The 4 Essential B’s of Early Childhood

When working in the homes of families as an EI therapist I notice many things about a family. The longer I’ve done this work in the family’s natural environment, I’ve become more accurate in picking up small cues about the family…things like, What they value. What time of day they like best. What they want to learn from me and our session. What their comfort level is with a therapist sitting on their floor and jumping into their daily routines. The list really could go on forever.

And as a self described people watcher, I’ve come to know that 1) These things really matter in helping me to do a good job, and 2) They vary GREATLY from family to family. There are very few consistent trends when it comes to my interactions with families in their space…with a few exceptions. The largest exception I see is a parent’s desire to make sure their child has what “they need.” This desire seems universal to me. I’m often asked to recommend toys, asked if they have the “right things,” and asked to make gift recommendations for upcoming birthdays or holidays. Despite family income, I see a trend in family’s feeling that their child needs STUFF. And I understand it. Because I am a mom.  And I also love toys. And because the companies that market to us as parents want us to think that MORE is MORE.

As therapists, we believe the opposite – LESS IS MORE. Here’s why. A child can more easily access and interact with fewer number or toys that are organized with their corresponding parts. Hear me – this does not mean designer toy organization (unless you want it to), but this could mean using bins and boxes or separate areas on shelves (more tips HERE). It just means that toys, which are the TOOLS for learning, have an intended purpose for the age/developmental stage and that we don’t need 50 toys that do the same thing. Note that the recommended toy age is not always developmentally correct. It’s being set by marketers not pediatricians or developmental therapists with different goals in mind. Just because that box says 3-6 months, does not mean the toy is developmentally appropriate for a 3-6 month old baby. (Interested in what real development looks like at each stage and how to pair it with purposeful play and creative materials?  Check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me We have done that work for you.)

When discussing this, we often talk about THE 4 ESSENTIAL B’S OF EARLY CHILDHOOD. And we’ve challenged ourselves with this question:

What developmental milestone could you not achieve between 0-3 years of age with simply BOOKS, a BALL, a BABYDOLL, and BLOCKS? 

Literally we’ve sat around the room with other therapists and challenged ourselves with this question (desperately nerdy, I know) and we can’t find one single milestone.

Quick examples (But the options are endless):

BOOKS:  Early literacy, labeling of objects, visual focus, turning pages for fine motor activities, turn taking, pointing. (Some of our favorites HERE and HERE and Toddler Reading Tips HERE. (We REALLY love books!)

BALL: Hand eye coordination, grasp/release, turn taking, language, social anticipation and peer play, balance and coordination, joint attention.

BABYDOLL: Imaginative play skills, labeling body parts, fine motor strengthening with dressing, social emotional practice of emotion sharing.

BLOCKS: oral motor exploration, cause and effect (knocking down), stacking, jumping over, counting, role play when using as other objects (cell phone, people), patterning, spatial awareness. More on the importance of blocks HERE.

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As a parent, I encourage you to shed the cloak of stress that “my kid needs more.” Our kids need us. Embrace that thought. It’s quite freeing and leads to memory making experiences no toy can replace.

As a therapist, I encourage other therapists to spread this message. I sat with a young first time, young  mom yesterday who asked me to go through a laundry basket filled with an array of toys she had been gifted, purchased, or had been handed down. She, like many parents I know, stressed she didn’t have enough or the right things for her child. We went through that bin together and identified what he might learn from those toys at this stage of development and which might encourage him to do the next exciting thing. And she boxed up the things he had outgrown, was too young for, or had too much of. She was so relieved and I was so excited for her and her child.

Spring cleaning leaves room for new growth. That holds true for our little ones too. Shed the rest and see what fun you can experience today with our 4 essential B’s!

Stairway to FUN! (safely)

As a pediatric physical therapist working in an early intervention setting, I spend a good amount of time on the stairs. Steep stairs, wide stairs, narrow stairs, wooden stairs, carpeted stairs, baby gate, no gate, one flight of steps, steps broken into two segments, rail on left, rail on right, no rail at all, no steps at all! I’ve studied construction of steps almost as much as my contractor father. I’ve also learned that parents have as many different views on steps as they do on nutrition and discipline. Some are so fearful of their child falling down steps that they are off limits all together. Others refuse a baby gate reasoning that the steps are there so they need to learn to be safe as soon as possible. And then there is everything in between.

If you are a parent with a child ready to take off (and up and over the horizon) of the steps in your home, we have a few tips to share:

 

  • Allowing your child to learn to crawl up and down the steps is am important pre-curser to walking them. It allows for the cognitive experience of learning the depth of the step, the distance, the texture etc. through exploration of movement and touch.
  • Before you let your child crawl up all the steps, let them practice crawling up and down one small “step” in the middle of the room – diaper boxes and small plastic bins work beautifully.
  • Like stepping, crawling down is typically harder than going up. Moving backwards without relying on your vision to see where you are going is not natural but is the safer option rather than scooting facing forward! Modeling to baby (siblings or yes, you yourself) can help!
  • Children may chose to walk up and down with both hands on the wall or rail (side stepping) or one (forward stepping). One is not better than the other – allow what feels natural to the child.
  • SAFETY is essential. We encourage use of baby gates until your child is proficient and that an adult always stands below the child when practicing.
  • Often times, especially with carpeted steps, the flight of steps appears as one big ramp to children. This may be particularly true if there is any visual challenges with depth perception. Lining the steps with colored masking tape or duct tape and placing a favorite sticker in the middle of each, may help highlight each step as individual and make the task of walking down less scary (and maybe even fun).

