The Importance of The Halloween Clearance Sale

Candy to buy. Pumpkins to carve. Cider to pour. It’s almost time! I love Halloween. It’s the one holiday that we actually give to kids to let them do what they want – run around all sugared up dressed as whatever their imaginations can dream up. It’s imaginary play at it’s finest. And while the costumes on the shelves today might be ridiculously over priced, they will be marked down next week. So get ready parents, because the Halloween after sale holds more importance than you think. Most think those odds and ends that don’t really make a full costume are not worth the time, but those are my most favorite. Why? Halloween costume pieces are one of my favorite FOREVER TOYS. At Milestones & Miracles, we hold high regard for the FOREVER TOY – The toy that has the desirable quality of actually not DOING IT ALL for your child – the toy that has infinite possibilities – when all you add is a child’s imagination.

So make a date with the sales next week and pick up those odds and ends. I promise you, they will be well worth their money in the long run. Here’s some examples of how we play with them in our house.

 

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Old Halloween costumes, dance costumes, and dress up clothes hang on a small hanger rack in our basement. From the time our kids were 18 months or so until now (7 & 9 years old), they have loved having the independence of choosing their own fun clothes to play in.

 

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Odds & ends may be junk to some, but not to our crew. Some came from Halloween, others from parties, the dollar store, or yes – even Mom’s old ballet slippers.

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My old scrapbook bins (no, I don’t have time for scrapping right now) have turned into a home for beads, buttons, tiaras, and play make up.

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Example of creative genius #1: My nephew turned my old lab coat, an outdated video camera, my Dad’s broken reading glasses, and a crazy old clown wig into a mad scientist costume that I just loved!

 

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Soon to be added to our clothing rack of fun – this years costumes – my pink lady, and…

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my sweet as sugar Southern Belle

 

Toddlers have waddled in plastic high heels on our floors, preschoolers have directed their first plays in these costumes, and my elementary schoolers have directed many music videos (imagine 20 different Gangham Style versions and countless Taylor Swift videos). Sometimes the clutter and the constant need to direct the clean up of these gems drives be batty, but the joy of watching their imaginations soar with these FOREVER TOYS is well worth it every time.

What are ways you encourage imaginative play into your  children’s lives? What are their favorite characters to dress up like? Share with us!

Invite Your Kids (Even Babies) To Sunday Dinner! Why We Need To Fight Against The Extinction Of Family Meals.

It’s Sunday. Are you having Family Dinner? What does it look like for you?

Is it this?

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Or this?

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Or even this?

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Is your table where you serve your food, or your back seat?

Let me start by saying that a friend of mine recently commented that she felt guilty that her son had to eat dinner on the way to soccer practice and I reassured her of her Mommy-Awesomeness by revealing the impressive fact that my daughter ate Mac-N-Cheese for dinner on the way to dance that was served in a glass measuring cup because all the bowls were dirty! (Who can beat that I ask you?)

The strong current of society pushing the average family (mine included) so swiftly that it somehow keeps up from remembering the importance of how a family meal contributes to a child’s development and frankly, the health of all of us.

Before we had children, my husband and I are at the kitchen table at times, but more often than not, we ate in front of the good old TV. Not a proud admission, but when there is just two of you, setting the table seems a bit – much. Or at least it did for me EVERY night. When we started having children, that shifted. MANY of my memories of childhood centered around the table. From secrets at the “kid table” (which I sat at until a few years ago) with my cousins to reading the morning paper with my parents over breakfast, sharing a meal together was part of our regular existence and for good reason. I wanted the same for my daughters.

Children who eat at the table with their parents learn many things, and I am not talking about what fork to use first. At family meals, children learn to make EYE CONTACT. They learn to use MANNERS. They practice the fine ART OF CONVERSATION (with actual voices and not just text messages). They learn SOCIAL ETIQUETTE such as taking turns when speaking and LISTENING to what matters to someone they care about. The greatest part of all of this – they get to practice all of this in the safety net of the people who love them most in the world – their parents and siblings! The family meal is where children can take a stab at the something besides the entree – they can explore social relationships with people of various ages and learn from real experiences how to connect with others over a meal. And guess what? As adults – this is a skill they will NEED.

