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

Don’t let comparisons steal your joy and contentment!


Comparisons steal your joy and contentment as a Mom!

I caught myself doing it again this morning….thinking “Why can’t I be more like “so and so” who always has time to…..”  As I said this to myself, I could feel the negativity creep into my morning, the joy being sucked out of my morning cup of coffee.  The fact is…when we compare ourselves to someone else, or wish we could trade places, all we are doing is stealing the joy we have in OUR life.  If we “switched” into someone else’s “perfect life” we would also have their “imperfect” challenges which may be very different from ours!  Comparison only leads to anxiety and discontent.  We must choose to be intentional and purposeful in our life so that we can make the most of where we are instead of wishing we were at some other stage in life or in a different situation.

Comparisons tend to creep into many aspects of our lives…she is more fit, she cooks more than I do, her TV screen doesn’t have fingerprints, her child is rolling over already, her son is speaking in full sentences, her husband pitches in more and the list goes on…..All these comparisons bring unnecessary stress and discontent into our lives.  Wondering why your friend’s 11 month old is toddling about and your 13 month old is still holding on to the coffee table steals your moment of joy when your child grins at you.  Here are a few reasons to stay away from comparisons:

  • A child who is developing at a “normal” rate (remember there is a wide range of normal) is perfect!  A child who is developing a bit quicker is not more likely to be successful than your child! Relax and enjoy.
  • What works for one Mom may not work for you and your child, no matter how wonderful it seems.  Relax and trust what works for you and your family.
  • Working outside the home, working inside the home, childcare, breastfeeding, formula feeding, organic food…all these are personal decisions.  If you are content and your child is happy and developing well, ignore the chatter or arguments.  You don’t know their whole story and they don’t know yours. Relax and trust your choices for your family.
  • No one is as perfect as they seem on Pinterest! Pinterest fails are more common than Pinterest perfection. Relax and enjoy, children don’t need the perfect birthday party decorations to have fun!

If we keep telling ourselves that we are exactly where we are supposed to be…our children will grow up knowing that the life you have at this moment is full of challenge at times, but also so full of joy if we choose to see it. What a better lesson than an example of continuous discontent!   The simple joy of my quiet morning cup of coffee is much better than wondering if I should be doing or accomplishing something else.  Once again, I have vowed this morning not to let comparisons steal my joy and contentment today.

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


Keep your precious cargo safe by using a car seat correctly!

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 of rear facing car seats:

  • Always know the weight and height limits of your car seat.
  • 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

Installation of forward facing car seats:

  • Always know the weight and height limits of your car seat.
  • The shoulder straps should be at or above your child’s shoulders.
  • 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.
  • You may use LATCH if the weight of the car seat plus the weight of your child is less than 65 pounds. The car seat manual will give the maximum weight for your child to use LATCH.
  • You must use the car seat tether for forward facing. Read your vehicle manual to be sure you are attaching the tether in the correct place.
  • 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:

  • What if my rear facing 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.

  • 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.

 Car Seat Tips

  • 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 below your child’s shoulders for rear facing.
  • The shoulder straps should be in the slots that are at  or above your child’s shoulders for forward facing.
  • 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 vehicle has it OR the seat belt.  Do not use both.  Check your vehicle 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 for forward facing.  This is a strap that attaches to the top of the seat.  It is often on the seat back of the vehicle.  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.

So much information…but so important to keep your child safe.  Remember Healthychildren.org is a great resource!

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


Your child’s temperament….continued!

See the difference?  Same activity…four different children, several different reactions…embrace your child’s temperament!

There are a few more traits that make up your child’s temperament.  Picking up from yesterday….

5.  Sensory Threshold

How sensitive is your child to physical stimuli?  Does your child become overly stimulated in a room full of noise or people?  Does your baby cry when he or she has been passed from person to person for a period of time?   Does texture of food bother your child?  Does your child respond positively or negatively to the feel of certain material or clothing?  Do the seams on socks need to be straight?! (my #3 daughter had her shoes off immediately if those seams weren’t straight)

Parenting the highly sensitive child:

  • Learn tolerance of unusual complaints..like socks that are not straight!
  • Try not to be annoyed by the fixing of socks, or cutting off of tags, or not buying “itchy” clothes.  Being sensitive to that will decrease the whining.
  • This child may have a low pain tolerance; little hurts need lots of TLC.  Dramatic reactions are common.
  • Learn to keep lights low, noise level low, and keep your child close with some physical contact when in new stimulating situations.
  • The highly sensitive child often is often creative and empathetic.

Parenting the less sensitive child:

  • Be aware if you have a less sensitive child so something is not missed.  They will tend to live with a minor ache or pain for quite a while.
  • Talk about feelings of others, help build empathy.  Point out when feelings are hurt, when apologies are needed.  Help your child become aware of how their behavior or actions impact others.

6.  Approach/Withdrawal

This is how a child responds to a new situation or strangers.  Is your child always ready to try something new?  Does your child make a new friend easily?  Is your child very curious?  Or, is your child cautious and slow to warm up to others?  Slow to warm up children are often resistant to new situations, activities, and people.  These children will often think before they act and are less impulsive.  This is a positive during adolescence!

Parenting the approachable child:

  • Encourage your child’s eagerness and curiosity….do not squelch their enthusiasm!
  • Expose them to new experiences and people.
  • Encourage them to commit, sometimes this child has a difficult time finishing a task.  These children can be social butterflies.
  • Encourage quality time with friends to help develop “best friend” type relationships.
  • Relax, enjoy their social behavior but be sure to talk to your child about asking permission from you before he or she speaks to people who are unfamiliar.  Children who are very approachable do not “know a stranger”.  You must not scare them, but protect them.

