Sunday, January 30, 2011

Becoming a master at recognizing the Pee Pee dance

This blog has been so much fun for us to write so far. Our goals in creating it were to inspire parents to learn about and enjoy their children and to share practical experience regarding early childhood development.  My first few blogs have been more heartfelt and this time around, I'd like to share something pretty concrete and practical -- getting your child out of diapers!

I have to say, upon self- evaluation, my husband and I scored pretty average to below average on the parenting report card in the subjects of eating (our oldest paces and bites her fingernails at the sight of grilled fish), and sleeping (they never quite slept on a schedule or got quality naps, but can sleep anywhere (yes even concerts or football games) now - an added plus I must say. Despite these shortfalls (and trust me we've paid for husband Brent even slept in the hallway outside one of their rooms on the floor for a few painful weeks), we seemed to do fairly well at potty training.

Our method (if you can call it that) is a combination of advice from our beloved pediatrician (shout out to Dr. Caldwell), our own parents, and trial and error.  In our extended family, we've had success with four children (our two and our niece and nephew) all being potty trained between 20 -25 months of age using this method. So, if you have a child left in your home to potty train - here's hoping these tips are helpful!

Here are a few baseline facts to consider:
~ It is true that part of your success is determining when your child is ready.  When you see a pattern of bowel and bladder control (example: always dirty after nap or a certain time of the day), your child shows interest in the potty and all the fun that goes with it (the paper, flush etc.), and/or your child is letting you know when he/she has dirtied his/her diaper, they are likely ready to start training.
~ It is also true that it is not uncommon for boys to develop the sensation and urgency to void later than girls.
~ The personality of your child matters. If you have a strong-willed child, forcing potty training can turn into another arena for them to assert their independence.  Fighting against this strong will too early, or if your child is fearful of the situation, can result in disaster - including constipation and pain. Try to encourage but not force and let your child's willingness be your guide.

Here are our time tested tips:
* I remember walking proudly into the pediatrician with my almost two year old. I was eager to let our pediatrician know that I had done my research, created a beautiful sticker chart, and let my daughter help choose stickers. I thought he'd be so proud. I was wrong! He shared that using the potty was a bodily function, just like blowing your nose. Would I reward her for blowing her nose with stickers or candy? Point taken. In his years of experience, he learned operating in this way often sets the stage for a power struggle. The sticker chart hit the recycling bin shortly there after.

* He also shared these other pearls of wisdom which were wonderful in our training. He recommended changing diapers in the bathroom and dumping contents into the toilet if possible. Doing so, will cement the fact this is where "it" goes.  He even suggested verbally reminding our daughter that this is where "it" belongs each time we changed her.

* Placing your child on the toilet at times of the day when success is favorable is a great idea. Immediately after waking up and before bath are often wonderful choices. Provide fun books, silly songs, and conversation, but don't force your child to sit.  Keep the potty chair available and accessible, even if that means in the middle of the living room for awhile.

* Reward success with hugs and praise. Let your child know how proud you are of their "big kid" behavior.

* We found that training pants made of diaper like material (you all know what I'm talking about, but I don't wish to publicly disrespect a particular brand) were expensive and not helpful.  They are so effective at wicking away moisture that the child never feels uncomfortable.  Without feeling uncomfortable - there is no urgency on the child's part to stop wearing them!  Here's the solution. Put underwear on your child and put a diaper on top. The underwear allows for the "ewww factor" and the diaper protects your floors and furniture.  When your child has accidents (and they will), help clean them up (in the bathroom) and put new underwear on.  Do not scold your child or make them feel guilty - they are learning. Remind your child to let you know that they need help using the potty next time. Rewarding accidents with putting a diaper or training pants on again let's your child see that if they mess up, they can continue with the comfortable routine they are used to. Sticking to your guns (which isn't always easy or convenient) lets them know that you are serious in supporting them through the transition to independent toileting.  It is true that at first, training them feels like (and sort of is) training yourself!

* Here's the most important reminder - BE CONSISTENT. When you start potty training, you have to be consistent each time and all day. Trust me, children see the holes of inconsistency we create as parents and drive through them with their favorite Tonka Truck. Yes, this means you may leave an entire cart of merchandise in the middle of the Target isle running to the bathroom and praying you'll make it the entire way. Yes, it may mean you don't make it every time and your cart, your stuff, your child, and yourself will be soaking wet, forcing you to buy a new outfit right then and there. Yes, this may mean stopping 7 times in a 20 minute span on a road trip. The good news is that if you are consistent, this stage should be short and sweet! And you, my friend, will be rewarded with a proud child, a more reasonable weekly shopping list, and the reward of a smaller more fashionable handbag again! (or for those great daddies out there - no bag at all!)

