We all love it when our little one displays any evidence of becoming an upstanding citizen… Well, mostly. Toddler’s have a way of helping, and sometimes not in the best ways. They break things, spill things, and make huge messes all in the name of helping. How do you help your little helper become less of a disaster and more the hard working little person they want to be?
Points For Trying
Little ones should be complimented on the things they are trying to do right. Did they help put the laundry away (in all the wrong bedrooms and drawers)? Compliment them on helping with the laundry and teach them the proper places for the laundry to go. You can also compromise your routine to make helping easier. For example have then carry the socks to a family member’s room and place them on the bed, even if previously you have put the socks into a drawer yourself. This way your little one has something to help with that comes with simple requests.
Little ones are okay doing a different job to help out when you make a big deal about it. They may come in ready to help cut vegetables for dinner, but when asked to stir the salad until the ingredients look really mixed they can puff out their little chests and do that instead. Be sure to lather on the gratitude for helping you and the praise at dinner time. Little ones love to know their help was well received.
Say An Age Limit
There may be a certain activity that your little one is really excited about helping you with. The only problem is that they aren’t old enough and it’s not a safe job. Instead of telling them that they can’t help, tell them they can when they reach whatever age you deem appropriate for that activity. For example, if my toddler wants to help me pull things out of the oven, I tell him he can when he’s five, but for now he can get me the pot holders out of the drawer.
My little son and I had a conversation about clothing the other day as I was picking out my outfit for the day. I learned a lot about his point of view when it comes to clothing, make up and the purpose of wearing clothes. Here are a few of the the things he told me ( cleaned up and clarified).
Make Up Is Stupid
Mommy was in the bathroom putting stuff on her face. It takes time and she’s worried about getting it just right. The problem is she’s also trying to look like the stuff isn’t on her face and I really don’t see the point. Why put it on at all if you want to look like your wearing it? Now I’m all for the dramatic look accomplished by smearing the lip stick across your face, but if you just wearing it to wear it, don’t bother.
Mommy should wear flowers. They need to be bright colorful flowers. It needs to be flowers because flowers always smell good. Oddly the flowers on your shirt smell like your perfume. It makes sense since I think perfume comes from flowers.
If you aren’t going to wear flowers you need to wear something equally pretty and colorful (because you’re a girl, and regardless that you have taught me color has nothing to do with gender, I still think mommy is prettier in color) like butterflies.
You will notice that I like to rub your back. That’s because I like the various ways your clothes feel. I like when you wear soft velvet like clothing in the winter months. It’s like petting a rabbit when I pat your arm. In the cooler months you wear rayon. It feels smooth like I imagine a snake would feel. That was a compliment.
The object of getting dressed is not to wear the same color together. It is to get as many colors into your outfit as possible. This can be done with mismatched socks and bright neon prints. If you also want to throw in a Ninja Turtle or a super hero (Hello Kitty counts) you can’t go wrong.
Mommy… What happened?
The art of Motherhood seems to be a thankless job (unless, of course, you threaten to make your spouse do it for a week) but there are some moments that define the job. In fact it isn’t likely to happen anywhere else, except in the work place of mom. You just have to laugh and chalk it up to motherhood.
You know you’re a mom when:
– You yell “Don’t put the dog’s tail in your mouth!” in a public place.
– Your toddler is following so closely that when you stop they bounce off your backside and into a wall.
– Part of your laundry system involves disassembling a car seat, washing the cover, and reassembling it again. If you have more than one child you can do each car seat assemble in about five minutes.
– You wake up at 5am without setting an alarm clock. You also wake up to little eyes and a teddy bear staring at you from the side of the bed.
– Part of your toilet routine is attacking the little fingers that appear under the closed door.
– You still feel anxiety and guilt coupled with exasperation for closing the bathroom door.
Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:16 PM by Ellen
Ragdolls have a long history as children’s toys, although many have not survived the centuries due to being made from common household fibers, which were already worn and degraded to the point of near-disintegration. You can make a friendly little ragdoll for your kiddo using nothing more than a book, scissors and some scrap yarn.
