Friday, October 30, 2009

Best Toys for Toddler...2.5 and Up

We are approaching Christmas, so I thought I should try to finish these off so far as my kid's ages are. As a reminder, the following toys will be toys that are good for children around the age of 2.5 and older.

By age 2.5, your toddler and toys will be a very fun combination. Your toddler will really play with toys. Some (like my Kaitlyn) will be very imaginative with toys, even. Brayden didn't play very imaginatively with toys at this age, so don't worry if your child doesn't. Here are the toys I have added to my children's' toy box around this age:

  • Old Favorites: Yep, I start each post this way. Be sure to review past posts on this topic to find ideas that will work for your child. Children play with toys in different ways at different ages. By 2.5, your toddler will be pretty much outgrowing the "baby" toys. We are moving on to more "grown-up" toys now...lol. The LeapFrog Learn & Groove™ Musical Table is still well liked at this age. Most other baby toys, like the stacking rings, are rarely played with by my 2.5 years olds. But all of the items listed in the Best Toys for Toddler: 2 and Up are still well-loved by the 2.5 year old (I know, you hope so right!) -- the link opens in a new window. So in that, we have covered your cars, trucks, tractors, T-ball and other balls, lawnmowers, baby furniture, kitchen dishes and accessories, purses, hats, dress up clothes, dollhouse items...
  • Build on Favorites: You know the saying "Rome wasn't built in a day"? That means that you don't have to get everything immediately. If your child shows interest in train sets, you don't have to go buy a huge, elaborate train set with all of the best trains immediately. You can build up over time. Add trains at various gift-giving times over the years. So review the categories you child loves and build on those. It might be doll house furniture, kitchen accessories, little people, trucks, doll furniture...build it over time.
  • Train Sets : You might really want to give your 2 year old a train set...but it will likely be a few months before he can play with it without frustration. We gave Brayden his first train set at Christmas when he was 2.5. He did just fine with it. When Kaitlyn was two, she really started trying to play with Brayden and the train set, but she always got very frustrated. Her fine motor skills were not developed enough to play with it without pushing the trains off the track. Somewhere between 2-2.5, it became okay. We got Brayden the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway - Water Tower Figure 8 Set. We prefer wooden sets. This set is a great value so far as Thomas stuff goes. However, we have since found lots of other wooden train sets that work just as well. My favorite is the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway Set . Take note of the differences in what you get. For $27 more (right now...the Melissa & Doug one is normally 120, but on sale on Amazon for 65), you basically have a complete set with Melissa & Doug. Plus, that company replaces lost and broken pieces for free. They don't look the exact same. When it comes to the tracks, it doesn't matter at all. The main noticeable differences are in the accessories (the buildings and trains). You can always slowly add Thomas buildings if you want to and Thomas trains. Brayden and Kaitlyn have so much fun building train tracks all around the room. It really works their creativity.
  • Board Games: This was the age Brayden was when I we got a whole bunch of board games for him. We did Let's Go Fishing, Candyland, and Chutes and Ladders initially. Chutes and Ladders wasn't a great one for a 2.5 year old. Not because of the skills required, but because the board is so chaotic! They need to be a little older to be able to keep track of where to go. We add at least one board game each Christmas (we love games). Hi Ho Cherrio is great. There are also fun games like Don't Break the Ice, Don't Spill the Beans, and Cooties. Board Games. See also the Best Toys: Board Games! post.
  • Play Doh Sets: There are a lot of fun Play Doh sets available. Take note of your child's fine motor abilities when choosing a set. Some of them can be very frustrating for the child (and therefore mom). We have the Play-Doh: Fun Factory Super Set. This has been a good set. It has simple tools you can let the younger child use, and more difficult tools to break out when your child is older.
  • GeoMags: Your 2.5 year old won't be able to make lots of things on his own yet, but he will enjoy these. It is a fun way to teach shapes (read geometry). GeoMags
  • Blocks: There are lots of kinds of blocks. My kids have Melissa & Doug Deluxe 50-piece Wooden ABC/123 Blocks Set, which they have fun with. They will be getting the Melissa & Doug 100 Piece Wood Blocks Set for Christmas so they can build more things with it.
  • DVDs: I like to get my kids a DVD for Christmas that is in line with their interest. Last year, Kaitlyn got Elmo. I am not sure what she will get this year, yet.
  • Learning Activities: Kids love to learn. They love to be mentally challenged (as age appropriate). Getting them educational learning activities toys will be fun for them. See the blog label "learning" for more about these toys.
  • CDs: I also like to get more music to add to our children's music library.
  • Books: Books are always great gifts. Choose a book that has a topic along the lines of your child's interest. Also, look into prize winners and best sellers. There is a reason they are prize winners and best sellers.
  • Kitchen Accessories: You can continue to build up your toy kitchen accessories. I have talked about dishes and food, now how about pot holders, wash clothes, aprons...Your 2.5 year old will do more and more imaginative play as she grows.
  • Doctor Set: Along with the idea of dress up clothes, remember things like Doctor Sets. My two older kids love to play doctor. They like to pretend I am the patient (or each other) and check me out. This was one of my favorites when I was pregnant. I could lay on the floor and let them check me over, and we were having some play time together :) These sets are also valuable for role playing if your child is afraid of the doctor.
  • Sled: If you live where it snows, a Sled will be very fun. For more outdoor ideas for this age range, but summer types, see the 2 and up post, and the future 3 and up post.
  • Ponies: One of Kaitlyn's favorite things to play with right now is My Little Ponies. One of my favorite memories will long be coming home to find my dad (a very manly man) sitting on the floor playing ponies with Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn is very horse crazy and very imaginative. Ponies could be considered more of a figurine type of a toy, which is really better for older children. If your child is not into imaginative play, you might want to wait a bit longer before getting a pony. But you can always get one and see how it goes.
  • Power Wheels: We love garage sales. One day, we really lucked out. We found a like-new power-wheel for $10. The battery didn't work. My husband is fix-it guy, and just put a new battery in it. It has very much been worth that. It is a favorite toy. I highly recommend them. I would get a two seater so more than one child can ride at a time. They can be expensive. You might want to check classifieds (local, craigslist, ebay) or watch for a sale. Power Wheels.
  • Puzzles: I can't believe I forgot this in the original post. A few readers mentioned this. Kaitlyn recently got a new puzzle I wanted to point out because she just loves it. It is theMelissa & Doug Deluxe Latches Board . They also have a Melissa & Doug Deluxe Basic Skills Board that I like, but we have a doll that does the same thing so we don't have it.
Please share the toys your 2.5 year old loves/loved to play with!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Review: Parenting the Strong Willed Child

