Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cooking Up Language

Another great place to work on language and vocabulary skills is in the kitchen.  Kids love to help out in the kitchen when given the opportunity.  And it's easy to incorporate some language building activities to make the experience fun and secretly educational!

***First and foremost it is important to keep your child safe in the kitchen and teach them the rules they MUST follow if they are going to be your assistant.  Create a work space for your child with kid-friendly utensils away from any hot surfaces.  Provide them with a sturdy stool so that they can be counter height.***

*Include your child in the planning of the meal.  Teach them about the food pyramid and plan a meal that includes all of the food groups.  Creating a colorful dinner plate can help them learn their colors too!

*Have them help you set the table while following directions:  put the plates on the table, give each person one napkin, etc.

*Talk about the function of objects and compare items:  what do we use a bowl for, how are a fork and spoon the same/different?

*Talk about the sequence of steps required to prepare a recipe:  first we crack the eggs, then we stir in the cake mix, last we bake it in the oven.

*Talk about numbers as you measure and stir ingredients.

And lastly keep in mind that cooking with kids is as much about the process as it is the end result.  But you may find when you include your child in the preparation of a meal, they maybe more likely to eat it!  Bon appetit!
Saturday, March 26, 2011

Raising Good Grocery Shoppers

Opportunities for language growth during everyday routines abounds!  One of those "teachable moments" that occurs weekly for most families is a trip to the grocery store.  Often times I find myself just trying to make it through the trip with no one pitching a fit or escaping my grasp as I navigate the aisles.  I feed them snacks and get the impossible to steer "car cart" just to keep them busy and quiet so I can think about what I am purchasing.  But if you try to include your child in the experience, give them a "job" and engage them in the trip, you might find that not only are they learning, but you walk out of the store feeling a little less stressed!

The grocery store is a great place to work on vocabulary development.  Here are some ideas to help you and your child enjoy the trip:

-As you prepare your grocery list make a list for your child with pictures.  If you need 4 apples draw an apple with the number 4 beside it. Have your child count the apples as they place them into the bag to work on counting.  Give your child the responsibility of holding their list and being on the lookout for the items on it.

-Some grocery stores have mini carts for little ones.  I have found these to be heaven sent!  If your store doesn't have them, take your own.

-You can talk to your child about how the items in the store are grouped together by categories: fruit, vegetables, dairy products, breads, etc.  Ask your child where you would find carrots, milk and hamburger buns.

-Have your child help you sort the items in your cart by color or size.

-As you walk through the freezer aisle talk to them about hot and cold.  Open the freezer door and let them feel the chill.

-Talk to your child about the different people who work in the supermarket: butcher, baker, cashier, bagger and coffee barista (if your lucky enough to have a Starbucks in your store!).

-You can also talk to your child about where foods come from.  A cow gives us milk, chickens lay eggs and farmers grow apples on trees.

Sometimes we get bogged down with everyday life and lose sight of how our daily routines can be fun, exciting and educational for our kids.  And the best benefit...when our kids are engaged and feel like they are helping us, they are more cooperative and well behaved!!

Happy Shopping!
Monday, March 21, 2011

Physical Activity for our children - it's not JUST for fun!

Have you had your workout today? What about your kids? We know as adults that we feel better and function more efficiently when we've allowed ourselves regular exercise (it's just a matter of making it a priority, right?) Have you considered your child's fitness? Regardless of their age, physical fitness is important. Besides the obvious benefits of building strength and maintaining age appropriate weight levels, physical activity in children builds self confidence, increases bone density (which protects them as they age and engage in contact sports), builds social skills, releases stress, and improves sleep quality among other benefits.

1 in 3 American children are obese. Why? Family structure has changed. We are busy, not home much, and eat on the run. Communities are not designed to promote walking or bike riding safely, and our culture promotes play through technology versus outdoor fun.