Just yesterday I was working with a child who would walk up the steps but not down. Her mother described her as “a mule,” digging her heels in and refusing to walk down no matter what motivators the family tried. Problem is, she is getting too big to carry down the steps. I know she is strong enough to descend a step because she does so with a single step into the home and for fun off an exercise step. So we lined the steps with tape yesterday and placed a snow man sticker on each and she literally walked down on the first try!

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I hope that these few simple tips make stair climbing fun and safe within your daily routines. We devote a generous portion of our gross motor cards (the pretty green ones) in 1-2-3 Just Play With Me to stair walking. If you don’t have a copy, make sure you get yours today! We share detailed milestones in 5 developmental domains with fun, purposeful play suggestions in a simple practical format – perfect for a parent or pediatric professional!

 

All the kiddos independent — Throw your hands up at me!

You ever have those moments as a parent, where a realization about your children, your parenting, or your family existence is just IN YOUR FACE? And no matter how busy you are or what situation or setting you are in – it just seems to keep resurfacing?

I’m not sure why this happens, but for our family it does. And lately the reoccurring theme is independence.

A little background info for you – upon self reflection, I’d probably rate my husband and I as middle of the road in terms of expectations for our kids and how much they do on their own. We didn’t spoon feed them for years but they could also be doing more chores for sure.  Let’s be honest, sometimes in the hustle or real life, it’s just EASIER to do it for them then to be patient enough to let them practice doing it on their own.

But lately, as the mother of a 9 or 11 year old, even though I feel real pangs of longing for my former chubby toddlers wanting to sit on my lap for story after story after story, I also have a real urgency to make them STEP UP and start doing a little more on their own. I guess this is why they call it the TWEEN phase, right?

Anyway, we encourage our daughters to order for themselves at restaurants and have for years. Our oldest started doing laundry this year. They have to keep their rooms clean and do a few simple chores. Helping pack lunches and cook is a work in progress. My gut tells me they should be doing a little more for themselves. Yet at times when we nudge them to do the simplest of things, they FREAK OUT.

Here’s an example.

Yesterday we had to stop at the store to buy some poster board for yet another school project. Mostly because we wanted them to accomplish buying it on their own, and partly because I had on fuzzy socks with tennis shoes and sweats and my husband wanted to alter his fantasy football roster, we decided they needed to buy it themselves. We pulled up to the door, handed them cash, and reminded them where they could find poster board in the store.

You are joking, right?

No, I’m quite serious.

But, MOOOOOOM, we are kids.

Yes, and you are quite capable kids – go buy it.

But Mom, there are video cameras in the store!

Exactly, if you cause trouble or someone gives you trouble, you’ll be supervised, now go!

But Mom, parents don’t do this. It’s not ok for you to send kids into a store alone. People will wonder where our parents are.

Tell them we are in the car.

Seriously Mom, you aren’t joking about this?

Girls, when I was your age, I walked 4 blocks to buy candy by myself.

But that was a LOOOONG time ago. That’s not what happens now.

Get in the store or we are taking your electronics.

I would like to say I had super Mom powers and patiently motivated my children to feel empowered and self driven to independently shop for THEIR school supplies alone. It took a threat. I was impatient, annoyed, and we had places to be.

The experience led us to a good family discussion, including the fact that we have to let them have small experiences, within safe boundaries, with increasing independence to become successful and self sufficient adults one day. The problem is it’s not always easy to know how much independence and at what age. I often wonder how much to push, and how much to support.

When I am working as a Physical Therapist teaching parents to encourage their child to learn to walk up the steps, I often say, “I know when you are in a hurry this won’t work, but at least a few times a day, when you have time, let them practice the steps with you close by, but don’t carry them. They need practice to be able to do it by themselves.”

We as adults didn’t wake up with the ability to ride a bike, settle a disagreement with friends or co-workers, tie our own shoes, walk up the steps, or even go into a store and buy something. Our experiences, practice, and space to try and even mess up at times, gave us an opportunity to reflect on what went well, what did not, and how we would change things the next time we tried that new skill. If we hover, if we do it for them, if we spoon feed too long, they won’t have the chance to gain independence, self confidence, and succeed.  I don’t want kids that continue to freak out in fear when nudged to do things for themselves, do you? I’m declaring today INDEPENDENCE DAY!

How old is your child? Do you need to nudge them to be more independent or are they already wanting to take off running on their own? 1-2-3 Just Play With Me includes the 5 domains of child development – 1 being FINE MOTOR where we have included many self help skills. Let us help make understanding when it is typical for your baby to do things more on their own easy for you! Get your copy today and easily understand development while pairing milestones with practical and fun play ideas!

