Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Play is the work of Childhood Part III

Continuing with our series of "Play is the work of childhood" we wanted to suggest items that you can carry in your bag to help your child Play on the GO.  Now we know your purse/diaper bag already weighs 10 lbs, easily, so all of our suggestions our light weight so that we don't cause any more back pain/strain than you already have :)

1.  Crayons...the old standby.  I can't remember a time when my mom hasn't had crayons in her purse.  Even today, because she is a grandmother of 7, she has a tin of crayons (and has learned not to leave them in the car b/c they melt).  Coloring is a nice quiet activity that your kids can do almost anywhere.  Have a pocket sized coloring book (or activity book for older children) and a sheet of stickers in your bag to entertain and keep your child quiet in the restaurant, in church or in the car.

2.  Small can of Play-doh or Silly putty.  What a great idea!  I learned this from a friend...and it helps occupy my kids while we are waiting for our food at restaurants.

3.  Small bottle of bubbles.  Now I don't recommend blowing bubbles in a public place like church or the restaurant.  But most definitely while your outside waiting to be seated or in the car to calm a fussy traveler. Hold them up to the air conditioner and fill your car with a visual wonderland for your child or baby!

4.  Small toys for girls and boys.  Matchbox cars and Polly Pockets fit easily inside your bag and meet our weight requirements :)

5.  For older children, plastic beads.  The kids can make a necklace or bracelet when they have some down time.

6.  Ball and Jacks...remember this game?  It's great for eye-hand coordination.

7. A small ball...some many options! Roll it back and forth or play catch with an older child. Hide and seek with the ball can be fun or Simon Says type games.."Put the ball on your head!" If you have more than one play hot potato!

8. A huge magnet can pass the time anywhere and teach basic science concepts...what can we find that it will stick too??

9. Two copies of matching pictures that you cut out of a book and photocopy or print two copies from a computer for matching and "same different" games.  Use a baggie or envelope for easy storage.

10. Keep a few balloons (not blown up yet) in the zipper part of your bag. While waiting in line or in traffic, children will love to bat these around!

I also carry a plastic baggie in my purse filled with flexible straws (they don't have bendy straws at every restaurant, and they prevent spills), child-sized plastic spoon/fork (so that they kids can better feed themselves in restaurants), potty seat covers (not every public restroom provides them), disposable bibs and of course wet wipes.

We hope these tips help your child play while you are "out and about" and help you feel less frustrated when trying to keep them occupied and quiet!
Saturday, June 25, 2011

Play Is The Work Of Childhood Part II

If play is the work of childhood...then where does your little person "work?" As early intervention therapists, we often encourage parents to follow through with suggested strategies everywhere the family finds themselves. This means purposeful play can take place in line at the grocery store ("How many pears did we buy? What color are these apples? Ring Ring - here the phone (banana) is for you!," in the bath tub (pouring, drawing with bath crayons, sink or float, anyone?), and while waiting at the doctors office (my favorite time for finger-plays).  Here's a few suggestions of ways to set up a "workspace" at home for your child.

 I have to admit, I could drool through the pages of expensive childrens' furniture magazines for days, dreaming of beautiful ways to organize all their "stuff." It can be quite overwhelming (not to mention expensive)! I've also had the opportunity to sit in 5-7 playrooms per day while working in other people's homes. One thing I've learned through observation is what seems to work in a play space and what does not. Here's what doesn't seem to work the best...too MUCH stuff!  Think of your own work space. If it had numerous options of projects to tackle, you'd never get anything done.  So as you are setting up your child's space, keep this in mind. Limit the actual number of toys and supplies in the room. I love the idea of rotating different things in every few months or as your baby grows rather than keeping it all there at once. Just as it seems you have to go through clothing as they grow quickly, you need to go through toys. They will "outgrow" certain things and will need different and new things that stimulate them as well.

Try to choose supplies that "don't do it all" for your child. I'm personally not a fan of toys whose purpose is to push a button after the stage where your baby learns this cause and effect skill, however you have to consciously think about this when choosing toys because a majority of the toys are the market fit this description.  Think about simple objects that can last you a long time. For example, good old fashion blocks can be banged together by a small baby, stacked by a young toddler, and turned into a castle by an older toddler. What toys will grow with your child and allow he or she to manipulate with their imaginations along the way? These types of toys and supplies will keep your child busy "working" in the long run.  