When I first started reading Parenting the Strong Willed Child by Forehand and Long, I thought it seemed like a good book. By the time I was done, I thought it was a great book. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a 2-6 year old child does not obey well. I think any parent can gain valuable insight from this book; I did. A great thing about this book is that it is a 5 week program that gives you step by step instructions to improve things with your child. This really is a how-to manual. Here is some of what the book includes:


  • Information on the Strong-Willed Child. This includes descriptions of what is a strong-willed child. It talks about what makes a child more strong-willed and what you can do about it. These include everything from parental conflict to use of punishment/rewards to modeling to television.
  • The Five Week Program. The book then has one chapter per week of the program. These are skills that should be used by all parents. This includes a test to do with your child to determine if he is strong-willed or not. The first week is practicing attending behaviors. This means you spend time with your child only describing what you child is doing, with no value judgements. The next chapter adds rewards. The next is on ignoring. Then we move on to giving directions. They then discuss the time out. They claim that their time out process is proven by research to work. This section then finishes up with how to integrate skills.
  • Creating a Positive Climate. This section discusses what you can do to improve things overall with your children. This includes having a more positive home, improving communication, developing more patience, managing stress, and building self-esteem.
  • Specific Problems. The final chapter discusses several common behaviors and what to do about them. These include tantrums, aggression, meal-time, dressing, car trips, bedtime, lying, and sibling rivalry.

This book has so much valuable information. It is definitely worth the read. I will do some reviewing of points, but if you have a strong-willed child, it will definitely need to be something you get and read yourself.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moving Tips

We have moved a few times in Brayden's lifetime. The first was when he was two weeks old. The next was when he was one year old. The last was when he was four years old. My friend, Kelli, also moved in the last few months. Here are our tips for making the move easier on yourself and the family. Please be sure to comment with your own tips if you have them!

DOWNSIZING
  • Plan Ahead. Know how much space you will have. We called ahead for actual room sizes, then taped off our rooms to get the dimensions of the space we would be moving into to make sure we could actually fit what we were bringing. (by Kelli)
  • Less Is Better. I would suggest bringing only what you think you absolutely need. Then eliminate 10% more. (by Kelli)
  • Sell What You Can. It costs so much to store furniture these days, that it is worth it to sell off unused furniture that you can part with. Local online classifieds like craigslist.com is good for this. (by Kelli)
  • Share Storage. We ended up getting a local storage locker to store a washer and dryer. The cheapest place we could find was $35 a month. We later found friends here who had extra room in there storage space. We now pay them $10 a month for a portion of theirs. It is a good arrangement all around. (by Kelli)
  • De-Junk: View the move as an opportunity to "de-junk" your stuff. We often hang on to things that we really will never use. I like to throw stuff away (or set aside for good will) as I pack. I also get rid of stuff as I unpack. Don't get rid of things you might need in the new place (that is just a waste of money!), but take advantage of this organizing opportunity. (by Val)

PACKING (by Val)

  • Start Early. I personally like to start packing quite early. Even when I was in college and moving a car full of stuff, I started a month early. I know that is a bit extreme...start early enough that you can really organize things as you go.
  • Organize By Room: When you are packing your boxes, group items by room. Do it by rooms the items will go in at the new house, not where they are in the current house. Why? It makes unpacking so much easier.
  • Label: Label your boxes according to room. You can just write which room it goes in. Some readers have said they assigned a color to each room and put a colored index card on each box. Do what works for you. I labeled which room it went in as well as what was in the box. Label all sides of the box. I put the room it went in on top and each side. I then put more details on the top or sides.
  • Pack a Suitcase: Pack a suitcase (or whatever) for each member of the family as though you were going on vacation for a few days. A vacation in a tent :). Pack as though there will be no amenities (but you will have electricity). Include toiletries, clothes, pillows, toys, books for bedtime, etc.
  • Pack Important Items Together: Something I did was pack bedding for each bed in a box together, then I marked it in a very noticeable way. I knew we would need all of that for that night. Make it so noticeable that you can find it in a sea of boxes.
  • Pack Monitors In Purse: or somewhere else you can't lose it. Our first night in our new house, I easily found Kaitlyn's monitor and Brayden's monitor. I could not, however, find McKenna's monitor anywhere! I had just packed them a few hours before. Her monitors were some of the very last things I packed. I didn't find them for days. Luckily, I just used Brayden's for her. He is old enough to be able to come to us if there is a problem. If I had to do it over again, I would put the monitors in my purse and keep in on my person.
  • Pack Yourself: When we moved when Brayden was one, my husband's company paid for a moving company to pack and move us. While it was nice to have them do all the packing, and they packed everything in one day, it was really a pain to unpack. I don't think it was worth it for me. I prefer packing my things in logical (logical to me) groupings. Movers are just putting everything in boxes as fast as they can. No worries to them if the kitchen spoons are mixed in with the toilet paper. I am sure there are people out there who prefer movers. Decide what will work best for you and do that.
  • Get Free Boxes: Most grocery stores or fast food chains will give you their boxes for free. We got all of our boxes from our local Wendy's. Their boxes were very sturdy and strong.
  • Send the Children Away: If you can, have the kids visit grandma or a friend so you can get some packing done without them distracting. But do let them help with their own rooms.