 

 

Reteaching my brain and listening to my body so I can help my patients do the same: A review of TMR TOTS

“Educating yourself does not mean you were stupid in the first place; it means you were intelligent enough to known there is plenty left  to learn.” -Melanie Joy

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This weekend I spent about 18 hours on the floor in yoga clothes, on yoga mats, holding and twisting baby dolls with black electrical tape on them, and rolling, rubbing, and positioning other people (some I know, some I didn’t before Saturday). PT’s are weirdly awesome. We learn by doing. By seeing. Be feeling. By proving things to be correct…to be good enough to be worth our time, but more importantly to be worthy of making a difference for our patients.

I have be a long time internet stalker of the TMR Method – more specifically – TMR TOTS (the version for baby lovers like me!). It’s been a course that I have wanted to take for a long time, after hearing rave reviews from other therapists, and after hearing MANY refer to methods taught in this course with a sense of common vocabulary. As a PT I felt I was missing out on the secret and I wanted to see for myself.

A great slide with a great reminder!

A great slide with a great reminder!

Without getting into tremendous detail, these methods beautifully weave neurological principals long proven by science to be true, reinforcing what therapists have seen themselves to be successfully with a concept foreign and new to some (like me): making improvements in function, flexibility, posture, and showing increased range of motion without “stretching.” My brain couldn’t process this at first.

 No pain?

No “work?”

No “hold it 5, 10, 30 seconds?”

No “feel the burn?” 

I mean, they don’t call us PT’s (aka Physical Terrorists) for nothing? I was skeptical, then inquisitive, then curious (in between the 1st and 2nd days of the course, my first and favorite lab partner (my college roomie who came to take the course with me) and I assessed my children, husband, and mother in law – with a burning sense of expectation that it wouldn’t work with at least ONE of them.

Practicng at home. Sorry for the PJs - long day!

Practicng at home. Sorry for the PJs – long day!

They all improved. Every one. My mother in law could come to standing with ease and less pain. My husband and children all have increased hip motions where tight hamstrings have long limited them in various ways. So then I started questioning (long term carry over? children with neurologic tone?). And then I got to see before my own eyes and feel with my own hands one of my current patients be treated by Susan Blum – the gentle, patient, and wise PT – who teaches this career changing course. And I submitted. As I did I actually felt guilty that I didn’t have this knowledge for the past 14 years. This old dog learned a new trick and I can’t wait to practice what I learned this week and see what the results are on my patients!

If you are a therapist, I urge you to check it out. The differences we could all collectively make with this knowledge is pretty mind blowing. I’m eager to learn more and to see what we saw and felt replicated and proven in published studies.

If you are a parent with a child with challenges caused by movement – I urge you to seek out a therapist with the training. I wish every child I ever treated had the opportunity to give it a try.

A main component of TMR is to “go to the easy side,”  and “watch, listen, and feel what the body wants to do.” I sat and processed this a bit…and at a deeper level. When we feed our nervous systems with sensory input that our bodies need, we regulate, and function optionally. When we allow movement in the ways I learned about this weekend, our bodies start to correct themselves.  How many times in my life have I pushed my mind, body, and heart out of what it wanted to do? How about you?

Over worked?

Over scheduled?

Under-exercised?

Over-exercised?

Poor nutrition? and hydration?

Wrong choices for wrong motives?

Neglecting my people for reasons that don’t matter?

Judging myself by unfair standards?

My husband claims I have an “inner hippie,” and maybe he’s right (and maybe it’s laughable – go ahead) but I do think people and experiences come to you or are sent to you as you need them. Tomorrow my daughters return to school and as I’ve shared before, a new school year or more like New Year’s Day for me than the holiday. I love fresh starts and new chances for healthy starts….for chances to listen to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you.

As they go off to school, I will shift into working more and having more time during the day to pour into my “other kids.” Thanks to TMR, I have an incredible new skill set to practice and learn with. I also have a reminder to “go to my easy side” as I tackle the mom role of hectic schedules, a much quicker pace, and on the never ending quest for “balance” (in parenthesis because I don’t think it exists).

I am thankful that my body keeps telling me I have so much left to learn! What is yours telling you?

One of my favorite slides from the course.

One of my favorite slides from the course.

 

The POWER of LANGUAGE in WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS

If you are a follower of our blog you well know by now that I am a children’s book nerd.  I love all kids’ books…even love those without words.  How can that be, you may ask, I am a speech-language pathologist, after all?!  Words are my life!!  Well, it can be because WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS entice more spontaneous language in kids and encourage language development in ways that pre-written stories that are simply read to them can’t.

So what language learning advantages lie between the pages of wordless picture books?

1.  Spontaneous language – wordless picture books allow kids to tell their own story about the pictures they see.  While doing this they are practicing sentence formulation, sequencing and naturally, storytelling skills!

2.  No reading level required – Wordless picture books are “readable” for all kids no matter what their reading level.

3.  Attention to detail – Because there is no predetermined story line, kids are more likely to notice details in the pictures to add interest to their story.

4.  Interpreting and inferring – Again, without words to tell them how characters are feeling, wordless picture books require kids to infer details from the pictures like characters’ emotions.

5.  Infinite options – Wordless picture books can be a new book with a new story each time a child picks it up.  This encourages creativity, imagination and flexible thinking.

Here are a few of my favorite wordless picture books.  Check them out and open up a world of language and storytelling possibilities for your kids!

