Monthly Archives: August 2014

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Five Tips for Fostering Early Learning in Your Tot

There’s no greater joy than seeing your child learn and master new skills. Playtime is how babies, toddlers and young children develop and learn, and experts agree it’s the early years that count the most! Here are five simple tips for fostering early learning in your tot.


Purposeful play. With purposeful play, you can encourage early learning through ordinary activities. Purposeful play is simply focused play. It’s spending one-on-one time with children and teaching them instead of just letting them play. It’s as simple as describing your actions while you’re preparing a meal or counting the blocks and naming their colors as your child builds a tower. Sensory play with empty water bottles and small balls, confetti/sequins, buttons, colored rice, water/glitter or anything else you can think of to put inside is also a great way to practice cause and effect, colors, sounds and shapes.


Read together. Small children love books. But take story time a step further by asking your child to point out certain objects in the pictures of their favorite books. This helps them practice their vocabulary and identification skills. You could also ask your child to name colors they see on the pages or to count same objects. To foster fine motor skills development, let them turn the pages of the book.


Let them help. Toddlers love to please their parents, and they like to help with everyday tasks. Teaching them how to do small chores like unloading the dryer or using a cloth to wipe up a spill is a great way to not only practice gross motor skills, but also instill a sense of responsibility and respect. You may think it’s too early for those lessons, but starting chores at a young age will pay off in the future because it becomes routine. Make it fun! Sing songs as you pick up toys and put them away, or make a game out of it. Ask your child to find all of the toy balls and put them in a basket or stack three books on the shelf. The possibilities are endless, and this type of play encourages listening and communication, object recognition, memory skills and thinking.


Go outside. Pointing out landscape and objects on a walk outdoors and asking your child to repeat the names helps to build vocabulary, listening skills and cognitive skills. Another fun way to foster these skills is by creating a scavenger hunt. This is a fun activity for any age. Place pictures and the name of the object you want them to find on their lists, and walk with them looking around and trying to match a real object to the photo. Have them repeat the word to you, and when you find the correct match, jump around and cheer! And let your child mark off the object on the list.


Follow their lead. Around 18 months to 24 months of age, toddlers begin to engage in pretend play. You can encourage creativity and imagination by following their lead and playing along. For example, if your child loves to read and selects a book to look at, sit down with him/her and grab a few stuffed friends for an audience. Ask your child to be the “mommy” or the “daddy” and read a story to her/his babies. Or perhaps your child really likes to build with blocks. Ask him what he is building, and then help him develop a story to go along with it.


Encouraging early learning doesn’t have to mean structured lesson plans and a tight schedule. Children learn best through play and through their relationships with their parents, family members and friends. So go play, and have fun with your child! You’ll be surprised to see what a difference these few tips can make in fostering early learning in your tot.

Stay Home or Return to Work after Baby? Finding Balance in Your Decision

Working mom versus stay-at-home mom— which way is better? The answer: neither. No matter what you decide, you will probably always feel some regret or guilt, and that’s normal. Stay-at-home moms often wonder what they are missing in the workplace and reminisce about the career they left behind. Working moms often feel guilt about missing their children’s milestones and wish they could stay home instead. Finding balance is the key to surviving either decision. Here are a few tips to help you find your way.


Stay in touch. While on maternity leave, whether you know you will return to work or not, stay in touch with colleagues. If you decide to stay home to raise your child, it’s a good idea to keep your connections in the workplace in case you do decide to go back in a few months or even a year or two. If you plan on returning to work immediately after maternity leave, you’ll want to be in touch with your employer to stay abreast of any changes or new opportunities.


Flexible hours for working moms. Upon your return to work, ask your employer about working more flexible hours, such as working part-time, job-sharing or changing your hours so that you can spend as much family time at home as possible. As long as you’ve been with your employer for at least 26 weeks, you are entitled to ask about flexible hours; however, your employer is under no obligation to grant your request. If there is no legitimate business decision to support your request, the employer can say no. But they at least have to hear you out, and you’ll never know unless you ask!


“Me time” for stay-at-home moms. As hard as it is to find time for anything else other than caring for your child, try to find some alone time. Take advantage of nap time and instead of doing those piles of laundry, take a nice bubble bath, paint your nails, read a book that’s not about parenting advice or take a nap yourself! Accept help so that you can do something for yourself, whether it be an alone trip to the grocery store or a date with your husband, finding time to be yourself instead of mom is important to maintaining a stress-free and happy life.