Do you know how early this starts? Ready for it?… IMMEDIATELY.

Here are some ideas to make this look real for our families.

A newborn can be held during dinner or placed in a safe place near the table (this may be my only endorsement of what I call the “baby container.” Usually I am not a fan, HERE’S WHY). Hearing the voices of his/her family members and smelling new smells are important SENSORY EXPERIENCES.

An older baby will watch you eat before he/she does. Yes, sucking is a natural reflex, but chewing is a learned one. I remember a bright and loving parent, whose daughter was blind, ask me how she could teach her to chew and spit out toothpaste. (With help – we found a way, but the example illustrates that activities as simple as chewing must be modeled). If a baby is not given a place at the table, he/she is denied the modeled example of many DAILY SKILLS, like chewing, but also drinking from a cup, using a spoon etc.

An even older baby, learns to IMITATE at the table. The meal provides opportunity to mimic behaviors he/she views. In addition to the chewing example, the baby learns to self feed using both hands and utensils. Yes, this is MESSY, but that’s what wipes are for. Babies don’t learn to feed themselves (or do anything else) without PRACTICE first. (Plus one day that spaghetti face picture will be really funny). Did you know that once a child can imitate a motor behavior (sometimes as subtle as sticking out his/her tongue), he/she can imitate language? Think about it,modeling simple movements (blinking eyes, clapping hands, banging toy on tray) all come before language. Family meal times are a great place to practice this essential skill. More about that HERE.

Children learn WHO THEIR PEOPLE ARE at the table. Receptive language (understanding) comes before verbal language (expression of words). Ask your baby where his/her sibling, parent, dog are – they’ll surprise you by looking right at them, before they can call them by name. Practicing this at meal time with people or objects (where is the banana?) gives baby an opportunity to recognize and  eventually verbalize to “their people.” Think of it as your 1st family conversation. Soak it up!

Children develop a variety of PREFERENCES for food at the family meal. Experiment with different textures, colors, smells, tastes, and temperatures (all as your pediatrician advises) and you will quickly learn even more about your child. My 9 year old is not a fan of meat – and in true form, at her first taste of the baby food version of chicken, she promptly vomited it right back out at me.  Meat clearly was not her preference. Note taken. (Pass the wipes please, Honey).

Meal times are also a place to share early information about NUTRITION. If I let my daughter make her own decisions, she would chose noodles, rice, pizza, and bread every night. It’s not been an easy road to her seat at our dinner table, but she finally understands that she needs all of the food groups at each meal and why. This can start at an early age for any child. Keep it simple and in terms children can understand at their age – “Fruits provide vitamins that help keep you from getting sick. Dairy keeps your bones and teeth strong. Vegetables are important for your eyes, skin, and hair. Protein helps build muscles so you can lift heavy things and complex carbohydrates give you energy to run for a long time.”  Trust me, kids understand this much more than “clear your plate because I said so.” Let’s be real – they come out selfish little people and if they realize there is something in it for them, they are often more motivated.  (My latest attempt for my vertically challenged offspring is that to get out of the booster seat like their pals, they’ll need to eat well to grow. I’m hoping this works before I drop them off at their first junior high dance.)  Teaching this can be fun! Have younger kids? Model balanced nutrition with pretend play foods! We use My Plate. I keep a copy on the side of the fridge and they need to compare their plate to this example.

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If they don’t want the salmon I made, that’s fine with us, as long as they 1) choose another healthy protein (nuts or peanut butter are popular choices in our house) and 2) I don’t have to make it. (Nope, I do wear many hats but short order cook is not one I claim).  I wish my children were more adventurous with foods, but I gave up the battle for a wide variety long ago and focused on healthy balance. I hear variety should increase with age – I’m not holding but breath but found this information on answering the question of “Is your Child a Picky Eater or Problem Feeder” helpful.  More ideas for including kids in mealtime HERE.  I love this idea for hands on learning about food!

