Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Toy Rotation

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On Becoming Preschoolwise says that one of the important factors in getting ready for kindergarten is developing focusing skills. One way to do this is to "Keep his toys developmentally stimulating and challenging" (page 121). The authors then go on to suggest toy rotation in order to accomplish this.

The basic idea of toy rotation is that you use some method to put toys out of reach for a few weeks or months. You then pull them out and put other toys away. This keeps toys new and fresh and interesting for the child. 

I am guessing some of  you are here hoping to see some amazing toy rotation system I have come up with. I am sorry to tell you I have not done so. What I do is so simple.

I am what you call a "macro" cleaner. This means my number one priority in cleaning is surfaces are clutter free. If I have to choose between a drawer being clean and the counter being clean, the counter wins every time. I do have great value for the drawer being clean, too, but counter trumps. 

This is also true in my childrens' rooms. I like toys to be cleaned up and put away. 

We have cupboards, drawers, and closets that hold toys. My husband is big into totes for organization, so we use a lot of totes to hold toys. So all of the Little People accessories are in one tote. All of the action figurines are in one tote. All of Kaitlyns My Little Ponies are in one tote. I also have one tote in each child's room that is for "random" toys that we don't have a lot of.

So our toys are pretty well out of sight unless you go looking for them (you know, other than the train table, kitchen, doll house, etc.)

Then the trick is for me to get out different toys every so often for them to play with. With the toddlers, I get out the toys for independent play, so I rotate what I get out. With older kids, I let them choose, but if I see a toy has been forgotten about, I will pull it out for a nice "suggestion" (aren't I such a mom?). 

We also have most of our toys in Brayden's room since he has the most storage. So I will pull toys from his room to put in the girls' rooms every so often and take toys out of the girls' rooms and put in his room. 

There are lots of ways you can do rotations. You can get totes and group toys in totes, put totes somewhere in storage, then only get out one tote at a time. You can do bins. You can do bags. You can do large buckets. 

Please share the toy rotation system you use, or the system you have found and would like to use! 

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, and I wanted to take the chance to thank all of those who have given their life in the service of my country. Thank you to all of you who have also sacrificed in direct result of their sacrifice. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13.

If you are looking for ideas of things to do with your children today, be sure to check out the Children's Learning Activities blog: Memorial Day Activities.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Breakfast and Morning Wake Time

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is true for more reasons than just giving you the energy you need for the day. The time you eat breakfast every day impacts the time you wake up in the morning. This is true no matter what your age is. 

If you eat breakfast every day at 7:30, most days you will wake up by 7:30--ready for food. 

This is an important point to remember when you are establishing morning wake time.

Does your baby wake earlier than you want her to? Try slowly moving breakfast to the time you want to eat. If she wakes at 7:00 and you would prefer 7:15, get her up when she wakes if she needs you to, but distract her for at least 5 minutes. A few days later, try for 10 minutes. Then eventually get to where you feed her at 7:15.

Consistent breakfast time is also very important if you have night wakings that you want to stop. I have posts with more on this, so see:
This concept is also true for older children. If you feed your toddler, preschooler, or child at the same time each morning, your child will tend to wake up closer to that time.

Now, there are of course more factors than the time of breakfast in morning wake time. We have the sun (Early Morning Waking and the Sun). We also have being too hot or too cold. We have what time the child went to bed the night before. The time you eat breakfast, however, is a very important part of the equation. Babywise book one cautions to not underestimate the power of starting the day at the same time each day in getting your baby to sleep through the night.

Keep breakfast time consistent, and you will have a consistent morning wake-up child.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why Read Aloud?

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"...every child begins school wanting to learn to read" (The Read-Aloud Handbook, page 1). Oh how true this is! Every child starts school believing they are smart and capable. Unfortunately for some, it doesn't take very long at all for them to do the comparing and realize where they stand in the class. Little kids want to read--and want to read constantly (at least my little kids do). But here are some startling statistics found in the The Read-Aloud Handbook:
  • 54% of fourth graders read for pleasure each day
  • 30% of eighth graders read for pleasure each day
  • 19% of twelfth graders read for pleasure each day
As Trelease puts it, "We have 100 percent interest in kindergarten but lose 78% of our potential lifetime readers by senior year" (page 1). I would personally be interested in seeing the numbers by the end of kindergarten. Yesterday I was helping in Brayden's class. The children were passing off reading the words for colors. Some children did it without much effort. Some struggled but didn't seem to care much. One girl really struck me. She wasn't focussing on the paper at all (whether it was a defiance issue or a lack of attention span issue I am not sure). Instead her eyes would wander over to look out the windows. The thing that broke my heart is that she seemed sad about it--she was visibly uncomfortable with the fact that she couldn't read.

