raisingkidswithlove

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

What should be in your child’s playroom?


The Holiday Season is here and the shopping has begun!  I was in Target this past weekend, the toy choices are overwhelming and expensive!  What are the best toys for your child?  Which toys will be fun and valuable for your child’s development? It is difficult to decide what toys are the best choice!

I can remember feeling like toys in our house multiplied every night. SURELY we didn’t have THAT many stuffed animals yesterday! Too many toys results in a child who doesn’t play with anything well, they become overwhelmed with the number of toys. Parents also can fall into the trap of buying the newest flashiest toy on the market. We all love our kids, so why wouldn’t we stand in line to buy the “most popular” toy of the season? Many of these flashy toys encourage a child to play passively, using no imagination or creativity. Toys should allow a child to play in several different ways. A child should be able to decide how to play with a toy, the toy should not determine how a child plays. Play is a child’s work, it is through play that a child learns how the world works. As you make that holiday wish list, here are what I think every child needs in his playroom. You might be surprised!

  1. Blocks and construction type toys

Wooden blocks, cardboard bricks, Legos, and magnetic tiles are all great choices. Depending on your child’s age, you will see children build towers, knock towers over, sort blocks by color, create designs, make roads for cars and tracks for trains and more.

  1. Art supplies

Creative juices start flowing when a child has a blank piece of paper, crayons, paints, markers, stickers, scissors and any other item you can find in the craft aisle to help with their masterpiece. Blank paper rather than coloring books will provide more encouragement for a child to create. Children age 2 and older love to create on an easel which allows for larger muscle movement which makes drawing and painting easier.

  1. Books….lots of them!

Provide books in bins so children can see the front of them.  The front of the book will interest a child more than the words on the spine of the book on a shelf. Provide books that have flaps, pop ups, and colorful pictures. A corner with a small chair or big floor pillow encourages reading.

  1. Play kitchen supplies and other child sized house hold items like keys, phones, brooms, rakes etc.

If space allows, a play kitchen is a great investment. Play food, dishes and utensils and other child sized household items encourages great imaginative play and cooperative play with others.

  1. Doll stroller or shopping cart

All children like to push dolls, stuffed animals, and other toys around.  Toddlers and preschoolers are “gatherers” and a doll stroller or shopping cart provides a way for them to collect “treasures” on walks outside or around your home.

  1. Dress up clothes

Role play is a great way to encourage imagination and development of social skills and empathy.  Keep those Halloween costumes out all year in an easily accessible dress up box.

  1. Puzzles

Puzzles help a child learn to problem solve, develop patience, practice persistence, and develop spatial awareness.

  1. Medical kit

Play helps a child work through scary or anxiety producing experiences.  All children like to give Teddy or Baby a check up and/or shot after a visit to the doctor.

  1. Musical instruments

Children love to create music.  Drums, xylophones, tambourines, shakers all help develop rhythm and a love of music. Children exposed to music and rhythm often are more successful in Math!

  1. Tools and play household items like a broom, vacuum, lawn mower etc.

Boys and girls love to hammer and build with “tools”. Allow your child to build. This is the basis of STEM education. Children also love to take on the roles they see at home, let them participate in chores and pretend with toys that look like Mom and Dad’s tools. A Swiffer or dust cloth is fun too!

  1. Tent or play house

Children love small places to hide, read, play quietly or play house, school, or camping. This play house or tent could be as simple as a large box or a blanket thrown over a card table.

  1. Dolls/stuffed animals

Playing with dolls or stuffed animals fosters empathy development. Pretend role play of Mommy and Daddy is very important.

  1. Balls

Throwing, catching, kicking are all developmental milestones.  Simple games with balls introduces cooperative play, taking turns and helps with fine and gross motor development.

  1. Shape sorter

This is a basic toy that will grow with your child.  Young toddlers will fill and dump, older toddlers will sort by shape and color, and often children will use it to gather other items. Another great sorting tool is your kitchen muffin tins! Have your child sort different cereals, different colored pompons, or any other item!

  1. Stacking cups

This less than $10.00 toy is a bargain!  This will last a child from 6 months through preschool.  Children bang them, stack them, pour and dump water and sand, “drink” from them and learn size and volume with them!

  1. Clay/Play-dough

Children will love to squish, roll, and create with clay. The use of hands to roll and shape creations develops fine motors skills used for writing.

