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Baby Shark Tank

Which shark would you be trying to capture the attention of?  What if babies were the sharks?  What would you have to do to gain your baby’s attention?

Whether you are actively playing peek a boo, Itsy Bitsy Spider, having a tea party or simply just watching your child play and being there for the random items he decides to hand you, the fact is YOU ARE THERE.  And although it may not seem like you are interacting, you are.  Because the minute you step away to unload the dishwasher or check your phone, baby is bound to begin fussing and climbing up your leg to get the attention back where it should be.

Part of being a parent is being the circus clown in front of the lions.  It is your job to entertain and create opportunities that are not only fun by engaging and beneficial to your child’s development.  The more knowledge we have about our growing babies brains and bodies, the more we can provide for them to succeed.  And, that doesn’t mean having a shopping spree at the toy store, or buying a tablet for their 1st birthday.  It is possible to create opportunities with things in your house or at most from the dollar store.

  • Push a filled laundry basket filled down the hallway for balance/walking/muscle strength
  • Tap wooden spoons on the bottom of a pot or stir a whisk in a pot for fine motor development (and teething)
  • Place items in and out of an empty tissue box to practice taking turns
  • Stack plastic/paper cups or have a tea party or use brushes and loofas to give toy cars/animals a “bath” for imaginary play
  • Place window clings on glass doors, refrigerators, or tile floors to encourage movement and standing
  • Cardboard boxes for exploring and peek a boo
  • Get outside and see where your child takes you!

Now, go play!

 

What ways do you turn household items into toys?

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What is Early Intervention anyway?

Between 0-3 years old, babies’ brains are growing like a wildfire.  Everything is new and exciting.  And they are growing to be able to explore their world by crawling, walking, reaching, grabbing, communicating, and more.  Some babies need a little extra boost to reach milestones, and some are predisposed to ailments both minor and major.  The Early Intervention (EI) System is a service provided by the government under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  If you are worried your child is not advancing as his peers, talk to your pediatrician.  She can point you into the direction of the Early Intervention System in your state.

Now, that being said, not every child develops at the same rate.  And just because your neighbor’s 11 month old is walking, doesn’t mean your 11 month old should be walking.  Instead, focus on what he CAN do, not what he can’t.  When a lacking skill impairs your child’s daily activities, Early Intervention can be resourceful.

Early Intervention is not a bad thing!  Do you take your child on play dates because you want him to socialize?  Do you take your child to the playground so he can be active?  Do you allow you provide and play your child with age appropriate toys?  These are all opportunities an Early Intervention Therapist would take part in.  An EI therapist will show you specific activities you can do to help your child meet those milestones.

Don’t think you don’t have time for EI.  The therapists will work around YOUR schedule.  They will come right to your house or meet with your childcare provider.  Whatever works FOR YOU.  The earlier you begin EI services, the better for your child.

Now, go play!

Back to School

September means back to school for some and for others it can be a reminder to re-establish, or simply start, a routine.  Any routine can be helpful for everyone in the house.

Having a routine, whether it is a schedule to get to work and school on time, or favorite traditions before bed, helps children feel safe, calm, and in control.  Which is why when something unexpected happens, so does a meltdown.  Playing outside when some one’s diaper is sagging – try and take that toddler inside will be like pulling an alligator away from it’s dinner.  Here are some simple ways to establish and reinforce routines for everyone to have a smooth day.

Routines can be a schedule – wake up, potty/diaper, brush teeth, breakfast, get dressed, play, daycare. Boom.  Sticking to the same schedule every day creates familiarity.  Kids know what to expect. Ie, when play time is coming, and coming to an end.

Or a routine can be a reminding list – “We are playing cars now, soon we will get our diaper changed and put our shoes on to go to the grocery store.   You can ride in the cart and help Mommy pick find our favorite foods.”

Either way, through each stage of the routine, remind your child of what is happening. Literally, repeat the list after each step.  Be prepared for some resistance with babies and toddlers, after all, they’re babies and toddlers.  But, constant reminders of the routine and what is to come will help to control outbursts.

And quite possibly the biggest part of reinforcing a routine – don’t make it a chore!  Involve your child in the conversation.  Making a child feel included will create a sense of importance and he will be more likely to engage in the routine then acting against it.

“Toys are all done, we have to go to the store, let’s go.”
vs.
“Let’s clean up so we can go to the store.  What should we pick out for dinner? Noodles or Chicken?  What about for dessert?  Peaches?”

