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!

The Future

Preach girl, preach.

Children really are the future.  The 3 month old rolling over, the 12 month old having pretend tea, the 2 year old putting blocks together – these are our future doctors, teachers, electricians, artists, athletes, lawyers, and veterinarians.  And these are the people who will be responsible for our country.  There will be 16 million babies born during this new White House Administration.  Decisions made by the new Presidency will directly effect the future of our country, through tiny fingers and tiny toes.  This is why child development is so important.  AND, this is why creating an environment that supports child development is even more important.

When you provide shelter, food, and love for a baby, he grows.  When you provide a relationship for a baby, he learns.  He learns trust, confidence, and that he is valued.  He is on his way to becoming a tiny adult.  Playing with your child is the easiest way to build a positive relationship and it WILL shape who they will become.

Now is the time to invest in the little things.  Endorse programs that provide support for parents, communities, and access to affordable child care and medical services.  No matter what side of the line you fall on, red or blue, children have neither right or left wing stance.  All they know is, they want to play.  And they want to play with you.

Sit down.  Turn off your phone.  Have a tea party.  Read a book.  Drive a toy car across your leg.  Now, go play.

Love and Crafts

The key to arts and crafts?

SIMPLE. SIMPLE. SIMPLE.

The easier the craft the more fun it will be for your child AND you.  Think of an easy project, then find a way to make it easier.  And now, make it even easier.

How?  Plan activities that have few steps.  You can even set up the activity before beginning.  Break it down into steps so you know exactly what you are doing next.  Of course, have clean up materials handy and a space to place items to dry if necessary.

Here are three activities to try this week.

SHAKE UP HEARTS

  1. Cut a heart out of art paper, place in container with paint and mixers -heart candies, marbles, bells, dried pasta or beans.
  2. SHAKE IT!
  3. Let love dry 🙂

 

HEART STAMPS
heart-stamps-for-toddlers
Squeeze a toilet paper roll to form a heart and place tape around to hold the shape.  Stamp in paint then on paper.

***With all of these, projects, don’t ever let the stock photo fool you.  With a babe under 2, you will be doing most of the work.  Try the “hand over hand” method.  Here, place your hand over you child’s hand on the cardboard tube.  This way, you are completing the motion, but your child is a part of the fun.

“Stamp the heart, thump, thump, thump.”
“Dip and stamp, stamp, stamp.”

 

VALENTINES FOR THE BIRDS

Spread a thin layer of peanut butter (or soy butter, or sunflower butter, or almond butter) on a piece of bread.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out a shape.  Dip into a shallow dish filled with bird seed.  Thread with a string and hang outside the window.
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Stay tuned for monthly crafty ideas to do with your babes.  Touching on creativity is important on so many levels.  Creating helps children develop knowledge of objects such as crayons and paint, while experiencing sensory materials while getting messy or squeezing play doh.  As children grow, they begin to express themselves through art.  They can also begin to communicate through art where their words have yet to develop.  Children should be creating every day.  This doesn’t mean you have to plan an elaborate project every day.  Provide children with different materials.  Crayons and paper one day, chalk and chalkboard the next, or a white board and dry erase markers.

Now, go play!

 

Snow Day? Play!

This winter weather calls for some sensory play.

The snow makes everything look beautiful and peaceful.  And then your kids wake up.  Being snowed in can be tough.  Cabin fever is real.  Here are some ways to embrace the winter weather with your little ones.

  1.  Play in the snow of course.  Bundle up and get outside!  Walk around, crunching through the snow, get out the sled, and throw a snowball.  Pull the beach toys out of the garage and build a snow castle!
  2. If you want to keep the snow play low key, put towels down and place some snow on a baking sheet.  Throw a hat and mittens on your babe for fun and let her have an indoor snow day
  3. Hot Chocolate!  Cozy up with a cup and share with your little one.
    -If you have a wee babe who is solely on breast milk or formula, pour some hot chocolate in a cup, swirl it around and dump it out.  You can even wipe out any excess.  The cup will still smell like hot chocolate and makes a great sensory toy.
    -Pour some cocoa powder on a piece of art paper and spritz it with some water.  Edible fingerpaint!
  4. Snow Day Bubble Bath – who says baths have to be just for getting clean?  Play!  Blow bubbles in the air and throw some kitchen funnels in the tub. You could even bring some snowballs inside and watch them disappear as you drop them in the bath water.

