Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't put all your EGGS in one basket this EASTER - try out some of our fun ideas with your kids!

Part of our jobs as early intervention therapists is to incorporate purposeful play into a family's daily routines to help that family meet the goals they've identified as important for their child. This means that if they are having trouble during meals, we lunch! If climbing the stairs are difficult, we find something less scary to climb first (a suitcase works like a dream). And if one of our little friends can't hold a crayon yet, we let them color with their hands and...shaving cream. 

A favorite part of my job is flexing my creative muscle...looking around at what the family is into on a particular day and discovering how we can make it fun and purposeful.  No time is this more fun than around the holidays.  Easter is special to me for many reasons...it's one of my favorite times of the year - so full of new life and possibilities. While "working" at one of my favorite spots last week we got creative with something so simple - plastic Easter eggs!

I starting thinking that these might be the most reasonably priced toy that you could possible do the most with in terms of learning and play. So in honor of Easter ....(drum roll please)..Milestones & Miracles presents...THE TOP 10 THINGS TO DO WITH PLASTIC EASTER EGGS!

1) SORTING - encourage your children to place all of one color in one pile and another color in a separate pile while labeling the color to teach them the recognition of the color.  Once they catch on, expand the game to placing colored eggs in matching colored gift bags.
2) PATTERNS - start a pattern for them (yellow, pink, blue, yellow, pink, blue) and ask them to finish.
3) SIMPLE MATH - one egg plus one egg equals ??? You guessed it!
4) IT'S A SHAKY EGG! (If you don't know that Laurie Berkner musical hit - look it up now!)...place small items inside and let your children take turns guessing what is inside each egg.
5) CRACK "EM OPEN - from a fine motor perspective, it is very difficult to find toys that challenge the small muscles in our tiny tot's hands. The majority of popular toys are made with big buttons that are easy to push. These small muscles are important for grip and handwriting later on, so let your child take a turn opening and closing those eggs.
6)  PRETEND EASTER BRUNCH - COMING UP! Set the table, make the place cards, scramble those eggs and let your host or hostess serve their own holiday feast.  Pretend play is a wonderful way to practice language and social skills and get to know your child's personality.
7) EGG TOSS - If you have enough children (or adults) toss those eggs back and forth and keep scooting back as in a traditional toss until someone drops the egg. Just one player? Grab and Easter basket and hit the target. Both are great ways to enhance hand-eye coordination.
8) HOT POTATO - I MEAN EGG! Sit in a circle with friends, crank up the music, and toss it around the circle until everyone gets stuck with that hot egg.
9) EASTER EGG HUNT - every kid deserves to hunt for eggs...and they never tire of searching for them. If you are tired of the same routine, try hiding them indoors or having a flashlight egg hunt at dusk.
10) SIMON SAYS....PUT THAT EGG IN YOUR EAR! Using the eggs for a silly game of Simon Says (or Easter Bunny Says) enriches receptive language and body awareness -- plus it's so silly it has to be fun!

We hope you've enjoyed these ideas and have and EGGcellent time with your little bunnies this weekend. All joking aside, whether these ideas are new to your family or not, you must agree that you can get quite alot out of a 99 cent dozen of plastic eggs!
Here's some spring shots of a beautiful nearby orchard! ENJOY :-)
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making Important Decisions for Your Child: Choosing a Pediatrician

Even before your child is born you will need to choose a pediatrician.  This is a very important decision for both you and your child.  Because you'll find with the amount of visits you have make to your child's doc in the first few years of their life, the staff and docs in the office quickly become your new best friends!

The best place to begin your search is by asking for your friends' recommendations.  Ask your friends why they recommend their doctor and how long they have been with them.  You can also ask your OB what pediatricians they recommend or check withe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for a list of docs in your area.

Some things to consider when making your selection:


* Are they accepting new patients?  Does the office accept your insurance?
*  What are the office hours and do they have multiple offices?
*  How many pediatricians are on staff?  Will your child always see they same pediatrician?  May you request that your child only sees one pediatrician?
*  Do they have weekend hours?  Do they offer an after hours answering service?  (Because kids don't just get sick during the weekdays from 9-5!!)
*  What hospital does the pediatrician prefer to use?
* Is there access to pediatric specialists?  Does the practice support families in coordinating care for their special needs child?
*  How soon will the pediatrician see your child after they are born?