Parenting the less approachable child or slow to warm:

  • Do not label your child as “shy” or “quiet”; this type of child is thoughtful, reserved, or cautious.
  • Ease your child into meeting new people and new experiences slowly, show pictures of relatives if you are visiting.  Talk about what you will be doing, prepare your child.
  • Avoid putting your child in the spotlight or center of attention if uncomfortable.
  • Help your child problem solve, find solutions for when he or she is uncomfortable.  Have them go with a friend to group activities, find familiar faces in a room of people, have preplanned conversation or talking points when meeting new people.  Do not discourage your child from going places and doing things because they are uncomfortable.
  •  Encourage your child to try new things, do not allow them to become a “home body”.
  • Do not talk or answer for your child; allow him or her to respond, give them time to speak.

7.  Adaptability

This is how easily a child can handle transition or change.  Does your child have problems with change in routine or moving from one activity to another?  How long does it take your child to be comfortable in a new situation?

Parenting the flexible child:

  • A flexible child is easier many times because he or she tends to be “easy going”.
  • Flexible children still need routines but they will not melt down if that routine is not always followed.
  • This type child will flip from task to task, but will have to be reminded to finish.  Written reminders, calendars, and charts will help keep your child on task.  Try not to nag.
  • Allow for natural consequences when things are not completed…don’t rescue an older child from consequences.  Life lessons are very important.

Parenting the inflexible child:

  • A child who adapts more slowly will usually not rush into dangerous situations and may be less peer influenced.  A good thing during the teen years!
  • This child does better when he or she knows what to expect, help them know what is coming up.
  • Give warnings before changing activities.  “After breakfast we are going to the store.”  “In 5 minutes we are going to the store.”  “One more minute, put your puzzle away, we are going to the store.”  This “warning system” will help your child switch activities without a meltdown.
  • Try new routines out first before they have to do it (a run through morning before the first day of school, visiting the preschool before the first day, introducing a babysitter before you leave the first time)

8.  Persistence

This is how long a child will continue with an activity when there are obstacles.  Will your child keep working on a puzzle when he or she is having a difficult time—or do they move on?  Is your child patient when he or she is waiting for you to fix their meal?  Does your child have a strong reaction when they are interrupted from an activity?

Many times a child that continues an activity when asked to stop is labeled stubborn and a child who works at a puzzle that is difficult is labeled patient.  Both of these children are persistent!

A child who is persistent will be able to reach goals easier.  A child who is less persistent may have great people skills because he or she reaches out to others for help.

Parenting the persistent child:

  • A persistent child has a trait that will serve him or her well in adulthood, but can drive a parent crazy!  A persistent child will often not take the word “no” well.  Give a choice whenever possible, “Do you want to brush your teeth first or put your PJs on first?”
  • Give time limits when there is not unlimited time for a task.
  • Step in if your child is becoming extremely frustrated in trying to complete a task, but allow your child to try!
  • Know how not to engage in an argument with the older persistent child.  Remove yourself from the room when the discussion is over.

Parenting the non persistent child:

  • A less persistent child usually is compliant, but often gives up on a task easily when the task does not come easily.
  • This child needs gentle encouragement and sometimes a helpful hand.  Many times “you can do it” is not enough, the parent actually has to help the child physically start a task to help jump-start the child.  Start a task, not do it completely!
  • Success with difficult tasks breeds persistence.

9.  Mood

This is how your child reacts to the world—is it primarily in a negative way or a positive way?  Does your child see the glass as half full or half empty?  Is your child generally in a good mood or generally in a serious mood?  Is your child joyful and pleasant?  Does your child smile and laugh easily?  Is your child more whiny, complaining, or crying more often?

Parenting the little optimist:

  • These children are usually a real joy to be around, but there are some challenges.
  • Sometimes it is difficult for this child to approach something seriously.  A parent may need to bring a child “down to earth” and talk about safety issues, reality, etc.
  • Be careful not to crush an optimist’s spirit

Parenting the little pessimist (or as I like to say,  realist):

  • These children are often more challenging than the optimist, and need a loving parent to guide them through childhood pointing out the small joys in life.
  • These children are usually emotionally intense too, so they will often let others know about their disappointment quite loudly!  Often parents will respond with anger or frustration.  This usually will not defuse the situation.
  • It is hard to be a constant “cheerleader” but a parent’s optimism will often help a child open his or her eyes to the good.  End every day with asking “What was the best part of your day?  What will we do tomorrow?”  This helps focus on optimism.
  • Watch the friends your child keeps, two pessimistic people pull each other down.  Encourage relationships with people who uplift your child’s mood.
  • Do not label your child as a “pessimist”…look at your child as one who is a realist.  Help your child dream a bit about what “could be”.

So all of these traits combine to form your child’s temperament, and remember there is no good or bad temperament!  Understanding your child’s temperament does not excuse undesirable behavior, but it might help you understand why your child behaves or reacts in a particular way.  You may change your thinking about your child that is active and into everything from being “difficult” to just “curious”.  You might see your shy or slow to warm child as more “sensitive and thoughtful”.  All types of personalities have strengths and challenges, and our job as a parent is to work with our children and help them embrace their temperaments to become the best adult possible.

“Kids come with their own ingredients—you have to work with them and cook the best way you can.”  Ari Brown  M.D.

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


A little of this and a lot of that….what makes up your child’s personality?

Can you tell they have different temperaments??  The parenting technique that worked for one, didn’t necessarily work for the other!

Over the next few days, let’s look at the 9 personality traits that make up each of our temperaments.  I know I can pick out myself in these traits and my children.  Remember a parent must work hard at parenting according to a child’s temperament.  The rules in our house were always the same, the approach with each child may have been a bit different.

1.  Activity Level

Remember most young children are busy.  Your child’s activity level should be compared to other children of the same age.  How active is your child in general?  Does your infant always wiggle and move?  Is it difficult to change a diaper?  Is your child in perpetual motion or does your child prefer quiet activities and is content “watching the world”?

Parenting the active child:

Your child is not moving and fidgeting to annoy you!  This is how your child is wired.  Give your child lots of time for active play every day.  Be creative in looking for ways to allow your child to “blow off steam”.  When your child has had plenty of energy outlets, then he or she will be able to be calmer when needed.