First, grab a book. It can be any size, but the size of the book determines the size of your ragdoll. A bigger book means a larger ragdoll and vice versa. The thickness of the book doesn’t matter, but it should have some heft to it. Hardcover books are best. Remove any dust jackets before using the book for this project – you don’t want to damage it.
• Wrap your yarn into a working ball. Most yarn comes in a log-form called a hank or skein. This is helpful for some projects, but for our purposes, we need a good, solid ball.
• Wind the yarn around three of your fingers approximately ten times. Remove the yarn from your fingers and start wrapping the yarn around the center of the loops you just made.
• Keep wrapping in different directions until you form a ball. You don’t need much yarn for this project – 80 yards is more than enough to produce a sizable ragdoll that any child will love and adore.
• Now that you’ve got your ball of yarn and book, it’s time to start winding the yarn around the book. This forms the body, head, arms and legs of your ragdoll.
• Anchor one end of the yarn to the center front of the book using your finger and begin winding the yarn ball around the book vertically. Keep winding until you run out of yarn – the more yarn you use, the thicker and more plush your doll will be.
• Next, insert your scissors under the wraps at one end of the book, where the space between the hardbound covers and pages creates a gap. Cut through all the strands of yarn and leave the yarn folded in half.
• Cut six extra strands of yarn, each approximately 5 inches in length. Wrap and tie one about 2 inches down from the folded center of the yarn. This creates the “head” of the yarn rag doll.
• “Guesstimate” and separate out two equal chunks of yarn for the arm and two equal chunks of yarn for the legs. Tie and knot each chunk about half an inch from the cut end.
• The sixth and final extra strand of yarn goes to separate the legs from the torso. Tie this piece of yarn approximately halfway between the midpoint from the tie that created the head and the ties that hold the legs together.
You now have a very rustic yarn ragdoll that took under than ten minutes and less than $5.00 in materials to make.
• Get fancy and creative – make clothes for the doll by cutting up old socks or wrapping additional colors of yarn around different sections of the doll.
• If your child is old enough for it to be safe, you can even hot-glue googly eyes to the doll to give her a face or tie on brightly-colored strands of yarn to the head for hair.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating your yarn ragdoll.
Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:09 PM by Ellen
Getting your kids to play outside in the winter months can be more challenging than in warmer months. In the summer, kids spend hours riding bikes, splashing in the pool, running under the sprinklers and playing baseball, kickball, tag and hide-and-go-seek.
In the winter, once the kids are all bundled up and escorted out the door, once the snowman is built, there have been a couple of snowball battles and the sled-riding is completed, kids want to come back in and warm up.
When that happens, it can be a challenge to get them back out again. Children who do not get enough exercise all year long can become obese – and this could have life-long consequences. According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity in childhood can lead to medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type II Diabetes and other ailments that can have a negative impact on the quality of life of the child when he becomes an adult.
This is why proper diet and exercise are important for children. Controlling their diet in the winter can be handled easily enough, but how can you make sure your kids get enough exercise during the coldest months of the year?
You can create games that allow them to move around while they are outside. One such game called Winter Treasure Hunt requires kids to scour a location searching for buried items such as Christmas decoration, toys or other items.
Things you’ll need:
• Small toys, trinkets such as Christmas decorations, party favors
• Jars or another type of container
Setting up the game:
• Collect the items you plan to use in the game and bury them in the snow in the area where the game is going to be played. You want to make sure that part of the item is still visible so the kids can find it.
• Create a map of where items are hidden and give the kids hints about where the “treasures” are buried (keep a copy to use later to retrieve any items the kids didn’t find).
Put toys or other items that might be damaged by cold or snow in a clear plastic baggie. Kids can still see the item, and the item is safe from the elements.
Playing the game:
• Send the kids outside with the knowledge that there is treasure to be found and give out clues when necessary.
