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Face the Feelings

“Share with Michael.”
“Be nice.”
“Mommy is tired.”

Everyone wants their child to understand feelings, share their favorite toys and to be okay with not having another cookie.  Guess what, it will take longer than you think.  Here is a quick run down of when a few of these skills develop.

  • birth-6 months: express feelings almost involuntarily.  Newborns will cry out when they are hungry, and smile when they are happy.  Their emotions are practically impulsive, however, even infant begins to understand the connection of “If I cry, mom will come”.  You are their safety!
  • 6 months-1 year:
    • enjoys social interaction
    • responds to praise
    • clings to parent in group settings
    • upset when a toy is taken away
  • 1-2 years:
    • interested in other children
    • but not so much playing together
    • express negative feelings ie. temper tantrums
  • 3-4 years:
    • shares toys and takes turns with assistance
  • 4-5: EXPRESS AWARENESS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS

 

Bottom line: Don’t expect your baby to solve Einstein’s equations when he hasn’t even had Algebra I.

So just how do you help your child through these tough times? Play!  Model turn taking and talk out your feelings.  “Look how happy Daddy is happy because you gave him the block.”  “You are mad because Mommy had to put away the bubbles, let’s pretend we are bubbles and pop up and down.”  Just like teaching baby to poke with a fork or taking steps, if you do it over and over again, they will begin to form memories and use strategies when the real thing comes up.

Now, go play!

Day by day and Room by room

How many rooms are in your house?  How many has your newborn seen? Most likely the living room, the kitchen, and a bedroom.  Branch out!  And put all of the rooms in your house to use!

Kitchen:
Sights, Sounds, Feels – blenders, mixers, timers, cold refridgerator, scented candles            (you don’t have to light them!), mixing spoons (jingle jangle!)
Baking Sheets and Muffin Pans – water play and magnetic letters
Silverware Sorting
Containers, containers, containers
Food! – messy play or tasting, that’s what baths are for!

Bathroom:
Bath – water play, finger paints, edible paints,
Lotion
Brushes – hairbrush, comb, loofa, sponge, lightly rub on hands and feet, legs and arms      for a tickl-y sensory experience

Bedrooms:
Blanket Burritos! Wrap/swaddle baby up in a blanket, rock back and forth singing                   “Row Row Your Boat,
Gently down the stream,
If you see the alligator, don’t forget to scream!”
On the last line, unwrap baby for a tickle attack
Blanket Peekaboo – cover baby face and slowly pull off to say Peek a Boo, or cover                   your face and let baby pull off of you
Lotion massages
Books
Baby/stuffed animal make believe

Living/Family Room:
Pictures – babies love to look at pictures, let them look at picture frames, photo                    albums, books and even magazines.  Tape pictures on a wall for baby to look at during      tummy time

No matter the age, allow baby to explore her environment.  Cabinet locks and gates are great for keeping baby safe but not for containment!  If there isn’t anything dangerous in a cabinet, there’s no need to put a lock on it!  Let baby explore the Tupperware, pots and pans, and pantry.  As baby starts crawling, different surfaces will help develop coordination and fine motor, rugs to hardwood or a step down into a sunken living room.

That being said, just a friendly reminder to never leave baby alone, even for a few minutes.  Be sure furniture, televisions, and large pieces of decor are secured to the wall or out of baby’s reach.  Even the shaking of a coffee table leg can vibrate a lamp off the edge.

Now, go play!

Spring has Sprung!

Hello there!  Apologies for the lack of consistency lately.  But we are back!

Now,  around here, the sun is shining and the breeze is warmer.  Which means, outside play!  Playing outside is a great way to get muscles moving, big and small.  Getting outside provides easy activities for gross and fine motor development.

Gross motor development involves the growth and use of big muscles and limbs.  Legs, arms, trunk, head.  Fine motor involves activities with the hands — pointing, grasping, opening, pinching (food, not people!) and more.

Every time you step outdoors presents a new sensory experience.  Which means less planning on your part!  Just step outside with baby and let him go!

Pre-crawlers: Lay a blanket outside and dive into some outdoor tummy time.  Use buckets, balls, hula hoops and bubbles to entertain.  Or roll on your backs and take in some sun and the breeze.  Don’t forget hats and sunblock but some sun is good!

Crawlers to Walkers: Blankets to grass to sandbox to playgrounds.  As cute as they are, baby sports teams are great (and expensive) but what babies really need right now is to be active, and you have that right outside.  There is so much exploring to do for babies that encourages development.  Save the team sports for when they are more interactive with peers, 5 years and up.  Right now, let baby work those muscles climbing playgrounds and sliding down slides.