  1. Pedal powered ride on toy

Learning to pedal is a developmental milestone for 2 to 3 year olds. Ride on toys get children needed outdoor time and exercise along with development of coordination.

  1. Cars, trucks, and or train

Children love toys that move. Purchase cars, trucks, and trains that are easy to handle and run on “kid power”.

  1. Farm or other toy with animals

Farm animals, dinosaurs, and/or zoo animals are a great way for children to learn about animals, habitats, and encourages imaginative play.  Dinosaurs are often a favorite too!

  1. Family games

Even preschooler can participate in family games. Think Candyland! (not my favorite, but there are many choices out there!) Board games help a child develop skills in handling winning  and losing, taking turns, and cooperative play. Board games are much more valuable than video games which do not provide as much person to person interaction.

And yes, sometimes just a large box or two, plastic containers or a few laundry baskets will provide hours of entertainment and imaginative play for your child! Toys do not need to be expensive!  Remember that a toy is only valuable if your child plays with it! Quality is more important than quantity of toys.  Often the best toys don’t come with batteries. And most important, allow your child to play freely…a child who plays well is learning!

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

Cindy

Loving Touch is Important at Every Age!


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Recently I visited with our twenty something son. As he walked in, he gave me a big hug and I kissed him on the cheek.  As I was preparing for my parenting groups this week I was thinking about that moment.  The hug and kiss of my son, who is definitely a young man now, was as sweet ( albeit a bit more scruffy and I was on my tip toes) as the snuggle I would have with him as a baby.  Loving touch with your child is at the center of a parent and child bond.  The connection  between child and parent through touch is undeniable.  I am a firm believer in the importance of touch and our children….from birth, to toddler years, preschool, school age, and yes even in the awkward teens.  Continuing the physical hugs and kisses are important for your child and you.

Snuggles and touches are natural for most parents with an infant.   Infant massage has been proven to provide many benefits for babies.  Routine loving massage can help an infant

  • Gain weight
  • Calm
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve their latch for nursing
  • Increase bonding
  • Improve neurological development
  • Improve their immune system
  • Decrease teething pain
  • Decrease congestion
  • Learn body awareness
  • Learn that touch is a loving expression
  • and the list goes on…..

Getting started…

  • Turn off th TV, cell phone and other distractions.  This is time to concentrate on your baby alone.
  • Warm up the room and your hands.
  • Lie your baby on his/her back a warm towel or blanket.
  • Use a vegetable based oil.  (if you could eat it, then it is OK)
  • Make sure you are calm.
  • Make eye contact with your baby.
  • Ask permission to touch, show your baby your hands.
  • Lay your hands on your child lovingly.  Often babies prefer touch on legs and feet first.
  • Use light gentle touch, but not a tickle touch.
  • Move from the center out…upper thigh to foot.
  • Give equal treatment to both sides of the body!
  • Movements should be slow and relaxed…like a lullaby.  Sing while you do it!  🙂
  • Start with a short session and watch your baby’s cues.  If your baby wiggles away, fusses, looks away, then stop and try again at another time.  As your baby becomes accustomed to massage, the length of time may increase.  You don’t have to massage your baby’s whole body, just the parts that he or she enjoys!

Technique:

  • Make eye contact with your baby and sing or talk to him–or play music.
  • Breath, relax yourself
  • Hold one foot in one hand and use the other hand to milk the leg.  Squeeze thigh to foot, this is the “milking” motion.
  •  Roll leg between hands from thigh to ankle, like you are rolling dough or clay.
  •  Finish with long strokes from thigh to foot.
  • Press the sole of your baby’s foot with your thumbs.  Massage each toe.  Play “this little piggy”.
  • Repeat on other leg.
  • Follow same process of milking, rolling, and stroking on the arms.
  • Press the palm of your baby’s hand with your thumbs.  Massage each finger.
  • Slide your palm and fingers in a circular motion from the ribs downward.  Then move clockwise around the tummy.  Smooth the chest like pages in a book.
  • If you have used massage for a while, some babies will allow you to massage their face.  Massage face with light fingertips stroking across the forehead from the center to the sides.  Massage tears ducts.  Move down nose and on the sides.  Use a circular motion from the temples down the side of the face.
  • Massage shoulders and use long strokes down the back and on the bottom.

Remember…the intent of your touch is much more important than your technique!  Just relax and enjoy!!

