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July 31, 2013 – Best Activities for Your Baby’s Physical Development

What should your baby be doing and by when should she be doing it?  This week at Wholeplay we’re talking all about physical milestones, the importance of tummy time and the benefits of crawling.  In keeping with this week’s theme I thought I’d post some of my favourite songs and activities for encouraging physical development.

1)  Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.  This song works best when point out each body part so your baby can follow along with the words.  For even more fun, gradually increase the speed each time you sing the song.

2)  Baby Massage.  This is a fantastic activity to do with your baby to encourage her physical development.  To make this activity even better, you can sing while you’re massaging each body part.  One song that Petrina Fava (Wholeplay’s baby massage teacher) taught me goes like this: “My legs are growing strong, my legs are growing strong, hey ho watch them grow my legs are growing strong.  My hands are growing fast, my hands are growing fast, hey ho watch them grow, my hands are growing fast, etc.”  (The song is sung to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”).

3)  Bounce your Baby on a Ball.  At Wholeplay we use a Pilates ball, but you can use a fitness ball or blown up beach ball too.  Place your baby on her tummy and roll her side to side, back and forth, up and down and around and around.  If she doesn’t like that, or you want to try something different, try sitting her up and bouncing her up and down.  While you’re bouncing her you can sing a variety of different songs.  One of my favourite songs to sing on the ball is  “Bumpin’ Up and Down in my Little Red Wagon.”  (Avoid this activity if your baby has not yet developed neck control).

4)  Bicycle Legs.  Place your baby on her back and then gently grab her ankles.  Cycle her legs up and down while you chant, “Baby on a bicycle pedals ups and down.  Baby on a bicycle can barely touch the ground. Baby on a bicycle goes round and round and round (during this part circle her legs clockwise). Baby on a bicycle goes riding through the town!”

5)  Place Wax Paper under a Blanket.  This will help to hold your baby’s interest when you place her on her stomach for tummy time.  She will love the crinkly sounds the wax paper makes.  (Thanks Dr. Gina Gallo at Hands on Health for teaching me this one).

HAVE A BLAST!!!

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July 16, 2013 – BABIES AND SLEEP QUIZ – Test your knowledge

 1) It’s always best to wait until your baby is fully asleep to         put her down. T or F

2) It is never safe to put your baby down to sleep on her    back. T or F

3) Co-sleeping with your baby is dangerous. T or F

4) Co-sleeping makes it harder for your baby to sleep by himself. T or F

5) The “cry-it-out” method is more upsetting for parents than babies. T or F

6) A crib is the only safe place for a baby to sleep. T or F

7) Letting your baby fall asleep on the nipple is bad for his sleep. T or F

8) Soothers provide a helpful solution to getting babies to sleep. T or F

9) Rocking your baby to sleep is disruptive to her sleep. T or F

10) Never wake a sleeping baby. T or F

 

 

Answer Key: Questions 1 – 10:  It depends! The truth is that when it comes to getting your baby to sleep, “it depends” is usually the answer.   There is not one sleep solution or sleep situation that is right for all babies all of the time.  Not only do babies’ sleep needs change according to their development, but all babies (and all parents for that matter) are different, requiring different sleep approaches, strategies and tactics!   Finding the best approach for you and your baby depends on your needs, your baby’s needs, your lifestyle and many other confounding factors.  Too bad that’s not as easy as picking True or False!

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July 11, 2013-  BONDING WITH BABY: You know it’s important, but why?

I think most of us, as parents, know that bonding is necessary for healthy development to take place during infancy, but how many of us know why it’s necessary?

When you ask most parents, they will say something along the lines of, “Bonding is good for my baby’s development because it makes her feel more secure.”  And that is, of course, true. But, how does that feeling of security result directly in your baby’s healthy development?

The simple answer is that babies, who feel secure, are much more likely to explore the world around them; and it is through this exploration that healthy development and learning takes place.

But there is another, albeit more complex, but equally compelling explanation for why bonding is so important to your baby’s development, which has to do with the way the human brain develops.  Forgive the very rudimentary description, as I am NOT a neuroscientist:

When babies are born they have almost as many neurons, i.e. brain cells, as an adult-size brain, (we’re talking a hundred billion or so).  The main difference is that they’re not “hooked up” yet.  It is only through their interactions with the world, and most significantly their immediate caregivers, i.e. –YOU, that neurons become wired together and brain development takes place.

This means that the kind of interactions that you have with your baby matters! Bonding with your baby produces positive chemicals in the brain (oxytocin and dopamine, which leads to positive and permanent brain growth and development.

So the next time you cuddle your baby you can remind yourself that it doesn’t just make her feel good, it actually makes her smarter!