We'd love to hear your tips and experience! After all - this is something we all have in common! Leave your comment below or visit us on facebook at Milestones & Miracles!

Here's our oldest taking a break from tailgating during her potty training phase! When I look back, it makes me laugh, reminded of all the places that little potty went with us!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


One of the things my husband and I try to do as parents is to establish some family time and some special time that we spend one on one with our daughters individually in daily routines. Children find stability and pleasure in routine and ritual and the tradition of reading at night with my husband is one our daughters certainly enjoy.

I adore that my husband has taken the role of exploring literature with our girls.  They have enjoyed progressing through the years of him reading to them as infants while they patted their chubby little hands on the pictures to researching new authors and enjoying weekly library trips together.  It’s surprising to me how much they covet this time, often choosing story time even over staying up late to do something else.  Our oldest child even asked for an entire book series for Christmas! I loved to read as a child, but I’m pretty sure I still asked for toys! I think their love of books has grown from this nightly routine – 30 to 45 minutes of reading snuggled up with good ‘ol Dad.

So, for this entry I picked my husband Brent’s brain to find out which books were his favorite, what did the girls seem to enjoy the most, how do they choose new books etc.  Here are some tips from our experience:

~ In the evenings, they choose a combination of books that the girls read to him and that he reads to them. I think this is a great point! Once your children start to read, practice is certainly important, but listening to you is not only enjoyable but continues to progress their receptive learning skills (or understanding something they hear).  Typically, receptive learning is more mature that expressive learning. This is why your baby knows that is their sibling or favorite toy and look when they hear a word before they can verbalize it.  Adults are no exception to this! I often know what I want to say before I can say it perfectly, don’t you? So remember to have your reading children read aloud to you, but don’t forget to read literature that is above their level to them!  And enjoy “baby books” for your infant and toddler, but try some longer picture books as well.

~ The library is fun, open most of the time and free!! Our daughters have loved this weekly ritual and all that goes with it – having a “book bag,” getting to know the librarian, searching for books on a certain topic, and finding favorite authors.

~ Swap books with friends! Think of it as a book club for kids! Children of any age can share books. After they read the same book they can talk about what they liked best and discuss the book in general.  An early reader/writer can even have a shared journal with a best buddy with lists of books they have read together and their thoughts on each one.

~ Don’t forget that nothing can open up the imagination like a good book. Have the winter blues? Head to the library and collect books on a topic. Try several books about the beach and make a seashell craft and play music from the Beach Boys. Collect a slew of animal books and when you are done reading them, head to the zoo!  Headed on a trip? Fuel the excitement and anticipation by reading about your destination before hand.

There are numerous excellent authors and books to explore but we wanted to share some of our favorites with you here:

Abby KleinFreddy Series: Each story explores a different problem of a first grade boy and shares how he works with friends to solve the problem.

Kate DeCamillo: Mercy Watson Series: This series shares the life of a fun loving pig that loves a great deal of butter! His love of butter gets him into trouble and sends him on many adventures.

Also by Kate DeCamillo: The Tale of Despereaux: My children love when my husband reads this lengthy chapter book to them!

Mo Willems:
The Pigeon Series: Fun Energetic Read Aloud. What will the pigeon try to do this time? Very silly…very fun!

The Elephant and Piggy Series: Great beginning Readers – short but funny stories about two friends.

Knufflebunny Series: Our family loves the tales of this girl and her beloved stuff bunny. Illustration are unique and interesting – a combination of real photography and cartoon images.

Bob Book series: Great to teach early phonics and independent reading

Bill Martin Jr. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: My nieces’ (3 year old) current favorite. Excellent and fun rhyming series that introduces letters in a unique way.

Tim Egan: The Pink Refrigerator: The story of a magical refrigerator that teaches a rodent to give up his boring ways and experience life to the fullest.

Emily Jenkins: Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party: Great read aloud! A dear story about a girl and her three best friends who happen to be her toys, who come to life while she is away or asleep (we are wondering if Toy Story the Movie was based from this book?)