Did you know that children under 2 years old should not be still for more than 30 minutes at a time? Children older than this should get 60-90 minutes of physical activity a day (divided between structured and unstructured play). What can we do to encourage this pattern of behavior? Here's a few tips:
  • Lead by example: encourage your child to bike, hike, or walk with you outside. They want our time and will enjoy this special activity with you.
  •  Take your child to the park. I know hours are limited after work, but take something with you that you can work on while they play with friends.  Children need to jump off higher surfaces repetitively (like a playground set) to build enough bone density to prevent stress fractures later on - a playground is a perfect opportunity for this regular weight bearing activity.
  • Have jump ropes, hoola hoops, and balls around the house and provide a space inside where play with them is allowed.  Options with these toys are endless. Play basketball with a laundry basket. Host a long jump contest with two jump ropes. Play Simon Says with the Hoola Hoops jumping over, through, around, and in them.
  • Use the garage for hopscotch and bike riding in colder months.
  • Look into structured recreation: there are plentiful opportunities for gymnastics, soccer, dance, basketball, baseball, and even children's running clubs among other things.
  • Don't forget to swim! Find an indoor pool in the winter. Water provides natural resistance to build muscle and endurance. Kids love the water! This is a great time of year to look into swim lessons. The early you start, the better in my opinion.  Learning to swim is a life skill vital to safety besides being fun.
  • Don't forget your childhood favorites - freeze tag, flashlight tag, duck duck goose, and leapfrog are fun and great exercise.
  • Consider movement in reference to daily routines. Dance while cleaning up dishes. Seek out extra opportunities to go up and down the steps.  Play "basketball" while folding socks.
  • Support increased physical education and outdoor recess at your local schools.  School administrators are under lots of pressure to meet state standards of learning, but it's important to remember that the brain works best when the nervous system is fed regular movement.
  • Remember to keep the focus on being active and healthy and not thin. Our direct and subliminal messages are heard by our children. Focus on how fast or strong they are and not how they look.
  • Don't neglect nutritional education. There are picture based food pyramids available online. We went through a period of "food struggle" in our house and I made our girls look at the picture and choose good foods in each area for their own plates.
Making physical activity part of your child's daily routine from the time they are babies is a wonderful gift. It teaches them that this is a valued part of their day and their health, just as important as eating well or brushing their teeth! Remember that fitness consists of cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility - so consider all elements and get out there and get those kids moving.

Our youngest often BOUNCES OFF THE FURNITURE - LITERALLY! I often need to remind myself that this is not necessarily a bad thing!
Friday, March 18, 2011

Go TEAM FAMILY!

March madness is in full swing at our house and there is always a game on! I got to thinking that we spend lots of time in our society promoting a TEAM concept. We cheer on our favorite high school, college, and professional teams. We fundraise and volunteer for our schools as a team. We worship, plan, and celebrate with our church teams. We form groups, network, and share while collaborating on teams for work projects. Our children are taught early about the importance of teams for sports, clubs, and scouts. Turn on the news? The current political scene urges us to pick a team to support. But what about TEAM FAMILY? After you've worked, volunteered, worshiped, car pooled, cheered from stands, voted, and attended meetings is there time for one of your most important teams?

I know in our house, time devoted for our little team of four seems to be feast or famine at any given moment, but it is something that I want to be intentional about. I think arming our children with the supportive nature of a family team gives them confidence and encouragement. When all else fails, you always should have the team of your family! My friend always tells her kids that they were each others "first friends" and that makes me smile because it is so true. We choose our friends, but our family is chosen for us so why not be as intentional to build strong relationships and memories with the members of the family chosen for us as we are about other teams we join?  It only makes sense. We spend more time with this team than any other, yet we often neglect our family team.

Certainly special birthdays and vacations are memories our children will remember but the daily routine of family is something constant and reliable that will shape them.  How do you enjoy your team at home? What creative team building activity can you do this weekend? Here's a few fun suggestions:

* GAME NIGHT: board games are a great traditional that I think should be honored from time to time (seriously everyone should play Pictionary from time to time), but think outside the box. What about charades? For children who aren't reading yet, use pictures and have them act out their favorite animal, object, or even family member!

* Shut out the lights, grab a flashlight and play "pass the story."  Let the first person start a sentence and pass the flashlight on to the next person to repeat the sentence and add on.  Keep going until you can't remember the beginning any more and you'll be laughing more than talking.

* Head outdoors! With the weather changing there are so many opportunities for fun outside. Go on a nature hike and collect objects. Play a friendly game of kickball with friends. Wash and decorate your bikes and have a family parade at your local trail. Have a bubble blowing contest. Roast smores. Play freeze tag. See who can throw rocks the farthest at your local stream or river. The possibilities are endless.

*Road trip somewhere new. Even f it is 20 minutes away to a local park. Read about it, photograph it, and journal your experience together. Let each person finish the same sentence about your day such as "the best part of of the day was...." You'll create a great experience and a lasting memory.

*Find your inner artist. Head somewhere such as a park, museum, or your own back yard and share paper and paints or colored pencils and create some family masterpieces.

*Volunteer together. Even smaller children can help serve meals to homeless folks. Older children can join the family at a day helping with larger projects like Habitat for Humanity. Nothing builds a team better than looking outside ourselves to help others.

* Assign each person another family member through a "secret swap."  Take time to leave a note, treat, or do a chore for another family member in secret. Have a special dinner at the end of the week or month to reveal who the person is.

