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Archive for May, 2011

Planning a Mini Vacation

Planning a child-friendly mini vacation can be a difficult task; you will want to choose a destination that will be memorable, safe and fun. With young and energetic children, families should choose destinations that offer a wide array of activities. Comprehensive research, via the Internet or your local travel agent, is integral to a safe and smart mini vacation for your family. Consider the following tips when arranging your next family trip:

Zoo or Aquarium

Zoos and aquariums introduce children to thousands of new animals and species. The majority of zoos and aquariums use creative ways to involve young children in what is usually considered a ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ environment.

  • Opportunities to pet and feed the animals will allow your child to explore and discover in a hands-on way. Children may or may not recall something that is told to them, but if you allow them to do it and touch it, it will make a lasting impression.
  • Make sure the zoo or aquarium offers educational programs that target young children.
  • Ensure that the zoo or aquarium has a strong commitment to safety, including several first aid stations and ample security.
  • Visit the zoo or aquarium Web site before finalizing your trip to make sure that it will be an appropriate fit for your young child.
  • If your child is a journal writer, encourage them to journal their experiences and feelings.

TIP Read a book about animals/aquatic life with your child before your zoo or aquarium visit – this helps build excitement about the upcoming trip. Providing children with a little background regarding animals they may experience may produce a higher probability of knowledge and experiential retention.

Beach or Lake

If you are near a beach or lake, make it a day! Children love to explore sand and water–let them play in it!

  • Bring a plastic magnifying glass so your little trekker can become a geologist, analyzing the sand and shells.
  • If the beach you are planning to visit has a bay area, or if you are visiting a lake, rent a canoe for an afternoon and take your child for an aquatic adventure. This is a great opportunity to teach your child the importance of water safety and aquatic life – always wear life jackets.
  • It is imperative to re-apply your child’s sunscreen every two hours. Shade your child from extra rays and use an umbrella and hats.
  • Maintain eye contact on your child at all times, regardless of the presence of lifeguards.
  • Consider painting your seashell treasures when you get home. These personalized memories are wonderful gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles.

TIP Bring a large make-up or powder brush (with talc) for an easy, pain-free way to remove sand before sunscreen application or at the end of the day.

Museum

Museums are a great attraction for family trips.  Children’s museums focus on learning through play, where children are encouraged to explore with their senses.

  • Museums generally allow your little explorers to participate in activities such as working with fossils, climbing tree houses and even performing on a TV set or an opera house stage.
  • Exploration centers, imagination factories, sensory stations and education-based play spaces are common attributes in many museums. Even your infant will enjoy learning.
  • If it looks like a mini-supermarket, understand that to your toddler or preschooler it is a supermarket. Allow you little one to explore this environment as if it was a ‘research and development’ project.
  • Does your museum display art? If it does, ask your child open-ended questions: What do you see? What colors did the artist use? How would you change this painting/sculpture?
  • After your museum adventure, take a few moments with your child and draw or sculpt (with dough or clay) a memory.

TIP Allow your child to explore every facet of the museum. The museum’s design is based upon research in child development; even the ‘silliest’ activity may improve a developmental skill.

Sibling Rivalry Rx

Disagreements are inevitable in any relationship; the connection with siblings is no different. There are various types of conflict that can arise between siblings and they often stem from underlying feelings. Determining the root cause and addressing the feelings directly in these situations is best, instead of dealing with the matter at hand. The way parents handle these rivalries will ultimately shape the way their children treat each other. So, lead by example. By practicing a problem-solving approach, parents can use these situations as teachable moments in which conflict resolution and self-help skills are instilled.  This will ultimately benefit their relationships throughout their life. Below are common reasons siblings squabble along with some strategies to foster peace.

Injustice

A feeling of injustice may cause a child to act out if they are frustrated and believe they are being victimized. Instead of deciding who is at fault or punishing both children for fighting, try to accept and acknowledge each child’s viewpoint and help them to express their feelings to each other. Find resolution to the problem by having your children generate solutions of their own that they can agree on.

Monotony

Getting a great reaction from bugging a sibling out of boredom is sometimes all a child needs to create their own fun. In lieu of punishment or ignoring the problem, try to redirect the child’s attention by getting them involved in a fun activity or asking them to help you accomplish a chore or task.

Parental Awareness

If a child feels like they are not receiving what they crave from a parent, their actions may be a ploy to get attention…positive or negative. Avoid giving negative attention in the form of punishment but be sure to recognize when you observe positive sibling interactions. Try to create more alone time with each child individually.

Mounted Resentment

This usually occurs when unproductive parenting strategies have been used. When parents attempt to stop arguments instead of teaching children to resolve their issues, the lesson of conflict management is lost. In this scenario, a likely reaction is for children to harbor resentment toward parents and their siblings. This sometimes manifests into constant revenge; siblings often look to slyly pick on each other when they think parents are not watching. Steer clear of labeling and comparisons as well as revoking privileges. As an alternative, encourage each child’s positive efforts you witness. Although this may not seem to be a worthy form of discipline, reinforcement of positive behaviors is very effective.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Infant Girl ClappingDid you know laughter can actually lower stress? It’s true. Laughing helps take our mind off of stressors, relaxes our muscles and helps us to connect with our children, families and friends. The key to being a happy, successful parent may be as easy as maintaining a sense of humor. Be willing to laugh at your child’s antics—even at your own missteps—it makes such a difference! Tell your child a joke. Make goofy noises. Dance a silly dance. Make up wacky words to your child’s favorite tune.