Reading these words came as no surprise. We were told as parents four months ago that the children would be asked to do this. No sweat for Brayden. We read through them four months ago and he read them fine so I didn't worry about it again. However, if I had a child who couldn't read them, of course I would have been coming up with ways to help the child learn to read them.

I was also saddened because I am 100% positive Kaitlyn could read those words. If she couldn't, she would at least try to sound them out. This girl couldn't even give an attempt at "what is the first sound?" This poor girl! This is a girl who will hate reading by fourth grade if she doesn't already.

"The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children" (page 3). "The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it" (page 3). "The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow" (page 3).

So perhaps one reason for the demise of interest in reading aloud to children is that it will help their chances of being good readers in the future. If you think about it, reading is fundamental to any learning process. I don't know about you, but I can't think of any profession that doesn't require the ability to read and comprehend to get into it. You read text books and instructions. Even trade professions require reading in the training process.

But something else happens to children as they get older. Their parents stop reading aloud to them. So most kindergarteners enter school having had their parents read to them most every day to that point (though, in all honesty, I know one parent who absolutely does not read to her children--ever. Yes, I do think that is crazy). But as children get older and learn to read on their own, parents stop reading aloud to them. 

"[Reading aloud] is a practice that should continue throughout the grades"--this is true in the home and at school (page 3). When I first read this in this book, I was a bit surprised by that concept. Read to your children so long as they are living at home. Isn't that a huge time commitment? Um, yes. So why would we do that?

Reading aloud does the following (found on page 4):
  • Reassures
  • Entertains
  • Creates a bond
  • Informs and explains
  • Arouses curiosity
  • Conditions the brain to associate reading with pleasure (we are driven by pleasure, correct?)
  • Creates background knowledge
  • Builds vocabulary: "...the more often a child is read to, the more words are heard..." (page 7).
  • Provides a reading role model
Studies have shown that no matter the gender, race, nationality, or socioeconomic background, "Students who read the most also read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest" (page 5).

So being read to aloud into older grades helps children maintain these positive connections to reading. When I was in elementary, I had a teacher who read aloud to us each day. He was our reading teacher for two years in a row, and he loved Tolkien (by the way, my Dad also loves Tolkien--do you think it is any coincidence that I also love Tolkien?). 

When I reached 7th grade, we were suddenly told which books to read. I still read a lot because we were challenged to read more than our assigned books. We set a goal in number of pages each quarter, and each quarter we had to go up. I do well with goals. But as time went on, I found myself reading only what was required of me in school. I entered college as an English major, and still only read what was required. As I went on, my literature classes lightened because I was a technical writer. At that point, I started reading for pleasure again. I found the fun--beyond the pressure of tests and coming up with an impressive analysis for the professor. I can absolutely believe that if I had read aloud during high school, I would have maintained more of a pleasure in reading. At least I still love to read today.

And why might that be? One study found what motivates children and adults to read:
  1. They enjoy the experience
  2. They like the subject matter
  3. They like and follow the lead of people who read a lot (anywhere from Oprah to Mom)
So reading aloud covers number one. I know for me, both of my parents are avid readers, so it is only natural that I be an avid reader myself. 

In summary, two broad categories of why we read aloud to our children is that it helps them be better readers and it helps them to continue to enjoy reading. It also does the things in our bulleted list above. It creates a bond with you and your child. It reassures your child. It builds vocabulary and gives background knowledge. It makes your child curious. It sets a positive role model.

"Read to them....It's that simple. It's the most important thing a parent can do with their children" (page 21). emphasis added

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blog Summer Schedule

Here is the heads up on the summer schedule for the blog. All the info coming your way right now. 

Summer schedule will start the day after Memorial Day. 

Giveaways will drop back to every other week. This gives vacationing people a chance to enter each giveaway if they choose to. Giveaways will also be posted on Fridays. This allows me to announce winners on Fridays and not worry about being by a computer on Saturday, because for some reason, summer=busy and as of this moment we have 3, yes only 3, free Saturdays during the entire summer. Seriously. 