  • Offer a safe environment for an active child to explore his or her world
  • Daily activities liking getting dressed may be easier when allowing your child to help
  • Plan ahead to allow your child physical activity before quiet times
  • Do not set unrealistic expectations of long periods of quiet sitting.  Keep a bag of quiet activities for use when you are in need for “quiet sitting”.
  • Active children often learn best by using action and their senses, be your child’s advocate with teachers…..let teachers know ahead of time that your child has an active temperament.  A child with who simply has an active temperament should not be labeled hyperactive!

Parenting the less active child:

Parenting the quieter less active child can be challenging too.

  • Slowly introduce activities that involve action.
  • Engage your child in an activity by demonstrating first, or by having him or her watch another child.
  • Allow for extra time for a less active child to get organized and moving in the morning.
  • Encourage healthy activity.  Many less active children are not naturally inclined to participate in sports.

2.  Distractibility

This is the amount of concentration that child shows when he or she is not particularly interested in an activity. Is your baby distracted when you are nursing or feeding a bottle by noises and sites around him or her?  Is your toddler or preschooler sidetracked by every bug, bird, or even his or her own thoughts or daydreams?

Distractibility shows how easily other stimuli will disrupt a child.  Remember that children in general are distractible….this is always in comparison to other same aged children.  This trait can be a positive when it is easy for a parent to distract a child from an undesirable behavior, but it can also be a negative when a child is so distracted he or she cannot finish tasks.

Parenting a distractible child:

  • Be sure that you have your child’s full attention when talking.  Do not shout instructions from the next room, make good eye contact.
  • Keep instructions simple and to the point.
  • Redirect gently…..”Got your shoes on yet?”
  • Be sure to decrease external stimuli when you see your child is distracted or overwhelmed.
  • Remove external distractions like the TV when you are trying to help your child focus.
  • Break up tasks into manageable pieces.
  • Give breaks when the child’s distraction level increases when trying to stay on task.
  • Be your child’s advocate with teachers, let them know ahead of time about your child’s temperament

Parenting the less distractible child:

  • Be sure to give your child a break, children that are very focused often will not stop an activity on their own.
  • Make sure you have eye contact when speaking or giving direction to your child.  A very focused child may not hear a parent.
  • Give a warning to your child when it is about time to switch activities.  “We will need to put away the book in just a moment so we can get ready to leave.”  Children that are very focused will often melt down when changing activities.

3.  Intensity of emotional response

Intensity is the level of response a child has to situations.  Does your child react big to everything?  Does your child’s cry escalate?  Does the whole world know when your child is happy, excited, or sad?

Is your child’s reactions mild?  Do you have to guess what your child is feeling?  Is your child mellow?

Parenting an emotionally intense child:

When a child is very emotionally intense, often a parent responds the same way.  If a child is screaming with a tantrum, this may result in you yelling too.  This often just causes the child to escalate. A quiet response will help an intense child learn control.  An emotionally intense child can be exhausting!

  • Help your child learn to express emotions in an acceptable way.  Give young children ways to express anger or frustration, especially a child that does not have many words yet.  Try letting a child stomp their feet or hit an “angry” pillow.
  • Introduce new experiences slowly this will help an emotionally intense child feel more control and prevent a meltdown.
  •  Big reactors tend to react to physical stimulation too, so try to keep their little world calm when a child starts to escalate.
  • When you are feeling angry, stop.  Stop yelling, talking, and moving.  Take a break so you don’t increase your child’s reaction
  • Put some space between you and your child.  Use time out for you to  take a break too!

Parenting a child that is less intense:

A child that is not emotionally intense can be challenging too.  Often these children are hard for a parent to read.  They do not express their feelings well, so they tend to withdraw, mope, or be moody.  These children need help learning how to express how they feel.

  • Describe what your child is feeling.  “It is so frustrating when the tower keeps falling over!”
  •  Discuss different feelings, read books about feelings.
  • Older children especially need to be drawn out; do not let older school age children or teens mope and withdraw.  Give them tools to talk about their feelings.

4.  Regularity

This trait shows a parent how scheduled a child needs to be.  Does your child need to eat and nap at very predictable times or can your child “go with the flow” a bit more.  How flexible is your child?

Parenting the regular rhythm child:

  • This child does best with regular meals, nap times, and bedtime.
  • Keep things predictable.
  • Plan outings and activities around your child’s regular routine.

Parenting the less regular child

  • Routine is still important for a less regular or more flexible child.  Maintain a consistent schedule, but allow flexibility.
  • Have a regular bedtime, but allow for your child to read quietly in bed.  Do not force rigid sleep patterns.
  • Relax when your child is off schedule, less regular children adapt easily!

Look for tips on the other 5 personality traits 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.


Packing tips for traveling with kids…having what you need but keeping it simple.

Vacation season is here! With kids, gone are the days when you can throw a few things in a suitcase and go!  There is a bit more to pack with kids…it seems like you will need everything!  Making a packing list will help.  I often would start a packing list several weeks in advance and as I thought of things we would need, I would add it to the list.  Packing can feel overwhelming when you are planning for kids.  Just remember, you can usually always wash at your destination if necessary and unless you are going to the outback, there are stores!  Don’t try to think of every scenario and try to pack for it!  Once you have a list that works for you, save it on your computer for the future!  Try and keep it simple!