Whether you choose one of these ideas or hold a family meeting to choose your own, I think you'll be pleased with a decision to carve out some time to spend together. What could be more rewarding than actually allowing yourself time with those you love most. Who knows - turn off the TV and try - and March might not seem so MAD!
Monday, March 14, 2011

FAQ #4: Is my toddler hyper...does he have an attention problem?


Sunshine...fresh air…going for a walk…playing on the playground...these are all signs of Spring, and I’m not sure who’s happier to see them come, me or my kids!

Yesterday my kids and I spent two hours playing at the playground.  It was exactly what we all needed!  My kids, like many other children, thrive on physical activity.  When they get enough of it they eat, sleep and behave better.  When my oldest was younger, people who saw her out in public (climbing the shelves at the grocery store or not sitting still in the shopping cart) would awkwardly comment, “Wow, she’s an active little girl!”  It was their nice way of saying they thought she was hyper!

However, you can’t really call a toddler “hyper”.  They are supposed to be up moving around all the time, exploring their environment, seeking out that physical activity that they enjoy most.  They may seem “hyper” to us but only because we can’t keep up with them.  And it’s okay if they don’t sit for quiet activities; reading a book, coloring, doing a puzzle.  At the active toddler stage those types of activities may not peak their interest and they may need some help from you to enjoy them.

Below are some ideas to keep your child active and help them quiet down when they need to:

 1.  Don’t stress if they won’t sit for the entire 30 minutes of story time.  I was one of those moms, soooo embarrassed that my 18 month old wouldn’t sit in my lap for the songs, rhymes and stories.  If you can relate to this scenario, slowly build up to the 30 minutes.  Join story time for 10-15 minutes, then step outside to let your child have a little break.  Also, don’t be stressed if they are up and moving around the room.
     
     2.  Take advantage of getting outside.  Playing ball, riding bikes, letting them out of the stroller to walk beside of you are all great ways to catch some fresh air and burn some energy.

3.     Limit the amount of time your child spends watching television.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television before the age of 2 and only 1-2 hours for 2 years and older.  Try not to use the television as a babysitter, watch TV with your child and talk to them about what they see and hear on the program.  My kids LOVE TV and that is why I feel I have to limit it.  If the TV is on, they completely tune me out.  The glazed look they get in their eyes while watching scares me a little!  Why limit television?  When kids watch TV all the time they crave that fast moving change of scenery and flashing lights.  So when the TV is off they try to recreate those scenes by running around and have little interest in attending to other activities.  Their brains get used to a world that the TV creates and then they only want that world around them:  bright, fast moving, constantly changing.

4.     If your child has difficulty sitting and attending to an activity, try placing them in their high chair.  This is a great place to do play doh, color or introduce puzzles.

5.     And lastly, if your little one just wants to furiously turn the pages when you are trying to read a book, try reading during snack time.  You can also offer them something to hold in their hand while you read, like a squishy ball.  Make the story more interesting to your child by changing your voice or using exaggerated movements to go along with the story.  Read a book that allows your child to participate in the story like a lift-a-flap, touch and feel or pop up book.





Friday, March 11, 2011

To My Child.....A beautiful (and borrowed) message

This week has been a particularly crazy one for me as a mother. It's times like this week that I feel as if I didn't have enough time, energy, and presence to be what everyone needed me to be and to get everything completed. Let's just say the week included the Sheriff's Office unlocking my car at a patient's house so I could get my keys and a mad run in the rain in my PJ's and husband's shoes to catch the bus with my 6 year old. Just a glimpse. It wasn't a smooth week. Something caught my eye this morning that helped re-center my thoughts to where they should be, and I wanted to share.

A few years ago, a friend of ours lost their young child suddenly. It was heart -wrenching for the family and the large community that supported them and loved their child. It was the first time that as parents we had to explain a child's death to our own children.  Following the services, this resilient mother, sent thank you cards and with them, she sent a note with the message below along with her radiant child's picture.
One of my organizational goals is to  to keep my refrigerator uncluttered (I just love to hang on to baby announcements and masterpieces!) but I keep his photograph and this note on the corner of my refrigerator. On a regular basis, I read it to myself, or it catches my eye, and just the vision of it reminds me where I need to be mentally. Even though life moves quickly and we don't see this beautiful mother or her family regularly, her sentiments and strength are a continual gift to me, and I wanted to share with you.... 

To my child...

Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.

Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.

Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.

Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.

Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the back yard and blow bubbles.

Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made when you are concerned.

Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and won't stand over you trying to fix them.

Just for this afternoon, I will take you to McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.

Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you.

Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.

Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.

Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours and miss my favorite TV shows.

Just for this evening when I rub my fingers through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever.

