If you are a kid…then play is your work! If you are an adult…then learn to play!
Sit for a moment and watch your child. Just watch…don’t jump in and give your child something to play with…just watch what your child will do. Children, if left alone and given the opportunity, will play happily with whatever is there. We parents don’t have to do anything or buy anything! Wew! One less thing on your “to do” list! As a matter of fact, parent led play or very organized play is not as valuable as your child playing on his own!
There has been a decrease in the amount of free play time our children have over the last 50 years. Our children now have less recess time at school, go to preschool at an earlier age, have more toys than children of years ago, watch more TV and play video games, play on more organized sports teams and at a younger age…all of this combined has resulted in less true free play time. Much of our children’s play has become adult led and organized. So, why is this a problem? Child led free play is so much more valuable! Free play is a child’s work and it…
- Helps children learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate
- Helps children build a foundation for problem solving
- Helps children figure out the world they live in
- Helps children develop decision making skills
- Helps children find their interests and passions
- Helps develop imagination
- Helps children try on different roles, learn empathy for others
- Helps increase language skills
- Helps foster creativity
- Helps children learn about nature and their environment
Adult led organized play can stifle all of this child’s work. Adult led play forces children to play according to adult rules and this decreases their creative play and their development of leadership skills. Watch your child, they often play with a toy much differently than the way a toy is “supposed” to be used! If left alone, a child will create all kinds of ways to play with a simple toy, if it is not a “one button wonder”. So many of the newer toys do one thing with a push of a button, these types of toys leave little to a child’s imagination or creativity. Going back to some of our basic toys like blocks, puzzles, stacking cups, books and dress up clothes may be much more valuable to our children’s development. Research also shows us that a child really only needs 30 minutes of adult led play a day but at least 60 minutes of child led play a day. So often we parents feel like it is our responsibility to lead our child in play! Child led play is also better than play that is “entertainment” based like TV, video and computer games, and movies. The less screen time a child has before the age of 2 the better! This type of “play” decreases creativity and active play which may be part of the reason we are struggling with an increase in childhood obesity.
Play at every stage of development in childhood is more than just fun, it is a child’s right and a necessity. As a society, I think we underestimate the importance of play. Do you want your child to be happy and successful? Don’t tell your child to just “hit the books” but tell him to “go play.”
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 “back to school” time. Honestly, I have always met this time with very mixed feelings. I was excited for my kids and their new experiences ahead and I loved shopping with them for new notebooks and pencils and the coolest folders and pencil pouches. The first day of school pictures of our kids scrubbed and smiling are treasures, but I also was a bit melancholy as I thought about the ending of summer and our relaxed schedule and the family fun of the season.
This year as I listen to the conversations of parents I hear the fear in their voices, I see masks on the school supply lists, I hear about distancing during lunch and recess, and no hugs from teachers; my heart just feels sad. What will these children feel like the first day of school? How will they feel wearing masks? Do they feel safe? How will they continue to grow and learn if their lessons are remote? Will there still be the excitement of the First Day of School?
Then I stop and tell myself, kids are resilient. Kids are pliable…their little hearts and brains adapt. It is easier for them than me.
We as parents cannot control the circumstances of our child’s world, but we can help him or her build resilience to be able to handle the bumps in the road.
Resilience is more than hanging on just hoping that things will get better, it is teaching your child to be adaptive and accept challenge. Resilience is also the ability to appreciate all that is good in life right now instead of concentrating only on the negative. This virus is a challenge, a big one, but there are always challenges in life and supporting our child’s resilience is one of the keys to a happy, successful life. So, what can we do as parents to support our children as they navigate their new world?
Control your emotions
- Your child will follow your lead. If you are anxious, your child will be anxious. Taking care of yourself is key to handling your anxiety. Exercise, eat well, establish a sleep routine, connect with others, and take time to just be. We can’t control the outside world, but we can control our home. Create calm, be sure your child feels safe.
Concentrate on the positive
- Talk in terms of what is good right now. I am a firm believer that every child should end the day on a positive thought. What has been good today? Resiliency focuses on the good even in times of challenge.
Help your child with self -regulation
- When a child reacts with tantrums, whining, acting out, or defiance, many are experiencing powerful feelings or emotions they can’t control. Be patient and work with your child on addressing the emotion:
- Name the emotion or feeling.
- “Change is difficult, are you feeling angry or frustrated with all the changes with school?”
- Ask your child about what he or she feels.
- Defining this helps your child realize when he or she needs to work on self -calming.
- “When you are upset do you feel your heart pounding or your tummy feeling funny? That is what it feels like when you are very upset.”
