Category Archives: parentingblog

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Crazy Tricks to Get Your Baby To Sleep

Its 2:30am and everyone else in the house is fast asleep. That is except for you and your screaming, seemingly impossible to soothe baby. Youve tried everything you can think of to calm his squeals – clean diaper, full belly, proper temperature, rocking, patting, singing, rubbing, bouncing – yet nothing is working and you are about to pull your hair out.

 

Weve all been there and the level of overwhelming exhaustion in this situation is so hard to describe to anyone who hasnt experienced it themselves. So we are providing some of the more unique (shall we say crazy) tricks that weve heard about which moms around the globe use to win this sleep battle. Some of them are a little more outside-the-box than others but it is worth a try to get your struggling baby to sleep.

 

Run the Blow Dryer

Ill admit that I had heard of this one before. It falls in the same category as running the vacuum cleaner, both of which supply continuous white noise which helps soothe the baby to sleep. What I wasnt aware of was how many parents actually do this. Most just run their actual hair dryer until the baby dozes off. Some have recorded their hair dryer on their smart phone and just play it in a continuous loop for the baby (clever!) or even bought CDs which are available that have white noises including the humming of a hairdryer included.

 

Recreate the Night Sky

Apparently something about the stars and the moon in a soft, soothing light helps distract and calm the baby. There are several options here. You can run out and buy one of the many different type of night sky lamps available on the market some of which come with a lullaby option as well. Or, you can just buy glow and the dark star stickers at your local craft store and place them on the ceiling above the crib, a cheap and easy solution that should work like a charm.

 

Let Your Baby Suck on a Candy Cane or Put Peppermint on their Pacifier

Im not sure that the stickiness of a peppermint candy would be a joy to clean off of your baby in the middle of the night especially since you are trying to get them to sleep, but it is definitely worth a try. Plus, if what is keeping your little one awake has anything to do with stomach or digestive issues, mint is known to having soothing properties so we say go for it.

 

Put the Car Seat on the Dryer

Constant vibrations are calming to a baby so if you are at your wits end try strapping the little one into their car seat and set it on top of the washing machine on the spin cycle. Then cross your fingers that the good vibrations send the baby off to slumber land. And hey, you might have the added bonus of finishing one of the 8 loads of laundry you needed to get done in the process!

 

Practice Chinese Acupressure

What could be more relaxing than loving, subtly applied massaging on pressure points? The Chinese believe that balancing your babys energies through light pressure can help with a number of issues including digestion and gas, teething, strengthening the immune system and yes, inducing sleep. We think that a little relaxing baby pressure point massage might just do the trick! If nothing else, your baby will definitely feel more relaxed.

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The Pros and Cons of Kids Playing With Smartphones

 

Since most of us moms have a smartphone it has become increasingly common to see a mom hand the phone over to their little ones to entertain them while they are trying to get something done or to put a stop to a brewing tantrum. Ill be the first to admit it, even though it was against my better judgement I have used my device to save my sanity a time or two.

 

The debate over whether allowing your kids to use your smartphone is a heated one with some critics believing it does harm and supporters believing it has many positive effects. We are not going to take sides here as we believe that it is ultimately up to the parents to decide how much mobile exposure to give to their children. Instead, we are going to provide you the pros and cons of usage and leave it up to you!

 

PROS

  • There are phenomenal digital learning apps for little kids. There are literally thousands of educational apps on iTunes alone and that just keeps continuing to grow every day.

  • There are educational Kids channels in YouTube like ChuChu TV, Super Simple Songs, TuTiTu etc where the kids get to learn nursery rhymes, alphabet songs, numbers songs, shapes, things, activity songs and many more.

  • Exposing your little ones to technology will make them more digitally savvy later in life.

  • Because the device is mobile you are encourage anytime, anywhere learning.

  • There is a mind-blowing amount of fantastic web-based content out there for a child to discover, like watching orca whales swim in the wild or reading about and looking at pictures of flowers native to their home state.

  • Children can be exposed to a world of music and videos that they would never otherwise be exposed to.

