Thursday, May 25, 2017

How To Child-Proof Your Space for Independent Playtime

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You may like the idea of your child playing alone for a period of time each day. Oh the possibilities! You recognize the benefits and you have read all about how to go about it. There may be this lingering fear, however, about actually moving forward with it.

Will my child be safe?

We all want our children to be safe. No one wants their child to get hurt. With that in mind, here are some tips for you to be sure the room your child plays in for independent playtime is safe.

Observe Play
Before I ever let my oldest do playtime alone in his room, I observed him playing. This was in large part to him not being ready to do independent playtime independently since we started late. At first I played with him. Then I removed myself from playing but stayed in the room. Then I would leave for short times. It eventually led to him play alone. During the time I observed without playing, I really analyzed the room for any potential dangers. I made sure to fix any problems I saw so that when I left, I was full comfortable with him playing alone.

Keep lotions, medicines, wet wipes, etc. out of your child's reach. Be wise and realistic. Even very obedient children will want to explore, and you never know what they will do once they discover a bottle of lotion.

With my third child, I noticed she loved to remove the rubber part off the door stopper. This is very small and would be a choking hazard. Before she started roomtime, I removed the door stopper from the wall. Yes, the wall got a dent in it, but no, McKenna never choked. That's a win.

Bolt To The Wall
You want to make sure that anything your child could potentially pull over on herself is bolted to the

Outlet Covers
Put an outlet cover in all the outlets so your child can't experiment with electricity unsupervised.

Use a Monitor
An audio and/or video monitor is super helpful for you to hear and see what is going on in the room during independent play.

Use Playpen
Do not do roomtime until your child is able to do so responsibly. The playpen is a great place for independent play until that time.

You can take some simple steps to ensure your child's room is safe for play. What steps have you taken to make sure your little one is safe during independent playtime? I would love to hear your additional ideas! You can see how Brinley's room was set up when she was a toddler in this post.

Related Posts:
Today the ladies of the BFBN are talking Independent Play. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

8 Great Family Activities (and why you should put effort into doing them)

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8 Great Family Activities (and why you should put effort into doing them)

You know when that stranger approaches you in the grocery store and tells you how to be a better parent or offers you life-lesson advice? Or how about that fellow church-member who really only communicates with you in order to tell you the things you are doing wrong as a parent? Compare that feeling to the advice you get from your mother, best friend, or grandmother. We tend to take guidance and critique better from people we know and people we know love us than those we aren't well-acquainted with.

When you spend time with your children, they will feel greater love. There will be a harmony in your home, and when you offer up advice and instruction, they will react to you like you do to a good friend. They will know you love them and know they can trust that you have their best interests at heart. If you don't spend time with them, and yet try to correct them, they may smile politely and turn around and bristle as you want to with the random stranger in the super market.

Family activities do not need to be fancy, extravagant, nor expensive. They don't even have to be "fun." Time spent together is helpful. Here are some ideas for you to make sure you get that family time in--time for the entire family to be participating in an activity together.

Family Chore Day
I am starting here just to show that family time really is just about time spent as a family. Doing house work or yard work all together is spending time as a family! You are all working toward a common goal and it will be time of value. 

This unfortunately does not mean your children will say, "Oh thank you so much for making me pull weeds this morning! This family chore time is so special!" But it will be meaningful in their lives. We try to make family chore time a bit more bearable with playing music or singing songs. We make sure we point out how great it is to have everything clean and done at the end. We will even tell them before, "All right. We are going to clean the whole house really well today. I know that isn't fun, but it needs to be done and we need to work as a team. Let's have a good attitude and just get it done." It helps immensely!

In case you don't know, I love chores. Like, super love. I have a lot of posts on chores to help you out if you need ideas to get the ball rolling here. 

Local Free Activities
There are so many things you can do locally that are fun and free. Go for a hike. Go to the park. Have a picnic somewhere. Go to the beach. Go for a walk. With nice weather, we often go for a family walk on Sunday afternoons. It is one of my favorite things to do all week. My children love to go to the park and all play together. My husband and I will join in a game of tag, and they find that to be so fun. 

There are many things you can do in the backyard. A family game of soccer. Frisbee. Playing in the sandbox. Drawing with sidewalk chalk. These are all fun activities you can do for free at home.

Family Movie Night
Our kids love to do a family movie night. We all get comfortable, pop some popcorn, and watch a movie together at home. In the summer, it is fun to do it outside for some variety. 

One of the best activities to do as a family is go camping. You are often cut off from the world when you camp, so you can only pay attention to each other. Camping isn't necessarily easy! I am not leaving you high and dry here. I have a bunch of posts on camping to help you do this activity smoothly. 

