Adjusting Your Toddler’s Routine During the Holidays

Adjusting Your Toddler’s Routine During the HolidaysThe holiday season can be stressful for even the most laid back of moms. Even if you don’t have a schedule, most families do have a routine or rhythm that helps the days flow. And during the holidays that flow is interrupted. So the question is, do you go with it or try to maintain some semblance of your normal days?

Personality has a lot to do with how well your child adjusts to things outside of the norm. Are they energized by change, or does it drain them? Do they look forward to new things and experiences, or do they fear them? When you’re dealing with toddlers, it’s always less traumatic for everyone when you follow their lead.

For example, my first child finds change exhilarating and exciting. When we would travel during the holidays, she would bounce off the walls and have trouble sleeping when we tried to stick to our regular nap and bedtime schedule. Staying in hotels was miserable, because she would want to check out every little thing and stay up with us, and instead we laid down in the dark at 8pm and stared at the ceiling for two hours until she fell asleep.

Looking back, instead of making multiple trips to settle her down and put her to bed, I wish I would have just let her stay up past her bedtime and crash on her own. The difference likely wouldn’t have been much, and we would have gotten to enjoy more time with family and friends instead of stressing out over bedtime. Even with all the fussing we did over keeping her routine the same, we still had an adjustment period when we got back home.

However, if you have a child that finds routines calming and reassuring, then protecting your schedule as much as possible would give them a sense of familiarity and help ease the transition from normal activities to visits with family and holiday craziness. You can do this by noting when you do things at home, like story time at the library, or going to the grocery store, and try to do similar things where you are staying. If you can’t do similar things, try to schedule activities for the same time of day that works for you at home.

Toddlers are always in flux—when I think I have mine figured out, they tend to hit a growth spurt or get molars, and everything changes. This is a great time to take the time to really be patient and notice your child’s cues rather than trying to just pick a strategy and stick to it.

Keep the schedule light and remember to be flexible—you may have made an appointment for photos with Santa or shopping with grandma, but remember that your child does not share your expectations for the holidays! Be ready to go with the flow and leave yourself the option of saying no when your toddler has had enough.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls, 6, 3, and 1. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

Friday, December 19, 2014
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Fun Gifts for Toddlers at Christmas

Fun Holiday Gifts for ToddlersIf your child is like mine, she has plenty of toys. My daughter, Johanna, has a dollhouse, kitchen, play purse, jewelry, etc. Her favorite toys right now are her “Frozen” figurines. Kids are so much fun to shop for at the holidays. Here are some of my favorite fun gifts to give.

1. Toys for Imaginative Play

Toys that toddlers can use their imaginations with are the best.  If you have a play kitchen in your house, why not invest in some more fun items to go with it like play food. Take play food to another level and check out these cute Melissa and Doug play foods that your child can actually cut. Let your child pretend they have their own indoor garden and purchase these play gardening tools.  My daughter loves her baby dolls. For awhile, they went everywhere with us, along with their stroller. Get your little one a baby doll and also a baby carrier for their doll. They can be just like mommy! Toys that toddlers can for imaginative play will provide hours of fun and entertainment for you and your little ones.

2. Gifts You Make

The most heartfelt holiday gifts are the ones we spend time creating for our children. Take the time this year and create some fun gifts. If you are crafty and can sew, make your toddler their very own sleeping bag. If your little one likes to read, create your very own family board book.  Use words like “mom” and “dad” and put your own photos in the book. How fun! Use cardboard boxes to create fun, new toys. Try making a ice cream shop for your toddler out of a box you have and some other craft supplies. It doesn’t get much more creative than that! Your toddler will see the love behind any gift you take the time to make them.

3. Gifts Your Toddler is Into Now

I can’t help it. I am a sucker for the trendy holiday gifts of the season. My daughter is all about the movie “Frozen,” so this year, we had to go find Sno Glo Elsa before she sold out.  Another hot item to have is a cute little table with chairs for your little one. I am planning on finding one of these on sale this Black Friday. My daughter also loves puzzles right now, so I plan on buying her a few more. Whatever your child is really into right now, go ahead and get them something related to that. I’m not saying buy every “Frozen” toy you see, but it’s okay to get a gift or two that will create a priceless response.

The great thing about toddlers is that they are excited by the smallest things. Any holiday gift you give will create awe and wonder that is sure to last longer than the holiday season.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of 2 in Northeast Indiana who is all about “Frozen” gifts this year. She needs to “let it go!”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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Sorry, I Have Toddlers

Sorry, I have toddlers.