• Watch hilarity ensue as kids run around the location seeking out treasure.
• You can also add hints or clues to where things are buried throughout the location on index cards or signs placed throughout the search area. This can help kids hone their reasoning and logic skills.
• If you have a lot of kids participating, you can create teams and let the kids search for the buried treasure together. This develops teamwork skills.
• Once the kids begin to find treasure, it’s placed in jars or containers. The kid or team with the most items in a jar wins. The prize could be the items in their jar or something else.
This could also be turned into a neighborhood event, with all the kids and families on the block participating. It could be used as a way to gather the community together and enjoy some time outdoors as kids and parents go from house-to-house with their maps and jars looking for treasure.
However the game is arranged, it’s an ideal way to get the kids to spend extra time outside on a winter day once the sled riding is done and the snowman is erected and guarding the front yard.
Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:09 PM by Ellen
Learning the letters of the alphabet is an important skill for young children. Rather than drilling them with flash cards or having them learn their ABCs by rote, make learning the alphabet fun while teaching social skills like learning how to take turns. This ABC game incorporates learning about forest animals and a craft with letter recognition, so it will help keep your child interested. If you keep the activities fun, your child will continue to learn ABCs and other skills with greater enthusiasm.
This ABC game refers to a bear that lives in a cave. To introduce the activity to your children, you may want to start by reading a book about bears and their natural habitat. One example is, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” by Michael Rosen. Your local public library will have other titles available. Read the book a few times so that you and your children are familiar with the story and that bears like to eat fish. (This will be important later on in the ABC game.)
Make a cave craft
• Small boxes (about the size of tea boxes)
• Brown construction paper
• Plastic bear figure (Gummy bears are an option)
Instead of having the kids cut strips of brown construction paper to cover the boxes to make a bear cave, give them some practice for their fine motor skills by having them tear strips of the paper instead. Once they have enough paper to cover their boxes, they can glue them on.
It’s not necessary for the cave to look wrapped up neatly like a Christmas gift. It’s a cave, after all, and there are no perfect corners in nature. If you have a child who is a perfectionist, reassure him or her that the idea is to cover the box with the strips, but not to make it look “too” neat.
Once the bear cave has been completed, you can use it for the Winter ABC Game.
Winter ABC Game
• Blue construction paper
• ABC fish (magnetic letters) – you can also draw letters on paper or cut them out of magazines for the game
This game is for two players. Each child takes a turn being the bear. At everyone’s turn, the bear growls as loud as he or she can and says, “I’m hungry for a J (or any letter that is displayed on the table) fish”. The other player finds it and gives it to the bear, which is then placed in his or her cave.
• Next, the second player has a turn and gets to be the bear. He or she has the chance to growl and ask for a letter that is in the “water”. Players may need encouragement to wait patiently while the other person looks for the letter that has been requested and not to “help” or interrupt.
• This activity can be varied by using numbers instead of letters. Small figures of animals or people could be used to teach vocabulary about wild animals, farm animals or different professions. You can also use colored stones, pompoms or other small items to mix up the game and make it more challenging for your children. Write some simple words on cards to practice sight recognition once your children are old enough to learn to read.
• This ABC game is simple, yet can be used in a number of ways, using most any animal. Young children will likely have a lot of fun being the bear and being able to “roar” when it’s their turn – something normally not encouraged to do at home.
You can even expand the game to talk about what types of animals the bear would and wouldn’t be likely to see when he emerges from his cave in the spring. This simple game can be the foundation for a lot of learning for your children, starting with their ABCs.
Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:08 PM by Ellen
Congratulations on the new addition to the family! Having a baby is exciting, even though it can be challenging when you have a toddler who has become used to being the “baby” in the family and doesn’t quite know what his or her place is now. There are ways to cope with the situation in a positive way so that your toddler can develop a good relationship with the new baby.