8 Great Family Activities (and why you should put effort into doing them)Go out to the movies, sporting events, musicals, or concerts. Spend the day at the local amusement park or visiting museums. Go swimming or skiing. Here are some posts to help you out here:

Board Games
Our favorite tradition is to play a family game. We do this each Sunday and our children look forward to it. We rotate who gets to choose the game each week and the rule is you have to be a good sport and play along--this is an important rule when you have an 11 year old and a 4 year old. Ha! Look. Very few older people like to play Candy Land with regularity. My husband and I have always loved to play games, but we like some variety and we aren't weekly Candy-Landers ourselves. So we have done some searching and finding. I have some posts on great games the whole family can enjoy.

Family Home Evening
Each week, we have our family home evening. This just something everyone plans on. You can do a fun activity in conjunction with family home evening. You can read more about how we do family home evening here.

Family Vacation
A family vacation is the most expensive way to have family time. You definitely want all of the simple, cheap, and free ideas in your list and on your radar because you need family time to be more frequent than most people have time and money for with vacations. However, keep vacations on your radar, too. There is a large, concentrated amount of time spent together on vacations. You make great memories and have great stories to look back on and talk about. Whenever we go somewhere for a big trip, I write about it to help you be able to travel there with your family with success. Here are some ideas.

It is much easier to have family activities on a consistent basis than it might seem. These are eight simple ideas for family activities. I know you love even more ideas--any family activities I pin are well-liked! I have a whole board just for family activities. Follow my board for lots of great ideas! You can find these ideas here:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Babywise Sample Schedules: The First Month

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Sample Babywise Schedules for your baby's first month.

The first month is the least scheduled overall in your Babywise journey. You "take the clock and turn it around" as the book says. In other words, you don't worry so much about times as you do getting the whole family more acclimated to life with a new baby. There will never be a return to "normal." There is a finding of a new normal. Here are some sample schedules from the first month of life. These are from me and you blog readers. Please feel free to add your own schedules in the comments.

Before you go further, please be sure you have read My Sleep Hierarchy For Newborns. You need to know what your primary and secondary goals should be for a newborn so you keep priorities straight. It will make your newborn life much less frustrating!

Month Overview
During this first month, aim for the following:
  • Feed 8-10 times per a 24 hour period.
  • Feedings should be 2.5-3 hours apart typically.
  • Cluster feeding can be helpful for a very hungry baby in the evenings or for a baby who needs to get more feedings in the 24 hour period. 
  • There will be a growth spurt around 3-4 weeks old. This will mean your baby will eat more often during the day and sleep less. It won't last forever! 
  • Baby will nap 6-8 times per day. 
  • Naps should be around 1.5-2.5 hours long each time. 
  • Your baby can go up to 5 hours between feedings at night. Some will wake up more often than that, others will need you to set an alarm and wake them up at five hours to stay on track. 
For a full year overview, see this post: Your Babywise Baby: First Year Overview.

Week One
While the book says to not worry about a schedule during this week, we had one with all of our girls. I am really big on "begin as you mean to go on." I also found it hard to not do a schedule since that was ingrained into me by the time my girls came along. Another driving factor for me was that my girls didn't wake up on their own most of the time. I needed to wake them up so they would eat. If I left them to guide the way, who knows if and when they would have tried to eat. 

My first focus was on an "eat/wake/sleep" cycle idea. I was aware, however, that often for  a brand new baby, "wake" and "eat" might be one in the same. Newborns are sleepy and might just eat, sleep, eat, sleep, with little to no actual wakefulness in between. For help on proper expectations for awake time lengths, see this post (including an infographic on waketimes!).

Another big focus for me was having a consistent time of day that we started each day. I started it when I hoped my baby to start as she got older. My babies did not all end up starting the day at my ideal start time--they were naturally inclined to start at a different time. Adjust your expectations as needed. Wake baby up at this same time each day to eat and start the day. If baby is waking up in the night close to this time, see my night wakings post for help to navigate that. 

I also really wanted my babies to be able to fall asleep independently from the beginning. I didn't want to teach to fall asleep one way and then teach a new way later. My favorite way, a no-cry solution, is the Four S's.

I also focused on our last "day" feeding to be around the same time each day as well as our dreamfeed. Here is an example of what to aim for, with naps starting basically right when the feeding was over:

9:00--nurse (dreamfeed)

Then you would have baby waking twice during the night to eat. 

