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!

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.

 

Make time for books

Read to your child.  That’s it.  Reading is beneficial to children’s development.  Research shows that reading builds a love of reading, increases literacy skills later on, and develops positive relationships with caregivers.

When should I start reading to my child?
Today.  It is never too early to read to a child.  3 days or 3 months.  Children are constantly absorbing language.  That’s why when your child does begin to talk, the words will come out like the flood gates are opening.  A trickle at first, then full blown word flood.  Children hear anywhere from 13-45 MILLION words in the first four years, depending on how much parents talk and read to them.

As a newborn, have someone read while you feed the baby. Chapter books are great for newborns.   When you are making dinner and your baby is sitting happily in a bouncy seat, or wrapped up in a carrier, read your dinner recipe aloud.  Anything to hear words.

As baby grows and you develop a bedtime routine, take 5-10 minutes to look at books together.  Before or after bath to help wind down is a great time.  Maybe after breakfast or lunch place a book on their highchair tray while you clean up the dishes.  If your child is at the age (6-12 months) where everything goes in their mouth, provide sturdy board books or cloth books.  The idea is, allow children to explore books at their level.  If chewing on one book while you read another is where he is, let him go.  You don’t want to create a negative experience of books by saying “No” throughout story time.

As baby grows and starts moving, some children have a hard time sitting still for a book.  The key is, keep reading.  Allow baby to stand up, move around and explore the room, but you keep reading.  You are continuing the routine of story time (no matter what time of day).  And, he is still absorbing your words, and will ultimately come back for his favorite part of the book, or to look at a picture you point out.

When buying or borrowing books, the key is to find books that are simple. Look for books with one or all of the following:

  • few words to a page
  • simple, solid color pictures
  • repetative phrases
  • touch and feel
  • lift the flap
  • action words

Here, are some favorite books!

 

Sharing is Caring.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday.

Be kind.
Share.
Take turns.
Say thank you.

Simple rules children are taught.  Some adults even need a refresher.  Regardless, it can be difficult at a play group, birthday party, or at the library, for a child to understand sharing.  As always, one of the best ways to teach a child something is to model it yourself.  Be the person you want your son or daughter to be.

The thing is, it can be hard to teach sharing “in the moment”.  At a play date, and your daughter won’t give up the teacup, even though she is playing with a puzzle.  Or your son rips the cowboy vest out of someone’s hands.  You can surely explain, its Mikey’s turn with the toy and your child will begin pouting, but that’s okay because you want them to understand everyone has to have a turn.  But before you get to that play date, let’s work on some play share techniques at home.

Play that involves structured turn taking is a great way to model sharing.   Rolling a ball back and forth, feeding a baby doll, holding the teddy, playing with the pretend hammer, mixing in the play kitchen.  Almost everything you do, you can create a time to model sharing.

Proudly announce “My turn!” and pat your chest with your hand, then take a turn with the ball.  You can quickly whisk away the ball from your child before he has time to react and roll it across the room.  “Your turn!” and motion for your child to go get the ball.  By acting quickly, and not lingering on the  “Can mommy have a turn?”/puppy dog eyes, your child should barely blink over the fact that he no longer has the ball.  If you ask your child if you can have a turn, chances are, he’s going to say “No.”  Continue this game back and forth a few times.  Eventually when you say “My turn!” your child will hand the ball over with a smile.  As long as he knows he is going to get it back.

A group setting, family game night perhaps, its great to use everyone’s name, “Daddy’s turn”  “Sally’s turn” “Johnny’s turn”  Your child may even enjoy playing the helper who gives the toy to whoever’s turn it is.

When your child shares, or relinquishes a favorite toy, praise them!  They love it!  “Great job Nora, you shared the red block with Owen.  What a good friend.”  A hug will top it off.

If you are in a social setting and you can see tension rising over a toy, intervene.  “Remember when Mommy and you shared the ball at home?  First it was Mommy’s turn, then Billy’s turn, then Mommy’s turn, then Billy’s turn. Now it is Sammy’s turn and then it will be Billy’s turn!”

As children get older, help them work it out themselves.
“If you want the football, ask John if he wants to have a catch?”
or “Play with the blocks until he is finished with the football.”

Now, go play.  And teach your children the importance of sharing, kindness, and compassion.

 

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Timely Meltdowns

When you are making dinner, the half hour before bedtime, noon, 9 am, when you are trying to leave the house, you always know its coming.  That specific time of day when your infant or toddler just…can’t…keep…it…together.  And you are about to lose it too.

As newborns, sorry but it’s inevitable and there’s not much you can do.  Hang in there.  They grow up so fast.

For older babies and toddlers there are some ways to help keep the sanity in your house.  Whenever that special time of the day is, have a tool kit handy.

Pre-dinner meltdown?
Supply your mini monster with a lunch box of healthy snacks.  Carrot sticks, hummus, fruit, milk.  As long as it’s healthy, don’t worry about them filling up before dinner.  If your child isn’t at solids yet, give them the same lunch box with some empty containers and fun utensils (think spaghetti spoon, tongs, wooden spoon).

