Thursday, December 29, 2011

Potty Training, Take 1

Potty training is one of those huge milestones that every mother looks forward to, but at the same time also dreads.  I know I am not looking forward to it.  Yes, diapers are not fun, but neither is leaving your house with your child wondering if they are going to have an accident at any minute, running to find the nearest public bathroom only to have them touch every germy thing in site. "Agh, don't touch that toilet seat!"

And since I have not even begun with my 19 month old child yet, I know it will be an ongoing issue that I'm sure I will be re-addressing again and again.  This is why this post is a 'Take 1' because there will without a doubt be a 'Take 2' blog post coming soon!

As moms, we all wonder: "What age should I start potty training?",  "What method do I choose?"  "Do I use the reward system with M and M's?" and gender issues such as "do I teach my little boy to potty standing up or sitting down?"

As moms we want our children to be done with the diapers for ease, cost and to move on to the next developmental milestone.  But also because preschools out there are requiring a child to be potty trained before they can enter their program.  So moms frantically run to the book store to find the best method, only to find over a hundred different books (parenting and children's) on the topic and no idea which one is the best.

As a counselor, the only thing I have ever recommended to my clients on the topic is this: Don't start them too early! They will tell you when they are ready and do not push them into it a day sooner.

Yes, there are those stories you hear of 18-month old children potty training completely.  Or those children who were trained in 1 day.  Or you hear moms tell you to try cloth diapers because children feel how wet they are more than disposable ones and will want to be trained sooner.  Well, my child is in cloth diapers and I am here to tell you she is not potty trained yet.  Yes, she knows when she has sometimes gone, but she is no where near ready to be diaper free!

As far as age goes, most recommend starting girls around 2.5 years and boys around age 3.  But these are averages.  Some before and some later.  But most are trained and dry-free around these times.  If your child is developmentally delayed in any way (speech, motor, physical, social) then it may take longer.

What's so bad about starting a little sooner?

Well, for one you will be met with a lot of resentment :)  I've heard one too many stories of stubborn toddlers not wanting to comply at first and then it is a huge uphill battle from then on.  It can backfire like no tomorrow.  They refuse and then you don't have a fully trained child until age 4 or 5.

Another problem with starting too early comes from the old Dr. Freud term 'anal retentive'?  Yep, it came from potty training and even though this doctor is ancient in his ways, it still holds a lot of truth.  Maybe they won't all end up with Obsessive Compulsive personalities but children forced to train too early know that their only power at times is not going to the bathroom (second to refusing to eat food).  They have little control over their lives, but gosh darn it, they can still refuse to poop if they don't want to.  Holding it in and then getting constipated and ending up at the doctors office.  Not fun for mom or child :)

One other thing to be cautious of is that some children develop fears of going to the bathroom.  Fears of pooping scare them.  Some also become afraid that they will fall into the toilet so they avoid using the grown up potty.

Also, remember that when you start training, any big things going on at home such as the birth of a new sibling or a move to a new house can cause set backs.  If you start training your child and then have a huge new event in their lives, they will regress and forget everything they learned. I've heard this happen a lot (and not just potty training regressing but they can revert back to thumb sucking and pacifiers).

Case in point, it happened to one little girl I used to nanny for.  Her mom wanted her trained before the next sibling was born, and who can blame her?  So she bought the training in One Day book and it was a success at age 2!  She was happily trained, but then her baby sister come home from the hospital a few weeks later, and back to diapers she went.  It took another 6 months before she was fully trained again.

Okay, now that I've had my soap box, what method do you choose as a parent?

Well, I am not an expert in the matter, but I know that most methods generally fall under 3 categories: The one day method, the wait until the time is right method and the 'let them run around bare a few weeks until they get it method.'  I personally think that you should go with whatever method fits you and your child.  As long as it works and it doesn't put too much pressure on the little tot.

Method # 1) The One-Day Method

This book was written a long time ago, so it may be a little out dated but there are lots of parents who still swear by it and other books by the title exist as well.  It involves getting a doll that wets to teach your child how to go, as well as giving treats.  I've heard mixed reviews but would definitely read the ones on Amazon first to see if it's worth it to you.