Here is a breakdown of what my third child's first week was like:
Night One:
McKenna ate at 10:15 PM, 12:00 AM, 2:15 AM, 4:45 AM, and I woke her at 8:15 AM. What a night! Why so many feedings? One, she is small. She is under 6 pounds, so I definitely wasn't going to try to hold her out at all if she was hungry. Also, my milk was still colostrum and I don't think that was holding her over. Finally, she had awful gas pains that night, so she woke frequently.

Night Two:
McKenna ate at 9:50 PM, 1:30 AM, and 4:00 AM. I got her up at 7:45 AM. This was much better. She did have a gas pain situation this night, also, though.

Night Three:
McKenna ate at 9:50 PM, 1:45 AM, and 4:45 AM. I then woke her at 7:45 AM. This was the night that I first had to wake her for a night feeding. I woke her at 4:45. I could let her go up to 5 hours, but I want to keep morning waketime as consistent as possible. I also need to have at least 8 feedings in her and she does better with a longer schedule in the day--resulting in needing two night feedings right now.

Night Four:
McKenna ate at 10:15 PM, 2:15 AM, and 6:15 AM. I woke her at 8:15 AM. I woke her for all four of these feedings listed.

Night Five:
McKenna ate at 10:00 PM, 1:35 AM (she woke for this), and 5:15 AM. I then woke her at 8:00 AM.

Week Two
The same rules and goals of week one apply to week two as applied in week one. 

Here is the schedule I used with McKenna (my third) as a newborn:
9:30--nurse. This actually can vary from 9:30-10:00 PM.

I then went to bed. She typically woke on her own somewhere around 2 AM. I then woke her around 5:30 AM so she would still be hungry enough to eat at our first feeding in the morning. 

Week Three
This is when you might run into a growth spurt. If so, feed more often. If not, stick with your basic rules. 

Week Four
If the growth spurt didn't happen in week three, it will in week four. Feed as often as baby needs this week. 

Here is a sample of my fourth child at week four:
Sample Babywise Schedules for your baby's first month.
7-7:30 (time varies here)--feed, then bedtime
then night feed(s).

Here is a sample from a reader at one month old:
6:00am Bottle
6:50 Nap
9:00 Bottle
9:50 Nap
12:00pm Bottle
1:00 Nap
3:00 Bottle
4:00 Nap
6:00 Bottle
6:30 Bath / Bedtime routine
7:00 Bed
10:00 Bottle
2:00 Bottle

Helpful Posts:

Monday, May 22, 2017

How To Stop Back Talk

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How To Stop Back Talk

You would think that maybe, on my fourth child, I wouldn't find myself in this spot. I would be able to sidestep it and cruise along, riding on my years of experience to avoid one of the most frustrating moments of parenting.

The sass. 

The backtalk. 

The battles.

The moments when your child decides what you say is more like a guideline than an instruction. Your child tells you why you are wrong or why she is going to do what she wants anyway, or how she is "just" going to do this one thing before listening to you. You could avoid the moment she will throw a major fit when you pick out her outfit for the day.

What my years of parenting experience did do for me was immediately tell me why my little cutie suddenly believed she knew best and got to set the rules. 

She had too many freedoms. She had grown wise in  her own eyes and was sure she had as much wisdom and authority as I did. She needed fewer freedoms.

How To Fix It
Identifying the issue is easy when you know what to work for. Now for the solution. Fortunately, the solution is also easy if you have the will to stick things through. 

I started with pulling back all of her decision making freedoms. 
How To Stop Back Talk

All of them.

I know it sounds extreme and harsh, but it was necessary to get her back on track. She no longer got to choose anything she wore. She didn't get to choose her cup. She didn't get to choose whether or not she wore a coat.

Now, obviously as a four year old, it is not age-appropriate to have zero say in your decisions. This didn't last long. I took all decisions away for a few days as a way to detox her from the power-hungry-ness within her. She needed to recognize that her parents are in charge, not her. 

After a few days, I started allowing her some small freedoms. I added them in slowly. Several months later, she does not have the same number of freedoms as she had before I took full control back. She lost those freedoms because she couldn't handle having them all--they made her "too big for her britches." It wouldn't make sense to reinstate them all.