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In addition, exposure to varied food can teach kids early on about different CULTURES and WHERE AND HOW FOOD is grown. Visit local farms to show them how real food actually grows on trees and in the ground. Enjoy self picking if you have orchards that provide the option or garden if you have the talent that I do not! Do you have a dairy farm near by? (We have one that delivers milk in old fashioned glass jars to a cooler in our driveway. Our girls love him and call him the Milk Fairy. I call him HEAVEN SENT because I am no longer running to the store all the time!)  Learning about the process of getting food from garden to table helps children value their nutrition and take ownership of it. I love this idea pinned on our Pinterest Board to share where different foods come from.

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So meals are important, but let’s keep our focus on reasonable goals. Maybe one person in your family works late. Yes, you might have to feed the kids early, but they could sit with the spouse that works late while he/she eats and have a small dessert. Maybe your kids have activities or practice many nights a week. Aim for sitting together 2-3 times a week. And breakfast on a weekend can count. Maybe you don’t have time every night to cook or plan — in my humble opinion, a quality family experience together over bowls of cereal, outweighs anything alone in front of a screen any day. Two thirds of American families eat dinner with a T.V. on. Think of it as the T.V. robbing you from the limited number of conversations you can have with your 3 year old (there are fewer than you realize). Let’s change that statistic and together raise children who can share the highlights of their day while asking to pass the cereal (oops, I meant, quinoa with tilapia and asparagus).

Family meals are too important to become extinct. We need them to raise independent and healthy children. So, get to thinking about some practical, realistic ways, you can invite your favorite little guest to dinner! Here are some from our Pinterest Board – PLAY With Food to get you started.  Share your ideas with us here or on Facebook! Bon appetite!

Like these ideas? We believe that linking child development to PLAY makes both parents & children smarter and happier. So we offer hundreds of examples of just that. Bonus is – they come in card form so while you can have time to digest that family dinner together because you can learn about your child while only digesting small bits of specific information at EACH stage of infant/toddler development. Want to hear more? Check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me (great as a baby gift! and WE SHIP FOR FREE!)

Greetings From The Other Side – What I learned From A Much Overdue Girls Trip

Hi there.

It’s me, writing from the other side.

Yep, that other side. The side where children sleep through most nights, get on a bus and are away from you for 8 hours daily, and when they toilet so independently that you can longer discuss their bowel patterns with your spouse.

Yes, there is actually this side. It’s kind of odd at first, like visiting a foreign land where you keep looking around for “your people.” Just like when you became a parent for the first time, you feel a little awkward and unsure of your role and your place in line.  You have a smaller purse and no longer carry baby wipes or a change of clothes. It’s weird, and foreign, and oddly unfamiliar, despite the fact that you spent a much larger percentage of your life in this world (Bk Read: Before Kids) that the one that feels comfortable to you.

But there are some serious perks too. Date nights, uninterrupted exercise (and other things), feeding yourself  while not simultaneously feeding someone else, and none greater than sleep.  Oh yea – and there’s another – travel. BY. YOUR. SELF.

I know it’s not everyone’s thing, but I love to travel. I love to see new places, meet new people, sit and people watch, taking in what the daily rhythm of random places feels and sounds like. I like asking waiters what “the thing” is on the menu the town in known for, and buying trinkets made from local crafters. I grew up in a family that also loved to travel. My mother’s talent for scoring deals combined with the fortune of having relatives that worked for the airlines made travel possible for the daughter of a teacher and plumber and that is one of many things I am thankful to my parents for. When I met my husband, we traveled together (gratefully he enjoys travel adventures as much as I do), and when our daughters were born, we held tight to our belief that seeing the world and experiencing life as others do, is not only essential to development of self, but is…well, super awesome. So we mastered closing a stroller and popping it back up through long security lines at the airport like masters, carted them around in carriers on our bodies while pulling wheeled luggage and balancing car seats in the other arm, packing our SUV to the roof with snacks, baby gear, and enough entertainment to go hours in the car.We ignored naps and routines many times in favor of jetting to new time zones and chose spending any extra cash on travel (places both close and far) over new clothes (I’d rather be in Hawaii in my old Target t-shirt with holes in it than home with a new spring wardrobe any day) or an updated house. We took an 11 month old and a 2 year old to Hawaii. 11 hours flying. YES. WE. DID. All in the name of exposing our kids to the world (never mind neither of them have ANY memories of the newborn whale nursing from it’s mother 7 feet from us. Oh well — another reason to go back!)

