Who are the people in your neighborhood?

That you see and you greet each day.

One way to encourage your child’s development is to get out in the world.  By interacting with others, your child will observe how relationships work.  How to shake hands, how to say hello, how to be polite, how to make friends, how to end a conversation when someone is talking too much.  When you provide your child with different experiences he learns.  He takes it all in.  And when he’s ready, he will participate in those social experiences just like he learned.  From you.  So, the next time you are in line at the register, be kind to the grumpy teenager ringing you up, hold the door for someone, smile, say ‘Good Morning’.

And the morale of the story, greet everyone you see.  Be kind to others.  Be the person you want your child to be.  As mentioned, she is watching you.  ALWAYS.  And as she begins talking and imitating, you know just where her material will come from.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day.   If nothing else, celebrate by greeting someone.  You could also make these peace signs.

Now, go play!

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Don’t forget to pretend.

It’s January.  The batteries are fresh and the volume is up.  Sometimes it can be hard to find something in the toy aisle at Target that doesn’t involve a blue tooth or laser beam.  As mentioned in a past post, when shopping for toys, whether it be for your own child or someone else’s (parents will thank you!), look for toys that involve the imagination. You’d be surprised when a child doesn’t know how to push a car around the kitchen floor because he is fixated on pushing the buttons that make siren noises and lights flash.   Pretend play is a crucial part of childhood.  It’s when a child practices fine motor skills as he pours invisible coffee into a cup, when she develops her communication as she talks to her stuffed animals, when he practices his balance while pushing a shopping cart around the kitchen, pulling items out of your pantry.  Pretend play encourages exploration and problem solving, strengthens memory skills, creates expectations to learn from.

You would be surprised what a child can do with an empty box, a few plastic cups, or a piece of tinfoil.  The next time you give your child something new, whether it is a toy or something you came across in the junk drawer, give it to them without saying a word.  Well, build it up with “ooohs and aaaahs” but then, let it go.  See where it goes.  And play along!  Blocks don’t have to be stacked and spoons don’t have to be just for stirring.  By allowing your child to play in their own way, you are strengthening their imagination and their self esteem, which in turn will lengthen the time they can play on their own!  Hellooo coffee time!

What is your child’s favorite non-toy item?  Pots and pans? Pinecones? The dog leash?

Now, go play!  And don’t forget to pretend.

Tricks and Treats and Tips

If you are afraid your child will be afraid of costumes and strangers, and strangers in costumes, (they should be!), practice at home before Halloween festivities.

  • Play dress up in front of a mirror.  Use old Halloween costumes, or just hats and clothes in your closet.  Let your little one see you put on a mask and take it off. (It doesn’t have to be scary!)  Just so they know it’s still you under there.

 

  • Visit a Halloween store and point out all the costumes.  Use phrases such as “Wow!  Look out tall that skeleton is!”  “That witch is wearing a hat!”  “That’s a silly werewolf, does he look like —–‘s dog?”  What does a dog say?  This dog howls!”

 

  • Walk around your neighborhood and count the pumpkin decorations.

 

Need more fun?  Here is a recipe for Moon Dough.  It’s similar to play dough but softer.  Its crumbly but will hold a shape, sort of like a snowball.

Okay to Eat Cinnamon Moon Dough.
Serve in a pie pan with utensils for an invitation to play!

You will need:
4 cups Plain Flour
1/2 cup Olive or Vegetable Oil
Ground Cinnamon

First put your 4 cups of flour into a large bowl, then make a hole in the center and pour your half cup of oil right into the center. Mix together with a whisk or your hands (have your little one help!).  You’ll notice that the mixture is starting to form a crumbly texture. When you mold it together it will form a shape, and when you crumble it back down it returns to a dusty or floury texture. It takes only a couple of minutes to mix together. Add a pinch of cinnamon powder. Mix thoroughly into your moon dough and it is ready for play!

 

Now, go play!

A little R&R time

Responsibility and respect, that is.

When a child is old enough to follow a chore chart you can put your feet up at time and watch someone else do the dishes for a change.  But, to get to that point, first one must learn the importance of cleaning up and following directions.  By starting at a young age, a child is able to grow up learning what is important in your family.

Following directions
It’s easy to watch your family room turn into a toy store.  Babies and toddlers easily move from one toy to another without blinking.  Their attention span seems like that of a fly.  And before bed it can look like an actual tornado went through your house.   It’s not necessary to expect a 13 month old to pick up all of the toys, that’s mostly your job.  But, asking him to do just 3, 5, or 10 depending on the age is not much.  And when you are providing the example, he will be more likely to follow along.

  • Have her doll baby “help”.
  • Push a laundry basket or toy bin around the room as a bus picking up its “passengers”.
  • Fly her around the room, pausing to pick up a toy here and there.
  • “We’re all done cleaning up, big hugs/high five!  Now, let’s go get a bath/read a book/get our shoes on.”

Of course, at times there will be defiance, but as with everything, hold your ground and be persistent.   Don’t let her sneak away some nights and expect it another night.  Babies and toddlers need consistency.

Hello, Bye-Bye, Please and Thank You
Is there something your child does that he picked up on without you teaching him?  Maybe he pretends to put on your shoes at the door? Or holds a pretend phone to his ear and says “Hello?”  Has he repeated the one word you hoped he didn’t pick up on when someone cut your car off?
Raising tiny humans is hard, but it can be easier if you are providing the correct model.  YOU.  If you want your child to use manners, speak highly of others, not to tease or yell than guess what…you should be doing the same.  Be the person you want your child to be.  We know they mimic everything their parents do from pretend mixing a bowl to facial expressions and conversations.
Teaching respect and social cues is harder than following directions.  You can’t make a 9 month old say “Thank you”.  When opportunities arise, be the model and help your child observe what is expected.  Make it known it’s not all about them, but involving others too.

  • Leaving the grocery store, “Say Bye Bye!” While you are waving, hopefully the cashier is nice enough to play along.
  • At the playground, “Let’s watch the little girl go down the slide, here she comes!  Wee! Now it’s your turn!”
  • Getting a sticker after gym class?  Point out how cool the sticker/prize is to make an excited/happy feeling in your child. “Look at Miss Sarah and say thank you for the sticker,  Thank you!”  Try to get your child to look at the opposite person, any eye contact or a shy smile provides the same as a verbal “Thank You”.
  • As with any social interaction, think of yourself, how are you responding and interacting with others?  Your child is present for all of it, so treat others as you want your child to!

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!

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!