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FAMILY MATTERS: PLAYCARE


I saw a new (to me) term the other day: “I’m dropping Sophia off at ‘playcare,’” a friend posted on Facebook.

In between daycare and preschool, “playcare” situations are becoming more and more popular for parents of toddlers who need to run a few errands. Also called “mother’s day out,” playcare settings range from formal, registration-required programs to drop-in type services.

Is your toddler ready? Well, that depends on you. While separation anxiety is normal at this age (Does your toddler suddenly develop superhuman strength as he clings to your leg when you try to leave him in the church nursery?), letting him learn to be on his own and socialize is good, too.

Sophia went to playcare for two hours that day so her mom could go to the dentist, but I also have friends who have a regular schedule established each week. Regularity and consistency do help a child adapt to being dropped off to play!

Tip 13-36 months: Let your 3-year-old be responsible for some self-grooming, such as brushing their own hair and washing their face and hands. (You can always go behind them and ‘help.’) It teaches them responsibility and helps them feel important.



FAMILY MATTERS: CRYING


BabyA friend of mine had a baby about six weeks ago, and her Facebook posts for the first two weeks were pure bliss: sweet baby sounds, sleepy baby pictures, snuggling baby pictures and sheer happiness.

Then, the crying started, and it didn’t stop.

She took the sweet little thing to the doctor because she was getting just as distressed as the baby was. Her pediatrician diagnosed her little one with colic. Colic is often defined as crying more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby. Between 5 and 25 percent of babies are diagnosed with colic.

It’s excruciating. I should know. My younger son was what doctors called “colicky.” From about 4 to 7 p.m. each night, he screamed. I could only hold him positioned with his belly over my left (never the right) collarbone to ease the screaming. Let me just tell you, this was not an easy position to maintain with a 10-pound baby and a 17-month-old who needed to be fed, bathed and snuggled during this particular time period.

The good thing about colic is that it goes away. The bad thing is that there’s not a lot you can do about it. My doctor prescribed gas drops for my son. They sort of helped…and sort of didn’t. I changed my diet because I was nursing. That didn’t really help either. We just had to wait it out.

The good news is that we survived.

You will, too.

Tip 0-6 months: Don’t ever think your baby is too young to be read to. Read him a book every day and cuddle while you do. He loves the sound of your voice and the proximity to your body.



FAMILY MATTERS: SIPPY CUP


BabySeven to 12 months is the perfect time to introduce a sippy cup.

First things first: buy ones with lids that fit tightly.

Second thing: buy ones with lids that fit tightly.

Now that we’re clear on that, sterilize all parts of the sippy cup before you give it to baby for the first time. After subsequent uses, don’t forget to take the sippy cup all the way apart, removing the rubber stoppers and washing them separately each time. I may or may not be able to speak from experience that if you leave the rubber stopper in too many times between washings, it gets a little funky.

Start baby out with a little water, and let him just go to town with the cup. He may not be able to hold it still at first, and he may hit everything but his mouth. He may also not understand how to tip the cup back to drink from it. It’s OK if he needs a little help.

At the same time I introduced the sippy cup, I introduced the “sports bottle” type cup with a thick straw. Now, developmentally, babies aren’t supposed to be able to use a straw that early, but I never understood that. They can suck, right? My boys learned to use a sippy cup and a straw cup simultaneously with no problems.

As they grow, they’ll become more coordinated. By the time they turn one, they should have the sippy cup mastered!

Tip 7-12 months: It’s getting colder, so keep socks on baby’s feet. At this age, they may be learning to stand or walk, so buy socks with the great rubber grips on the bottom to help traction.



FAMILY MATTERS: GERMS


One of the things that always grossed me out about my toddlers was how they had to put their mouths on EVERYTHING, from restaurant tables to grocery shopping carts. Now, this is totally developmentally appropriate and a good sensory experience for your child. However, do you really want them licking door handles in the supermarket? Not me. Although, I will admit I had a kid who licked the diaper pail. You can’t keep their mouths off of everything, but I discovered one of my FAVORITE products for my toddlers was shopping cart seat covers. Made of fabric (so you can toss them in the “sanitize” cycle on your washing machine) shopping cart covers were a lifesaver when the boys wanted to taste EVERYTHING. Found everywhere from your local department store to online vendors, these are an inexpensive way to help combat germs in your toddler’s life.

TIP 13-36 months: Is it OK for your baby or toddler to watch TV? Experts disagree about this matter. If they are getting screen time, most experts DO agree to limit it to 10 minutes or less per day.



FAMILY MATTERS: FIRST WORDS


BabyFirst words often emerge between 8 and 12 months.