CONS

  • It is too easy for kids to access inappropriate content.

  • Every moment spent in front of a screen is a moment that your child isnt exploring their world around them which is critical in development.

  • When using a smartphone to calm a fussy child you are essentially teaching them that if they throw a big enough tantrum they will be rewarded with play time.

  • Spending too much time on a device could cause younger children to become over stimulated.

  • Constant smartphone usage can result in a child being able to tune out the world around them and create a looking downpersonality.

 

No matter what side of the debate you are on we can all agree that the smartphone is an everyday tool that isnt going away soon. In fact, over the next few years we will see mobile technology incorporated into our watches and our eye glasses, both of which will blow our kidsminds. Itll be up to us to monitor our childrens exposure and do the best that we can in raising them in our digital world.

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Why Letting Your Toddler Get Messy at Mealtime Helps with Brain Development

“You haven’t lived until you have cleaned pureed sweet potatoes out of a baby’s ears,” said no Mom ever!

 

 

 

But don’t fear moms, I’ve got great news! First, this phase does end eventually and your toddler will grow up to be a sophisticated eater and will not rub yogurt in his hair at a dinner party when he is 30 years old. And second, know that there is a method to their madness. I know it seems difficult to believe but allowing our toddlers to be messy actual helps with their brain development.

 

So next time you get frustrated when your toddler throws the baby fork on the floor and decides to use his hands to eat cereal, remember these 4 ways that the mess is actually helping them grow and learn.

 

Developing Sensory Play

 

Mealtime is full of learning experiences for children. They learn what is socially acceptable at meal time by watching and getting cues from the rest of the family. But aside from learning behavioral cues this could be one of the first times that they are able to have active and independent sensory play. Think about it. They are able to independently touch, feel, taste and smell the different foods you put in front of them and with that they are nurturing their curiosity, discovery and exploration.

 

Learning How to Self Feed

 

Have you ever watched a baby play with their food and as they are rubbing it all over their face, they get some in their mouth and they are like “Wow! That’s delicious!”? That is the moment when they realize that they can grab food and feed themselves. It is a very important step in your child gaining their independence and learning how to self feed. So, let them get messy. It will lead to eventually learning the cause and effect of grabbing food with a spoon and putting it into their mouth. It is all part of their development and self-discovery.

 

Preventing Tactile Defensiveness

 

Believe it or not, keeping your baby too clean at meal time can actually do them more harm than good. Kids need to be exposed to different textures as they are growing. If they are not, they run the risk of becoming sensitive to them. In other words, if you are constantly trying to keep your baby perfectly clean then they could start to be very uncomfortable if they ever get messy. This is called tactile defensiveness and it can be learned. The best way to avoid it is to again, let your child explore with all of the textures of their food in whatever way they need to in order to learn.

 

Making Mealtime a Happy Time

 

How fun do you think eating will be if you are constantly wiping your toddler’s face with a napkin, or scolding them for throwing the fork or rubbing squash on their cheeks? While you don’t want this behavior to continue into middle school now is the time to tolerate the chaos. As long as they are being respectful, make mealtime a time of happiness and positivity and not a time where you are on edge because you want to prevent any little mess from happening.

 

So the next time you find yourself frustrated while you are cleaning smashed blueberries out the creases of the highchair remember this…today, your toddler got smarter in that messy chair.

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Easy Home Remedies to Soothe a Teething Tot

 

There are many over the counter soothing gels, biscuits and teething rings that you can offer them for comfort. But if you dont want to go out and spend a bunch of money, there are plenty of home remedies for teething that can offer comfort to your tot during this time. Most of these items you probably already have in your home and with just a little bit of preparation you could be helping your little one feel better in no time.

 

1. Frozen Banana

Depending on the age and level of development of your teether, you can just have them suck right on the frozen banana or you can put it in one of those mesh feeders if you are worried about choking.

