Posts Tagged ‘activities’

Things You Can Do with Your 3-6 Month Old

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

DSCN1166Congratulations–you made it! Now that he’s three months old, your baby is now considered an infant. You may have already noticed your child is becoming more and more aware of his surroundings and is no longer just an eating/pooping/sleeping machine. Now you two can enjoy more activities together.

Between three and six months, babies are perfecting their grab, gaining strength in preparation for crawling and walking (ahhhh!), and their brains are learning at an incredible rate. You can encourage all of this growth in a lot of different ways. Tummy time is still necessary; if you haven’t tried yet, place some toys at your child’s periphery. She can look at them and when intrigued, try to grab for them.

Floor gyms are nice at this age. They provide gross and fine motor skill development as well as visual and mental stimulation. Your child will also likely be starting the long teething process. You will want to have a few safe teething toys; my boys both loved their Sophie the Giraffe, but there are tons of different options out there (including chewable mommy jewelry).

This is a fun age to begin mommy/baby music classes, too. Babies generally really enjoy listening to music, and these classes often introduce a number of different types of music as well as include fun sensory activities and gross motor development. My oldest son really enjoyed Kindermusik, but there are lots of different options available depending on where you live.

This is a great age to introduce water play at your local swimming pool as well, if you haven’t already been. They can splash and enjoy bonding time with a parent and also start getting accustomed to the water (getting comfortable in the water early can help stave off fears of water in later childhood).

Finally, board and cloth books are awesome for infants. Children of all ages benefit from you reading to them, but at this age your child will also begin to be interested in handling the book themselves (and attempting to take bites of them too).

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two little boys, ages 3 and 6. She’s currently enjoying the expat life in Japan.

Finding the Right Playgroup for Your Toddler

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Finding the Right Playgroup for Your ToddlerWhen my oldest daughter was nearly two, I remember sitting in her tumbling class, shocked at the expectation for the little ones to sit and hear the directions for the planned activity, and then wait in line for their turn at each station. I remember thinking, “Wow, this class seems strict for the intended age group!” and at the same time thanking my lucky stars (because it was pure luck) that my daughter handled the sitting and waiting part okay. 

Although we had our other challenges with her, she wasn’t a very busy natured kid.  I recall a few little ones who didn’t handle it so well, and my heart went out to the parents who, week after week, showed up and tried to get their children to abide to the “sitting” rules. When the session expired, they did not re-enroll.

Four years later, here I am with a strong willed 22-month-old who would NEVER sit for such a class. She is the youngest of three, and I am starting feel a bit guilty that she isn’t involved in as many groups and activities as my other two were at her age. Quite honestly, those groups began to intimidate me because I know my daughter. She is busy. She has a short attention span. If she sees an activity, she cannot wait to dive in. Highly structured classes wouldn’t work for her right now.  I wanted to get her involved in activities, but I didn’t want it to be a frustrating, unfulfilling experience. After all, it’s a playgroup; it’s supposed to be fun, right? Thankfully just as toddlers come in all “varieties,” so do play groups and classes, and I set out to find the right one for her.

I considered our local book store and library for “story hour” but upon looking at the description of the class, I knew she would not sit on my lap for half hour while read to by the librarian. She would want to move about and explore the room. However, our library offered a similar class, but it was a musical story hour in which the tots would be up singing songs along and shaking maracas with the weekly story. This class might work for her. I also sought out our local community recreational center and looked at their list of offerings. They had a few structured classes for her age groups. The running in a gym piece sounded up her alley, until I contacted the instructor to get a bit of information about the class, and learned that the children are expected to follow directions and stay with the group. Hmm, my toddler wasn’t there quite yet. There was, however, a class that was more of an open gym hour for moms with toddlers.  They put out tricycles and balls and hula hoops and allowed the kids free range of the gym while an instructor guided and supervised their play.

18-24 months is a great age to get your child involved in playgroups and classes.  It gives them opportunity for their play to move from parallel to interactive play, teaches them to share and other skills that are important for their social and emotional development. Classes and groups tend to lump kids together and indicate appropriateness of a class based on age. However, toddlers learn, grow and develop in different areas at different rates.  So just because the class indicates it’s intended for 18-24 month olds, don’t assume it’s a good fit for your child. Instead of signing your child up and hoping for the best, do your homework. Look into the group and find out what the expectation is and what exactly they will be doing. If there is a description of the class available to you, great, if not, ask. Ask the instructor, or ask other moms who have had experience with the group. You know your child best, so if the group doesn’t sound like a good fit, move on and look at others that will be a better fit for your child’s personality and current developmental level.

If your toddler is “spirited,” as I like to call my daughter, don’t cross playgroups and classes off of the list for her.  And also don’t feel like a failure if story hour won’t work for your child. Use it as an opportunity to help her grow in an area that you know she needs help with. Go to the library in the children’s area, and pick out a toddler friendly book.  Place her on your lap and have her sit for 5 minutes and be read to.  Another day make it 8 minutes, then 10.  Each time, reward her success by letting her up to play and eventually she will be there. Be patient, and remember that the child who is sitting quietly through story hour may be shy during gym classes, which may be equally frustrating to her mom, as was the case for me with my oldest child.

I speak most of the busy child as that is what’s on my plate right now, but for the more reserved/shy type, don’t permanently take busy gym type classes off her list forever.  Instead, expose her to open gym times for a little bit. Get there early before it gets too crowded, allow her to get comfortable in the environment in a casual way.  She will eventually warm-up. The point is, all kids have their things, and finding a group that fosters her current strengths, while giving her time to grow in other areas, is the key to her (and your) happiness and success with the group.

