants to offer advice to a new parent.  You get advice from medical professionals, friends, neighbors, parents, sisters, brothers, and even strangers in the mall. I can remember a lady in the grocery check out line saying, “OOOhhhh, someone is going to have a spoiled lunch!” with a little “tsk tsk”, when my then 2-year-old daughter had a half eaten bag of vanilla wafers all over her face at 11:00 am.  Hey, it had been a rough grocery shopping trip! I can remember that her comment was like nails on a chalk board to me at the time.  Now as I look back, it really was no big deal…she made a true statement probably, it just made me feel like my parenting skills were being challenged.  Tip number one, try to smile and then either accept advice or disregard it, but don’t let the comments of others undermine your confidence in your parenting skills.

Advice from strangers is very easily disregarded; you will never see them again!  The more difficult challenge is advice from friends and family…what does a new parent do?  Here are a few more pearls about advice…and the biggest one is:  Slow down, that advice just might be valuable.  Don’t let your pride keep you from listening!

  1. Even when we disagree with our relatives and friends, it is important to remember their feelings.  They give you advice because they love you and your child.  When you make decisions that may be different from your parents’, this can be threatening.  Parents can feel that you do not think they raised you well, or that you are critical of their parenting skills.  You should always assure them that they were great parents to you, but times change, and sometimes there is totally new advice regarding child care.  One example is “back to sleep”…a total change from a couple of decades ago!
  2. Knowledge is the best tool to defend your parenting choices when contradictory advice is given.  New parents must be confident in their parenting choices.  Look to medical professionals, trustworthy parenting books and websites, and listen to trusted mentors.  The more you know, the more confident in your decisions you will be.  Arm yourself with magazine articles, books etc. to support some of your parenting decisions.
  3. Your child’s doctor can be one of your best sources for parenting advice. Many parenting issues like feeding, discipline, potty training and sleep habits can bring many differing opinions.  After discussing your questions with your child’s doctor you can support your view.   “I know every little kid loves ice cream, but the Doctor doesn’t want me to start solid foods until he is at least 4-6 months old.” 
  4. You can always ignore advice from friends and relatives, but you don’t have to be confrontational about it.  “Thanks for the suggestion, that might be a good thought.” Then you can choose to ignore the suggestion if you wish.
  5. Pick your battle.  Sometimes the battle is not worth it.  Staying up a bit later, having more sweets than usual, watching a bit more TV, or giving in to your child’s whining occasionally will not affect the overall health or behavior of your child.  Roll with it a bit!
  6. Sometimes there is no possible compromise, in particular when it comes to the true health or safety of your child.  Issues like positioning your baby on his back to sleep, use of car seats with every trip in the car, bike helmets, food that could be a choking hazard, or any other parenting choice that is truly part of your parenting philosophy should not be compromised.    You must be honest about your views and spell out the expectations specifically.  “I know that I slept on my tummy with a blanket, but the research shows that infants sleeping on their backs with nothing in their crib are much safer.  If Michael is going to stay with you he must he must be put to sleep on his back without a blanket.”
  7.  When advice is given—do not immediately get defensive.  Listen first.  Often you may feel like you are being criticized as a parent.  Most of the time the other person is sharing something that they feel is just a valuable tip on parenting.  Try to listen first—you may actually learn a parenting pearl!
  8. Understand that your parents might find it hard to accept that you are really a grown up adult who can parent.  It is difficult to look at your “baby” and think of him or her as a parent!  It is so easy to try to continue to parent adult children.
  9. Be sensitive, it can be hard to keep your temper in check when bombarded with advice—but your relationships, especially with family members, need to be preserved for your sake and your child’s.
  10. Use diversion.  Sometimes changing the subject can save you from having to listen to advice that you don’t want to hear.  “I think the doctor and I have this feeding thing figured out—but I did want to ask your opinion about toys for kids this age.”  This works much better than “I really don’t need your view on feeding.”
  11.  Agree.  You might find one part of the advice that you agree with.  Concentrate on that.  Provide wholehearted agreement on that topic.
  12.  Avoid the topic.  If you have been complaining about your lack of sleep because of a fussy baby, be prepared to receive advice!
  13.  Memorize a standard response and practice it.  Whenever you are with a person that constantly gives you unwanted advice, have a standard response like:  “This may not have worked well for you, but this is what is working best for us right now.”  No anger, no sarcasm, just a simple statement.
  14.  Be honest.  If the constant advice is hurting your relationship with a family member or friend, be honest about the problem.  Pick a time that is free from distraction, and not in the heat of a discussion about an issue.  “I know how much you love Susie, and I am glad that you want to help me out so much.  I know that you think you are helping me when you give me advice on feeding, but I am comfortable with my approach, I hope that you understand that.”
  15. Search out like-minded friends.  A support group of other moms and/or dads who think like you can bolster your confidence in your parenting skills.  This is very helpful when your child is older too.  Parents who you trust and who parent in a similar way to you will be a great sounding board as you try to make parenting decisions in the future.

