2017 Holiday Gift Guide For Kids By Age

“What should I get them???”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone.   
So here’s what we’ve done this week.
We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices.  We’ve combined all our lists by age right here for you and hope you’ll find it helpful.  What would you add to our lists? What do your kids love?

1 YEAR OLDS

2 YEAR OLDS 

3-4 YEAR OLDS

5-7 YEAR OLDS

8-10 YEAR OLDS

10 & OLDER

Don’t forget 1-2-3 Just Play With Me for the expecting or new parents on your list! Empowering them with 3 years of education and purposeful play suggestions is a perfect and practical gift! 

 

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.

 

DSC05445-300x225
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/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/milestonesandmiracles
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/milestonesm/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MilestonesM
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmuWPFDcqZ4

Print or Digital? Which version is best for you?

From the beginning of our business, we have enjoyed sharing our visions and dreams with you – our friends and family personally, professionally, and those who we have connected with through our shared passion for play as the best way for a child to learn and bond with a parent.

For those reasons and more, we are very excited to share with you the next step in our journey to support those who love and interact with children by truly understanding their development in the early years and encouraging the pairing of it with purposeful play.

We are proud to announce that 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is now available for purchase as an E-book!

To give you a glimpse into why we decided to expand our product to a digital offering and how it can be used, we decided to share with you some questions we are asked repetitively (and some answers too!)

“I love your product, but are you going to make it into an app? E-book? Some digital form? Paper is going to be extinct soon!”

While we both still love the feel of an actual book or product to hold, and the opportunity to give a beautiful gift to someone, we realize that many people prefer a more compact version of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! We both embrace the qualities of printed work and the convenience of digital work. As soon as we created our product, it was a goal to create a digital version so that we could meet the needs of all customers. We chose an e-book vs. an app because 1-2-3 Just Play With Me has enough information and text that it could be a book, but we wanted the convenience as parents of quickly accessing only the information we needed at a time in card form. The E-book was the best option to present the information digitally in the format we wanted to preserve.

“Which option is best for me? E-book or print version?”

Of course, this is personal preference, but in our opinion, if you are purchasing it for yourself to use with your baby, or as a gift, we recommend the print version. Here’s why. The cards can be physically placed in a useful place like the refrigerator door. This allows you (or another parent or caretaker) the opportunity to focus on only the age/stage where the child currently is, while doing all the other things we do as parents (cook, clean up dishes etc). The cards were purposefully made to be quite durable for these reasons.  Our sturdy, decorative box also makes a lovely addition to a nursery.

We do sell a great number of units to therapists, child care centers, and early childhood professionals. Depending on the professional use, the E-book version may be more practical. For example, Lacy & I both work in early intervention, so we will be loading the E-book on our individual devices to take daily into the homes of the families we serve to use as a quick reference (as a PT, I LOVE this option to reference the areas of development other than my familiar motor area. It allows me to give the parents a comprehensive and appropriate look into which milestones we are working on and how we can tie together goals in several areas of development into a few activities).  The E-book is obviously easier to transport for work purposes than the print version for us, but if you work in a clinic where you want parents to view the cards themselves in a waiting area or interactively with you during therapy sessions or parent conferences, the print version may work best.  Additionally, the eBook version has a table of contents, search engine, and hyperlinks to additional resources that the print version doesn’t have.

“I really like your product. I wish I had it earlier, but my child is 2 years old, so I’m not sure I can justify buying the whole set. Have you considered splitting it up into sections?”

Why yes, we have! We considered this in the early development phases of the print version, but doing so initially would have increased our production costs making it difficult to sell to our customers at a fair price. With the E-book version we were able to meet this request! You can purchase the cards in the first, second, or third year of life separately and each comes with the detailed resource section at the end of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, including common topics such as potty training, discipline, sleep. sign language, and book and toy recommendations. Simply search for each individual year at the ebook store of your choice!

“I really like the design of the cards. Is that lost in the E-book conversion.”

We do too, so absolutely not! 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is color coded to quickly reference what domain of child development you are looking for and sequentially by age. That was part of our essential original design so we could not lose that in the conversion. In fact, we actually added a table of contents so you can search by age or area and a search engine to look for specific topics and milestones. The only difference is, that in the e-book version, you will not see our colored scalloped borders, but you will still be able to use the color coding system to identify which of the 5 developmental domains you are exploring. The font in the headings of the e-book sections will maintain the same system as the printed cards (red for cognitive, navy for social/emotional, green for gross motor, gray for fine motor, and light blue for speech and language). Here’s a screen shot to give you a sneak preview!

 

horizontal version

 

 

“So how can I find 1-2-3 Just Play With Me digitally?”

We are excited to offer our e-book through Amazon/Kindle, Barnes and Noble/Nook, iTunes.

Simply click the hyperlink above to find the version of your choice and to read a sample.