July will be a fun month. The first week of July is summer break so there will be no posts July 4-9. July 11 will commence the second annual Babywise Success Stories Week. We did this last year and had an overwhelming turn out. More to come on that in the future, but if you want to participate, start writing down your success with Babywise and/or why you are glad you have used Babywise.

The next week is Reader Week. We will have you participate in sharing your sample schedules, sharing your blogs, and sharing your favorite products. 

"Normal" schedule will recommence the day after Labor Day. Here's to a fun summer!


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Votes so far: 97


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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Motherhood Reality Check

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“It has really been a busy day hasn't it?” I said to my friend Stephanie. Stephanie lives a couple of houses down from me. She is super wise and I love talking parenting with her because she has the best little tidbits of information. I trust Stephanie with a lot; I met her as soon as I moved to this town and have followed her recommendations for everything from our dentist to our preschool teacher.

On this particular day, we were about to watch our daughters in a dance review. Stephanie had recommended this nice and simple dance company that did modest dances, modest costumes, and at a very modest price.

Stephanie laughed and told me she had been sitting in her seat for the last several hours. Since I had the three year old daughter, I was lucky enough to not be expected to be there until 15 minutes before show time because people don’t expect much from three year olds typically.

I then commented on how that day I had been thinking back to life with a baby and how I was stuck in the house most of the time. “Having a newborn gets monotonous,” I said, “and it takes a lot of your time. But having older children really does take a lot more of your time.”

“I know!” Stephanie replied. Stephanie has three girls ranging from 6 to 12, so of course she knows. She knows better than I do. “People always told me that when my girls were young but I never believed them! Sometimes I long for those simple days again.”

“What! People warned you about older children?!? Nobody warned me!” I told her.

And thus here I am. Here I am to make sure you all know with fair warning what having older children is like.
You all know (or if you are new to the blog, you are about to know) that newborn time is not my favorite time. It is filled with lack of sleep, raging mommy hormones, and a whole lot of monotony. I know, some of you find it to be your favorite stage. That’s okay—we are all different. I also used to think it took up a lot of your time.

Ha! Newborns do not take up a lot of your time! It can feel confining, especially if you are breastfeeding. You have to be home for naps and you have to be with your baby to feed her.

Do you know who takes up a lot of your time?


Children take up a lot of your time. Not just newborns.

I am a total extrovert, but sometimes I really look back fondly on the time I was “stuck” at home. Things were simple. Sometimes simple leads you to boring, and yes, that is true. The monotony of it all can feel boring at times.

But I really want to help you to enjoy it for what it is if that is your stage in life. Appreciate what it is, because it is not that way for long.

I think a lot of times we look at our current situation and think, "When XYZ happens, things will be easier." So, "When my child is (5, 10, whatever), I will have more time to do things!"

The truth is, not only is life busy, but taking care of children, no matter their age, is busy. So don't wish away your present by looking to a future that won't come. Enjoy your present. Everything has its season. Everything has its good points and difficult points. The trick in life is to focus on the good and be grateful for it.

I am busier than I was when Brayden was a baby, no doubt. Sometimes I would like to go back to the long, uneventful days he and I spent together. But I love watching my children learn these cool new skills. I love talking with them and getting to know their unique personalities. I love the adventure and new experiences we have. I love hearing my toddler tell me all of the colors of everything around us and having her shock the librarian with her knowledge. I love playing soccer with the neighborhood kids—me versus everyone else and letting them win (or so I would like to think). I love being able to run errands all morning long if I need to and not worry about naps.

These are some things I love right now. If you are having a rough day and find yourself longing for the past or the future, sit down and think of what you love right now. Find the good things about your state and cling to those. Every stage has its own unique challenges and its own unique benefits you won’t face in other stages.
I do want you to know there is a lot to love about the baby stage. There is a lot to relish in as you are “stuck at home.” Time really does fly, so enjoy every moment. One day, you will miss it all.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Toddler Tantrums

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If you have a child who has not had a tantrum yet, please do not kid yourself. The day will come; your child will have a tantrum. "The propensity of throwing temper tantrums is a normal phase of development" (On Becoming Toddlerwise page 160).