PREPPING CHILDREN (by Val)

  • Talk About The Move: Tell your children you are moving. Talk about what you will take and what you won't take. At first, Brayden thought we were going to leave all of our stuff in the old house (even his toys). He was surprisingly fine with that, but very excited to learn he could take his toys with him.
  • Read Books: It might be helpful to read books about moving to your child.
  • Let Them Help: Let your children help pack, especially their own stuff.
  • Visit the New House/Look at Pictures: Since we didn't move far, we were able to visit our new house often. We would go there and show them around the house and show them their new rooms. If you can't do that, try to get pictures of the new house to show your children.
  • Have Open Communication: Talk with your children about the things and people they will miss. Tell them what will be different. Tell them what will be good. Ask what they like about the new house. Give them something positive to look forward to, but don't dismiss feelings of loss for leaving the old house.
  • Walk Through the Empty House: After a few days in our new house, Kaitlyn (2) started requesting we "go home." I decided she needed to see the old house so she could feel some closure. We went over and visited it all empty. We looked in every room and saw that it wasn't our home anymore. After that, she was totally fine with the new house. If you are moving far away, I highly recommend you do a walk through with your children before you leave your house.

TRAVEL

  • Plan Ahead: We had friends who did not book hotels and plan stops in advance, and ended up spending at least one night in a car. (by Kelli)
  • Make an Itinerary: After we mapped a route and booked hotels, we printed off an itinerary for both vehicles with local maps and information as well as contact info for truck return and landlord arrangements when we arrived. (by Kelli)
  • Bring Help: My husband drove the moving truck, and my mom did most of the driving in our car so I could devote my energies to entertaining our two boys. We would not have made it without her. (by Kelli)
  • Fly if Needed: I had a friend who flew to their new home with her 14 month old while her husband drove the moving van. The flight was much shorter and easier on her baby. (by Val)

POST-MOVE (by Val)
  • Unpack Fast: Unpack your children's things quickly. When Kaitlyn started asking to go home, I thought about things from her perspective. Most of her toys were boxed up and she was living in a new house full of boxes. How fun is that for a two year old? Brayden (4) was fine with things being unsettled, but he has always been very flexible with change like that. I know it is a big job (believe me). I also know that a room like the kitchen is very important to get done quickly. But be sure to put the kids' rooms high on the priority list.
  • Send the Children Away: One option is to have the kids visit grandma or a friend for a day or two so you can really focus on packing and get things as settled as possible before they come to their new house.
  • Maintain Routine: Try your best to keep the routine the same for your children. Everything around them has been uprooted. Maintaining your routine will help them have something familiar to hold to.
  • Have Patience: Over the course of Kaitlyn's life, she has literally never protested independent playtime. Our first day in our new house, she did independent play just fine. Day two...she cried. I had her come out of independent play and didn't try again for a week. I wanted to be sure she was emotionally secure before trying it again. I used her extra time with me as an opportunity to finally hit potty training again (I had stopped when McKenna was born since she was not able to pull her pants down by herself at the time). We reintroduced it slowly, and she now does it as usual.

There are our tips. Please share your tips! I am sure there are many great ones out there.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Do You Think of the Label Cloud?

Be honest. I just changed labels to the cloud instead of the list. Do you like it better, worse, undecided? I thought it might be nice to not have to scroll so much, but I don't want to make it harder to find what you are looking for. So let me know what you think.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Later that day...

Thanks everyone! I thought that it looked "cuter," but I am 100% a form-follows-function sort of person, so if it makes it harder, I will change it!

McKenna Baby Summary: Week 30

Going hiking
This is a summary for McKenna week 30.

NURSING
Nursing is still going well.

Since I dropped the dreamfeed, I pump before I go to bed to store up milk. Yes, that is annoying :). But I don't think it will be something I regret ever.

SLEEPING
Sleeping is going well. She is sleeping through the night and napping well. Sometimes she woke up mid-nap, but after talking to herself for a while (about 15 minutes), she went back to sleep.

SOLIDS
We didn't start any new foods this week. She started to get a little rash, and I am wondering if it is because of Avocado. It just seems odd to me that she could be allergic to it, but I think she might be. I have taken her off of it to see if the rash stops returning. It was there, gone, there, and now gone. I am using lots of of Butt Paste at every diaper change :)

FINGER FOODS
I did start a finger food. I just did a wagon wheel (by Gerber). It is basically a flavored toy for her :)

DROPPING THE THIRD NAP
I don't know if McKenna was really dropping her third nap or not. She was doing about a one hour nap every other day (two hour the other days), but the last few days she is still asleep after two hours. I am wondering if the disrupted third nap was due to her developmental leap rather than being ready to drop the third nap.

OUR SCHEDULEI am continuing to move things back slowly before the time change, but I can't change her much more than she is since it would conflict with the other children too much. I am also going to stop posting how much of each food she eats. I think too many people are worrying over it :):

8:20--wake, nurse, eat (prunes or peaches and oatmeal)
9:30--nap
12:20--wake, nurse, eat (green veggie and applesauce. I was also doing avocado here, but have since stopped it. I will start again if the rash is attributed to something else)
2:00--nap
4:30--wake, nurse, eat (orange/yellow veggie, bananas or pears)
6:00--nap
7:50--wake, nurse, pjs, story, bed

FAVORITE BOOKSMcKenna's favorite books right now are pretty much any book. But she does especially love
Touch and Feel Books.

FAVORITE TOYS
McKenna has a few favorite toys. One group is all of these toys in this Sassy Gift Set .