But here’s the thing, even though having kids did not stop me from traveling, it did stop me from traveling the way I used to. I don’t mean ultra posh resorts with all inclusive bars. I mean, having a whole hour to read a book. I have been a mother for almost 10 years and I have not traveled alone or with girlfriends for reasons other than work (read: child development therapists having dinner while discussing rising Autism rates – what a party!). So when I had the opportunity to join my Aunt at one of the nicest resorts in North America at a reasonable price (just plane ticket and meals) AND bring a friend – I couldn’t resist. We planned and I spent lots of time with my friends over at Trip Advisor. We aligned scheduled and secured child care (aka Daddy back up – thank you grandparents) and all was good… until my Aunt’s plans changed and we were forced with decision to still go or not. After much deliberation, we voted YES. Why not? Spontaneous choices are healthy, right? Except that rocking a 7 year old to sleep while she sobs that she doesn’t want you to leave her (WHY does this not happen when their adored father goes on guy trips?) and spending more time writing out directions by the day for your husband (“What day does she go to dance again, honey? …really?) and laying out clothes for the week complete with notes for what shoes and headbands to wear takes more time than actually flying across the continent. No wonder so many women don’t indulge themselves with time away on a girls trip. Is it really worth the hassle of (heaven forbid) arranging life without you?

I am here to say, yes, ladies, it is. And while you have all the options in the world (we keep reminding ourselves, we don’t have to hurry for ANYONE. No kid. No dog. No doctor appointment. No practice. No PTA), there is one undeniable fact. Becoming a mother changes you forever. And no matter how far you travel or how long you are away, they are never far from you. I am writing this from a time zone 2 hours away from home, but I got up at 4:50 because that’s when I would be up to get kids ready so we don’t miss the bus. I keep forgetting to shut the bathroom door (because no one is going to interrupt me). I only have 1 carry on and 1 personal item. Only 1. No booster seat. I could read on the plane – or sleep. You know what I did?

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Yes. I found this guy. His mom was having a rough day flying alone and he liked us. (I almost tried to keep him and I think she might have considered given her level of tiredness).

Even though they never leave us, it is good for us to leave them. If you can rip the bandaid off quickly and give yourself time to think or be quiet enough to listen to what you need to hear, you won’t miss the message. You’ll know that reminding yourself about the woman you are will make you a stronger mother. Showing our children that we have interests (outside of them) provides a strong example of self and a positive model of a work/life/service balance. We are their first and most influential teachers. We know this without a single doubt when considering the responsibility of teaching manners, or letters and numbers, or our faith practices. Why don’t we consider it within the context of us being individuals – and not just their Moms?

It took me almost ten years to get the courage (and lose the guilt) to take the plunge (and I still almost chickened out), but I am happy I did. They are surviving this week and so am I. When I get back, I am certain we will appreciate each other more. Plus, I got to see this yesterday morning, and drink a whole cup of fresh coffee. That I didn’t make. And I didn’t have to reheat in the microwave – not even once.

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Knowing when the time is right for you to step away and recharge may come at a different season than it does for a friend. But I am here to say, whenever that opportunity presents, it is worth it dear girl. Promise yourself, that even if it is a short drive away to see an old pal, that you will eventually gift yourself (and your children), with the opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes — perhaps the eyes of the very person you are right now, because even though THEY are never far from us, if we aren’t careful WE can travel far from ourselves.  And there really is no place like home.

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: http://issuu.com/childguidemagazine/docs/septoct2013cgweb

 

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!

