Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 Posts of 2011

I enjoyed reading this summary on a few of the blogs I read (and I discovered a few things I had missed) so I'm doing it here as well. Here are the top 10 posts for this blog based on page views.

1. Car Seats, Baby Carriers
2. Twin Pregnancy
3. Art with Babies
4. TV and Computer Time for Babies
5. Setting up a Playroom
6. Kids and Pets (part 2)
7. Teething Necklaces
8. Tummy Time
9. Disclaimer
10. Math with Babies

The 10 ten countries reading my blog:

United States 59%
Australia 8%
United Kingdom 6%
Canada 5%
France 4%
South Africa 3%
Germany 2%
India 2%
Russia 1%
Netherlands 1%

Other 9%

I hope everyone has had a wonderful 2011 and will have an even better 2012. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Potty Training

Photo note: Most of these photos are not related to the post, after all most people don't take photos of this experience. There is one photo (toward the bottom) of the kids sitting on potties. No privates can be seen.

My plan with day time potty training was to use the 3 day method. Basically you wait till the child is ready and showing interest. Then you plan a period of at least a week where you will be at home and not going out. You start by keeping the child naked from the waist down. When they go, you give them the words for what has happened and sit them on the toilet. You watch closely and will start to see signs that they will go soon. You keep setting them on the toilet and soon they have success. This is cause for a big celebration! You keep doing this every day until the child goes 3 days without any accidents. Then you put them in underwear. Most will have an accident in underwear because they think they are wearing a diaper. Once they make it 3 days without an underwear accident, you can add pants. After 3 days in pants with no accidents, you are ready to go out in public. I have seen this method work with most children. There is no shame in having an accident, no punishment for getting wet. You don't reward with food, stickers, etc.

Merry Christmas!

You know what they say about plans, right? At 14 months old my daughter told me she wanted to sit on the potty. I laughed, but decided to let her. I took off her diaper and sat her down and she went. We danced and sang and celebrated the success. Then I put her diaper back on because surely this was a fluke, right? She never went in the diaper when awake for 2 weeks. So we tried underwear. She continued to stay dry. I sent her to the Mother's Day Out in underwear. She stayed dry - they were amazed. The only hitch? She wouldn't go for my husband. Then I got sick and my husband had to take care of the kids. He put her back in a diaper and she regressed.She would still tell us when she needed to go and would often stay dry all day long, but she was back in a diaper.

Bags filled with toys!

During this time my son loved the celebration part, but wanted little to do with the toilet. We had small potty chairs and he wanted to wear them as a hat. While teaching her to use the toilet, we were teaching him not to wear it. He had no interest in sitting on it or in taking off his diaper.

How did she get in there?

I decided to try potty training again over the Summer. We talked about it daily. We looked at the calendar and marked the day we wouldn't use diapers during the day anymore. As expected, my daughter did great. She was immediately on board. My son wasn't as convinced and we had many more accidents. Still within a month he was down to only one accident a week. They both were very adamant that they would use the toilet and not the potty chairs.  This meant less work for us, but that only one child could go at a time. Not ideal for potty training, but this way we didn't have to later transition them off of it. We did use the plastic underwear over the regular underwear when we were in the car to help contain if they did have an accident. We ordered it online because the stores don't carry the plastic underwear in small enough sizes.

Sitting on our potties
(if you are looking closely, that is his thumb, no privates show in the photo)

They were both potty trained before turning 2 and everyone wants to know the secret. Um... She wanted to do it and when we started with him he wanted to sit on the toilet like she did. There was no magic trick, nothing to really pass on as far as advice. We are incredibly lucky and appreciate it every day.

So much for a wagon ride.

Night time potty training is a much different process. Typically you should wait until a child is staying dry most nights when they are asleep before starting. This is a very developmental process and can't be rushed by parents who just want to be finished with diapers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hustle and Bustle

The first Christmas for my kids they were only 3 months old and we traveled to see all of our family. It was perfect. They were babies so they didn't know the difference and we were able to visit family out of the state and out of the country. We decided to stay at home for their second Christmas to make everything easier for all of us.