Kid’s Books that are NOT Just for Kids

GetAttachment-2.aspxI love kid’s lit.  Probably more than adult lit, if I’m being honest.  I’m a self-confessed kids’ book junkie and I get it honestly from my mother.  My kids own an insane amount of books (mostly purchased by my mom) and we visit the library on a regular basis to borrow more books we have yet to read.  Together my kids and I (and their Daddy) have enjoyed daily before bed books since each were old enough to sit in my lap.  We have read every genre of picture books (if picture books even have genres!):  classics, fairytales, nursery rhymes, comedy, books with moral lessons, books that teach safety, books about friendship, mysteries, kiddie graphic novels and so on.

But amongst all the titles we have enjoyed there are a few (hundred) we could read over and over and over again.  Classics, by our standards, that contain humor, silliness and entertainment for both child and parent alike.  I encourage you to hunt up these titles at your local library to enjoy some snuggles and giggles with your little ones.  You won’t regret it 🙂

Read more

Milestone or Modern Convenience Part II: What to do when the convenience becomes a hard habit to break

Lacy recently wrote a blog for Virginia’s Early Intervention Program – specifically geared for therapists that work for that program, but the information is important for clinicians AND parents and caregivers. We have reposted it here but you can find the original HERE.

 

Written by: Lacy Morise, M.S. CCC/SLP

 
If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out the first blog post in this 2-part series, Milestone or Modern Convenience? – Part I: Overuse of the Sippy Cup and Pacifier, to learn important information about an infant’s need for sucking and the risks involved with overuse of the pacifier and sippy, cup!

 
Now that you are familiar with the pluses and minuses of pacifier and sippy cup use, what about when the parents are ready to help baby “give up” the sucking habit? Again, as the resource for all things infant and toddler, we can suggest the following tried and true strategies.

 
Cut back – When ready to begin weaning, cut back on the time that the pacifier and/or sippy cup is available to the child. If the pacifier has been available to the child all day, every day suggest cutting back its availability to only nap and bedtime. As for the sippy cup, cut back its use to only when the family is out and about. When at home suggest offering the child a straw or open cup in its place.

 
Go cold turkey…if the child is ready – If going cold turkey is the method of choice pass along this wisdom: if the child is not ready, he may find something else to suck on, like a thumb or fingers. However, if ready, this method may work just fine. Suggest that, if going cold turkey, it is a good idea to rid the house (or at least baby’s line of sight) of all pacifiers and/or sippy cups. If they remain in the cabinet or drawer, baby will know and will want them!

 
Provide additional comfort – In preparation of weaning a baby from the pacifier and/or sippy cup, provide him with an additional comfort item. If the child’s only “lovey” is the pacifier or sippy cup, having a back up “lovey” will still allow the child a comfort when his first choice is gone.
Understand that routines may change – Warn your families that routines may change when weaning baby from the pacifier and/or sippy cup, especially if it is used as the child’s primary comfort item. When the pacifier/sippy cup is gone, the child may need assistance with calming, temporarily; swaddling, rocking, singing and some extra cuddles may be necessary until baby learns how to calm himself without the help of his pacifier or sippy cup.

 
Give the pacifier or sippy away to a new baby – Sometimes parents can convince the child to give up these items with some incentive. However, it is suggested that the new baby receiving the child’s old pacifiers/sippy cups not live in the same house. It will be more difficult for the child not to suck on a pacifier if there is one nearby. Some parents are also able to negotiate a trade with their child: “If you leave your pacifier under the Christmas tree, Santa will take it with him and leave you a present!” If the child is ready, this trick is a gem!

 
Some tips to warn parents to not try are:
Never, ever cut the pacifier nipple and give it to the child – Yes, if there is no nipple for the child to latch onto they will be less interested in sucking the pacifier. However, the risk of choking is too great to ever recommend this as a means of pacifier weaning. Pacifiers have to pass what is called a “pull test” during manufacturing. A cut nipple would not pass this pull test and would be deemed as unsafe for a child to have.

 
Do not shame the child for wanting to suck on his pacifier or sippy cup – Toddlers and preschoolers typically do not respond to being shamed into giving up the pacifier or sippy cup. Telling the child that in order to be a “big kid” he must give up his most prized possession may just make him want it more. And who can blame him, who really wants to “grow up” anyway?!

 
Do not recommend putting something that tastes bad on the nipple of the pacifier and/or sippy cup – I have known families to dip the nipple in chili powder to convince their toddler to stop sucking on his pacifier. One sweet little guy I knew still wanted his pacifier so badly that he licked the chili powder off, little by little, chased it with water and eventually got his paci back. Again, this is a case of the parent wanting the child to make the decision to give up the comfort item. Not gonna happen! Sometimes the parent has to be just that and take control.

 
So we wish you good luck as you head into the magical world of the paci and sippy cup. It holds a strong spell on many little ones, but with the right guidance and when our families are ready, we can help them help their children kick the habit!