Method # 2) The most common method in North America is 'Wait Until The Time is Right' and the main book on the topic is by Dr. Brazelton (he wrote the famous Touchpoints book).

This method (and this book in particular), stresses that age is not the deciding factor, but developmental readiness.  It also has a checklist to go by so it takes out the guesswork of wondering if your child is ready or not.  It is a slower approach and uses a calm, empathic manner with your child. It also has gender specific issues like should your little boy learn to sit down to urinate or stand?

Method # 3) Going Diaper Free

This is one of the newer methods that is a variation to the old 1970's approaches from the first method of training in one day.  It basically involves having your child be diaper free while at home, watching and waiting for your child to show the need to go.  Once they act like they need to go, you whisk them to the potty and praise them for going.  To read more about it, Baby Center has a great article about it here.

Okay, so I think that about sums it up.  Any one out there have great advice on the topic???  There are also a lot of great children's books out there and videos that will have to be in another post.  For now, here's a starter that I bought as a joke in college but believe it or not, it's one of my daughter's favorite books to read! Everyone Poops (My Body Science Series)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Special Needs Toys

I came across a really great review of toys for Special Needs kids on the Time To Play Mag website today.  I know, Christmas is only 4 days away (and Hanukkah is going on as we speak) so not a whole lot of time to shop for these.  But they are great ideas for future gifts, birthday party gifts and for those times when you just want to give because you're feeling giving :)

They are great for those with decreased motor skills, sensory integration disorders, pervasive developmental disorders (Autism, Aspergers, PDD NOS), and other special need little ones.





Sunday, December 18, 2011

Identifying Feelings

With Christmas around the corner, it's not too late to get your little one a last minute gift- a feelings gift that is.  I know, I know, I posted my favorite feelings gift idea last year, but my child has finally reached the age where tracking feelings is actually something she is acknowledging now and it's so exciting to start teaching her all about them!


How do you start with the whole 'identifying feelings' lesson? Let's start with a feelings lesson first and then talk about how to teach them with toys.

In teaching your child feelings, you can start at any age, even if your child is 10, it's not too late.  I started with my child around 6 months of age, but it was here and there.  Now that my child is 19 months old, she is really starting to understand them!

My first 'ah-ha' feeling moment with my child was during her bath time the other night.  She had learned how to take her bath toy, and put it under water and then squirt the water out of it's mouth when she squeezed it.  She was giggling so hard at her new found skill!  So I tracked her feeling, "you are sooo happy, you are laughing out loud!"

And that my friends is how you track feelings. See how easy that was?

As a goal during graduate school training, my professors taught us to track a feeling at least every 5 minutes in our 45 minute sessions.  So in normal every day life, it's become an easy habit of mine to use with children and it actually is one of the easiest techniques to learn as a parent too.  It's so easy because you're not having to come up with good response to their questions, sum up their play, make statements to increase their self esteem, set a limit, etc.  You are basically stating what feeling you see. And that's it!

Here is the step by step guide on how to do it:

-Observe your child in their everyday routine such as: play, doing homework, interacting with their friends or siblings

-State exactly what you see them doing and name the feeling you see

-No need to explain, or go into detail about how you came up with the idea.  Just state what you see.

-If your child is young and is not sure what a feeling means, you can go ahead and teach them what it means. I'll give you some examples below.

-If your child is older, they may challenge you and say you are wrong about the feeling. If that happens, go ahead and admit you were wrong and state the feeling they said they were feeling.  When children do this, it shows feelings are personal and sometimes people get them wrong, plus it starts them getting to identify their own feelings!

*Remember that in teaching feelings, to make sure they get the message that it's okay to feel all feelings (even anger and sadness).  What is not okay is the behavior that can come with them such as aggressiveness, etc.

Here are some examples:

"You just threw your toy on the floor.  It looks like you are feeling mad right now."

"I see a smile on your face, you are feeling really happy!"

"When you jump up and down and laugh, it shows how excited you are"

For a young child in teaching them about them: "You are crying because your dropped your toy and it broke and you feel sad now.  Sad is a feeling we feel when we cry or when things break, and we are not feeling happy."