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July 4, 2103:  PARENT-LED PLAY vs. CHILD-LED PLAY:  Which is better?

Two-year-old Samantha is trying for the seventh time to stuff a trapezoid into a diamond-shaped slot.  Isn’t it time to put the frustrated toddler out of her misery and show her how it’s done?  What about five-year-old Felix, who seems to gravitate a little too often to the black crayon in the coloring box?  Shouldn’t you intervene and introduce him to a happier colour?

To lead or not to lead?  It’s a question many parents ask themselves when playing with their young kids.

Throughout my experiences facilitating parent and baby classes, I have come to the conclusion that most of us tend to either be a “hands-on” kind of player—vigilantly guiding, instructing and, in some cases, correcting our children’s play; or we tend to be a “hands-off” kind of player—casually allowing our kids to explore, scale, throw and disassemble every object that they come across.

Is one way of playing better than another?

As a longtime student of play and child development, I tend to think that both parent-led play, (that is play that is primarily directed by the parent) and child-led play, (that is play that is primarily directed by the child), have their merits and their pitfalls.

When parent-led play works well, the child feels nurtured, engaged and encouraged by her parent’s lead.

Perhaps the best example of this is when a parent initiates a game of Peek-a-Boo with her eight-month-old.  Through this structured and repetitive interaction, the infant becomes enthralled, as she is gently encouraged to guess when her mother’s face might reappear.  Inevitably, her mother’s face reemerges, reassuring her of what she already knows, that her mother will always be there.

When parent-led play does not work well, the parent unnecessarily interferes with or takes over the child’s decision-making, problem-solving and/or creative process.  These are the kind of players that like to play by the rules, find it difficult to watch their children struggle over a problem or have a hard time resisting the teacher role.

A prime example of this is the parent who corrects her child’s color-choice when she chooses purple for her picture of the sky.  (If this is you, don’t worry, we’ve all done it) but I think it is important to ask ourselves why we do it?  Is it out of fear that our child won’t eventually figure out that the sky is actually blue?

The fact is, that when a correction like this is given repeatedly to a young child, most kids feel thwarted, inadequate, disappointed or disinterested, which in extreme cases can lead to low self-esteem or, depending on the child, flat-out rebellion.

Child-led play, at its best, boosts children’s confidence and self-worth.  A great example of this is the parent who watches with awe and admiration as his child, constructs a tower out of toilet paper rolls or turns the saltshaker (while waiting for his food at the diner) into a rocket ship, blasting off into space.

There is nothing more positive for a child’s imagination that an interested parent, who shows curiosity about his child’s creations.  And, when children sense their parents’ enthusiasm they are way more likely to invite them into the fun, which is fantastic for the parent-child relationship.

When child-led play is not as effective, the parent watches the child from a far-off distance, lackadaisically complementing the child on building an enormous fort out of the living room cushions until she notices the giant mess and screams for everything to be picked up.  (Don’t worry, we’ve all done this one too).

When it comes down to it, children, not only know whether they’re being watched, they know how they’re being watched and divided attention (or surveillance, for that matter) doesn’t feel as good as genuine interest.

Now, am I suggesting that we should watch our kids play with avid interest and devoted attention all the time?  No, of course not.  That’s not practical and probably not even beneficial.  What I am suggesting though, is that when we decide to set aside time to follow our children’s lead in play, we actually pay attention to where they’re taking us.  The journey is always well worth the time.

********************************************************************************June 24, 2013 – GOING ON VACATION WITH A BABY – There’s no such thing

Donald Winnicott, the famous pediatrician and psychoanalyst once said, “There is no such thing as a baby.”  I say, “There is no such thing as taking a vacation with a baby.”  I know this for a fact, having just attempted one.

Vacation is synonymous with relaxation, sleeping in, staying up late, having a few cocktails, dining out, reading a novel, catching a matinee, lounging in a pool and generally existing in a sedentary state.

Taking care of a baby is synonymous with none of these things.

Forget about being motionless when you take a plane with a baby.  Forget about scrolling through an E-book, flipping through a magazine, or completing a Sudoku puzzle.

As I juggled my squirmy 21 month-old on my lap, trying to keep him corralled within the 1 ft x 1 ft area of our seat, I’ve never been so envious of people just sitting there, doing absolutely nothing.  How peaceful it all looked…

But there are nice things about bringing your baby along to your holiday getaway.

For one thing, you make the most out of the day, as babies generally get up with sun.  Also, you spend more time taking walks, (rain or shine), as babies typically find serenity in this experience.  You meet more people than you normally would, (other bleary-eyed parents wrangling their little ones), in places you never thought you would go.

But the best thing about bringing your baby along on vacation is the joy you get in the joy they get in everything they see and everything they do.