Instead of sending out Christmas cards this year, I’m sending up a white flag.

In truth, organizationally, I haven’t yet recovered from my second pregnancy. The last time I sent out Christmas cards, I barely had a baby bump from our election night baby who was due the next summer.

Most of the time I have no problem owning the fact that I am not a Pinterest mom who does themed décor for each holiday. The weeks when I do manage a shower every day, I think, “Hmm, I sure am showering a lot,” without even realizing this was normal. I don’t feel put together, perfect or enviable. But it doesn’t bother me.

Until the holidays.

The holidays are when I really feel it, because that’s when all the normal people with either no kids–or at least kids who can use the restroom independently–really turn on the afterburners. They go above and beyond with the decorations and the family portraits and the cards and the fancy treats at get-togethers. Their kids are in new Christmas outfits that probably coordinate. They make things. They do that damn Elf on the Shelf and create interesting tableaus each night that they artfully photograph and post for your enjoyment. They aren’t late and their houses are clean. It’s not a big deal, because this is the only time of year they are pulling the late shift. It’s OK. It’ll be over in a few weeks.

Right now, my whole life is the late shift. Things like daily showers have become my extra effort. I get to the holidays, and I can’t turn it up any hotter. This is it, this is me at full blast. I have no afterburners at this point, and I have no idea when this part ends and I finally get a break. Do I get a break, or do I just develop more endurance? The thought terrifies me.

Anyone who has survived toddlers without going full-on Britney Spears crazy has discovered the same secret to get them through it: No Expectations. None. Expectations will be the death of you. And yet you can’t escape it during the holidays, even if you are keenly aware of the dangers.

SOrry, I have Toddlers

You have these visions of sharing a lovely thanksgiving meal together, or sitting by the fire and gazing at the tree, and these ideas are so humble, so innocent, that when your toddler comes along and say, hypothetically, dumps out

your entire turkey and brine and floods the kitchen, or singlehandedly pulls down the Christmas tree, you are caught off guard. You’re devastated. And you swore you would never set yourself up for that again.

It’s heartbreaking because you let yourself dream this one tiny dream, be it of a stout-brined thanksgiving turkey, or an evening where no one throws up, or even just a few hours of sleep, and when it’s dashed it’s can feel like a knife in your heart.

The rest of the year I am good at no expectations, so the holidays just bum me out. I wish I could enjoy them more from the sidelines, knowing that soon, my girls will be joining in on all the making and doing and giving and we’ll be doing it all together, but I can’t. Not this year. Between the turkey, and the tree, I’m spent. So at the next party, I’m not going to feel at all bad when I show up empty handed and immediately begin pouring myself a glass of wine without presenting the host with a lovely tray of handcrafted sugar cookies or a crocheted something I found on Pinterest. I’m just going to help myself, sit down, put my feet up, and say, “Sorry. I have toddlers.”

Merry Christmas.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls ages 6, 3, and 1. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
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Giving Up Naps

Giving Up Naps

It’s a sad day. I have been looking forward to sweet, sweet nap time for one or more of my three kids every day for the past six years, and now it’s about to be gone from my life forever. I guess it’s the first step toward saying goodbye to the days of babies. Nap time is going to be gone long before the crib is put away or our last nursing session is over, even.

All three of my kids have given up naps before preschool. But I had a friend who was worried about her daughter starting all-day Kindergarten because she still took naps at 5. So when is the right time to give up naps?

There is no “right time.” Every kid grows and develops at a different rate. Some kids will absolutely still nap right up to starting Kindergarten, and some kids will give up naps way too early. The key is to take cues from your child.  Here are four cues that will tell you a lot about where your child is in the process.

  • Nighttime sleep. If your child is sleeping 12-14 hours per night, they are getting enough sleep to start skipping naps. It’s OK if they still nap and sleep this much at night. Just know that if they start skipping naps, they are still getting enough sleep for growth and development.
  • Resisting daytime naps. I experienced this with my first and second children. At a certain point, it felt like it was more work to get them down for naps than it was worth. Pay attention to sleepiness cues and grumpiness. If your child doesn’t want to go down and they aren’t exhibiting any of their usual sleep cues, you may be right in not fighting this battle.
  • Being up way too late when they nap. This has always been my biggest red flag since we are very regular with our 7:30 bedtime. When my kids are wide awake–and happy–past 8, 9, and 10pm, I know it’s time to give up naps.
  • No witching hour. There are times when naps don’t make it into your schedule because you have a busy day—pay attention to how your child responds on these days. Do they melt into a puddle at your feet at 4pm, or do they seem unfazed? When your child isn’t cranky or overemotional because of missing their nap, they might be over nap time.