Packing Tips:

  • Plan for one outfit a day per person.  Think about mixing and matching and bringing a couple extra tops.
  • Think layers…be sure you always have something warm…weather is temperamental and restaurants are cool.
  • Plan for at least 3 pairs of PJs per child.  You will always have accidents and need at least one extra pair until you can wash.
  • Pack total outfits in large freezer type zip lock bags.  Top, bottom, undershirt, and socks all together.  This makes it easy to find each outfit and helps keep things organized.  You can grab a zip lock bag and throw it in your diaper bag when you are on the run and know you have everything you need for a quick change.
  • Extra shoes.
  • Sun hat, sun screen, sunglasses.
  • Plan a diaper an hour for transit and about 5 to 6 diapers a day.  Remember, there are Walmart Stores and Target Stores everywhere…don’t bring things that are easier bought at your destination.  Think about having Amazon or Target ship your diapers to your destination when taking a long trip. 
  • Bring several receiving type blankets and a larger blanket for your baby to lie on and stretch.
  • Diaper rash ointment, acetaminophen, thermometer, small containers of shampoo and lotion.  You never want to be out looking for an open pharmacy at night!
  • Keep a list with emergency numbers in your bag.  Include your doctor’s phone number and local pharmacy number.
  • Pack a night-light.   It is nice to have a little light in a strange room!
  • Baby Monitor.
  • Child proofing kit.  This would include twist ties to tie up cords, duct tape to tape over outlets, and antibacterial wipes to wipe down TV remotes and phones.  Blue painters tape is a great way to tape things up, cover outlets etc. and kids LOVE to play with it too.  Easy to remove from anything also!
  • Straw cups, pacifiers, bottles, and enough baby food for transit and to get you started at your destination.
  • If traveling by car and you will be spending a night on the road, pack a separate bag for the hotel.  Only pack what you will need for the one night on your way to your destination.  This is much easier than carrying all of the luggage in for a one night stay!

Pack a small backpack with essentials that are within easy reach in the car or plane:

  • A change of clothing for you and your child.
  • Extra zip lock bags.  (Never can have too many!)
  • A diaper an hour and wipes.  (Never can have too many wipes!  They are NOT for just diaper changes!)
  • Pack an extra “portable” bag with a single diaper, diaper cream, and small package of wipes.  You can take this small bag into the restroom without bringing the whole diaper bag or backpack.
  • Fold up potty seat for a toddler. Post it notes to cover the electronic eye on self flushing toilets…keeps the toilet from flushing and scaring your toddler!
  • Extra “lovey”…always have an extra!
  • Two straw cups (one to be dirty one to be clean), snack cup, wipeable bib, portable snacks, small fork and spoon, any other necessary restaurant item.
  • If you are formula feeding, bring powdered formula.  Make up a couple of bottles with the powdered formula so only water needs to be added.
  • Baby food for use that day.
  • Zip lock with thermometer, travel sized acetaminophen, ibuprofen, band aids, Benadryl, nasal saline drops, and any other medications your child or you are taking.
  • A mix of new and old toys…plan for an activity per hour at least.  A sample “fun bag” will be posted later.

So, pack smart and start early.  Make a list and check it twice, but remember, the only real essentials are items that cannot be bought at your destination…so relax, if you forget something, thank goodness for Target and Walmart….I know you can find either at your destination!

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


Cars and Planes….Entertaining Your Kids for Happy Travels!

family vacation

So, you have your vacation booked, you are packed, and now you are thinking about how you will entertain your child in the car or on the plane! 

Long trips are even longer when you have children who are fussy and bored!  We traveled to the beach each year by car, and took the occasional flight when our children were young.  I had quite a few tricks up my sleeve to keep everyone content (at least mostly content) on the way.  Early on we learned that the trip to and from our destination had to become part of the “vacation”.  In other words, we had to have that vacation mentality and enjoy that part of the trip too!  You can have fun driving with a carload of kids I promise!

Traveling by car allows you to see some great areas that you may not experience if in a hurry.  During our yearly trip to the beach we found small towns, festivals, touristy attractions, and great parks for picnics.  We soon learned that getting out of the car and enjoying the trip made it much more fun for everyone.  Lunch is much better in a park where everyone can run and play than sitting quietly in a restaurant!  Leaving early in the morning and stopping early in the late afternoon allowed the kids to play, swim, and become familiar with the hotel we were sleeping in that night.  We learned the hard way that pulling into a hotel after a long day of driving at bedtime only resulted in crying children and frustrated parents.  An early stop always resulted in kids settling in for the night easier and an earlier start the next morning.

Entertaining kids on a flight or in the car sometimes takes some creativity.  A mixture of new toys and old favorites usually works.  Some toys were “special” vacation toys that were only used on long trips.  We didn’t have the DVD players so common now, but our kids were very excited about the special travel toys we kept just for our long trips.  You might think about using your DVD player for that purpose.

Here are a few ideas that may work for you.  I found packing the toys in a bag and getting them out one at a time as needed worked well.  Sometimes even wrapping the new ones made it so much fun to unwrap and see the new surprise toy!  A trip to the dollar store or the Target Dollar Aisle is a great place to pick up some of those new items.

  1. Travel sized magnetic games.
  2. Travel sized Magna Doodle or Aqua Doodle.
  3. Sticker Books
  4. Activity Books
  5. Crayons and markers (remember to bring the crayons out of the car if it is warm weather…trust me they can melt and make a mess!)
  6. Reusable stickers or “clings” that can be put on car or plane windows.
  7. Wikki Stix or pipe cleaners
  8. Painter’s tape (makes great “roads” on tray tables, fun to tear and stick, easy to remove, great for childproofing in hotel rooms!)
  9. Finger puppets
  10. New books and favorite books
  11. Favorite music
  12. Movies
  13. Bubbles (fun to blow in the car!)
  14. Small cars, favorite dolls, stuffed animals
  15. Cookie sheet with magnets
  16. Water paint books
  17. Reusable sticker “clings” for windows or “Colorforms” type books

Treat bags became a vacation tradition with our kids.  We always packed a few snacks, some healthy and some special treats.  To this day, I pack a “treat bag” even for my husband and me when we head out on a road trip!  Slow down, stop, let your child out to run and then provide a quiet activity once back in the car seat or on the plane.  Take a deep breath and enjoy having your family contained in one spot…something that, believe it or not, you will look forward to when your children are a bit older and busier.  Talk, sing, snack, and maybe even nap on the way (not the driver of course!!) :)…Family vacations are simply time together, time together doing something different….so be sure that your vacation begins when you leave your house.  The trip to and from your vacation CAN be fun too! What do you bring to make your travels more fun?  Share your ideas!!!