 

2. Ice Cold Washcloth Soaked in Chamomile Tea

Soak a clean washcloth in chamomile tea, place it in the freezer and then let your teething tot suck away on it. The chamomile has soothing properties and can help relieve this discomfort in their gums. If you dont feel like using the tea, simply soaking the towel in water and freezing it works too!

 

3. Ice Cold Baby Bottle

Even if your baby is breastfeeding you can put ice cold water in a bottle and let them suck on it. They probably wont get too much water out but the ice cold nipple will be fun to chew on and the chill will help ease the pain.

 

4. Cold Spoon

The feeling of a cold metal spoon on your babys gums is a great way to soothe them. But make sure that the baby is closely supervised if you let them chew away on a spoon. They should be strapped into a high chair so that they dont risk falling forward onto the spoon and gagging.

 

5. Refrigerated Bagel

A refrigerated bagel has just the right firmness to act as a homemade teething ring. You can even freeze the bagel if you want for the added relief they can get from the chill in their mouth.

 

6. Frozen Ego Waffles

Much like a chilled bagel, frozen waffles are a great thing to chew on during teething. Just make sure that you are giving them the entire waffle or very large pieces and supervise them closely to make sure they dont break off small chunks and choke.

 

7. Ginger

Take a piece of ginger, clean it and then rub it up against your babys gums. The ginger acts as a natural pain reliever.

 

8. Breast Milk Ice Cube

If you are breastfeeding, pump some milk and make ice cubes out of your breast milk. Place a cube in a mesh feeder and let your teether suck on it. The cold will soothe their gums and the milk will provide familiarity and comfort.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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Toddler tantrums – why they happen and how to deal with them

It was never this hard before!

 

 

Around the age of 18-24 months, toddlers begin to experience a whole new range of emotions that they aren’t yet able to fully understand. The slightest little thing can set them off instantly, while you live in fear of the fireworks. Depending on your child’s speech development, she may not even be able to communicate properly, which only adds to her feelings of frustration and helplessness. Your toddler is not in charge – you are – but for the first time, your authority is being questioned and challenged. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and prepare for battle.

 

The control factor

Your little one needs clear boundaries in her life, because without them she’s growing up in free fall. For the sake of feeling safe and secure, she needs to know that you’ll always look after her. She also needs to know who’s boss. So from the very outset, show her that you won’t be persuaded by any amount of pleading, screaming or carrying-on. Even if it happens in public.

 

If you have set a rule that results in a noisy outburst, stick to it calmly. Do your utmost not to appear shaken by your child’s behavior, and never give in for the sake of keeping the peace – this only sends out a clear message that you don’t mean what you say.

 

Many tantrums are caused by your toddler’s growing independence conflicting directly with what she is and isn’t allowed to do. So gradually give her more control over her life – allowing her to pick her outfit, her hairstyle or her sandwich filling will help develop her sense of self. Likewise allowing her to go out in the rain without her much detested coat will actually teach her more about how mommy knows best in the long run – without having to lay down yet another rule (plus you can always hide said coat in your bag)!

 

Prevention can be better than a cure

Your toddler’s environment may well influence her behavior. Hunger and tiredness can easily cause a mini explosion, so provide her with healthy snacks in between regularly spaced meals and make sure she gets enough sleep. Keep an eye on her hydration levels too, as thirsty toddlers can be just as crotchety.

 

If a particular ‘friend’ causes your child’s behavior to worsen, consider taking a little break from social occasions that might set off or inspire tantrums. If she hates surprises, tell her what is going to happen ahead of time, discuss any concerns she may have, and give her a couple of gentle reminders if you think she’s forgotten. If you suspect that tantrums are arising because of jealousy (perhaps she feels a sibling is getting more attention), then set aside special one-to-one time when you can show her exactly how important she is to you.

 

Coping mechanisms for your toddler

Losing control can be unsettling, so after she is calm, talk to your toddler about her feelings and make some suggestions about how she could handle things differently. Always encourage her to use words rather than actions and explain that no one will listen to her while she is screaming. Admit that you sometimes feel angry too, but that you have learned to express this in a different way. Teach her to step back, take a deep breath and count to ten before reacting, and try to explain how tantrums make other people feel.