We strongly recommend that you make an office visit to any practice you are considering.  A few things to think about during your visit are:  is the office clean, is there a separate waiting room for sick children, is the office staff friendly and helpful?

You may also want to interview the doctor.  Your pediatrician should never make you feel like any question or concern is too small.  They should take time to listen to you and validate your concerns all while answering your questions and giving you advice.

My family feels blessed to have a wonderful pediatrician caring for our children.  We first met Dr. Lee when he was on staff at the larger practice we first used.  When I was able, I scheduled my kids' appointments with Dr. Lee, but he wasn't always available and the practice preferred that the children saw different doctors each visit.  I found it was difficult to really develop a trusting relationship with a pediatrician when my kids were bouncing between 16 different pediatricians.  The care they received was excellent, but I was looking for a more personal relationship with my children's doctor.  Dr. Lee now has his own practice and we followed him there.  He takes time to listen to my concerns, has an excellent bedside manner with my kids and his staff is patient and caring.  We couldn't be happier with our pediatrician (and would recommend him to everyone ;) )!

Finding the right pediatrician for your family may be a process, but it is well worth your investment :)  We hope our suggestions are helpful to you and your family as you decide who to trust with your child's health.  Good luck on your search!
Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Importance of a schedule in an overscheduled world

Ever have a week where you feel like there is no rhyme, reason, or schedule? Sometimes life gets in the way and our sense of "normal" is off. When the fridge has random items that can't come together for any semblance of a meal, the laundry has become a mountain for the kids to climb, and the paperwork overflows from the desk, I feel out of control. Times like this require me to bring everything into focus, make a giant "to-do" list, and prioritize a reasonable expectation for the day. When that can happen, even the most chaotic situation seems possible to overcome.

Our children need that scheduled existence to a degree as well, but unlike us, they can't make that to-do list, prioritize, and reason with themselves that all will be just fine. Did you know that a typical daily routine makes children feel safe? Did you know it can also help foster positive behavior? Even though children can't cope with unexpected changes to daily routines the way we do, they can internally control their emotions (even as young babies) if they have a typical daily frame work for comparison. 

My friends and family will attest than I am a pretty over scheduled person - which has made keeping a regular schedule for my children challenging.  Because of our family's work requirements, our daughters did not have the same caretaker every day and I often still cringe at my inability for them to nap regularly, however I know now that maintaining some consistent variables was possible and did help.  Keeping things like bedtime, healthy meals prior to your children getting to the "starving" point, opportunity for regular bursts of physical activity, and a consistent "wind down" bedtime routine provides children with a framework of what to expect in their day. Even if every day doesn't look the same (and should it really? How boring!), if there are certain activities to help them gauge their time by, they develop the ability to adjust their behavior and emotions accordingly and have a sense of safety in the day.

If you have trouble with behavior or schedules with your child, this may be helpful.  Some behavior experts will will request that you chart your day, taking note of sleep times and duration, meals (time and type of nutrition), environment (familiar vs. new, sound level, stimulation level etc.), and people in the environment.  In doing so, parents are often surprised to realize that those tantrums aren't occurring just because their child wants to be rotten, but because they are over tired, over hungry, or overstimulated.  Gathering information this way can be helpful in developing a schedule that fits both your life and your child's needs.

Time in itself is a difficult concept for some children, especially younger ones.  Some suggestions that have been shared with me include:
  • Using a picture schedule with magnetic backs to organize the order of the day in a way a child can understand.  Laminating pictures of meal items, the park, the sitter, the doctor etc. makes this easy and even fun.
  • Setting a timer to help children learn small increments of time, especially with an activity they have difficulty transitioning from.
  • Using a start/finish bin (one of my personal favorites).  Fill one bin with plastic or small objects that represent your day such as a banana for breakfast, keys for "going bye bye", a blanket for nap, and a grocery bag for a trip to the store.  Leave a second bin empty at the start of the day and allow your child to transfer the object representing the finished activity to the finish bin once the activity is complete.
  • Children at 4 or 5 can start to enjoy a simple watch with key times in their day pointed out ("Mommy will be here when the small hand is on the 4.") 
Like most things that come along with parenting, setting and sticking to a schedule isn't easy and isn't possible each and every day, but attempting to do so and being aware of how our family's schedule affects our children can go a long way in teaching them to cope with the unexpected changes that come up from time to time.  If we are successful, there's hope that at least the kids can be excited about the opportunity to climb that laundry pile, even if we are overwhelmed!
     