All ages – Take a walk!  Bring along an empty container or bag and collect items along the way.  Sticks, stones, leaves, flower petals, acorns, pine cones, etc. When you get home, explore your findings.  Glue to a paper plate to make a nature wreath or seal in a clear bottle for a sensory bottle. You can also do your part for the earth and pick up trash along the way!

Let your baby feel grass, dirt, mulch.  It’s all sensory! Don’t be afraid of a little dirt.  That’s what baths are for!

Rainy day?  See this post for more indoor sensory experiences.

What was your favorite piece of playground equipment as a kid?

For Crying Out Loud

There are 3 main components to bring forth language skills.

Look, listen, respond.

From the second babies enter this world, they are communicating.  Crying, cooing, body language, eye gaze, pointing, grunts, smiles, and more.  Eventually, those grunts turn into words and the crying turns into “But, Mom!”.  The point is, everything babies do before producing an actual word is communication.  It’s the only way they know how to get attention.

As infants, babies cry because they are hungry, tired, for pain and for comfort.  Parents and caregivers learn their baby’s signs and what they need, when they need it.  Months go by and babies start reaching for what they want, crawling to explore another room, and vocalizing for mom, food, toy, etc.

Throughout your day, recognize the signs your baby is giving you and respond.  This makes baby feel like a good communicator, and he will continue to communicate with you.  As you label items and people, baby will pick up on that too.

A 7 month old clings to his Momma while she makes dinner and he reaches towards a bottle on the counte, grunting.  “Ehhh, ehh, ehhh, ehhhhhh”  Mom turns around to see what he is reaching towards.  “Oh you want your milk?  Say ‘Milk’ ”  Baby responds “ehhhhhh”  Mom: “Good trying!  Mmmmmmilk, milk”  And hands him the bottle.

The baby gives mom a big smile and drinks.  He thinks “I made a noise, I pointed to my bottle, and mom gave it to me.  I’ll have to try that again, mmmmmmm, this milk is good.”

Mom didn’t force him to say milk, and she didn’t ignore him either.  She recognized that her baby was trying to communicate with her, and he was using the language skills he has.  Pointing and grunting.

The next time you are with your child, put something out of reach that he likes and see how he responds.  Respect the skills he currently has and respond to the vocalizations.  Or if you try to help with blocks and he turns away from you, that’s body language saying “I can do it myself!”

In the meantime, model language through books, songs, and everyday conversations.  Your body language is important to them too, so smile and give that baby a hug.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

And traveling with babies!

This task can be daunting whether it’s a day trip to Great-Grandmas or boarding a 6 hour flight for a week long vacation.  A friend of mine who works as a speech-language pathologist lives in the DC area but has family in Chicago and New Jersey, and friends across the country so every other weekend they are planning a trip.  Did I mention she has a 6 month old?  Not only is she an expert in communication but has great tips for traveling with a little one.  Here is what she shared with me:

For starters, take a deep breath.  Traveling with a baby can be scary.  It’s hard!  But there are ways to make it easier.  And if all else fails, turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and call for room service.  In all seriousness though, if things get too hectic, baby is overwhelmed and inconsolable, take a break.  Excuse yourself from the party, skip out on going out to breakfast with your in-laws, give baby a little downtime, quiet time, mommy time.  Remember, that’s all they want.  YOU.

Now, let’s get that bag packed.
-blanket for playing on the floor
-a few small toys
-a couple of books (favorites here here and here)
photo album of family members (Shutterfly has free prints via their app!
-songs/finger plays (they don’t take up any space!)

  1.  Keep a small bag of these toys in the trunk of your car for when you end up stuck at a friends house who doesn’t have kids.
  2. Lay the blanket down to establish a play space.  Do not expect baby to sit happily on the blanket for the rest of your trip but make it clear, to play with toys, you have to be on the blanket, or sitting in mom or dad’s lap.  This way, your crawler/climber/runner is somewhat contained and not all over the airport or under the dining room table.
  3. However long you are going, hours or days, give one or two toys at a time and rotate in and out to help maintain interest.  If you dump all of the toys out, within 5 minutes, you are going to be desperately digging in the diaper bag for something, ANYTHING.
  4. Somewhere without toys or baby is over it?  Chances are there are plenty of non-toys within your reach.  Empty water bottles, Tupperware, coasters, deck of cards, plastic cups for stacking/building/knocking down, tinfoil balls, basically anything in the kitchen that isn’t a knife.  (Pro tip – check out the junk drawer)

 

Airplanes:

Keeping a baby/toddler/adult happy and busy on a flight can be the most intimidating task of all.  Have you ever sat still for an entire flight?  NO.  Neither can your baby.  The same activities listed above can work.  In addition, toddlers can be kept occupied for a tad longer but do require some more advanced activities then a simple rattle.  Here are some options when you have SnakesToddlers on a Plane, or anywhere else (doctors office, extended car ride, restaurant).  Maybe you will even be lucky enough to board a plane where the passengers actually cheer on a crying baby.

