Potty time?

This morning my daughter brought to my attention her need for a fresh clean diaper. She’d never done this before, sharing with me that she had soiled her diaper and was in need of a new one. At first my excitement was overwhelming – was this the start of potty training? Could it be time to sit on the potty? Is it possible I might not have to spend money on diapers and wipes and ointments anymore?

Well, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. My babe is just about 18-months and barely able to reach the toilet. She’d end up taking a bath in the potty if she actually sat on it. So, I figured it was time to purchase some potty training items and at least let her check out what sitting on the potty is all about.

Understanding that potty training isn’t going to happen overnight is the first step to toilet training success. Also, not having any expectations, not putting pressure on your child (or yourself), and keeping a positive attitude helps with the whole transition. Your job as a parent is to get your kid to sit on the potty every two hours, happily help change her when she has an accident, and allow her body in its own time to understand when its ready to say goodbye to those diapers and fully transition to using the toilet.

As a preschool teacher, I’ve assisted in potty training quite a few of the young people of my community, but this is my kid we’re talking about. I know it wont be the same.

I’ve worked with kids as old as 5 years of age that weren’t potty trained along with the child’s parents that were freaking out because of it. They had tried everything, pulled their hair out at night not understanding why their child wont kick those diapers, suffered through countless potty accidents, and tried to offer as much moral support to their older child as humanly possible (but were really about to have a potty training breakdown). I would take their youngster by the hand and help him make the transition from pull-ups to toilet success. Most times, the child just needed an extra push from someone other than his parents, who were (understandably) a bit burned out on the situation.

I’m not sure what my daughter will make of her new potty chair. She might find it an interesting toy – a spot to put her pretend car keys. Honestly, I don’t care. As long as she takes an interest in her new potty, I’m feeling positive about the direction our potty training is heading.

Healthful Mondays: Water world

My daughter is addicted to water. She can’t get enough of it. If we’re outside, she finds any kind of water to play in. When I get ready to take a shower, she starts taking off her clothes to jump in. Anytime the fridge is opened, she’s there with her sippy cup. She’s also grown fond of ice cubes.

I guess there are worse things she could’ve taken a liking to.

Water is what makes the world the place it is. We’re told to drink eight glasses of water daily, which I try to accomplish as often as possible. A nice shower (baths are a thing of a past with a young child) always makes things better. And, I find enjoying a lake, stream, pond or ocean wonderful.

Everyone is hip to the benefits of water, lugging their own water container around to fill and re-use, showing they are aware of saving the planet as well as being healthy.  Water helps you lose weight, flush toxins out of your system, carries nutrients throughout your body and elevates your mood. That doesn’t mean you have to chug-a-lug all day long – just make sure to take lots of sips during the day.

For those that are not enticed by boring old water, many fruits are high in water content, such as watermelon. Tea, coffee and most juices are also mostly composed of water. And, there’s also mineral and sparkling water.

So, if you’re reaching for that soda and wondering why instead of feeling vivacious you’re dragging your toes, try some ice-cold water (or sparkling water) instead. Maybe you’ll notice a difference.

Healthful Mondays: Infant stages of development

An infant goes through many stages of development during her first 52 weeks.  I know I am always comparing my baby to other babies, wondering how she is developing, which you’re not supposed to do, right?!  Spending time worrying if  your child is on par with another can cause strife, heartache, and sleepless nights – let me tell you, I KNOW! It is good to have an idea what is normal for infant development so you have a couple great milestones to look forward to and to raise any red flags (if needed).  Remember, all babies are individuals and will develop at their own pace.

Within the first couple weeks of birth, your infant’s eyes are developing allowing her to see up to a foot in front of her face.  Many infants prefer to focus on human faces during this developmental stage, but are more than happy to stare for hours at the family cat or dog if you’re not available. Staring at this age is a good thing, as your baby is associating your face with all the love and care you are providing.

Get out the camera because by week 8 most babies are able to start expressing basic emotions including smiling.  Along with displaying social smiles, infants begin to use different vocal inflections to represent different feelings and emotions.  You will find yourself doing just about anything to get your baby to show her adorable little smile – seriously, anything!

Around week 15, babies are beginning to create the concept of memory. She is remembering from one day to the next the basic routine of her day – how to move her legs when diaper changing, and how to laugh or smile to get your attention.  This is a good time to start incorporating routines into your day.  Having regular nap times, feedings, and outings, allows you to have some down-time – which is beneficial to your sanity!