 

 

Real Play Is Timeless

Every July 4th, we go on a journey….

To the land that seems stuck in time.

Where people greet you with warm hellos and hugs.

Where children sweat, and run, and swim….

and win monopoly money that can purchase ice cream for doing their best in the three legged race, the wheel barrel race, egg toss, tug of war (girls always rule!) and more.

Where my daughters hear stories about their Daddy as a child and feel the same butterflies in their tummies as they slip down the water slide as he once did.

Where kids squeal as they jump into a murky lake having the time of their lives (and their mama bites her tongue for fear of what’s under that algae).

Where casual cookouts welcome family & neighbor.

Where people take time to sit on a shaded porch and catch up while rocking.

Where children decorate bikes to show off in a parade and Uncle Sam (on stilts) hands out bubble gum and walks with them.

Where a whole community stands to say the pledge and listen to a lucky child sing God Bless America.

Where freshly showered kids in PJ’s curl on our laps and watch fireworks from their Nana’s deck.

Every year, on July 4th, we take a trip to a land that seems stuck in time. Where for one day people seem to forget about political fighting, terrorists and bombs, and the state of the economy. Where people love more and kids are allowed to be kids and PLAY HARD & it’s a beautiful thing.

Happy 4th of July Friends. Make sure to invite PLAY to your cook out!

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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! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kind Of Mom I WILL Be This Summer

Summer has arrived at our house. There are what seems like 400 pieces of art projects, journals, and certificates that need filed. There are teary I’m-going-to-miss-my-teacher-my-friends-my-school eyes. At the same time there are How-much-TV-can-I-get-by-with-how-long-can-I-stay-up eyes. There are sentimental memories and exciting days ahead.  There are big plans (mine & theirs).

When my daughters were smaller (BSA or Before School Age), summer signified no major change in my life, except that childcare became easier as my school teacher mother couldn’t wait to get her paws on their cutie-patootie swim diapered selves. But the ASA (after school age) chapter brought with it a HUGE shift in our schedules. Call me a dork, but I do miss my kids when they are at school during the year (I’m typing this because I will need reminded of it in approximately 45 minutes when I start to wonder if they’ll make it through the summer alive). All jokes aside, summer holds as much excitement for them as it does for me. As a part time everything (physical therapist, business owner, mother, wife, volunteer etc.) I feel blessed and stressed. Blessed at the opportunity for part time everything, but stressed that I constantly feel like I only half way do anything.   I purposefully cut back work hours in the summer in an attempt to be more of a full time mom. I had a full time summer mom (lucky teachers), and LOVED having carefree summer days so for me the nostalgia kicks in big time.

It is June 4th and my dreams are big. In my mind, I will be super Mom. I will be reading every day Mom. I will be swim as much as we can Mom. I will be growing veggies on the deck and cooking them daily Mom. I will be cool hands-on science experiment learning Mom. I will be get to those cool devotional activities stored in my email archive  Mom. I will be help kids write to pen pals and Grandmas Mom..and spur of the moment 2 day road trip Mom. I will be fire fly chasing, S’mores making, star gazing Mom. I will be seashell finding, sandcastle making, cloud staring Mom…and lemonade stand Mom. I will be a stomp in rain puddles Mom and turn on the sprinkler (just because) Mom. I will be play tennis, ride bikes, and hike the hills fitness Mom (as a miraculous byproduct, I will become incredibly fit Mom). On rainy days, I will be clean out the closets and organize all those certificates Mom. I will be start to learn another language Madre. I will be bring smiles and popsicles to the 12 kids playing kick ball in my yard Mom. And through it all, I will be savor the moment, give all the hugs I wish I could during the year Mom.

Big goals. I know. So I feel I need support, and in the past week in an effort to keep me on track for this summer master plan, I have decided I need to find some real help. So, I took to Pinterest (where all amazingly helpful ideas come from – of course), to gather support. And support I found! I also found something that I actually DID (and not just pinned). It’s not often this happens.  Ready for it….here it comes..the chore organization center (click here for the link to it if you wish). Here it is.

chore chart

The answer to all my problems. A way to have the kids chip in on what they MUST do, while at the same time offering extra jobs so that they can earn money (and a sense of independence, confidence, and work ethic). I sat them down and explained the rules. I also explained that in order for me to reach my goals of being super Mom (and all the other Moms), they HAD to put their laundry in the hamper and cereal bowls in the sink (among other things).