-Notebook, stickers, crayons
Use an old wipes container as a travel art case.
Glue a dry erase or chalk board to the inside of the lid if you are crafty.
Pro tip – triangle crayons.  No rolling.
-Window clings if you are lucky enough to have a window seat.
Or stick them on the tray table.
-Play dough
-Toy cars/trucks and masking tape to make a road map across the tray table
-Snacks.  Snacks.  Snacks.  Snacks.  Snacks. Aren’t we all happier when we are eating?
-If you are lucky to be flying with a companion, and both of you are feeling brave,  choose seats away from one another.  This way you can trade off.  One person can get some quiet, and the surrounding passengers get a break as well.

Last but not least, you can do it.  There is always an end in sight.  Just like labor.  And if your child cries, so what!  Just remember, you set the tone.  If you are stressed, everyone else will feel it.  So try to have fun wherever you are.  It’s a vacation!  And don’t pass up the time for relatives to pitch in and help!

Happy Traveling!

Art for the Ages

You talked, we listened!  Here are some easy art activities to do with the wee ones.  They also carry over to simple art activities for toddlers.  Remember, just because they are capable of more, doesn’t mean its going to be any easier for you.  Keep all of your activities simple, no matter the age, and everyone will be a lot happier.  Try a project with 18 steps where it has to dry and then you peel it off and then add glue to the corner aaaaaannnnddd the two year old is eating a googly eye.  Simplify with these easy activities:

 

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  1. Ball Painting: Get the smock out.  Roll a ball through paint.
  2. Shake Paint: Place paper in any container/box with a lid.  Add a few drops of paint, any small objects (marbles, golf balls etc).  Put the lid on and shake it up!
  3. Paper and Plastic: Similar to above, squeeze a few drops of paint on a piece of paper.  Carefully place paper in a large ziplock bag.  Seal and seal again with packaging tape.  If you are afraid of baby biting plastic, double bag.  Tape to the floor for tummy time, to the wall for those learning to pull themselves up.
  4. Sensory Bags:  Fill a ziplock bag with oil (baby, veggie, canola, etc) and a few drops of food coloring.  Double bag and seal with packaging tape.  Let baby squeeze and poke away.
  5. Mess Free Baby Bubble Wrap: Drops of paint on paper.  Tape bubble wrap over top.  Again, place on the floor for tummy timers, on the wall for walkers.

 

These too!
Picasso: Place a few drops of paint on a canvas.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Let baby create a masterpiece for the museum.

Car paint:  Cars or plastic animals, let baby drive cars through paint blobs on  black paper.

Animals in mud:  Sprinkle hot chocolate powder on paper.  Spritz with water to make a paste.  Use plastic animals to “get dirty”!

Edible Fingerpaint:
yogurt
cocoa powder + water
strawberry preserves
squashed blueberries
pureed baby food ( orange- carrots, green-peas, etc)

Have the wipes ready, and have fun!

Now, go play!

An Adele song IRL.

We all know toddlers have feelings.  Strong feelings.  And they are not afraid to show you just how they are feeling.  But did you know infants experience anger, fear, hopelessness, and happiness too?  New research shows babies as young as just a few months old have feelings that most adults still have a hard time dealing with.  Talking about these feelings and teaching ways to manage them can help to reduce breakdowns, tantrums, and resentment.

Think about it – if someone takes your phone in them middle of a call, your cable stops working in the middle of the Bachelor finale, your mom questions your parenting, a friend ditches plans last minute, you are on your way to a root canal, your significant other received a promotion at work, all of these scenarios elicit feelings.  Which, as an adult, you react to.  Or you don’t.  You decide based on the circumstance and the repercussions.   Babies and toddlers just react.  And that’s okay.  The important thing to do is  acknowledge their feelings and teach an appropriate reaction.

A newborn is hungry and mom is in the shower.
A 4 month old is stuck on her belly and wants to roll over.
A toddler: “BUT I WANTED THE RED BOWL!”.
If what your child wants is out of the question ie. the bottle is warming or the red bowl is non existent, explain that, even to a newborn!  YOU are their rock, they trust you.

“I know you really want your milk but it’s heating up, we have to wait.  Look, see it in the hot water.  Feel the cup, it’s warm.”

“I don’t have a red bowl, I have this blue bowl or the white one, let’s look in the cabinet to see if we can find a red one…nope I don’t see one.  Maybe we can draw a picture with a red crayon.”

It may seem silly but labeling the feeling in the early months will help a child to recognize it later on and  he will be better equipped with strategies to deal with the feeling in a positive way.  Never ignore anger, or punish a child for expressing emotions.  By embracing feelings and providing skills to manage expression creates healthy habits over time.