My Family is a WELCOME WAGON


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.


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.”


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!

lg sleep











Navigating Special Education in the School Setting: What Parents Need To Know

Child Guide Magazine is a great source for information and to find fun activities! Milestones & Miracles is proud to team with this great FREE publication by writing a column geared toward the Special Needs/Differently Abled Population.  The article below is our contribution to the FALL 2013 Issue which is filled with great “Back To School” Information. Grab yours today or view online at:


Are you a visual learner or auditory learner? Do you learn best by actually doing? Do you need a quiet room to retain what you are reading? Each one of us learns in unique ways. Many good teachers recognize learning styles, strengths, & challenges and accommodate the children within their classrooms. But what happens when simple modifications aren’t enough? Some children need additional supports and services to make the educational experience a positive one. And while learning about and implementing those services can seem very intimidating for parents, the process does not have to be.

Students 3 years of age and older that need supports and services in the public school setting receive them under Part B of the Individual’s With Disabilities Act (IDEA). This is a Federal Law that ensures special education services. If you are having concerns that typical classroom strategies are not meeting your child’s needs, speak to his/her teacher early. Sometimes, simple changes to a daily routine (such as changing seat location or providing a check list to stay on task) can make a huge difference.

If simple changes are not adequate, you or your child’s teacher may request testing to further identify strengths and challenges. The results of testing are reviewed at an eligibility meeting, usually held at the school, with parents, teachers, and other professionals (therapists, coordinators etc.) in attendance. If your child is found eligible for special education services, you can consent to move forward with an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. Parents, teachers, and others who have knowledge of your child’s specific needs such as therapists, nurses, psychologists and other professionals help create the IEP. You can invite others who know your child well and might help with the process. An IEP is a legally binding document that includes specific goals for your child, services and frequency of those services to support goals, & any additional materials needed to support your child (examples include special classroom materials, customized seating, or communication devices).

The IEP serves as the “map” to guide your child through the educational journey. It must be reviewed yearly, but can be reviewed more frequently per your request as your child changes, progresses, or new challenges arise. It is important that parents understand IDEA and their child’s rights under it. Seek out the assistance of an IEP advocate (counties hire these individuals) and ask to schedule a meeting to learn more and review policies that protect your rights. Each state develops a policy that outlines procedures for defining child find (how the state finds children that need to be tested), eligibility, and services as well as outlining parents’ rights and responsibilities. Refer to your own state’s Department of Education for more information on your specific policy or for support on learning more about individuals and organizations that serve to support parents through special education.

It is also important to understand that the IEP serves to meet your child’s EDUCATIONAL needs vs. MEDICAL needs. For example, if a child with Cerebral Palsy has tight hamstrings and an atypical walking pattern but can get around the classroom efficiently and safely, he/she would benefit from physical therapy, but would be served in a therapy clinic vs. a school setting in most cases.

Someone who knows both sides of the special education world in the public school arena is Tracey Parks. Parks is a 5th grade teacher at Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville, WV. While she has taught students of all learning styles and abilities for 18 years, she has first hand experience being a parent navigating the IEP process with her 9 year-old daughter Jordyn. She offers these wonderful tips to parents:

• COMMUNICATION IS KEY: Communication early and often. Request a meeting with all teachers who will be interacting with your child very early in the year (before the first conference) to share what works best for your child. Use a simple communication journal (could even be on a number system, such as 1= good day). Teachers have little time to write daily lengthy notes, but sharing simple information daily can be helpful to both parent and teacher. Parents might also consider sharing important things daily such as deviations to sleep routines, digestive issues, changes at home, or illnesses as they might impact the child’s day.

YOUR CHILD NEEDS YOU TO SHOW UP: IEP meetings are your chance to learn about your child from the people who spend hours with him/her! Make arrangements if possible to be there so that you can listen and learn, share your opinion and ideas, and brainstorm as part of the team. Your participation shows your child’s team that you are sincere about working with them for the benefit of your child. If you can’t attend in person, request a phone conference.

• ASK QUESTIONS/MAKE SUGGESTIONS: Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding your child’s education. A good teacher should be willing to take the time to explain and answer. An example is asking for a second set of books so you can help your child at home. If you know of something that benefits your child at home or in other settings, such as during private therapies, don’t hesitate to share with your child’s team.