How do you and your family get silly together?

Parents: Reduce Stress with ‘Me Time’

As parents, we have so many things on our minds—“Why isn’t my baby sleeping though the night anymore?” “Does my toddler eat a well-balanced diet?” “Will my preschooler be well liked by her classmates?” “Have I provided my kindergartener with the tools to succeed in school?”—the list goes on and on. It can be exhausting to plan and prepare for our young children’s day, week, life… You may think that enjoying a little “me time” takes away from your child—but it’s really quite the opposite! Relieving stress is an important part of staying healthy. To maintain sanity, make it a priority to schedule some “me time” in the busy to-do list that is the modern parent’s day-to-day life. Whether it is just a few minutes to yourself or a weekend getaway, “me time” can help us to “re-center” ourselves.

Feeling the time crunch? Try these quick (but still refreshing) tips:

  • Exercise. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and manage your energy levels. A little goes a long way! Have your spouse watch the kiddies and go for a quick solo walk around the block.
  • Meditation. Close your eyes and breathe deep. Focus on how each breath flows in and out of your abdomen for one minute, or until you feel more relaxed.
  • Phone a friend. Take a few minutes to call that friend whose emails you haven’t had time to reply to. A brief conversation with another grown-up can help regain perspective. Plan in advance to focus on any “non-child-related” topic.

How do you fit a little “me time” into your hectic schedule? How do you enjoy spending this time?

First Time Parenting

Becoming a parent is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. There are countless surprises in the event itself, even if you are in the minority of parents who were able to thoughtfully plan whether and when this should happen to you. Parenting is an important job we feel must be done well, which makes it all the more uncomfortable to feel so clueless about what’s happening to you, your marriage and your body. Moms are supposed to ’just know’ what to do, and fathers are supposed to ‘just know’ how to help them. Neither of these maxims helps much because they are mostly wrong and arcane. And if you are an adult when you become a parent, you are accustomed to knowing what to do as you work your way through your daily life – it’s probably been a while since you felt this inept, sacrificed this much sleep, effort and confidence and all for what – a few gassy smiles and some drool?

A few noteworthy first timer tips:

  • The ‘sensory surprise’ is my phrase for what catches many moms and dads off guard early on; holding the naked baby next to your skin (which is a very good thing to do) is calming and soothing for both you and the baby. Who knew? This touching, smelling, caressing stuff helps us find each other as sensory beings in this way too verbal world.  This is especially true for dads who have been in the cheap seats for the physical/sensory aspects of the gestation.
  • The ‘vocal surprise’ follows. When was the last time you found yourself singing or humming to anyone who would listen? Babies listen intently and seem to have an appetite for the human voice when it’s playing with sounds as in rhythmic speech, singing or cooing. Don’t hold back. This is the vocal equivalent of skin-to-skin cuddling and is just as enriching for both of you.
  • The next ‘surprise’ for the first timer might be the magical effect of swaddling on a fussy baby. Firmly but tenderly securing the babies arms and legs in the swaddling blanket keeps the baby warm and secure and is an important thing to learn how to do well. It seems to automatically comfort most babies and makes you feel like you know what you’re doing – especially important for first-time dads.
  • Two-thirds of his/her early life will be devoted to sleep, lumped into three-or four-hour segments at first. Sleeping through the night will come, but stomach capacities of the newborn aren’t initially adequate to this task. So get yourself informed about what to expect, problem-solving with your nurse/pediatrician ahead of time.  Sleep issues are among the thorniest for first timers, so listen to the seasoned pros about whether to sweat or not.
  • First time parents are often accompanied by first time grandparents. Here are a few tips for the first time grandparent:
    • Ask permission before rattling off advice. Egos are a little raw just now, so make sure you aren’t overstepping family boundaries.
    • Support the parents, both of them. Show them your tricks only if asked; this child is theirs, not yours.
    • Don’t expect much attention or entertainment when helping out.
    • When you help, help them both.  Helping your child’s partner is helping your child raise your grandchild.

Mother’s Day Craft: Pocket Full of Kisses

Reading - Teacher & Girl A

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, here’s a craft that little ones can do (with an adult’s assistance and supervision, of course) to thank mom for all that she does.

What you need:

  • Two white paper plates
  • Crayons, washable markers and/or water-based paint
  • Hole punch
  • Yarn, ribbon or a long shoelace
  • Safety scissors
  • Bag of Hershey’s KISSES
  • Peel-and-stick magnets (optional)
  1. Cut one paper plate in half and leave the other one whole.
  2. Use the hole punch to punch holes, about one inch apart, along the straight edge of the cut plate.
  3. Put the plates together so that the outside edges match up (this will form the pocket). While they are together, continue to punch holes, about one inch apart, around the edges of both plates.
  4. Use the yarn, ribbon or long shoelace to sew the two plates together. (You won’t actually sew the straight edge of the cut plate to the full plate, but you can lace the yarn through these holes for decoration and added support.)
  5. Tie the ends of the yarn, ribbon or shoelace together when sewing is complete.
  6. Make a hole at the top and tie a piece of yarn or ribbon through for hanging on the wall or attach a few peel-and-stick magnets to the back for hanging on the refrigerator.
  7. Decorate with crayons, washable markers and/or water-based paint.
  8. When complete, fill the pocket with Hershey’s KISSES and present to mom on her special day! Once the KISSES are gone, mom can continue to use the pocket for recipes, coupons or more candy.