Working moms, practice your routine. Returning to work is a major change for everyone in your family. Your partner may need to help out a little more when it comes to getting the children ready for the day, or you may have time to do this yourself before you leave. But if there’s anything you’ve learned or will learn as parent is that NOTHING goes according to the timeline you plan. Practice, practice, practice so you don’t end up late for your first day back. Practicing in advance is a great way to help ease everyone, including babies, into the new routine.


Stay-at-home moms, find a friend. Being in the land of baby and child all day every day with no adult interaction can be tough. As rewarding as it is, most moms will crave adult conversation at some point. Find a friend who has a child the same or close to the same age. Go on play dates in your neighborhood or meet up with other moms at a local park. When you can, try to meet up with other moms away from the children. Have a girls day or girls night and just be yourself with no baby talk!


Whether your decision is to stay home or return to work, if you are able to find balance, you’re on your way to a happy, healthy life. And any guilt or regret that you might feel is just part of being a mom. You’re not the first mom who has felt that way, and you won’t be the last either.

10 Tips for Vacationing with Small Children

Summer time = vacation time! But as a parent of small children or multiple children, you may be intimidated by the thoughts of and actually getting to your destination in one piece. Not to mention surviving for days away from home. But with these ten simple tips, and packing your sense of humor along with your luggage, you can survive and actually enjoy your vacation!


1. Babies and small children thrive with routines, and when those get interrupted, it can bring on a meltdown. Try to keep your travel day as closely in line with a normal day as possible.


2. Plan your departure time to be after a meal at home or after a nap. If you’re traveling with babies or toddlers, it may be a good idea to leave for a road trip after their bedtime, so they sleep through the drive. If you’re traveling by plane, get advanced seat assignments if possible. Airlines often have strict rules about the number of children sitting in laps allowed on the same row.


3. A plane ride, car ride or any form of transportation where you’re stuck in one place for hours is boring for everyone, especially the littlest ones. Bring a variety of toys, books and coloring books for entertainment.


4. If you are traveling with a baby on a road trip, attach a mobile to the inside of the roof to help distract him/her. Velcro strips and string are an easy, safe and damage-free solution for attaching it. Also, hang toys from the car seat for babies to grab and hold.


5. Games that include the entire family are also a great way to keep everyone focused on having fun instead of complaining. A scavenger hunt can be tailored to either road or air travel. Create a list of items to find that incorporate layovers or pit stops by including souvenirs and items unique to your route. (You can find already made, printable lists through a quick Google search for ‘road trip scavenger hunt.’ Or search the same term on iTunes for an app for your iPhone or iPad.) If your child is old enough, have them take a photo, or take one yourself, of each scavenger find during your stops. You can later help your children create a scrapbook to remember the trip.


6. Sing-a-longs with coordinated hand motions or dance moves are also a must for traveling, especially for older babies and younger toddlers not ready to participate in a scavenger hunt or other games.


7. You’ll also want to plan your stops for meals in advance and seek out baby/kid-friendly restaurants. Try to align the time as closely to normal mealtimes as possible. Also, pack plenty of easy-to-grab and mess-free snacks. For formula-fed babies, pre-measure the amount of powder for each bottle, so all you have to do is add water.


8. Plan activities at your destination in advance. Schedule kid-friendly activities that the whole family can enjoy when possible. And check in advance for child-sitting services that may available. If so, schedule it before you get there because it will likely book up fast.


9. Pack a few outfit changes for the days that you’ll be traveling or out and about sight-seeing. Babies and small children are often messy and are likely to have bathroom or mealtime accidents. Pack each outfit in a separate plastic bag for easy access and reuse the bag to stash away the dirty clothes to keep them soiling other items or smelling up your luggage.


10. Stay calm. As hard as that sounds, if you stay calm, your children are more likely to also stay calm. Children are children, and they will throw a fit at some point no matter how much planning you do. But how you handle it makes all the difference. Try not to worry about what other people think. Focus on your child and what is causing the tantrum. Remove the child from the situation if possible. Try distraction with different toys or offer a tight hug.