The next tool needed in my summer blueprints for loveliness is the Bucket List. We make it every year and started tonight but didn’t finish yet (it takes time to dream properly). We list things we all want to do either on our own or as a family. It is whimsical and dreamy. And the yin to my self-admitted chore chart yang. Life is about balance, right?

bucketlist

 

You know what they say about best laid plans, right? Well, I do too. Remember, I said I get delusional like this EVERY year.  But a Moma must try. “Shoot for the heavens and you’ll land among the stars” says the original Super Nanny herself, Mary Poppins! Check back with me in July. I’ll likely be, “Go-turn-on-the-TV-Mom.” and “If-you-don’t-stop-fighting-Mom,” and “”How-many-days-till-school-starts-Mom.” But we will have had one hell of a June!

Mark my words!

And I’ll blink and fall will come blowing in, and I will get inspired again…going back into my “It’s all changing again..I need a plan” mode. And I’ll remember that I wrote THIS  at the change of the season last year. And I will laugh loudly..at myself..the dreamer and the planner.

 

Happy Summer to all you BSA Moms (and Dads) and ASA Moms (and Dads). If you are dreaming up summer fun for your smallest summer pals, let us help! 1-2-3 Just Play With Me pairs development with fresh PLAY IDEAS for the first 3 years. In The Know Mom says it is “one of the coolest baby/kid products (they) have ever come across.” Read more of their review HERE. To celebrate what they had to say (we were really excited), we are offering a discount for the rest of this week. Click our WHAT YOU GET page or more details! 

 

 

A Borrowed Word That Says So Much

One of Nicole and I’s favorite authors, Glennon Melton, describes life as bruitiful; a combination of both brutal and beautiful moments. Beautiful moments include the birth of a baby, random acts of kindness and sharing laughter with a friend. Brutal times include mass shootings, devastating acts of mother nature and the tragic loss of life.

This week has been a bit bruitiful for us here at Milestones & Miracles. We lost a friend; a very sweet, energetic 8 year boy who left a lasting impression on so many. He had handsome red hair, gorgeous blue eyes and a smile that was magic. He was taken suddenly and unexpectedly from this world on Wednesday morning. There is no doubt in our minds that as we mourn his loss, Heaven’s angels are celebrating his arrival. As we try to comfort the family and provide for them in their time of need we ask that you remember them in your prayers along with the many other parents who have to say goodbye to their children all too soon.

Life is brutiful. Thank you Glennon for giving us a word to explain some of the most difficult times in life.

Don’t overLOOK Cortical Visual Impairment – It is more common that you might think

In my work as an early intervention Physical Therapist I am often very focused on early mobility, the quality of a child’s movement, and if there are limitations to movement or weaknesses. This “tunnel vision” toward the gross motor arena serves a purpose, but I have learned that I must also look outside of my little motor box.  One thing that I have learned over the years is that VISION is so intricately related to how a child moves – and learns, yet VISION is often (ironically) overlooked.

Vision troubles often become evident in older children when they can’t see the blackboard (Or should I say Smart board?!) or are complaining of headaches or trouble with school work.  A trip to the Ophthalmologist or Optometrist is not often recommended in the early years, so it’s not a surprise that vision concerns in the young child often go unrecognized.

Have you ever heard of Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)? If you haven’t and you work with children in any capacity, please read on.

WHAT IS CVI?

CVI is a temporary or permanent visual impairment caused by the disturbance of the posterior visual pathways and/or the occipital lobes of the brain. What does this mean? It means that the ocular (or eyes) may not have vision impairment (although there can be an co-existing ocular component), but that the brain’s ability to interpret and process what the eye is seeing is not functioning properly.  CVI is an impairment with vision that comes from the brain. In other words, the eyes may focus on an object but when that visual information is sent to the brain, it is not clearly recognized.  CVI can impact learning (as any vision impairment can) but is not associated with direct cognitive/learning challenges.