Laura Numeroff: If you Give a (Pig, Mouse, Moose) Series. Fun and silly ways to explore cause and effect concepts and foster imaginative behavior.

Mary Pope Osborne: Magic Tree House Series: This is on our list for next go around. Gabriella’s teacher recommended this and my nephew is in love!  A fictional series about adventures of two children that incorporates adventurous stories with a non- fictional historical guide to places these children visit and explore.

What are your family’s favorites? We love sharing suggestions! Post your favorites here or on our face book site (Milestones & Miracles). Cuddle up with your little book worm today!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Letting Them Live THEIR Dreams

“I want Emily to be the best Emily she can be.”

This is what a friend of mine said when she was asked what she wanted for her daughter’s life.  She was speaking from the heart.  She simply wants her daughter to live her life to the fullest and become all that she is meant to be. 

Often times, as parents, we place particular expectations on our children and when those expectations are not met, we are disappointed.  Or even before they are born we have decided their future profession and when they choose a different path we become discouraged.  What we need to realize is that these are OUR expectations and dreams for our children, not theirs.

I was disappointed this fall when my daughter told me she wanted to quit dance class.  In fact, she mentioned it a few times before we finally withdrew her.  I danced from the time I was 3 until I was 14.  Those were some of the best times of my childhood and I wanted the same for her.  I kept thinking she would change her mind if she just kept going, but she didn’t.  I was trying to convince her of the dream I had for her instead of listening to what she wanted for herself.  Now she’s in gymnastics and couldn’t be happier!  I should’ve listened to her sooner. 

I’m sure there will be more times like this in her life when I need to take a step back and remind myself to let her choose her path.  I just want so much for her that I sometimes get carried away!  But the quote above reminds me to celebrate my daughter for who she is; to support her ideas and encourage the good qualities and talents I recognize in her all while NOT pushing my dreams and expectations for her life upon her.  I hope the quote above inspires you to do the same for your child!
Saturday, January 22, 2011

The most important lesson I've learned from Mr. Rogers

In our job as early interventionists, we work with children and their families as long as they need us from age birth to three years old.  After three years old, in most, but not all cases, they transition to a public preschool program that offers therapies and instruction.

Three years of working with a child and their family often seems to go very quickly and the bond formed is pretty outstanding.  We get the opportunity to become an extension of the family and are in tune with daily routines, extended family and friends, struggles, joys, dreams, and even the quirks of the family dog!

Some people work three years on a building project, a financial deal, or meeting a long -term sales goal. We get to work on building a happy child that can play, learn, and be safe out of their home and parents who feel comfortable with their child trying these new skills, without their parents’ presence, for often the first time.  If both occur, our shared “masterpiece” is complete. 

It’s a very emotional time when we “lose our kids.” Don’t get me wrong; it’s not all triumph and happy tears along the way. We have seen too many tantrums to count, have been hit, bit, and thrown up on.  We’ve wracked our brains at bedtime trying to think of that perfect toy or object to motivate a certain child or how to chose the right words to get through to a parent that doesn’t yet value following through with suggestions we leave behind. But these things pale in comparison to the pride that is felt when that child says their first meaningful word instead of screaming in frustration, can take those steps to get the toy themselves, or can touch their parent’s face to show love and appreciation in their own way.

When the time comes to transition a child, I share some of the emotions of the parent, but in a different way I am sure. I find myself asking appropriate question to the skills I teach as a physical therapist like, did I think of how they’ll do getting around the classroom?  In and out of their chair? To the cafeteria?  And I find myself asking myself questions unrelated to my “PT role.” I wonder how the child will do on the bus ride? Will they be scared? Will they like new friends or will they be overwhelmed?  And then I worry about their sweet parents…have I prepared them the best I could? I am certainly a worrier of others and I am working on it! But what you can see is that these children become like our own and their parents by extension are as well.  I am fiercely protective of them and pray for their happiness and success years after the have left our program.

I guess that’s why when parents tell me about an experience they have had out in the community, where someone says something about their child that they take offensively, it breaks my heart. Usually people don’t mean harm, and parents for the most part know this, but when you hear “What’s wrong with him?” It’s hard to resist replying “Nothing, What’s wrong with you!”