The most important thing a new parent needs is support.  The last thing you want to do is burn bridges with friends or family.  Not all advice will be to your liking;  but listen, sift through it, and act on that which best suits you and your child.  The trick is to accept advice in a loving way while making it clear that you are in charge of final decisions for your child.  You are your child’s parent and advocate.  You are the one that has to be happy with and is responsible for your parenting decisions.  You owe it to yourself and your child to do what you believe is right for him; but to also open yourself up to the advice friends and family may offer because none of us have this parenting thing all figured out.  I know my parents have certainly shared wonderful pearls of parenting…and my respect for their wisdom grows as my children do.   Embrace advice given with love, don’t be threatened by it, and then be confident in your choices and your ability to parent.

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


Get a little dirty…it is time to garden!

It is that time of year when I am doing a bit of grumbling about all the yard work, but also looking forward to getting my perennial beds cleared and blooming, my cut flower bed planted and preparing my vegetable garden for this summer’s crop of tomatoes, beans and of course sunflowers.  I definitely am not a Master Gardener, but I have a special place in my heart for gardening and getting a little dirty.  I have very fond memories of my Grandfather and his vegetable garden and beautiful roses.  I would walk through his garden when I visited and help water and weed.  With his garden gloves on and a hat perched on the back of his head, he was a true farmer at heart.  He showed me how to eat a fresh tomato right off the vine and how to pinch a peach so the fuzzy skin would pull back and I could eat the sweet inside.  I guess my love of gardening started by watching my Grandpa and then my own father take pride in their gardens.  My dad still grows amazing tomatoes!

So many of our children have no idea where their fruits and vegetables come from or even what a fresh tomato really tastes like! With the new fruit and vegetable pouches, I sometimes wonder if many toddlers even know what a real vegetable LOOKS like!  There are many life lessons that can be taught by simply taking a small plot of land or a small container and growing something with your child!  There is no better way to instill a love of nature and to encourage healthy eating than growing a fresh fruit or vegetable as a family.

Children are natural gardeners—they are curious, they learn by doing, and they love to play in the dirt.  Gardening is good for families, it gives your family time together outdoors, and time to let your child get dirty for a purpose!  Children love to look for worms, love to plant seeds, water,  watch plants  grow, pick their crop and even try the harvest they have grown.  What a great way to get them to try green beans!  This helps cultivate their curiosity about nature, the earth and maybe even foster a love of gardening.  Children will also love the special time they spend with you.  Gardening teaches patience, responsibility and is like having a science lesson without even knowing it!  You might even find yourself feeling a little proud and definitely loving the taste of a fresh homegrown tomato!

Tips on gardening with children.

1.   Plan a small container garden or a small plot of land that is theirs.  Talk about a plant’s  need for sun, water, and food.  Put the garden in an area that can be seen easily by your child.  A plastic storage bin or any other container with holes poked in the bottom for drainage works great for this!  Keep it near your back door so your child can see it often.  Tomato plants or lettuce can actually be grown in just a bag of topsoil that you open and plant the seedlings in the bag.  What could be easier?

