Toddlers and Chores

IMG_1437Yes, toddlers can do chores. Will it help your workload? No. Will it be easy to get them to do them? No. Are they motivated by bribes, allowance or privileges? No. Will it quite possibly be more work for you? Yes.

So what’s the point?

I think most people initiate toddler chores to lay a foundation that we all make messes, and we all help clean up. Even toddlers can understand this simple idea. Plus, when you are home with a toddler, they really have to be in sight at all times. Silence can be deadly–or at least messy—so when you can find a way for your toddler to help you with a job you are already doing, everyone wins.

Another plus is that you can show your child how to do something or have them help you several times, and then wait for them to initiate. When they do, it’s a huge sense of achievement for you both! I hate nagging, especially when I am the one doing it, so my preference is to throw a PARTY when one of the girls takes initiative. Studies show positive reinforcement is much more effective anyway, so you can save your breath and your frustration by giving your child the tools to be a helper and then reward them when they put it into action. It takes a little more patience, but it’s worth it.

Here are some easy ways to set up your home so that your toddler has opportunities to help:

  • Toy baskets or bins at floor level: I find that fabric or plastic bins without lids are the most effective way to store toys. Toddlers are experts at the game “put X in Y.” It’s their favorite game. When you keep the toys in bins on the floor, it makes it easy for your toddler to help clean up. I also keep a basket in the bathtub for bath toys.
  • Care for outdoor plants or flowers. Kids love being outdoors, and gardening with your toddler can help them learn where food comes from. If you have outdoor plants, watering is an easy chore kids can do themselves and you don’t have to worry about making a mess.
  • Tiny laundry baskets. I found a very small, light plastic laundry bin for my girls to help me with laundry, and they love it. They can help you load or unload the dryer, take folded items to their room, or use it to help clean up. It’s just the right size for them to carry without being too large or heavy.
  • Plastic plates. Using plastic dishware for your toddlers saves your nice dishes, and it makes it realistic for them to help clear the table after meals. Just be sure to scrape leftovers onto someone else’s plate first.
  • Diaper drawer. My 18-month-old always helps me put away her diapers, and gets a new one when she needs it. I have the diapers in the bottom drawer of her dresser in her room, and a diaper basket downstairs that she can reach, too.
  • Clean as you go. Don’t wait for there to be a big mess before you clean up. If you teach them to pick up one game or toy before getting out another, or to put all their clothes in the hamper before bath, they will develop neat habits that help you out every day without having to stop and clean.

Songs and games are a great way to encourage helping. When we sing the clean up song at our house, it’s like Clara has been hypnotized—she drops what she’s doing, starts singing and picking up things. Routine can help, too. Make it a habit and be consistent, but don’t expect perfection.

My house is not clean all the time, and I don’t get help all the time. But sometimes my girls jump in and help without asking, and it makes me feel so loved and so proud of them. I don’t care if my house is neat and tidy every minute of the day, but I do want to raise girls who notice the contributions of others and try to do their part without being nagged.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three who lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. She’s currently trying to figure out how to work the clean-up song hypnosis on her husband.   

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Diapering a Wiggly Toddler

IMG_1690Changing a toddler’s diaper can be challenging. They can be squirmy, kicky, touchy, and grabby. Keeping feet down, hands up, and bums holding still can be a heck of a challenge. This gets harder as they grow, however, because they will eventually become MOBILE.

Mobility is awesome. You get to watch your little one learn to crawl, roll, walk, and climb. It’s amazing watching them discover all these new talents. It’s not so amazing when you just want them to hold still so you can clean that poopy diaper. Gone were the days I could just say, “Snnnnnaaaaaaap!” in an ever-rising, silly voice and entertain my children as I snapped their diapers up while they giggled away.
With my oldest child (now potty trained), I used my Mommy Necklace as a distraction. I would hand him the necklace to entertain him a bit while I wiped. The novelty of that wears off, eventually, and then you have a bored child that just wants down. It’s funny to see mom react when you try to flip over while she’s wiping poop off your butt, after all!I learned to change it up. Sometimes I would hand them the teething or nursing necklace I had on, other times I would take in a random wooden (and easy to clean) toy. Car keys (albeit a dirty alternative) seem to work well from time to time, also.

My favorite discovery with my oldest was a game that taught him things at the same time. We would name body parts as he touched them (also while nursing… if he touched my mouth, I would say mouth) all throughout the day. It became a game at changing time. In an effort to keep hands away from his diaper area (because we do NOT need pinkeye again), I would ask him where his nose was. He would point to his nose, and I would make a big deal out of it. GOOD JOB!!!! Then I would keep naming parts. By the time he was 18 months old, he knew many more body parts than others his age. You can do this game with signs if you do ASL, too.