I’ve always loved Mr. Rogers. A family passed the quote below along to me years ago and I’ve always thought it was so accurate…

Part of the problem with the word 'disabilities' is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of the people who can't feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who are not able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities." ...Fred Rogers

Mr. Rogers is so right!  So when you see one of “my kids” out in public, model to your kids an appropriate way to behave.  Look the parent and child in the eyes and say hello instead of looking away.  If you are curious about the child, treat them the way you would any other child. Ask their name, their age, and what they like to do for fun.  If you know a child that can’t see or walk, explain that in simple terms to your own children and talk through ideas of how your child can play with them. Maybe find cool things for a child without vision to touch. Play ball with the child who can’t walk.  Modeling these examples for your own children will teach them to be accepting and compassionate people who have an understanding that ALL people learn and play in different ways.

I’ve found that children with so-called “disabilities” often significantly excel in areas other than where they are challenged. A blind child is the first to notice my new perfume or wristwatch. A child who has trouble moving is the best 3 year- old conversationalist I’ve ever met!   Look beyond what makes children different, and look to what makes them unique.  In doing so you’ll learn an incredible lesson that can often help you with your own “disability.” Each time I do, I’m blown away by what I discover.
Thursday, January 20, 2011

Documentary of a 2 year old!

We've all been frustrated you just want to throw yourself to the ground, kick your feet and scream as loud as you can!  Two year olds "go there" and often.
Tantrums are part of growing up (and part of typical development).  There's an age when tantrums peak and occur more frequently and then as the child becomes better at expressing their desires and understanding reasoning the tantrums lessen.  But just imagine being two; you are told what to do, when to do it and how to do it ALL the time.  You hear "NO!" more than yes and rarely are you asked what you want to do.  I would be frustrated too!  

I don't remember what my son was having a tantrum about in these pictures, but it was obviously important to him.  The pictures were taken this past summer and six months later he still has days like this.  But, I'm happy to report, these days are becoming fewer as he continues to grow and develop.  As the parent of a frustrated two year old remember to keep your cool, ignore the tantrum as much as you can and if they need your comfort to settle down, offer it.  And like my Grandma (mother of 7) says, "This stage will pass and the next one will be worse, so ENJOY IT!" 

Monday, January 17, 2011

The ULTIMATE to-do list!

I am a lover of the to-do list. Open my planner and several notes fall out on any given day. Today, while on the treadmill, (something always on the to-do list, that doesn’t always get done) I was thinking about balance and how when my life is balanced with all the right elements in the right proportions things just seem …easier.  If I get too much work and not enough rest, exercise, spiritual time, family time, friend time etc., I get cranky and my family suffers. In other words, when my daily to-do list isn’t balanced, we have an unhappy family! I’m confident I’m not alone on this one.

Children need balance too.  While their needs might look different than ours, they really are the same. They need physical activity (play), sleep, time to socialize with peers, time to be creative, time to learn new things…the list could really go on and on. I think so many parents (myself often included) feel a need to check things off the parent/child “to-do” list. Did we have a play date this week? Did we read enough today? Is my child constantly signed up for an organized group activity? After all, they need to learn to follow rules and play with peers. Have we had music time? Art time? Baby yoga? Pottery? You get the picture.

If you are anything like me, as much as you feel this need at times to schedule all these “musts” you often want to just stay home and have some down time. Guess what? Our kids need down time too! I know…shocking, but true! BOREDOM BREEDS CREATIVITY! Think to when you were a kid. Every second of your day was not scheduled. And (gasp) you did not have a toy to teach you everything you need to know for Kindergarten by 2 years old or have something to occupy you every second.  When you were bored, you got creative! You used problem solving skills, social skills to organize and delegate, make believe to play and create your own games, and your imagination to pretend simple things were objects way more majestic than they really were.  Thinking of this immediately brings me to my grandparent’s basement. My grandmother (a very strong woman I must say) watched my brother, my 2 cousins, and me with only 5 years between us. Her house was filled with lots of love and outstanding food but not many toys. We were bored (briefly) but frequently creative.  Although often displeasing to her, we used our imaginations.  Her super sized box of powdered detergent became the beach one day. An extremely entertaining pretend shaving session cost my cousin Tania an eyebrow.  The berries in her front bushes became “poisonous” threats from an evil queen. We coveted our lucky hopscotch rocks in a special hiding place. The list could go on and on. The point is, just like we needed it and got it, OUR CHILDREN NEED BOREDOM (AND THE CREATIVITY THAT FLOWS FROM IT) TO LEARN!