How do you stay sane when snowed in?  What was your favorite thing to do when you were a child and school was closed because of the snow?  Comment below!

It’s over.

The holidays may be over but the cold, wet, windy, snow, icy, stuck inside, winter is only beginning.  Now is more than ever is the time to explore indoor fun before you go stir crazy.

  1.  Still, get outside!  Bundle up and get out there.  Take the dog for a walk or just go out to get the mail.  Whether your child is walking, in a stroller, or in a carrier on your back, the sensory stimulation from outside is infinite.  The fresh air will give you a little boost of energy too.
  2. Rotate toys.  Now is also a perfect time to make space for all of the new goodies you child received.  Donate or storage is up to you.  Either way, put some toys out of sight for a week or two.  Bring them out and put others away and it will be like Christmas all over again!
    0-6 months can be focused on an activity WITH caretaker for up to 3 minutes
    7 months – 2 years will play with a toy or book for about 30 seconds before reaching out to engage with you
  3. Libraries and Book Stores: Both of these have free story time and activities for all ages.  If not, go anyway, there’s bound to be another exhausted parent and energized child.  And don’t think just because you have a newborn of 3, 4, 5 months old you can’t go anywhere.  Although a wee babe may not be engaging with other kids yet, he/she will still appreciate the sensory input from varying environments.
  4. Indoor play: Here are a few of my favorite specifically indoor activities…
    1. Kitchen – while you may have dishes to do, dinner to prep, or coffee to make – set your little one up right on the kitchen floor with a wooden spoon, a few plastic mixing bowls, and even a heaping of flour if you’re not afraid of a little mess (exhibit a).  You’ll be Suzy Homemaker and he’ll make you flour soup!
    2. Book forts – drape the living room in blankets and sheets, turn off the lights, toss some books underneath with a flashlight and lay on your bellies.  A different scenery can make old things seem new and exciting.
    3. Mirror, Mirror – take turns making silly faces in the bathroom mirror.  A great way to practice sounds, body parts, and who’s who. Note: babies don’t recognize their self until around 2 years old.  Before that, it’s just another baby!

 

Tis the season

With Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa quickly approaching, you may be shopping for the little ones on your list.  As I have mentioned in a former post, toys are not everything.  And they shouldn’t be.  The best toys are those that promote interaction.  When interacting during play, a child is communicating, even if he is just tapping your leg to continue the activity.  He will also practice social emotional skills such as sharing, or experience various feelings such as joy, suspense, and boredom, all of which are accompanied by body behavior, and you can bet he will pick up on that!  Children also build their imagination during play which encourages turn taking, sharing, role playing, and more.  When you are shopping for toys, it may be easy to pick a toy that gives you some “me time” which is definitely needed at times.  But overall, choose toys that do both – enable you to take part in your child’s imagination while allowing room for independence.

Below is a guide to my favorite toys, grouped by age, from 0-3 years.
You will see books for every age, and some toys overlap age ranges.  Toys that grow with a child are great because a. it saves money and b. less toys=more floor space/less cleanup!

Toys that are good for any age:
Picture Album: include family members, pets, and pictures of baby!
Stacking Blocks, Nesting Toys, Legos
Balls

0-6 Months
Books:  Baby Touch and Feel: Animals – or any of book from this line.  Each page shows one simple picture on a blank background, usually with some type of material to feel.  Run babys fingers over the pages and tell her what you see.
Black & White – A tummy time spectacular!  Each page is contrasting black and white images, perfect for infant’s developing eyesight.  It folds out, accordian style.  Open it up, stretch it all out, and stand it in front of baby during tummy time.  All your tummy time problems solved (haha).