2.  A “yardstick” garden is plenty big for a child.  Take a yardstick and measure a garden that is 3 foot square.  A young child can reach all sides of the garden and will take pride in that little plot he can call his own.

3.  Gardens do not have to be square.  A “pizza” garden can be planted with wedge sections.  Put different plants in each wedge.  Plant ingredients that would taste good on a pizza!  This is a great way to grow an herb garden!

4.  Use a little imagination, children will love a sunflower house!  Plant large sunflowers in a semi-circle.  As they grow, tie the top of them together and your child can have a “secret” hiding place in your garden!

5.  Watering and weeding is not as much fun as planning and planting ( I don’t like it as well!).  For older preschoolers or school age children, put a gardening calendar in the kitchen or in your child’s bedroom with tasks to be completed.  Don’t force it, remember you are instilling a love of gardening!  Keeping your child’s portion of the garden small should keep the time necessary to only a few minutes a day.  Using a container garden really keeps it easy!

6.  Child sized garden tools make it easier and more fun. I have seen tools in the dollar area of Target!  I know if I had young children, the gardening boots and clogs I have seen would be a must, so cute!!  A gardening hat is a necessity,  protect yourself and your child from the sun.  What is cuter than your toddler gardener in a wide brimmed hat!  Don’t forget the sunscreen too.

7.  Let your child dig the holes for the seeds or the plants that have been bought.  Digging holes is a natural for kids!

8.  Encourage your child by planting seeds that mature quickly and are easy for them to handle.  Radishes and lettuce are great.  They germinate in a couple of days.  Bean seeds and sunflower seeds are easy to handle.

9.  Be sure to put the seed packet on a stake in the garden to remind them what they have planted and what it will look like.  Some discount stores even have little garden stakes that your preschooler could decorate!

10. Children love the unusual.  Many vegetables are available in different colors or sizes.  Speckled beans, red carrots, miniature cucumbers and pumpkins, purple beans, and grape tomatoes are just a few examples.  Try something really unusual by taking a cucumber or pumpkin bloom and placing it inside of a 2 liter bottle.  Shade the bottle with leaves from the plant and let the pumpkin or cucumber grow inside the bottle.  It is a great “show and tell” item when there is a large cucumber or pumpkin inside the bottle!

11. Add a bird bath  to attract birds.  Children can be responsible for refilling the bird bath!

12. Think about planting bright colored flowers that are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  Exploring the garden for butterflies, bugs, worms and caterpillars is great fun!

13. You might want to set a part of the garden for digging all summer.  Put your sandbox in the middle of your garden to make your garden kid friendly.  There were always a few cars or trucks around in the dirt of our garden.

14. You can have your child  make garden stones or markers for the garden.  Find larger stones and let them paint designs on the stones.  These make great Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gifts for Grandparents!

15.  Have your child help build a scarecrow for the garden.  This can be a fun activity for late summer especially.

16.  Measure the sunflowers that you plant once a week and chart their growth.  If you have older children, planting sunflower seeds that mature in about 90 days is a great way to measure the length of summer.  When they bloom, it is time to go back to school!

17.  Try to grow organically as possible.  Mulch is a great way to cut down on weeds which will prevent the need for weed killer and mulch will keep the soil moister during dry spells.  Mix compost and/or topsoil into your garden each year to provide nutrients needed for plant growth.  By growing without chemicals, your child will be able to eat a tomato right from the vine…there is nothing better!

18.  Let your child harvest their own vegetables.  There is nothing better than picking your salad fixings for the day!  This will encourage your child to eat their vegetables I promise!  Your child will love to eat “garden to table”!

19.  Keep it fun…start small!  Most new gardeners try something too big and then quickly become discouraged with the experience.  Just grow one tomato plant and supplement your “garden” with a trip to the Farmer’s Market!  We always had enough green beans from our small garden for at least one dinner.  The kids would always ask, “Our these our beans?”  With a little white lie, our kids ate green beans the whole summer!