Posing with part of the ICE exhibit
Two little penguins (and their Daddy)

I wanted to take the kids to see everything special around the metroplex. I had a long list and we were on the go and did most of it in the weeks before Christmas. First up was a Charlie Brown Ice exhibit. The best part was seeing my little penguins waddle around. We also visited scenic places to take photos, we visited Santa, we went to a historic village to see carolers, we went on a sleigh ride, we went to the town square to watch a parachuting Santa (he was rescheduled due to high winds), and on and on and on.

I think these are breakable!

We were always on the go and rushed. While my kids love being out and about it wasn't as easy and fun as I had imagined. Turns out, once again, the research was right and I was wrong. It's better to do a few fun things and enjoy your time together, rather than trying to fit in everything and being stressed making it all work. Here we are a year later and my kids only have two strong memories of that Christmas.

That guy's really tall.

The first memory they have is making gingerbread houses. I admit we don't do as much 3-diminsional art as we should, so that may be why this stood out. This will be an annual tradition.

We each did a gingerbread house.

Their other memory is what they got for Christmas in their stockings. They don't seem to remember that these specific toys came out of the stockings, but they do remember getting these toys for Christmas. We didn't go out and buy the newest, fanciest toys for Christmas. My kids already have more toys than they know what to do with. We rotate toys and for their second Christmas we simply rotated some toys into their stockings. They loved pulling out the dolls and balls. We gave our sweet daughter a pink doll and our charming son a blue doll. They immediately traded and have loved those dolls ever since. Our daughter calls her doll by our son's name and our son calls his doll by our daughter's name. That makes much more sense than giving dolls based on expected gender colors. Leave it to one year olds to out smart the adults. :-)

There are toys in here!

So my advice, based on my own error as well as research, is don't do too much. Schedule some quiet weekends during this busy season and enjoy each other rather than getting mixed up in the hustle and bustle of the season.

I want her doll, not this blue one...

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Motor Skills

Often people will ask me for ideas to help their kids work on different motor skills. I thought I would post a few of them here.

Fine Motor (small muscles)
play dough, magnets, squeezing glue bottle, coloring/painting - these should be done on horizontal and vertical surfaces to develop different sets of muscles in the hand and wrist, tearing paper, dig in sand/dirt/rice, pour water/rice/sand/beans, string large beads/buttons, tweezers, eye dropper, spray bottle, opening/closing screw type lids, placing coins in piggy bank, picking up Cheerios one at a time, kneading bread, clothespins, hole punchers, lacing cards

We got a great idea for a craft from Family Fun magazine that utilized fine motor skills. It includes tearing paper, stirring, and pushing on a small area. Here are the official instructions: homemade ornament. We did not add the glitter because small shards of metal don't go well with kids who are likely to rub their eyes. They did take a lot longer to dry than listed as well, but the kids loved it.

This shows the very slow process of making these ornaments with a toddler. The grumpy toddler in the background is upset he has to wait his turn. (Might be best to watch without sound. You won't miss anything good.)

Gross Motor (big muscles)
crawling, walking, running, jumping, throwing, kicking, climbing, rolling, essentially anything that causes big movements
I will note that you should start working with your children on crossing the midpoint around the age of one. Basically if you draw a line down the middle of your child you want them to cross it as much as possible. Many children will pick up a ball on their right side with their right hand, transfer it to the left hand and set it on the left side. You want kids to pick up something on their right side and place it on the left without transferring hands. This helps train both sides of the brain to communicate together. The more these pathways are developed, the faster the brain will later be able to process more complex concepts (learning a foreign language, abstract math, art, music, etc). By the way, this isn't just for arms, ideally you want the legs to cross the midpoint as well. My kids love doing silly walks or crazy crawling.