It’s a feeling you never would have had had they not been there with you.  A feeling that beats coming home suntanned, well-rested, and stuffed silly with all-you-can-eat crustaceans.

For this reason, I highly recommend bringing your baby along where ever you’re off to this summer.  Just don’t expect it to be a vacation.

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June 11, 2013 – MY TWO FAVOURITE BABY SIGNS

Baby sign is great.  Not only does it help you to communicate with your baby before she is able to speak, but it reduces frustration in your child during toddlerhood.  I see this with my son, who is on the verge of speaking, but still cannot find all the words for the things he needs or desperately wants.

No matter, he’s got two signs that pretty much cover it all: “More” and “All done.”

Beau and I like these two signs the most, because they are so versatile.  Not only does “More” allow Beau to ask for more of something, it also gives him the power to ask for something to happen over, and over, and over again…

Similarly, “All Done” is a multipurpose sign that allows Beau to not only communicate when he’s finished with something, but also when he’s simply had enough of a certain experience and is ready to move on to something else.  Pretty powerful stuff!

I won’t go into detail here about how to do these two signs (you will learn them this week at Baby Hoots!) but I will share with you a little tip for teaching these signs to your baby:

THE BEST WAY TO TEACH “MORE” AND “ALL DONE” IS AT MEALTIME.

Why?  Mealtime gives you a concrete context in which to teach these fairly abstract concepts.  For example, teach “More” by giving your baby another spoonful of food.  Teach “All Done” by removing the bowl of food from your baby, once he’s all finished.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly his picks it up.

It will also spare you from having to pick up food off the floor.  Bonus!

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June 2, 2013 –  BUILDING BABY’S CONFIDENCE

Believe it or not, self-esteem begins way before your child wins his first race or brings home his first A on a spelling test. What a child grows up to believe about herself begins in infancy, even before a separate sense of self is fully established.

So when does self-esteem develop exactly?  Well, it is hard to know precisely, but it seems to be around the time that a baby sees herself reflected in her parents’ eyes for the first time.

If what a baby sees is positive, lovable, worthy and good, than what she comes to believe about herself is positive, lovable, worthy and good.  If what a baby sees is negative, unlovable, unworthy, and bad, than that is what she comes to believe about herself.

It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

But babies don’t just need to feel lovable in order to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, they also need to feel capable, like they can do something, and have influence in the world that they live in.

It’s easy to make our babies feel loveable; we simply love them to pieces.  But, how do we make our babies feel capable?  That’s a little trickier.  Here are my tips:

                            5 Tips for Instilling Confidence in our Babies:

1. Notice her accomplishments.  (For babies, this is going to be things that look little to us, but are actually a huge deal to them, like when they learn to swat a dangling object for the first time!).

2. Don’t rush in and take over.  If your baby is struggling to master something, let her try for a while on her own before stepping in to help out.

3. Challenge your baby.  Put her in situations that are out of her comfort zone, while making sure she does not become too overwhelmed or overly frustrated.

4. Show confidence in her abilities.  Like I mentioned before, babies feel about themselves the way others perceive them.  If we show confidence in them, they will show confidence in themselves.

5. Praise her efforts.  For example – Don’t wait for your baby to walk before you complement her, give her kudos for all the little steps along the way!

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May 26, 2013 – BABY DISCIPLINE: It all begins with “no.”

It seems strange to use the word “discipline” in the same sentence as the word “baby.”  It’s not like we really need to discipline our babies, right?  I mean, what do babies do to get themselves into trouble?

Well, not a whole lot.  When babies get themselves into trouble during the first year of their development, it’s usually about safety:  Your baby wants to “explore” an object that isn’t safe for exploration (or consumption for that matter).  What do you do?  You say, “no” and take the object away.

And thus begins your long career of having to say, “no” to your child, of having to lay down the law and put down your foot.   But disciplining your child, (and parenting your child in general), goes a lot smoother if you start off on the right foot, and that means being an effective disciplinarian from the very beginning, even when your child is still a baby.

Here are my Top 5 TIPS on disciplining your baby:

1.  Appear calm, (even if you don’t feel it inside), fake it.  Remember babies don’t understand language yet, so your tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language is all they have to go on.  If you get upset, they get upset.

2.  Be physical.  NO, I DO NOT MEAN SPANKING.  I mean physically scooping your child up, containing him or removing him from a situation when need be. Again, because babies have limited language skills they need us to show them the boundaries. Telling them is not enough.

3.  Saying “no” once is not enough.  Along the same lines, don’t expect your child to “get it” the first time you tell him “no.”  This is still an abstract concept, even to a young toddler.  Young children need lots and lots and lots of reminders.