Once you have chosen simple toys (blocks, dolls, musical instruments, puppets, cars, art supplies, balls of various size), organize them into accessible bins that are easy for your child to access. Placing a picture of the object on the outside of the bins will help encourage clean up with practicing sorting skills as well. 

Every play space needs a bin or shelf for books (one of our favorite toys!). Having a soft bean bag or chair for your child to sit and look at or read books is a plus as well as a carpet or mat to encourage play on the floor.  It's often nice to have a child sized table and chairs, not only for art projects as your baby grows but for tea parties, board games, and other types of table top play (this also doubled in our house as the oh-so-important kid table during family gatherings). We don't recommend choosing something expensive as you'll be sure to be dissapointed as it quickly becomes covered with markers and glue!  

Adding artistic elements can be a fun and nice touch. A chalkboard or an easel allows constant opportunity for doodling or group games.  Art boards with clips or a simple string across the wall with clotheslines clips are a way to display your child's art and make them feel part of their room.  As your child ages, you can fill small bins with separate art supplies (paper, glue sticks, crayons, stickers, feathers, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, cotton balls etc.) so they can choose their supplies and create masterpieces daily.

A final touch is a CD player or iPod docking station. So often we fill our empty noise with the TV on during the day, but music of various styles can be very stimulating for our little workers!  Your play space doesn't need to be fancy, monogrammed, or just needs to exist, be accessible and friendly to your child, and provide elements that they can make their own.  So keep it simple. And the most important element in your child's playroom is YOU -- a parent who is ready and willing to sit on that carpet and help build that tower of blocks! ENJOY 'WORK' TODAY!

 Simple wooden figures and blocks are wonderful elements for children to build imaginative skills!
How brave are you? Sensory bins (with lids for storage in a high spot) filled with rice, beans, popcorn etc. are fun for scooping, dumping, and hiding small toys.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"PLAY is the work of childhood"

We spotted this quote on the wall of the Pittsburgh Children's Museum and found that it really encompasses what our company is all about.  It also made us want to share with you what your child needs to PLAY.

Mainly, your child needs YOU :)...but a few toys could come in handy too!  But with so many choices out there you may feel a little overwhelmed when trying to choose toys for your child.  What toys will your child like, what toys are best for your child’s age, how many toys are enough?  Listed below are our suggestions when you are faced with some of these questions.

1.     1.  Keep it simple.  Some of my favorite toys stores are the ones that boast “no batteries required” in their window.  Many toys today require batteries to light up and sing songs…which is fine and dandy if pushing buttons and operating the on/off switch is what you want your child to learn.  But in order to develop early imaginative play and stretch your child’s thinking, he needs to be introduced to toys that allow for that type of play.  An example of that type of toy is classic wooden blocks.  Most popularly they are stacked on top of each other to form a tower that your child wildly loves to knock down.  But as your child grows and develops, these blocks can serve as a fence around their farm animals, a garage or road for their cars and trucks, or a table for their doll.  Wooden blocks that have numbers and letters printed on them can be used to work on number/letter identification and spelling during the preschool years.  Toys like this can be repurposed for many types of play…good for your child and your wallet!
  2.  Have a toy swap with a friend.  This is one of the best ideas, I think, to not feel obligated to buy the entire toy aisle at Target!  Grab a few toys your child has lost interest in and ask a friend to swap a few of her child’s toys with you.  For no cost to you, your child can enjoy and explore new toys.  In a few weeks swap back and your child’s old toys are like new to him again!  Another idea is to put some toys away in the closet and rotate them out every month. 
3.  Common household items serve as great toys.  I have never met a child who doesn’t like to bang on pots and pans with a wooden spoon.  With close supervision, a bucket of water, sponges and paintbrushes outside on the sidewalk equal an afternoon of fun for a toddler or preschooler.  Use blankets draped over your kitchen table to create a fort, castle or playhouse.  Dump some dry beans into an oversized Tupperware container and let your child dig for hidden toys in the beans (this activity also requires close supervision to prevent choking).
4.   Read the labels on toys.  Often toys are recommended for certain ages based on developmental stages and/or safety precautions.  Do some research before you head out to the store to find out what cognitive/language/motor skills your child should be working on to find a toy that might challenge them in these areas.

