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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rethinking & Repurposing: Ways to Entertain (and Contain) the Kids

So recently I’ve noticed a big push for repurposing things.  No, I haven’t been living under a rock for the past 8 years…just a little busy with some other things I prioritize above craftiness and “green” living.  So maybe this push has been around for a while, but I’m just now getting the motivation to make the move!  Anyway, in an effort to be more “green” and “crafty” I decided to create some toys for my kids and some toy containers by repurposing some household items.  With the help of my way more creative, crafty and green friends and Pinterest, I have done just that.

 

My first creation is a shape sorter.  Sure there is only one shape to sort, but my 19-month old loves this game.  She will sit for quite some time slipping the lids into the hole and then requesting I open it again so she can get sorting some more.  A great way to model some verbal (“oh” for open) or nonverbal (sign ‘open’ or ‘please’) communication for her to imitate to have her request met.

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Blocks!  These blocks are made from pushing one empty milk/juice ½ gallon carton inside another.  They are amazingly sturdy and build one heck of a fort, car, boat or _____.  Let your kids fill in the blank!  While building my little one practices saying, “up, up, up” as we build the wall up and “more” or “again” to have it built up again.  My older one just gets some exercise and works on his fine motor (and gross motor) skills all while having some fun!

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Containers, containers, containers!  I love repurposing plastic lidded containers to contain all the little, tiny things that need harnessed out of baby girl’s reach.  Most recently LEGOS have entered our house and believe me, they need to be hidden under a lid, or better yet behind a closed door to contain the chaos!  But because I don’t have an extra room to dedicate to just LEGOS we are storing them up in these old popcorn buckets for now.  We have also repurposed a marshmallow fluff and Crystal Light container to hold colored pencils, paintbrushes and markers up out of baby girl’s reach too!

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GIANT plastic containers…leftover from cheese balls, animal crackers, pretzels, etc.  The Hot Wheels…*ouch*…the darn Hot Wheels!  I was tired of stepping on them so I contained them!  Once again I figured out a way to harness the fun of these metal/ plastic wheels by giving them a home up on the shelf and off the carpet.  Big O does a pretty good job of keeping them picked up when he’s not playing with them.  My feet thank him!

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And through the years we have saved old food containers to mimic the real thing in the kids’ play kitchen.  They love “pouring” cereal from a real miniature box or “squirting” soap in the sink from an old soap container.  Kids want their kitchen to be as much like mom and dad’s as possible, this helps them get there and bolsters their imaginative play even more.

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So if I can do it, you can do it!  And be sure to check out our Pinterest board “DIY Play” for more do it yourself toys.  I’ll be the first to admit that creative, out-of-the-box thinking is not a gift of mine….but even I, non-crafty mom, have figured out a few easy ways to keep play simple, fun and GREEN!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

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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!

 

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Find great tips on speech and language development on the My Toddler Talks website:  http://www.mytoddlertalks.com/.  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 Parenting..in 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!

 

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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 🙂

What Kids Learn at the Video Arcade

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Today is Big O’s 5th Birthday.  Yesterday I overheard him telling a friend’s mom that I was taking him to the water park today…what??!!  I’m not sure where he got that idea from but it made me begin to wonder what I could do special for him today.  Birthdays are definitely celebrated in our house, but not as BIG as in some families.  We have parties for the kids and (most) years I will cook them their favorite meal (or take them out to their favorite restaurant).  O’s party was last saturday and the only thing he asked for on his birthday was a pumpkin pie.  So in thinking what else I could do special for him today it came to me.  I could make his (random) wish come true!  So after preschool pick up, off we went to the “Splash Zone” at a local family fun center.  He enjoyed it…mostly.  See, he hates water in his face.  Naturally a “Splash Zone” wouldn’t be his favorite destination.  I knew this.  He had to figure it out.  So much to my surprise (not really) after an hour of getting squirted in the face he agreed to leave.  Wow!  That was easy, I thought.  Then he mentioned the arcade.

On the way out we had to pass through the arcade.  My kids love these kinds of places.   Personally , I feel they are a waste of money and provide little benefit except sensory overload!  But none the less, it was HIS special day.  So I cashed in my $5 for a handful of game tokens.  He was in birthday heaven!  As I  maneuvered through the blinking lights struggling to hear my own thoughts over the noise, I began to wonder, “Is there any benefit to this type of place?”  (aka How can I feel better about allowing my kids to indulge in this type of “fun”?)  Hmmm…why yes!  Yes there is!!!

 

These are the thoughts that entered my mind:

 

1.  Kids learn to recognize numbers at arcades.  O had to read the number on each game to tell me how many tokens it took to play, he then had to count out the correct number of tokens.  This was a good test for him and enlightening for me.  He can definitely recognize 1, 2 and 3!

2.  Kids learn addition, subtraction, multiplication and division at arcades.  When it’s time to cash in those tickets for those wonderfully coveted plastic treasures behind the counter kids have to count, divide and decide how best to trade up what they have earned.

3.  Kids learn how to handle disappointment.  Often times my kids want the big, purple, stuffed monkey on the wall that costs 5,000 tickets.  Does anyone really win those things???  Quickly they learn that the amount of tickets they have will only earn them the few dollar store items in the glass case.  Such is life…you win some, you lose some.

4.  Kids learn patience and perseverance.  When my kids are sad that they don’t have enough tickets to get the dusty monkey off the wall, I remind them they can save their tickets up if they really want the monkey.  We have yet to have this happen, but it is a good opportunity for them to practice perseverance. (If only the monkey were a bit more enticing!)

5.  Kids learn patience.  Just like at many kid themed attractions, kids have to wait their turn.  Thankfully today, due to the sweltering heat, the arcade wasn’t very busy.  The crowd was mostly outside in the water park.  But there have been many other times where my kids have had to patiently wait their turn to play a favorite game.  Or they’ve had to endure the shoving and pushing at the prize counter to wait their turn to claim their treasure.  Both good lessons in patience.

6.  Kids learn to respect limits.  Sounds a bit contradictory since this post has mostly been about how I indulge my kids at places like these but my husband and I always set a limit before we enter the arcade.  Whether it’s a time limit or a token limit, once it’s over, it’s over.  And following suit today, Big O was okay with leaving after he played his 5 game limit.  Shockingly we even left with some tokens in his pocket.  I think that’s his insurance plan to return someday soon 😉

 

Maybe next year, buddy!  Especially now that mommy can justify our trip as more than just overindulging, wasteful, sensory overload!!

 

Happy 5th Birthday, O! I love you!

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?!)

HERE YOU GO – OUR 2012 TOY IDEA LIST FROM SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO PLAY FOR A LIVING!

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!

BABY:

1 YEAR OLD:

2 YEARS OLD:

3 YEARS OLD:

4 YEARS OLD:

5 YEARS OLD:

6 YEARS OLD:

 

7 YEARS OLD:

 

8 YEARS OLD:

 

9-12 YEARS OLD:

 

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!