There are some great children’s books that can be fun to read with your child as you start your garden:

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
This is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schaefer
Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
Alison’s Zinnia by Anita Lobel

If you are more inclined to create a gardening sensory box….make a little safe to eat mud!  Use a plastic container and fill it with the “mud” below.  Add some garden tools, plastic vegetables or flowers and “plant” a garden!  You also can use this recipe for plastic bugs, worms, and other creepy crawlers for your toddler to play with…or transform it with trucks or dinosaurs.  Easy to make and if it dries out….just add a little more water.

  • 1 cup of Corn Starch
  • 2 tablespoons Powdered  Cocoa
  • ¾ cup water
  • Extra Corn Starch (as needed)
  • Spoon

Mix it together and add more water or corn starch to get the texture you want.  Play outside and let your child get a little messy!  Messy play is creative play!

Get a little dirty….plant a few seeds and you will see your child’s excitement grow as the plants grow, and who knows you might just raise a kid that likes his vegetables!

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


Number 2 on the way….what were we thinking??

Our oldest loving her little sister….every moment wasn’t always this precious!

Most parents experience pure excitement and joy when they learn they are pregnant with their first child.  They dive right in to learning about a healthy pregnancy, preparing for labor and delivery, and planning the nursery.  Often the experience is a little different when pregnancy occurs for the 2nd time.  Yes, there is excitement, but there is also first hand experience with the first few months of a newborn.  I can remember being extremely excited and happy when I found out I was pregnant with our 2nd daughter, but my thoughts also included “What the heck were we thinking? ”  “How can we handle another baby….when will we sleep?”  “Corri is still a baby herself!”  “How will I ever do THAT much laundry?”…..

Yes, the 2nd time around, and the 3rd and the 4th, we knew what we were getting into…and that is a mixture of pure joy and pure terror!  How do you prepare for baby #2?

  • Remember to take care of you!  With the first pregnancy, that was on everyone’s mind.  Now, taking care of your first-born is first on the list!  Be sure that you are eating well, and sleeping well.  Still try to lie down when your little one naps or rests.
  • Give your first-born the news when the time is right.  Remember, 9 months is a very long time in toddler time.  When your body starts to change, and others are noticing, then it is probably time to tell big brother or sister about the new baby on the way!
  • Always talk about the baby as your child’s too.  Have your child talk to and even pat or kiss your tummy.  If your child asks questions about where the baby is….no need to panic.  You do not need a full explanation of the birds and the bees.  Just answer the question simply and if your child wants more information, he or she will ask.  Let them guide how much information you give.
  • Let your child go to the doctor with you and listen to the baby’s heart beat.
  • Check out books from the library about babies and big sisters and brothers.  Show your child pictures of  you when you were pregnant with them and when they were babies.
  • Visit friends that have babies.
  • Buy a doll or special stuffed animal to practice gentle touch.  This doll or animal can be a help once the baby is born.
  • Shop for baby items together.  Let your child pick out a special new toy, or outfit for the baby.
  • Transition your child out of the crib to a toddler bed or big bed several weeks before the baby is born.
  • Start to clean and put away any baby equipment that might be out still.  Put away baby toys that will be brought out later.  This will help your child forget about them being theirs!
  • Stock up on a few “gifts” that can be given to your child when others bring baby gifts to the new baby.  A few dollar items to give to big sister or brother may help.
  • Have a plan for the day or night of delivery.  Where will your oldest go?  Who can help out those first few days while you are in the hospital?  Make sure that your older child knows the plan, especially if your child is preschool age or older.  They need to know who will be caring for them when you leave.  Try to disrupt their routine as little as possible.

When the new baby arrives!