                                             Our Pots and Pans Band!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day Dads -- you matter...more than you know!!

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You are tearing up the grass.”  “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising boys.”
~Harmon Killebrew

Loving this quote this Father’s Day because when I read it I picture a “hands-on dad,” one that plays rough house, packs lunches, puts in a mean pony tail, and reads to his children every night.  Every child deserves a father like him. Fathers play such a crucial role in the development of our children as individuals. Here are some interesting facts I found today when reading about Dads:

·      Children with involved, nurturing, and playful fathers have on average higher IQ’s, better linguistic and cognitive capabilities, and increased school readiness.
·      Children with involved fathers from birth are emotionally secure to confidently explore their surroundings and have better peer interaction, as they become older children.
·      The rate of depression in school-aged children is much lower if the relationship between child and father is a good one.
·      Children with involved fathers are 70% less likely to drop out of school
·      Nearly 3/4 of married dads consider themselves equal parenting partners with their wives, while 69% feel that dads are changing to meet the needs of this new world.

If you are a father, blessed with children, and haven’t yet discovered the natural joys of quality time with your children, these statistics are worth reading. Kids need their dads.

Let’s face it; the picturesque father-child fishing trip is not possible on a weekly basis but guess hat? Children don’t need that. They need a regular consistent time carved out for them and their dad, with the benefit of his undivided attention.  This may be as un-magical as a weekly trip to drop off recycling, an evening walk after dinner, 15 minutes of reading every night and a weekly trip to the library, or taking over bath duties.  Use it as time for conversation.  If you have an infant – babble away. If you have an older child, ask them questions. What do they want to be when they grow up? What was the best thing about their day? Where would they like to go on a family trip? Whatever works for your schedule, find the time and activity, and do what you can to guard and protect it from anything getting in the way. It matters to your children more than you know.  

I know that in today’s world, more people than not come from a home or are raising children with a single parent. If this is your case, don’t despair. Seek out a positive fatherly role model for your child and let he or she spend time with that person that you trust.  Day to day family interactions and activities may be more powerful for your child to experience with this special guy than a big exciting trip or activity. My husband had the opportunity to witness a loving and present grandfather and pastor who helped shape him into a husband and father I am so proud of. People other than biological fathers make a difference in children’s lives every day.

That being said, things are changing in our world. Did you know that 1/5 of all single parent households are now headed by fathers?  That’s over 2 million single dads, making up a trend that is rising 2 times faster than the number of single mothers. This new group of fathers is doing what a large number of single mothers have done for years – doing it all!

The bottom line is that children benefit from strong father and mother figures in their lives. Sometimes we have to be creative and think outside the box to provide this. Sometimes, as mothers, we need to surrender “the control” and let Dad regularly plan the activities for the day. Sometimes, single parents have to seek out and trust other positive role models to support themselves and their children. And sometimes, grandparents are reliving their roles as parents to grandchildren in their care. Whatever your picture looks like, know that Dads (whoever may take on that role), matter. They matter a lot. George Herbert said in Outlandish Proverbs in 1640, “One father is more than 100 Schoolmasters.” I couldn’t agree more.

So to all the dads out there, go for it! Enjoy those kids before they grow to fast. Sit on the floor and PLAY today. And for all of you who are Mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles or friends playing the role of dad on a daily basis, good for you.  I’ll thank you for your children now, knowing they will thank you as they grow!

Happy Fathers Day! Enjoy your day!

Thursday, June 9, 2011
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.   

I came across this quote today and literally laughed out loud. As fellow parents, I am sure you'll agree that many of us live in different worlds at the same time. How many people out there have ever tried to remain professional on a conference call while feeding a baby, finding a puzzle piece, shushing the kids, and letting the dog out at the same time? Me!! 

