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Since today is Thanksgiving in the United States and I live in the United States, I thought it would be a good day to mention gratitude. I have a quote that says, "Gratitude is the best attitude." So true.

We start to teach our children about gratitude at a young age. When they first start to say "Thank you," they most likely don't know what it really means. Lack of understanding doesn't mean you can't teach them correct behavior. Understanding of behavior usually follows learning the actions of it for children.

If you have a young baby, my advice to you is to tell your child "Thank You" every chance you get. Modeling behavior is a great way to teach it. I discovered that I say thank you a lot. One of Brayden's first words was "Thank you." He used it correctly and has been good at it ever since. I since noticed that I thank for everything. Kaitlyn has turned out the same. She thanks, and thanks even more efficiently. Since she talks in complete sentences, she says, "Thank you for my milk, Mama." How sweet!

One thing I realized I wasn't good at was saying "please." When I asked for things, my tone and choice of phrasing implied 'please,' but I wasn't good at saying it. I have had to train Brayden to say please, and it is something I frequently remind him of to this day (not necessarily unreasonably, but more than I would if I had modeled it for him).

I vowed to do better, and I did. It took and takes effort on my part to add please when I ask for something, but I am doing it! Kaitlyn is just as good at 'please' as she is 'thank you.' This has shown me how strong of an impact modeling during the first year is on your child. And remember, you can also sign all along so they can sign if they aren't verbal early on (see Sign Language :

We have had several lessons this month on gratitude with our children. After one lesson, we got out a huge piece of paper. The family gathered around and drew pictures of things we were thankful for. It started off slowly, but Brayden quickly caught on and started drawing item after item without pausing to think. This is how gratitude works. When we think with a grateful heart, it is easy for us to recognize the many things we have to be thankful for. We focus on the good rather than the bad. Teaching your child to be grateful is teaching your child one secret to being happy.

Best Toys for Baby: Ages 0-3 Months

I had a request for a series of favorite toys for each age range of baby. I can share my ideas and then you all can share yours.

o-3 months is a time when your baby doesn't really play with toys. When you consider Hogg's Learning Triangle (Baby Whisperer: Learning Triangle : and Ezzo's funnel, you want to be careful about what you try to have your child play with. This doesn't mean your newborn needs to sit in a state of boredom. For one thing, everything is new and interesting to your newborn; she can easily become overstimulated if you take things to far (which I think is very common for the first time mother, at least it was for me). For another, there are some things I think are good for the newborn. Remember the baby doesn't usually get the ability to grab a toy until 3 months, some closer to 4 months. So we are talking about the newborn who can't move herself or purposefully grab something and hold it.