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night

“Is he sleeping through the night?” That’s a question that new parents get all too often. When the answer is no and the child is nearing the one year mark, it can be frustrating for everyone. Every baby is different, we hear it all the time, and it’s true. A breastfed baby may wake up more often to eat during the night than a formula-fed baby. Your baby may suffer from acid reflux or be a bit more colicky than some babies. These factors all affect how one sleeps.


So, how do you get your baby to sleep through the night? Following these tips is a great start!


First, define what sleeping through the night means for your child. There is no magic number. The term ‘sleeping through the night’ is misleading. It could mean that your baby sleeps a solid six hours and wakes one to two times per night for “twilight feedings” and goes right back to sleep. It could also mean that your baby sleeps for 10 hours straight without waking up for a meal. If you’re one of those parents with a baby that sleeps 12 hours per night, consider yourself very lucky, and you probably don’t need to continue reading! But for the rest of us struggling to get sleep ourselves and barely managing to walk through the haze of day after day, read on…


The biggest step in getting your baby to sleep through the night, or do anything for that matter, is establishing a routine. Pick a time of the evening (early bedtimes between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. work best) and stick with that time every day. The time that you choose is the time that your baby should be in bed asleep or falling asleep, so your routine should be started 15 to 30 minutes before that magic time. Decide what your routine will consist of. A common routine might go like this: bath, lotion, diaper change, bottle, story time, lullaby and rocking. Whatever you decide to do is fine, but make sure you choose tasks that you can stick with every night.


Put baby in his/her bed or crib sleepy, but awake. It’s good for babies to learn how to fall asleep on their own. In fact, it’s essential to getting them to sleep through night! This teaches baby how to put themselves back to sleep if they happen to wake up during the night. So, try to put them down when their eyes are just beginning to close vs. when they are completely out and snoring on your shoulder! If your child immediately pops his/her eyes back open when you lay them down, try not to pick them back up. Instead, gently pat them and let them know it is bedtime and it’s ok. Tell them that you’re counting to 25 and then leaving the room. And then do it!


It’s not easy to hear baby cry out in the night, and most parents have a hard time with the “Cry It Out” method. But there’s some truth behind it. When baby cries out, first try to determine why he/she could be crying before you go in. Is it time for a diaper change or a feeding? If the answer is no, wait a couple of minutes to see if baby stops crying. If he/she continues to cry, go into the room, but again, try not to pick baby up. Instead, gently pat them and let them know it is bedtime and it’s ok. Sometimes it helps for dad to be the one to go in to comfort baby instead of mom. This is because a baby generally always wants to be picked up when mom is near, and they can sense that mom has a hard time not giving in! If you do need to pick baby up, try not to spend more than one to two minutes in the room comforting them. The longer you are in the room, the more awake baby becomes and the harder it is for you to put them back down without needing to rock them to sleep. If baby starts crying again when you put him/her down, try to wait five minutes before going back in. Follow the same steps without picking baby up. Again, if baby cries when you put him/her back down, gradually increase the amount of time you let baby cry before going back in. Pick a number that is your cut-off point, ten minutes maybe, and go in to comfort baby every ten minutes if crying continues. But, chances are that after only a few minutes, baby will fall back to sleep on his/her own. Letting baby sleep with a lovey or small doll also helps with fostering self-soothing techniques.


If your baby is old enough to go longer than a few hours between feedings, but he/she is still waking up, it could be more out of habit than actually needing to eat. Around six months of age, experts agree that babies should be able to go 12 hours without food. If your baby is not dropping midnight or early morning feedings on his own, it’s ok to give them a little push. You can do this by gradually decreasing the volume of the feeding. For example, if your baby usually wakes up to drink six ounces at 11:00, but goes right back to sleep afterward, this could mean the feeding is nonessential. Try decreasing the volume by one ounce every day until he is no longer waking up. If baby is still waking up and you’re down to only one ounce, try switching over to one ounce of water. The idea is to help baby realize that he does not need those calories in order to get back to sleep and that you will not be offering anything but water going forward. It could take a week or two weeks, but if you’re consistent, it will pay off.


Following these tips should help you on your way to getting your baby to sleep through the night, but above all else, just remember that this stage does not last forever. Be patient and consistent.