• BE PATIENT & POSITIVE: Remember that teachers are responsible for many children besides yours. While your concern or question may be incredibly important to you, try to allow reasonable time for the teacher to respond. Go into meetings or conversations with a positive attitude. Your disposition can be contagious and can make these exchanges more productive and pleasant for both you and the teacher.

It is important for the success of each child that parents and professionals work together on common goals. Successful IEP’s do just that. While the process might seem daunting at first, it is important to remember that there are many people who care about your child and want to support you. Seek out their experience and help, lean on parents with similar experience, and keep yourself focused on your priority – your child being learning successfully!



Homework for My “Speechie” Parents

As a speech language pathologist it is key that I engage the family in the therapy process.  In order to best help a child, the family must understand why I am doing what I am doing with their child and how it will help them.  And in order for therapy to be most effective, parents must follow through with my tips and suggestions when playing/interacting with their child at home.  This is called generalization.  Without generalization of new skills my efforts in therapy are ineffective and pointless.


When I worked in the school system as an elementary school SLP the children on my caseload had a speech homework folder.  When they completed their weekly homework and returned it to me, they received a sticker.  After 5 stickers were earned, they received the “honor” of visiting my treasure chest.  (You know one of those glorified cardboard boxes with dollar store plastic treasures inside…kids eat that stuff up!)  This proved to be the most effective way of informing the parents of what we were working on in therapy and encouraged them to work with their child at home on specific skills.  Now that I work as an early intervention SLP and am in the homes of the children I serve I rely heavily on parents just observing what I do with their child and trust that they will then work with their children in similar ways when I am not there.  Some parents do this…others find it hard.  Either they don’t recognize what I am doing as different or helpful for their child or they don’t understand why it may be helping. Sometimes I don’t do a good enough job explaining what I want them to do when I’m gone and sometimes they are unable to follow through because life just gets too crazy.  At times, I find myself wondering, what can I do or suggest that might make it easier for them to support the language development of their little ones?




Introducing My Toddler Talks!   This is an easy to use book of “homework” focusing on speech and language development for parents. I recently had the privilege of reading this book when I received it from author Kim Scanlon, MA CCC/SLP.  Kim wrote this book for parents of all toddlers (developing typically and atypically) who want to encourage their child’s language development.  My Toddler Talks teaches parents how to “model and elicit language in a fun, straightforward and practical manner…”  The book highlights 25 play routines using toys found in most homes (play doh, stickers, etc.) and expands those routines by scripting language between the parent and toddler.  Often parents want to play more purposefully with their child but don’t know how.  This book gets you there.  Kim helps you model language that is developmentally appropriate for you child’s age and then gives you tips on how to elicit more language from them.  Often toddlers become frustrated when they can’t verbalize their desires. My Toddler Talks helps to diffuse that frustration by fostering earlier language development through play…the best way a child learns!  So for the parent who wants to do more, wants some “homework” to do with their toddler, My Toddler Talks is the answer.  It gets down to the old school version of child development:  PLAY!  No television, iPad, iPhone, computer or batteries required!  Thank you Kim for helping parents get back to basics of PLAY and helping them open up a world of possibility through communication with their child!  PLAY builds brains…and fantastic communication skills!


I love recommending My Toddler Talks as a resource for  the families I work with.  When I am not there, they can easily flip to a play routine in the book and know that they are benefiting their child’s language development while also having fun with them.  My Toddler Talks is the home based version of the homework folder I used to send home with my elementary students, but for toddlers.  I can site specific play routines that might be most beneficial for the parent and they will have their book to refer to and carry out the “homework” during the week.  It serves as  way to further engage parents in being the best early teachers of their children and one thing I know for sure as an SLP, when parents are engaged regularly with their children in play, rich with language, children become communicators themselves!


Check out My Toddler Talks today and start communicating with the toddler in your life!



Find great tips on speech and language development on the My Toddler Talks website:  You can also follow Kim on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Park The Helicopter And Invite Play Over For A Date

Did you catch the Katie Show today?

I had a rare moment of “by myself time” and happened to tune in and the topic was particular, over parenting.

Katie had parents, psychologists, pediatricians, and children breaking down the game of teeter totter we call PARENTING. How much is too much? Not enough? What are the consequences for being present all the time or not enough? Is attachment parent with co-sleeping and breast feeding on demand for you? Are today’s young adults (the boomerang back to home generation) a product of over parenting? Do they expect too much? Work too little? Need constant positive feedback?

It was certainly much to think about.  I know I think about this more than my parents did – how about you?