4.  Be warm and firm.  Believe it or not, it’s possible to convey love while setting a limit for your child.  This is by far the most effective way I have found to say, “no.”  Usually, it involves respecting your child’s feelings of disappointment or frustration, while maintaining your ground.

5.  Remember “discipline” means to teach not to punish.  We are far more effective disciplinarians when we think about discipline in terms of the behaviours we want to teach our children, rather than the behaviours we need to punish.

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May 3, 2013 – A TEARFUL FAREWELL TO THE MORNING NAP

It’s gone.  No matter how early he gets up, no matter how hard my husband and I try, my 20 month-old has officially outgrown his morning nap.

For a few days we were in denial about it.  We would put him down anyway only to find him chatting away to his stuffed animals and toy cars, or worse, tearfully crying out for “mama, mama, mama, mama.”  And then, when that didn’t work, “papa, papa, papa, papa.”  But cries are so hard to ignore when kids address you by name, and so one of us would eventually cave and go get him.

After two or three days of this I was finally ready to face the facts.  “I think Beau has outgrown his morning nap,” I said to my husband.

“You think?  No, I don’t think so,” my husband said, still in it deep.

You see, neither of us are bushy-tailed ‘morning people,’ so we were dependent upon that morning nap to get a little extra sleep after getting up with our son at 5:45 am, every morning, on the dot (not unlike the way we were dependent upon a huge, freshly-brewed pot of coffee).

And so, to lose the morning nap felt like a bit of a tragedy.  And to spend a full, uninterrupted morning with an energetic toddler when you yourself haven’t had a full night of sleep?  That felt like an insurmountable feat.

But this morning I did it!  I didn’t even try to put him down.  I faced the morning with resolve to fill that long stretch of time until his afternoon nap with enriching activities, stimulating conversation and fun.

And you know what? It wasn’t so bad.

Like all things related to young children’s sleep, it just took a little adjustment.  Sometimes they have to adjust to our schedule, but a lot of time we have to adjust to their schedule.  Knowing when it’s their turn to change, and when it’s ours, makes all the difference.

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April 28th, 2013 – Babies and Ipads:  Is it okay to let your baby play?

How do babies learn?  Believe it or not, it’s not through flash cards.  Babies learn best through play.  More specifically, babies learn through their exploration of objects in the three-dimensional world, (i.e.- playing with blocks) and through their social interactions with other people, (i.e.- you!).

So what does this mean for babies and technology? Here’s a quick synopsis of just some of the research surrounding babies and technology:

  • Passive forms of media such as TV and DVD watching have a detrimental impact on vocabulary development for children under the age of 2 years.
  • Background media, (like the TV on in the background) affects how children play and interact with their parents. The quality of play is often diminished when parents and young children are distracted by TV and the like.
  • Young children have difficulty discriminating between events on videos and the same information presented by a live person. Children under the age of 2 years are more likely to remember information from a live presentation.
  • Research has found that certain high-quality programs have educational benefits for children older than 2 years. Children who watch these programs have improved social skills, language skills, and even school readiness.  However, the educational merit of media for children younger than 2 years remains unproven.
  • Some studies have found that young children who watch lots of television have a shorter attention span by the time they turn seven years.

But what about the baby app?  In all honesty, there is not a whole lot of research that has been done on the education value of apps for babies, mostly because the technology is so new.  However, if you are going to show your baby an app (or other forms of new technology) there are a few things you can do to ensure the experience is as beneficial as possible.

  • Be a “gate-keeper” to your child’s use of technology.  Be moderate and mediate their use of the technology, meaning don’t let them play with it alone.  They won’t get as much out of it.
  • Use technology to enhance and elaborate upon an experience or concept, rather than to teach the concept itself.
  • When possible use technology to create something new, rather than to simply consume information.
  • Try to avoid using technology to pacify an upset child.  Instead, give the technology to the child when she is calm.
  • Be selective in what you expose your child to and use your common sense.
  • Set limits on your own use of technology!

What are the “good” apps for children under the age of 2 years?  Parent always want me to tell them what apps they should get for their babies, but I don’t think this is very useful. I think it is more useful to provide parents with a few guidelines so they can decide for themselves:

  • “Good” apps for very young children are concrete, not too abstract and engaging to the senses, while not being over-stimulating.
  • “Good” apps are open ended and do not have one solution or single way of playing.
  • “Good” apps require parent participation.
  • “Good” apps feature relevant content to young children’s lives.