     
Sunday, April 10, 2011

Clearing up the Confusion

Unless you have a child with a speech or language disorder, you may not be aware of the difference between the two.  We're here to help!  Read below then quiz yourself at the end of the blog.

Speech is the manner in which we communicate verbally.  It's how we articulate sounds, it's how our voice sounds (loud, soft, raspy, breathy) and how fluently we speak.  By the time a child is 3 years old, we like for their speech to be understood by others 90-100% of the time.  If the child is difficult to understand we then take a look (or I guess I should say "a listen") to what sounds they have difficulty articulating.  If the misarticulated sounds are ones they should have developed already, then they may need speech therapy.  Most preschoolers go through a period of time when their speech is disfluent.  By that I mean, they repeat the first word of a sentence or stumble over their words when they speak.  This is considered "normal" in speech development as long as it doesn't continue for more than six months or increase in severity.  Also some children may have difficulty regulating the volume of their voice, speaking too softly (making it hard for others to hear them) or talking/yelling too loudly (abusing their vocal cords causing their voice to sound raspy or losing their voice).

Language can be broken into two categories:  receptive and expressive.  Receptive language is our comprehension of spoken language.  When someone ask a question we understand and respond appropriately, when given a direction to follow, we know what to do.  Little ones first show comprehension of language when they respond to their name being called and look for their bottle or blankie when they are named.  Expressive language is how we put words together to form sentences.  It includes using appropriate sentence structure and grammar so that others can understand our intent.  Young children may be described as having an expressive language delay if they have a limited vocabulary or aren't putting words together into 2 word phrases by the age of 2.

So here's your pop quiz...good luck!


*Johnny whispers most of the time and repeats the first word of every sentence he says.  People joke that his mom is his "interpreter".  
Johnny has a _______ disorder.

*Janie doesn't follow directions well.  In fact when you ask her to do something, she just gives you a confused look or completely ignores you.
Janie has a ________ disorder.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CELEBRATE easy birthday parties at home!

We're celebrating our new look for SPRING! What do you think? Keeping with our festive attitude and dreaming of warming days, we've decided to blog today about birthday parties.  With tough economic times, it's often difficult to justify splurging for a party at a facility where you must rent a space or pay for the fun.  Parties at home can be just as fun. Kids love to entertain their friends in their own space and with some time and a sprinkle of creativity, you can re-create your play room or basement into a new exciting look.

Between the two of us, we've now planned 18 children's birthday parties (wow time flies) and attended too many to count!  We wanted to share themes and ideas for some we've planned and some we've loved attending...so here it is.... MILESTONES & MIRACLES TOP 10 BIRTHDAY BASH IDEAS:

1) Messy Party: Invite pals to come in their messy clothes. Sculpt with mud. Tie Dye Tee Shirts. Finger paint with pudding. Have water balloon fights. The messier the better on the day that kids get to do things they aren't allowed to do any other day! Treat bags or buckets can include wash clothes and body wash or the let the tee shirt they made be the treat.

2) I HEART ART: Got a budding artist in your house? Let him/her finger paint invites and turn your favorite open spot in your house into an art studio. Collect recyclables and simple supplies (google eyes, tapes, stickers, markers, glue) and set up Imagination Station - a place where kids can create whatever they dream! String a clothesline between ladders for multiple paint stations. Allow time for plenty of play-doh and tools for sculpting and have a jewelery making station.  Art supplies are numerous and can be inexpensive as well as fun.



3) Sesame Street: Can you tell me how to get... to a childhood classic? Everyone loves the Sesame gang and the ideas are plentiful for this theme. Invite friends on a Sesame themed invite sponsored by the first letter of your child's name and the age they are turning.  Elmo freeze dance and Oscar trash basketball are fun games. Decorate with Sesame wrapping paper cut into your child's name or favorite numbers or letters and fish bowls filled with little "Dorothy" goldfish crackers.