 
Do you have any suggested weaning methods to add to this list? What would you say to encourage your families to follow through with weaning their child?
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Lacy Morise, M.S. CCC/SLP educates families on the risks involved with over-use of the pacifier and sippy as an early intervention speech-language pathologist in the West Virginia Birth to Three Program. She guiltily confesses to allowing all of her children to abuse the use of the pacifier! She owns Milestones & Miracles, LLC a company devoted to educating families about child development and the importance of PLAY! Check out her website and blog and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube.

Milestone or Modern Convenience? Part 1: OverUse of the Sippy Cup or Pacifier

Lacy recently wrote a blog for Virginia’s Early Intervention Program – specifically geared for therapists that work for that program, but the information is important for clinicians AND parents and caregivers. We have reposted it here but you can find the original HERE.

 

Written by: Lacy Morise, M.S. CCC/SLP

Although shocking to many, the sippy cup is NOT a developmental milestone. Nor is sucking on a pacifier, for that matter. But why do we (therapists,??????????????????????????????? parents and caregivers) celebrate these acquired “skills” as developmentally appropriate achievements? Why do we allow these “skills” to happen for much longer than they should? Is it just easier to always have a pacifier (aka mute button) in the baby/toddler’s mouth? Sippy cups are so easy to take along with us everywhere, how can it be harmful if a preschooler continues to exclusively drink from one?
The pacifier is a great thing for infants. It meets a physiological need to suck and allows baby a way to comfort himself. It may reduce the risk of SIDS as it appears to allow baby’s airway to remain more open and prevent baby from falling into a deeper sleep. Not to mention the other fringe benefits like quieting rowdy babes, helping them sleep longer and making outings and car rides more enjoyable for all. It certainly has a “place” in an infant’s world! And the sippy cup is an awesome convenience must-have. Drinks can be toted everywhere with baby/toddler and a sippy’s use means less spills to stain the carpet! Beautiful!
But aside from these benefits, there are risks associated with the over-use of both. Pediatricians and family physicians recommend weaning or stopping pacifier use in the second six months of life. Shocking I know considering how many toddlers we see with pacifiers in their mouths! The sippy cup can be skipped all together if natural development is occurring with no issue. Created for convenience, the sippy cup now has an entire market (and aisle in most stores) devoted to it! However a baby can transition to a straw (as early as 9 months) or open cup just as easily and drinking from both of these IS developmentally appropriate.

 

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As trusted resources on development, it is our job as early interventionists to inform families of both the positives and negatives of (prolonged) sucking. Some points to keep in mind as you discuss these “milestones” with parents and caregivers:
Prolonged sucking on a pacifier puts children at (a higher) risk for misaligned teeth. As those tiny white pearls are erupting, the pressure of the nipple of the pacifier can cause teeth to move around and shift. Also, the pressure can cause their hard palate, the roof of their mouth directly behind the front teeth, to change. It can push the palate forward, again changing the position of the teeth. In his research, J. Poyak concludes, “The greater the longevity and duration of pacifier use, the greater the potential for harmful results.”
A sippy often allows access to drinks all day long for a toddler. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what is in the sippy. If it is a sugary drink, the sugar increases the risk of developing cavities. The Medline Plus article titled, “Tooth decay – early childhood” states, “When children sleep or walk around with a bottle or sippy cup in their mouth, sugar coats their teeth for longer periods of time, causing teeth to decay more quickly.” Also, if a sippy is the only way a child gets liquids the developmentally appropriate skills of drinking through a straw and open cup are inhibited.
If children are allowed to have a drink (in a sippy or other cup) all the time, they may fill up on liquids and not eat meals as well, negatively impacting their nutrition. 

 