Before Bed Breakdown?
Chances are, everyone is tired.  Try a game that involves the whole family.  Through your newborn in a sling or take turns cradling while you follow a youtube video to learn a new dance, and laugh with each other through the process.  Snowball toss into a laundry basket using crumpled up junk mail (let the kids crumple the paper!), or make a ramp with an old cardbox (we all know you have an Amazon Prime box somewhere) for matchbox car races.

Out the door and out of your mind?
Outline a steering wheel on a paper plate and write your child’s name on the plate.  Keep it by the door with a set of toy keys so he can take his steering wheel and “drive” it around the house while you look for YOUR keys.

The “key” to all of these is to keep specific activities sacred to certain times of the day.  This way, your child will look forward to playing at this time or it will seem like a brand new toy.  When children have the same toys out all the time, they get boring.  Old news.  Another reason to rotate toys.  More on that coming soon.

Hang in there!  Bedtime will happen.  Then have a glass of wine, a cup of tea, or just go to bed.  You deserve it!

 

What do you want?

How many times have you asked your toddler this question?

What about your 6 month old?
It may seem silly giving babies and toddlers choices, it’s not like they are able to make a logical decision at this time. However, you can still ask baby for her input without severely affecting any major outcomes. (Don’t ask your baby if she would rather have paint or carrots for dinner.)

The next time you are playing with your baby, offer two choices.  Hold the toys at his eye level, about a foot apart.  Ask “Do you want the red ball or the shaker?”  Give each toy a little jiggle as you name them so he can look at each separately.  Judge by eye gaze, facial expressions, body movements (reaching), or vocalizations.  You might have to review the choices a few times, but note his movements during each presentation.  And be sure to pause a few seconds in between each toy so his little brain waves have time to connect. “Oh, that toy is fun.  I think I want that.  I want to hold it.  I want that toy!”

If your baby is mobile and is able to easily access her toys independently, think about putting some out of reach, either in a large toy box, or up on a shelf.  This way, she will have to get your attention.  Here, she is learning to initiate communication.  You can then still provide her with two choices, even if you know exactly what she wants.

When you respect your child’s wishes you are helping her realize language is a positive, helpful tool.  “Oh! When I reach for the cup, mom gives it to me!” When you disregard their choices, they can feel frustrated, belittled, and a tantrum can arise.

On another, similar note, don’t ask your baby, toddler, 7 year old, 16 year old, a question you don’t want an answer to. i.e.:
“Are you ready to get out of the tub?” “No?” “Well you have to anyway”
“Can you clean your room for me? “No?” “Well, you have to.”

Either tell them what is going to happen, or respect their wishes! i.e.:
“Time to get out of the tub, would you like to read a book or play with a puzzle when you dry off?”
“Let’s put your clothes in your room away and then we can finger paint at the kitchen table.”

Think about it, what if I said to you:
“Would you like some pizza? Oh well, I don’t have any.  Here’s a potato.”

or

“Do you want me to do the dishes while you watch TV?” –doesn’t wash dishes–
I would throw a tantrum too.

These are a few of my favorite things…

Apps, activity gyms, electronic toys, busy gyms, e-books, the list goes on.  There are millions of toys available to kids today.  The problem is a lot of these toys can be overwhelming with multiple buttons, flashing lights, music, sound effects, doors that open, or maybe all of the above.  Even more unfortunate, some families can not afford toys at all.  In my experience I have played with A LOT of toys.  And, I have played with a lot of things that are not toys, but instead, stuff I’ve found in my kitchen cabinets.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the essential toys and non toys for ages 0-3.

  1.  Books.  Books. and More books.  Reading is essential to development in so many ways.  Cognitive, communication, social emotional.  And most of all, reading with your child is you spending time with your child and doing nothing else.  For babies 0-12months use board books with bright colors, lift-the-flaps, or touch and feel books.
  2. Containers and utensils.  When you buy those baby safe lock kits, leave one cabinet unlocked, your container cabinet.  This way, baby has a safe place to play and they won’t feel locked out of everything.  They like putting things in other things, pretending to mix, and just making noise by banging.  Your kitchen cabinets are ideal for this.
  3. Toy Phone.  Whether it be a store bought Barbie phone, an old cell phone, or the handle to a paper grocer bag (yup), any toy phone is a great toy to have in your house.  Pretending, practicing hello/good bye, “calling” family members/animals, etc.
  4. Fresh Air!  I once read an article where a mom vowed to go outside with her kids every single day for one year.  No matter the weather.  Just take a step outside for a few short breaths.  Really short if its a blizzard.  Children can receive so much sensory input in just a few minutes outside.  Of course, they will most likely want to stay out longer than just a few minutes.  So crunch through some leaves.  Pick up stick.  Touch a tree.  Smell pine needles.  Say hi to a neighbor.  Wave to a car.
  5. Photographs.  Children love looking at pictures.  Whether you have a tin of random photos on your coffee table, or you make them their own photo album.  This one is really cute but you can also make your own with a binder ring and a hole punch.  Make one of just baby, or use family members and pets.  Before you know it she will be waving, saying hello, and pointing out who’s who.

I could go on and on with my favorite toys and items for babies.  In the future, look for my “Christmas List”, items that make great gifts for babies of specific ages.

Now, go play!

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