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


Why has this happened again? What will YOU do?

Where do we go from here? It seems that we have to ask this way too often.  We continue to see the images of beautiful children who have been tragically lost scroll across our TV and computer screens.  The tears seem endless.  What do we do with our emotions, our anger, our sadness?  We must use these feelings to move our families and our country in a positive direction.  The time is now when our emotions are so raw and our hearts are so full of pain.  Now is the time to look at what we need to do as parents to help prevent this type of tragedy from ever happening again. We are powerful. I will not get into the political rhetoric about gun control, whether you agree or disagree with gun control….there is so much more that we can do right now beginning today.

  1.  Love your children deeply, be involved in their lives.  Teach the values of life and love to your children from moment one.  Provide security to your children and shelter them from adult problems and evil in the world.  Their little minds cannot process the scary truths that exist in our world.  Do not parent with fear…we must not make our children live in fear.
  2. Help your children develop empathy.  Children who have highly developed social and emotional intelligence are less likely to hurt each other.  Empathy and social/emotional intelligence does not just appear in a child. We must provide the environment for it to flourish. Talk to your child about feelings, role play what to do when they see someone hurting, read books about emotions and feelings,  point out actions that result in positive feelings, volunteer together as a family and provide several adult mentors who share your family values for your child. Surround your child with real relationships. Every child should have at least 5 adults in their life who they trust. Social media provides disconnected “pretend” relationships, control your child’s social media exposure. Make it a priority to monitor your child’s social media interaction.  When was the last time you looked at your child’s phone? YouTube channel? Snapchat? Instagram? We must take responsibility to know what our children are doing and seeing on social media. Stay one step ahead of your child….that takes work.  Being a parent takes work!
  3. Mentor. Need an outlet for action after this tragedy? Look what your community has to mentor children at risk. Coach, lead a scout troop, be a Big Brother or Big Sister, join youth advocacy/assistance programs…become the stable adult for children who are struggling because of unstable family lives or lack of stable adult role models. We can’t just talk we must act. We must DO not just talk.
  4.  Protect your children from being exposed to violence in video games and TV.  I feel that the violence our children see is one of our biggest mistakes as a society.  The realistic violent video games that so many of our children are exposed to can numb a young mind to violence and its horror.  Some will argue that children have played “cops and robbers” or “army” for generations, but never have children been exposed through that imaginary play to the reality of violence that is so graphic in these video games.  Our children are “killing” with these games in graphic detail….these detailed images are not healthy for young immature minds.
  5.  Support our young boys.  All of these mass shootings have been carried out by young males.  Our boys need to learn how to express their anger, frustration, and emotion in ways that are non-violent.  Our boys need fathers and male role models who teach how to be strong men, but men who use their strength to love and care for others.  Our young men MUST have loving role models.  We must support intact families and mentors for those young men who are searching for adult role models. Surround your children with adults who can mentor…they need more than just you.
  6.   Support our children and adults who have mental illnesses.  Parents of troubled children must be their advocate to help them receive the help that is so desperately needed.  Teachers must be alert to those students who need services and address those needs with parents.  We must NOT be afraid to address this issue.  We must remove the stigma of mental health issues. We all must support mental health programs and advocate for more programs.  Communities need support and services for those parents who are parenting children with mental illness.  Simply calling and reporting or removing a child from a school does not address the problem.  Our voices need to be loud and clear, mental health cannot be ignored.
  7.  Talk about gun safety and gun control.  If you have guns in your home, they must be locked up and inaccessible, period.  As a country, we must discuss in a nonpolitical way the laws surrounding the purchase of guns, but we must find the core values that are missing in our society too. Controlling guns without strengthening our families, instilling values of life, love, discipline, and I believe spirituality in our children, supporting the emotional needs of our young boys, and providing services for the mentally ill will not stop the violence. We can’t be one dimensional with this issue.
  8.  Have open discussions with our schools to be sure that there are safety policies in place.  We must be sure that our children are protected by common sense safety policies in the schools. Invest in school safety.  Talk to your children and reassure them that they are safe at school and answer their questions about their safety gently.  Fear does not prevent violence; it only increases the damage. Children should not live and go to school in fear.
  9.  Get active. Use your emotions.  Reach out and help those who are hurting, write letters, form groups to pressure companies to stop marketing violent games, join school safety committees, become a mentor to troubled youth…action heals hurt.  Be a part of the solution.  Be a part of the change this country desperately needs.
  10.  Take care of your own emotions.  Take a break from the news reports.  Talk to other parents, your family, members of your church, friends, anyone who can support you in moments of sadness and anxiety.  Redirect your thoughts to reasons you are grateful.  Hug your children and revel in the moment. Protect our children from the adult conversations about this tragedy.

Now is the time to act.  Our emotions and feelings are raw with pain, but time will pass and soon we will be carrying on our lives in the same manner.  We cannot let this tragedy go unanswered again….we are parents, we love our children, we all can do better.  Let’s work together to stop the violence by changing the country our children live in…..we can do this together.  Let’s not just talk….let’s be advocates.

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


Oh what a difference a year makes! Growth and Development milestones the first year.



From one day to one year, what a difference a year makes!                                                           

The first few months of my children’s lives sometimes felt like a blur.  Parents get VERY little sleep and are just trying to get to know their baby.  I can remember feeling that the first year just flew by and all of a sudden I would have a toddler on my hands!  There are so many changes that come so quickly with your baby that first year! 