A great way to start teaching your children about feelings are the Kimochi dolls.  We have the cloud and the ladybug.  But they have several others to choose from that can represent different feelings. They each come with a little feeling doll that has a picture of the feeling face as well as the word on the back of it.

The ladybug doesn't like change and comes with the feelings: Happy, Brave and Left Out.  The cloud has a head that spins around where one side is smiling and the other is frowning and comes with happy, mad and sad. The huggtopus is an octopus that teaches boundaries and comes with frustrated, happy and silly.  The cat deals with negative feelings (cat fights) and comes with happy, cranky and curious as well as bandages to heal hurt feelings.  You can also buy a bag of extra feelings to use with your stuffed kimochi.

There are a ton of ways to use the kimochis in play. The toys come with a 48 page book on all the different ways to use them with your child.  If you're deciding on which one to buy, I would start with the Cloud first as it's pretty neutral and cute.  You can show children the feelings it comes with, discuss what they mean and how some people stuff feelings inside and don't let them out, while you physically put them in the Cloud's pocket.

In using the Kimochi, with older kids you can ask them to role play situations with each feeling, put on a puppet show, etc.  With younger kids, you can ask them each day to show on the Cloud what feeling they are feeling now, show them how moods change by moving its head around to show the different faces.  With little tots who are not as verbal, you can ask them to show you how they are feeling at the moment since it has the expression on each feeling doll.

I am so excited to start using this with my little girl!

Here are some of my other favorite feelings toys/books:
This feelings chart Mood Swings (amazon) is a flip chart where you can ask your child to choose how they are feeling that day.  I love having it set out on my desk at home:

My favorite feelings story is Today I Feel Silly (amazon) . It's a cute story of a little girl (but little boys will also enjoy this book), and each page shows all the different moods she feels. The last page has a picture of her face and a scrolling wheel that changes her facial expressions.

There is also a book called The Feelings Book which is a cute board book with funny faces and silly situations like "I feel silly and want to eat pizza" kind of pages. It's more for younger kids and is a fun way to introduce feelings.

This last feelings toy is an old game for older kids called The Ungame (amazon) where the playing cards have questions about feelings, life situations and family issues:

Another great resource for books and materials is on  They have a lot of books on individual feelings if you are needing something specific for your child.

Let me know any ideas of how you've been teaching your littles about feelings.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Toddlers love transitional objects, pacifiers, blankets, stuffed animals, or even something like a wooden spoon.  Transitional objects are otherwise known as 'lovies', 'blankies' or my favorite term for them from the movie Mr. Mom, 'woobies.'  I think this stage of loving on an object is adorable.  Now, I know some of you out there may think they are not so cute when your child demands them 24/7 and will not leave the house without it and if they leave it somewhere, screams bloody murder until you drive all over town to get it.

But they are great soothers.  They may not go to bed without it, and may need it to soothe them when they are upset or when their mommy and daddy are not around and they need something to comfort them.

Toddlers and children need that little object to get them through the rough spots.  And I personally think they are great ways to help them soothe themselves.  After all, it's not that different from adults needing a cigarette or biting their nails when they get stressed.  Or, how about the soothing feeling we get from a warm cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) every morning or relaxing with a glass of wine after a long day.  Or for me, a nice spa pedicure!  We all have self-soothing objects or rituals that help us cope, just like our toddlers and children do too.

My child currently loves her little blankets which she carries around with her everywhere.  And when we are reading her stories before bedtime, the minute she gets her little blankie in her hands, she rubs it over her face and is already half asleep.  I swear they are like magic in getting her ready for bed!  I have tried to get her to love on a stuffed animal so I gave her my old one, and I am of course convinced she loves it as much as I did, but so far not so much. She hugs on it, but doesn't notice when it's gone.  We're working on it :)

And what about the dreaded paci's?  We have limited our child with having it only during sleep, or when she is upset from getting hurt, or the occasional card ride where she won't stop crying and it's the only thing that will calm her down.  Our pediatrician said they are okay to have until around age 2, then to start weaning her from it.  I guess we may have to go the Paci Fairy route when the time comes :)