There you have it. What you need to know about our next step. As with all of our previous steps, we are humbled by your encouragement and support. For reviews of what others are saying check out these reviews and these too! If you share our vision for a world where adults understand what real development looks like and embrace their children through play, will you share with a friend or colleague that might benefit from knowing  about our E-book? Whether you are a paper fan or a digital fan, we know you’ll be a 1-2-3 just Play With Me fan once you experience the detailed developmental information, purposeful and fun play strategies, and practical and unique format we are proud to offer you! Remember you can always order the print version at Amazon, Pro-Ed, and right here at Milestones & Miracles (we’ll happily ship for free and include a gift card for you). You can also visit these lovely spaces that may be local to you to purchase one in person.

WILL YOU HELP US KICK OFF THIS EXCITING NEW ADDITION TO OUR BUSINESS? SIMPLY SHARE THE FACEBOOK ANNOUNCEMENT FROM OUR PAGE AND WE WILL ENTER YOU TO WIN A FREE DIGITAL FULL VERSION OF 1-2-3 JUST PLAY WITH ME! DRAWING WILL BE HELD ON FRIDAY 9.19.14. THANKS!

 

Are The Shoes We Are Asking Them To Fill Simply Too Big? How What You Know (or Don’t Know) About Child Development Could Be Affecting Your Child

This article is currently running in the 2014 Annual Family Resource Guide Edition of Child Guide Magazine. Check out the entire issue online at: http://www.childguidemagazine.com/too big

 “Stop running,” says the mother to the 4 year old. “Sit still,” the embarrassed father whispers sternly to his toddler at story hour. “If you don’t know these sight words by Friday, your teacher will be upset,” warns the anxious parent of the new Kindergartener.  We’ve all heard these threats. In all honesty, most of us have made them, or something quite close to them. But if we could take a moment to pause and consider if the demands we place on our children are developmentally appropriate would we continue to make them?

 

As a pediatric Physical Therapist, I help families determine the functional and developmental skills that their child has challenges with at their current age/stage. Then I provide them with play-based strategies to help them achieve the goals we’ve set together for their child.   Parents help their children meet these goals through practice during play. This method of helping children learn makes perfect sense, yet it is barely used in the context of teaching children at any age or with varied abilities. 

 

Why do we, as parents and educators, ignore that small voice inside that instinctually KNOWS what our child should learn or how they should behave at their given age in favor of unrealistic goals?

 

It turns out, it’s not entirely our fault. Society has a lot to do with the faulty message that parents are receiving.  Although the reasons why the message to parents are numerous and complex, there seems to be 3 strong motivators.  First, not surprisingly, is financial.  Toy and “educational” product manufacturers are aware of the pressure parents feel to have their children keep up with the swift race that childhood has unfortunately become and can capitalize by offering products that meet that emotional need, despite the fact that many of these products are not developmentally appropriate.  A prime example of this are the “Baby Reading” Programs that teach young children to identify the shapes of words and match them to the actual word through repetition without actual literary learning.

 

Second, is a trickle down effect from the education system. As college entrance levels become competitive and our nation falls behind in international educational rakings, panic rises, and pressure increases to “get ahead.” Yet, once again, instead of relying on what solid research says about how young children learn best (through hands on play and in context through multisensory experiences – especially in the first 5-6 years of life), we turn away from methods other countries are using and turn to drill work and standardized tests for younger and younger children. I love the saying that “Kindergartners should be blowing bubbles not filling them in.”   And at the end of the day, knowing that this educational standard is looming in the years ahead, parents of preschoolers and even babies automatically turn to activities that will “prepare” their child for school without regard to developmental need.  A recent poll showed that 65% of parents feel that “flashcards are very helpful in helping 2 year olds develop intellectual intelligence.” Unfortunately 65% of those parents are wrong. Yes, a flashcard can help your child learn to memorize that the letter printed on it is a “B,” but running around a room and sounding out starting letters of various toys and throwing those that start with the letter “B” into the bucket with the “B” on it is an example of REAL learning, in the context of play.

 

Third is the current belief, held by many adults, that the end product of a child that is gifted in many ways – academically, athletically, artistically, musically etc. is more important than the actual process of childhood.  Think about it. Are you gifted both creatively AND analytically? Me neither. Expecting your child to be sets an unrealistic standard. Filling the schedules, of particularly young children, with lessons, and structured experiences to try and meet that unrealistic standard denies them what is most important for their learning – unstructured playtime.  The consequences are tragic.  Mental health statistics in our young children, particularly tweens, are on the rise, not fully, but in part to a lack of opportunity to “blow off steam” through unstructured free time.   Eating on the go to rush from lesson to game to tutoring and decreased physical education and recess time in our schools have led to the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 American children are obese.  

 

We need to wake up. By understanding how children learn best at each stage and what is developmentally and neurologically typical, we can foster quality learning for healthy children. I know it sounds overwhelming. Here’s some easy ways to start:

 

·       Understand Development. Speak to pediatricians, early childhood specialists and educators who have specialized training in what ages children’s bodies are made to learn certain skills. Did you know that the average brain is not ready to accept literacy in the form of actual reading until 6 years of age? This is why it’s not taught in Germany until 1st grade.  Why do pre-K parents feel like a failure if their child can’t read BEFORE they go to Kindergarten? Tune out what the media, the mainstream retailers, and what the “academic preschool” is telling you. Listen to your inner voice and those who have done solid research on child development. Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff, Play by Murphy, and Brain Gym by Dennison are great places to start if you are interested in the stages and ways children learn specific skills.