During that first year, your baby is learning that he or she will be loved and cared for.  It is important to foster that development of trust.  Don’t let your baby cry for long periods of time, especially in the first 6 months.  Crying is your baby’s way of communicating.  Soon you will learn what different cries mean, like “I’m tired”, “I’m hungry”, “I’m wet”, “I need to be held”, “I am bored”….Responding to your baby’s needs helps your little one develop trust in you and the world.  You cannot spoil a baby!  Older children can be spoiled, but not infants, so just enjoy catering to their needs and loving your baby.

Growth and development should be steady and progressive.  That  is more important than comparisons with other children.  It is common for new parents to look at other babies and start to worry and compare.  Try not to compare, just know what important milestones your baby should be reaching.  Recently the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics revised the developmental milestones for children. Prior to this, the milestones were set for when about 50% of children would reach the milestone.  Often this resulted in a “wait and see” attitude.  The new milestones are set when 75% or the majority of children have reached the milestone. This resulted in some of the milestones pushed back just a bit, but also results in a referral when a child misses the milestone instead of a “wait and see” attitude.  The CDC has an app for your phone and detailed lists of the current milestones that can be accessed on the website. 

How big your baby is at birth is a poor predictor about the size of your child by adulthood.  The size at birth has more to do with the conditions of uterine development.  Most children will find their growth curve and stay at that curve.  A child that is smaller than 75 percent of other babies his or her age can be perfectly healthy, that may just be the growth curve that child has.  By the end of the 2nd year, the size of your child will more truly reflect his or her adult size.

We parents know that our children are special!  However, reaching developmental milestones faster than other children does not necessarily predict your child’s intelligence.   As long as your child is reaching his or her developmental milestones on target, there are no worries!

By the end of the 2nd month your baby should:

  • Smile
  • Look at you!
  • Start to try to self soothe.  May bring hands to mouth and suck
  • Begin to smile at people
  • Start to coo
  • Turn towards sounds
  • Follow things with eyes
  • Pay attention to faces
  • Hold up head and begin to push up during tummy time

Activities for parents:

  • Talk to your baby
  • Show simple objects
  • Give your baby different looks at the world, change his or her scenery!
  • Play the silly face game, open and close your eyes, stick out your tongue etc.
  • Start the routine of a daily walk weather permitting
  • Help baby with tracking objects, babies love mobiles, shapes and movements
  • Imitate your baby’s sounds and expressions as your baby starts to learn to communicate

Your baby’s growth:

  • Growth will be about an ounce per day in the first 2 months
  • Growth will continue at about a pound a month after the first couple of months
  • Birth weight doubles by 5 months
  • Birth weight triples by one year

By the end of the 4th month your baby should:

  • Like to play and interact with you!
  • Copy some movements and even facial expressions like smiling
  • Babble even with expression
  • Cry in different ways for different needs like hunger, or being tired, or lonely
  • Reach for a toy or rattle
  • Track with eyes well side to side
  •  Be able to roll from tummy to back
  • Push up on elbows during tummy time
  • Like colors now and be drawn to them

Parent activities:

  • Continue to talk, talk, talk
  • Build reading into your daily routine
  • Respond to your baby’s coos and babbles…carry on a conversation!
  • Continue to show your baby the world!

By the end of the 6th month your baby should:

  • Recognize a familiar face and begin to have some stranger anxiety
  • Like to look at self in the mirror
  • Use vowel sounds when babbling and takes turns in a “conversation” with you!
  • Begin some consonant sounds when babbling
  • Respond when you say his or her name
  • Transfer things from hand to hand, easy to hold toys are important
  • Try to get things that are out of reach
  • Roll from tummy to back
  • Sit with support
  • Like to “stand” with you holding and might bounce
  • Start to push up and may rock back and forth on hands and knees
  • Start to scoot and move arms like a swimmer
  • Sometimes show frustration if he can’t reach something he wants
  • Teething may begin with the average baby cutting their first tooth by the end of the 6th month
  • Should start the “dropping game” between 7 and 8 months (helps your baby learn object permanence)
  • Should begin clapping between 7 and 8 months

Parent activities:

  • Remember stranger anxiety starts at about 6 months and peaks at about 9 months.  This is normal.  Help your baby by gradually introducing strangers.  A stranger is someone your baby does not see everyday!  Never force a situation quickly when your baby is afraid of a new face.  Hold your baby, sit on the floor and let your baby explore with you holding him or staying near at first.
  • Start to teach finger games like “so big”, waving “bye-bye”, playing patty cake
  • Continue to read and talk to your baby
  • Make sure you are establishing routines, especially bed time and nap time routines

By the end of the 9th month your baby should:

  • Begin to have favorite toys
  • Understand the word “no”
  • Copy sounds you make and gestures you make
  • Begin raking small objects to pick them up
  • Play peak a boo
  • Look for hidden items
  • Look where you point
  • Sit well without support
  • Gets to a sitting position on his/her own
  • Lift arms to be picked up

Parent activities:

  • Continue to play finger games like “Itsy Bitsy Spider”
  • Continue waving bye-bye
  • Build things for baby to crawl under and over
  • Let your baby play with every day objects like pots, pans, plastic containers
  • Encourage your baby to imitate your behavior like brushing hair, talking on the phone
  • Encourage pretend play with keys, phones, dolls, chunky trucks etc.
  • Play with pop up toys, a jack-in-the-box is a great way to teach object permanence
  • Play in and out games
  • Let your baby hold your fingers to walk

By the end of the 12th month your baby should:

  • Waves bye-bye
  • Understands the word “no” may briefly stop when he/she hears the word
  • Puts items into a container
  • Pull up to stand
  • Cruise around furniture
  • Drinks from an open cup with you holding the cup
  • Uses thumb and forefinger to pick up small items (pincer grasp)
  • Plays games with you like Patty Cake or So Big
  • Look for missing objects in last seen location
  • Say Ma Ma and Da Da
  • Start to show fear, will cry when you leave

Parent activities:

  • Help baby with push toys, wide based push toys that children can walk behind are fun!
  • Play games that the baby has a part in like puffing up your cheeks and letting her push the air out
  • Look at books and make up stories about the pictures
  • Teach body parts  Where is your nose?  Where is your tummy?
  • Play with musical instruments that shake and bang
  • Play music your baby loves to move and dance
 Enjoy the first year!  Your baby will grow and change more quickly than you can ever imagine.  Interact, smile, play, read to, cuddle, play music, walk, and just introduce your baby to the world!  The world is an exciting place through the eyes of a child.  Experience it with your child!