And since it's the holiday season, what better time than to search online to find some great lovie objects for your little one:

Bernhardt Bears: (White, pink and blue options, 27.99$ on Amazon):

North American Bear has some really cute options for Lovies with 20 different animal choices such as dogs, monkeys and elephants (11.99$ at Amazon):

Or if your child is into soft minkie fabric blankets, here is one by Swaddle Designs (17.83$):

And if your child is like me and a stuffed animal lover, here is a super soft Gund animal (Amazon 10.99$):

How about your kids, what object is your child attached to??
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Testing Limits

Lately my little Toddler has been testing limits with me big time.  Every time she does it, I am reminded by the lesson my old grad school professors taught me:

"Children will test more limits (aka 'act out') with their parents more than with anyone else"


Because they feel safest with their parents to test limits.

I remember back during my days as a babysitter, the parents would come home from their nice evening out and hear how wonderful their children behaved and wonder how on earth their holy terrors did not fight with each other or have a major meltdown.  They would complain to me all the time how perfect their little ones were with me or their grandparents, but when they were with them, they were constantly arguing, bickering and throwing tantrums left and right.

I was always explaining that kids act out more around their parents because they felt safer to do so, and they would get this look on their faces like, "oh, well, that's nice but it still makes it hard to deal with EVERY day."

My child will have her mini meltdowns with me but when I leave her with family, they tell me she was just perfect. Hmm.  Sounds familiar.  And I am crossing my fingers that when my child starts smiling and tries to bite me when she doesn't get what she wants, that she only does that with me and doesn't attempt it at her Mother's Day Out.  So far, no reports of biting, so it makes me think she is seriously testing the limits with me.

And to top it all off, tonight during my counseling group session with my 4-7 year olds, they were testing limits with me all over the place. I was having to set some 'final limits' too which I never have to do.

Things like, "if you choose to paint on the floor again, then you choose to put the paints up for the rest of the day."  And the little girl looks at me, smiles and starts painting on the floor as she watches me, just to see what I would do. Nice, huh? I set the final limit and I had to take the paints away from her.

Let's just say she was not happy, but I went home realizing that the playroom is normally a safe place for these kids to play.  Play therapists set very little rules in the playrooms, which allows children to freely express themselves as much as possible.  Just a few rules to protect them from getting hurt or hurting the toys like throwing them against the wall, etc.

So I realized that after a few weeks of the children being shy as the new ones in group, they are now starting to feel safe and test the limits.  It's hard constantly setting the limits, but I know I am teaching them appropriate boundaries and most importantly. I am following through and being consistent with them, which shows that a big grown-up adult cares!

What to do with your children at home?  Just keep setting limits as you have, follow through, be consistent and be grateful that they feel safe enough to test you.  After all, that is how children learn.  They have to learn right and wrong from us and what better teachers than their parents :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Family Dinner

Back in college, I was required to take a few sociology classes as a psych major, so I signed up for one that sounded interesting, 'The Family.'  And still to this day, whenever I hear about family issues, I think back to that class.  We learned about American families and the changes the 'family' has had over time like divorce, parenting changes, how families went from mostly one-income to two during women's lib, and the one change that stands out to me now, family dinners!  The American family is just not eating together as much as they used to.

Our professor's lecture on 'families eating dinner together' was engrained in me as a 19-year old and it has made me strive to follow her advice ever since!

A LOT of families do not eat together anymore with teens racing off to be with friends, dads getting home late from work and families that are just too busy to eat together.

But what exactly does it mean when a family eats dinner together? It sounds like no big deal, but the research I found supports what I learned in school and is super interesting (sources,, PBS, NPR and webmd):

-Families that eat dinner together have been found to lower their child/teens chance of smoking, doing drugs and drinking

-Children are less likely to be depressed, consider suicide, or develop an eating disorder

-Teens are less likely to engage in sex at an early age

-Children will eat more fruits and veggies when they eat with their family

-Children are less likely to be obese, because they are eating home cooked meals with smaller portions and lower in fat

There are a ton more benefits to eating dinner together as a family, but the ones above are the ones that really grabbed my attention.