I Love You massage for colic or gas

  •  Trace the letter “I” on the right side of your baby’s tummy.  Start just under his ribs and move down to your baby’s hip.
  • Now stroke from left to right on your baby’s lower tummy making the long part of the letter “L”.
  • Make a short downward stroke on the right side of your baby’s tummy making the short to complete the “L”.
  • Complete the “I love you” by making an upside down “U” starting at your baby’s left hip and circling along the top of the tummy and down the right side.
  • Continue these strokes to help calm a gassy tummy.

Massage can continue to some degree all the way through childhood.  There were nights that I sat on the side of my children’s bed and massaged an aching tummy or head, and I have massaged sore muscles after a big game or meet.  The continued touch with your child will keep you connected in many ways.  There were certainly times when I hugged my children in those teen years and I got an eye roll too…but because of those continued “loving touches” through the years, the hugs in the stands of a high school football games, college track meets, quick weekend visits at school, and now when our “adult” (they will always be my kids) kids visit those hugs and kisses  continue.  Don’t underestimate the value of teaching your child the benefits of touch as an expression of love.

Check out your local hospital for classes on infant massage.

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

Cindy

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

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.

Cindy

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.  Play a book on tape 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.

Cindy

Take Care of YOU!


Motherhood is wonderful career….did I say career?  Yes!  No matter what your educational background is, what type of job you have now or have had in the past, or what your career goals are; as soon as you hold your baby in your arms, guess what…your career is motherhood.  The career of motherhood is very demanding.  It has multiple responsibilities, long hours, minimal financial gains and is a lifelong commitment.  Have you seen the YouTube video trying to hire for the position of Mom?  Wow, who signed you up for this job??

There is no other career that demands so much but rewards so greatly.  Motherhood is a unique profession that demands 24/7 responsiveness.  Unless Moms continually “refill” that internal pitcher that they pour out of daily, Moms will experience a change in energy, attitude and happiness.  Your “job satisfaction” will plummet unless you take care of yourself too and when you are depleted and stretched too thin, the most important people in your life suffer.  If you sacrifice too much without refilling yourself, you lose your best qualities that make you who you are.

This Mother’s Day week let’s commit to nurturing ourselves so that we can better nurture our children.  After all, isn’t that what we Moms do?

  1.     We must be healthy

  • Sleep.  Even a quick 20 minute nap will help rejuvenate.
  • Healthy eating.  Take your vitamins!  Low fat, high carb food like bagels, pretzels, and popcorn help to release “feel good” chemicals in our brain.  Don’t skip meals, high protein foods and whole grains give energy.  High fat foods drain energy.
  • Exercise.  Research tells us that exercise reduces stress.  It will give a sense of calmness and relaxation.  Besides, we need to be able to keep up with our kids!  Take a walk!
  • Go outside.  Natural light is essential to feeling energized and positive.  Even on cloudy days, a walk outside helps recharge you and increases natural feel good hormones.
  • What are your basic emotional needs?  Do you need inward time, to feel     mothered, to feel protected?
  • Laugh.  Laughter is a large part of feeling well.  Watch a funny movie, laugh at yourself.  Even smiling increases endorphins, the feel good hormones.
  • Find time to expand yourself.  Be creative, read a book, listen to music….use your brain!

 2.     We must be intimate

  • A woman who is intimate physically and emotionally with her partner is more relaxed, calmer and more confident.
  • Intimacy builds couple relationship.
  • Touch heals. Touch for women has been proven to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and bring a sense of peace.  Hold hands!
  • Keep the lines of communication open during the diaper years—the most  stressful time of raising children (until the teen years!!)  You can’t think that you will talk “later”.  You must do small things now to stay connected with your partner.
  • Celebrate each other!

3.       We must be idle

  • We must be willing to sit in a chair quietly.
  • Map out two or three-minute activities that you can do to give yourself time during the day.  For instance, take your morning coffee and drink it in front of the window for 2 to 3 minutes while your baby is entertained.  Will these short moments change your life?  Yes, you will become more satisfied which leads to a Mom who can nurture without resentment.
  • Plan for at least a couple hours a week for alone time. That might just be a long bath or a walk through Target by yourself!
  • Let go of the “completion complex”…there will always be laundry!
  • Meditate or pray, both relieve stress.  Slow down and breathe quietly, relax your muscles, and clear your thoughts.  Twenty minutes a day will bring peace to your life.