·       Understand What Actually Will Make Your Child Smarter. Interestingly, straight IQ is not a measure of future success. Psychologists now talk about “multiple intelligences” as the best measure of true intelligence, with consideration to things like impact emotional intelligence, such as empathy, self-discipline, and interpersonal skills, in addition to analytic abilities. What impacts these? One of the highest indicators is language – especially vocabulary. No matter the age of your child, read to them. Visit the library. Let them read and write to you when they are able. Tell stories and sing to each other. Have dinner conversations.  Also, the environment your child is in matters and can affect IQ as much as 15-20 points. Your encouragement, involvement, and affection matter. 

·       Keep Expectations Real. Once you know what to expect from your child at their current age (or more importantly stage of development if they tend to show delays or have unique patterns in development) and focus on what they are able to do and enjoy doing.  Keeping appropriate expectations will allow your child (and yourself) to be less stressed and more engaged with what they are motivated to learn about. Continuing to challenge your child to learn just outside of their comfort zone will keep them engaged and eager to learn. It is equally important to embrace their given abilities. Only 1.5 out of 10 people will have an IQ over 117. In fact the large majority of people, 86%, will score between 84-116 on an IQ test. Why is “normal” no longer celebrated or embraced but seen as a weakness?

·       Know Your Child And Be An Advocate. This might be the most challenging but the most important recommendation! We all learn differently. Is your child a visual or auditory learner? Does he or she work best independently or in groups?  Is he/she a quick worker or need more time? Keep learning styles, preferences, and abilities in mind when teaching your child and choose activities and preschools that line up with what you believe is best for your child.  Communicate these observations to teachers and coaches. Yes, if you chose formal education or community sports, your child will have to play by the rules set for them, but a great educator and coach will help them do that best by knowing how they learn best.

·       Don’t Stop Playing. Ever. Fred Rogers once said, Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” If we take the opportunity to play away, we take away a child’s ability to practice all that they are learning. In today’s world, this might mean saying “No” to an activity or actually looking at your calendar and penciling in down time. Embrace it and swim up that stream. Your children will be happier and healthier because of it.  You are their best example, so remember to allow yourself to play and have downtime as well!

 

It’s not odd to wonder, “How did we even get to this place?” Before the 19th century, childhood wasn’t formally recognized. Children were viewed as miniature adults, preparing themselves for their eventual adult roles. Photographs and artwork of that period even depict them as small adults.  At the end of the 19th century child psychology was born, children were studied, and experts in the field emerged.  These experts, such as Dr. Spock, became influential as more mothers worked outside the home and wanted to make sure that in the time they had with their children, they were doing all they could for them. Today, we dress children as adults. We expect them to sit, be still, stay quiet, read, write, and score well on standardized tests before they are developmentally ready to do so, and we fault them  (and ourselves) when they can’t.  They are stimulated incorrectly mentally and stifled physically. We have turned them into miniature adults again, abandoning much of what we have learned about our children through the years. Are we ready as adults to give childhood back to our children?If we have the courage to do so, I think we’ll find we will have happier, healthier, smarter, and more engaged children.  And nothing makes a parent happier – than a happy child.

 

Nicole M. Sergent, MPT is a Pediatric Physical Therapist. Because she believes in empowering parents to understand and embrace their child’s unique development and in jumping in and engaging with them through purposeful play, she co-authored a unique tool for families of young children called 1-2-3 Just Play With Me. It is her effort to help give childhood back to children by helping parents understand development and pairing it with play. Find out more at: www.milestonesandmiracles.com

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Your Own Virtual Village

I’m a big believer in the concept that a village raises a child. Whether it’s your Mommy Posse of friends that become family or your actually family, in my mind, the more people loving a child, the better for that child.

My family is big (in numbers and personalities). Growing up I believed it typical that everyone’s grandmother watched them daily (along with most of their cousins) and cooked dinner for 10 or more people many weekday evenings, 15 or more on weekends, and 40+ on holidays. Everyone does that, right?

Growing up, I also knew there were MANY eyes on me. Eyes that read me stories, eyes that smiled when I had a birthday, a sporting event, or a good report card, and eyes that were watching if I chose to make a bad decision. It was like having many sets of parents — the good and the bad parts (coming from a child’s view) but now, as an adult,  I know it was all good.

My mom has a much younger sister (a surprising joy to our family) and her children were born when I was in my late teens. They moved to Canada but that did not stop the family village. We spoke regularly enough to know, celebrate, discuss, & analyze most of their childhood and teen years – from first steps and words, to first dates, to first day of living in new college apartments. We drove them crazy, but I loved really “knowing” them, despite the geographical distance. (p.s. my hunch is – they will agree with me one day).

As our family grows – and grows – and grows (our next baby is coming in February!), and spreads out across this beautiful world, it could be harder to stay in “the know” with the family, but it hasn’t been…because of the two miracles we call FaceTime & Skype.