Give your older kids a box of toothpicks and see what they can do. Drag out the pots and pans for your baby and turn on some music. Fill a table with items from your recycling box and glue, markers, tape, and scissors. You get my point. The next time you hear, “Mom I am bored,” answer….”GOOD! You are getting smarter by the minute!”

So as you start this week and fill out those never ending to-do lists, include LEAVE TIME TO BE BORED AND CREATIVE for yourself and your kids! And every once in awhile treat yourself to the permission to check that one off first!

 Here are my girls, at Christmas, being BORED and CREATIVE! It makes me laugh every time!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Children learn what they live!

One of my friends, who is a colleague, always signs the end of her emails with the quote “Children learn what they live.” It’s always made me smile and I’ve always agreed, but I thought of it specifically tonight when watching the Steelers/Ravens football game with my family. We are huge Steelers fans and as my husband says, the usual emotion gets turned up a notch in the playoffs (especially in the case of my brother Greg).  The children (mine are 6 and 4 and my niece is 3 and nephew 5) easily settle into their regular kiddo “football routine.” Color. Play Dress Up. Read each other books. Expect food at half time. Don’t ask questions until between plays.  Have fun. Don’t kill each other.  Don’t tattle unless there is blood. But I had to laugh today during the highly emotional last minutes of this game, as I watched my niece Kennedy run to grab her Steelers sweatshirt, put it on, and stand in front of the television screaming “Scoooooore,” and “Deeeeeeefense,” and “Touchdooooown” while jumping up and down. 

I immediately thought of my friend’s quote. Sure I could spend hours stressing about if Gabriella will learn her math problems to do them fast enough for her timed test at the end of the year. Or I could spend hours trying to teach Leila Grace to tie her shoes so she’s ready by Kindergarten next year. But no matter what I teach my children in a conscious and intentional way, they are learning much more by what I am teaching them in an unintentional way. Children do learn what they live. They learn by watching our example. Are we teaching them patience? Forgiveness? An even temper? Are we modeling being a caring friend? A good partner? I know I don’t always give the best example to my children. But I know I want to try to live what I want them to learn and so I’ll try harder each day.  It’s all any of us can do.   If we could all make those actions and behaviors that are so unintentional to us as intentional as we make teaching sight words, drilling plays out of a sports book, or using flash cards to teach math skills, together we would raise compassionate, thoughtful children who not only attack life with passion and purpose, but would enjoy it to the fullest! Let’s try together!

P.s. For the record, I know many (especially around the area where I live) would argue living life as a Steelers fan is not something any child should learn, but our house would certainly disagree! Here we go Steelers! Great win!
Friday, January 14, 2011

We agree with the New York Times!

A great article highlighting the importance of play:

Effort to Restore Children’s Play Gains Momentum

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Sarah Wilson (shown with Benjamin, 6, and Laura, 3) of Stroudsburg, Pa., says, “There’s no imaginative play anymore, no pretend.”