4.     We must always remember:  We are not steering this ship!

  • We must give up control over everyone’s lives.
  • We must be able to adjust to change.
  • Worry zaps energy and positive thoughts.  Schedule worry time.  Save all the concerns you have and only think about them once a day.  This will make you feel better and free up the rest of your day from negative thoughts and worry.
  • Choose our words carefully.  Remember what you say results in how you feel.
  • Lower the bar.  It is OK not to be perfect.  We feel inadequate when the bar is set too high.
5.     We must have friends
  • Have a conversation with a best friend.  Women need comfort and support from other women.  Share, you will find that all moms have similar challenges.  We are not alone.
  • Surround yourself with like minded moms.  Moms who parent like you will give you support.

 6.     We must love our lives TODAY and TODAY and TODAY

  • Step back and appreciate the moment several times a day.
  • Be grateful for the moment, feeling grateful is a real mood booster.
  • Write down why you are thankful, or the three best things that happened today.
  • Engage in positive thinking, and you will be more in control of your happiness.  Feelings follow thoughts.
  • Resist the temptation to pile more chores and responsibilities on our plates, focus on the important only.
  • Remember, we are useless to our families unless we fill ourselves up.

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

Cindy

Infants need play time too!


You are your baby’s first toy! 

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

Let your baby look at you! 

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

Play with touch!

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

Give your baby something to look at.

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

Try a little singing.

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

Take your child on a tour.

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


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

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

Make an obstacle course.

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

Try the fill and dump game.

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

Stacking and knocking over.

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

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

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

Follow Raising Kids With Love on Facebook for more tips!

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

Cindy

How do you play with a toddler?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cindy

Baby Sign…How do you start?


Teach your child sign…help him express his feelings!  The “I love you” sign can be used as a special sign for many years to come!

How do you start?

1.  Familiarize yourself with signs through books, websites or other sources. 

  • There are many resources on the web…don’t try to learn all the signs, you will be starting with just a few!

2.  Be realistic

  • Feel free to start signing with your child at a young age, but most children aren’t able to communicate using signs until around 9 months at the earliest!  (yes even your extremely smart, gifted child!:)) Children must be able to engage with you and then have the fine motor control to make the sign (or at least something similar to the sign).  This will happen around that 9 or 10 month mark.

3.  Choose a sign.

  • Most parents choose a sign that involves eating such as milk, eat, more and all done.  This will let your child to ask for things that he or she may need.  These words give your child a bit of “power” to obtain things they want!
  • You may also want to choose a few signs that may be exciting to your child.  Words like Mommy, Daddy, and Dog or other words that are common in your child’s world.
  • You will want to choose about three signs that you will work on with your child.  Show the sign before, during and after the activity and every time you do the activity.
  • There are a few websites that have pictures and directions for some of the most common signs a parent may use.  A great site is http://www.babysignlanguage.com  This site has a video showing each sign.

4.  Make it interactive

  • Hold your baby on your lap and try helping him make the signs with his hands.  Talk while signing to give the sign context or meaning.  Remember, your baby will be able to understand your words and the sign before he will be able to make the sign!

5.  Be consistent.

  • Use the sign every time you do the activity.  Consistency is the key. If you are giving your baby milk, sign and say “milk”,  give your baby a bottle or nurse and sign and say “milk” several times while your baby is eating.
  • Work the signing into everyday life.  Don’t just sign at home–sign when you are out and about and encourage anyone who is with your child consistently to use the signs too.

6.  Use your chosen signs until your baby begins to sign back to you.

  • When your baby connects or understands a sign, then you may choose another sign and start the process over.  Do not drop the signs your baby has learned.  The more signs your baby learns, the easier it will be for him to pick up new ones.  As soon as your baby links the sign to the word, the flood gates tend to open!  Suddenly your child will begin to pick up on new signs readily.  This is how verbal expressive language develops too!

7.  Expect your child to recognize a sign before he can actually sign it back to you. 

  • This is just like the spoken word.  A child will understand a sign or a word before he or she is able to sign the word or speak it.  Don’t give up, keep signing.  You will start to see your child get excited when you sign “milk”, “eat”, or “book” as your child understands what the sign means.

8.   Expect that your child may start out using the same sign for several things.

  • This is like verbal expression when a child uses the word Ma Ma for every female adult.  Do not become frustrated.  Continue to be consistent in the signing and your child will “get it”.

9.  Expect a signing increase when a child realizes that a sign will get him something!

  • Your child will start to soak up signs like a sponge–just as he will  when he becomes verbal.   It is so exciting to see your child get excited about communicating.