As ignorantly irritated as I get when I don’t have wi-fi or our home server is down (how impatient and obnoxious is that?), I am incredibly awed by the fact that I can share a conversation with my cousin Tania in France while she gives her baby a bath at night and I prep dinner. I adore the fact that we get to see Halloween costumes and Christmas gifts live with my cousin Nina’s boys in Colorado. We are able to see my newly married cousin’s exciting house renovations and weigh in on tile and paint choices. I’m amazed that my 83 year old immigrant grandmother spends many hours a day warmed by the virtual presence of her cousins across the globe (literally).  Years ago, they might be luckily to have 1 phone call a year!

And as a mother now myself, I am so thankful that my family stays connected with my daughters and that they learn what life is like all over the place in a “real time” way. My cousins in Kuwait have shown them sand storms out the window of their home. Australian cousins have shared their view of winter even though it is blazing hot summer here in WV at the same time (this BLOWS the kids minds!). My Teta (grandmother) shares live cooking shows of what she is making. My girls read books and share art projects and lost teeth with my in-laws. My Aunt Lisa watched my daughter’s entire 4 year old birthday party via her laptop (yes she’s awesome). Skype and Face time bring those we love and miss right into our living room and next to us at the dinner table.

The aspect that I love the most about the endless opportunities of “virtual visiting” is when it comes to babies. I LOVE my family and I LOVE their new babies even more. It’s actually painful at times not to be able to scoop up those babies, bring over a lasagna and do a load of laundry, or babysit in a pinch when distance forbids it. But visiting through the web is the next best thing. I want the babies in my family to KNOW me and my family. I want to be a part of their village. I want to be the eyes that celebrate, love, and watch out for them.

Our newest baby for the moment is sweet Lilie Rose, who lives in the lovely South of France (lucky her).  (Side note: if you are interested in how having a baby in France differs from the US — Read HERE – it’s our personal family observation). We saw her last April and won’t see her in person again until July.  She has and will change incredible since then, and thanks to Face Time, I haven’t had to miss much. I’m sure I drive my cousin crazy at times, but when I Face Time with her I also do some of the same things, (most of which are act like a total lunatic) because I want her to recognize and know me too. I always sing her the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (it’s our thing) and she now smiles as soon as I start despite the fact that I am a HORRIBLE singer. Family loves you no matter what, right? Here is Lilie and I sharing some time together (excuse the appearance – ehh – It’s because of the time change 🙂

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Banana Phone Call For Miss Lilie Rose

 

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Imitation – she can open her mouth like me (luckily she is not as scary!)

 

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Washed the Spider Out! (her favorite part!)

 

If you have family (or friends that are like family) spread out, do you spend time visiting them via the Internet? What are fun ways you engage with them? If not, I encourage you to give it a try. There are many ideas to connect and play with babies and young kids even if you can’t be in the same room.

Here are some to try:

  • READ – chose the same bedtime story to share repetitively (make it YOUR thing) or introduce new ones.
  • SING –  (even if you are bad – like me). Young children love songs and finger plays (and they really enhance language development).
  • BABBLE AND PLAY – babies learn imitation before they learn conversation (more on that HERE). Be a part of the team that uses purposeful play to start that first conversation.
  • SHARE – Your meal, your home, your yard, your day. Children learn through exposure. Your environment is certainly different that theirs, so play show and tell online!
  • QUESTION – if they are old enough to talk, ask questions. How was their day? Where is their favorite toy? Can they jump yet? Ask them to show you!

Need more ideas to enhance purposeful play in person or online? Click here! (We ship for free and can include a personal gift card when sent as a gift!) 

 

I am Physical Therapist. I don’t have extended formal training on how the minds of young children emotionally develop. I am not a child psychologist, but I am a daughter, a mother, a niece, a sister, a granddaughter, a daughter and sister in law, a cousin and a BELIEVER that growing the number of people who love and are involved with your child can only be a good thing.  It was for me. I know it will be for my girls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Family is a WELCOME WAGON

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If there is one thing my family does right it’s babies.  Of course I think there are several things we do right, but this one thing is exceptionally on point.  We celebrate each pregnancy, birth and child as if it was the first in our family for decades (which couldn’t be any further from the truth!).  The excitement mounts for months; cards of congratulations on the news of expecting, multiple baby showers being hosted, visitors at the hospital and anxious relatives who badger the new parents until they show their faces (more importantly the baby’s face) at the upcoming family event.  I guess this all started with my grandmother, she is a matriarch of sorts.  Grandma blessed her husband with 7 children.  From those 7 came 23 grandchildren, 43 great grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren.  AMAZING!  And even after all of that practice, we still get excited!!  In fact, Grandma’s 3rd great-great grandchild is due at the end of January and her 35th great grandchild is due in March and we are all full of excitement and anticipation to meet the newest members of the “Varner Clan”.  Our cups runneth over on a pretty regular basis!