As with many things, "normal" does not equate to "acceptable." As your child comes to recognize the emotions of frustration, disappointment, and anger, tantrums are a natural and normal thing for the child to do. But this is the moment to step in and teach your child how to appropriately handle the tantrum. 

Toddlerwise states, "A temper tantrum, whether thrown by a child or an adult is a coping mechanism occurring because an individual has not learned how to correctly manage disappointment" (page 160). I love that quote, especially the "or an adult" part. Yes, adults have their versions of tantrums too--some even look a lot like a toddler's. I think an important take-away from that knowledge is your child will not just "outgrow" tantrums some day. Do your child a favor and teach him how to handle his emotions.

I think it is important for us as parents to realize that tantrums are normal. It helps us feel like less of a failure. No matter how "perfectly" you parent, there will be tantrums. If you have the right perspective, you can let it roll off your back and seize it as a teaching moment rather than looking at it as a big red F on your parenting report card.

Yes, you can handle tantrums the wrong way and contribute to stronger and frequent tantrums in your future. But you are reading this, so you obviously desire to avoid that. Give yourself a lovely A on your parenting report card. Now, let's talk some strategies as outlined in Toddlerwise for handling tantrums.

Look For Patterns
Patterns are so important to take note of in life. Watch for patterns to the tantrums. When do they happen? Only in public? Right before a meal? When your child is late for a nap?

Once you recognize the pattern, you can help avoid the tantrums in the future. If your child throws tantrums when she is hungry, then you know to make sure you don't let her get to that point of hunger. You also know that when you are out and about, having a snack handy is a good idea.

Don't Reason
Don't try to talk your child out of the tantrum. One big reason for tantrums is your attention--and your child doesn't care if the attentions is positive or negative. Attention is the big payoff. "To work effectively, a tantrum needs a sympathetic audience" (page 160).  

This means you need to give your child no attention during a tantrum. I remember Kaitlyn's first (and I believe last) public tantrum sometime as an almost two year old. We were in the store. She wanted to do something or not do something involving the shopping cart and I said no or yes...the trigger is fuzzy to me. Kaitlyn carefully put herself on the floor, then proceeded with the tantrum. It was really funny in reality. We were right by the entrance. I stepped back about 10 feet and looked around the store. Once she realized I wasn't buying it, she stopped and we went about our day. 

Yes, I got a couple of those judgmental looks from people saying "Can't you control your child?" But it wasn't about me or my pride. It was about teaching Kaitlyn something, and I did. And after a minute, my child was very controlled with no desire to try that again. It was no fun.

Use Isolation
This is something I use most often for the tantrum at home. You have to remain calm and nonchalant about it. "You are welcome to throw your fit if you would like to, but you don't get to do it around the family. You need to go to your room until you are done with your fit." Again, the goal of the tantrum is attention, so removing the attention encourages your child to deal with the emotions in ways other than a fit.

Hold Tightly
You might sometimes find yourself in a situation where leaving the child alone doesn't work and allowing a tantrum on the ground is inappropriate. This is the moment to hold the child in your lap until the tantrum is done. 

This is a technique I use at church. If the child is not behaving, we leave the chapel. We find a quiet spot in the church where we can hopefully be alone, or at least without a lot of people around. I then hold the child on my lap until she is done with her fit. I can feel her body relax. Once she is calm, we go back into the chapel. 

Don't Say "Okay?"
I once worked at a daycare, and this was something that was highly stressed there. Adding "okay?" to the end of your statement is opening the door for your child to disagree. "Don't touch the plant, okay?" If keeping hands off the plant is not okay with your child, then you are inviting a tantrum.

This is the time to say "Say Yes Mommy?" "Don't touch the plant, say 'yes, mommy.' "

Teach Delayed Gratification
This is the clincher. Patience is a great thing to teach your child to not throw tantrums. And guess what? Babywise has done this from the beginning. We don't give our child whatever she wants whenever she wants. We have lots of things to help the child learn patience, including indpendent playtime. 

My two year old McKenna understands what "in a few minutes means." She also trusts me. So I say, "You can have a snack in a few minutes." And she chills out and says "okay." She knows I am good for my word because I always have been. I have always been predictable for her. She also knows how to wait a few minutes because we have done things that have taught her to work through things she might not have wanted to do. It doesn't mean she is perfectly patient, but for a two year old, she is good.