SARAH WILSON was speaking proudly the other day when she declared: “My house is a little messy.”
Brian Blanco for The New York Times
Megan and Michael Rosker, with their children (from left), Jude Rosker, 2, Eli Gorman, 6, and Coko Rosker, 3, use their sunroom in Redington Shores, Fla., as a playroom.
Ms. Wilson lives in Stroudsburg, Pa., a small town in the Poconos. Many days, her home is strewn with dress-up clothes, art supplies and other artifacts from playtime with her two small children, Benjamin, 6, and Laura, 3. “I let them get it messy because that’s what it’s here for,” she said.
Ms. Wilson has embraced a growing movement to restore the sometimes-untidy business of play to the lives of children. Her interest was piqued when she toured her local elementary school last year, a few months before Benjamin was to enroll in kindergarten. She still remembered her own kindergarten classroom from 1985: it had a sandbox, blocks and toys. But this one had a wall of computers and little desks.
“There’s no imaginative play anymore, no pretend,” Ms. Wilson said with a sigh.
For several years, studies and statistics have been mounting that suggest the culture of play in the United States is vanishing. Children spend far too much time in front of a screen, educators and parents lament — 7 hours 38 minutes a day on average, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation last year. And only one in five children live within walking distance (a half-mile) of a park or playground, according to a 2010 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control, making them even less inclined to frolic outdoors.
Behind the numbers is adult behavior as well as children’s: Parents furiously tapping on their BlackBerrys in the living room, too stressed by work demands to tolerate noisy games in the background. Weekends consumed by soccer, lacrosse and other sports leagues, all organized and directed by parents. The full slate of lessons (chess, tae kwon do, Chinese, you name it) and homework beginning in the earliest grades. Add to that parental safety concerns that hinder even true believers like Ms. Wilson.
“People are scared to let their kids outside, even where I live,” she said. “If I want my kids to go outside, I have to be with them.”
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a developmental psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, concluded, “Play is just a natural thing that animals do and humans do, but somehow we’ve driven it out of kids.”
Too little playtime may seem to rank far down on the list of society’s worries, but the scientists, psychologists, educators and others who are part of the play movement say that most of the social and intellectual skills one needs to succeed in life and work are first developed through childhood play. Children learn to control their impulses through games like Simon Says, play advocates believe, and they learn to solve problems, negotiate, think creatively and work as a team when they dig together in a sandbox or build a fort with sofa cushions. (The experts define play as a game or activity initiated and directed by children. So video games don’t count, they say, except perhaps ones that involve creating something, and neither, really, do the many educational toys that do things like sing the A B C’s with the push of a button.)
Much of the movement has focused on the educational value of play, and efforts to restore recess and unstructured playtime to early childhood and elementary school curriculums. But advocates are now starting to reach out to parents, recognizing that for the movement to succeed, parental attitudes must evolve as well — starting with a willingness to tolerate a little more unpredictability in children’s schedules and a little less structure at home. Building that fort, for example, probably involves disassembling the sofa and emptying the linen closet. (A sheet makes an excellent roof.)
“I think more than anything, adults are a little fearful of children’s play,” said Joan Almon, executive director of the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit pro-play group. “Some people have a greater tolerance for chaos and have developed a hand for gently bringing it back into order. Others get really nervous about it.” Megan Rosker, a mother of three (ages 6, 3 and 2) in Redington Shores, Fla., has learned to embrace the disorder. She set aside the large sunroom in her home for the children and filled it with blocks, games, crayons, magazines to cut up and draw in, as well as toys and dress-up clothes. “I think a big part of free play is having space to do it in, a space that isn’t ruled over by adults,” she said.