 

So with much practice in baby gift giving, I wanted to share with you all my latest FAVORITE baby shower gift.  Click here to view some of the  most popular baby shower gifts recommended by early intervention therapists and HERE for a list of all things essential (and not so essential) for babies and their parents (hint: what you should (and shouldn’t) include on your baby registry). My latest and greatest baby gift  idea is this…A WELCOME WAGON!  Seriously the cutest thing EVER!  A child’s wagon filled with all that a baby needs: diapers, wipes, onesies, binkies, blankets, board books, rattles and of course, 1-2-3 Just Play With Me!  This gift hits a home run with all expecting parents.  It includes essentials like diapers, wipes and onesies,  developmentally appropriate toys for baby like rattles and board books and 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, 3 years of child development for mom and dad to follow along and appreciate the miracle of their angel and play ideas to help build strong bonds between them and baby.  1-2-3 Just Play With Me is the gift that keeps on giving!  Certainly your wagon can be themed boy or girl if you know the sex of the baby, but can easily be made into a gender neutral gift as well.

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This wagon is chock full of developmental toys perfect for a baby girl or baby boy along with 1-2-3 Just Play With Me.

 

 

And this wagon is perfectly pink for the new princess or your clan.  Packed with diapers, wipes, onesies, a baby doll, rattles and 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, it's sure to make the new parents feel perfectly prepared!

And this wagon is perfectly pink for the new princess of your clan. Packed with diapers, wipes, onesies, a baby doll, rattles and 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, it’s sure to make the new parents feel perfectly prepared!

 

I am so thankful to be blessed with many cousins, aunts and uncles.  And now I am even more blessed with nieces, nephews and children of my own.  Grandma, I can’t thank you enough for the legacy you began years ago when you started our family.  Your example of faith and love inspires us all to embrace life from beginning to end!  You are are the best gift of all!

 

 

 

Dear 28 year old Mommy (aka the me I used to be),

Dear 28 year old New Mother (otherwise known as ME),

There are some important things you need to know. Things that I need to tell you not only to make your days a little easier, but more importantly so that you can stop being so hard on yourself.

First of all, you have 2 girls (drama for the mama assumed in this case) that are 21 months apart. Forget the clean house and burn those to-do lists. They will only leaving you with the dread of disappointment when in fact, you are accomplishing HUGE things – you are raising two future women, mothers, friends, daughters, healers, helpers, listeners…two future warriors. Here’s your new to-do list: If everyone is safe, fed, relatively clean, and happy for at least part of the day – you are WINNING!

Feel the stress of “keeping up” creeping up next to you? Give it the face palm, sista. Your babies don’t need more toys, classes, or lessons. They need more you. On the floor..hugging, singing, and sometimes even just napping next to them! Tune out most of that exterior noise and listen to the coos and giggles next to you, for they will soon turn into nonsensical whining and bickering about trivial topics like…WHY.DON’T. I.HAVE .ANY .SHOES. TO. WEAR? (while looking at a closet full of shoes). Coos and giggles are magic friend.   P.S. The one thing you should buy and play more with.. is BLOCKS. Here’s why (remember your struggle with Physics?)

Some things you are going to be good at. Others you are not. This mothering thing is not unlike your experiences in gym class years ago (sports that involve just you – you fare decently. Throw a ball in the mix…well, at least you tried). Just like you did with softball, try harder every day, but find peace accepting both your strengths and weaknesses. Do you expect your daughters to be wonderful and simply amazing at everything they ever try? I thought so. Give yourself the same consideration.  You deserve it.

On that note, I’ll give you a sneak preview – you are totally gonna rock breast feeding, potty training, and ignoring things in favor of play and naps (see above). Sleep on the other hand – like I said, we all have our gifts. Stop comparing yourself. Yes, your dearest friend is like a sleep fairy that magically kisses her awake (no joke) baby and places her in that gorgeous basinette to fall into hours of glorious slumber. Yes, you will nurse, rock, rock while walking, rock while placing down, rock the crib, and keep rocking yourself while you walk out of the nursery door every night, only to have those babies scream out for you when you hit the door. Yes, you will read (or will ask your sweet husband to read) many books on sleep, you’ll make feable attempts to Ferberize your sweet girls, you’ll talk to the pediatrician about your noble efforts with no success, and you will lie for 20 minutes that feel like an 20 hours with a pillow over your head trying to not cry and lactate at the same time. In the end, you will cuddle that precious gift next to you – exhausted, guilt ridden but relieved at the same time, and you will only sleep with one eye open anyway for fear you will suffocate her. You are weak, but it’s ok (potty training will come soon and it will be REDEMPTION time). Keep trying, but accept who you are!

Going to a friends house for a playdate? Bring a blindfold – just in case! If you see site words labeling the toy room – put it on! Take a deep breath and remind yourself what you know – what you studied & believe. Small children should not be forced into learning to read too early. The brain is not actually ready until 6 YEARS OLD – you have time, dear girl. Read books every day, label vegetables in the grocery store and sing about them while people look at you like a lunatic, dig in the dirt, jump in the rain puddles, don’t forget the blocks, but don’t worry about that baby reading yet.  Your friends know this too – they just see other play rooms, with other site words, and they worry too. ** Spoiler alert – one day not too long from now, your soon to be 5 year old will teach your soon to be 3 year old how to read while playing (gasp) school, all the while –  you will be doing work in the next room (feeling guilty for not being the female version of Mr. Rogers while your children suffer alone). When people become shocked that the 3 year old can read, you’ll swear up and down you had absolutely nothing to do with it and they wont believe you – until, the 3 year old tells the nice people that Mommy was busy and that her sister taught her everything she knows (breathe – embrace the weakness and the strength (siblings are the best gift to each other, and you always wanted a sister yourself).