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Feb 5, 2013 – TOP 5 REASONS WHY PARENTS DON’T SAY “NO”

Look around you.  Are there crayon marks on your walls?  What about tiny, little fingerprints on your computer screen?  If you answered, “yes” to either one of those questions, you might have a tiny, little problem saying, “no”

In my experience, most parents (including myself) have trouble saying, “no,” for the following reasons:

  • Exhaustion.  We’re simply too tired to put up a fight, (or put down a foot).
  • Exploration.  We’re afraid of squelching our kids’ inherent genius and creativity.
  • Distraction.  We’re so absorbed in our own worlds, (which are usually of the “virtual” variety) that we don’t even notice that we should’ve said, “no” until it’s too late.  (Confession:  Last week I spent five minutes fishing my Blackberry out of the hole of my guitar because I hadn’t realized that my son had, A) gotten a hold of the device and, B) gotten a hold of my guitar).
  • Cuteness.  We’re so enamored by how cute they look getting into trouble that we can’t resist watching the disaster unfold.

And finally, probably the number 1 reason…

  • Insecurity.  We equate saying “no” to our children with being a bad or mean parent, and the last thing we, as parents, want to be known as is bad or mean.

And so we end up saying, “yes”, or more accurately, not saying, “no” even though the result of our inaction is rarely happy, grateful children.   What is the result of not setting appropriate limits for our children enough?  Anger. Because, eventually, the circumstances arise, which require us to say “no,” regardless of how checked out and tired we are, or how brilliant and adorable they are.

For example:  When your sixteen-month-old wants to “explore” the shinny, dimpled surface of a cheese grater, you have to say, “no.”   If your child has had limits set for him on a fairly consistent basis, he will (for the most part) relinquish the object without much fuss.  But if your child hasn’t had limits set for him on a fairly consistent basis? You’re going to have a fight on your hands.

But here is an even better reason to set appropriate limits for our kids:  It’s actually a nice thing to do.   Because deep down inside, (even when they don’t know it), it’s what our kids not only need, but also desperately want.  It lets them know that they have someone watching out for them, and that you’re in charge so that they don’t have to be.  It’s only then that they can truly let go and explore.

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Jan 14, 2013 – Parenting Resolutions:  How are you doing so far?

Did you set a parenting goal for yourself this year?  I did, and believe it or not, it is not to get my toddler to sleep longer, to eat healthier or to get him to finally understand the meaning of the word, “No!” (Although if any of those things happened I wouldn’t complain).

Here is what it is:  To be kinder to myself.

Now, some of you maybe thinking, ”How’s THAT related to being a better parent?”

And, “if you were really serious about becoming a better parent wouldn’t you make your goal to be to be kinder to your child?”

But my experience working with hundreds of parents with young children, not to mention being a parent myself, leads me to believe that we, as parents, don’t really need to work on being to kinder to our children, (we already are that), what we really need to work on is NOT trying so hard to be perfect.

Why?  Well, because we inevitably fail.  And when we fail, we have a tendency to parent from a place of self-blame.  And self-blame rarely leads to good parenting.

Let me give you an example—

Recently I have become concerned about my son’s vocabulary and so I have been forcing myself to read to him more.  He isn’t interested (he’d rather be climbing or running around) so I become frustrated while the following refrain blares through my head:

“He should be speaking more by now.  It’s because I haven’t been reading to him enough.  I am a terrible parent for not reading to him enough. I bet other parents read a lot more to their kids, that’s why they speak more…”

Sound familiar?  That’s the voice of guilt, which inevitably leads to us FORCING our kids to do things they aren’t yet ready to do, or to be a certain way that they aren’t interested in being.   As a result, our kids feel misunderstood or unacceptable, all because of our own need to be perfect.

As an alternative, however, we could be kinder to ourselves.  And, instead of the aforementioned refrain, we could say to ourselves:

“My child’s behaviour is not a reflection of my own self-worth.  I’m doing the best that I can and that’s good enough.  My child isn’t perfect, but neither am I and that’s okay…”

Hear that?  That’s the voice of self-acceptance.  Now, try parenting from that place.  I promise you and your child will both benefit.

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December 11, 2012 I Used to be Anti Technology for Babies

Knowing what I know about the way that babies learn, (primarily though the “hands-on” experiences they have playing with physical objects and interacting with human beings in the real-live, three-dimensional world), I saw no point in exposing babies to “virtual” reality, and at times, even feared for those who were being exposed.

However, my feelings on this are changing.  First of all, I now have a fifteen-month-old of my own, so I know, firsthand, the joy he finds, (and peace and quiet I get) in letting him play with my IPad from time to time.

But way more importantly, I don’t believe that the American Academy of Pediatrics “no screen time for children under the age of two” policy that I used to subscribe to, whole-hearted, necessarily applies anymore.

The world of technology has been changing rapidly, and so, the “screens” that the AAP was referring to in 1999 are not necessarily the same screens our babies come into contact with now.