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


Helpful websites:




Let’s talk toddler!

Kaitlyn was a typical toddler, she definitely had an opinion!

You wake up one day, and it is a whole new ball game.  You now have a toddler.  Toddlers are so much fun, but can also be a challenge.  We are not used to our child having an opinion, and a toddler has one and often expresses it very loudly!  Toddlers can be having a tantrum one minute and laughing the next!

Your toddler’s biggest developmental task is to start to develop independence.  Your child will begin to separate from you at times, and be very clingy at other times.  Every day and sometimes every minute, is a new adventure when you have a 1 to 3 year old!

Recently the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics updated the growth and developmental milestones for toddlers.  They moved the milestone back to when 75% of the children should reach it.  In the past, the milestones were set when 50% of the children were reaching it.  This change will hopefully remove the “wait and see” attitude and encourage parents and health care providers to refer when a milestone is not reached. There is an excellent app for your phone and easy to read milestone lists for each age group on the CDC website.

We know that toddlers are a bundle of energy.  Everything is an adventure!  Kitchen cupboards, knobs and buttons, computers, and even the drain in the tub is interesting.  Toddlers are busy discovering and really don’t have time for naps and potty training, although both are important for toddlers!  Toddlers are free little spirits and have very little self-control, which often results in your precious child throwing himself on the floor in a fit of frustration and anger.   To better understand your toddler, there are a few principles of toddler psychology…..

  1. A toddler is developing creativity, independence, curiosity, and imagination.  The whole world is open and exciting!  Your child is not misbehaving when he smashes peas, climbs on the table, or puts his finger in a place it should not be, he is exploring.  Exploration is developmentally appropriate for your toddler!
  2. A toddler has very little self-control and tolerance to frustration.  Sometimes it is so frustrating that a puzzle piece will not fit, or he can’t climb on the counter, or you break up his cracker that he wanted whole!  Because a toddler has very few words and a limited repertoire to handle frustration, the “logical” thing for him to do is melt down, kick, cry, and let his opinion be heard by all!
  3. Toddlers want attention.  Attention is attention to a toddler, whether it is negative attention or positive attention.  As parents, we need to limit our words of explanation to a toddler.  A 2-year-old doesn’t really care if he will fall off the table, he just wants to climb on it.  You will never convince him otherwise…there will be no moment of epiphany when he understands your safety talk!  We must not reinforce behavior by giving extended attention to unwanted behavior.  Give lots of positive words to positive behavior….very few words to negative behavior.
  4. Toddlers need predictability and routine.  Your child will behave much better when there is a routine in place at home.  The amount of frustration and the number of tantrums will decrease when you establish routines and rituals.
  5. Toddlers need some sense of control.  Give your child true choices.  “Do you want the bananas or the apple sauce?”   “Do you want to wear this shirt or this one?”  “Do you want to read your story before your bath or after?”  Do not give choices when there are no true choice.  Only ask a yes or no question if you are happy with the answer being “No!”
  6. Toddler temper tantrums are a result of frustration, being overly tired, being hungry and learning that they work!

 Most 1 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Plays games with you, like pat-a-cake
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Waves “bye-bye”
  • Calls a parent “mama” or “dada” or another special name
  • Understands “no” (pauses briefly or stops when you say it)
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Puts something in a container, like a block in a cup
  • Looks for things he sees you hide, like a toy under a blanket
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Pulls up to stand
  • Walks, holding on to furniture
  • Drinks from a cup without a lid, as you hold it
  • Picks things up between thumb and pointer finger, like small bits of food
  • 1 year olds should have tripled his/her birth weight
  • Take 1 to 2 naps a day and sleep 11 to 12 hours at night.  Be sure to have a good bedtime routine.

Most 15 month olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Copies other children while playing, like taking toys out of a container when another child does
  • Shows you an object she likes
  • Claps when excited
  • Hugs stuffed doll or other toy
  • Shows you affection (hugs, cuddles, or kisses you)
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Tries to say one or two words besides “mama” or “dada,” like “ba” for ball or “da” for dog
  • Looks at a familiar object when you name it
  • Follows directions given with both a gesture and words. For example, he gives you a toy when you hold out your hand and say, “Give me the toy.”
  • Points to ask for something or to get help
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Tries to use things the right way, like a phone, cup, or book
  • Stacks at least two small objects, like blocks
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Takes a few steps on his own
  • Uses fingers to feed herself/himself some food
  • 15 month olds will often take 1 nap a day and sleep 11 to 12 hours at night.
  • Not separate easily.  Separation anxiety peaks between 18 and 24 months.
  • Know the difference between how Mom and Dad parent and play.  Many will prefer one parent over the other at times.  Toddlers cannot intentionally do things to hurt your feelings at this age.  Connecting with one parent over the other may be because your toddler is learning male and female roles, may need more nurturing from mom or more physical play from dad.  Roll with it!

Most 18 month olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Moves away from you, but looks to make sure you are close by
  • Points to show you something interesting
  • Puts hands out for you to wash them
  • Looks at a few pages in a book with you
  • Helps you dress him by pushing arm through sleeve or lifting up foot
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Tries to say three or more words besides “mama” or “dada”
  • Follows one-step directions without any gestures, like giving you the toy when you say, “Give it to me.”
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Copies you doing chores, like sweeping with a broom
  • Plays with toys in a simple way, like pushing a toy car
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Walks without holding on to anyone or anything
  • Scribbles
  • Drinks from a cup without a lid and may spill sometimes
  • Feeds herself with her fingers
  • Tries to use a spoon
  • Climbs on and off a couch or chair without help
  • Toddlers at this age will start to develop separation anxiety. Always tell your child when you are leaving, never sneak out. Tell them you will return and they are safe.