HELPFUL BOOKS/WEBSITES

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Reader Twins Questions

  • Tracy said...
    Hi Valerie! I have twin daughters that are 5 weeks old. We are really struggling with the evening nap and getting back to sleep after the middle of the night feeding. If they take the evening nap, then they seem to really struggle with getting back to sleep after the middle of the night feedings. If they cry through the evening nap and never fall asleep, then middle of the night feedings go much better. Is it possible that they are getting too much sleep in the evening and therefore can't sleep as well at night? Any suggestions? Even more, I'm GREATLY struggling with the lack of time I get with the girls on the Babywise schedule. I feed my first daughter, set her down for wake time, feed the second and then it's time to put my first baby to sleep. I feel like I can never hold her unless I'm nursing her! I hate it!!! Would I be messing up all my hard work if I held them in my arms during the evening nap or another time of day? I want to enjoy my precious babies and feel like I can't because I'm working so hard to feed, watch every cue and hurry to get them back down. I know having twins puts me in a different category, but there has to be a happy medium with Babywise or I feel like I won't ever be able to hold my babies, let alone my husband who is gone all day. I'm really missing them and need some encouragement! Maybe it's just my mommy guilt and lack of sleep, but I feel like I'm missing the joy of my precious babies while they are so young. I welcome your thoughts as soon as possible! Thanks so much!!
    September 29, 2008 7:24 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    Tracy, you could try a shorter nap in the evening (45 min or one hour). You could try to keep them up, but 5 weeks seems young for that to me. However, you are the mom! I am not sure about holding them for a nap each day. Some babies might be able to handle that. My daughter might have. My son definitely wouldn't have. If you do decide to do it, understand it can't last very long. They won't sleep very well in your arms.I understand your frustration. All moms have it, so with two you wouldn't be able to spend as much time with each. See this post for more on that: Spending Time with Baby/Child : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/08/speding-time-with-babychild.html
    October 1, 2008 4:11 PM
  • MomWithaDoubleBlessing said...
    Good morning! First of all, thanks for the abundant advice all over this blog. I too reference it a lot for ideas to troubleshoot!I am a first time mom of 10wk (corrected age is 8 weeks) twin boys. My hands are full, and the boys really are sweethearts.We work really hard to keep them on the same schedule (every 3 hours). They are doing really well at sleep training and, unless over-stimulated, can get themselves to settle within 10 minutes most times! Sometimes with no crying at all. (Still working on transitions, but they get it most of the time)My question is regarding night feedings. I'm feeling sad because both of them have slept up to 8 hours a couple times. But in the last week and a bit (as life has gone back to normal since the holidays), both have digressed back to 4 and 5 hours. One of them even woke twice in the night a couple nights ago! I'm trying to think "What have I done differently?!" Is it normal to progress and then digress?Their schedule is:7:30am10:30am1:30pm4:00pm7:00pmDF 9:30-10pmI don't expect them to make it all the way through to the 7:30 feed yet, because that would be 10 hours. I've considered adding another feed into the day (to make it 7 in the day), but trying to get them to go every 2 and 1/2 hours is crazy because they just aren't hungry enough!I breastfeed and supplement, alternating who gets what at each feed. I get them to nurse 20-30 minutes and their bottles are now up to 6oz each, which they usually can finish.When they wake in the night, they always take a full feed, and they eat a full meal at the first meal too, so is this simply an issue of waiting for them to mature? Thanks for your input. I just don't want to miss something and ruin our sleep opportunities!
    January 12, 2009 9:37 AM
    Plowmanators said...
    MomwithaDoubleBlessing,It is normal to go "digress" like that, especially during a growth spurt.My guess it is a growth spurt. They are at the right age for it. Since they are eating well in the night and morning, I definitely wouldn't stop feeding them in the night yet.
    January 17, 2009 4:34 PM
  • Tracy said...
    We were doing SO well on our sleep-training and have had to start over a bit thanks to the holidays. Oh well...I have a question for you and am not sure where to post it. We have our twins on a very good schedule. They are eating every 3 to 3-1/2 hours, activity time, napping very well. They go down at night between 7:30-8pm like champs after a slightly larger bedtime bottle. They have dropped the late night feeding...we found they just didn't want to wake up to eat. BUT, they are still waking up at 2am and then again at 5am like clockwork. Sometimes we can get them to sleep through their 5am, but never the 2am. I've come to accept that our twosome just need to eat after 6 hours (they are measuring in the 97th percentile, so maybe they need the calories!) Would you try to reinstitute the 10pm feeding to get them to sleep until 4am? Or should we just power through and hope that the introduction of solid food naturally solves some of our problems? What are your thoughts? Should I thank my lucky stars that it's so easy with twins? We are very tired, but I know it could be worse.
    January 6, 2009 1:34 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    Tracy, Since the 10 PM feeding was dropped, the night feedings will stick around longer than they would otherwise. I would try to get that 10 PM feeding back in and see if they will eat. Solids take a while before they affect sleeping because it takes them time to actually be able to take in enough food to impact calories for the day. See the blog lable "dreamfeed" for more information on that 10 PM feeding.
    January 10, 2009 1:45 PM

Reader Questions on Going Out

  • jencwu said...
    Sorry, another question--I told you in my first post that I had tons! There are times when we have to go somewhere part way through Noah's nap, or when we come home part way through a nap. I am always unsure as to what would be the best for his sleep--if I know we'll be leaving an hour into his nap, say, should I put him down for his nap in his car seat so I don't have to wake him to do that in an hour? And the reverse, if we come home and he's been sleeping for an hour, and we have an hour left, do I leave him in his car seat or risk waking him up by transfering him to his crib?
    August 22, 2008 3:08 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    jencwu, for sure I would leave him in the carseat when you get home, unless he is one of the few babies who will transfer well. Most won't. If he will fall asleep in his carseat, that can be a good idea. My kids wouldn't do that, so I always put them down but new that was going to be a short nap that day.
    August 28, 2008 7:57 AM

Feeding the Rainbow

image source
I am sure you have heard that you should eat all the colors of the rainbow when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Different colored produce contains different nutrients. When you eat a variety, you get a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (stuff like beta-carotene).