Things happen because you and your lovely little family need them to. Stop feeling cheated out of a natural childbirth. Listen to that doctor when she says that if you had a baby with your large headed husband in the olden days, both you and your baby wouldn’t be here. Some things are meant to be – your C-section was one of those things. You are allowed to always be mad that they made you wait so long to hold pink bundle #1, but you redeemed yourself and got assertive 21 months later with even pinker bundle #2. Look for the silver lining. Always. One day, you will be one of few thirty some year old mothers, who can jump rope and sneeze safely.

Another thing, those ladies all around you. Your Mommy Posse. They are a GIFT from above. You are already realizing this one. Cherish them and their babies. They are your lifelong family. Others come and go, but those that brought you magical ice packs for mastitis, walked miles with you and your ridiculously heavy stroller,  rescued #1 when #2 screamed 22 out of 24 hours a day with undiagnosed acid reflux, and listened while you heard yourself think out loud about how you were going to make all these important child rearing decisions…those chicks – they are FOREVER YOURS.

You might lose some of that baby weight. You might not. But one day you will think back and belly laugh about the time you set up the Pack-n-Play next to the treadmill, carefully placing the puffs container in the cup holder so you could haphazerdly spill the puffs into/on top of the children to keep them happy for…just…twenty…minutes of heavenly exercise. You will give up the dream of a two piece bathing suit and embrace the reality of health, strength, and a positive example of self image  for your daughters. And that will be way sexier to your husband anyway.

Speaking of him. He’s a gem. Remember that. You are going to go to dinner one day soon when your generous mothers insist you have a date night. You will stare at each other – exhausted – and not know what to say to each other. This will FREAK YOU OUT and you will wonder what happened to “you.” Keep trying. “You” are still there. “You” always will be. Give it 18 months, a good shower, and a few nights in a row of decent sleep. It does wonders. Don’t worry. “You” still got it babe.

Some things will change. Like most things in life, while you will still have some insecurities, but you will get confident with practice. Trust yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to not sweep your floor. Don’t be afraid that you always seem to have baby puke on you. You do. But it’s ok. No one cares.

A few years down the road, your 9 year old (excuse me, HOW did this happen?) will stumble in to your room at 1:00 am sleep walking with a zombie look in her eyes and mumbling about her state mandated standardized testing (another blog – another day) and you will feel guilty because you failed the whole sleep thing – and well, now there’s this. You will look at her face, and her sister’s —  once they are soundly and peaceful (even if briefly) asleep and you will still wonder why YOU were trusted with these incredible human beings.

And you will take a deep, confident breath, and go to sleep, waking to be a more confident and more rested version of the self you are today. And you will be satisfied with trying your best and spending less time worrying and more time saying “Thank you.”

Love,

Your soon to be 36 year old self

P.S. Remember that friend with the angelic sleeper? One day you guys will put your crazy heads together and dream about the resource you wish you had when you became Moms…the thing that tells you that YOU are all your baby needs (with some mud, blocks, and pots & pans). And you will work. And sweat, And cry. And pray. And talk – alot. And one day – you will make THIS. And she will write all the parts about SLEEPING. And you will write all the parts about POTTY TRAING. And your 36 year old self will find peace with her parenting skills with sleep – because, there is always a silver lining.  ALWAYS. And that child who would NEVER nap on a schedule, can now sleep ANYWHERE at ANY TIME. YOU ARE WINNING MY FRIEND! KEEP IT UP!

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INCLUDING THE TRUNK OF YOUR SUV AT AN OUTDOOR TAILGATE WHEN YOUR ALMA MATER IS IN THE THICK OF A SUPER CLOSE FOOTBALL GAME!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations of a (super cute) French Baby.

Everything in my extended family is a big deal. Seriously. We celebrate birthdays at least 3 times in one week.  We celebrate small & big victories in school or careers. We celebrate a first lost tooth, a first cartwheel, every time someone plans a vacation. So when my cousin Tania surprised us with the news they were expecting their first baby, we were ecstatic (to say the least). Tania lives in France and even though I gushed to her about the countless joys of parenthood, we were not 100% she would ever be ready for a kid. She’s independent, loves to travel, and revels in taking part in extreme adventure (she checked sky diving and elephant riding off her list in the same year). Needless to say when she said, “We are having a baby,” the family went WILD. We love babies. We love Tania and her husband and we had to have enough excitement when we saw her pregnant in person for the first time last September to last all three trimesters.

We all looked something like this. Life is so worth celebrating.

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Shortly after receiving the news, I looked at my husband and said, “We are going. I’m not sure how, but this is her first baby and she has no family there, and I know I will want to hold that baby and hug her and you have to help me get us there.” Luckily, he knows me well enough to distinguish this plea from my daily pleas that I MUST get to Hawaii and he came through.