4) Fashion Show Party: Send invites that the guests can return with personal bios about themselves (favorite toy, color, food) that will be read as they strut in the dress up clothing of their choice on the runway (plastic table cloth). Kids love dressing up and taking turns being the special one walking the runway!


5) Dump Truck Day: What toddler doesn't love dump trucks? They make a fabulous cake pan too - fill with "dirt" (crumbled Oreo cake with worms) and let kids shovel out their own servings. Have dump truck races through the yard. Decorate with caution tape and cones.

6) Blessed with the ease of a summer birthday? No better place than the pool! Either a small one outside or a general water party....water balloons, water relay races in buckets, and the good old fashion sprinkler. You can make a "water" cake with a container of blue jello dropped into larger cake.  Simple outside toys like water guns or jump ropes are great treats for friends.


7) Invite your mates with a message in a bottle to your PIRATE PARTY! Search for a hidden treasure using a map you pre-make, wear your favorite pirate gear, and cut that cake with a kid-safe sword.

8) Every little one loves to care for their own doll, so let them take one home at an ADOPT A BABY PARTY! Grab some dolls that come clothed from the dollar store and undress them. Let guests go through a line and chose a doll, outfit, plastic bottle, blanket (felt works), and help them fill out an adoption certificate made on the computer while promising to love their very own baby.  Save baby food jars and let them feed their dolls and change them. Decorate with left over baby shower decor and have your baby toys (strollers, carriers, shopping carts etc) handy for a fun play date party!

9) April Showers bring Spring Flowers! Celebrate your child and mother EARTH with a party dedicated to flowers, bugs, and nature! Let them decorate a Terra cotta pot and plant seeds and water to take home. Play a "hot potato" type game passing a rubber bug. Hand each child a bucket and let them fill their own "treat bag" with treats they find in nature. Let them show and tell to their friends.

10) Fancy Nancies love fancy parties and teas! Dare to share your china? Or maybe their favorite tea set! Let adults serve them fancy sandwiches, fruits, and chocolates. Set up a dress up station with your collection of dress up clothes or your friends and let them dress for "a royal ball."  Manicures a'la Mom or Dad are always a hit.  This theme can be spun to fit a character - your favorite princess or Alice in Wonderland too!


In addition to these fun ideas...here's a few tips we've learned along the way. 

~ Don't over plan. Keep the number of children manageable. A few activities are plenty - children love to play so save time for that!
~ All kids love to sit next to the birthday child - especially during gift time. This isn't a bad thing. We want our children to be joyful givers, right? So, to keep it somewhat orderly (and keep the mob from becoming more dangerous than the pit at the last concert you went to (and I'm not talking about the Imagination Movers!)), decorate a "special friends" chair and place it next to the birthday child, allowing each guest to take a turn when their gift is opened and allowing your child the chance to thank them each individually.

~It's your kids day! Truly celebrate them by letting him/her choose the theme - whatever the interest may be. And at the end of the big day- allow yourself a piece of that cake, take a deep breath, and take a moment to celebrate another year of having the best job in the world -- being someones parent!
 Let the kids make the decorations! It makes them feel part of the big day and gives you a creative look as well!
 Move the toys out of the play room and move every table in for your tea party!
    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    What color is your yogurt?

    Anyone out there following the news about the FDA's study on the relationship of food coloring and hyperactivity in children? I've copied an article below...make sure you read below the headline if you are interested. Here's the summary - there is not enough evidence to put a warning on artificially colored foods but there is also not enough to say we don't need to have concern. They are recommending further study into the issue. Following this study this week has left me very aware of what our family is eating. One dietitian summed it up well in my opinion saying, "Our children need plates filled with a variety of brightly colored foods, but they need to come from natural sources and not neon colored yogurt."  One opposed to this ban in the article says that Americans expect our food to look a certain way. What's your opinion? Does the color of cereals, yogurt and other foods matter to your family? Let us know!