While I sat there listening to views from both ends of the spectrum (both age and parenting style), I thought to myself, in the end all parents (or at least most) want a child that is happy, healthy, and independent.  There are many  roads we parents can choose from to get to that point and most of us base those choices on our own experiences being parented, our cultural views, and our own family goals.

The interesting message from the show was that doing too much can become a road block to independence and happiness. The parent who can’t stand their child to experience discomfort and therefore makes things as easy, simple, and pain free, may end up with a child that can’t cope when things don’t go their way. The parent who filled out the college application for their child (yep, it happens) has the child who can’t take steps to try new things on their own. The parent who steps in to navigate social situations and be a friend vs. a full time parent may end up with a child who can’t resolve conflict at work (and yes, the show reported that some adults have their parents call in to work to fix problems for them..really?).

My spin on this is…whether you are an attachment parent, a Ferber parent, a authoritarian parent, a natural parent, and free will parent, or a parent like me (who spent time today at the library with my girls, but also justified that the hours they spent planning a dance recital to perform in the kitchen tonight provided them with social and imaginative skills they need (and me with a fresh pedicure and a hour to watch TV alone!)…some sort of independence is a goal. And all those roads that hopefully eventually get us to that independent and happy state  start with PLAY.

There is no better way for a young child to learn than through unstructured play (the kind that adults don’t plan out for them). When we get out of the way, their imaginations can soar. Whether they are 11 months old and pretending with a phone or 9 years old dragging every dance costume, Easter dress, and tiara to plan a recital, THEY are in charge of what they are doing and how they will learn in that moment. Take a moment to think about how you learn best. I’m not talking about that test that tells is you are a visual learner or auditory etc. I mean that no matter what your learning STYLE is, we all learn BEST through experiences of some sort. So keep in mind that if you want to have an independent child one day, you need to have a child that plays today. Without experiences, there is no learning. Even when experiences mean some dose of failure, frustration, heartache, or stitches!

Encourage children to set their own rules (within reason) to build cognitive planning abilities and to negotiate conflict and solve problems. Ignore messiness (at least for a few minutes). Feeling the stuff that gets their clothing dirty (mud or yogurt or paint — whatever your pleasure), wires learning through sensory experiences. Having to use some sort of communication to make requests (vs. meeting their needs automatically) builds independent language and self sufficiency. Jumping, climbing, skipping, and riding a bike keeps their bodies healthy, coordinated, & ready to tackle life!

Studies show that children who are well bonded to present parents early in life do well. They also show that children who have opportunities to try and fail (no matter how hard it is for them and for us) become independent.

So choose your parenting road. Give your child a hug. And then park the helicopter on the landing pad and allow play to take over!




What parenting style do you practice in your home? How does it include free and unstructured play? We’d love to know!

Want to enhance your play time with your child and when they are playing with others or alone? Check out our home page to see why Today’s Parent and In The Know Mom think that 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is the perfect choice to help you do JUST that! 









Why Every Toddler’s a Genius!


It’s like magic…all of a sudden something clicks inside their little minds and they are the smartest baby you know!  Almost overnight these adorable, chubby cheeked, gap-toothed angels are able to demonstrate they understand what you are saying by following a simple direction, answering a yes/no question or imitating your gestures.  They show you they understand associations and daily happenings by going to the bathroom when you say they need a bath or going to the back door when you say it’s time for daddy (or mommy) to get home from work.  And every (proud) parent begins to wonder if they are raising a toddler genius!

My third child is 15 months old and the other day I caught myself bragging to Nicole about how smart she is.  Lately she goes to the closet to get her shoes when she hears me say we are leaving and she answers yes/no questions pretty accurately.  But as I heard my proud parent boasting, I remembered I thought her brother and sister were “sooooo smart” at this age too!!!  So why was that?  I mean, I do believe my kids are smart, but no smarter than any one else’s children, especially at the tender age of 15 months.  And I can’t count how many times I have heard a parent bragging on the early emerging genius they call their toddler.  So why is it that we ALL think we are raising little Einsteins at this age???  What’s the explanation behind it?