How To Avoid It Again
Getting to a point of your child having too many freedoms can be really easy to do. We don't always know exactly what is right for a two year old. In an effort to foster independence and responsibility, we might allow more freedom than is wise. We can easily let our younger children have more freedom than is age appropriate as we sometimes let there be one standard for all of the children in the family, whereas each child should have individual freedoms. 
  • Be aware of "too many freedoms." Know that it is possible to have to many and be on the lookout for symptoms of the issue.
  • Test freedoms out. Even if my child typically gets to pick her own clothes out each day, I will at times just decide what she is wearing one day to test out the reaction. If she accepts it with out a fuss, her level of freedoms are good. If she throws a fit, she needs her freedoms scaled back.
  • Don't be lazy. Guess what, your four year old will be upset that she doesn't get to do everything the eight year old gets to do. You will hear, "That's not fair" and "Whey does she get to!" It is easier on a lot of levels to let the child just have her way and have everything even among the children. Don't do it! Keep things age and child-appropriate. I know it is harder! Do it anyway.
No matter how many children you have, whether you are on your oldest or your youngest, you will need to make adjustments. You will make mistakes. You will not be perfect. Odds are high you will face the "too many freedoms" issue. You can fix it, though! Watch for the signs and follow the steps and you will have your sweet child back in no time. 

Related Posts:

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Perfect Backyard Bench {Friday Finds}

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The Perfect Backyard Bench

These are the best benches. BEST! This is a bench you can use a wide variety of locations. The deck, the patio, by the swing set so you have somewhere to sit while the kids works well anywhere. The best part about this bench is that it can be a bench or it can be a table. You easily flip the back up to make half of a picnic table. We bought two of these benches so we could have a full table, but you can use it as a half just fine. 

The Perfect Backyard Bench
Beyond the ease of use and the multi-functionality of these, I love that they are easy to clean and very weather proof. We have harsh winters and a lot of items have to be put inside or covered up in the winter. We leave these out year after year and they are still in fabulous shape. They are also quite light, so it is easy to move around the yard. The only downside is the top (the backrest part that flips up) doesn't lock in place at all, so it can be awkward to carry.
The Perfect Backyard Bench

These are so awesome that my mother-in-law bought all of her children two for Christmas last year (except us since we already have two...we got some other outside furniture).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sleep Needs and Difficulties for 7-12 Year Olds

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What you need to know about preteens and sleep

The importance of sleep does not diminish as your child grows. Your child will still have an optimal amount of sleep to get at night and will also still run into sleep problems and road blocks. If you have set up healthy sleep requirements and expectations from a young age, you will find it much easier to maintain proper sleep totals and quickly fix sleep problems that arise. This post contains affiliate links.

"...the prepubertal teenager [that's fancy for preteen, or 8-12 year old] needs nine and a half to ten hours of sleep in order to maintain optimal alertness during the day" (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, page 358). This means if your child is waking at 7:00 AM, she needs to be in bed no later than 9:30 PM. Children can vary quite a bit based on individual sleep needs, so if you find your child needs more sleep than that, be sure to have bedtime early enough. We do bedtime no later than 8-8:30 on a regular basis in our house with our three preteens. We have some nights that are later for fun occasions, but on school nights and most nights of the week, we do 8-8:30. 

Brayden (age 11, but almost 12) is responsible and I let him decide what time he needs to be done reading at night. He aims for 8:30-9:00. He also needs less sleep on the sleep needs scale.

For Kaitlyn (age 10) and McKenna (age 8), they have a rule for lights out 8:30 PM. 

  • Have a regular and consistent bedtime.
  • Make sure bedtime is early enough. If your child has a hard time falling asleep, try moving bedtime earlier. 
  • If your child complains about tummy pains, limb pains, and/or headaches, consider possible stress or emotional causes. It can be separation anxiety, stress, emotions, social issues, school worries, or even fear of failure. These complaints often surface around 8 years old. McKenna read Anne of Green Gables right around the time she turned 8. At the end. there is a sad death. McKenna was so worried about someone close to her dying after that. For over a month, she complained about her tummy hurting whenever bedtime approached. If you are finding your preteen aged child having common pains, get to the root of the emotional issue and help your child through it. 
Good sleep has a strong impact on many functions of the body, including the ability to focus and regulate everything from cravings to emotions. Do what you can to help even your preteens to have healthy sleep habits and skills. Healthy sleep needs do not end with little kids, and children rarely just "outgrow" poor sleep. Be intentional with your child's sleep. 

What you need to know about preteens and sleep

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dropping Naps Ages {Poll Discussion Post}

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For so much of your baby's first 18 months of life, you spend time wondering if it is time to drop the nap yet. A great way to keep on top of when is best to drop the nap is to know what the average age is. It is also very helpful to know what the outliers ages were and how that worked out (for example, if a child dropped a nap months earlier than usual, did the child still sleep well for naps and night).

Please take a moment to answer the questions below. Doing so will help other parents now and in the future. It is very helpful for me when compiling answers if you at least number the answers you give. You can also copy the questions and answer them. If the question does not apply to you, simply put "N/A."