Michele Ogniewski is a mom of three young children who have provided her with a variety of experiences in the toddler years. She is also a part-time social worker with young children and families.

Fall Activities for Toddlers

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Fall Toddler ActivitiesAs the weather cools down for fall, it can take a bit more planning to keep our toddlers busy. There are still a lot of great outdoor activities in the fall though and some great indoor ones as well. I’ve compiled a round-up of some of the fall activities we have been enjoying this year.

A Nature Walk (and scavenger hunt)

Fall is the perfect time to check out local nature trails or wildlife preserves. The cooler weather makes a walk more pleasant and all the falling leaves, acorns, walnuts and other fall “treasures” can help keep your toddler interested. To make it even more fun, print off a picture list of fall treasures that your toddler can help find on your nature adventure.

If you haven’t been hiking in your area before, use EveryTrail to find a trail near you. It’s best to go the trail alone before you take a toddler along, but if you can’t, handicap-accessible trails are usually very kid-friendly.

Fruit Picking

This might vary depending on what area of the country you live in, but where we live this is the perfect time of year to go apple picking. I love that I can just let my toddler munch on an apple while we pick. All that delicious fruit keeps moods cheerful long enough to get a big basket of apples loaded up. Usually the apple trees are kept trimmed well and it is easy for a toddler to find an apple to pick on their own. PickYourOwn.org has a list of Pick-Your-Own farms by state.

Apple Print Painting

Once you are home with your apples, use one or two to make some toddler friendly art. Cut the apple in half to make an apple shape print, or get really creative and cut some shapes into your apple half before you use it as a stamp.

Bake Together

It’s never too early to get your kids involved in the kitchen, and fall is the perfect time to bake. Bake something with apples and let your toddler fill the measuring cup with fruit. Bake cookies and let your toddler help roll balls of cookie dough. Bake bread and let your toddler learn how to knead a piece of dough.

Petting Zoo or Nature Center

Fall is such a great time to go to your local zoo or nature center. Many of these have discounted entrance costs in the fall and the cooler weather makes it much more enjoyable to walk the grounds and see the animals.

Hopefully these give you some great ideas to make some awesome memories with your toddler this fall!

Becca Schwartz is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to a toddler girl and baby boy. She and her husband have a small mini-farm with a flock of chickens, a few goats, and rabbits, and are making plans to move out west to start a homesteading adventure together!

Toddler Routine? How is that possible?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Toddler Routine? How is that Possible?As parents we hear how important the bedtime routine is for our children. We also know- how important keeping routine naps are for our sanity as well as our children’s ability to learn, grow, and process. However, there comes an age where children really start to thrive on daily routines. Routines make children feel safe, in control, and grounded. Around 1 year of age we see self-imposed patterns develop in our children, their eating, sleeping and playing cycle becomes a little more predictable. Around this time we can use routines to help enhance their learning.

Before I go any further I would like to draw a huge distinction between a schedule and a routine. Young toddlers will not thrive with a time-driven schedule. They need to be allowed the flexibility they require to complete their naps, and meet their basic needs, while also providing a loose framework for what to expect during the day; this can be done through routines.

For example, in our house, our morning routine is we wake up and have breakfast within the hour of waking, usually with Daddy before he leaves for work. Then we get dressed and have creative play (dress-up is the favorite at the moment) for my 3 year old; and fine motor skill (like opening and closing boxes) for my 10 month old. About an hour to hour-and-a-half after waking my 10 month-old is ready for a quick morning nap. Once she is asleep, my 3 year-old and I spend 10 minutes doing an activity of his choice, before I break away and he has time to play on his own. This 10-minute window allows him to get involved with play and leaves him with some direction for his self-play. I can usually use the remainder of the morning nap to clean up the kitchen, or do some laundry, etc. Once the baby is awake, we leave the house either run errands or participate in a child-related activity before returning for lunch and/or afternoon naps.

This routine is not set in stone for every day of the week, but 3-5 days of the week this is our routine. I make an effort to preserve this routine. I will not over schedule activities for myself or my children that would devastate our routine. When we are in our routine the children know what to expect and it makes the morning run smoothly (USUALLY). Everyone gets what they need from this routine: food, sleep, play, attention and time alone.

On days that will stray from the routine, it is important that I prepare myself and my children. This is especially true for parents with an older toddler. In our family we use bedtime to talk about the plans for tomorrow. This gives my 3-year-old time to prepare for the coming day. He has a chance to ask questions about why we are doing certain things, and I have time to answer and prepare him. This is a really helpful tool for us.

Our routine did not happen overnight–we built this routine together as a family. It started with our needs, and then with our priorities. Routines grow as your family grows, and little elements within the routine may be further defined as children age. Routines offer a lot of opportunity for teaching children. An example of this is dressing. At first we dress the child, then the child learns pick out their clothes, then to put on their clothes with help, and finally to dress themselves independently.

If you are trying to come up with a routine that works for your family and will provide some predictability for your toddler, I encourage each of you to sit down as a family and write down all your activities, as well as the things you value and want to incorporate in your day-to-day life. From this list, try to make a general routine to attempt and start finding a family routine that works for your specific family dynamics. You may find that you are smothered by the amount of activities you have invested yourself in and want to try to tone them down. Alternatively, you may find that you need to add more specific types of activities to break up your time. Looking at your needs and wants on paper allows you to optimize the use of your time, and develop a more efficient framework for your day. After all, it’s not only children that thrive on routines, its human nature.

Casey Mix-McNulty, RN, BSN is a full-time mom to an imaginative little boy and a feisty little girl.   She is also a pediatric nurse aspiring towards becoming an IBCLC.