I have often heard this. This is the reason I feed a green veggie at lunch every day and a yellow veggie at dinner. That way I make sure green and yellow are covered each day. I then apply a color of fruit to each meal.

There have been some things I have wondered about. Take apples. The skin is red (or green), but the flesh is yellow/white. So what color am I eating? (the answer is red--if the apple is red).

Here is a list of the colors of the rainbow and the fruits and veggies you, your spouse, your children, and your baby can eat. NOTE: not all of the foods listed below are safe for babies. Please be sure to feed only age-appropriate foods to infants and toddlers.

RED
Many red foods may help reduce the risk of some cancers. Many red foods also contain antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and help keep your heart healthy.

Fruits
  • Apples (red apples).
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Red grapes
  • Cranberries
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Pomegranates
  • Raspberries
  • Watermelon
Vegetables
  • Beets
  • Red cabbage
  • Red peppers
  • Red potatoes (I didn't know this!)
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb (it is a vegetable. Look it up)
  • Tomatoes (I know it is technically a fruit...but I like it better here...see this article. And a side note, it is the state vegetable of New Jersey and the state fruit of Ohio. Also, I read that the benefits of tomatoes are better when they are cooked and served with some fat, like in spaghetti sauce).
ORANGE & YellowOrange produce contains vitamin A, which is good for your eyes. Orange produce can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. It is also supposed to boost the immune system. But take note that citrus foods like oranges are not a good source of vitamin A, though they do provide vitamin C folate and a B vitamin.
Fruits
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Nectarines
  • Yellow apples
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Pineapples
  • Yellow watermelon
  • Pears (although I have also read they are white, not orange/yellow)
Vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Squash (butternut, winter, yellow summer)
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Yellow peppers
  • Rutabagas
  • Yellow tomatoes
GREEN
Some green foods help to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration in the eyes. Others help protect against cancer. Others contain folate, which reduces the risk of birth defects.

Fruits
  • Green apples
  • Avocado
  • Green grapes
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Limes
Vegetables
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green cabbage
  • Cucumbers (another controversial one. I use the same reasoning to have it as veggie as I do tomatoes).
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Green onions
  • Peas
  • Green peppers
  • Zucchini
BLUE & PURPLE
These foods contain antioxidants that protect cells from damage. They may reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease.
Fruits
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Prunes
  • Plums
  • Figs
  • Juneberries
  • Raisins
  • Purple grapes
Vegetables
  • Eggplant (technically a fruit, but used as a veggie, so I list it here)
WHITE
These white foods may help lower blood pressure. They also may help reduce the risk of stomach cancer and heart disease. Some are also a good source of potassium.
Fruits
  • Bananas
  • Pears (yellow or white? I have read both)
  • Ginger
Vegetables
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms (I know it is a fungus, but it fits best with veggies)
  • Potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
There you have it. There are more out there, especially in different countries. This list is by no means all-inclusive.
More more extensive information on what each food does for the body, see the book Super Baby Food.
For calculations on how many fruits and vegetables you and yours need, see this website (for ages two and up).
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Overcoming the Picky Eater

Is your baby a picky eater? Are there foods she doesn't like? Is there a food she used to like but suddenly doesn't? I have a couple of tried and true ideas for you to try out.

MIX WITH CEREAL
When McKenna first tried peaches, she hated them. This was nothing new for me. Brayden hated them. Kaitlyn hated them. With both Brayden and Kaitlyn, I basically just didn't feed peaches to them very often. Not so with McKenna!

I think my motivation was that I had lots of free peaches from my husband's grandparents. I didn't want to let them go to waste! So I put the effort into getting her to like it.

I started by mixing the peaches with some oatmeal. I did only one tablespoon of peaches mixed with 2-3 T of cereal. At first, she wasn't so sure about it. Over time, she came to like the mixture.

After 3-4 weeks of doing this, I tried giving her peaches plain. She liked them! She just needed time to get used to the taste. I still mix her peaches with her oatmeal each morning, but I do 2-4 T mixed with 3-4 T of oatmeal. I also do this for my own convenience rather than needing to get her to like peaches.

FEED IT EVERY DAY
Huh? My kid hates it and you want me to feed it to her every day? Yes. Yes I do.

When McKenna first tried squash, she loved it. This surprised me since I, myself, do not find squash all that appealing. After about a month of loving it, she suddenly decided she hated it. She would clamp her mouth shut after a few bites.

Again, I had free squash to use. I didn't want the bags of baby ice cube squash to go to waste. I knew I would be hesitant to feed it to her if she didn't like it because I didn't want her to go hungry. I feed orange veggies at dinner and didn't want her to be hungry in the night because she didn't eat her squash.

I normally rotate each night. One night is squash. The next is sweet potatoes. The next carrots. But I decided I needed to mix it up. I decided to feed her 2 T each night. I would then follow up with either sweet potatoes or carrots (alternating).

For the first few nights, she gagged and made the disgusted face. She would barely eat 2 T. By the end of the first week, she would eat the 2 T without complaint. I then increased the amount to 4 T. She is currently eating 4 T each night without complaint. I think she is ready to go back onto her normal rotation.

CONCLUSION
These are the two things that have worked really well with McKenna. For more ideas, see Picky Eaters.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poll Results: Around age two, did your child take a long time to fall asleep at night?

Results:

Yes, starting around 20-23 months : 28 votes (23%)
Yes, starting around 24-26 months : 25 votes (21%)
Yes, starting around 26 months or older: 22 votes (18%)
No : 46 votes (38%)

Total of 121 votes

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Reminder: You can leave comments on poll results posts if you would like to add to the poll after it has closed. This would be helpful for those who have more than one child, those whose children have reached certain ages after a poll closed, and those who didn't visit the blog while that poll was open. To find closed polls, click on the poll results link above.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Strengthening Marriage

This is my latest post for GrowingKids.org.