By week 23 an infant is able to associate sounds with behaviors, such as the noise of the door opening indicates someone is walking into the room.  Infants will also start responding to their names being called. You will find yourself saying your child’s name over and over and often in a high pitched baby-talk kind of way (which you promised yourself you’d never do).

You might find you wish you would’ve bought stock in baby safety products around week 27!  Most infants are crawling and starting to become more physical with their bodies.  Your babe is grasping, holding, and coordinating her movements.  This is a fantastic time, but a good reminder to start baby-proofing your home!  Leaving baby for even a moment unattended at this point can have disastrous results.  Make sure all electrical outlets are plugged, cabinet doors are secured, and breakable items are placed higher than baby’s grasping hands.

Just when you thought you were ready to try a date night, your babe will start understanding the concept of “peek-a-boo” and object movement.  Around week 32, your child is figuring out attachment, which leads to an understanding of detachment and (potential) fits of screaming and distress when parents or special toys  aren’t in babe’s sight.  So, leaving your adorable baby with a friend or in daycare can turn into a King Kong moment, with baby screaming and holding on for dear life. In time, your child will grow out of their attachment issues (hopefully), and she’ll understand mommy and daddy always come back.

By week 42 your child is mastering the art of the pincher grasp and the ability to manipulate objects with her hands.  Hand-eye coordination is becoming easier, enhancing her ability to use manipulatives, such as crayons, toys, and other objects.  Encourage your little one to use either hand, and a grip she is comfortable with – AND make sure to pick up that pen lying on the couch before she discovers it.

By week 50 your wee one is beginning the basics of language and starting to form basic words such as “mama” and “dada.” She will say it all the time over and over. It will be really cute at first, and then you will hear it at 3 am and find her budding language skills not as charming as you thought they were.

Remember, all infants develop differently and at their own speed. Some children begin walking at 8 months where others might not toddle about until 18 months. At any time you feel overwhelmed or concerned about your child’s development, contact your pediatrician – that’s what they’re for! No question or issue is too silly, absurd, or odd when it comes to your child!

Playful pudding

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The other day one of my friends confided in me that she doesn’t let her daughter play with crayons or markers. I looked at her – shocked. WHAT? Coloring is integral to a child’s learning and the development of her fine-motor skills. She explained that her daughter was more interested in eating the crayons than coloring with them.

Taking a crayon away from a toddler isn’t easy. They really, really want what they are holding, even when not exactly sure what the thing is. So, the crayon is tasted, chewed on, and eventually used to make marks with. The thing is, many parents don’t have the patience to go through several packs of crayons until their kid figures it out.

Why not try some pudding paint instead? Yes, this involves sugar, and YES, it is messy. But, your child will explore their creativity, mix some colors, make some lines, AND enjoy a special tasty treat. It’s easy to make some pudding paint. Just mix up a batch of vanilla pudding and separate a couple of tablespoons into small cups. Mix in a few drops of food coloring and let the pudding set in the fridge until you’re ready.

Pudding paint is going to be messy – messy enough that a bib isn’t going to cut it. So, put something old and icky on your babe and strap her into the high chair. Tape a paper onto the tray and put spoonfuls of the different colored pudding paint around her paper. Let her dip her fingers into the paint, taste test, and then encourage her to mush it all around.

Once my daughter started to tire of her pudding paint (I know, I couldn’t believe it!) I handed her a spoon and let her scoop up what pudding she could. The spoon also created some interesting lines on her paper, which kept her busy for a bit longer.

The end result is a fun and playful picture – with a lovely vanilla scent! And, I made a tasty dessert with the leftovers – yum.

Happy Harper

Recently, I enjoyed a stint as a baby name blogger, which was actually pretty fun. I hadn’t paid much attention to celebrity baby names before the job, so following all the big namers was new for me, along with finding out the details of what and how they named their new babes. Sometimes, it was pretty unusual!

So, today I saw the news that Tiffani (Amber) Thiessan had a baby girl and named her Harper. I guarantee half of you reading this are wrinkling your nose and the other half are congratulating Thiessan on a somewhat decent name choice (for a celebrity). The name Harper is wonderfully quant and a great throwback to classic names of the past, which are pretty hot right now in fancy town.