1-What age did your baby move from 4 naps to 3 naps each day?
2-What age did your baby go from 3 naps to 2 naps each day?
3-What age did your child go from 2 naps to 1 nap each day?
4-What age did your child go from napping most days to to not napping most days (whether doing rest time instead or just not napping)?
5-What age was your child done napping consistently?
6-Any tips, advice, and/or words of wisdom for parents out there?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Kaitlyn PreTeen Summary {10 Years Old!}

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This is a summary for Katilyn between 9.75-10 years old. She is really at an easy stage right now. She is very self-driven and stays on top of the thing she needs to. She has very varied interests. She loves to do theatre. She loves to play sports like basketball and soccer. She considers herself more of a tomboy--meaning she prefers sports and isn't one to wear skirts or dresses other on Sundays. She also loves to draw and to write stories. She loves animals. She is very smart and a good student. There isn't a "one-size" Kaitlyn fits into, and she amazes me constantly with her personal drive and her willingness to work to get good at something. 

Kaitlyn went through a period of eating a whole lot and also grew quite a bit in that period. This is a huge growth spurt, but it is a growth spurt. The size difference in a 10 year old and 11 year old is quite significant. She is entering a time period when growth is rapid and children her age change a lot. 

Sleeping is great. Kaitlyn is a deep sleeper and sleeps well no matter what is going on. 

School is very good. Kaitlyn recently told me she has never enjoyed school so much and the days just fly by. Fourth grade is a common time for girls to get really mean toward each other. Kaitlyn hasn't run into issues with that this year. There are some tiffs here and there, but no big blow outs. 

In this time period, Kaitlyn had piano lessons as she does most of the year. She finished up basketball. She started and continued soccer. She finished up the school musical.

Affiliate links ahead. This does not increase your cost in any way. Heroes of Olympus and Wings of Fire are her two very favorite book series. 

Here is her school schedule:

7:00 AM--Wake up and get ready.
9:00 AM--School
4:00 PM--Home. Homework and chores. Then free play. 
5:00 or 5:30 PM--Dinner. Then family time.
7:30 PM--Get ready for bed.
8:00 PM--In bed.

Related Posts:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sample Nap Routines

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Ideas for successful nap routines to get your baby to sleep well.

We all know that sleep routines are helpful and even crucial at bedtime. A lot of people are left wondering what to do at nap time, however. Should there be a routine? If so, does it need to be the same as the bedtime routine? If not, what changes can be made? How long should it be?

First, yes you do want a nap routine. Sleep routines help signal to your baby that it is time for sleep. It is a simple way to communicate that it is now time for nap.

Your bedtime routine is likely a little more involved than you want your nap time routine to be. Many people do a bath as their bedtime routine, and no one wants to do 5 baths a day in order to duplicate that in a routine. Another thing you might cut back is how long you read to your baby before nap, if at all. You might read for less time than you do at bedtime or not do a nap time story at all. 

Further, I like nap routines to be relatively short. I don't want to spend 30 minutes getting my baby ready for a nap. This was even more true when I had a toddler and a baby at home. I needed both the toddler and the baby to be able to be put down for a nap quickly so that I could attend to the other one if needed. 

It is super helpful if your baby's routine can be done by anyone and done anywhere. You don't want the routine to be dependent upon you. This is one reason nursing to sleep isn't ideal for a nap routine. If you have to be the one doing the task, you will not be able to be away from your baby for a very long time. 

You also want it to be able to be done anywhere. Rocking a baby for a bit can be nice, but unless your baby is okay with substituting a sway while you stand, you might find it difficult to get your little one to sleep while traveling or even just visiting people for the day. You want to set the stage for sleep and be consistent. You want it to be soothing. 

Here are some sample nap routines I have used with my children. Some are more complicated than others. They all worked. 

Nap routine infographicRoutine 1:
  • Take to room --> Pick up special blankie (when old enough for blankie--before old enough, I skipped this step) --> Lay baby in crib with blankie --> Sing lullaby --> Say, "I love you! Sleep tight. Good night." --> Kiss my fingers and touch to baby's nose.
Routine 2:
  • Take to room --> Swaddle --> Give kisses and hugs --> Lay in crib --> Sing lullaby --> Say, "I love you! Sleep well. Sleep tight. Good night." --> Kiss my fingers and touch to baby's nose.
Routine 3:
  • Take to room --> Close blinds and turn on sound machine --> Change diaper --> Do 3 of the 4 S's (set stage, swaddle, sit) --> Give kisses and hugs --> Lay in crib --> Sing lullaby --> Say, "I love you! Sleep well. Sleep tight. Good night." --> Kiss my fingers and touch to baby's nose.
Routine 4: 
  • Take to room --> Close blinds and turn on sound machine --> Read stories --> Change diaper --> Change into pajamas --> Do 3 of the 4 S's (set stage, swaddle, sit) --> Give kisses and hugs --> Lay in crib --> Sing lullaby --> Say, "I love you! Sleep well. Sleep tight. Good night." --> Kiss my fingers and touch to baby's nose.
Here is a great thing about having a simple sleep routine in place. When your baby wakes in the night for a reason other than hunger, you can attend to the problem, then run through a quick routine and put baby back in bed. Baby will understand that is still sleep time because you did the routine.