It was such a thrill to me to hear my boys’ first words. My older son’s first word was “light.” My younger son’s was “bird.” “Light” made sense to me because lights of any kind were his very favorite things. “Bird” was a bit more perplexing, but I went with it. Both boys said their first words before they babbled “mama” or “dada.” For the record, “D” sounds are easier to say, which is why many little ones say “dada” before “mama.”

TIP 7-12 months : Turn everything you do with your baby into play. They’ll integrate everyday tasks more quickly.



FAMILY MATTERS: BABY SERIES


BabyMy friend’s daughter, Sweet Baby, just turned six months old. Can I just say I can’t even fathom where the past six months have gone? It goes by so quickly, and babies develop in leaps and bounds at this point in their lives.

Sweet Baby surprised her mama this weekend by pulling up to standing at the coffee table in the living room.

Don’t be alarmed if your six month old is not pulling up to stand yet. The average age for pulling to standing is about 9 months. Sweet Baby is just proving to be precocious.

Another milestone a baby should hit around five months of age is hugging! What’s better than when your baby learns to wrap their chubby little arms around yours? Let baby hug you, a stuffed toy or a blanket. Some babies aren’t crazy about hugging. My older son certainly wasn’t, but if yours is a cuddler, then hug away.

Tip 0-6 months: When baby begins to be mobile, it’s time to baby proof. Take all breakable, sharp and heavy objects off of coffee tables and shelves. Make sure your cabinets have locks if they contain items that might be dangerous to baby.



Family Matters: Self Care


FamilyMatters_Baby1336Months_91313_228x173This is about the stage for your toddler when they not only WANT to do everything for themselves, but it’s about time for you to start letting them.

Curt always wanted to brush his own teeth. Now, I wasn’t going to completely relinquish care of his teeth, but I let him brush first before I took over, and that eliminated so much of the power struggle that is common in kids this age. The same thing happened with washing his hair. He no longer wanted me to rinse the shampoo out of his golden-brown baby locks; he wanted to do it himself. So, I let him dump that cup of water over his head, repeatedly. It made him giggle, too. Go figure.

At this age, they can try to comb their own hair. They can help choose what foods they eat (within reason, obviously). They can feed themselves. They can pick up and put away their own toys with help. Independence, here we come!

Tip 13-36 months: Have child-sized brooms, mop cloths (for wiping the table) and sponges available for your toddler, and allow him to clean like the adults do.



Family Matters: Strollin’


BabyBetween 7 and 12 months, baby will start to toddle around. It’s MUCH more fun, at this age, for baby to push your stroller instead of having to ride in it all the time. It’s not always practical to let baby push, but when you can, put the stroller in a safe spot (backyard, inside hallway) and let him go to town. He’ll feel important and powerful. Just make sure he doesn’t tip it back on top of himself!

Tip 7-12 months: Bring out the balls. Rolling a beach ball back and forth is a great inside activity.



Family Matters: Rolling Over


Baby

Rolling over was one of the first, big “Mom-screech” moments in my baby’s development. It happened around four months old for both of my kiddos, although between four and six months is in the range of normal. Belly-to-back rolling usually happens first, maybe during a tummy time session. About a month later, baby will roll from back to stomach in their first venture toward mobility. Luke, my second son, was a rolling machine. In fact, at one point, I was certain he’d never bother learning to crawl because he could just roll everywhere he went. I was surprised he didn’t make himself dizzy. Curt, my older son, was never much on rolling. He only did it when he needed to and without the enthusiasm Luke displayed for the feat. Once they start rolling, use caution about where you place baby and make sure nothing dangerous is within reach.

Tip 0-6 months: When baby becomes mobile, it may be time to pad sharp corners of furniture, fixtures and fireplaces with some kind of buffer between the object and baby’s noggin. Store-bought pads for all kinds of furniture are available, and you can certainly fashion homemade padding as well.



Family Matters: Snacks Rule in the Toddler World!


You don’t have to keep resorting to the same old, same old. Break out of the snack rut and help your toddler learn new foods.

Some fun toddler snacks include cucumber slices, cheese sticks or cubes, peanut butter on mini waffles, zucchini bread, dried fruits and vegetables, tofu, whole grain cereals, quesadillas, yogurt, eggs in a pita, baked sweet potato  fries, kale chips, hummus with veggies, pasta (cold or warm), yogurt and fruit smoothies, graham crackers, homemade fruit leathers or granola, unsweetened applesauce and meats cut into bite-sized pieces.

TIP 13-36 months: Sometimes a simple “no” is best. Explaining, rationalizing and giving choices about good and bad behavior is appropriate for an older child, but if your toddler is doing something wrong, sometimes “no” is more effective.



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