“The other key is not to instruct kids how to play with something,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many board-game pieces have been turned into something else. But I let them do it because I figure their imagination is more valuable than the price of a board game.”
The Ultimate Block Party play event in New York.
Roberta Golinkoff, Leslie Bushara and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek were organizers.
But, Ms. Rosker added, “I won’t claim any of this has been easy for me or my husband,” noting that her husband used to be “a total neat freak.” She said they have learned to live with disarray and to take other difficult steps, like strict limits on screen time.
Ms. Rosker has also campaigned, although unsuccessfully, to bring recess to her son’s elementary school. But school officials were too worried about potential injuries, unruliness and valuable time lost from academic pursuits to sign on to her idea and, she was surprised to find, many parents were similarly reluctant. “They said: ‘I’m not going to sign that. I’m sure there is a good reason why this is good for our kids — our school has good test scores.’ “
To try to reach more parents, a coalition called Play for Tomorrow this fall staged what amounted to a giant play date in Central Park. The event, known as the Ultimate Block Party, featured games like I Spy, mounds of Play-Doh, sidewalk chalk, building blocks, puzzles and more. The National Science Foundation was closely involved, advising organizers — and emphasizing to parents — the science and the educational value behind each of the carefully chosen activities. Organizers were hoping to attract 10,000 people to the event. They got more than 50,000.
“We were overwhelmed,” said Roberta Golinkoff, a developmental psychologist at theUniversity of Delaware and a founder of the event along with Dr. Hirsh-Pasek. They are now working with other cities — Toronto, Atlanta, Baltimore and Houston, among them — to stage similar events, along with making the Central Park gathering an annual one.
The goal, in some ways, is to return to the old days.
“When I was growing up, there was a culture of childhood that children maintained,” said Jim Hunn, vice president for mass action at KaBOOM, a nonprofit group that is a leading voice in reducing what it terms the “play deficit.” He noted that he learned games like Capture the Flag from other children. To revive that culture, he said: “Parents have to reassert themselves in this process and teach them how to play. It’s critical that parents take some ownership and get out and play with their children.”
But promoting play can be surprisingly challenging to parents. Emily Paster, a mother of two in River Forest, Ill., a Chicago suburb, tries to discourage screen time and encourage her children to play imaginatively. That usually works fine for her 7-year-old daughter, who is happy to play in her room with her dolls for hours. But her 4-year-old son is a different story, especially in the cold weather when he’s cooped up.
“If he wants to play, he always wants me to play with him,” Ms. Paster said. “This child has a million toys. Every kind of train you can imagine. But he really wants a partner. If I’m meant to get anything accomplished — dinner, laundry, a phone call — then it’s really difficult.”
Encouraging brother and sister to play together only goes so far. “It seems like there’s a ticking time bomb,” Ms. Paster said. “Someone’s going to decide they’re done before the other one’s ready.” Sometimes, a video screen is the unwelcome but necessary alternative.
“If I want to get anything done it’s like, ‘Here’s the Leapster,’ “ she admitted, referring to a Leapster Explorer, a video-like device for preschoolers.
But once they’re used to it, Mr. Hunn said, children will direct their play themselves — a situation Ms. Almon recalls from her own childhood. “Our neighborhood gang organized a lot of softball games,” she said. “There was no adult around. We adjusted the rules as we needed them. Once the adults are involved it becomes: Here are the rules, and we have to follow these rules. It still can be a good activity but stops being play.”
In the vast world of organized children’s sports, a few parent-coaches are getting that hands-off message. Ms. Almon knows of a soccer coach who started allowing children to organize their own scrimmages during practice while he stood silently on the sidelines, and a hockey coach in Chicago who ends practices by shooing all the adults off the ice and letting the kids skate as they please.
There are more formal efforts, in addition to the Ultimate Block Party initiatives. The US Play Coalition, a group of doctors, educators and parks and recreation officials, plans a conference next month at Clemson University on the value of outdoor play. KaBOOM has built 1,900 playgrounds across the country, most in low-income neighborhoods, and in September helped organize “Play Days” in 1,600 communities. It also has added do-it-yourself tools on its Web site to help parents organize and create neighborhood play spaces themselves. Another Web site scheduled to start this spring,, aims to create a broad educational source for parents and teachers.
“Our first big push will be on play,” said Susan Magsamen, the executive director of the group.
An important part of the movement is teaching children themselves how to play. The average 3-year-old can pick up an iPhone and expertly scroll through the menu of apps, but how many 7-year-olds can organize a kickball game with the neighborhood kids?
Toward that end, at the Central Park event, parents were given a 75-page “Playbook” outlining research on play and offering children ideas for playful pursuits — things that generations past did without prompting and that may evoke in today’s parents feelings of recognition and nostalgia.
“Climb on the couch with your friends and pretend you are sailing on a ship to a distant land,” reads one idea. Another, from the section on construction play: “Lay a toy on the floor and figure out how to build a bridge going over the toy with blocks.”
“Make paper doll cutouts from old newspapers and magazines,” a third suggests, “and let your imagination fly!”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Sometimes our kids need us to just be a kid with them. My Dad is a big kid.  Growing up, he was the Dad that dressed up with us for Halloween, let me paint his toenails, and took my friends to ride the merry-go-round and bought us ice cream when we were supposed to be touring the Smithsonian. I think I get my tendency to be silly and playful from him, but I have to admit, I think it’s harder for me at times to put away the paperwork, not answer the phone, and stop picking up than it was for him. When I can talk myself into “letting it go” I find I enjoy my daughters so much more and can let me creative side come through. This morning we woke up to a few inches of snow and school was canceled. SNOW DAY! Right? Wrong. Leila Grace (our youngest) spent all night vomiting and we spent all night, well, cleaning up sheets, towels, and Leila Grace! She was tired and clingy this morning. Her sister was ready to go, but being potentially exposed could not have anyone over or go anywhere to play. I ended up with two disappointed kids feeling jailed from the freedom of playing outside and sledding down our hill!  Before my sweet husband left for work, he brought Leila Grace a bucket of snow to play with in the bathtub and it made her morning a little more tolerable. It made me smile. Sometimes life is not always about the ability to catch that perfect snowflake on your tongue (although I do love to do that!).  At times you have to bring the snow to you!  How are you spending your snowy day? Pull out that favorite board game, look at old pictures, turn up the music and dance, or make the silliest snowman you can (even if it’s in your tub!)  Here are a few pictures of my Dad and my husband just being kids with my kids last year during the blizzard.  Hoping that you enjoy some childlike memories of your own today!
Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why I love what I do

I always knew I wanted to work with children.  As 1 of 20 grandchildren on my mom’s side and 1 of 10 on my dad’s I had lots of opportunities to be around other kids.  And my mother, who is in my opinion the best Mom ever, provided an excellent example for me of how to love and care for kids.  In elementary school I wanted to be a special education teacher, by high school I had decided on speech pathology.  My Aunt Cindy was the only speech therapist I knew and she made her job look so fun, I wanted to be a part of it.