10.  Be happy, sign with enthusiasm.  

  • An excited parent who signs will make a child want to sign.
  • Read books and sign as you read.  Show your child the sign for animals, cars, trucks, whatever you are reading about!  Pick out signs that your child is interested in!
  • Be expressive.  Use your face, body and hands when you sign.  Make it fun and interesting.  Make good eye contact with your child when  you sign.
  • Play games to encourage signing.  Blow bubbles outside and then stop, push your child in a swing and then stop, and then sign the word “more”.   Introduce the sign for “please” and “thank you”.  This early introduction to manners will continue when your child is verbal.

11.  Be open to interpretation.

  • Your child will not make a sign correctly the first time–just like learning to talk. Get excited with any general attempt at the sign, then show the correct sign to your child as you say the word.
  • Reinforce any sign your child attempts, as your child develops better fine motor skills, the signing will become more clear.

12.  Praise.

  • Be excited when your baby signs words!  Give lots of positive reinforcement for any attempt!

13.  Be patient.

  • Babies can take weeks or even months before they make their first sign.
  • The perfect time to start is about age 6 months, many babies will attempt their first sign at about 9 to 10 months.
  • It is never too late to start signing.  Children who are very frustrated because of a lack of communication between 16 and 30 months will pick up sign language quickly.

14.  Keep Talking!!

  • Sign should never replace words!  Spoken words are important for language development.  Talk and sign….then talk some more!  The number of words your child hears is directly related to language development.  Let your child see your mouth as you speak and your hands as you sign.  Face to face interaction is important for their language development and helping children understand emotions.
The  most common words parents sign:  (click the link to see a video of the sign)
  1. Mommy 
  2. Daddy 
  3. Other family members:  brother, sister, grandma, grandpa
  4.  dog or cat
  5. Milk
  6. More
  7. Please 
  8. Thank you
  9. Happy
  10. Book
  11. “All Done”
  12. “Help”

Children often will lose the sign as the verbal word is developed; but you can keep the signs by continuing to use them with the word .  Use of signs is a great way to get messages to your child when you are not in speaking distance or are in a crowd.  How nice it is to sign the word “potty” without having to yell it across the room!  More wonderful is seeing my kids sign “I love you” out the car window as they drive 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.

Cindy

Baby Sign…why?


Signing with your child opens up his world to communication!  

Picture this:  your sweet 1-year-old child is lying on the floor screaming.  You ask what this sweet child wants, and the screaming escalates.  You then run around the room holding items up…”Do you want your milk?”  “Oh I bet you want your paci!”  “You want to read your book?”….and the game continues.  Waiting for your child to be able to express a want or need can feel like an eternity, especially when you have a 1-year-old lying on the floor in a meltdown.  It is a frustrating experience for you and your child when your child is not able to communicate a need or something he or she is excited about.  In recent years many parents have begun signing with their children.  Some ask, “Is this just another passing fad or another attempt to make our children “super kids”?”  Others ask, “Won’t this delay verbal speech?”

The fact is, parents have used “sign language” for years with their babies.  Babies need to express needs and parents want desperately to find out what their child wants or needs.  So, often we will see gestures, whines, and partial syllables that mean something to a parent.

We know that children develop the fine motor muscles in their hands before they develop those needed for speech.  Most babies develop their own “signs” to communicate.  Games like “Patty Cake”, “How Big is Baby?”, “Waving bye-bye” and other finger plays show that babies can communicate before they are actually verbal.  Children follow directions and understand verbal commands before they are able to verbally communicate also.  So, it seems natural that American Sign Language (ASL) could allow a child to express needs, emotions, fears and memories without using words.

Imagine the decrease in frustration, the increase in interaction, and how much fun it would be if your child could express wants, needs, and excitement to you about all the new discoveries in his toddler life.  Often children that have signed also develop verbal speech earlier.  Kids that sign understand that a symbol, the sign, actually means something, a gesture connects to an item.  These connections help link words to things too, and even the written word to the verbal word.  It is all about connections or links.