Although inconsistent, research suggests a relationship between prolonged sucking and speech delays. Barbosa et al. (2009) concluded in their research of 128 Patagonian preschoolers that, “The results suggest extended use of sucking outside of breastfeeding may have detrimental effects on speech development in young children.” When speech sound development is negatively impacted, so is the child’s intelligibility of speech making it difficult for others to understand them.
Sucking on a pacifier increases a child’s risk of developing otitis media (ear infection). The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) advocate for limited to no use of the pacifier in the second six months of the child’s life to decrease this risk.
A pacifier or sippy cup that is always in the mouth of a child, even when the child is walking around, puts him/her at a higher risk for mouth injuries. A 2012 study by Dr. Sarah Keim of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, found that “a young child is rushed to a hospital every four hours in the U.S. due to an injury from a bottle, sippy cup or pacifier.” When little ones are just learning to walk, doing two things at once requires a bit more coordination than they are capable of!
Besides the physical risks, beyond the age of 1 a stronger emotional attachment to the pacifier (or sippy cup) makes it increasingly difficult for the child to detach. The pacifier/sippy goes from meeting a physiological need during infancy to providing emotional comfort to the toddler when scared, upset or sleepy.
However, it is our job to know and respect the individuality of each child. Therefore it is best practice to reassure parents that we recognize they know their child best. We all want our children to be happy and if using a pacifier and/or sippy is what’s best for them and their family, that is okay. Our job is to inform the families we serve the best we can. Equipping them with knowledge on why prolonged sucking may be detrimental to their child allows the family to make the final call. Education and Support, that’s what we are there for.
Have you ever had the “prolonged sucking” discussion with any of the families you serve? How might you begin this conversation with a family?
Today’s blog is Part I of a two-part series on prolonged sucking and what we can do to educate families about it. Stay tuned for “Part II – What to do When the Convenience Becomes a Hard to Break Habit” next week featuring ideas you can share with families who are ready to wean their child off of the pacifier or sippy!
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References
Barbosa, Clarita, Sandra Vasquez, Mary Parada, Juan Carlos Velez Gonzalez, Chanaye Jackson, N David Yanez, Bizu Gelaye, and Annette Fitzpatrick. “The Relationship of Bottle Feeding and Other Sucking Behaviors with Speech Disorder in Patagonian Preschoolers.” BMC Pediatrics. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2431/9/66
EG, Gois, HC Rubeiro-Junior, MP Vale, SM Paiva, JM Serra-Negra, ML Ramos-Jorge, and IA Pordeus. “Influence of Nonnutritive Sucking Habits, Breathing Pattern and Adenoid Size on the Development of Malocclusion.” Angle Orthod.4 (2008): 647-54. Print. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18302463
Guideline on Periodicity of Examination, Preventive Dental Services, Anticipatory Guidance/Counseling, and Oral Treatment for Infants, Children, and Adolescents (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. http://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/G_Periodicity.pdf
Hauck, Fern R., MD, MS, Olanrewaju O. Omojokun, MD, and Mir S. Siadaty, MD, MS. “Do Pacifiers Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? A Meta-analysis.” PEDIATRICS5 (2005): E716-723. Do Pacifiers Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? A Meta-analysis. PEDIATRICS. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/5/e716
Keim, Sarah A., MA, MS, Erica N. Fletcher, MPH, Megan R.W. Tepoel, MS, and Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, MA. “Injuries Associated With Bottles, Pacifiers, and Sippy Cups in the United States, 1991-2010.” N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2015. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/6/1104.long
Natale, Ruby, PhD, PsyD. “Risks and Benefits of Pacifiers.” American Family Physician79 (2009): 681-85. – American Family Physician. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0415/p681.html
Poyak, J. “Effects of Pacifiers on Early Oral Development.” Int J Orthod Milwaukee4 (2006): 13-6. Print. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17256438
Regulatory Summary for Pacifier (n.d.): n. pag. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/120645/regsumpacifier.pdf
“Tooth Decay – Early Childhood: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002061.htm
Zardetto, CG, CR Rodrigues, and FM Stefani. “Effects of Different Pacifiers on the Primary Dentition and Oral Myofunction Structures of Preschool Children.” Pediatric Dentistry6 (2002): 552-60. Print. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12528948
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Lacy Morise, M.S. CCC/SLP educates families on the risks involved with over-use of the pacifier and sippy as an early intervention speech-language pathologist in the West Virginia Birth to Three Program. She guiltily confesses to allowing all of her children to abuse the use of the pacifier! She owns Milestones & Miracles, LLC a company devoted to educating families about child development and the importance of PLAY! Check out her website and blog and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube.
Website: www.milestonesandmiracles.com
Blog: www.milestonesandmiraces.com/blog/
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Let them fill in the bubbles and JUST MOVE ON – a mother’s call to minimize standardized testing stress

I debated writing this blog.

It’s one of those situations where as a person who blogs (I still can’t publicly call myself a writer) you internally struggle with putting your family and your beliefs out there publicly, because there will likely be strong opinions and comments of all sort in return.

In the end I decided it was worth it.

So here goes…

First I want to say that children and education and parenting and politics can all be sticky topics. And while my husband and I have choices we believe in, I understand and appreciate that yours may differ from mine and I genuinely appreciate that. One thing working in the homes of families for more than 10 years has taught me is that what works for me might be awful for you and vice versa.

There you go. Now on to the important part.

If you, like us, choose public education for your children, then they likely begin the ritual of standardized testing in the 3rd grade. We believe and appreciate as taxpayers and as parents that there needs to be a way to measure accountability and progress for schools. However, we, like many American parents, aren’t super pleased with the job that the current testing process is doing. We have a current 5th grader and current 3rd grader and can say with confidence that the tests our oldest daughter has taken (and done well on)  have never been able to fully assess the incredible progress we and her teachers have seen through the years or more importantly measure the talent or work performance of her stellar teachers.

A bigger problem to us as parents is the pressure associated with the test. Because the schools here in our state (WV) are required to document to the state how they are “preparing kids to take the test” and “letting them know how important the test is,” there are lots of activities, written and verbal interactions, and general overkill (in my opinion) that this test is a big deal. Do you remember pep rallies for a standardized test when you were a kid? How about signs cheering you on? Or multiple letters sent home to your parents reminding you to go to bed early and eat a great breakfast? Yea – me neither. We showed up, got new pencils, filled in the bubbles completely (not half way now – that was the only thing stressed), and went to recess.  Is all the “hype” needed?

We enthusiastically say NO! Why? Because kids naturally know it matters and they will either try their best or they won’t. I’d love to see a study that proves the letters home about the importance of breakfast increases test scores. You know what I know for sure it does increase? TEST STRESS. You know how I know? My 5th grader started sleep walking and mumbling about standardized testing in the 3rd grade. There is nothing creepier than walking up to a zombie eyed kid mumbling about taking a test while hovering over you in bed. Worse yet, my current 3rd grader, spent the night before her first day of testing dry heaving for 90 minutes. That kind of did me in as a Mom. I’m tough, but not that tough.