Toys: Babes at this age are taking in their world.  They are exploring with their eyes, ears, hands, and mouths!  Look for toys that are easy for their little hands to hold and safe to mouth (but not small enough to put IN their mouth). Some favorites are Crinkle Teethers, Floor Mirror, and the famous Sophie or mini Sophie

6-12 Months
Books: Books with flaps or windows.  The classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear has a great “slide and find” option.

Toys: Containers! Anything with containers!  This age loves to put things in other things, and take the things out of the things.  Think sorting bins, shopping baskets with fake food, or a building blocks that come with a storage container like Duplos from Lego or Mega Bloks.

Also, push toys and activity cubes will encourage motor activity as baby begins to pull himself up and take steps.

1-2 Years
Books:  Books that ask questions or encourage baby to interact such as Where’s Spot and Where is Baby’s Belly Button?  As well as books that have repetitive phrases.

Toys: More containers (see above, ages 6-12months), as children will forever like doing this.  Musical instruments are a great gift, and it works on their fine motor skills.  This simple piano is perfect and this doguitar is hilarious.

2-3 Years
Books: As long as it’s not bedtime, books that involve acting out parts are great for this age.  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and My Many Colored Days (a Dr. Seuss I bet you didn’t know about!)

Toys: Imaginary Play!  These toddlers are starting to model the daily routines they see, that means YOU!  Kitchen sets, tool kits, baby dolls, and stuffed animals are the way to go. Also, puzzles.

I hope this guide makes your shopping a little easier!

It’s about the process, not the product.

lifebuzz-15621cc08549e49378dc7121d3a100e2-limit_2000Whoops.

Don’t you just love it when someone tells you how to do your job?
No?

How about when your mom says you are putting too much salt in your the sauce, don’t you just love that?
No?

You don’t like someone telling you what/how/where/when to do your job and neither do babies.  Don’t be a Marney.  As I have mentioned time and time again, play is work for babies and children.  It is what they are good at, its what they spend the majority of their time doing.  PLAY IS THEIR JOB.  Wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, play.

When playing, talking, creating, cooking, reading, or anything else with your child, never expect it to end the way you planned.  (Just like that Pinterest wreath you tried.)  But that’s okay!

If you want to make hand prints with your 18 month old and you end up with more paint on your face, that’s okay.

If you are reading a story to your 3 year old about a fluffy puppy on a camping trip and he asks “Mom, why do you sit on the potty?” That’s okay too.

If you want to play diner with you 1 year old and she ends up just handing you an empty cup a hundred times, that’s okay. (justified purchase for this activity, and many others).

When you sit down to play with your baby, take a minute to just watch them.  Watch how they play.  Maybe he wants to knock on the side of his toy chest with a wooden block.  Or maybe she is yelling into a cup to hear her echo.  The key is, play along!  Allow your child to lead play time.  Let her be YOUR teacher.   Don’t take the block and say, “No that’s not how you play with the blocks!  You are supposed to stack them like this” and don’t say “No, that’s silly, we pretend to drink from the cup like this”.

These two cuties are pretending their closet is a drive through restaurant and their blocks are food.  Watch them play without adults interrupting! (Best to start watching at 2:25 mark).

As always, adult supervision is necessary.  Child led play does not mean, leave your child unattended to play by herself.  Child led play means let your child show you how to play.  Your job, as parent, is to wear the bucket on your head, drive the brush around like a car, and put the nesting block on your big toe, all while singing “Wheels on the bus”.

When a baby or child is allowed to freely play, without you saying “No, not like that!”, he is working on problem solving, learning cause and effect, exploring their environment, and having fun with you, ultimately creating a positive picture of playing with you and will want to do it again, and again, and again!  Think of coming home and her running down the hallway because she’s so excited to see you.  That’s because she remembers how much fun you are and how much she loves you.  Ugh, isn’t that hug the best.

Now, go play!