- Model what your child can do to stop the escalation.
- Take a deep breath, take a step away, separate until he or she feels calmer.
- Encourage talking about the feelings with you or a trusted friend.
- Move on, find something positive to do.
- Give your child some control or choices.
- When a child is asked to do something he or she is not happy about, giving choices or some control will result in more cooperation.
- “I am sorry that we have to wear masks to school for safety, why don’t you come with me to choose one that you like the best.” “I know it is disappointing that your soccer team has been cancelled. Would you like to kick the ball in the yard for practice every day or should we head to the park? You choose how to spend your time.”
- Plan a few minutes every day to simply be with your child.
- This is time to talk, play, laugh, just be. Your child needs this time to know that no matter what is happening, or how he or she is feeling or reacting, he or she is loved.
Don’t try to remove all stress or challenge from your child
- Placing your child in a bubble or rescuing him or her from all stressors, results in a less resilient child. Exposure to stress and challenge with loving support from parents helps a child develop coping skills.
So as my heart feels heavy as I see our children put on their masks, distance themselves from large groups of friends, navigate the disappointments of sports and other activities being cancelled, celebrate birthday parties with drive by parades….I still see children smiling, accepting the changes, spending more time with family, learning how to wash their hands and stay healthy, learning through technology, reading more books, having more quiet time and yes becoming more resilient. Maybe I can learn from them. Smile Mom and Dad, your child is resilient
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Our daughter, Kaitlyn, the picture of toddler pickiness!
Why is it that we parents worry so much about how much our child is eating? I can remember thinking that how well Kaitlyn ate that day, determined how well I had parented. Not true! Children under the age of one usually nurse or formula feed well, and are eager for the introduction of solid foods. But seemingly over night, our toddlers start to have an opinion about what we feed them! I can remember being very frustrated because I was providing her with this wonderfully healthy meal, and often all she wanted was bananas! To make it more confusing, the next day she may have thrown all those bananas off her tray! My darling daughter was a typical toddler, and with toddlers, meals are often a challenge. Why?
1.Toddlers have slowed down in growth.
The first year of life a child grows very quickly, between birth and a year most children triple their birth weight! A toddler grows much more slowly and seems less hungry.
2. Eating interrupts a toddler’s activity.
Toddlers are busy…any parent can tell you that. Sitting for any length of time just isn’t on the toddler’s agenda!
3. You can’t force a toddler to eat.
A parent’s job is to present a toddler with a wide taste pallet of healthy foods every day. It is up to the child to eat them! The more you force, the more most toddlers turn up their noses. A healthy child offered healthy food will NOT starve themself! A parent’s job is to provide a healthy diet a toddler’s job is to decide!
4. Toddlers usually eat one good meal a day.
Often toddlers will eat a good breakfast, an OK lunch and pick at dinner. Toddlers only need about 40 calories an inch. (Now don’t get that calculator out for your child!) Most will only need about 1000 to 1200 calories a day. By dinner, many toddlers have eaten their required calories for the day!
5. Toddlers like to binge on one food.
Food jags are common in toddlers. One day you can’t fill them up on green beans, and then two days later it is bananas. Some days a toddler may eat only fruit, the next day they may fill up on protein. What a toddler eats over a week is a better picture of their diet intake.
So what is a parent to do….
- Offer food frequently! Toddlers need 3 meals and at least 2 snacks offered each day. Toddlers behave better when they are eating frequently. Their tummies are small and temper tantrums increase when blood sugars are low. Try planning snacks from at least 2 food groups 2 to 3 times a day.
- Dip it! Toddlers like to dip everything. It is fun, and it is messy…two essentials for toddler eating! Humus, yogurt, cottage cheese, guacamole, melted cheese, salsa, peanut butter and even ranch dressing are some essential dips for toddlers.
- Hide it! Hide the broccoli under cheese sauce, shred the veggies and mix them in humus or cream cheese and spread on a tortilla and cut into pin wheels, puree veggies and add them to pasta sauce, lasagna, meatloaf. Make “orange ” pancakes with sweet potato puree or carrot puree and a dash of cinnamon. Get sneaky! When you hide vegetables, make sure you include some on your child’s plate so they learn what a balanced diet looks like.
- Be creative! Kids like fun. Make faces on sandwiches, use cookie cutters and cut shapes in pancakes and bread, make shish-ka-bobs with fruit and pretzel sticks, make party bananas with sprinkles, serve fruit and yogurt in an ice cream cone, try smoothies….
- Remember the toddler serving size! A serving size is a tablespoon per year. One serving of vegetables for a 2-year-old is two tablespoons! Many times we are trying to serve our toddlers adult size portions! The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great “sample” daily meal plan. Take a look!