  • Blanket: A blanket can be a good "toy" for a newborn. You can do tummy time or lay your newborn on her back to just observe what is going on around her.
  • Playpen: A playpen can be used instead of a blanket, or in addition to a blanket. You could put mobile on the playpen (mobiles are discussed below) a stuffed animal in your baby's view, or even the gym in the playpen and the baby at the playpen. I find this nice if baby has older siblings that aren't quite aware of how to handle baby yet. For example, Brayden was 22 months old when Kaitlyn was born. He has always been a cautious person and was never too rough with her, but I wasn't about to leave them in the room alone together or leave her in his reach without my supervision. Putting her in the playpen offered a buffer for me to be sure she was safe. Our playard is a Graco brand, but there are lots of brands out there: Playards
  • Bath: Once the umbilical cord has fallen off, you can bath your baby as a good "toy" for this age if she enjoys it. Before that, just a sponge bath. See this post for my favorite bath items along with many ideas from readers: Baby Stuff I Love: Bathtime :
  • Massage: Your baby might enjoy an infant massage. See this post for more on that: Baby Whisperer: Infant Massage :
  • Parent's Voice: your voice can be interesting for your baby. Think back to those nursery songs and sing them to your baby, but be sure you don't take it too far or for too long. Some of my kids favorite songs were The Wheels on the Bus (doing actions of the bus with baby's body, so for wipers, I would take their hands and swish them back and forth), 10 Little Monkeys (my fingers were the monkeys), and the Itsy Bitsy Spider (me doing actions).
  • Puppets: Your newborn might enjoy looking at a hand or finger puppet on your hand. Be mindful that you don't get too crazy with it. For the older newborn, she might enjoy if the puppet tickles her or kisses her. These are great toys because they can grow with your child. Your child enjoys watching them more as she grows, then she enjoys putting them on her hands, then she can do puppet shows. I have found finger puppets to be especially nice at church. Hand Puppets and Finger Puppets
  • Simple Pictures: You can draw a big black circle on a white piece of paper and set it somewhere for your baby to look at. Not very exciting to the adult, but stimulating to the baby.
  • Gym: A baby gym is a great place for a newborn to play. It is a great "medium" for independent playtime (see Independent Playtime: At first, she just lays there and looks at the things around her (be sure you don't leave her there too long and overstimulate her). Between 1-2 months, she might start trying to grab or kick the items she is looking at. She also might coo at it. As she approaches 3 months, she will at first accidentally grab an item, then start to move more purposefully in trying to grasp those toys. Many baby gyms are designed to grow with your child. Baby Gym
  • Mirror: A baby safe mirror can be fun for your baby. Your baby will enjoy looking at herself. You can get a crib mirror and have her lay in the crib or playpen and look at herself or get a car mirror and use just in the car or move it back and forth. Be sure if you put it in the crib that you take it out for naptime or she might admire herself rather than sleep. I highly, highly recommend a mirror in the car. It was an absolute must with Brayden. For Kaitlyn it wasn't as necessary, she was more interested in looking at Brayden, but she still enjoyed it. Baby Mirror This is my favorite car mirror: Fisher-Price Rainforest Deluxe Auto Mirror -- it isn't the nicest adult-looking toy, but the baby loves it.
  • Mobile: The only mobile we have ever had is a simple mobile with three bears hanging from it (it came with our playard). They don't have music and don't move or anything. This sounds really boring, but for the newborn baby, it is fascinating. Brayden was always really active, even as a newborn. He was standing (supported by us) before two months old. He wanted to move. When it came to these bears, however, he would just lay and watch them. I had them by his changing table. He would watch them while I changed his diaper and then want to lay there some more to continue to watch. They are also the first things he ever talked to. He talked and talked to them. Baby Mobiles
  • Bouncer: This is another good "medium" for independent play in those early months (Independent Playtime: It is also a nice place for baby to be while you fix dinner or something. As your baby starts to develop some head control, the bouncer can be a fun toy. There is no shortage of different bouncers out there, so find one you think you will like. Ours is a kick and play where things happen when baby kicks. It was fun for teaching cause/effect. Here is the one we have, but there are lots of fun options out there:
    Fisher-Price Kick & Play Bouncer
  • Swing: I love the swing. Brayden wasn't ever one to sleep in it, but he would sit and have some playtime in it each day. The lifesaver of the swing came with Kaitlyn. For one thing, she had reflux and there were times she needed to sleep in the swing. It was also a good place to put her to sleep if she had been up too long and overstimulated while she was sleep training instead of the crib (like when she was at church). It also helped train her through the short naps (see Waking Early From Naps/Won't Fall Asleep For Naps: Another reason it was great is when you have two children (or more), you can't always give your full attention to the baby, so it is a nice place to put baby for a few minutes if she wakes early and the older kids are in need of something (say it is their naptime). The swing we have had for both was the Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium swing. Once again, not something that looks nice in your house, but the kids love it. We have decided to buy a new swing for the next baby; it will be the Fisher Price Rainforest Swing. The reason we are going to get that one is it can plug in, but also can run on batteries. Baby Swings
  • Books: It is no secret that I love books (Non-BW: The Value of Reading: I plan to do a Baby Stuff I Love post on books that I love, but I will also include books especially good for each age group in this post series. For this age you are really going for books to look at and books with fun rhymes. Your baby won't be touching on purpose yet, so I won't list touch and feel for this age. If you are interested in good touch and feel books, I will list them in the 3-6 month post. Books that are excellent for words are the Baby Einstein books. I especially like the bath books for this age and older. The older newborn is accidentally grabbing stuff, or perhaps trying and getting it by chance. These books are basically indestructible. Baby can slobber all over them without problem. When baby gets older, they can go in the bath with her. The first four books on this page are the bath books we have: Baby Einstein Bath Books. I also recommend any Baby Einstein book really, but one I would find especially good for this age is the Mirror Me Board Book. It has mirrors on each page along with a fun character. It can be a fun book for baby to see herself: Baby Einstein: Mirror Me! (Baby Einstein). Another type of book I would recommend for this age is the cloth book. They are soft and safe. Baby Cloth Books. One in particular my children both liked is Circus McGurkus 1, 2, 3! (Dr. Seuss Nursery Collection). The text is in rhymes and each page has something fun for baby. For example, on page has a rattle.
  • Other toys you can move: You can get toys that your baby can't hold or play with yet to entertain with (like a rattle). Just be sure you don't overstimulate and you don't become baby's primary source of entertainment. For a list on toys like this that I recommend, see the 3-6 month age post.
  • Stroller: I felt comfortable taking both of my children on walks once they were 6 weeks old. Brayden's birth took me a long time to heal, so that is part of the reason he was that old. I could have done Kaitlyn earlier, but we had a double stroller that wasn't as good for a newborn as our single stroller, so at 6 weeks I thought she was strong enough to sit in it. Also, for many babies that is the youngest they can be and stay awake long enough to eat, change diaper, and go for a walk. If you want to take baby for a walk (for your sanity as well as theirs), one tip is to have the stroller and everything ready to go while baby is napping. Then you can feed, change diaper, dress appropriately, and take off. For a single baby, I really like our Graco stroller. It has several reclining positions, all the way to fully laying down. It is really easy to push; you hardly feel the weight at all. You can maneuver it with one hand. It is bulky, but where I live and walk that isn't a problem at all. Our double stroller is the Jeep Wrangler Twin Sport All-weather Umbrella Stroller. Both seats recline and it is really small for a double stroller. It isn't as easy to push as our solo Graco, but I didn't like how long or wide double strollers could be. Also, I don't think any double stroller is as easy to maneuver as a solo stroller. I wanted a stroller they were sitting next to each other but could still realistically fit in normal places. It is pictured on this page: Strollers (right now it is number 20).
  • Whoozit Activity Spiral: This is something I got for Kaitlyn and I love it. It can go on a car seat, stroller...pretty much anywhere you can get it to go around. It is an award-winning toy that is fun through many ages: Whoozit Activity Spiral
In no way are all of these things necessary, but they are all ideas for you and your newborn. Please share any great toys you have found for babies ages 0-3 months old.
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Reader Advice:

Substitution: Toddlerwise

In On Becoming Toddlerwise, the authors suggest you don’t distract or suppress, but rather substitute until novelty wears off (page 26). What exactly do those words mean?

  • Suppress means to deny the child of a specific action
  • Distract is to redirect to a new activity
  • Substitute offers an equally desirable experience similar to original one, but this one is acceptable

Keep in mind this advice is for the toddler. Your child is in his second year between ages one and two. Your toddler is interested in everything. He wants to know how everything works and what everything feels like. Many of these actions in and of themselves are not wrong, it is just the situation the child is doing it in. An example from the book is playing in the dog dish. This is undesirable because the dog's water is not clean water. I grew up with animals. The rule was the animal's water be kept clean enough you wouldn't mind drinking from it; even in that condition, it isn't clean. Splashing in the dog dish also might not be desirable based on location; perhaps it will get your floor all wet with dog water. However, the action of splashing water in and of itself is not a bad action. There are appropriate places this can be done. You could put your child in the tub with a bowl of water and let him at it.

If you were to suppress this action, you would never allow splashing under any circumstance. You would find your child splashing the dog's water, tell him he isn't allowed to do that, and that would be the end of the conversation.

If you were to distract from this action, you would offer a different activity to do at the time. You might offer his favorite toy, a treat, a walk, etc.

With substitution, you still allow the activity to happen, just under the proper circumstances. As I stated above, this is such a great tool because many actions aren't unequivocally wrong; they are just wrong (or undesirable) in certain locations or at certain times. As Toddlerwise points out, a toddler wants to do a certain action until the novelty wears off. By allowing certain actions to take place in certain locations, your toddler does it until he is tired of it. It doesn't become a constant battle between the two of you and he is able to learn from this new activity, provided you lead him in the right direction to do so.

This doesn't mean you have to allow your child to do all he wants when he wants. You can have “no touch” zones that are simply off limits. With most things, however, you should be able to think of something your child can do that is similar that is acceptable to you. Also, be ever mindful that you do not over restrict nor under restrict your child.

