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!

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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!

Happy Emoji Day!

A lot has happened since last World Emoji Day, including the fact that Americans may be a little happier this year. In 2016, the top Twitter emoji in the U.S. was this angsty, weary dude: 😩. This year? The rolling-on-the-floor emoji is the winner with American Facebook users (🤣).

It seems like EVERYONE uses emojis from your mom to the President.

And some people just have a lot of time on their hands.

Emojis help to illustrate feelings.  But sometimes they can cause confusion, and possibly do more harm than help.

The same goes for teaching emotions to your kids.  Don’t cover up their feelings by ignoring them.

When your child gets excited over knocking blocks down you probably clap your hands with him, smile, and say something like “Do you like that?  Let’s do it again!”  But when your child is upset that he has to leave the playground you probably strap him in the stroller and roll out so the other mom’s don’t have to hear another toddler meltdown.

You teach your baby to say “Mama” or “Dada” by saying the word over and over and over again, you can teach happy, mad, sad, frustrated, jealous, surprised, confused and more.  When your newborn, baby, toddler, child, husband is reacting and expressing emotions, label the emotion, and talk about it.  Just as when you are teaching the word “Bye Bye”, the more you say it, the more your child will use the word, and understand it.

No, this is not a cure all to tantrums, but it helps a child understand their emotions.  When a child meltdowns because there are no more crackers, he is literally breaking down because he doesn’t understand why there are no more crackers in the bowl.  When leaving the park, “WHAT????”

Before an upsetting situation occurs, prepare and practice.  We can do two more slides and the swings, then when the swings are done we are going home for lunch/nap/books/help make dinner/wait for Daddy.  In the end, give them something to look forward to, not a prize or bribe.

This will not cure a tantrum/meltdown every time.  But over time, this set up can help children deal with emotions, understand a schedule, follow directions, and be responsible for their actions, leading to shorter, smaller meltdowns.

Prepare – We can do x,y,z, then we have to go home.  Give a short list of things that the child can do before the fun activity is done.  After each activity, repeat.
1.We can go down the slide two more times.
2. One more slide then we are going to the swings, then after the swing, we go home.
3. Slide is all done, let’s go to the swing, then we will head home to make dinner.
4. Swings are fun!  Let’s do ten pushes then we will go home and you can help me make dinner.
5. 10,9,8,7,6,5 more swings, then home to help Mommy with dinner, you can help mash the potatoes!
6. Two more pushes, then time to go home and help with dinner.  We have to mash the potatoes and set the table.
7.  Swing is all done.  Time to go home, we will make dinner then soon Daddy will be home!

Set your child up for success, not failure.  If you were in the middle of drinking your morning coffee, and I walked up to you and took it away, how would you feel/react? Exactly.

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Now, let’s play!

“Different, not less.”

Temple Grandin is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, and autism spokesperson.  She is one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism.  If you have not yet seen the movie depicting her life growing up with autism, starring Claire Danes, I urge you to do so.

Bucket fillers, Model Citizens, Random acts of Kindness, If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Phrases a lot of people grow up with.  Wondering how to instill qualities to create well rounded citizens?  Here are some tips to teach gratitude, kindness and acceptance starting at any age.

Spend time as a family. Create and strengthen relationships by spending time together.  All ages crave attention.  Put the phone out of reach, turn of the tv, and play.  When children experience love, they are more likely to pass it on.

Exposure to various cultures and people.  Read books that feature cultures and holidays other than your own. Get involved in your community.  Volunteer!

Model. Model. Model. Your little ones are always watching you.  Even when they are not looking at you, they are watching you.  With their ears, bodies, and minds.  And they will mimic your every move.  So be the person you want your daughter to be.  And create a world you want your son to be a part of.

Different, not less.  Don’t be afraid to explain to children why someone looks or sounds different.  And that they are still the same on the inside.  That they can still walk, talk, and play but may do so in a different way.

Development. When babies thrive, we all benefit. Giving babies a strong start in life increases graduation rates, improves the quality of the workforce, improves health, and reduces crime.  Investing in babies’ brain development is one of the most important things we can do to raise healthy, well-rounded adults.  Play is the fundamental building block to learning.  Play is their work.  Play is how babies learn.  By stimulating baby’s senses through play, we can foster strong relationships with caregivers, influential experiences, more restful sleep, and an overall happier baby.  Children who are healthy—socially, emotionally, and physically—have a greater chance of becoming economically productive and engaged citizens.