What I like about the name Harper is that it isn’t a sissy-girl name. It has some guts, with an undertone of true character. Harper is the girl who all the boys will want to chase at recess and the other girls will respect later in life because she’ll know how to properly apply kickin’ smokey-eye make-up, and teach you how to do it, too.

According to the Social Security Administration, Harper has moved from unfashionable to totally hot ranking in the top 200 baby names for 2009. This means there might be a couple other Harper’s in your future babe’s class, so decide now if you want your bambina to be known as Harper – insert first initial of your last name here.

If your heart’s set on Harper, go for it. But if you want something similar that might not be at the top of the charts, how about Harriet, Helene, Helena or Hadley?

No matter the name you choose, enjoy the path that takes you there. Before you know it, you’ll be cooing that name at an adorable new baby!

Healthful Mondays: Sunscreen=cancer?

With today’s big news that certain sunscreens may contain an ingredient that will actually accelerate user’s chances of cancer, every parent is frantically checking sunscreens for retinyl palmitate, a Vitamin A derivative. More than 500 of the most popular sunscreens on the market contain retinyl palmitate, meaning many have been slathering on the cancer risk instead of protecting against it.

The sun has turned into the enemy. Every year there is the development of stronger and stronger sunscreens created to prevent even the smallest amount of UV rays to damage the skin. Prolonged sun exposure has been linked to skin cancer, eye damage and premature skin aging. So, slathering on sunscreen is the solution, right? Not necessarily.

Sunscreens contain chemicals. Some chemicals aren’t great. Constantly coating your body with a layer of chemicals to protect it from sun exposure isn’t a wonderful thing. And, with new evidence from studies showing retinyl palmitate as a cancer risk, parents should be reading the ingredient list on their sunscreen, and finding other ways to protect against prolonged skin exposure.

Here’s the thing. Even the Skin Cancer Foundation has suggestions for spending time outdoors without covering the body every 20 minutes with sunscreen. Wearing hats, sunglasses and clothing with UV protection built-in is a start. UV protective clothing can be found at many outdoor stores and online. Another suggestion is to stay out of the sun during the middle of the day. Take a break from outdoor fun, have a healthy lunch as a family and enjoy a board game, like Monopoly!

The Skin Cancer Foundation also suggests applying 2 Tablespoons of sun block with an SPF of 15 or higher everyday, and to re-apply every 2 hours or after prolonged swimming. I know people who are coating their kids every 15 minutes with half a tube of SPF 70! I don’t know about you, but that seems a bit excessive.

So, check your sunscreen. If it contains retinyl palmitate, chuck it and buy a sunscreen sans the stuff. Here’s a link to a wonderful list of lovely natural sunscreens free of any nastiness!


Re-using art

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

At the end of the school year, I would bundle up all the art projects that had managed to hang around the art room and send them home with their owners, or if the opportunity arose, press the collections into the hands of parents. Often, moms and dads would give me a blank stare and mumble that they already have so much artwork cluttering up their home (SUCH a shame), what are they supposed to do with these?

Old bits of random artwork can be turned into wonderful new things. It can be reinvented in ways you might be surprised with. Instead of tossing artwork into the trash (which really doesn’t send a great message to your kids) make projects re-using them and showing your kids that you DO care about their creativity.

A simple way to turn an almost-tossed watercolor painting into something unique is to cut out a selected area and glue it to the front of a blank card. Kids can create tons of these and then send them off to loved ones, or bundle them with ribbon and give as gifts. I don’t know about you, but I still love getting mail. I know grandma does, too.

Create a fun collage with kids by helping them cut out all their, and your, favorite parts of artworks. Use a large sheet of tag board to collage them in an interesting way. This way all the best bits are saved and the rest can be tossed away. On the back of the collage your child can write something special about that year of school – a sort of remembrance to enjoy later in life.

Turn old artworks into wrapping paper the next time you don’t feel like paying $3.99 for a roll of printed-paper. Watercolor paintings work really well for wrapping, especially those done on easel paper. Sometimes tempera paint can be a bit flaky, so take a dry brush to the artwork and give it a good brushing before wrapping.

Shred the artwork and use it to make paper. It’s a fun project that everyone will enjoy!

Laminate artworks and use them as place mats.

So, instead of throwing away your child’s art, make it even more memorable by re-using it. Your child will appreciate it!