My son's first juggling lesson courtesy of my husband. :-)

I just have to include one more video. Technically the crawling and walking are gross motor skills, but that's not what makes it cute. They are playing peek-a-boo with each other. I'm hiding because they stopped every time they saw me. My daughter, the queen of making things more difficult than they need to be, called this game "peek-a-duh-boo" and requested it often. Most kids shorten words to make it easier; my kid added a syllable in the middle. 


Monday, December 5, 2011

Child Proofing

The amount of child proofing you will have to do depends on your child. Some kids will follow directions and are very careful not to get hurt. Those aren't my kids. Here's what we did and re-did in the constant battle to keep our kids safe.

My son became fascinated with the electrical outlets. He also likes to suck on his fingers so he was trying to stick wet fingers into the outlets. Clearly a problem we needed to address. Most people use the round outlet plugs. These come in many different brands, but do have a couple of issues. After taking them in and out repeatedly they become loose and easier to remove - great for the adults, but kids can also pull these out. Once they are pulled out, or dropped while you are using the outlet, they become a choking hazard. All kids love putting things in their mouths and these are especially tempting. Instead, we chose to use the sliding outlet covers. This way everyone stays safe.

Happy girl

For my kids, slamming cabinet doors, especially when the other one had a hand in the way, became exciting. I started researching cabinet locks. If you have cabinet knobs then the sliding locks are a popular choice. My son spent every day at his mother's day out for a month playing with these. They locks they had used in the toddler room for 10 years without an issue my son took off. Good problem solving skills, but really makes our life more difficult. There are also spring action locks. With these you open the door an inch or so and then press down in order to open it the rest of the way. My issue with these is that kids can open it a bit, stick their fingers in and still manage to smash their hands. I knew if it was possible to use it to get hurt, my kids would. Instead, we went with the magnetic locks. These don't show from the outside and have a switch so you can turn them on or off rather than having to uninstall them when you no longer need them. So far we haven't even lost the magnetic key!

Firefighter and a basket head

Our next issue became door knob covers. First we went with the "easy" door knob covers. This worked for about a week. That's when my kids discovered if you push a tiny finger in just the right spot inside the cover the entire thing falls off the knob. Then they simply open the door and bring both pieces to us so proud of their accomplishment. Not what we had in mind.

Then we upgraded to this type. These are a pain in the... rear to open. (This is a public blog!) My kids broke off the piece that covers the lock and tried using the same pressure point. Luckily that didn't work! This was a huge help for a few weeks. It was around that time they discovered that if I'm distracted with one child and a door is open they could get it off. All the unattended child had to do was slam the door into the wall. When the knob cover hit the wall it would loosen up the snaps and they could then use tiny fingers to pry it off. While we tried never having an unattended child, this is not realistic if you have two. Once again the adults didn't give up and came up with another solution. I would love to take full credit since it was my discovery, but here's the real story.

Pirates love to plunder.

It was late and I was tired. Very, very tired. The knob cover came off again and I quickly snapped it back into place and got both kids into bed. A couple of days later my husband asked why I had put it on backwards. I had no clue that I had done that, but it seems to have solved the problem. The knob cover hasn't come off since. Score!

We also discovered that the rubber tips on the door jamb stoppers aren't that difficult to remove. These are also a choking hazard. Kids love playing with these, after all they make that cool "boing" sound. We debated what to do about this. We considered gluing the rubber piece on, which is what most child proofing experts recommend. Others say to buy the child safe ones. We went lazy and just removed them all together. As long as the door isn't being slammed against the wall, it's not a huge deal. The one door they do slam against the wall will just have to be repaired once we pass this stage.

Do I really have to wear this?

Our playroom doesn't have a door, it's great for an open floor plan, but not so great at keeping the kids safe. We went looking for a baby gate. Most weren't large enough for the opening and I had some very specific requirements. A lot of baby gates have square, triangle, or rhombus openings which make a great ladder. I'm not sure who came up with that design. The ones with vertical bars are more difficult to climb, but certainly not impossible. We went with this gate. The netting makes it difficult to climb and it fits most areas. My kids didn't learn how to open the gate until they were 2, which was after we no longer needed it.