My husband and I debated (passionately I might add) about what to do. My mom is a long term educator and past principal. I know the school needs test scores. I also know my kid needs to worry about riding her bike an extra 10 minutes vs. vomiting over a test at night. We want to advocate for our children AND their teachers. The question is how to do that? There’s a large “Opt Out” movement currently, with some state superintendents actually encouraging parents to opt out with the reasoning that educators can’t change legislation so maybe data will. I understand that desperate thought process (to be honest it tempts me), but I also know in the short term, right here in my corner of the world, it may hurt my precious school and teachers. So I communicated with my daughter’s teacher, prayed, and in the end she was fine the next day when she realized it wasn’t as bad as she had imagined.

And then I wrote to my elected officials. To be honest, even though I am a very optimistic person, I have little faith this will help, but I did it, because I have to do something. And when I shared it with my best friend (and co-owner of Milestones & Miracles), she immediately said, “Share it on the blog.”

So here it is. Here’s my letter. I know it will likely be met with comments of how others handled it differently or how they opted out of a test or even opted out of public education all together and like I said before, that is ok and to be expected. We choose these schools and this village for our children for many reasons not mentioned here (even with a crummy test).  This letter might not be the best option of how I can advocate for my child, her teachers, and her school, but it is the best I have right now. So it is what I offer until I have something better. I shared it with her principal and thanked her for leading educators who care about my child’s future more than a test score.

To me, the real question is, for those of us who continue to want to access public education for our children, what is the most effective way to support both our children and our schools?

Dear Senator,


I am writing to share my opinion regarding our current education system and state testing policies in WV.

Let me start by sharing that as a daughter of a life long educator (most of those years in WV) and a parent who is beyond pleased with the education and experiences my daughters have received, I am a supporter and believer in public education. I have seen my mother change and inspire countless lives. I have witnessed teachers pouring their talents into my daughters and their classmates and not just caring but putting concern into action with students who are unsafe at home. When I speak of their creative projects, their involvement with the First Lego League, and the personal relationships with school staff that have fostered a deep love of learning for my children, people assume I send my children to private school. I beam with pride when I can correct them by saying my children actually attend public school in one of the poorest states in the country. The teachers and administrators we have encountered here in Berkeley County can and often do bring me to grateful tears.

Today is the first day that my 9 year old will take a standardized test. She is a confident and bright child that does well in school and has never complained about a test, an assignment, or going to school. On the contrary, she cries when she is sick and has to miss school! Last night, she shook, hyperventilated, and dry heaved for 90 minutes before bed – because she is “scared of the test.” This is a child that competed individually at the state gymnastics meet, played a main role in the school play, and speaks at our church in front of hundred of adults without even a mention of nervousness. My confident bright child was physically ill last night…because of a test.

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As I helped her take deep breaths, reassured her she was well prepared, and promised her that this test will have no affect on her future, I became quite frustrated and angry. What are we doing to our children?

I work for a federally and state funded program (as a Physical Therapist for WV Birth To Three) and so I understand the need for accountability. As a taxpayer I expect it. When we force our teachers to give tests that do not test true knowledge, we place them in a hard position. They feel the pressure and without ill-will pass that pressure on to our children. When we require administrators to document what they are doing to “motivate students to try hard/do well on the test,” we create unneeded stress on children. I would be curious to see if this well-meaning requirement actually hinders their scores. I understand that many children in our state do not have parents at home who are prioritizing or supporting education, but I’m not sure pep rallies for tests, signs cheering students on, and notes and constant verbal reminders on what to feed our children and when to put them to bed will solve that. The extra hype creates hysteria for my child and others. I firmly believe if she could come in and take the test with a good ‘ol “do your best” parents would not be seeing these clear signs of anxiety in our children.
As a home provider of early intervention in many of these at risk homes, might I suggest that working to change that culture in the home 365 days a year vs. the week before testing with community and school support that involves families might be more effective? There are better ways to do what needs to be done. If you haven’t read “The Smartest Kids In The World And How They Got That Way” by Amanda Ripley. I strongly encourage you to. It opened my eyes to the countries that are doing great things with fewer resources than we have here in the US.

I also work as a small business owner dedicated to providing educational support to families, reminding them what typical child development looks like (as a nation we are forgetting this), supporting a child’s need and right for free and safe unstructured play, and encouraging movement and sensory based learning experiences. One way my business partner and I do this is by going into schools and providing continuing education on how the young brain learns best and then problem solving ways for teachers to do this while still meeting state standards.

As a business owner I will continue to do this.

As an early intervention therapist I will continue to try to attempt to strengthen WV families and empower them to be involved with their children’s learning from the start.

As a parent, I will continue to advocate for my child and others, pray for their impressionable minds, and reassure my child that her individualized learning can’t be appropriately measured by one current standardized test. I will also support my child’s hard working and underappreciated teachers and administrators.

What will you do?

Respectfully-

Nicole Sergent

Martinsburg, WV

What does READY for Kindergarten really mean?

Yesterday I volunteered at Kindergarten Registration at my daughter’s elementary school.