 

Coping mechanisms for you

Time outs aren’t just for kids. If you’re concerned that you’ve reached your limit, first make sure your child is safe and then walk away for a few moments to take a breather. Go to another room and regain your composure. The fact that you have left might well demonstrate to your toddler that her actions can have unexpected and unpleasant consequences, and shock her into silence.

 

Take heart

It will get better. You don’t see seven-year-olds throwing themselves on the ground and wailing about how unfair it is that they have to tie their own shoelaces – their friends would laugh them out of town! Tantrums are a passing phase that every parent must endure to some extent – it’s called the Terrible Twos for a reason. So take heart in the fact that it won’t last forever. Promise.

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Say it loud! Get your toddler talking

 

 

No pressure

First and foremost, never put undue expectation on young shoulders. If your son picks up on your concerns about his lack of speech, he will only become more stubborn. If your daughter senses your disappointment, she will only become upset. Neither of these options initiates a healthy path to communication, let alone a good parent-child relationship.

 

Make learning to talk fun and praise every small accomplishment. When your toddler attempts to say something new or asks a question, give him your full attention, nod encouragingly and provide an appropriate response – this reassures him that his words are important to you, and demonstrates that a conversation works by taking turns.

 

Chat constantly

Children learn by imitation. So spend as much time with your toddler as possible, and chat casually about the world around you. Describe how things look in an appealing way (‘what a big, shiny apple!’), what noises they make (‘the car goes broom!’), and what function they perform (‘into the water – splash!’). Show your enthusiasm for description and encourage your child to explain his surroundings, thoughts and feelings.

 

Don’t use ‘baby talk’ yourself. No matter how cute it sounds, pronouncing your own words incorrectly will not help your little one to pick up proper speech patterns. It’s time for ‘lello’ to become ‘yellow’, ‘geen’ to become ‘green’, ‘boo’ to become ‘blue’, and sentences to take the place of two-word fragments. However, while you can correct your child gently by repeating the right words back to him, it’s important to always show you understand his meaning. The confidence gained from being able to communicate is far more important than exact pronunciation at this early age.

 

Socialize

Particularly if your toddler doesn’t have much contact with the outside world beyond his immediate family, you might find that his self-assurance increases once he starts going to playgroups, nurseries and kindergarten. Here he will be exposed to children who can communicate both more and less than he can; the chatterboxes might spur him on to join in, and the quiet ones might help him – and you – feel less frustrated.

 

Aside from situations involving other toddlers, try to include your child in adult conversations. You can make a point of saying “thank you” to the nice lady at the checkout, “asking” for a new book at the library and “chatting” to any grown-up friends you go to visit. Give him a sense of importance by showing him that his words matter to you and that they often have a consequence: “More biscuits, please?”

 

Don’t translate

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of speaking for your toddler or finishing sentences for him. This is bad practice as it essentially teaches your little one to be lazy, and that mommy will always know what he wants and make it happen. Be patient and wait for him to verbalize his request, then repeat it back to him, with correct pronunciation, checking you have understood his meaning. Soon he will understand he needs to make a little extra effort and will also begin to feel more independent in a social setting.

 

It’s all in the timing

Set aside at least 20 minutes each day for one-to-one conversation between you and your child. Sit closely together and engage directly in whatever is catching his attention. If no particular play interests emerge, initiate singing songs, question-and-answer games or make up a story together, taking turns.

 

Always choose your timing carefully. You need your toddler to be alert and comfortable, perhaps after a nap, or after breakfast. Watch out for signs of tiredness – as with all new skills, learning to talk takes intense concentration. Little and often is key, and always stop when you see your child’s focus beginning to drift.

 

Relax

All kids progress at different rates, and as parents we are often quick to compare. This is one area of development that varies enormously from child to child, and while some may speak in complete six-word sentences by the age of 18 months, others will take a couple more years to reach that level of communication. This is perfectly normal for toddlers, but if you are concerned about your school-age child’s lack of progression, consult your pediatrician about speech therapy.