The marriage relationship is very important and fundamental to the health of the family. I have yet to read a parenting book that states that parents should put the child first (I am not saying there isn’t a parenting book out there that says that, but I haven’t read it). Everything I have read has said to put your spouse first. For those who are divorced, these books discuss the importance of creating a united front for your child. A healthy relationship between the mother and father is very important for children.

Putting marriage first is highly stressed in the On Becoming series. The first topic discussed in On Becoming Babywise is the importance of family relationships, stressing the relationship between you and your spouse. The placement of this chapter should stand out to you. It wasn’t placed at the end of the book as an afterthought. It is the foremost topic. This is a book written for parents seeking sleeping and eating advice, and yet the authors start off with the marriage relationship. It is that important.

Of course, not all people believe the husband/wife relationship should come first. There are parents who have the conversation and agree to put the children first. I have discussed this further in Put Your Marriage First .

I think that most people who use Babywise/GKGW principles in their home agree that the marriage relationship should come first and be a strong one. Many may wonder how to do this. Sure, you were in love while you dated. As newlyweds, you loved spending time together. It is simpler before you have children. Each child brings a new dynamic to the picture. It is easy for parents to get wrapped up in their children and put their own relationship on hold. Why did it get so difficult?

There is something important to keep in mind. Having a strong marriage relationship takes work. You must give effort to building and strengthening your relationship. Popular advice is to go on a weekly date night. That is good advice, but that in and of itself will not solve all of your problems. I know a couple who did that each week for years, but when the children were all gone and moved out of the house, they faced each other as strangers. They had each put all of their efforts into their children. Yes, they went on a date each week, but they didn’t utilize those dates to build their relationship as a couple.

Here are some ideas for strengthening your bond as a couple:
  • Develop Unity: As a couple, you want to be unified. You want to be as one. Be loyal to each other. You need to value each other as equal partners. You and your spouse are two different people. You have different characteristics, strengths, weakness, and abilities. Learn to take the best of each of you to create one strong front.
  • Nurture Love and Friendship: You got married for a reason. Nurture your love for each other. Express your love in various ways and show kindness toward one another.
  • Have Strength Through Challenges: Challenges will arise, there is no doubt about that. They might be financial. They might be with children. They might be through health or death. Perhaps a natural disaster will come your way. You will experience challenges through simply aging. When these challenges arise, meet them with love and patience, rather than frustration and anger.
  • Have Positive Communication: Positive communication is so important in all relationships. Since as a married couple you work so closely with each other, there is great tendency to lose sight of kind manners toward one another. Yes, you will disagree. You are two different people. Yes, you will think the other one is strange and hard to understand at times. You can seek to find the good in each other. Learning good communication skills will help you to make it through any challenge that comes your way.
  • Strengthen Marriage through Faith and Prayer: You will bond as a couple as you come together for prayer and show faith in the Lord.
  • Forgive Each Other: I am sure you already know there will be need to forgive each other. Your spouse will say something that hurts your feelings. You will do the same. As you offend, seek forgiveness. As you are offended, seek to forgive.
  • Manage Finances: An overwhelming majority of marriages dissolve due to financial stress. Work together to manage your finances. This is an important area for each of you to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. Working together, you can keep money as little bit of a stress factor as possible.

Each of these ideas is very broad. Each idea could be at least on post by itself (don’t worry, it will be soon J ). Do they seem too simple? They are simple. But they cover all that is necessary for keeping your marriage relationship strong. There is no need to overcomplicate the issue. Applying these tips will help you and your spouse to come together as one, giving a great gift to each other and your children.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

McKenna Baby Summary: Week 29


This week was overall good, although we still had some difficulty from the developmental leaps again.

NURSING
Nursing is still going well with no problems.

NIGHTTIME SLEEP
Nighttime sleep is still good. She woke up one morning at 7:30 on her own and one morning at 7:50 on her own. I actually really liked her schedule the way it lined up with the family when she woke at 7:30 better than when she wakes at 8:00. I might change her waketime, but if I do, I will wait until the time change.

SOLIDS
This week, I introduced McKenna to Applesauce and also Avocado. She likes applesauce. She also liked Avocado this time. You might remember we introduced it in the past and she was not a fan. This time, she really liked it. She didn't make any funny faces when she had her first bite. She has only done that for bananas and pears, which are her two favorite foods.

DREAMFEED
We dropped the dreamfeed this week. At the beginning of the week, I took it down to nursing from just one side, and I did the side that produces less. After a few days, I could tell it really was useless to continue the dreamfeed because the just wouldn't eat. She would swallow when the letdown happened, but that was it. So I dropped it.

Yes, I cried! I love the dreamfeed. But it had to happen someday :) I have decided to pump before I go to bed each night. I didn't ever do that with Brayden and Kaitlyn, but I thought why not? That way I can build up some storage in the freezer if it is needed.

WAKETIME LENGTH
Her waketime length continued to stretch out a bit this week.

DROPPING THIRD NAP
McKenna has started the process of dropping her third nap. She is taking the slow route. Some nights, she only sleeps one hour. Other nights, I wake her after two hours. This is a totally normal thing to do.

DISRUPTIONS
This week, we had a family event 1.5 hours away. From 11:30 until 6:00ish, she only slept for 1 hour...quite the disruption for her. She was fine that day, though. The next day, however, she was not fine. The next day was church. She no longer naps at church, but is always fine. This day, however, she was already overly tired, so she was not happy at church. My husband had to work hard to get her to fall asleep. It just showed me that when she is well rested, she can handle disruptions well, but when she is already behind on her sleep, she can't.