  • When big sister or brother comes to the hospital, it is best if the baby is not in your arms.  Have the baby in the crib and then allow older brother or sister to meet and greet the baby.  Let them hold the new baby with help.
  • Have a gift that big sister or brother brings to the baby that they have picked out.  Have a small gift for the big sister or brother from the baby too!
  • Once home, let your older child help as much as they would like.  Having them stand on a stool next to you while you care for the baby works well.  Often they are very interested in the beginning and the newness fades quickly once they find the baby doesn’t “do” much yet!
  • Give your older child a specific job they own…like bringing you a diaper.  They will feel important!  Be careful not to interrupt their play to have them help you though!
  • Be positive with your words.  If you can’t come play with big sister or brother because you are busy with the baby, say “In a minute I will play…want to see what Mommy is doing now with baby sister?”  Don’t blame the new baby for your delay.
  • Have a “nursing or feeding bag”.  Hang this bag on a door knob.  Have books, toys, quiet games and activities in this bag.  When it is time for a feeding your older child can go get his or her special bag to help entertain.  Moms have laps that can hold two when feeding also!  Let your older child snuggle up next to you on a couch as you nurse or bottle feed.
  • Try nursing or feeding your baby sitting on the floor.  Put your baby on a blanket for “tummy time” or put the baby in a bouncy seat so you can sit and play with your older child too. Being at their eye level on the floor helps your older child to feel less left out.
  • Point out things that the older child can do because he or she is a big girl or boy!  Being big is exciting!
  • When people ooh and aah about the new baby always ooh and aah over the older child too!
  • Let the older child open the baby’s gifts when they come.
  • Be very clear that there is a “no hurting” or a “be gentle” rule.  Give your child other ways to express angry or jealous feelings.  If there is a poke or a rough touch, an immediate “time out” is given. Speak firmly, no yelling necessary!
  • There are times when you must put down the baby and pick up and cuddle your older child….just because!  Be sure to do this several times a day.
  • Allow for regressive behavior.  If it is not harmful let it be.  Any major milestone recently reached may be dropped for a time.  Your older child may talk “baby talk”, have accidents if potty trained, or throw more tantrums.  All this is temporary if you do not give it much attention!
  • Don’t expect your toddler to handle jealous feeling politely.  Toddlers are not necessarily polite!  It is difficult for adults to handle jealousy so of course a 2-year-old will struggle!  A toddler will smile and hug their new brother or sister when he or she really is happy about that baby, not because it is socially expected!
  • Make it a point to spend some individual time with your older child each day.  That might be a story together, a quiet game, or even just a trip to the grocery together without the baby.  A few minutes a day of undivided connection is all that is needed.  Dad can help out with this too!
  • No guilt….sharing Mom and Dad’s attention is one of life’s important lessons and a sibling is one of life’s greatest blessings.
  • Be patient with yourself, your partner, and your child.  This is all new!  A snuggle, a hug, positive words and a good belly laugh will make the moments of “What were we thinking?” become fewer and fewer!

You are giving your child a gift with a new sibling….family is so important.  Your heart will expand with each child you have, there is enough love to go around….trust 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.


Good books for parents!

  • From One Child to Two:  What to Expect, How to Cope, and How to Enjoy Your Growing Family, by Judy Dunn.
  • And Baby Makes Four : Welcoming a Second Child into the Family, by Hilory Wagner

Favorite books for your child to prepare for the new sibling!

  • We Have a Baby, by Cathryn Falwel.
  • The New Baby by Fred Rogers.
  • Our New Baby, by Wendy Cheyette Lewison.
  • How A Baby Grows, by Nola Buck.
  • My Baby Brother Has Ten Tiny Toes, by Laura Leuck.
  • 101 Things to do with a Baby, by Jan Ormerod.
  • Spot’s Baby Sister, by Eric Hill.
  • Sisters, by Debbie Bailey & Susan Huszar.
  • Julius, the Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes.
  • A Baby for Max, by Kathryn Lasky and Maxwell Knight.
  • Will there be a lap for me?  by Dorothy Corey.
  • When the New Baby Comes, I’m Moving Out, and Nobody Asked Me if I Wanted a Baby Sister, by Martha Alexander.
  • Alligator Baby, by Robert Munsch.

Starting solid foods….there really are not a lot of rules!

baby solid foods

Starting solid foods can be stressful…so it seems.  So many of my conversations with parents who are starting foods, thinking about starting foods, or in the middle of food introduction are full of anxiety and questions.  It really should not be.  There are very few guidelines that parents really need to follow.  Many of the “rules” of starting solid foods are not based on a lot of science, but are based on culture and “what grandma did”.  So what is all the worry about??  What are the “rules”?