This afternoon, I was feeling blessed realizing the potential rewards of stepping out of my comfort zone, while persuading my daughter to step out of hers, all at the same time.  Our dream for 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is one step closer to a reality today as it was (with help) uploaded to a printer (finally!).  This business move, for us "therapy people" was a step out of our comfort zone and a process that taught us much about many new and seemingly foreign topics.... printers, copy writing, graphic design, marketing, retail, web sites, web sales and on and on.  These new facts and freshly learned skills left us challenged, frustrated, energized, and emotional at times over the 2 year process from imagining, to writing, to sending our little "dream project" off to print today.  As I was following the email instructions of coordinating final edits, and teaming up our fabulous graphic designer (thank you, thank you Denise Boehm at anything creative) with our new printing company to prepare for our upload, I reflected on what a process it has been for our little team and I was filled with excitement with where this journey may lead us when our first order arrives to us late this summer. We can't wait to share it with all of you! But I couldn't reflect for long... because, my almost 7 year old was having a tough time stretching out of her own comfort zone for the moment.
Forget the business work, Mom. There was a dangling front tooth and a tearful girl with big sad green eyes needing to share her fears with me. Upload on hold. Lap top away. Assess the tooth. It was ready to go! And trust me, I was ready for it to go. This tooth came in during her first year with an enamel defect. A light brown spot. Panicked, I asked our dentist, how? why? I had given no juice! No bottles in bed! I brushed early teeth and gums! Apparently this is common when a mother has had a high fever during pregnancy. Given the nature of my job (hugging snotty toddlers while working with them all winter) this happened a few times. So, he slapped something on top of it to lighten it and he said we'd wait till it fell out when she was 6 or so. Here we sat today. Her tears. My memory of the tooth. I have to admit, I felt ready to see it go. Her complaint, "I'm scared Mommy. This tooth makes me unique. It has a dot. I'm sure my new tooth won't have a dot, then what will I do." Sighhh. Two minutes before I was ready to lose it, hold her down and remove the tooth - enough already! Step out of the comfort zone! It'll be OK!  After my explanation that she had many other qualities that make her unique, I decided to let her step out of that zone when she's really ready. Or the tooth simply falls out. Whichever comes first.  

She taught me something. They both always do. We do learn so many new things when we step out of our comfort zones. Some of my most important lessons have been learned when doing so. Sometimes we even need a nudge, but often a push won't work. We have to be ready. We wouldn't have been in a place 5 years ago to reflect clearly enough to write and prepare our card set. We weren't ready for that step yet. We were still treading water, trying to keep our heads above the water. But now we are beaming with excitement. Interaction with our own infants and toddlers and facilitating that interaction with our patients and their families excites us. Understanding why our babies do what they do, helps us know and enjoy them better. We hope that late this summer, when 1-2-3 Just Play With Me has arrived, you'll join our excitement by enjoying some shared information about your own infant or toddler or have a special someone in your life to share that gift with.  We'll keep you posted!
Monday, June 6, 2011

Diving in to summer water fun!

Splish! Splash! Summer is here! No time like the present to dive in to water fun with your child no matter what their age.  

Play in the water and swimming has so many benefits for children and adults that the early you start exposing your child the better.  Because accidents around water and drowning are one of the most common causes of serious injury and fatalities in children, water safety awareness needs to be introduced at an early age. Babies and young toddlers can be taught simple techniques such as a rescue float to help in emergency situations. Local Red Cross or County Parks and Recreation Programs are great places to start with introductory swim lessons. Many include parents in the water with the child at early ages.

Some children can be fearful of water. This is actually quite common. If this is the case with your child, expose them to water in smaller amounts, such as a bucket, a basin, and then a wading pool or bath tub with you present.  If you introduce a baby to the sensation of water over their head, such as with the shower head, at an early age, they often will not develop fears as they age.Make water fun by introducing creative play options using water. Encourage pouring water and filling buckets.  Wringing out sponges and playing with small cups are saucers are great opportunities for fine motor play in the water.  Older children can have relay races carrying while pouring water from one bucket to another or using squirt guns to draw shapes or simple pictures on the sidewalk. 

When your child is old enough to learn how to actually swim, a swim backpack for flotation vs. swimmies or an inner tube is preferred for the ability it provides for arms to be free to move and learn strokes. A backpack also challenges a child from the start to independently keep themselves upright in the water - a vital skill to build on as they learn.  Some backpacks even come with layered foam for flotation that can be removed as the child becomes a stronger and more confident swimmer. 

The setting, time of day, and type of class will vary and will be different for different kids.  Despite my husband and I being lifeguards and teaching children to swim, we could not teach our own children! Talk about frustrating!! We found that a class setting for several sessions and weeks in a row consistently worked best for our daughters.  Some children will learn best in this setting and others will learn best one and one. Often lifeguards will offer private lessons if that's the best fit for your child and their personality.