Most 24 month olds can:

  • Social/Emotional Milestones
    • Notices when others are hurt or upset, like pausing or looking sad when someone is crying
    • Looks at your face to see how to react in a new situation
    Language/Communication Milestones
    • Points to things in a book when you ask, like “Where is the bear?”
    • Says at least two words together, like “More milk.”
    • Points to at least two body parts when you ask him to show you
    • Uses more gestures than just waving and pointing, like blowing a kiss or nodding yes
    Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
    • Holds something in one hand while using the other hand; for example, holding a container and taking the lid off
    • Tries to use switches, knobs, or buttons on a toy
    • Plays with more than one toy at the same time, like putting toy food on a toy plate
    Movement/Physical Development Milestones
    • Kicks a ball
    • Runs
    • Walks (not climbs) up a few stairs with or without help
    • Eats with a spoon

Most 2 1/2 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Plays next to other children and sometimes plays with them
  • Shows you what she can do by saying, “Look at me!”
  • Follows simple routines when told, like helping to pick up toys when you say, “It’s clean-up time.”
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Says about 50 words
  • Says two or more words together, with one action word, like “Doggie run”
  • Names things in a book when you point and ask, “What is this?”
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” or “we”
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Uses things to pretend, like feeding a block to a doll as if it were food
  • Shows simple problem-solving skills, like standing on a small stool to reach something
  • Follows two-step instructions like “Put the toy down and close the door.”
  • Shows he knows at least one color, like pointing to a red crayon when you ask, “Which one is red?”
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Uses hands to twist things, like turning doorknobs or unscrewing lids
  • Takes some clothes off by himself, like loose pants or an open jacket
  • Jumps off the ground with both feet
  • Turns book pages, one at a time, when you read to her/him

Most 3 year olds can:

Social/Emotional Milestones
  • Calms down within 10 minutes after you leave her, like at a childcare drop off
  • Notices other children and joins them to play
Language/Communication Milestones
  • Talks with you in conversation using at least two back-and-forth exchanges
  • Asks “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why” questions, like “Where is mommy/daddy?”
  • Says what action is happening in a picture or book when asked, like “running,” “eating,” or “playing”
  • Says first name, when asked
  • Talks well enough for others to understand, most of the time
Cognitive Milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Draws a circle, when you show him how
  • Avoids touching hot objects, like a stove, when you warn her
Movement/Physical Development Milestones
  • Strings items together, like large beads or macaroni
  • Puts on some clothes by himself, like loose pants or a jacket
  • Uses a fork

 Parenting activities for toddlers include:

  • Toddler “field trips”.  Bring your toddler to museums, parks, library story times, the post office, the grocery store, fire stations, apple orchards, and play groups.
  • Play matching games, sorting games, shape and color games and puzzles.
  • Read, read, read!  Try to read 30 minutes a day broken into short time slots.
  • Encourage crayons, finger paints, and clay to develop fine muscle control for writing.  Writing on an easel or blackboard is easier for young children because larger muscles are used.
  • Encourage water play, sand or dry rice play, filling and dumping.
  • Play with puppets.
  • Allow your child to feed himself, encourage use of utensils.
  • Help to expand your toddler’s language by talking to him.  Help him finish words and sentences.  If he says “cup”, you can respond, “You want your blue cup with milk.”
  • Play pretend with your toddler.  Play kitchens, dolls, stuffed animals, trains, cars, dress up….
  • Play follow the leader with your toddler.
  • Encourage rhymes and songs.
  • Play musical instruments with your toddler.
  • Respond to wanted behaviors with positive words and ignore unwanted behaviors.  Use time outs for behaviors like hitting, biting, and shoving.

At your child’s 18 month and 24 month well child visit, your healthcare provider should be screening for signs of autism.  Red flags that a parent might see are:

  • Your child repeats words but does not try to participate in conversations.
  • Your child does not respond to his name when you say it.
  • Your child does not make eye contact with you or others.
  • Your child avoids social contact or physical touch.
  • Your child has not developed speech or is losing words rather than building a vocabulary.
  • Your child does not play with toys like his peers and does not use imaginative play.
  • Your child seems to be under sensitive or overly sensitive to stimulations such as sound, touch, and texture.

Remember, if your child is reaching developmental milestones, no worries!  Many times children will not be able to do something that is expected because they have never been encouraged or have never had the opportunity.  Be sure to provide the opportunity for your toddler to reach milestones, even if it takes longer to allow your child to complete a task, or it is messy!!  If your child is not reaching developmental milestones, contact your doctor, and refer to your state’s early intervention program.  The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.

Important links that will help you: 

  • “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Campaign  
    This campaign educates parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, and it encourages developmental screening and intervention. It will give you tips on how to determine if your child needs screening.
  • Overview of Early Intervention
    Learn more about early intervention services from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.  Find out about your state’s early intervention program and how to access it.
  • Bright FuturesExternal Web Site Icon
    Bright Futures materials for families are available for parenting tips for children from birth to 21 years of age. This is provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Developmental Surveillance and Screening GuidelinesExternal Web Site Icon
    This American Academy of Pediatrics website provides guidelines on surveillance and screening for developmental delays in children.
  • National Association for the Education of Young ChildrenExternal Web Site Icon (NAEYC)
    NAEYC provides accreditation for early childhood programs and  preschools that meet certain standards. You can search for an accredited program or preschool near you.  NAEYC also provides resources, tools, and information for parents.

Toddlers can be exhausting, but exhilarating!  Looking through your toddler’s eyes, you will learn to enjoy the small wonders of the world again.  Tie up your running shoes, you have a busy toddler!   

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

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.


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