After almost daily Skype sessions through the last few months of her pregnancy, an “I think my water just broke” Facebook message, and lots of calling and texting between the family, I sat on my bathroom floor at 5 am with iPad in hand and tears in eyes (and face, and chin)  and met our gorgeous French baby – Lilie Rose. A few weeks later, my husband and daughters and I traveled to France to meet our Lilie in person. Along the way, from pregnancy to present (she is 3 months old), I have found the differences between her French journey to motherhood and my American one, very interesting. I thought you might too, so I decided to share some of the main differences here.

The French seem to put high priority on supporting pregnancy and delivery/initial baby care

Tania had 4 total Ultrasounds during her pregnancy. At every visit she had a doppler, but the doppler gave an image of the baby.  This made for interesting conversations/arguing between us as to what was actually happening at these appointments (“Dopplers don’t show pictures?? That’s an ultrasound.”) and the translation makes this a bigger challenge. Lilie-Rose was a breech baby. Although we (myself and Tania’s sister who is a nurse) initially freaked out, Tania’s doctor ordered a CT scan to see the size of Tania’s pelvis related to the baby’s size).  And now that we know this harmed her in NO way, I can say, it might just be the coolest pregnancy picture EVER!

skeleton baby

We also observed that her doctor was willing to attempt a breech delivery (with some consideration to the baby’s size and the mother’s pelvic bones), and that VBAC’s (vaginal birth after cesarean) are more accepted and common in France.

In the end, Tania had a cesarean delivery and she and the Lilie did fine.  She was in the hospital for a full week, but Tania shared with me that ALL first time mothers stay for 4-5 days.  Here is a picture of Lilie’s bath at the hospital. Half of their room was like a US hospital room and the other half was a counter and small tub area for bathing/changing.

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The hospital does not have lactation consultants, but the nurses and midwives take this role. Following discharge from the hospital, she saw a midwife twice (the first visit she actually CAME TO THEIR HOUSE) to weigh her, answer their questions, and support breastfeeding.

The Take-Your-Baby-Home phase is very Zen

Lilie received 1 vaccine in the hospital (HEP B) and none at her first appointment.  She did have weight checks, vision & hearing screened,  and a family history reviewed. A midwife  gave a natural liquid medicine (plant extract) to help with gas and digestion and educated them on natural infant reflexes.

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Much to my dismay, there was not much talk on development or the importance of tummy time, but it is common in France to have Osteopath’s come to the house to check for alignment and massage the new baby. The osteopath worked gently on alignment of the pelvis, skull, & pallet and talked about sleeping and digestion as well. She’s cute doing both.

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When Tania questioned about sleeping patterns or why she cried every time she put her down (international Mom question), the answer from the doctor was that she needed her parents and that they should do whatever she needed for the 1st three months. And, when in doubt, they should put her in the sling.

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Lilie likes the sling. Alot. She was even sleeping in it until her American “Auntie” came and insisted we get a plan together to make her sleep. I couldn’t get my own daughters to sleep, but redemption is a sweet thing and she now sleeps through the night (WIN!).

Maternity Leave is Good, but not as Good as I expected it to be

Tania is home with her now. The government pays employers to provide full pay for 6 weeks prior to birth and 10 weeks after for maternity leave for their employees. Some of the “before” can be pushed to the “after,” but no one is allowed to work the 2 weeks prior to their due date.  Following standard maternity leave, those qualifying for a small “parental aid” stipend can receive it for 6 months following the first child (this is a flat rate and not a percentage based on income), but mothers can take up to 3 years of unpaid maternity leave.

Tania will return to work.  When she was pregnant, she registered with a childcare center. Based on availability and preference the baby will be cared for while they work either at a center (that requires on site nurses and highly trained staff) or by a home base sitter affiliated with the center. If there is no room at either, she will have to hire a Nanny. All child care fees are tax deductible (like in the US), but fees are based on a formula (income and days per week and hours per day of needed childcare are factors.

Parent hovering is less commonly observed in France

I expect (and pray) that Lilie will grow to be a strong, healthy, and happy girl before we all can blink.  I am already missing her and looking forward to reading her books in English via Skype. It will be interesting for our family to continue to note cultural similarities  and differences along the way. I had a few “WOW I must be super protective” moments while in France that become most evident in my own children’s surprised reactions to French children and parents. “Mom, that mom left her kids alone. BY THE WATER. ALL.BY THEMSELVES. Can you believe it? Someone could fall in?!” They were amazed that a boy was allowed to pay for his own ice cream and walk home BY.HIM.SELF. “Mom.For real. He was only about 8 years old.”  Things that make you go HMMM.

I quickly pushed my guilty thoughts of over-hovering aside, by laughing with my husband while we observed toddler tantrums in various languages. You know that moment when you have had it, and you give the warning, “Fine.Goodbye. Mommy is leaving” (while you look behind you to see the shocked child FINALLY comply? Well, I had a moment watching an adorable curly haired, Italian darling, double fisting some binkies and throwing herself on the ground, while her super stylish and well (high) heeled mother yelled “CIAO” sternly and repetitively with that same look over her shoulder.

There might be differences from country to country and even home to home, but parenting is parenting and babies are babies around the globe. We all watch the tantrum. We all pray for just a little sleep. We are all amazed by the miracle of a new baby. I’m thankful we got a front row seat a few of Lilie’s first weeks and thoroughly enjoyed seeing how pregnancy, birthing, and mothering works in another country.