As I sat there watching the children march from station to station (either proudly or with nudging) with their parents behind them, I had a rush of mixed emotions. I was excited for the journey they are all ready to start at such an incredible place to learn. I couldn’t help myself from sharing, “Do you know you are going to come to the BEST SCHOOL EVER!? Waves of nostalgia passed over me as I remember exactly what my oldest wore to her Kindergarten Registration and how she went from station to station collecting documents and shaking hands like a 5 year old executive. Small pains of sadness and emotional gratefulness were in the mix too – my youngest will leave that incredible nest in a few months. Where has the time gone? I am going to have a child in middle school next year. Virtual hugs accepted.

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A child’s (and a parent’s) first step into an elementary school is a big deal. I know it and I felt it for those parents yesterday. That first impression plays a large role in a parent’s impression and expectations for their child’s school experience. And we all know that our expectations as parents play a large role in our child’s expectations for themselves.

I have to say that our elementary school does a really great job of this. Friendly smiles. Calm voices. Squatting down to greet kids eye to eye. Fun and festive decorations. These professionals got it going on! But this does not surprise me. They do an incredible job day in and day out so it is natural to share their gifts with families on their first special day.

As a pediatric Physical Therapist, I have a genuine interest in development, and through our work with Milestones & Miracles, I’ve become specifically interested and fascinated with the benefits of developmentally appropriate learning through play or hands on/multi-sensory activities with a purpose.  Lacy & I are so passionate about this that we developed a lecture to support schools with the good work they are already doing, with ideas to feed a student’s nervous system with the movement and activities they need to learn.

At the table next to me, was our school’s reading specialist. She is young, fun, and good at what she does. The little girls idolize her and the boys have big time crushes on her. She’s an elementary rock star. She was handing out a booklet yesterday to help parents prepare their children for Kindergarten. It quickly caught my eye because I remembered it. And when I remembered it, I also remembered my feelings absolute panic….WHAAAT? She has to do this BEFORE KINDERGARTEN? She’s not ready? Maybe I should wait a year? Will she ever succeed?

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When it was our turn to step into that school, I’ll admit this list clearly stressed me out. The self imposed challenge of teaching my child all of this information by September overwhelmed me and to be honest I didn’t want to spend our last summer before school stated drilling her to learn to write her name. To my knowledge she wasn’t doing most of these things at 4. She had gone to a play based preschool and we didn’t do worksheets or flashcards at home. (Side note: After she started school a few months later, her new teacher proudly shared she actually DID know/could do these things….shocking my husband and I…and starting the precious trend she has for refusing to learn most things we try to overtly teach her).

In solidarity with those parents coming to collect the list and learning sheets, I had a wonderful conversation with the reading teacher. It went a lot like many of the valued conversations I’ve had with my children’s teachers over the years…teachers know concepts they must share are often presented too early or in a format they don’t feel confident with…but the national trend for education and policy making is what it is. I shared that brain research tells us that children’s brains are often not ready/wired to read until closer to 7 years of age. She confirmed that she sees this often with students she work with. I shared as a parent of a first time student, that list made me nervous.  We both agreed our shared thoughts that expecting them to do things their brain isn’t ready for isn’t exactly fair (please note I am in no way saying a Kindergarten student should not learn, be challenged, be introduced to literature concepts etc. Just that there is a need to recognize ALL kids are biologically ready for site words the instant they turn 5).

The packet also included some great and relevant follow up information that expanded on the list..including helpful and reassuring information that these things did not have to be mastered by the first day of school (I don’t remember this part of the list when I received it?! So glad it was added).

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But in addition to those tips, I think it’s important to share with parents that PLAY BASED learning is still developmentally appropriate for 4 & 5 year olds….and beyond that, it is this type of learning that makes those essential concepts, imperative building blocks for advanced learned, concrete and real and strong. Without fully understanding these early learning concepts, our children don’t have a sturdy foundation. And yes some students prefer pencil and paper (even at 4 years old), but we know that the more senses (including movement) we involve with learning, the more our children will learn.

Experiencing is learning.

Purposeful Play IS learning.

Just because he/she doesn’t come home with a worksheet doesn’t mean learning didn’t occur.

Because we are so passionate about this for children and their parents, and because we have been so fortunate to have a unique and strong relationship in partnering with my daughter’s elementary school, I felt comfortable creating a short resource that could be shared to back up these principles.

And because I’m sharing it with that rock star teacher today, I thought why not share with you?

If you are a teacher, parent, therapist or just anyone interested in the topic feel free to share this document with anyone who might benefit. You have our permission to print it. You can find it by clicking the PDF link at the end of this essay. We only ask that you respect our time in creating it and cite us as the source. It is short and sweet but provides practical suggestions for developmentally play based in context learning for those getting ready for Kindergarten.

We can all work together to make change by advocating for developmentally appropriate learning and advocating for play as an essential need for all children.

Is he/she ready for Kindergarten is a question we will all ask ourselves as parents. We believe that defining what “ready” really means makes it a much easier question to answer. We hope this list helps you do just that.

Kindergaten Here I Come – Ideas To Learn PDF

 

Have an infant or toddler? Want to support them with purposeful play – check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me!