How does eating together cause your child to have so many positive outcomes?  Here is some of the research I found:

Having a set time for dinner when the kids come home shows teens that they can depend on parents.  Eating dinner together sends a direct message telling teens that 'my parents love me and care about me.'

The teens who reported having frequent family dinners were also more likely to say they had excellent relationships with their mother, father and siblings.

Eating dinner together as a family helps a child just say NO! Eating family dinners at least five times a week drastically lowers a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs other than marijuana, three times more likely to have used marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times more likely to have tried alcohol, according to a CASA (Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) report.

When a child is feeling down or depressed, a family dinner can act as an intervention. This is especially true of eating disorders, says Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, who has studied the impact of family meal patterns on adolescents. She also reports that if a child eats with his or her parents on a regular basis, problems will be identified earlier on.

Of teens who eat with their family fewer than three times a week, 20% get C’s or lower on their report cards, according to a CASA report.  Family meals give children an opportunity to have conversations with adults, as well as to pick up on how adults are using words with each other, which may explain why family dinner time is also thought to build a child’s vocabulary.

Healthy Eating Benefits:

-9- to 14-year-olds who ate dinner with their families most frequently ate more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods.

-Family dinners are the perfect setting for kids to try new foods and learn from their parents eating them and to expand their tastes.

-Eating out together is better than not eating together, but eating meals at home helps control the portion sizes that restaurants have and lessen obesity in children

-The average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal.

-Americans spend more than 40% of their food budget on meals outside of the home.

-One study found that children who shared mealtimes at least three times per week were 24% more likely to eat healthy foods and have healthy eating habits than those who shared family meals less often.

So, how can you get started if you aren't having them regularly?

A good place to start is reading the amazing cookbook: The Family Dinner

The cookbook has great kid friendly family dinner recipes, conversation starter tips and advice from Maya Angelou to Jamie Oliver.  The author has summed up pretty well the benefits of family dinners: Research has proven that everything we worry about as parents—from drugs to alcohol, promiscuity, to obesity, academic achievement and just good old nutrition— can all be improved by the simple act of eating and talking together around the table.

It's also a good idea to start off with small goals, such as trying to plan 2-3 meals together a week, than starting right off with 5.  Your family will probably wonder why you went crazy all of a sudden and you'll probably be met with a lot of 'no way!'

Encourage your children to help plan and cook the meal, starting with the menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking and setting the table.  Remember too that the more responsibilities you give your kids, the more it helps to increase their self esteem.

Engaging your kids during dinnertime can be a challenge, but remember instead of always asking "how school was?", or "how was your day?", come up with more specific questions (positive and negative) such as "What was the worst thing that happened today?"

So, do any of you have good tips to help get families started or help engage children during dinner?

Saturday, November 26, 2011


At what point with your young child/baby/toddler, do you go from constant cuddles and on-demand care to setting limits and saying "no"?  That is a hard transition to make as you were told from the day your child was born to give your newborn whatever they desired.  So when do you stop?

If your baby was crying, you asked yourself if his diaper was dirty, or if he was tired, or hungry? Or was he crying because he was in pain from a diaper rash, acid reflux, gas or from being sick?  You were taught to do 'on-demand' feedings and to feed whenever she seemed hungry. Sometimes I used to nurse my baby every hour, every 30 minutes or every 2 hours during the day.

And you picked your baby up when they needed hugs and cuddles, were crying or seemed frustrated.

When they acted like they wanted a toy and made a grimace to give them something or 'turn-on' some electric toy, we gave in to appease them and make them happy, and we gave in because we were so happy they were learning something new!

Then when your child was more mobile and crawling or on the verge of walking and started tumbling, running into things and getting boo-boos, we picked them up and comforted their tears.

We still fed them immediately when they moved onto solid foods because we were desperately trying to get them to eat solid foods at any cost.  As they cried or used their sign language to show us they wanted to eat we would think, "What, you are hungry, of course you can eat something now!", and we gave in even though it was 15 minutes before their dinner time.

When they began taking steps, we let them run all over the house, as it was so amazing to us that they could walk and run.  When they started learning to climb, we clapped when they could climb up on the sofa, their chairs or a large toy.  We didn't say "no".