Do they have to show all these signs, or just a few? Well, my 22-month-old doesn’t stay up late when she does nap, but she gets enough sleep, no longer has those evening meltdowns, and some days it takes longer to get her down than she naps. Different kids will react differently to not napping, so if you’re not sure, experiment.

Keep in mind there is a happy medium—you can always give up the sleep aspect and keep that hour or so of quiet time where you unplug and read or play quietly. If you are pregnant or have a baby that still needs to nap, this can help preserve their quiet time as well.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls who is about to go pour one out for naptime. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

Monday, December 15, 2014
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Taking a Sick Day

Taking a Sick DayThere’s a commercial I keep seeing on TV for a cold medicine that begins with a sick person sticking their head into a room and asking someone for a day off. Then the shot cuts to a toddler looking blankly back at their parent, and the announcer says, “Moms don’t take sick days.”

I especially love this commercial because it also has a dad version. Yay for those dads who give up so much to stay home with their kids. They deserve some recognition, too.

Moms and dads don’t get sick days. But we are all inevitably faced with that awful sinking feeling you get when you wake up in the morning and realize you feel like crap. In another life, a quick call or email to your boss confirmed that you were not needed and should stay home and get some rest. But now you’re a parent, and before you lies perhaps the hardest 8 hours you will ever face.

Most of the time, I have no shame in tapping out and asking my husband to stay home while I recover. That’s what his sick days are for! But occasionally he will have a meeting or deadline that means he can’t take off, and I’m on my own. Here are my time-tested strategies for taking a sick day when you can’t get one.

  • Babysitting exchange. It’s great to have a support network of other moms, especially when you don’t have family nearby who can take your kids for the day. My experience with any mom of two or more is that after two, a few more kids doesn’t really make a difference.  If you know a mom who can hold her own with a few more kids around, call her up. When you’re well, keep her kids for the same number of hours another time. If you have three or more kids, you may want to divide and conquer with a few different friends.
  • Hunker down. If you can’t call in reinforcements, a great strategy with younger kids is to go to a space that is safe for them, such as a playroom or baby room, and shut all of you inside securely with a baby proof lock or doorknob cover. Get out some toys, snacks and a sippy cup if applicable, and know that if you lay down and fall asleep for a bit, everyone will stay contained and safe. But this may not work if your toddler is an escape artist!
  • Go to a fun place and wear them out. If you’re not contagious, sometimes the best strategy is to wear your kids out and hope for a long nap. An indoor play structure, library play room, mall playground or enclosed park are great places since you may not go often and it’s all new. Even though going out may be the last thing you want to do, if they are good and worn out, a long nap may be in order for everyone.
  • Bring out new toys. If you rotate toys or have anything in the garage or attic, now is the time to get it out. You can also get a ton of ideas from the web of how to turn ordinary items around the house into toddler toys. Set up a fort in the living room or use a baby gate and make a hall fort. Sometimes, even taking well-worn toys into a different space can give them new life. 
  • Use the TV. Yes, I know. Screen time is not recommended for anyone under 2, and in very small doses for 2s at the most. But a sick day is not a regular occurrence, and your priority here is to keep everyone safe and try to recover. The TV is great for this kind of situation, especially since the less your children watch, typically the more they will be spellbound by it. Netflix has a kids’ feature so you can be sure they won’t accidently end up watching a season of Orange is the New Black, and the episodes will automatically que up without you having to do anything. For small kids, shows that have fewer cuts or changes in camera shots impact them less than fast-paced shows like Spongebob. I loved Pingu since there is no dialogue and it’s stop-motion instead of animation. Kipper is another good one for small kids.

Clearly I’m not the first one to have this problem–Babycenter has this list of 40 ways to entertain a toddler while lying down. The very fact that this list exists should make you feel better already!

However you get through a sick day, don’t guilt trip yourself and don’t be ashamed to ask for help. As moms, we often joke that we did our job if everyone is alive and fed at the end of the day, but when you’re sick that really is the only goal you should have. Try to get some rest and remember to drink lots of water.

What are your tricks for surviving a sick day? 

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three who has sat through her fair share of park days while nursing a mean case of mastitis. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

Friday, December 12, 2014
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