Put a bow on it.

Here it is!  Your guide to holiday shopping for the little ones in your life.  These are Play to Grow’s fave items for gift giving.

Tips for toy giving:

  1. Buy something that does not take batteries.  The parents will thank you.  And so will the child’s brain.
  2. Look for something that can grow with the child, that they can use throughout their childhood.
  3. Stay away from gender stereotypes!  Boys can play house and girls can drive toy cars around.

All of the gifts are linked to buy them but PLEASE visit an actual store!  Although the holiday crowds can be crazy at time, remember it’s important to interact with people on a daily basis! Brick and mortars for the win!

Disclaimer: Play to Grow does not receive any monetary reward for this post or any of the links you click on.  They are truly just great products!  Wouldn’t that be nice though? (So, hey! Any retailers reading this, hit us up!)

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Latch puzzle

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Toy house

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Shopping Cart

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Tea set

 

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Kitchen

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Legos

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Sit and Stuff Bean Bag

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Books
And more books

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Step Stool

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Pop up Tent

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Shape Sorter

For more ideas on gift giving, check out this past post.

 

Now, go shopping.
Then, go play!

 

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Happy Hauntless Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Here are a few fun activities to get you through this spoOoOOooOoky week!

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Feed the Ghost! Cut a ghost out of poster or foam board.  Break out a large sauce pan, mix up some pretend food and feed that ghost!  Use alphabet magnets to practice letters with your toddler!  Practice imaginary play, language, and turn taking.

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Haunted Tent: Drape black sheer fabric, orange string lights, and throw in some flash lights for a not so haunted house.  This will encourage gross motor skills, independence, and spark sensory receptors.

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Invitation to Play: While your little one is napping, set out a spread of play dough and left over Halloween decor.  Your little one will practice fine motor skills and choice making while his imagination flourishes.

Put your dancin’ shoes on for this one:

Lastly, don’t forget to check out our past post when preparing your child for Halloween Festivities!

Now, go play!

Dora was ahead of the game.

The American Academy of Pediatrics creates guidelines for raising healthy, happy children.  Hospitals, doctors, dentists, and other care providers pass on these recommendations to families.  For example, the AAP recommends children should be in car seats.  So, parents place their babies in rear facing car seats with buckles properly placed.  The AAP also recommends weaning children off bottles around 15 months for dental hygiene.  So parents don’t let their children go to kindergarten with a bottle.  The AAP also recommends parents limit screen time as a family especially to children under two years old.  So….

Why are children still plopped in front of screens?  Because they are available.  EVERYWHERE.  At home, in the car, in the grocery store, at Grandma’s, in your pocket.  And screens (TV, phones, tablets) make life so easy!  Need a recipe, look it up.  Want to hear a song, tell Google to play it.  Need 5 minutes to peel potatoes, put a video on for your baby in their high chair.  Orrrrrr you could do this:

No screens, no batteries, no robotic voices.

Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play.
What do children learn from a touchscreen?  How to swipe.

When children are interacting with a screen there is less interaction with adults or other children.  Less language, less imitation, less confidence, less development.

That being said…it’s okay to want 5 minutes to yourself and when all else fails, give them the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme song.  Give it to them so you can save your sanity.  Just don’t let it be the first resort or the every time resort.  A little screen time is not going to do permanent damage.  And when your little one is watching surprise egg videos, join in every now and then… “What’s inside? Oh! It’s a little brown cow! What does the cow say?”

Now, put your phone down and 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!

Reading Magic

Harry Potter turns 20?!  Not Daniel Radcliffe, the actor, but the book series.

In 1997, a small publishing company took a chance on a book written by J.K. Rowling.  20 years later, teachers credit her with boosting literacy rates and for creating readers who otherwise would have never picked up a book.

Summer makes more time for reading, or at least makes us hope for “beach reads”.

Here are a few proven true favorites for you and your little one.

 

And if no one can sit still, get outside!  Take a walk around the block, or even your yard.  Search for things you might not have seen before!  Every summer day does not have to be filled with day trips, museums, play dates, and swim class.  Take in your surroundings right outside the door.

Now, let’s play!

 

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!