Let’s keep it simple.

1.  Children should start solid pureed foods when they are developmentally ready for food, usually near the 6 month mark.  Usually at this age healthy children who are developing normally should be showing some interest in foods, sitting up fairly well, and their tongue thrust should be minimal.

2.  First foods are really “practice foods”.  Your baby is trying out new tastes and textures, but their main nutrition should be coming from breast milk or formula.  Solid foods are complimentary the first year.

3.  Pureed foods do not have to be the traditional baby foods…give your baby new and interesting tastes!  There really is no scientific base to withholding any foods, even foods that are traditionally high allergen foods like eggs and peanut butter.  The only food your child should NOT have is honey in the first year.  Introduce new foods every few days and enjoy.

That is really it!  So there really is no need for a schedule, a flow chart or an excel sheet to introduce your child to foods.  Honest…

Even with these simple “rules” there are lots of questions.  Here are some of the most common questions/worries that I hear:

1.   Should I start with rice cereal first? 

Traditionally rice cereal has been the first food for babies in this country…for years!  Why?  Well, it is convenient, it is easy to mix and feed, and it is iron fortified.  Iron stores from Mom may begin to deplete after the first 6 months, so foods with iron are often started first.  There is a lot of debate about white rice cereal, especially with the recent reports regarding arsenic levels in rice cereals. Rice cereal does not HAVE to be first.  There are certainly other choices for first foods such as whole grain cereals, like oatmeal with iron fortification. There is no reason why a baby can’t have pureed meats at 6 months too.  I think we should look at other foods besides rice for a first food.

2.  Should I start with green vegetables first, then yellow, and then fruit?

Don’t have to……there is no evidence that shows if you give your baby green vegetables first he will like vegetables any better or like sweet things less.  No matter what order you introduce foods, all children (adults too) will like the taste of sweet better.  Besides, if you breast feed, your baby has already tasted sweet…your breast milk.  Don’t worry about what color vegetable or what fruit you should introduce when, just offer your baby a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.  You can introduce carrots one day, applesauce a few days later, and then peas…the order doesn’t matter.

3.  Is it healthier to make my baby’s food?  Does it have to be organic?

Many parents worry about the fact that they don’t have time to add baby food making to their “to do” list, but it seems that everyone is telling them that “good parents” provide homemade organic baby food.  Like parenting issues in general, there is always different options for different families.   There certainly are many ways a parent can provide healthy food for their child.  Some parents buy only organic, local food and have special recipes for homemade baby food, some parents shop aisle 2 and pick up whatever food is in stage 1, and other parents go half and half; making some food and buying some. The truth is, your child will not be on pureed foods very long.  I think the sooner your child begins to eat what you are fixing the rest of the family, the better.  Children like foods that have normal seasonings and a wide variety of tastes. Try to make at least some baby food…that means add a little water, breast milk or formula and take a fork and mash or use a blender to puree food for your baby, it is that simple.  Soon your baby will be eating what you do with just a little mashing.

Organic foods have not been proven to provide better nutrition, but the foods do decrease exposure to pesticides.  If your budget doesn’t allow the purchase of organic foods, it is more important to provide a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you want to spend a few dollars on organics….stick with the “dirty dozen”.  Remember organic processed foods like crackers or macaroni and cheese really don’t have a health benefit at all….

4.  You want my baby to eat what I do?

If you are having green beans for dinner…then mash or puree some for your baby.  If you are eating fast food…then no!  If you think your child can’t have what you normally eat, then think about what you normally eat.  I find a lot of parents begin to eat much more healthy when they have a child beginning to eat solid foods.  Remember, the best way to teach healthy eating is being a good role model.