Soooo, when as a parent do you stop the on-demands and move into the "no, you can't"?

We go from yes, yes, yes, to no, no no:

"No, you can't have any more milk today" as you try to wean them from breastfeeding

"Sofas aren't for climbing on (no!)" as we try to teach them things are not for climbing on, because we know one day they will fall, or start to climb on other people's things like at Grandma's house

"I know you want a snack now, but dinner is in 15 minutes (no!)" as we tell a picky toddler eater who only eats ketchup anyway

We don't rush to pick them up for every little tiny bump on the floor because we want them to learn that A) we can't always be there to pick them up and B) sometimes you might trip and fall over a toy, and that's okay, you can get up and keep playing

So when do you stop going from on-demand to disciplining? Well, that is kind of a rhetorical question.

I know as a parent my job is to guide my child through life so she can one day be independent and on her own, making her own choices.  But I know it's hard as a parent going from constant hugs and snuggles to setting limits and saying "no" to things.  I miss those days of scooping up my little bundle of joy and taking away every ache and pain and fulfilling every need she presented.  But I know that putting tender loving care in my limit setting, creating boundaries, and being 'present' for your child is the best way to still be there for your little one at the same time you are helping them grow and live in this crazy world.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Black Friday Toy Deals

Amazon is having some great Black Friday online deals for toys that you won't want to miss.  I know a lot of other retail merchants are having some too, including Target opening at 12am Friday morning, or should I say Thursday night. Those poor employees having to go in Thanksgiving night, what are we coming to?  I signed the petition at to push back the opening time for employees to 5am instead of 11pm.  That way they can still spend some time with their families.

So, in place of retail shopping this upcoming weekend, I am advocating online purchasing, it's faster and way, way easier than fighting the holiday crowds.  I have posted just a few of the deals, but they are having a ton, so click the link see what toy deals Amazon has for Black Friday:  Shop Amazon's Toys - Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals Week

Here are just a few of the amazing deals they will have:     

LeapFrog Leapster 2: LeapFrog Leapster 2 Learning Game System - Pink

Was 69.99$ and will be marked down to 39.99$


The Fisher-Price iXL 6-in-1 Learning System , Fisher-Price iXL 6-in-1 Learning System (Blue)

Original: 82.99$ marked down to 49.99$


Tonka Tonka Race Along Chuck, Tonka Tonka Chuck Race Along Chuck

Original: 47.99$ marked down to 24.99$



The Fisher Price Deluxe Playcenter, Fisher Price Deluxe Playcenter

Original 71.99$ to 48.29$:

Happy shopping and let me know what good deals you find out there!
Thursday, November 17, 2011

Preschool Talk

I've been going on a few Preschool tours lately since I know pretty soon I will have to enroll my child in one. I've tried to listen in on how the teachers talk to the children and how they treat them, because after all, your child will be spending a long part of their days at school learning from these surrogate parents.  Preschoolers and toddlers are little sponges as parents know, soaking up new things every single day.  Researchers say that their little personalities are mostly formed by age 6, so I take that to mean that the first 6 years of their lives are super important!  They learn right from wrong, empathy, compassion, how to get along with others, etc. etc.  So with that in mind, we really need good role models and teachers to help during this critical time in their lives.

So as I have been listening to some of the teachers at these schools, let's just say I heard a few things that were not exactly child-centered. Now, I know that these teachers don't have to hold a masters degree in education, but I took classes as an undergrad in Child Development where we learned how to talk to children in a child-centered way and how to discipline them in a preschool setting (we took it a step further in grad school, but most of it is the same principal).

Associate degrees in child development teach the same things too.  And if the teachers don't have an associates, then at least teacher trainings should cover this too, right?  Get my drift?  It's something that most of these teachers should already know!  Aren't there training seminars at these schools on how to talk to children in a preschool setting? It shouldn't be THAT hard for these teachers to learn.

In my classes back in college, we learned things like when a child is standing up on a slide, instead of saying "Don't Stand Up on that!," to say, "We sit down on slides" or "slides are for sitting on."