OUR SCHEDULE
8:15 AM--wake, nurse, eat 2-3 T prunes, 2 T peaches mixed with 4 T oatmeal
9:25 AM--nap (some days, she was up until 9:30, but her nap was disrupted. She would go back to sleep after talking for a few minutes, but that is unusual for her to wake and talk).
12:15 PM--wake, nurse, eat about 4 T green veggies and 4-8 T applesauce
2:00 PM--nap
4:30 PM--wake, nurse, eat about 2 T squash, 2 T carrots or sweet potatoes, 4 T bananas or pears. If she still seemed hungry, I would offer 1-2 T oatmeal
6:00-6:30 PM--nap
7:00-8:00 PM-- wake
7:50-8:00 PM-- eat, pjs, story, bed
10:00 PM-- dreamfeed for half of the week

HELPFUL BOOKS/WEBSITES
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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Timer

The timer is a wonderful tool for you to use with your children from babyhood on up through childhood. Here are some examples of how you can use the timer in your home:

INDEPENDENT PLAYTIME
When you are working to have independent playtime with your child, the timer can be a great help. Set the timer for whatever length of time you are aiming for. Keep in mind that if your child is resistant to independent play, you probably want to keep this length less than 5 minutes at first.

Leave the timer in the room with your child. Tell your child to have fun and play and you will be back once the timer goes off. Your child will soon learn that the timer, not her crying, is what decides when independent playtime is over.

As your child can play happily for five minutes, increase the time slowly. This is very effective. I have often suggested this to moms and they come back with positive reports.

TIME OUTS/ISOLATION
This is the same concept. Setting a timer lets your child realize that a certain amount of time needs to pass before he can move on to the next task. In this case, your child knows that he must sit in time out until the timer goes off. Him whining and crying will not get him out; the timer going off decides.

I do have a word of caution here. You don't want your child to think that all he has to do is go sit in a room by himself for a few minutes and then he can go on his way. If your child starts to view time out as something that is no big deal, try to find another method of punishment that will be effective for him. The timer can act as your minimum, but you don't want your child to perceive that the timer rules you. Mom always decides.

TRAINING
You can use the timer for training purposes. You might be wanting to train your child to sit still. You can set the timer and have him sit quietly until the timer goes off. Reset the timer each time he moves or speaks.

TEACHING MANNERS
This is the category that got my mind thinking for this post. Brayden has always been very good about saying thank you, even from a young age. "Thank You" was one of his first words. I, however, did not do well with training him to say please. I realized this folly somewhere around 18 months old, which proved to be late enough that the word "please," and all that it implies, is something we revisit over and over again. Incidentally, I did not repeat this mistake with Kaitlyn and she is quite good about asking nicely.

Brayden has gotten to be good about saying please. At some point, I increased my expectations. I didn't just want the phrase, "More milk please" tossed my way. I instructed Brayden to say, "Mommy, may I please have some more milk." I taught him to use a kind and patient tone.

This works well, but every so often, we find ourselves in need of retraining. At first, I would remind Brayden to ask nicely. I would ask him how he should ask nicely. As he turned four, I decided we needed to fix this problem. For that, I turned to my trusted timer.

Whenever Brayden asked for something without saying it in a nice way, I would set the timer and tell him when the timer went off, he could try asking again. Before, he had no real motivation to ask nicely. He asked. I reminded. He asked nicely. He received.

But with the timer thrown in there, there was a definite downside to not asking nicely. He asked. I set the timer. It ticked down. It went off. He asked nicely. He received.

There was a delay in his reward. I only had to set the timer two times before he started consistently asking nicely. I am sure we will have to revisit this in the future, but I am also sure that it won't take more than one time for him to remember that asking nicely is the preferable way to go.

CONCLUSION
The timer can help you out in so many ways. Use your imagination to see if you can apply it to any challenge your are encountering with your child. You will find it an invaluable resource.


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Friday, October 16, 2009

In Action: Making Babyfood

I wouldn't consider myself a babyfood-making expert, but I have done it enough that I can write about it. When Brayden was a baby, I was reading about making babyfood in What to Expect the First Year. In it, they basically said that you really couldn't match the sanitary conditions of baby food making companies. Because of that, I decided I wouldn't try it. I didn't want to get my baby sick!



Looking back, I really wish I hadn't read that, or at least that there had been more encouragement in What to Expect the First Year. Once I had been doing this blog for a few months, Kaitlyn was coming up on one year old. I had noticed that there were a lot of moms out there who made their own baby food. I asked about it, and so many of you told me how easy it was. I decided when I had my next baby, I would try making baby food.

Let me tell you, it is easy! It is a lot easier than you would ever imagine. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes more time to make babyfood than it does to buy babyfood (unless you live really far from the store...but you go to the store to buy food for your family already). So why would I do it when I have three kids? Here are my reasons (in no order):