If your little one will play peek-a-boo with you, that might be a good time to try to get them to play. This will keep hands away from the mess while you clean.

My daughter is trickier. She’s been mobile since a much younger age than my oldest child, and she wasn’t at the point where she would be able to play the body part game with me. I’ve sung to her, handed her random things (she loves the NoseFrida!), given her the really tiny board books to look at, and talked to her about the decorations on the wall. Wall clings near a changing table can be an awesome thing!

For Peek-a-boo, I end up throwing a patterned cloth wipe over her eyes and the top part of her head, and then I start my change immediately. She will lose interest in the game after about two peeks, but then gets interested in the print on the wipe (or diaper cover if I grabbed one of those instead).

For this wiggle worm, what seems to work best is singing…. and only one song at that. I can only please her singing “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” from Disney’s Frozen. She is getting better at her signing, and has taken a keen interest in body parts lately, so I have a feeling the “body part game” or “show me a sign” game will be in our near future. She’s also really into animal noises, so we might be able to play a “what does this animal say” game soon.

And here I thought I would have a system down-pat when baby #2 started becoming mobile! Every baby is different, and every baby loves different things. Take what interests your baby the most and try to incorporate that (like singing a specific song, books, or making specific animal noises). If need be, keep a few different items near the changing table (if you use one) so you can give them something different each time.

Mobile babies are tricky, so if you find something that works for you, stick with it! What’s your secret to changing a wiggly toddler?

Christine Kangas is a mom of two trying to lead a greener life. She lives in the mid-western U.S. with her family and three cats.

Thursday, September 18, 2014
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2014 Jogging Stroller Review

Whether you are a marathoner or just a habitual jogger, if you have young children then you’ve probably considered purchasing a jogging stroller. But like cars, there are many options with all different price ranges. A lot of regular strollers might look like jogging strollers, but might not actually be made for running.

For safety reasons, prior to purchasing you need to make sure that the manufacturer has specifically stated that the stroller is meant for running. You should also look for a stroller that has a front wheel that will lock in place. Finally, most legitimate jogging strollers will also have at least 12” tires that are made from the same material as your bike tires. These are necessary to absorb shock and stabilize the unit.

When looking for the right jogger, there are a couple crucial elements that can set it apart from the rest.

  • Versatility (Can you attach an infant seat?)
  • Rolling resistance and weight limits
  • Ease of Use
  • Ability to load and unload from your car or your house/apartment

We mom-tested a few of the current favorites on the market and here are the results:

2014 Jogging Stroller Review BOB Ironman

Retails around $400

Pros

  • Very Light
  • Meant for serious runners
  • Capacity goes all the way to 70lbs
  • With its high-tech look and a bright yellow color option, it looks pretty amazing whizzing by you on the trail.

Cons

  • Seat length is short and might not accommodate your child even if they aren’t at weight capacity yet
  • Pricey
  • Almost all accessories, like infant seat conversion kit, cost extra

Baby Trend ExpeditionBaby Trend

Retails for around $99

Pros

  • Affordability
  • Stands when folded for tight spaces
  • Cup Holders

Cons

  • Front wheel has been known to bend and break the bolt. This can result in tip-overs!
  • Not meant for serious runners, or for long distances
  • No hand break
  • Some users have said that it shakes “violently” when running.

Jeep Liberty Limited TerrainJeep Jogger

Retails for around $200

Pros

  • Lots of extra storage space
  • Fits many infant car seats
  • Smooth ride whether you are running on a trail, asphalt, concrete

Cons

  • Very large and troublesome to maneuver in smaller places like elevators
  • Tires need to be replaced often
  • Difficult to store in smaller places like closets
  • Gets stuck easily when opening. Once user said that she usually looks ridiculous trying to force pry the thing open in public places.

What’s your favorite jogger? Any tips for moms on the run?

Tessa Westnitzer is a personal trainer and mother of two who lives and works out in Tucson, Arizona. She loves helping new moms get back to their fighting weight!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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When Good Toddlers Go Bad

When Good Toddlers Go BadI’m kidding. All toddlers are good. But sometimes, even the Perfect Baby has an off day. I would know, because our third child is a Perfect Baby and right now she is upstairs throwing an Exorcist-worthy fit that made me start thinking about tantrums and what having three very different toddlers has taught me about them over the years.

Tantrums or meltdowns generally begin occurring around 18 months. Your toddler is gaining a sense of autonomy, and is haphazard about when to use it. They are also discovering language. On top of that, they are developing emotions and learning how to deal with them. Plus, babies in general are always running little experiments to test the world around them: What happens when I drop my cup from the stroller? Refuse to eat carrots? Say “no”? Take someone’s toy? Sometimes, all these discoveries collide, and they end up in a meltdown. Growth spurts, fatigue and overstimulation can also play a part.