The screens of the past were passive, confusing, and impenetrable to babies, entrancing them with their visually enticing effects, but not doing much to stimulate their learning.

The screens of today are responsive, intuitive, easy-to-operate portals to information, allowing even very young children to take control over their own learning.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that technology can or should ever take over the role and responsibility that parents have in facilitating their children’s learning.

What I am suggesting, however, is that parents should not be afraid to make use of what the latest in technology has to offer.

Of course, we have to be cautious.   (In 2011, the AAP reissued their no-screen time policy for children under the age of two, taking into consideration the improvements that have been made in screen-based technologies over the past decade, citing a lack of evidence for their effectiveness).

But we, as parents, can also use our common sense.  And, if we feel like Googling an image of a turkey might enhance our child’s understanding of what a turkey is all about, I say,  “Go for it!”

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July 25, 2012 – WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PICK UP A SLEEP BOOK!

Truly, I don’t believe in burning books, but I may believe in burning sleep books.

I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve encountered lately that were doing just fine, until they picked up a sleep book to get a few pointers, only to find themselves completely unhinged by the information inside.

It’s as though the lure of a solid night’s sleep mixes with the sleep-deprivation of early parenthood to cause a powerful chemical reaction, resulting in symptoms of serious second-guessing and a temporary loss of all common sense.

But really, I shouldn’t joke.  I have seen both clients and friends develop real anxiety because of a line of text written in one of these “how-to” manuals, not only creating unnecessary distress in the parents, but also creating unnecessary distress in their babies.

The result?  Definitely NOT a “healthy” night’s sleep!

It makes my heart sink.  Seeing so many wise and capable new moms and dads tack hard against their instincts to pick up their crying newborn, or settle their six month-old with a soother or a lullaby, because they’re afraid that if they do, their baby will grow up to be an emotionally-dependent, bed-sharing, soother-junkie.

What these parents are really afraid of, of course, is causing harm.  And this fear is, unfortunately, what so many of these sleep books seem to exploit as they rattle off their list of “Top 10 Sleep Mistakes” or punctuate each chapter with ominous-looking boxes containing bold-printed messages, such as:

“If your child does not learn to sleep well, he may become an incurable adult insomniac, chronically disabled from sleepiness, and dependent on sleeping pills.”

This kind of fear-mongering does not exactly inspire confidence in parents.  (You might as well include a picture of a skull and crossbones with the warning label: “Parents should not attempt to put their baby to sleep on their own!”).

In my opinion, the best sleep books and articles are the ones that don’t pretend to have all the answers, but rather encourage parents to come up with sleep strategies that honour their instincts, and that consider the overall lifestyle of the family, not to mention the individual temperament of the baby.

When it comes down to it, I don’t care how much sleep research a book contains, nor how many babies an author has “whispered” to sleep, if the book doesn’t make the parents feel good about themselves as parents, it usually isn’t worth picking up.

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July 12, 2012  –  IT HAPPENDED TO US…SEPARATION ANXIETY!

Today it happened.  My ten month old, Beau, was hit with his first true bout of separation anxiety.  The second I left the room and he was in the arms of the babysitter, his bottom lip curled down, and he disintegrated into tears.

I don’t know why I didn’t think it would happen to him, having seen so many babies go through it before and knowing what I know about the order in which developmental milestones typically unfold, (i.e.- that separation anxiety commonly starts to peak in infants when they are around 10 months old).

Despite all this, I still believed that he, or rather, we could avoid it.

I guess I figured since Beau had been exposed to so many people from such a young age (he started coming to Wholeplay classes with me when he was just two weeks old), he would somehow be immune.  Kind of like the way inoculation works—

“Expose a body to a weakened virus strong enough to trigger the production of antibodies, but not so strong as to overwhelm the body’s resistances” and presto!  The very virus that you deliberately invited into your system is thwarted.  (Thanks, Wikipedia).

The problem is, of course, that separation anxiety doesn’t work that way.  You cannot purposely “expose” your baby to other people (even friendly ones) when he is young so that later on, when he is in the throes of separation anxiety, he will not cling to you for dear life when you leave him with a babysitter in order to slip out of the house for a few hours.

Why?  Because no matter how many people your baby has met and even had the pleasure of interacting with, none of them are you.

Now, does this mean that it is pointless to take the time and effort to introduce your baby to plenty of people besides you (and your partner) before she starts to realize that you are it and that everyone else is not it?  Absolutely not.

Babies, still benefit from having the experience of being around other adults and kids, even if doesn’t exactly make them immune to their unfamiliarity later on down the road.

Most likely, the intensity of the separation anxiety that your baby could have had, had he not been around lots of other people before he reached the tender age of really noticing the difference between you and other caregivers, would have been a lot worse.