  1. SANITATION: Wait, didn't I just comment about what that book said? Didn't it say your kitchen could never match the sanitary conditions of baby food manufacturers? Yes I did. Things have changed. Or I have changed. I don't necessarily believe that anymore. There have been so many recalls recently in the United States. I am not trying to get political, but when large corporations recall food because people are dying, and they then disclose that there are dead rats in the plant...it makes me skeptical. I am disillusioned. I no longer trust these companies implicitely. Yes, I once did. I can be naive. I am the type to trust until my trust is broken, but then it is hard to earn my trust back. I definitely hope that babyfood manufacturers are more cautious and careful, but I don't know that they are. I know what is in my kitchen. I have full control over it.
  2. HEALTH: My guess is that babyfood manufacturers make their food as soon as they can after picking it. That is my hope. However, I grow a garden, and I have food right in my backyard. What I don't grow, my husband's grandparents do. I am very fortunate in this way. I know what is done to my vegetables and fruits. I can also make the babyfood as soon after harvesting as possible. Fruits and veggies lose nutrients as they are harvested, so the sooner they are prepared, the better. This is a benefit I have and one compelling reason for me to make babyfood myself.
  3. MONEY: Along the same lines, money! Since we grow a garden and can get so much for free, it seems silly for me not to make it. It is free babyfood! If you don't grow a garden, it is still a lot less expensive (in most cases) to make it yourself if you buy it from the store. There are times of year that certain things are quite expensive (like fruit around here in the winter months).
  4. CHALLENGE: Okay, I admit it, I like a challenge. It was something I hadn't done before and I wanted to see if I could.
  5. REWARD: I find it very rewarding to make the food from scratch. I actually get a bit giddy inside when I make McKenna her food.
  6. TASTE: I find it tastes good enough I would eat it, which I can't really say for all store bought baby food.
Now, I find making babyfood to be easy. Most people seem to agree, though some say it is hard. Yaron (author of Super Baby Food) says she thinks it is easy and she is no cook. I do cook. I make most things from scratch. I even grind my own wheat to make bread...so I can't say it is easy from a non-cooker point of view, but others have. Let me point out that I have been making baby food while having three children, packing my house, moving, and unpacking my house. I can only imagine how much easier it would have been if I had done with while Brayden was my lone child and we weren't moving :)

For anyone interested in making babyfood, I encourage you to try. I also want to point out that for me, making babyfood is not an all or nothing situation. McKenna does get store-bought babyfood. I like to keep it on hand for traveling. I also give her store-bought before I can make it. I like to make it in masses, and I have been making it as it has been in season. Thankfully, for me, not everything is in season at the same moment. Also, she has been getting store-bought prunes. Amy, a blog reader, told me she buys prunes and makes them. I have purchased some prunes and intend to make them, but I am making my food that will spoil first.

So my point is, you can make some baby food at home and feed some store bought baby food.

SUPPLIES
You really don't need much for making babyfood, and you probably have just about everything you will need already.
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Peeler
  • Possibly a pan for cooking if you are making things like peaches before baby can have them raw.
  • Cookie sheet/baking pan (if you want to bake things in the oven, like squash).
  • Spoon
  • Bowl
  • Oven
  • Freezer
  • Ice cube trays
  • Wax paper or cling wrap
Okay...there might be something missing from the list, but so far, you can see that it is really basic. There are a couple of things you might not have:
MAKING FOOD TIPSI won't go into the process of making things here; that would be one very long post. Here are my tips for making the process it easier on yourself:
  • MAKE IN BULK: I make it all in bulk. It takes about the same amount of time to make one ice cube tray of food as it does one, so it saves more time if you make more at a time.
  • MAKE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED: While you want to make in bulk, the food only lasts so long. Try your best to calculate about how much your baby will eat before it goes bad and make that much. For example, peaches last two months in the freezer. You don't want to make 6 months worth at one time and have to throw 4 months worth away.
  • MAKE WHAT YOU CAN STORE: You will find baby food quickly starts to take up a lot of space in your freezer. We already owned two refrigerator/freezer combos, and both freezers are stuffed full. Just today, we bought an upright freezer. I jokingly told a friend that I guess making babyfood didn't save us much money after all :). We had actually been planning on buying one anyway. It just moved up the priority list with all of the baby food. So make what you can store in your freezer. If you want a rounded menu (green veggies, orange veggies, and fruits), you won't be able to make so much at one time and fit it in one freezer.
  • INVOLVE THE FAMILY: Making babyfood alone isn't hard, but it does take time. If you can involve another member of the family, it can shave a lot of time off. I even have Brayden help me (he loves to help in the kitchen). I have him twist the food mill while I push it down. Doing it a few times by yourself is no problem, but 20 times later, your hands start to hurt! It really is a big help to have Brayden help me.
STORING TIPS
  • FREEZER BAGS: I put my baby food into freezer bags once it is all frozen. Yaron suggests using small freezer bags. I have found this to be a good idea. When you open and close over and over, the food doesn't stay as fresh, so the smaller the bag, the less food to go through while trying to keep it fresh.
  • LABEL: Be sure to label it. Peaches and squash look a lot alike when frozen.
  • GROUP IT: I put my food in small freezer bags, but then put one of each bag that I am using into a gallon sized freezer bag. This helps in a few ways. One is that it is extra protection for the food being stored. Another is that it is easy to find the food I need each morning when I am getting the food out. Before I started doing this, I would search through the freezer trying to find a particular bag. You might put things back in the same spot, but if more than one person lives in your house who uses the freezer, he (or she) might not.
USING FOOD TIPS
  • GET IT OUT: Each morning, I get out what McKenna will eat for the entire day and put it in bowls with lids on them. I then put the bowls in the refrigerator so the food can start to defrost.
RESOURCES
There are two resources I like best.
  • Wholesome Babyfood.com: This is a great site, and is really the only resource you would need. Something nice about a website is that it is dynamic and they keep current recipes on the homepage. For example, as I write this post, it is October and they have a quick link to pumpkin recipes for baby. It offers lots of different recipes for each food. If you check out the avocado section, you will see several different ways to prepare avocado for your baby. This isn't really necessary; baby is fine with the same old thing over and over, but you might find it fun.
  • Super Baby Food : This is my favorite resource. I am more of a book person than a website person. I like to have books to look through. I keep this book in my kitchen with my recipe books. This book is worth it even just for the section on how to choose, store, prep, make, and keep all fruits and veggies. I use it for the whole family! If you prefer books, I would get this.
Please add your own tips! Like I said, I am new at this. I am sure many of you have some great things to add.

DISCLAIMER
If you do not feed your baby homemade baby food, please do not take this post as an attack at you. You do not now need to fret or worry about this. I only intend this to be encouraging for anyone out there who wants to try, not a condemnation for those who don't want to try.

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