Children between the ages of 18 months and three years will likely have the most difficult time with the transition to having a younger sibling. They are still quite dependent on their mothers and younger children likely won’t be able to express their feelings about the new baby or remember a little brother or sister coming into the home. Children older than three will have other interests other than the baby to keep them occupied, so the arrival of the baby will be less of a major event in their lives.
Your Toddler’s Feelings are Normal
Keep in mind that your toddler’s feelings about the new baby coming into your home are normal. Up until you became pregnant, he or she was the baby and your household ran in a particular way. Your child knew and understood how things worked.
Even if you explained that a baby was coming – even pointing to your tummy as your pregnancy advanced, there is a limit to what your child could understand about what would become a permanent situation. He or she could not possibly understand that there would be times when you would be distracted or have to deal with the baby’s needs first. For a toddler, that not the easiest situation to deal with.
Rather than telling your child that his or her feelings are bad or wrong, a better approach is to be prepared for them and try to redirect them in a more positive direction. You can start even before the baby arrives.
Give your toddler advance notice
Let your other child or children know about the new baby at the same time as you tell your family members and friends that you are expecting.
• Explain that all babies start very small and then grow big enough to live outside of their mother’s tummies. Your toddler did the exact same thing. Find a book you can read together about a new baby arriving.
• Encourage your toddler to feel the baby kicking and let him or her talk to the baby as your pregnancy progresses.
• Talk to your toddler about what will happen when the baby is born. If you will be going to the hospital for a few days, then let him or her know about alternate care arrangements. Let your toddler come visit you and your newborn in the hospital.
Let your toddler “help” with the baby
Take your cue from your toddler and if he or she seems interested in helping with caring for the baby, find some small jobs that he or she can help with. Let your child hand you a diaper or a wipe or help you choose between two different colored outfits.
Make time for your toddler
Despite your best efforts and preparations, your toddler may feel a bit left out after your new baby comes home. This is entirely normal, so make sure to spend some “special” time with big brother or sister.
• Set aside time when you are feeding the baby to read a story to your toddler. You can watch a video together during these times as well.
• Plan to spend some time with your toddler when the baby is asleep by doing something together. Draw or color a picture, play a game of your child’s choice, or build something with blocks.
• Ask your partner to look after the baby every now and then so that you can have some time alone with your toddler. This will drive home the message that he or she is important and deserving of your undivided attention.
• Even the best-behaved toddlers may have times when they may lash out at a younger sibling. If something happens, encourage your child to share his or her feelings but reinforce that the behavior is not acceptable. Try not to leave a toddler alone with a baby to minimize the likelihood of one of these incidents.
No matter what, it will take time for your toddler to become used to this major change in the status quo. Be present, be patient and love your older child unconditionally – your toddler will pass it on to his little brother or sister.
Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:07 PM by Ellen
Dried beans are trendy again – and with good reason. Where else can you find a solid source of protein that makes vegetarians happy, while costing a fraction of other protein sources? Beans are a healthy, fat free ingredient that can be the star in lots of family-friendly meals, from Southwest chili to New England baked beans. Most people are familiar with the more common dried beans, including black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and lima beans, but there are dozens of different bean varieties you can try.
Growing your own dried beans is very simple. The dried beans you harvest might be very different, but most of the vines themselves will be very similar. The leaves may differ in size and some of the vines are taller, but most bean plants look pretty much the same – especially to your kids. Knowing this gives you the perfect opportunity to teach your children about plants passing on their traits through their seeds.
Share in some garden fun along with learning all summer long by helping your kids to grow a row of bean plants. Beans are simple to grow and mostly maintenance-free, so even the smallest preschooler can help enough to feel like he or she is growing a garden.
Plant four or five of the same type of seed, adding differing varieties until you’ve planted an entire row. As the plants grow, the plot will look like a uniform wall of vines. When you harvest the bean pods at the end of the growing season your kids will be able to see the variety of beans you’ve grown.