Basically we learned to say, THIS is what you can do vs. DON'T and No!  To not start your sentence off with these negatives: "stop, don't, sit, no, etc."

And remember my post on being silly?  You can get a lot more cooperation from children when you are being silly.  Just another approach to working with kids.  Like when a child is upset because they want a toy and someone else is playing with it, you can talk in a silly voice and say, "Awh Mia, I can see how much you want to play with that toy and it's just so hard to wait your turn, if I could wave a magic wand and get one for you I would, but I think the tickle monster might get you first!" as you chase her around the room.

Besides an occasional punch thrown, or an intentional biter, what is the worst thing about kids in preschool?  So when I heard a teacher snap at a child, because their little rear end was not fully sitting on the floor during story time, was that a reason to snap "Sit down right now!" or "Stop that!?"  Yes, unfortunately those were commands I heard from a teacher while visiting.  And to me, that was a mild situation, mild.

Or hearing from another room, "No"...."No, I said no!, Stop it!"  I don't know what was going on behind closed doors, but really, what could cause those sharp commands? What if the child was standing up on a chair? Okay, then a calm little redirection is all that is needed, "that chair is for sitting on, they are not for standing on."  And then the teacher can redirect them to another toy or redirect them to a place where they ARE allowed to stand up.

Now I know there are more situations and problems that can go on in preschools, and it may not be an easy fix every time, but I'm telling you, the situations I saw were teeny tiny and not even worth all the fuss these teachers gave.

I don't want my child to be around such strict, mean talking militant teachers during the day.  Plus, is this how I want my child to learn how to resolve a conflict?

My little discoveries at these schools have my curiosities going! I was lucky enough to catch these mishaps during my visits.  Now I want to sneak in and walk the halls at other ones without a chaperon to see how much more I can hear. But I have a feeling they won't let me.  Maybe I can use the excuse to take my child to the bathroom and secretly go the long way so I can listen in on some of the rooms. Because I am sure that the directors give the teachers a heads up that morning, "We have some prospective parents coming in today, please put on your smiley faces, use your nicest voices and pretend your children are perfect little angels," :)
Monday, November 14, 2011

Top Ten Toddler Myths

A girlfriend of mine gave me the most hilarious book to read,The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers by Vicki Iovine. I read her book The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy, and laughed all the way through it, so I was super glad to hear she had written one about Toddlerhood.

Sorry to bore you moms out there with grade-schoolers reading this, but had to post some of the books laugh out loud hilarious tidbits that I've read so far.

I am still only on Chapter One, but her description of toddlers and how they evolved from infants cracked me up!:

"Mother Nature was so smart to give you your child in infant form first and give you a year to get to know your baby in a somewhat calm and orderly fashion before turning into toddlers. Sure she may have wreaked havoc with your sleep, nursed until you thought your breasts would fall off and she may have left you with 10 pounds you have no use for, but she probably cooperated most of the time. Not that toddlers aren't adorable, it's just hard to imagine devoting your life to a person who breaks your things, eats with her hands and hurls herself onto the floor if she doesn't get her way, if you aren't first hopelessly devoted to the little tyrant."

See what I mean? She captures the toddler stage so well.

And I love her Top Ten Toddler Myths:

10.  The smarter the baby, the earlier she learns to walk

9. If they can talk, they can be reasoned with

8. Toddlers can't wait to sleep in their own beds, especially if the sheets have race cars or Barbies on them

7.  Biters are the product of miserable parenting

6.  Boys and girls will play exactly alike if never exposed to gender specific toys like dolls and weapons

5.  Nature will ensure that toddlers are attracted to the food their growing bodies need

4.  Toddlers love newborns, especially new baby brothers or sisters, and can be counted on to treat them kindly

3.  Toddlers love animals, and can be counted to treat them kindly

2.  The difference between toddlers and babies is that toddlers are better at expressing their emotions

1.  Your mother really did have you fully potty trained at eighteen months

I can't wait to get in bed and start Chapter Two.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kid Kraft Pretend Play Kitchen Review