- Don’t let your toddler “drink” his calories. A toddler should only have 16 to a maximum of 24 ounces of milk a day. That is much less than the 28 to 32 ounces most were drinking before becoming toddlers! If your child drinks too much cow’s milk, he will not eat solid food calories! Too much milk provides too little iron and other needed nutrients! Juice should be limited to only 4 to 6 ounces a day after age 1, better to have the whole fruit than just the juice!
- Let your child “shop” for food. Give your child a few dollars and let them “shop” in the produce section. Your child will be more likely to eat the food he or she “buys”! You might learn to cook and eat a new fruit or vegetable too….you never know what your child may pick out! (this is how I learned to fix spaghetti squash!)
- Let your child “help” prepare food. A child who watches a parent make dinner and “helps” will often be more likely to eat! Let your child have a few choices, control is important for toddlers.
- Let your child be messy. Toddlers explore food with their mouths, taste buds, and hands. They smash food, throw food, spread food, “paint” with food and generally need a bath after most meals. You must allow your toddler to feed himself. You must introduce spoons and forks, and be patient with the fact that it takes time and messes to learn how to use them!
- Don’t battle…try a “No thank you bite”. Toddlers have opinions, and sometimes they are very strong! The more battle there is in a meal, the more likely you will lose! Offer healthy foods and a variety of foods. If your toddler refuses to try something, introduce a “no thank you bite”. One bite and then he can refuse more. You might even ask your child to “kiss” the food, not even take a bite. This may provide just a small enough taste to convince your child to take a bite! Remember, it takes 15 to 20 introductions to a food before your child will develop a definite like or dislike!
Remember, a parent’s job is to PROVIDE healthy meals and snacks….a toddler’s job is to DECIDE what he or she will eat that day. If left alone, toddlers will usually balance their own diet if we just provide good choices. Relax….
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Parents must be sure that their child’s car seat is being used correctly…we all have precious cargo!
I read an study recently in the Journal of Pediatrics which really shocked me.
A total of 291 families (81% of those eligible) participated. Nearly all (95%) CSSs were misused, with 1 or more errors in positioning (86%) and/or installation (77%). Serious CSS misuse occurred for 91% of all infants. Frequent misuses included harness and chest clip errors, incorrect recline angle, and seat belt/lower anchor use errors. https://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(15)01459-6/fulltext
95% had errors in car seat installation of positioning! That is such a scary thought since car accidents are the leading cause of death for children. But to be honest, car seats are not easy to install correctly! The manuals are long and sometimes confusing, there are different recommendations by auto manufacturers, and I know the installation of a car seat has caused many an argument between Moms and Dads!
The newest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics state that until at least age 2 your child should sit in a rear facing seat and preferably a child should be rear facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer (that means your child most likely will be older than age 2 and still rear facing). Children over the age of 2 may sit in a front facing seat with a 5 point harness until their weight and height exceeds the car seat’s recommendation for the seat. A booster seat should be used until a child is 57 inches tall, which is the average height of an 11-year-old (wow…bet you didn’t realize that!) No child should sit in the front seat until age 13! www.healthychildren.org
Types of car seats:
- Rear facing only
This seat is used for infants up to 22 to 40 pounds depending on the seat. They are small and have handles to carry the seat. Some have a base that can be left in the car.
- Convertible seats that can be used for rear facing
These seats can be used rear facing and then “converted” to forward facing when your child is older. They are bigger than infant seats and do not have handles or a separate base. They often have a higher rear facing weight and height limits which is great for larger babies. They should have a 5 point harness.
- 3 in 1 seats
These seats can be used rear facing, forward facing and as a booster. They may be used longer by your child. (But remember every seat has an expiration date…about 5-6 years)
Installation for rear facing
- The shoulder straps should be at or below your baby’s shoulders.
- The straps should be snug (you shouldn’t be able to pinch any slack) and the chest clip should be at the nipple line.
- The seat should be tight in the car. You should not be able to move it more than an inch side to side or front to back.
- Never put a rear facing seat in the front seat of a car!
- Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your baby’s head does not flop down. Many seats have an angle indicator or adjusters that can help with this.
- I recommend having a certified car seat technician help install the car seat. This will help with the many questions parents have and may even prevent Mom and Dad from having an argument! 🙂 Check out this website for great information on car seats, car seat recommendations and locations of car seat technicians in your area. It is an excellent resource! http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm
Common questions parents have about car seats:
Rear Facing Seats
- What if my child’s feet touch the back of the car seat?