So besides decreasing your child’s frustration and helping your sanity….here are a few more advantages to Baby Sign:

  • A child who signs can communicate needs at an early age.
  • A child who signs learns the art of conversation.
  • A child who signs will have an understanding of language at an early age.
  • A child who signs may learn to speak verbally at an earlier age.
  • A child who signs may have an above average ability to learn a second language. Learning ASL develops that portion of the brain that learns language!
  • A child who signs may have an increased love of books.  Think about the interactive reading that can occur with both of you signing as you read!
  • A child who signs often will be more expressive later using gestures.
  • A child who signs feel empowered!
  • A parent who signs will have a lower frustration level.
  • A parent who signs may have an increase in bonding because of better communication.
  • A parent who signs may experience a higher level of satisfaction in parenting.

So there are many reasons to start signing with your child.   If your child is between 6 months and 36 months, it is the perfect time to introduce the concept.  There are few things more exciting for a parent and a child than the realization that a child has linked a sign or a word to a meaning and can communicate.  Warm up those hands, and get started “talking” with your baby!

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

Cindy

Want dry nights ahead? Try going without the Pull Up!


Help your child develop nighttime dryness…go without the Pull Up!

Your little one is rocking with daytime potty training but struggling with being dry at night?  Are you tired of changing sheets several times a week, or are you still buying Pull Ups?

Bed wetting is very common in children who are potty trained during the day, and often gets better as the child matures.  Often bed wetting is familial, meaning Mom or Dad were bed-wetters as children.  My advice for bed wetting is similar to my advice for potty training.  Be patient and get rid of the Pull Ups as soon as you see your child is capable of being dry for long periods during naps or occasionally at night.  Pull Ups are convenient, but just like daytime potty training; they may slow down the process for nighttime dryness if your child is ready.  A child must be given the opportunity to try to stay dry at night…give up the Pull Up and just give it a try!  Nighttime dryness happens when a child wakes because he or she feels the wetness of the start of an accident…that just does not happen when wearing a Pull Up.  A child must form a connection from the feeling of a full bladder and their brain and if your child wears a Pull Up; it is more difficult to form this connection.

Nighttime dryness is a big step for children.  Bed wetting is seen in about 40% of 3 years olds, 20% of 5 year olds and about 10% of 6 year olds.  It is very common!  How can parents help their children move out of a Pull Up to dry nights?

  • You must try to have nights from time to time without the Pull Up, especially if you are seeing that there are mornings that your child is dry.  Don’t assume that your child cannot be dry at night…give it a try!
  • Try limiting fluids in the evening and taking your child to the bathroom before you head to bed.
  • Make sure there is a night-light and a bathroom light so your child can see where to go if the urge to pee hits!
  • Be sure that your child is getting adequate sleep.  An overly tired child will often sleep too deep to wake from a full bladder.
  • Never shame your child for wetting the bed.  “Accidents happen, you will be dry soon.”  It is hard when you are up changing sheets at 2 AM, but do not let your child feel your disappointment or frustration.  This will only increase your child’s anxiety.
  • Tell your child if Mom or Dad was a bed wetter.  This provides your child support and the knowledge that it is not forever!
  • Celebrate any success…a dry morning, a dryer morning (less pee), or your child getting up to potty in the middle of the night.
  • If your child becomes frustrated, go back to the Pull Ups for a few weeks and then try again later.  Sometimes just a few weeks will result in that brain bladder connection developing.  Don’t give up, just take a break!
  • If your child is older and still wetting, there is some success in trying an alarm system for the bed that goes off when there is the start of any wetness.  This has been helpful for older children who are very deep sleepers.
  • If your child is older than age 6 and still having problems, it is best to address the issue with your pediatrician to explore other possible options.

Any suggestions from you parents that have children with dry nights?  Share!

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

Cindy

Is it time to ditch the diapers?


I think she had to go!  🙂

There are definitely parts of parenting that I like less than others.  I know when potty training time rolled around for each of the kids, it was one of those moments when a crazy thought like, “How bad would it be to skip this?”  would cross my mind.  The next time that thought would cross my mind would be around 3rd grade when it was time to memorize multiplication tables!  But, I made it through potty training with all 4 kids and all 4 of them know their times tables….so I guess I can add those to my parenting successes list!

When is a child ready for the big step of potty training?   The average age of potty training has slowly creeped up to around age 3.  I think there are a couple of reasons for this.  One, we are very busy families.  Families are on the go, and routines are busy.  Potty training takes some consistent effort and time, many times it is hard to find consistent time at home near a potty!  The other big reason I feel that potty training is later is disposable diapers.  Disposables wick “pee” so well from the skin, that it is difficult for a child to even know when he or she is wet!  Disposable diapers and disposable training pants are being made larger and larger, so the need to potty train becomes later and later.