This illustration depicts this concept:

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WHAT CAUSES CVI?

In simple terms, CVI is caused by any ischemic event – or any episode where the brain does not receive enough oxygen or blood.  This can happen during pregnancy and can be common with very premature babies (where blood vessels around the brain are very fragile), any disturbances with typical bran development, head injuries, or infections to the nervous system (such as meningitis).

This illustrates the area of the brain that interprets vision:

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HOW IS CVI DIAGNOSED?

CVI is usually diagnosed using a combination of birth history, medical records (including brain MRI), and most importantly symptoms.  These children have normal reactions at their pupils, but appear to have trouble seeing. Children with CVI have specific symptoms when exploring and playing. Unlike true blindness, children with CVI may initially appear blind, but have the potential for their vision to improve as they are exposed to specific intervention.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CVI?

  • Initially appear blind (doesn’t respond by blinking or flinching when object is presented close to the face)
  • Tend to see objects when held closer to the face
  • May have preference to one side of one quadrant or vision (upper, lower, right vs left)
  • Tends to look at an object and then look away (as a protective response because the visual appearance is “too much” for the brain to process all at once).  Will try to grab a toy without looking at it.
  • Is able to see specific colors (red, yellow,orange), shiny objects, lights, and objects that move more effectively than other objects (vision may appear better if the child or the object is moving)
  • Vision may change depending on time of day (fatigue is a factor as the brain is “working” to see) and even day of the week (depending on how a child is feeling)
  • Has a harder time with looking at visually “cluttered” objects/environments (for this reason looking at a human face may be a challenge). Child may be better with simple and highly contrasted objects (black and white objects are more easily seen)
  • May have a preference to use peripheral vision vs. central
  • Depth perception may be affected
  • May have delayed response to vision (called latency)
  • May gaze non purposefully at lights

HOW IS CVI TREATED?

CVI is graded on a scale that ranges from Stage 1-2 (minimal visual response) to 9-10 (uses vision spontaneously for most activities). A CVI Specialist than perform a FUNCTIONAL VISUAL EXAMINATION/CVI EXAMINATION  to determine which stage the child is at and give specific recommendations to set up his or her environment and  promote visual improvement. How does this improvement occur? As the brain “works” to interpret what they eyes are seeing, new neurologic pathways are formed and strengthened.  This is why early intervention is important because the largest window for this to possibly happen if before 5 years of age. Recognizing the child has CVI, determining the stage, and pairing with specific goals is essential.  Goals of vision therapy  for a child with CVI often include helping the child to be as functional as possible with the vision he/she currently has while challenging the child slightly beyond their current abilities (so that positive change is made).

Some examples of adapting environments include adding a light box, using an iPad, or changing the location of what is presenting.

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WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

CVI is becoming more common with the more premature infants we are able to save at younger ages.  If you work with children, it is important to know the signs of CVI as you may be an early or initial source of recognizing that a child may have trouble processing visual information.  If you notice any of these characteristics in a child, speak to their parents about referral to an early intervention agency (a list of one for each state is located in the reference section of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me). Referral to a pediatric Opthalmologist or CVI specialist is essential so that a FUNCTIONAL VISUAL ASSESSMENT (how the child responds to the environment and not just the eye chart) can be performed. A vision specialist working with the child should be able to give recommendations for setting up a play space, classroom, or home environment, or for specific appropriate toys or learning tools. Keep in minding that these adaptations are ESSENTIAL for successful learning.

Here are some websites with tips and more information:

American Printing House For the Blind

Ability Path

Little Bear Sees 

Wonderbaby

Pinterest (this links to one of many wonderful sites for easy homemade adaptations for those with CVI

If you are a parent, caretaker, or an educator of a child with CVI, read Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment & Intervention by Christine Roman-Lanzy. It is THE go-to book on this topic.

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