An example of suppression for our family is spitting. When Brayden was much younger, he became enthralled with spitting his drink back into his cup. He also liked to spray what he was drinking from his mouth. This isn't okay for me. I told him he was not allowed to spit at the dinner table, but he was allowed to spit in the bathtub (so long as the water stays in the bathtub). He completely accepted that and kept his spitting there. We substituted. I don't mind him spitting at all in the tub, but at dinner it is absolutely not okay with me. This way he gets to spit the water and I get to have a dry table and manners to my liking at dinner :)

Keep in mind that some things are pretty much universally unacceptable to people, but others are family-dependent. Things that are okay with you aren't necessarily okay with your neighbor, and vice-versa. You have to decide what works for you and your family and set your own rules for what is and isn't acceptable.

While doing so, be sure to keep in mind what an activity will look like to you a year from now or two years from now. Maybe your 12 month old's gentle splashing in the pristine dog water is of little concern to you. You don't mind the little mess. How will you feel when he is 3 and a bit stronger? Remember the concept from the Baby Whisperer: Start as you mean to go on (Baby Whisperer: Start as You Mean to Go On ) and also the Babywise concept of parenting in the funnel. Don't allow freedoms now you know you will take away in the future (BW II: Freedoms:

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Sympathy for Reflux

When I am pregnant, I get really bad heartburn. As most know, I am pregnant right now so I am "enjoying" the sensation once again. I seem to get heartburn worse with boys than I do girls (I don't know for sure that I am having a boy, but it seems like it), so it has been a while since I had the extremely bad heartburn. I remember with Brayden it got so bad in my third trimester that I just couldn't sleep at night. I am not really a person who likes to take medicine, so Mylanta is as far as I go. It just didn't help.

The other night I had heartburn really bad. As I got in bed to go to sleep, it was painful for me. I tried laying on each side, but to no avail. It hurt. My husband offered to rub my back because that helps relax me to fall asleep. I can still lay on my tummy for short periods, so I lay on my tummy. Immediately my heartburn was relieved.

As I lay there trying to fall asleep, I had even more sympathy, and moving into empathy, for those little babies with reflux. It is hard to sleep if your esophagus is burning. I know that many parents who have babies with reflux get discouraged because their little one takes longer to be able to sleep long for naps, sleep through the night, and move to a 4 hour schedule. Kaitlyn certainly took longer than average to sleep through the night and to move to a 4 hour schedule (she had reflux).

Take heart and have patience. Your baby will get there when it becomes possible. Have sympathy and know your little one is in pain. Do research to find out what you can do to help ease that pain. Try different things; remedies are different for every baby. Your baby will get there and you aren't a failure if it takes extra time. See also this post on reflux:

Babywise and Reflux:

Poll Results: What was the average length of naps for baby ages 3-4 months (13-16 weeks)? (approximate)


45 minutes: 44 votes (26%)
1 hour: 16 votes (9%)
1 hour 15 minutes: 11 votes (6%)
1.5 hours: 44 votes (26%)
1 hour 45 minutes: 13 votes (7%)
2 hours: 27 votes (16%)
2 hours or more: 9 votes (5%)

Total of 164 votes

Adding Waketime to Your Newborn's Day

My sleepy little Kaitlyn during playtime
I know I have mentioned my waketime strategy for newborns in a post in the past, but it wasn't the topic of the post. I get enough questions about it that it is obviously not easy to find, so I will outline it here.

My strategies really apply to the sleepy newborn. If your newborn is like my son was, he doesn't want to sleep and you have no trouble keeping him awake unless it is time to nurse. I will link posts on keeping awake while nursing/bottlefeeding at the end of this post.

If your newborn is like my daughter, however, you will put 110% of your effort into keeping her awake without any success. You can hold her straight up and she continues to snooze. She loves her sleep. That is wonderful and all, but you know you need to add waketimes to the day to ensure she sleeps well at night, learns the difference between night and day, and gets some learning time in. Here are my steps to adding waketime for your newborn. First I will write out a sample feeding schedule so we can all be on the same page:

9:30--eat, treat as dreamfeed. No waketime afterward.
11:00--possible feeding if baby will take it. Again, no waketime following this feeding. If you have another feeding at this time, you might feed at 9 PM instead of 9:30.