5.  Can’t I start food a little earlier….I need some sleep at night and wouldn’t that help my baby sleep better?

Food does not help a baby sleep at night better….nothing in research has ever shown us this.  Starting solids too early may result in an increase risk of obesity or maybe even a tummy ache because your baby is not able to digest the food well yet.  Starting solid foods is a developmental milestone not a way to “tank up” your baby for sleep.  Early food introduction will not increase your sleep…

6.   Babies can’t eat eggs or peanut butter can they?

The only thing a healthy baby who is not in a family with many food allergies or intolerances can’t have is honey.  That is it!  Babies under a year are at risk for botulism when eating honey, but nothing else that is healthy is off-limits.  There is no waiting for yogurt, eggs, meats, cheeses, fish….nothing….if it is not a choking hazard, then let your baby try it.

Let go of the anxiety….starting foods should be fun and exciting for you and your baby.  Offer new tastes, new textures, and healthy food.  Soon you will see that your child just might LIKE brussel sprouts….even though you never did!  Let your child try it all….and maybe your diet will improve too.

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 temporary!

Sippy cups serve a purpose….temporarily!  Introduce a cup at 6 months of age, and the sippy cup should be transitioned to a straw cup about 7 or 8 months and a lidless cup by age 2.

There have been so many new baby product developments over the years…some very good, some not so much.  The sippy cup is one that has really changed over the last 20 years or so.  I can remember when the only choice for a sippy cup was the bright-colored Tupperware cups with lids!  Now you can go into Target or Wal-mart, or most any other store and search aisles and aisles of different sippy cups.  Ones with soft nipples, ones with hard spouts, ones that have handles, ones that have straws, character cups, valveless cups, disposable cups……you get what I am saying.  It would take most of us an afternoon and a small fortune to try to find the “best” cup for a child.

Sippy cups should be introduced to your baby when your baby starts solid foods.  With a solid food meal, your baby should try a few sips of tap water.  Much of the water will dribble down your child’s chin at first, but drinking from a cup is just like any other developmental task, it takes practice.  Sippy cups were meant to be transitional cups.  That means temporary!  Every day I see children aged 3, 4 and sometimes as old as 5 with sippy cups!  Drinking from a lidless cup is a developmental milestone that is important!  Children should be able to drink from a lidless cup with very few spills by age 3.  Here are a few tips on picking the best sippy cup, and why transitioning from it to a lidless cup is so important!

1.  Pick a sippy cup that has a hard spout that is NOT like a bottle.  Your child should be learning how to drink from a cup, not learning how to drink from a cup that looks and acts like a bottle!  Start using the sippy cup when your baby starts solid foods.  Start with water, and eventually put breast milk or formula in the cup, so your child learns that milk can come from something other than the breast or bottle.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are no longer drinking from a bottle by about a year.

2.  Pick a sippy cup that does not have a valve, or that has a valve you can remove.  Once again, your child is learning a new skill…sucking is old hat!  Your child needs to learn how to drink and control the flow of a liquid without sucking.

3.  Do not allow your child to drink juice or milk from a sippy cup all day long.  Your child will continually coat his or her teeth and promote decay, and will drink too many calories!  Water during the day, milk with meals, juice ( no more than about 4-6 ounces maximum a day) only occasionally.  The sippy cup will quickly become a comfort item like a pacifier or a bottle if your child carries it around all day.

4.  Encourage lidless cups at meals by a year.  Children who continue to suck on a sippy cup could end up with speech difficulties.  Sucking for too long can cause the mouth and oral muscles to develop poorly resulting in speech problems.

5.  Transition to a straw cup.  The introduction of a straw cup protects your child’s teeth when drinking fluids with a high sugar content.  The sucking motion on a straw also is different from the sucking motion on a sippy cup.  The tongue is placed differently when using a straw cup which prevents the poor muscle development in the mouth that comes with prolonged sucking on a bottle, sippy cup, pacifier, or thumb.

6.  Give up that sippy cup by age 3.  Children are developmentally ready for a lidless cup by age 3 if they have been given the opportunity to learn how to use it!  A good place to practice is in the bathtub…no worries if there are spills there!

So parents, let go of that sippy cup!  Allow your child to learn how to drink with a lidless cup.  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.


American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

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