If your little one is having a hard time sleeping, try some essential oils to help him/her relax.

Here is a note: do what works for your child. When Brayden was 10 months old, my husband started wrestling with him right before bed every night. This is pretty much cardinal sin number one when it comes to preparing a child for sleep. But it worked! It really helped wear Brayden down for sleep. So do what works even if it seems all wrong. 

Ideas for successful nap routines to get your baby to sleep well.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

12 Ideas For a Simple, Fun Summer

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12 Ideas For a Simple, Fun Summer

Summer fun is coming our way. I can feel it and I am READY for it. In preparation for summer, I am doing some thinking ahead. I have tried the "free and easy" summer approach before, and that didn't go so well. That was fine and dandy for the short-term, but we need some structure. Included in that structure is time for fun, free-play, and relaxing.

You can set your structure up as loose or tight as you wish. Do what works for your family this summer. Notice I said this summer, not all summers. You will find some summers, you can be more go with the flow, while others, you will need a pretty tight routine to keep everyone happy and pleasant. That means you only need to worry about works now, not try to find a one-size option for the rest of you child's childhood.

You can do things away from home--you can do a summer camp. You can do a stay-cation or vacation. You can have fun with benefits at home. You can teach your child some new life skills. You can implement daily sustained silent reading (FABULOUS!). You can also plan fun things just at home. Here are some things we have recently acquired that we love for summer fun. This post contains affiliate links. This does not increase your cost at all.

Balls are great for backyard family fun. If you don't have a backyard, they are great to take to the park for fun, too!
  • Soccer Ball: For Christmas, Kaitlyn wanted, above all else, a really nice soccer ball. Well...I wasn't interested in spending $$$$ for a really nice soccer ball for a 9 year old. I consulted with her coach and he recommended a nice one that doesn't break the bank.
  • A Waboba Surf Ball is so fun for playing in any type of water. We have done the pool and the lake with great fun all times. This ball bounces on water. At McKenna's birthday party, this ball was the big hit. 
  • A dodgeball is super fun for playing all sorts of games, like kickball, four square, and dodgeball. This is a great type of ball if your child doesn't have a specific sport interest because it can be used in a variety of ways.
Whatever your children are interested in right now, get a ball for that sport and have fun with it.

Sporting Equipment
Balls aren't the only way to have fun outside. There are a lot of other ideas out there.

  • An absolute favorite at our house is the inline skates. My kids spend hours on them, especially McKenna. This is McKenna's current pair of inline skates. This was her first pair--which we totally loved! They are a great starter skate. This is Brayden's current pair.
  • For outdoor water play, life vests are helpful and sometimes vital. Brayden loves his Kayak, and I always require a life vest even though he is an excellent swimmer.
  • The Ripstik is another fun one. It can be hard to master, so I would recommend this for more 8 and older unless you have a child absolutely determined to ride one and is willing to put in practice time to get it. Otherwise you will be frustrated to have spent money on a dust-collector. If you do get one, note that the shorter ones (like I got) are usually harder to get down than a longer one.
  • Rock Climbing. McKenna loves to rock climb, so we ended up just getting her her own climbing harness. We figured it would be cheaper than renting one every time she went. If you don't have outdoor options, check around to see if you have an indoor gym. McKenna so far only does indoor even though we live in a spectacular outdoor climbing area of the world. It is a nice summer retreat because they keep that gym cold!
12 Ideas For a Simple, Fun Summer