The ultimate seed source
If you’ve looked through seed catalogs, you might think this little garden plot will cost a small fortune because you’ll be planting about a dozen different bean types. On top of that, most of the seeds will probably never even get planted. Think of the waste! But, if you take advantage of a little known packaging fact, your entire mixed seed collection will only cost you a dollar or two.
• When beans are picked for packaging that’s aimed at the grocery store, they aren’t allowed to have any pesticides or other chemicals sprayed on them before being bagged. What you have is simply a large bag filled with dried bean seeds.
• Check your grocery store dried bean section. Almost every store stocks bags of 12-bean soup mix, 15-bean soup mix or some other variety of bean seeds. They may make a tasty meal, but you can also separate out a handful of each bean and save them before using the rest of the package.
• The dried soup beans will last a year or more. Most multi-bean soup bags include such beans as pinto, kidney, lima, black, red, and about a dozen others, with possibly some split peas and other seeds. Choose smooth, whole seeds, and place half a dozen of each into an envelope, saving them aside until the spring thaw.
Planting with the kids
There probably isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t love an excuse to dig a hole. Imagine their delight when you let them dig an entire trench along the fence in the back yard. Show them how to dig about six inches from a chain link fence or other sturdy support, in a trench about six inches wide. Once the soil is prepared, have them plant groups of each seed, placing the seeds about two inches apart until the trench is filled.
Growing seasons vary
Watch the moisture levels in your bean garden. If you live in an arid area or if you don’t get rain for a week or so, give the bean patch about an inch of water from the hose. It’s healthier to let the kids soak the row once or twice a week rather than giving them a short sprinkle every day. Watch the growing vines with your kids and mention any differences you might notice in the color or size differences in the vines and leaves.
When the vines begin to die back and the bean pods are showing signs of becoming dry and brittle, it’s time to harvest your crops.
• Pull them all at the same time and drop them into a grocery bag.
• Once you’ve got them all together, compare how the pods look next to each other and talk about what kind of seed they think might be inside.
• Crack open the pods to solve the mystery, putting the contents of each type of pod into a different bowl or storage container.
There are benefits far beyond the simple act of planting and caring for a garden for children. If they plant and grow something, chances are they will eat it. And the simple act of getting outdoors and working with the earth will grow an appreciation of nature within them.
Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:06 PM by Ellen
Are you looking for a way that your children can play in snow without the hassle of getting them dressed in snowsuits, boots, hats and mittens? It’s easy – just make your own snow salt tray for sensory play. This activity can be used in a number of ways to keep it interesting and it’s something that your children will find soothing.
Why sensory play is important to children
Sensory play is not simply about touching items. Through these types of activities, children learn how to examine objects, categorize them and ultimately make sense of the world around them. This is where they learn about different textures, scents and tastes.
Your child will no doubt spend some of his or her time developing gross motor skills by walking, running and jumping, but developing fine motor skills is also important. These skills allow us to perform activities like writing, doing up buttons and laces, using a keyboard and other skills.
Sensory play helps children develop these skills by allowing them to practice their fine motor skills. Through their play, they are opening and closing their hand to pick up objects, pinching things between a thumb and forefinger, pouring, manipulating sand or “snow” in this case by allowing it to run through their fingers. All of these motions are controlled, which takes practice if a child wants to be able to move an object or the snow where he or she wants it to go.
Kids are completely focused on what they want to do during the activity, rather than the actual skills involved in making their hands perform it. If they need more time or they have to repeat something to get the results they want, there is no particular pressure on them. They just try again. These activities allow them to keep on practicing these important skills without realizing they may need to work on them. Learning while having fun is one of the best ways to develop any skill.
Making a snow salt tray
• Epsom or table salt
• Small animal and bird figures, cars and trucks, buildings, people, shapes, trees, etc.
• Colored blue glass gems or marbles/construction paper (to make water)
• Scissors or markers/pencil crayons
• Container at least two inches deep
You’ll need a container so that the “snow” doesn’t make a mess in your home. Anything that you have on hand can be used – a mixing bowls, flat cereal bowls, a deep platter or baking dish, a divided serving tray, etc. Simply pour about an inch of salt into the bottom of the container – indoor snow!