The foundation or building block of communication is receptive language, or a child’s ability to understand spoken language.  Their whole (little) lives they have been absorbing every thing you say, every word on each page you read and observing your actions as you navigate their daily routines.  These multi-sensory experiences (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and sometimes tasting) coupled with the repetition of your words and actions help them to understand what words mean.  Also when you speak to them and accompany your words with gestures (like pointing to what you want them to get or nodding your head yes and no), you increase their comprehension.  After many months of your tireless effort to keep their routines consistent and provide them with stimulation, all while keeping them happy and entertained, you are rewarded!  You finally realize the fruits of your labor!!!  They are now mobile enough to act upon what you have been teaching them for the past 12-18 months!  So relish in this stage, be PROUD of the tiny genius you have created!  And go ahead and brag…you deserve the accolades for raising baby Einstein!

If you would like to understand more about child development and get tips on how to help your child grow and develop during the toddler years check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me.  It is jam packed with purposeful play ideas to engage your child and help you appreciate the magic of development during the first 3 years of your baby’s life.  Embrace the tiny miracle of your child!  Hug and kiss your baby(s) today 🙂

SMART BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPPING – making choices that are fun & thoughtful

It’s almost here….can you hear it? In my mind, it’s the sounds of doors opening to welcome family and friends, the fire crackling, the soft snowflakes quietly falling, and parents softly reading Christmas stories to the small ones tucked in the crook of their arms. Ahhhhhh…sounds nice doesn’t it? Might look like this..

The reality is that come Friday, after those delicious leftovers have been packed away, the noises surrounding many of us will be whizzing shopping carts, overheard blaring announcements of deals to be had, and wrapping paper galore dressing up those black Friday deals. Maybe something like this….

Hopefully, your reality will fall somewhere between those two scenarios! Whether you are a black Friday shopper or not (me? I will likely do some online shopping and a lot of yoga come Friday!), most of us make time shortly after Thanksgiving to do some shopping – many of us for children. I’m a big fan of trying not to overindulge my children at Christmas time, with the hope that one day when they off on their own, they’ll have a nice balance of feeling loved and really knowing the Reason we love at Christmas.  Shopping this time of year for children is a fun and exciting opportunity for PLAY in the months ahead. Toys are our children’s TOOLS OF LEARNING – when you think of it that way, choosing toys as Christmas gifts is kind of exciting. Instead of wondering if a chosen toy will end up at the bottom of the toy box, consider what your child might learn from it (and I don’t mean the alphabet all the time — there’s much MORE to learn through play. Want to know more? Click HERE).

Also – use our FREE PDF download from Medbridge Education. It’s a cheat sheet of sorts providing you the age/stage of development with suggestions for toys and activities. (simply scroll towards the bottom of the link and click the icon to download!).

As early interventionists, we get to be a “toy spies” in the homes we visit.  I always find it interesting when come February, I see the “must have” toddler toy in the corner of most homes, while the child I am playing with shows way more interest in a plastic water bottle (how many Christmas mornings have you had where your child just LOVED that box the toy came in?).  In fact, I’ve embarrassed my husband more than once by “helping” a confused grandparent in the toy aisle by providing suggestions of “what the kids really like!”

We decided to compile a list of “what the kids really like.” We arranged our list by suggested age and included toys that we ourselves have either enjoyed with our own children or have seen be consistent hits in the homes where we provide therapy. What was required to make our list? Here it is:

1. Prices varied, but the toys we chose were (in our opinions) a value for the quality.

2. Toys addressed more or one developmental domain of child development (Cognitive, Motor, Language, & Social skills).

3. These toys don’t “do it all” for the child. In other words, these toys leave room for the child to flex their own imaginative muscle, and add their own creativity to play.

4. The toys were consistent favorites with children we know (and continued to be long after December 26).

5. Toys are what we like to call “forever toys”  – toys that can be used in many ways for several years.  For more on this see our article in the months Child Guide Magazine.

Please note that we do not receive any compensation from any of these toy makers (but wouldn’t THAT be fun, though… FREE TOYS!).  We also have provided these as an example of ideas.  We certainly encourage parents to use these as a guide for suggestions, but by all means shop around! You just never know where you might get a better deal! Also, the ages listed are suggested, but as you know, many children play with toys at more than one age/stage — and often in a different way (how cool is that?!)


Side Note: ** Please see our PINTEREST Page to see a complete list of recommended toys by age and our FACEBOOK PAGE for our photo album of a months worth of FOREVER TOYS!















Likes these ideas? We have more! Specifically – ideas on WHY Play matters and HOW plays is intimately related to development in young kids. Check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me — a thoughtful gift for parents of young children (plus FREE shipping). SOUNDS like a whole lot of FUN to me!


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


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!