I will think about the parents who are searching for their missing children, the parents who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and the parents who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they can't take it anymore. 

When I kiss you goodnight I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then that I will thank God for you, and ask for nothing else, except one more day....

When we were working on our new website, (Have you checked it out? milestonesandmiracles.com), I came across this quote, "Stop trying to perfect your child, and work on perfecting your relationship with him."  Wow! That hit me! Worrying is a natural part of parenting. Enjoying our children is a benefit. I need to enjoy my benefit more frequently and worry less often!

I've had a few meetings this week for work and church that are interestingly centered around the same concept: we as parents are our child's most important teacher, regardless of what we are teaching them.  In discussion with friends, we reminded ourselves that a strong foundation through relationships with our children now helps with the challenges that may lie ahead. Sure, this all sounds "rosey" and I know first hand after a week like this one that life gets in the way, but try to think of it all in smaller steps. Waiting in line at the grocery store is a chance for a hug. Sitting while an older child is in a music lesson, is an opportunity to read a new book with a younger sibling. Dinner at the table together (even if it is cereal) is a chance for conversation about what mattered in each person's day. We can do it.  It might not always look like a rosey perfect picture, but if our minds are intentional our children will feel our love.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Aggle flaggle klabble!"

If you are familiar with the children’s book Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems you recognize this phrase as more than baby talk.  This is what the little girl in the book says to her daddy when she realizes her most prized possession, her knuffle bunny, is missing.  I won’t ruin the ending for you…you should check it out from the library.  Both you and your child will enjoy this read.

There is a stage of speech and language development that most children go through; it is my most favorite stage.  The stage when, in an attempt to express their thoughts more specifically and model adult language, the child begins using jargon speech.  You know that adorable language that no one understands; when your child comes to you, looks you right in the eye and has a “conversation” with you and you don’t understand a single word.  Although cute to us, it can be frustrating for the child.  They are trying so hard to approximate the words they hear you say, using the same tone of voice and inflection, they think they have it.  And then…you don’t get it.  Some kids try to help you understand by pointing or gesturing and some kids are so disappointed you can’t interpret their language they become frustrated and tantrum.

The age we hear this “jibberish” is usually between 18 months to 3 years.  As a child adds more “real” words to their expressive vocabulary they use less and less jargon speech.  Although I was sad to see my kids outgrow this stage, I know they were relieved.  Once they had a word for all the most important things to them, they were happier.  They finally figured out this “language” thing they had been working on since birth and could express themselves more easily.

Even after practicing as a speech-language pathologist for several years I am still amazed by the development of language.  Learning how to communicate with the world around you is a huge feat.  Take time today to observe what stage of language development your child is in.  Whether they are cooing back to the sound of your voice, creating their own sign language to help you understand them or talking to you in their own language it’s all part of the process of accomplishing one their greatest skills.
Sunday, March 6, 2011

FAQ NUMBER 3: That's MIIIIIINE! Sharing tips on sharing!

We've all been there...right in the middle of a play date and mortified by your child's unwillingness to share that coveted toy.  The situation can be awkward and in the moment, it is hard to know how to teach a child to share.

Try one of these tips the next time this situation arises with your child:
  • Young children have a hard time understanding the concept of time.  To them, handing over a favorite doll or truck may seem like they'll never see it again.  Provide a option of measuring time in a way they understand, such as "I'm going to set the timer for 2 minutes and then I'd like to see you share that with your friend, and then they can play for 2 minutes and they will give it back." Play fun music and let each child hold the desired toy for one song. This is a great option to break up arguments in the car!
  • Negotiate a trade! Your young child might be more enticed to share when presented the option of exchanging for a toy they've eyed at their friend's house.
  • Model a great example! Children model what they see. When playing with your child or in daily routines, speak the language you want to hear from your child. Use "please," "thank you," "when you are done with that, may I please use it." etc.
  • Keep your expectations real. Obviously expecting your child to hand over their favorite sleeping toy close to bed time or brand new toy at their birthday party might not yield the best result. At times like this,you can explain to the other child that your child is very tired or excited but will be happy to share the next time they see each other.

Remember that learning to share is a typical part of growing up. Given regular opportunities to play with peers, paired with your positive example and encouragement, your child will soon learn to be a generous friend.

Speaking of sharing....we are one step closer to releasing our first product and are happy to SHARE that this weekend we launched our first website. You can now access our blog and find out more details on a product that can give you more examples on how to encourage sharing, tackle other parenting challenges, and learn how to play with your child in creative, age appropriate ways at www.milestonesandmiracles.com. Let us know what you think!

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JUST PLAY!

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 www.milestonesandmiracles.com 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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