If you want to add a water feature with your snow, use colored blue glass gems or marbles and place them in a separate container or section of your container. You could also have your children color or cut up a piece of blue construction paper to represent water.
Playing with a snow salt tray
There are many ways children can play with the snow salt tray, so let your little one get busy!
• They can tell a story or create an adventure by making hills and valleys out of the salt. The animals and birds might enjoy walking or jumping in the snow or taking a dip in the “water”.
• During play, your child is touching the Epsom salt, feeling what it’s like to have it run through his or her fingers. These textures are important and many children enjoy this type of activity.
• You can also use the snow salt in a different way by hiding some small objects in a large bowl of salt and inviting your child to find them using their hands in a type of snowy treasure hunt. Can they identify a shape or a small toy only by touch? Try it and have some fun with it.
• With the variety of figures and objects that can be incorporated into the “snow”, this activity can be changed in a number of ways. If you are reading books about snow or life in the Arctic or Antarctic, you may want to incorporate similar figures to the snow salt tray to bring the book characters to life. Your child will find it easier to relate to the idea of animals and people who live closer to the North and South Poles by connecting such stories to creative play.
Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:05 PM by Ellen
If you’re looking for a fun, green craft to do with your kids, consider rolling up a paper bead necklace. The beads can be made from any type of paper – from vintage wallpaper to catalogs to old magazines – the more colorful, the better. Of course, plain old paper beads will take on a whole new personality by adding a little paint and glitter. The possibilities for creating wearable art out of recycled materials are endless and limited only by your imagination.
• You’ll need paper, of course. A dozen sheets of printer-sized paper is more than enough for a single, child-sized necklace.
• Scissors are also a must – you’ll need them to shape the paper. If your child is old enough, a pair of safety scissors will come in handy with some of the cutting work.
• A pencil or other rounded implement, such as a wooden spoon or knitting needle, is necessary for winding the paper beads (the wider the diameter of the implement, the wider the hole in the bead). Some art beads have miniscule holes, but for the purposes of crafting with your child, a pencil-sized hole should do just fine.
• Plain white crafting glue works well, although little fingers may do better with glue sticks. If you want the project to last long after the crafting is done, consider using a medium such as Mod Podge to coat the finished beads.
• String, yarn or twine is necessary for stringing the finished beads into a necklace.
Cut it out
The basic shape of a paper bead is an isosceles triangle. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken basic mathematics, an isosceles triangle has two equal sides. Cut each piece of paper into one or more long, skinny triangles with one shorter side.
It doesn’t matter how you do this, but using a ruler and pencil to draw out the triangles beforehand can maximize how many beads you get out of a sheet. You can also cut as you please, choosing the most appealing patterns from each sheet of paper.
• Wrap a triangle around your pencil, starting with the widest end. The longer, tapered ends will form visible layers as the paper is rolled.
• Add a dot or dab of glue to the tapered point of the triangle and hold it there until it dries. Yes, you’re literally waiting for glue to dry. Repeat this process for each bead.
• If you want to give your finished beads a glossy finish and a longer lifespan, now is the time to break out the Mod Podge. Coat each bead entirely and set them aside to dry.
Making the necklace
Cut a length of yarn approximately 24 inches long – this will you enough length to easily string your beads, tie a secure knot and still have a pretty long necklace. Tie a large knot at one end of the yarn to stop the beads from sliding off as you string them and string your paper beads onto the yarn in whatever pattern is most pleasing. When your necklace is complete, tie both free ends in a secure knot.
If your child enjoys the stringing process, more than the finished product, simply leave the necklace untied so your child can have hours of fun just stringing and re-stringing the beads. In fact, it can become an activity set rather than a one-time jewelry piece. Let your and your child’s combined creativity guide you.