    FDA Panel Says No Support for Linking Food Dyes, Hyper Kids

    By Emily P. Walker, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today
    Published: March 31, 2011
    Click here to provide feedback
    SILVER SPRING, Md. -- The FDA's Food Advisory Committee has voted 11-3 that there is not enough evidence to conclude that artificial dyes used to color foods contribute to hyperactivity in children.
    But the panel -- which included outside experts in nutrition, environmental health, toxicology, food science, immunology, and psychology -- didn't rule out that food coloring might have a negative behavioral effect on kids. The committee agreed that more studies need to be done, and split over whether thousands of food products that contain dyes should have to carry labels warning there may be some risk of consuming the chemical coloring.
    The FDA does not have to follow the advice of its advisory committees, but it often does.
    But the committee's negative assessment of the studies linking dye to hyperactivity in kids means that juices, candies, cereals, yogurts, and hundreds of other everyday foods will likely maintain their brighter-than-bright hues.
    Thursday's votes came at the end of the panel's two-day meeting, which was held at the request of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which petitioned the FDA in 2008 to ban eight of the nine FDA-approved food dyes, including Yellow No. 5, Red 40, and Blue No. 1. The one coloring that the CSPI is not petitioning to ban is Citrus Red No. 3, which is used only to make the skins of oranges a more vibrant color.
    There are over 50 studies on the effects of dyes, but the FDA selected about 30 studies it wanted the panel to focus on. Of those, the panel spent most of the meeting discussing two studies.
    The first trial, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial conducted in England, enrolled 153 3-year-olds, recruited from nurseries, preschool groups, and playgroups, and 144 8- and 9-year-olds, recruited from the Southampton school system.
    For the study, the children drank two different mixes of fruit juice spiked with food dye and sodium benzoate and later consumed a placebo fruit juice drink without artificial dye or sodium benzoate.
    The study concluded that artificial colors (together with the sodium benzoate) increased the average level of hyperactivity in 3-year-olds and in 8- and 9-year-olds.
    Another study, which was a meta-analysis of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, showed that when children who are already hyperactive eat food that is artificially colored, they become even more hyper.
    But the FDA had major concerns with both studies, and so did the panelists. Committee members said there isn't enough evidence to show a link between chemical color additives and hyperactivity.
    "We're left with science that can't support a causal claim," said Xavier Castellanos, MD, a child psychiatrist and director of research at New York University Child Study Center. However, he added, "these data [also] don't give us any confidence that we can say there's nothing to worry about here."
    The FDA reviewers even said that for "certain susceptible children," such as those with ADHD and other behavioral problems, their condition might be exacerbated by a number of substances in food, including artificial food dyes.
    A handful moms testified Thursday that their children had major behavioral issues until they discovered the "Feingold Elimination Diet," popularized in the 1970s by Benjamin Feingold, MD. The diet promotes eliminating food additives such as dyes and preservatives as a way to treat hyperactive children.
    One mom said she noticed a marked increase in hyperactivity when her child ate jelly beans, or other candies with artificial coloring. All said their children's behavioral problems essentially disappeared after cutting out dye.
    The women all urged the FDA to ban artificial food coloring from foods and medicines.
    Panelist Lisa Lefferts, an environmental health expert, said she is convinced that "there is something going on with dye causing hyperactivity."
    "I feel very convinced that there is something going on here," she said. "There are a lot of unknowns, but the picture is starting to fill out in ways that make sense. This is hard to measure, but are we going to wait for another 50 studies to be done before we reach any conclusions?"
    The panel voted 14-1 that more studies testing dye's link to hyperactivity are needed.

    Several committee members asked the question through the two-day hearing, "What's the point of adding dye, if it adds no nutritional value?"
    But Sean Taylor, PhD, scientific director for the International Association of Color Manufacturers (IACM), a group funded by the food industry, explained that in the packaged food industry, coloring food is important.
    "Consumers expect foods to look a certain way," he said. "They play a critical role in how we taste and enjoy food, how we think about food being palatable."
    A food science expert on the panel, Christopher Waldrop, of the Consumer Federation of America, took issue with Taylor's characterization.
    "You said consumers won't buy foods different than the norm, but in some cases the norm has been shifted," he said. "The norm may be brown cereal, but that's been shifted in terms of kids being attracted to colored cereal."
    As an example of how ingrained dyes are in the diets of Americans, consider margarine, which is naturally white. Almost since the advent of margarine in the late 19th century, the butter industry was successful in getting the government to ban margarine manufacturers from adding yellow dye to their product. During World War II, housewives who wanted yellow margarine had to buy a yellow dye to mix in with their uncolored margarine to make it look more like butter.


    Source: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/ADHD-ADD/25660

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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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