My first jobs were in the school system…and I really liked it.  But it wasn’t until I began working in early intervention that I really began to love what I do.  My job affords me the opportunity to not only work with children but to also develop relationships with their families.  Helping parents and caregivers celebrate (and appreciate) each milestone their child achieves.

I love children because they never cease to amaze me.  I often envy their innocence.  There is nothing better to me than hearing a child belly laugh at something so simple that I take for granted or being there to experience a “first” with a child and seeing that sparkle of excitement in their eyes…it’s all so priceless! 

These are moments that will pass us by if we aren’t present in the moment.  Some days I’m so stressed about the laundry, my dirty house, etc. that I let the moment pass…and then I regret it.  I don’t want any more regrets.  I want to live in the moment…be fully present so that I can cherish it all.

My friend, Kristin Kish Whyte, wrote an awesome children’s book One More Minute that I think of often (actually every single night when Owen asks, “One more book Mommy? Puh-leeeaaassee!”).  The story inspires and reminds me to answer “yes!”  I mean, why not?  It might not be much longer that Owen wants to kick the soccer ball back and forth with me or who knows when Olivia might stop inviting me to her tea parties.  I want to enjoy it all now…over and over and over…before it’s all a memory.

I’ll close with a favorite quote of mine…it pulls at my heartstrings!  Children should be allowed to just be children; not burdened with the worries of life but only concerned with playing and having fun.  I hope it reminds you too to savor those happy moments you share with your children everyday.  And thank you mom and dad for giving the gift of a happy childhood to me!

“One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood.” – Agatha Christie

Really, I get to play?

I have always loved to play. I am blessed to have grown up in a large extended family with lots of fun people who love to have a good time and taught me that by example! When I was 16, one of my favorite teachers (thanks, Q) encouraged me to shadow a physical therapist. I was quickly beginning to think this was a career I might really love when I observed my first pediatric session. I don’t remember the actual diagnosis, but I do remember the laughter (from myself, the child, and the therapist) and that some fun game was encouraging the child to move her injured arm. I also remember thinking at that moment, “Really? I could be employed to…play?”

Fast forward more than a few years and I must say, there are still days when I come home from “work” and have visited the pool, the park, helped a child on horseback, and played hopscotch, all in the same day. That same thought still echoes in my mind “Really? I get to do this for a job?”

Needless to say, my “employment” is a blessing (and a fun one at that!)  This year, a dream will hopefully come true for my best friend and I. We have a PASSION FOR PLAY and we are ready to share it with families. My friend Lacy is a speech language pathologist and we both have noticed that our culture and a majority of toys do not promote the natural progression of a child’s development.  Not only that, but the type of play often cuts the parent (the child’s most important teacher in our opinions) out of the equation. Lots of smart, caring parents don’t really know how to play with their child. We’re thrilled to see months of hard work and planning start to come together as we enter the final stage of development of our first product, 1 2 3 Just Play With Me, a product that will educate and engage parents and their children and help them, well…Just Play!  We can’t wait to share it with you in the coming months.

The first Physical Therapist I was assigned to shadow in Morgantown, WV where I attended college all those years ago was Lacy’s oldest brother, Heath. What a small world it is! I didn’t know her then and all these years later she is working beside me on a subject so exciting to us both that it feels like play!

Hope you have a great week and that you take time to JUST PLAY! (Trust me, the laundry or work will still be there when are through!) Enjoy!

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Welcome to our blog! As longtime friends, we recently decided to combine our professional experience (as a speech-language pathologist and physical therapist) and "Mommy Experience" to create a company dedicated to something we are both extremely passionate about - letting kids be kids! Milestones and Miracles, LLC was formed in 2010. Our mission is to empower parents in understanding the natural progression of their child's development (and not rush it along and skip stages). We develop and provide developmental products to support this learning process, bonding families through engaging, fun, and meaningful experiences! We are thrilled to share that our first product, 1 2 3 Just Play With Me is available for sale. Visit to learn more and order a unique product for yourself & your child or as a gift! We will continue use this blog to share about topics that interest and excite us. Stay tuned!


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