So what’s the take away?  Keep getting out and making the experience of being around other people a pleasant one for your baby, but don’t be surprised if she still frets when you leave her at daycare or with a sitter for the first, second or even third time.

And perhaps, most importantly, take your baby’s separation anxiety as a positive sign that he has developed a secure and healthy relationship to you. He now, not only knows the difference between you and strangers, but he also finds unparalleled comfort in your presence.

This is something to celebrate, even if it also pulls at your heartstrings!

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June 29, 2012  –  BRINGING BACK THE BLOG!:

My son, Beau is exactly ten-months old today.  It’s hard to believe that my baby, who seems to look less and less like a baby by the second (and more and more like a toddler), has come so far, so quickly.

There’s a lot to celebrate.  First and foremost, of course, that Beau is healthy, soaring by his developmental milestones, and soaking up new experiences like a sponge with “quicker-picker-upper” technology.

Second, that we, that is me, my husband, and our business, Wholeplay, is going strong amidst the comedies and calamities that come with welcoming a newborn baby into this world, not to mention becoming a family for the first time.

I have to admit it was not easy at times, as my fellow Wholeplay moms and dads can attest to, having observed me during those days of acute sleep-deprivation, arriving to class puke-stained, disheveled, bordering on brain-dead.

Thank you, by the way, to those of you reading this, who were so unbelievably patient and understanding as I struggled to soothe my fussy baby during discussion time or remember the chords to “Old McDonald had a Farm” during music time!

Thank you for your patience and understanding when I took a little extra time to respond to an email or phone call.  As all of us new parents know, there’s just a lot that never gets done by the end of the day when you have a baby at home, no matter how hard you try…

Like this blog for instance.  No matter how hard I tried, “Keep up with the blog” just kept falling to the bottom of the bottomless list that is taking care of a baby, while running your own baby-related business.

And so, on the 10-month anniversary of my baby’s birth there is also this to celebrate, that I am finally getting around to posting a new blog entry. I take it as a sign that, finally, things may be starting to settle down a little bit…at least until Beau starts walking!

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Oct 30, 2010  –  SLEEP:  THE MOTHER OF ALL TOPICS.

In preparing the Parent Talk for the week, I learned something very important.  That is, if you’re ever finding yourself itching to write a book on Parenting and you want that book to sell, write about SLEEP. It’s a really safe bet.

My God, are there a lot of books about sleep in the Parenting section of the bookstore! That’s because parents are so desperate to get their kids to sleep, (so that they catch some z’s themselves), they’re willing to try anything, or in this case buy anything, that promises to deliver that sweet, uninterrupted, ever-elusive slumber.

It’s tempting not to buy into the idea that there’s a magic bullet, fail-safe sleep method out there, not unlike the way we all want to believe in an exercise-free diet that allows us to eat whatever we want and still lose the pounds.  But, unfortunately, (sorry to burst your bubble), I don’t think such a thing exists.

Getting your baby, toddler, or preschooler to sleep takes hard work and discipline, just like maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  And, unless you’re blessed with a naturally good sleeper, (or in the latter case, a speedy metabolism), you’ll have to develop a regular routine in order for this to happen.

The good news is that there are some things you can do in establishing your routine that will definitely increase your child’s chances for getting a good night’s rest.

1.    Begin your child’s bedtime routine when she is getting sleepy, not when she is over tired.

2.   Expose your child to sunlight as soon as he gets up in the morning.  (This will reset his circadian rhythm).

3.   Use physical activity, like coming to Hoot Group class (wink, wink) to tire her out before nap time, but avoid stimulating activity right before her bedtime.

4.   Don’t be in a rush to eliminate naps.  Substitute quiet time for naptime, if he refuses to sleep.

5.   Keep your child’s bedtime routine consistent, but be careful of creating rigid sleep associations, so that your child can only go to sleep in a certain way.  (For example, only after she has had a glass of water, been read three books in the same order and been sung a certain song).

Perhaps most importantly, have confidence that you, the parent, are the person that is most likely to find the most effective sleep solution for your child.  After all, no one knows your child better than you!

FYI-If you are interested in getting a book on sleep, many of the above tips come for Ann Douglas’s “Sleep Solutions for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers:  The ultimate no-worry approach for each stage and age”.

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Sept 27, 2010  –  A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT: WHEN YOUR CHILD SAYS “NO!”

I have to confess. Lately I have been spending a lot of time sneaking peeks of perfect strangers on the street. Mostly, it’s sleepy moms and dads pushing strollers, dragging wagons, or swaddling babies on their fronts, hips and backs. I am not staring just to stare, (I promise). I am actually in the middle of a kind of deep contemplation: To approach or not to approach.