During a meltdown, your toddler’s emotions get ahead of their ability to communicate or understand what’s happening, and they lose it. No amount of bribing or reasoning can get them out of it. You have to go back to square one—nonverbal communication.

Here are the tools we have used to get through the toddler years with our girls:

  • Hugging, swaying and shushing. Some of the 5 S’s still work at this age. I wouldn’t try to swaddle a toddler in mid-tantrum, but swaying and shushing while you hold them close can be reassuring and help bring them back to a state of calm. I tend to shush or say, “I’m here, It’s OK,” over and over. I personally don’t like it when people say, “Don’t cry!” or “Calm down,” to toddlers. When I’m upset the last thing I want is someone bossing me around, and babies absolutely understand everything you say.
  • Teething/Colic tabs. I love Hyland’s because they are homeopathic. Remember, toddlers are still getting molars, and they hurt the most before you can see them. I even used Hyland’s when my oldest was having night terrors and would wake up inconsolable. They helped her calm down enough so that she could talk to me and tell me what was wrong. If you don’t have any, just brew some chamomile tea and mix it with juice or milk.
  • Going outside/Going for a walk. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, the fresh, outdoor air can calm a baby really fast. I never quit being amazed at how sometimes, the moment we stepped outside, the crying stopped.
  • Playing a favorite song. Each of my children had distinctly different songs that made them stop crying immediately. Right now, Clara is upstairs with Galactic’s “Hey Na Na” on repeat. Alice liked ‘90s alternative. Maisie would stop crying every time she heard “Clap Your Hands” by Britpop singer Sia. Whatever works.

It’s possible that if your toddler had colicky or fussy periods as a baby, you may experience a little flashback to that desperation and frustration you felt when your newborn baby cried for hours on end. Toddlers are stronger than babies and can accidentally hurt you during a tantrum, and it’s easy to feel like they did it on purpose, especially if it really hurt or if you feel like the whole day has been a struggle.

If you feel yourself getting angry or you stop feeling sorry for your crying baby, put her somewhere safe, like a crib or pack n play, and walk away for a few minutes to compose yourself. Ask your spouse to take over for a bit. Call a friend, neighbor, grandma, or resident baby whisperer for back up if you’re home alone. These feelings will subside, but they can be scary at the time.

The tantrum phase doesn’t last. Your toddler will learn to use words, deal with emotions, and transition from activities with ease, and you’ll feel like a capable parent again. For now, turn up the music, grab some wine and go to Reasons My Son is Crying for a cathartic laugh.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three who survived two toddler phases and is patiently waiting on her Purple Heart to arrive in the mail. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Pregnancy Week 19: Nesting

Pregnancy Week 19: NestingTo say I’ve been a bit obsessed with organizing and cleaning is an understatement. It is amazing how the pregnancy hormones start to take charge and you begin to zero in on a certain task or job that must be done. For me it has been cramming my two older boys into one room and figuring out how to share that space.

Pregnancy nesting instincts can begin at any time around or after the fifth month–some earlier, some later, some not at all. It can be a sudden urge to clean or even an urge to organize something. For the mothers to be, it is a primal urge to prepare for the new baby, to get things in order so that your energy and focus can be on this next addition to your family. Women have been known to scrub the entire kitchen with a toothbrush, to organize and then reorganize the baby’s room, scrub linen closets and iron and refold everything in sight before baby comes. These often make for great post-pregnancy stories.

There is nothing unhealthy about nesting, except when it gets out of hand. Pregnant women should avoid painting, ladders, any harsh chemicals and heavy lifting, especially in the latter months. Many oil based paints have many chemicals and volatile compounds that can irritate a pregnant woman’s airways, not to mention cause fainting. If painting must be done, have a friend or spouse help out and look for a Low VOC or natural Paint to help off set the fumes.

Cleaning chemicals are generally a no-no for pregnancy, but to tell a nesting mother that she can’t clean her house would be a bad idea. Aim for using natural cleansers, baking soda and vinegar, and essential oils for freshening your house. Ladders and step stools are also not good ideas as the center of gravity is off by the belly and it’s even easier to fall off a step stool while pregnant.

So far, I have repapered and organized my entire kitchen, scrubbed my bathrooms with baking soda and relined the shelves in every closet. I’m a bit obsessive about my instinct to be home and cozy–even to the point of avoiding social situations and wishing to be only around close friends and family. Soon this will pass, but in the meantime I am enjoying my clean, organized home.

Pia Watzig is a stay at home mom of two boys with a third due in November. She is not an avid cleaner or organizer but is trying to become one.

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