 

Lastly, a routine is never in stone.  Skip a nap to play at the beach, stay up late during a summer BBQ, leave dishes in the sink to play Legos.  Snuggle when the snuggle is real.

Now, go play!

Play Dates for Days

Play dates are a great way for parents and children to get together.  Whether infants or toddlers, all children benefit from the socialization of others.  As newborns, there won’t be much playing other than reaching out to another on a blanket.  And even some early toddlers are reluctant to play with others.  Below is a simple timeline of how play skills develop followed by some ideas to encourage socializing.

0-2 years: Sensorimotor Play
Play the is characterized simply by sensory and movements.  ie. chewing on toes, dropping a toy out of the stroller to hear it crash, stomping in a puddle

12 months: Pretend Play
Pretty self-explanatory.  Pretend drinking from a cup, feeding a baby doll a pretend bottle, talking on a plastic phone

0-2 years: Solitary play
Children are playing independently with separate toys, mostly unaware that another child is playing next to them

2-4 years: Parallel Play
In this stage, children are still doing their own thing while playing next to one another but may begin to imitate their friend.  ie. banging on blocks, going to the play kitchen and getting fake food for a baby doll.  They may even swipe toys from one another, because they’re two and they don’t know what sharing is yet.  Did you hear that? Up until 4 years old, children have yet to grasp the idea of independently sharing.

4-5 years: Associative Play
Finally!  They’re playing together! At this age, children are actually playing from the same bin of blocks or wooden trains.  While still somewhat doing their own thing, there isn’t much coordination to build a tall tower together but are sharing (and fighting over) the same toys.

 

Play date Ideas:

Newborns: Set them up for tummy time facing one another, or looking into a large mirror together, pour you and your mom friend a coffee.

6-12 months: Bins of sensory materials ie: a bin of different brushes, a bin of stuffed animals, a bin or flash lights/push lights/christmas lights, a baking sheet of water, a bin of musical instruments, a bin of books

12-36 months: Play food, muffin pan, tea set, blocks, trains, anything that provides enough materials for everyone while they are able to play on their own, remember, there is no such thing as sharing yet!

Now, go play!

Seriously, let’s play.

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a hundred times, a child’s sole job is to play.  If they are not eating or sleeping, they should be playing.  Children don’t have to fold laundry, run errands, or check emails.  All they have to do is play.

When their little eyes open at the crack of dawn, read a short book in their room, sing a song, do a little stretching/massage to wake up their muscles.

After breakfast, and coffee of course, lay some toys on a blanket, on the couch for standers, in front of a pillow for tummy time, or using masking tape to attach light weight toys (or every child’s favorite –random household materials: plastic cups, coasters, sponge, wipes package, deck of cards) to the walls of a hallway to encourage standing and walking.

Get outside!  Go in the yard, walk to the park, drive to a trail.  Allow your newborn to feel the warm sunshine, the breeze, fresh air, a few rain drops.  Follow your toddler’s lead.  What they are interested in.  Picking up sticks? Throwing rocks? Playing in the dirt? Running?  Back home, create a sensory bin with their favorite outdoor items.

Time to cook dinner?  Baby wearing comes in handy here.  Baby can observe the senses in the kitchen while you get check off your to do list.  More on baby wearing later.  Let your little one play with pots, pans, and wooden spoons in the kitchen while you prep.  Supply toddler with some plastic cups and a small amount of water, pouring back and forth will intrigue him.  Paper towels on stand by.

Being a parent is exhausting.  But the more active baby is, the happier and healthier (and more tired) baby will be!

Now, go play!

Move Your Body

Who wouldn’t like a morning massage to wake up your muscles?  How about a nighttime rub down to settle stress and set a calming tone for sleep?  From babies to adults, we can all use this addition to our daily schedule.

Each morning, help baby to wake up muscles, alert their senses, and recognize body parts each morning.  Provide small repetitive squeezes up and down their arms and legs, wiggle toes and fingers.  Sing a little tune naming body parts as you do.  Before bedtime, repeat squeezes with a calmer, slower pace to set the tone for sleep.

Toddlers can give squeeze their own bodies or participate in a short series of yoga poses.  Good Morning Yoga and Good Night Yoga are great books with simple poses for children.

Similarly, when singing songs throughout the day that contain hand/body movements such as “Wheels on the Bus” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider” don’t simply put on a show for your baby.  If he is too young to complete the movements himself, move his hands with yours.  Using “hand over hand”, he will begin to learn the movements not just from watching, but from feeling his muscles move in the repetitive motions.

Now, go play!

 

 

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!