No problem…your baby will cross his legs and find a comfortable position. There are few reports of leg injuries from a crash with a baby in this position, but a leg injury is a much less severe injury than a head and neck injury which you are helping to prevent by keeping your child backward facing until age 2 or older.
- What do I do if my baby is slouching in the seat?
You may put blanket rolls on both sides of your baby and a small cloth diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and your baby for a while until your baby grows a bit. Do not ever put padding or blankets or anything behind your baby or add any car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the car seat. Any additions to a seat may make it work a bit differently and provide less protection for your baby!
- What do I do about winter coats?
Remember that thick winter coats, blankets, or clothing should not be put under the car seat harness or straps. Dress your baby in thin layers and then tuck a blanket around your baby over the harness straps if necessary.
Installation of forward facing seats
- Always know the restrictions of your model. Know the maximum weight and height limits for your seat!
- The shoulder straps should be in the slots that are at or above your child’s shoulders. (This is the opposite from the rear facing position)
- You may need to adjust the angle of the seat when you turn it to forward facing, check your car seat manual.
- Choose to use the LATCH system if your car or van has it OR the seat belt. Do not use both. Check your car or van manual and your car seat manual for proper installation with the LATCH or seat belt. Latch does have a weight limit of 65 lbs total, meaning the weight of the car seat plus your child. If the car seat and your child together weighs over 65 lbs, then you must use the seat belt to secure the seat.
- Use a tether strap. This is a strap that attaches to the top of the seat. It is often on the seat back of the car or van. This gives extra protection by not allowing the car seat and your child’s head to move too far forward in a crash. All vehicles manufactured from 2000 on have them. Check the weight limit for the use of the tether anchor.
Common questions about forward facing car seats
- Where is the safest spot for the car seat in the back?
The safest spot is where the seat can be installed properly, it is convenient for you to use safely every time. Some LATCH systems are only on the sides of the back seat. Some car seats only fit well in the middle. It depends on your car seat, your vehicle and the number of children you have on where is best for the car seat!
- Should we use a car seat on a plane?
Most infant and convertible car seats can be used on planes. The seat must have a FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approval label on it. The FAA and the AAP recommend that children use car seats when flying until age 4. This keeps your child safer during takeoff and landing and in turbulence.
So much information…but so important to keep your child safe. We will continue the conversation over the next few days with more tips. What car seat do you use? Why do you like it?
So many questions over the last few days. How can we do better? How do we make things different for our children?
Children are not born harboring prejudice or knowing how to bully or how to hurt another physically or emotionally. These are behaviors that are unfortunately learned. About age 2, children will start to notice differences. Children will innocently ask “Why does he have brown skin?” “Why can’t she walk?” “Why does her hair look funny?” Questions like these can result in a parent shushing their child, saying that is not a nice thing to say and never talking about the questions.
The preschool years are a wonderful time to talk with your child about differences that often divide people…skin color, gender, physical challenges, culture, and religious beliefs. This is the perfect time to have true impact on your child’s understanding of what is different and what is similar in all human beings. The way you answer these very honest observations and questions your child has will provide the basis for your child’s decisions, behaviors, and development of core beliefs about people. Children learn…who YOU think is beautiful, who YOU think is smart, who YOU think is good, who YOU thing is bad, who YOU think is strong, who YOU think is weak, who YOU think is scary and who YOU think is not. Your response to your child’s natural curiousity about what is different will result in your child’s development in judgement of others.
Your child learns by what they hear, see and even perceive in your behavior. Children’s questions are not impolite, they are moments of learning opportunities. We must learn how to counter-act the everyday influences on your child that result in prejudice and bias. Parents must answer children with real-life age appropriate honesty.
- Don’t deny differences. Discuss differences openly. Be diverse in the books you read, the videos you watch. Choose wisely so that children see many different people in many different roles.
- Don’t ignore your child’s questions or become upset. Children are curious without any intent to be cruel; they are simply observing and then questioning. If you react embarrassed or don’t respond, you send the message that different is negative.
- Be proud of your family heritage and our country. Teach your child about their family history and our country’s history, celebrate different cultures, talk about leaders from all races, genders, and ethnicities. Embrace the diversity around them.
- Expand your child’s circle. Be sure that your child has the benefit of knowing people of different backgrounds, cultures and experiences. This allows your child to see how similar we of the human race are….not how different.
- Empower your child to do what is right. Root your child in moral values. By age 3 children begin to learn about empathy and feelings. By age 7 children know what is right and what is wrong. Embrace the opportunity to speak to your child about how they impact those around them, how they can make a person feel with a simple word or action.
We as parents have the ability to change the world by raising our children in a way that embraces the very differences that currently divide us.