Flour power

The other day while preparing to make pasta (yes, I make homemade pasta) the babe was just not having it. On the verge of throwing herself to the ground with crazed hysterics because she wasn’t the center of attention, I scooped her up and shoved her in the faithful high chair. The high chair is every parent’s lifesaver. It’s safe and your child can’t get out of it. Anyway, I figured she shouldn’t miss out on the pasta making fun, so I tossed some flour on her high chair tray and let her have at it.

Offering kids something unusual to experiment with encourages their exploration and development. Trying something new is how we figure things out. At first my daughter wasn’t sure what to make of the stuff. She pressed her fingers in the little flour pile and, of course, shoved it into her mouth. Flour isn’t the best tasting stuff, so after she figured out this wasn’t her snack, she totally got into playing with it.

She felt the flour with her fingers, tried to pick up little flour bits and when I gave her a paintbrush to use, painted the flour all over the place. She squished the flour, squealed with delight and used her pointer fingers (of both hands) as line makers. This isn’t an activity for clean freaks. Flour gets everywhere, but is easily swept up.

Add to the excitement by offering your little one toy cars to drive through the flour, plastic animals to graze in the white stuff, or small cups for them to scoop flour into. These activities help develop their fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. And, it’s plain fun.

The flour kept my daughter gleefully content the entire time I rolled out and filled my handmade pastas. We both washed the flour off our hands and used our brooms to sweep up the mess.

What a great way to spend an hour on a long afternoon.

Healthful Mondays: Folic acid – not just for preggers

While I was pregnant, taking that super-huge prenatal was the worst part of my day. They made me gag, caused nausea (which I didn’t need any more of) and left a chalky taste in my mouth. YUCK. I spent hours researching other ways to get my daily dose of folic acid (while pregnant = 600+ mcg!) in any way possible. I found there are lots of foods full of folic acid, but that in order to get enough of the stuff to ensure a healthy bambino, the best solution is to swallow the nasty pill.

Here’s the other thing, folic acid isn’t just for preggers. The vitamin has tons of benefits for men and women of all ages from creating super healthy red blood cells (hello healthy heart!) to aiding with fighting depression and memory deterioration. Folic acid helps you to feel good, so finding ways to incorporate more into your diet is no brainer.

Instead of spending cash on boring supplements, try eating your daily dose of folic acid. Not only are foods that are full of folic acid yummy, they are a healthy way to get your daily-recommended dosage of 400 mcg.

Sunflower seeds: toss back a hand full of these fun little seeds and get half a daily recommended dose of folic acid along with vitamin E and lots of fiber, which helps you feel full.

Hummus: You can buy some at the store or buzz some up in your food processor. Either way, garbanzo beans are full of folate and if you add in some garlic, even better for your heart health.

Fresh citrus: An orange has lots of folic acid along with fantastic vitamin C. Tangerines, pineapples and also bananas have a good amount of folate, which makes grabbing one on the go another way to get a dose of folic acid.

Cereals: Many breakfast cereals are great sources of folic acid, but watch the sugar, salt and calorie content! Breakfast bars are also another option for a folate fix.

Anything green: Most green vegetables, such as spinach or beet greens, contain huge amounts of folic acid. It’s not often that you find a spinach smoothie or asparagus snack bar, so including green sides at meals provides your body with a full dose of folic acid.

So, pregnant or not, folic acid offers many health benefits and can easily be added into even a finicky eater’s diet. Not only are you eating yourself toward a heart healthy life, you are providing yourself with other nutrients that will help you to feel satisfied, energized, and positive.

Baby phone addict

My adorable child has decided her new favorite-must-have-at-all-times toy is the pretend plastic phone. Just one pretend phone wasn’t good enough, she also has an old-school wall phone, a defunct cell phone and another pretend plastic phone. The real phone is her favorite, and when she finds it, I might not see it for days.

So, how did my child become obsessed with the phone? I couldn’t tell you. I don’t own a cell phone. It is rare that I talk on the phone. When the phone rings, I am a faithful observer of caller ID. Those who know me understand I’m not a big phone chatter and often don’t call loved ones for weeks on end (sorry).

When the phone rings on the television, my child gets one of her pretend phones. When she hears the phone ring at the house, she finds it AND brings it to me. When we are enjoying some imaginary play together, she wants me to pretend I am talking on the phone.

Maybe she is trying to tell me I need to make some phone calls.

Until she is able to speak, my child is super adorable when she is “pretending” to talk on the phone. My fear is the day when words come out of her mouth and she actually wants to talk and talk and talk on the real phone.

I better start saving for the phone bills.