If your child has atypical muscle tone or muscle weakness, movement in the water can be extremely beneficial as the properties of water itself have many benefits. Resistance can strengthen muscles while bouancy supports movement.  Water play and swimming builds cardiovascular endurance and bone density as well.  Balance can be challenged in creative ways or movement that is difficult is often less intimidating in a supportive aquatic environment. Many communities have outpatient centers that offer aquatic physical therapy, so if you feel this could help your child with motor challenges, look into this fun option today.

With water - safety comes first.  Teach this to your children at an early age.  My daughters love to swim now, but when they protested swim lessons a few years ago, I remember explaining that swimming is a life skill necessary for safety. In our house, they didn't have a choice to try it out like gymnastics or swimming. Learning to swim was a requirement to keep them safe - lucky for them it's also alot of fun!

Some of my favorite childhood memories are around the pool with my friends and family. I'm looking forward to making some of those sweet memories with my own family this summer and hope you get the chance to as well!
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What is Early Intervention? How do I know if my child could benefit?

At Milestones & Miracles, we are passionate about our new work, developing age appropriate and supportive products for young families (we're getting closer to having release date of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me (can't wait to share!). But we are equally passionate about our "day jobs." We are proud to serve children and families in our home state through Early Intervention.

So what is Early Intervention (sometimes referred to as EI) and how do you know if your child would benefit?  Each state and US Provence offers EI services as mandated under Part C of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). More information at: Each state has freedom to make some decisions about how their individual program runs.  Some  differences that exist include: ages served (some cover children birth to three years old and others birth to five years old), where services are held (although research and the law support in the child's natural environment for optimal results), cost (in some states service is free and in others there is a small charge), and eligibility criteria.  For example, in our state, children qualify for our program by having one or more of the following:  1) an established condition (examples include diagnosis such as Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, or vision and hearing impairment among others), 2) Showing substantial delay in one area of development (greater than 40% delay), or moderate delays in two areas (25% in two or more areas), or by 3) having 5 or more risk factors for delay (including factors such as serious parental concern, having siblings or parents with disabilities).

In most cases, a pediatrician refers a child who may qualify to a program, but in many states a concerned parent can make the referral themselves. A team of professionals evaluate the child and help determine eligibility for the program.  If the child is found eligible, the team (including the family) develops an IFSP (individual family service plan, similar to an IEP in the school setting). This plan is directed by the family's goals for the child and their family and outlines how the team will support them in meeting these goals.  The difference between early intervention services vs. medical based services is that the intervention is parent led and professional supported.  Parents are integral to the services. Professionals assess children on an ongoing basis and educate through modeling strategies, answering questions, and providing educational information.  The EI team supports the child's most effective teacher, their parent, to further explore their world in many ways and work toward age typical skills.  Who leads this education based intervention? Therapists (occupational, speech, and physical), developmental specialists, dietitians, nurses, and social workers.  Someone on the team helps manage the services and determine if services provided are meeting the needs of the family. In some states this is a service provider and in other states it is another individual, such as a service coordinator.

Why are we passionate about it? Simple. IT WORKS. We are able to encourage parents to teach thir children in the setting where they live and play. If a child is having trouble with social interaction with peers, we can jump into a playgroup setting.  If a daycare provider needs educated on techniques to help a baby sit in a high chair, we can provide help. We support families with feeding, sleep, and behavior challenges. We have the resources to  support families in emotional or financial turmoil in working toward independence.  We love our program and believe in it because it empowers parents to teach their own children in their own environment. When our system works and that family reaches independence, we are proud to have worked ourselves out of job and watch families thrive.

How do you know if your child or a child you know might qualify for EI? If your child has a diagnosis, was premature, or if your current social situation may impact your child's development, he or she may qualify. If you notice a delay in social-emotional, fine motor (using hands), gross motor (getting around), communication (talking OR understanding language), or cognitive (thinking and reasoning) development compared to typical peers, the child may qualify. If there are concerns with hearing, vision, or nutrition, the child may also qualify.  Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns and the EI program in your state.  Studies support the fact that our brains are most responsive to intervention and have the highest rate of positive change in response to that intervention before the age of five. So, if you have concerns - don't wait! Looking into EI now will help an eligible infant and toddler learn as they grow into an older child.

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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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