With Christmas/Hanukkah quickly approaching, several people have asked me for ideas on a good, large, pretend play gift item.  And of course my favorite pretend play item is the play kitchen. Yes, even if you have a boy.  He could be the next Emeril, Bobby Flay or Dean Fearing for you Dallas folks.  There are gender friendly colors widely available out there for them too, not just the pink ones :)

Of all the miniature play kitchens out there, so far my favorites are the Kid Kraft brand because they are pretty affordable and longer lasting.  Yes, there are a few nicer wooden ones out there, but they are way over the 200$ budget most families are wanting to spend. And I like this one better than the Step 2 plastic ones because they are more sturdy. I have had several of the plastic models in my play rooms for work, and they break very easily, not to mention that they are constantly falling over. The wooden feel of Kid Kraft makes it feel as much as the real thing as you can get too.

Now, I know you have seen the super cute vintage kitchens at Pottery Barn Kids and even Kid Kraft makes one too, and as much as they look cute to us adults, they don't look very real to our kids.  The 1950's refrigerator looks nothing like the ones built in 2011!  I'm not sure how much our modern day kids are going to be able to do much pretend play in them.  But they do get my vote on the cuteness factor.  If you do want to go this route, Target has the Kid Kraft one in pink for $99.99 and it also comes in red and white (keep in mind this one is also much shorter at 35 inches tall than the regular one discussed below at 43 inches):

My favorite gender neutral one by Kid Kraft is the Let's Cook Deluxe Kitchen and is on Amazon for 131$: Kidkraft Deluxe Let's Cook Kitchen pictured below. It comes with a full fridge that opens on the top for the freezer and the main fridge compartment.  The oven opens as well as the microwave and they both have see-through windows to "check on your food," too. The sink is also removable for easy clean up. There's also shelving above the sink for quick and easy storage.  This one is also much TALLER at 43 inches in height than the vintage one at 35 inches, so your child will still use it at age 4+:

See how real the burners and sink look:

And if you must have the girly version, they make a cute pastel colored one too:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Older Toddlers 18-24 months

Of course I still think of my little girl as a baby and not a toddler.  Even strangers still ask me how old my 'baby' is.  But I have come to accept she has grown, sigh, and she is in the middle toddler stage- that hard age where you have to watch them like a hawk and they are faster than ever. Not to mention super independent and easily frustrated.

Even though I know this is the hard age (between 18-24 months), I still had to get out my old grad school reading materials just to confirm it, so I don't think I'm going crazy.

It felt good to re-read some of these points and to definitely remember them these next few months:

-Language is hard for toddlers at this stage because their words are so limited.  Words can express parts of an experience but not the whole experience, so when a toy gets broken, words like 'sad' are not adequate enough and can't capture the toddler's intensity of their loss. At these times, a hug and holding your child can convey feelings much better than words.

-Understand that your toddler can't "sit still" for long periods and you need to gauge rest stops, breaks, and the need to switch to a new activity by your child's restlessness and agitation.

(Keep in mind that the attention span of a 4-5 year old is 10 minutes! So imagine that for a 1-2 year old, it's about 1-2 minutes) :)

-Remember that a child's frustration level peaks around 17-24 months of age!  They are trying to become increasingly independent at the same time they are trying to use new words, so their need to be willful may override their ability to communicate her needs or explain her behavior. How to best deal with this?  Patience and understanding and help them with their words.  For instance if they say "Bye Bye" ask them if they mean they want to go outside, or if they are wanting to move to a new activity.

-Introduce gradual transitions throughout the day so they do not feel rushed or interrupted. Give time limit warnings such as "in 5 minutes, we are going to go and take a bath."

-Keep in mind that when a toddler gets easily frustrated, that they also might need a change of play, such as going outside, runninh around a park, engaging in quiet/story time, or turning on a children's CD to sing songs, etc.

Keeping these little tips in mind helps me understand that all children have tough times and are easily frustrated and that hopefully soon, they will be able to express themselves better and their tolerance to frustration will increase.

I think having more patience is the key at this age too, but sometimes it's hard to have when we are rushed, or have a lot to do and get done in a short amount of time and our child is having a melt down.

We just have to remember that things will get done, and take the Scarlet O'Hara approach: "I'll just worry about that tomorrow (or another day)" :)