Using the potty is a huge accomplishment!  It is a very complex achievement.  First a child has to be aware of the sensations of a full bowel and bladder.  Next the child learns that these feelings result in a “pee” and a “poop”.  The child then must learn how to remove clothes, sit on a potty and hold the pee and poop until he is ready to go, and then finally release those muscles necessary to let the pee and poop come out!   No wonder it is such a task to learn!!

Potty training is a learning process not a disciplinary process, there should never be a punishment connected to using the bathroom.   I don’t believe that most children can be trained in just a few days!  Your child has to understand what you want, and how to do it.  They have to understand their body sensations, learn to constrict sphincter muscles, and then relax those muscles to potty.  Children also must be motivated and want to please you.  If your child is showing an interest in imitating it is a good time to start.

Children will not potty train on their own.  Parents must wait until their child is developmentally ready—have patience with the process, but also must initiate it.  Children will not just wake up potty trained one morning!  Children need the guidance and patience of parents to learn to use the potty and eventually gain control of their “pee” and “poop”.

So is your child ready for the big step?   Most children have the muscle control to potty train between 18 months and 3 years of age.  Here are a few things to look for when deciding if you both are ready to tackle this process:

  • Is your child aware of the need to go?  Does your child tell you or do you see a change in facial expression?  Does your child hide to have a bowel movement?
  •  Can your child say or sign words such as wet, dry, potty and go?
  • Is your child demonstrating imitative behavior?
  •  Does your child dislike wet or dirty diapers?
  •  Is your child able to stay dry for at least 2 hours or wake up dry after a nap?
  • Is your child able to pull elastic waist pants up and down?
  • Is your child anxious to please you?
  • Has your child asked to use the potty?
  • Make sure there is not a stressful situation in your life such as weaning, birth of a new baby, change in childcare etc.  Wait 4 to 6 weeks after the stressful situation before beginning.

Pre potty training or getting ready!

If your child is 18 months or older…you can begin with these steps so you are ready when your child shows signs of readiness too!

  • Name urine and bowel movements.  Describe what your child has done using the words you have chosen.  There are no “perfect” words, call it what it is!  🙂  My husband wasn’t thrilled when I was telling our son to “tinkle”, be sure you both agree and are consistent!  When you see your child begin to have a bowel movement or urinate, describe what he or she is doing.   “Go potty”—say this as you see signs your child is pooping or peeing.  Describing to your child that they should pee or poop when they feel the pressure, helps to define to them what it is you want them to eventually do on the potty.
  •  Let your child watch you use the toilet.  This will get your child interested and show them what that toilet is for!  Gone are your days of privacy!!
  • Change your child’s diaper as soon as it is wet or dirty to prevent your child becoming comfortable with the feel.
  • Drop the poop into the toilet with your child watching.  Encourage your child to help flush the toilet.  This will also show your child what goes in the toilet!  Flushing is usually very exciting too!
  • Purchase a potty chair.  You can line the receptacle with plastic wrap—then you can wrap up any poop or pee and dispose of it easily with very little clean up. Or, you can purchase a seat that fits on the adult toilet.  I have used both but preferred the latter, much easier with clean up.  If you use the seat that fits on the adult toilet, be sure that your child has a stool to put his or her feet on, it is hard to have a bowel movement with feet dangling!  The potty chair can be moved to any place in your home and is better for children that have some fear of the “higher” toilet.  See what is best for both of you.
  •  Allow your child to sit on the potty clothed.  Let your child sit dolls or stuffed animals on the potty. This will familiarize your child with the potty slowly.  Reward or celebrate when your child sits on the potty.
  •  Buy a “potty book” or movie to start talking about big children using the potty.  Here are some cute examples…    
  1.  Everyone Poops By Taro Gomi
  2. I Want My Potty By Tony Ross
  3. My Big Girl Potty By Joanna Cole
  4. My Big Boy Potty By Joanna Cole
  5. Once Upon a Potty By Alona Frankel
  6. The Princess and the Potty By Wendy Cheyette Lewison
  7. What Do You Do with a Potty? By Marianne Borgardt  (a pop up book)
  •   Have a basket of toys or books that are only used while on the potty.  This will make potty time more fun.

So, this is the starting point!  Your child is  between 18 months and 2 years, you can begin to introduce the concept.  When your child starts to exhibit some signs of readiness….the next step is giving it a try!  More to come on this tomorrow!

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

Cindy

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