Outdoor Space
If you are spending time in your backyard, you will enjoy having a few amenities to make things a little easier for yourself.
  • Mosquito killer. I didn't know this was a possible thing until last year. It made a huge difference! This just makes the time we spend outside so much more enjoyable for me and for those of my children who are allergic to the mosquitoes! 
  • Bistro table. Having a little sitting area to eat a snack, drink a smoothie, or read a book is so nice for your outdoor space. This is the little bistro table we have. 
  • Outdoor movies. We love to do outdoor movies at night during the summer. It is such a fun way to spend some time and the kids think it is amazing. It is more exciting than a movie theater! My kids love having friends over for late-nights to do outdoor movies. You need a projector (we have had this one for two years and still love it), a screen (or sheet or white tarp--we used this white tarp until a neighbor gave us his old screen), a dvd/blu-ray player, and speakers. My husband bought some outdoor speakers over the winter so we can have the speakers all set up so he doesn't have to set all of that up every time we have a movie night. Before that, we just used an old stereo. 
  • Garbage can: A reality of outside time is garbage happens. Life is made a little easier if you have a garbage can out there, and we all need little things to make life a little easier. This is the one we have. We have been testing it and really like it, so I will be getting a couple more since our yard is pretty large. 
  • Ice cream scoop: Come on now. You need a great scoop to eat that ice cream this summer. This is the one we have and I really like it. It washes in the dishwasher and is easy to use. If you want an easy way to make ice cream at home, this is the ice cream maker machine we have and it is fantastically easy. 
Related Posts/Blog Labels (click on images to read post):
How to Have a Fun Summer Even With a Routine

Teaching New Skills During Summer

5 Reasons To Do Summer Camps (and 3 Reasons Not To)

Managing Disruptions to the Routine

 Sustained Silent Reading

Why Breastfed Babies are at a Higher Risk for Iron Deficiency, & What to do About it {Guest Post}

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Why iron is so important for breastfed babies.

When it comes to feeding your baby solid foods, there is one very important mineral to keep in mind- iron. Babies are actually born with a backup of iron stores. These iron stores supply iron to your little one for approximately the first 6 months of life, until they are depleted around that age. So, what does this mean exactly? It means you need to get iron into your baby so they don't get deficient.

The next question is if the baby is breastfed or formula fed.

Formula fed babies are getting the iron they need from the formula they are drinking. Most formulas are iron-fortified. This means you don't have to worry about iron deficiency.

Breastfed babies, on the other hand, do not get enough iron from breast milk. Breast milk actually contains very little iron. As a result, breast fed babies actually need some form of supplementation to get the iron that they need, otherwise they are at risk for being deficient. So, at 6 months of age, it is no longer safe to 100% breast feed your baby. There has to be supplementation somewhere.

Most parents are thinking about starting solid foods somewhere between the age of 4-6 months, with the trend now being to start at 6 months. My only caution with this, is that many babies don't take to solid foods quickly, so if you are breastfeeding your baby and only start introducing solid foods at 6 months, there needs to be a quick turnaround on acceptance of the food, and a high focus on iron intake, in order to be sure your little one is getting enough. As with everything, every choice you make needs to consider everything that is right for your little one. The recommendation to start at 6 months is only part of the big picture to keep in mind.

The next question, is where do you focus in order to increase iron intake? 

There are several good options:

1. Introduce a liquid vitamin that contains iron. Your 6-12 month old baby needs 11 mg of iron per day.  Vitamins are a simple way to accomplish this goal.

2. Don't be afraid of cereals. There is a rising trend to skip baby cereals because they "provide little to no nutrients". This is not true! I go in to more detail of the science behind their nutritional value in this post on introducing solid foods to your baby, but the short version, is that cereals are easy to digest. They are a great place to start when the digestive system has had nothing but liquids to work with. Oatmeal is a whole grain. Whole grains we obviously known to be healthy. So, feel free to skip rice cereal, but don't overlook the option of oatmeal. These cereals are not only easy for our little ones to digest, they are fortified with iron! You can get pretty creative with these cereals and even make them into baby pancakes once your baby is chewing.

3. Introduce iron rich foods as soon as possible. Meats, beans, grains, and vegetables are all good sources of iron. A full list of iron rich foods can be found at this link. Nothing compares to the levels that baby cereals provide! Chicken liver comes in second, with white beans and spinach at the next highest levels.

4. Shy away from dairy with meals. Calcium can actually inhibit the absorption of iron. So, try to feed dairy items high in calcium, as snacks away from meals if possible.

5. Include high levels of vitamin C.  Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron. This means you need to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your baby's diet to help iron get processed in the right way!

As with any decision you make, it is important to have the full picture. Trends are trends. Science can help give us more insight. Iron is so essential to our diets and our health, and unfortunately, we talk more about trends than scientific facts at times. The scientific fact is that babies need iron supplementation starting at 6 months of age, and breastfed babies are at a higher risk for iron deficiency. 

Katrina has a 2.5 year old daughter and blogs at Mama's Organized Chaos. She's a mama that breastfed, used cloth diapers, did sleep training, and loves Babywise!

Other posts of interest:

Why iron is so important for breastfed babies.