I will say… One thing they do not have in France, is our “hospital binkie.” As yes, Lilie loves her imported American binkie.  Frenchies frequently stop to ask Tania what that big thing in her mouth is! I guess she’s just proving she IS actually French-American!

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I think I can! I think I can!

Do you have friends or family raising children in other countries? Have you lived abroad with kids? What are the biggest differences you have observed?

Babies & parents around the globe love learning about development & play using 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! Lilie Rose has one on her shelf – do you know a new baby with parents who would love it too? 

My Not-So-Glamorous Adult Crush

There he is, my first celebrity crush.  I remember this poster hung on my closet door and each night I would climb my stool to kiss him goodnight!  Still to this day, “Thriller” is one of my favorite albums.  Since then I have had several other crushes:  Joey from New Kids on the Block, Elvis, James Dean, Leonardo DeCaprio.  Now as an adult I don’t have many crushes…except for one.  My celeb crush looks a little different today.  He is not in the company of my past music and television star crushes.  He’s an author, a counselor and therapist of sorts.  Who might it be?  Wait for it……wait for it…..My adult celebrity crush is….Dr. Marc Weissbluth!  Who is Dr. Weissbluth?  WHO is Dr. Weissbluth?  He just so happens to be the man that brought sanity back into my life after 7 long months of sleepless nights.  He is the man that taught me how to appreciate something I once took for granted.  He is the man that helped me to accomplish what felt to be impossible.  Dr. Weissbluth authored the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.  The book that saved me!  And there is no appreciation like that of a mother who finally catches some zzzZZZs!

I have since recommended that book to several friends.  His methods haven’t worked for all of them.  In fact through their trial and error I have been introduced to different sleep techniques that have also benefited my children and I.  And if I have learned nothing else in the past 7 years, I learned that there is no “one size fits all” sleep method.  In fact, there isn’t even a “one size fits most” sleep method.  So I am sorry to disappoint if you came to this blog hoping to find the “secret”.  I don’t have it…but neither does anyone else.

Every baby and child is different.  And the way they sleep just might be more of a reflection of their personality than your parenting.  Like many parenting issues (discipline, potty training) sleep is one that has to be researched, tried and tried again, much like a puzzle that may take several attempts to complete.  There are many options out there to offer you help:  books, blogs, websites, sleep consult services.  If you so desire help, it’s easy to find.  The tricky part is finding what works for you and your child.  Now the mother of 3, experience has taught me a few things about infants and sleep.  Some lessons were learned harder than others, but all are valuable and I hope they can help you too.

 

1.  It is important to understand babies’ sleep cycles and how they differ from adult sleep cycles.  This knowledge will help you recognize when your baby is in a light sleep vs. a deeper sleep (i.e. when it is safe to lay them down without waking them up!).  You should also familiarize yourself with how much sleep your child requires for their age to keep your expectations reasonable and real!

Age Nighttime Sleep Daytime Sleep * Total Sleep
1 month 8 8 (inconsistent) 16
3 months 10 5 (3) 15
6 months 11 3 1/4 (2) 14 1/4
9 months 11 3 (2) 14
12 months 11 1/4 2 1/2 (2) 13 3/4
18 months 11 1/4 2 1/4 (1) 13 1/2
2 years 11 2 (1) 13
3 years 10 1/2 1 1/2 (1) 12
*Note: number of naps in parentheses
www.babycenter.com

 

2.  Do what you are comfortable with.  If a sleep method suggests letting your baby “cry it out” and you just can’t imagine doing that, than don’t do it.   I wanted to try co-sleeping with my infant, I longed for the extra bonding at the end of the day, but my husband said no.  He is a heavy sleeper and feared rolling over on her and suffocating her.  Bottom line is you have to do what helps you sleep better at night too.  After all, what good is a baby who sleeps 8 hours if you lie awake feeling guilty about how you got there!

3.  It’s normal for babies (and toddlers, preschoolers and even older children) to wake up in the night. Eventually your infant will sleep through, I promise!  Typically this occurs between 6 and 12 months of age.  But even after you have achieved this milestone, other milestones, like teething pain and illness, may cause them to wake.  It is even thought that when babies learn to crawl and walk, they awaken in order to “practice” their new skills.  Then as toddlers and preschoolers night awakenings may occur because of separation anxiety and night terrors, all of which are developmentally appropriate.  My 6 year old has even been known to invade my bed in the wee hours of the morning because of a bad dream.  So, just know that tackling the sleep problem with your infant doesn’t mean it’s over.  My best advice to you is to squeeze in a nap when you can because you never know what the night may hold!

4.  Remember, it’s not your fault your baby wakes up!  In fact there are developmental benefits to night awakenings especially in the first few months of life when infants wake to feed.  Your baby’s sleep habits are more a reflection of his/her temperament than your parenting.  And when comparing sleep stories with other parents, keep in mind that most parents will exaggerate to make themselves look and feel good.  A baby that sleeps through the night is not indicative of “good parenting”.  So, go easy on yourself!

So, although I may have not magic fairy sleeping dust to pass along, I hope my practical tips help you and your lil one rest a easier at night!  Happy snoozing!