You see, I’ve just started a business for parents with young kids and I’m trying to get the word out. The problem is that “sales” is not even remotely a part of my DNA and so I find myself staring instead, trying to get up the nerve to introduce myself, and perhaps even hand out a flyer. While this “marketing” approach (if you could call it that) isn’t terrific for sales, it has afforded me the opportunity to witness countless beautiful interactions between parents and young children all over the city. Perhaps my favourite, thus far, occurred today.

It was mid afternoon. Mom was pushing an empty stroller, while her young toddler waddled alongside. The child’s blond-almost-white wisps of hair stood straight up in the wind and sparkled in the sunlight. It was clear that the child had not been walking long, as she stepped in a drunkard’s, non-rhythmic pattern. And even though the sidewalk was hard and the chances for falling were good, Mom wasn’t worried. Instead, Mom remarked, “You are becoming so independent!” only for her daughter to respond, “No!”. Mom retorted, “Yes!”, but the child got the last word in, when she passionately repeated the word that all toddlers love to repeat, “No!”

But, of course, it was Mom who was right as the child was, not only gaining more independence through her newly acquired ability to walk on her own, but also through her newfound ability to contradict her mother. To passionately declare, “NO!” just because mom or dad says “YES!” is a one of the hallmark behaviours of the toddler stage of development, or what we at Wholeplay, like to call the “Wee Hoots” stage of development.

This is the stage of development where kids are desperate to do everything on their own, by themselves, but still lack many of the necessary skills to do so. For this reason, it is a highly frustrating stage of development, often resulting in another typical behaviour of the toddler stage of development, the temper tantrum!

So what should you do with word “no” when your toddler is refusing to do something you would like her to do, (or the word “yes” for that matter), when your toddler wants to do something that will most likely result in injury?

Be firm. And at the same time, remain calm and loving. Realize that this is one of many instances in which your child is asserting her independence and playing with the idea that she is a whole, separate human being who has ideas, needs, desires and opinions of her own. This is a good thing!

And, when it’s okay to say, “yes” (when it’s not too dangerous and won’t cause too many headaches), say “yes”. But when you have to say “no”, say “no” with kindness and compassion, without guilt or second-guessing yourself. After all, you’re the one that is still in charge, even though your fourteen-month-old, may beg to differ!

4 Responses to Blog

  1. Sara says:

    I am a new parent and have been looking for a quality parent-child play program to join. I have just registered for Baby Hoots and I can’t wait to meet everyone and explore play in a meaningful way with my little one!

  2. Dara says:

    Just thought I’d mention that the whole “no” stage extends into preschoolerdom as well! My 3 1/2 year old loves throwing out the odd “no” here and there just to keep us on our toes. Blissfully, our 10 month old can’t chime in quite yet… And I think passing out your flyers is a great way to market WholePlay – it gives the recipient the chance to get more info right from the source.

  3. Maura says:

    Keep the blogs coming! As a new, working parent who lives far from Toronto, this could be a way to learn parenting tips and better understand what my son is going through. I love that Wholeplay focuses on the development of both parent and child … Actually, I’m sure the new parents you’ve been observing would jump at the chance to pick your brain for even a few minutes!

    Thanks and best wishes on the success of Wholeplay!

    • Collins says:

      You need to find a way to move your baby out of your bed Into His Own His Maintaining security while. Just leviang HIM to cry Will not Achieve this and you will end up with a very stressed, apologetic baby. On the other hand, it is well Recognized That a baby’s sleeping habits are basically cast in stone by around four months of age. In other words, if h is in your bed at four months it will be traumatic Extremely HIM to move out of your bed until he is old enough to Understand That You have your bed and he has His and That It does not mean you do not want to be with HIM (usually at around four years old.) My Advice. Buy a bassinet if you do not have one. Put baby to sleep on your bed next to you in the bassinet. When he cries, comfort HIM Quickly with your voice, but do not pick HIM up. Keep soothing until he settles. HIM put to sleep in the bassinet During the day too Whichever room you are in at the time. If he cries, soothe with your voice and touch but do not even pick HIM up. Eventually he will associate with the security of the bassinet and Mom will not fret as long as you are close. At this stage place the bassinet in the crib for His daytime sleep. Be quick to soothe but do not pick up. When this starts to go Smoothly try it at night. You will not get much sleep the first nights but he will settle Few After A Few Days. I have HAD four babies, all sleeping through the night in Their Own Hotel from 8 weeks. They all still sleep right through. i never have to get up for the unless Them They Are Sick. Both in the long run you and he will sleep better and be healthier if you Establish a good sleep pattern now.

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