Babywise Friendly Blog Network

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Birthday Parties {Poll Results}

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While you can always change things up as you go along in parenting, starting off with a solid game plan you can live with is definitely helpful when it comes to establishing your birthday party traditions. Younger children will expect that they will have the same opportunities for birthday parties that the older children had, and older children will quickly notice if you vary things for the younger siblings. Life circumstances change often, and I am not suggesting that birthday party policies absolutely can't change. I am saying it is nice to start the policies with some plans and with your eyes as wide open as possible so you can make the most informed decision you can.

Below are the results from a recent poll we did. Feel free to add any commentary you have. 

1-How often do you (or do you plan to) let your child have a birthday party with friends (for example, every year, every other year, on certain key ages, etc.)?

Natalie said: "We plan to limit friend parties to key ages. We will have low-key family parties most of the time with an emphasis on her giving instead of getting, and being thankful for another year of life."

Christina said: We have a birthday party every year, but it usually doesn't involve a lot of other people besides the birthday girl or boy and immediate family. Last year by chance we had family in town so she had cousins to play with and a friend from Mother's Day Out.

Tiffany said: We have four boys. We have one party a year, and who the party is for rotates through the kids, so each child gets a party every four years. There's got to be a better way to say that, but I don't know what it is.

Nicole said: Every year after age 3-4. Sometimes we also have a family over at a separate time.

2-How long do you like the party to be (please include the age of the child)?
N/A: 1
2 hours: 2
1-3 years: 2-3 hours
4: 3-4 hours

3-How much notice do you give guests (in other words, how long before the party do you pass out invitations)?
1 week: 2
3 weeks: 1

Tiffany said:  Create a facebook event 3-4 weeks ahead. Hand out paper invitations 2-3 weeks ahead. I usually check well ahead with "must have" guests to make sure a given date will work for them. 

4-Do you limit the number of guests? And if so, what is your limit?
Yes: 1

Christina said: I don't limit how many to invite, but I think ideally 3-4 guests is the best for our daughter (turning 5). I like the one guest per year guideline, at least up until 5-6 guests. After that, it would be too much for me. LOL

Tiffany said:  We limit it to the kids in their Sunday School class and their families. As they get older and a parent present with each kid isn't a big deal anymore, we'll probably still stay with kids in their SS class. We are joining a homeschool co-op next year, so that may change it a bit. SS friends + co-op friends?

Nicole said: It depends. My kids have the choice between a big party with lots of friends at home or an outing with one friend. I limit the guest list a little bit if the number starts to feel out of hand but I have no set formula. 

5-When you do a friend party, how do you work in family? Do you invite them along, have a separate party, not do a family party that year, etc.?

Natalie said: Just whatever works that year. If family is nearby then they would be invited along.

Christina said: Family and friends all come to the same event. We do have a small recognition on the actual birthday (a couple of gifts, cake, and special dinner on the actual birthday). Our kids are still very young, though.

Tiffany said: No family nearby, so it hasn't been an issue. My mom has been visiting from out of town for a couple of parties, so obviously she attends (and helps a lot!)

Nicole said: We try to have the birthday party on the actual birthday. So family can come or not. If they don't come to the party, they often drop by with a gift some other time 

6-Any tips for a successful party? Themes, locations, resources, etc.?

Christina said: If you do them at your own home, prepare for a TON of work: cleaning, prepping, decorations, cooking/preparing. It will be EXHAUSTING! Also, if you plan on an outdoors party, always have a back up location in case of rain or bad weather. To save money at our local park, we just claim a picnic table since the kids will be playing the entire time anyway, and we don't have to pay the $100 fee to use a shelter.

Tiffany said: Keep it simple. Kids don't really like a lot of elaborate party games. Just give them balls, balloons, etc. and let them have at it. This may be different with older kids. The oldest one I've had a party for was turning 4.
Side note: In addition to the party every four years, each year we try to do something special as a family for each of their birthdays. Out to dinner, special activity, etc. Also, when they turn 5 (and eventually 10 and 15), they get a special outing, tailored to the child's interest, with just Mom and Dad - no siblings allowed. And we do it big. For our oldest, who was a tiny foodie, we took him out to a VERY nice restaurant (in the Top 10 in the nation on TripAdvisor). For our second, a big-time animal lover, we purchased a package at the zoo that allowed him to meet and brush the rhino, go behind the scenes, meet the keeper, etc.

Nicole said: Treat it like a big play date. Kids are fairly easy to keep happy in a big group. I only plan good and cake, the rest of the party is free play. I've had pretty good success with that. My husband sometimes does games, though


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