Even with this teaching, however, a child will be likely to have a tantrum if hungry or tired. Always be aware of that and be patient with it. Sometimes a tantrum when tired really just needs mom to pick the child up,hug the child, and say, "I know you are tired. It's okay sweetie. Shhh" gently. That is okay. Have compassion and patience, especially because if your child is hungry or tired, it is because you allowed your child to get there. Sometimes that happens; that is life. But you created the situation and a toddler is just not emotionally mature enough to control emotions with hunger and fatigue involved (many adults are not). Sometimes Mom or Dad's hugs and cuddles are enough to feed the child until real food can be provided.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Keeping Me Posted {Giveaway}!

Keeping Me Posted LLC is a company that makes baby shower invitations, birth announcements, birthday invitations, holiday cards, wedding shower invitations, and more!

The owners of this company contacted me right as I was about to make Brayden's birthday invitation. I know my way around a computer and a couple of programs (Fireworks and Photoshop), so I always make our invitations, announcements, and Christmas cards. 

Their timing was perfect for me to try out the process for Brayden's card. 

I'll tell you something. I am sold! They have so many cute card layouts, and the process was so fast. I choose my layout (the longest part of the process), put my picture in, added my text, and viola! All done! Submit your order and you soon have your cards at your house all printed and ready with the perfect-sized envelopes. The quality of the card is fantastic--it is very thick. I had those babies addressed and out the door the next day. It has never been easier for me. 

I used this baby announcement layout and changed it up for Brayden's birthday:

I also love:

Lots of cute formats! 

Today, Keeping Me Posted is giving away TWO gift cards for $25 to their shop! We will have two lucky winners! So, let's enter:

For Your First Entry:
Become a follower of this blog. Then leave a comment. If you are already a follower (the thing where your cute face pops up with all the other cute faces of people following), comment telling me so.

Sample Entry 
I am a follower!

For Your Second Entry:
Go to the Keeping Me Posted website. Look around. Come back and share what card you like best (they are all named)! Also, post a link to https://www.keepingmeposted.com/

Sample Entry
I like the "Jones" card! 

For Your Third Entry:
Like Keeping Me Posted on Facebook. Comment telling us you did so. 

Sample Entry
I like it on Facebook!

For Your Fourth Entry:
Like this blog on FacebookAlready do? Tell me so. Comment saying you are a fan.

Sample Entry
I like on Facebook!

For Your Fifth Entry:
On your blog, write a post about this giveaway with a link to  https://www.keepingmeposted.com/ as well as this post. Include the card you like best from Keeping Me Posted (just a name will do). Then comment saying you did so. Include a link to your blog post.

Sample Entry
I blogged it! valscreations.blogspot.com

For Your Sixth Entry: 
Change your status on Facebook to talk about this blog giveaway with a link to  https://www.keepingmeposted.com/. Leave a comment saying you did so.

Sample Entry
I changed my status! 

For Your Seventh Entry:
Tweet on Twitter about this giveaway. Include a link to  https://www.keepingmeposted.com/Once you have done so, come back and comment and include your Twitter ID. 

Sample Entry
I Tweeted! @valplowman

Keeping Me Posted Rules:

  • Giveaway is: 2 gift cards of $25 each to be redeemed at https://www.keepingmeposted.com/ (1 for each winner)
  • Giftcards will expire in 6 months, will be e-mailed to the winners, and cannot be redeemed for cash  
  • There will be 2 winners chosen at random

Entry Rules
  • You must leave a comment in order to have an entry.
  • You must leave a separate comment for each entry. This is not so I can get lots of comments--it is because it makes it a million times easier to choose a winner. It takes less time, and less time is good. Plus, it makes sure I don't miss an entry.
  • You don't have to do all seven entries...for example, if you just want to follow this blog, you can just do entry one.
  • One entry per comment.
  • Up to seven entries per person.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check.
  • Entries will be accepted until 11:59 PM Friday, June 3 Mountain Standard Time.
  • The winner will be randomly selected at random.org
  • The winner will be announced Saturday, June 4.
  • If you would like, you can add your email address to your entry. If you are the winner, I will email you to let you know. You do not need to add your email address in order to win. I understand not everyone wants to share their email addresses with the world. I will announce the winner on the blog, so you can check the blog Saturday to find out if you won.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time!


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