RULE 1: From day one, always work to keep baby awake during feeding times. See Sleepy Newborns: and Baby Whisperer: Feeding a Sleepy Newborn : for ideas on how to accomplish this. What happens after the feeding is over will depend on where you are in your efforts.
Your baby is 0-1 week old. During week one, don't even worry about it. Let her sleep, and you in turn sleep as much as you can. Even my son was very sleepy this first week. Babywise says during week one to simply focus on establishing nursing (if you bottlefeed establish that). It also says to not even pay attention to the clock, so just take this week to focus on yourself getting all the rest you can.
RULE 2: As you start to add waketimes to your day, be sure you are keeping waketimes to an appropriate length. Remember that for a newborn, 30 minutes (including feeding time) might be all she can handle. See this post for help in figuring out the optimal waketime length for your baby: Optimal Waketime Lengths :
During week two (your baby is between 1-2 weeks old), choose one cycle in the day to start to try to keep her awake. Write down your desired schedule and decide which time of day would be best for you to try to keep her awake. Maybe it is in the evening when Daddy is home. Maybe it is the first waketime of the day. This is the first one I did. I assumed it would be the easiest one since she had been sleeping without any waketime all night long. Think of an activity that is likely to keep her awake. For me, this was a bath (or sponge bath and washing of hair before the umbilical cord fell off) in the morning. Remember, don't keep her up too long. Start slowly. Take the entire week to get her to stay awake for this one waketime. You aren't in a race. Take it at her pace.
RULE 3: As you are training your baby to stay awake for a waketime, keep in mind that it will take effort on your part. While she is adjusting, you likely can't leave her to lay somewhere by herself--even at a toy gym. She will fall asleep. Once she is used to staying awake for that period of time, you can change your activities so you aren't her sole source of entertainment all day, but while she is learning, be wary of leaving her to her own devices.
WEEK THREE:During week three (your baby is between 2-3 weeks old), choose another cycle in the day to add some waketime to. You will now have two waketimes in the day. Again, don't keep her up too long and work up to it throughout the week. The second waketime I added was after her 4 PM feeding. My husband gets home close to the time she was done eating, and Brayden usually wasn't up yet, so it was some good time for him and her to spend together.
RULE 4: As you add more waketimes to the day, try to stagger them. For example, don't start with the first two waketimes of the day. Do a waketime, then just let her sleep, then a waketime, let her sleep, etc. You can stagger them ore than that if you want to (one in the morning and one in the evening). She will be more successful at staying awake if she is better rested.
Your baby is between 3-4 weeks old. As in other weeks, add one waketime to your day, so you are now up to three. At this point, some babies might be able to add two. Many start to be more awake at this age, but some (including my daughter) are still very sleepy. This was the age my son started to reject the idea of sleeping in the day (remember we didn't start BW until he was 9 weeks old). The third waketime I added was after the 10:30 AM feeding. We occasionally ran errands and/or had visitors after this feeding, so it was a convenient time to have her awake for a bit.
RULE 5: Growth spurts can really throw things off. 4 weeks is a typical growth spurt age, so be on the lookout for it. Your baby won't nap as long, so waketimes will likely need to be shorter. Watch for the nap cues (see Nap Cues : and Baby Whisperer: Sleep Cues : Also, once the eating portion of the growth spurt is over, the sleeping portion begins. Your baby will be more tired.
WEEK FIVE:Your baby is between 4-5 weeks old. The babies who did not become more alert in week four often do in week five. Again, you add a waketime to your day, but if your baby is more alert, you might be able to add two. You will be up to four if you are doing one per day, and five if you have done more than one during a week. Kaitlyn was sleepy, so we just dropped one. We added the waketime following her 6:30 PM feeding. This was a time for the family to be together and also get ready for bed.
RULE 6: If you find your baby is really sleepy, you can prolong the addition of another feeding if needed. Perhaps you will take two weeks to add one waketime to the day. Maybe a week and a half. If your baby is very alert, you can add more than one waketime to the day, just be cautious to not add too may at one time. These strategies are not set in stone. Adapt them as useful to your family.
WEEK SIX:Your baby is between 5-6 weeks old. You can again add a waketime to the day if you are still working on it. This should complete your waketimes. Your baby's optimal waketime lengths might be extending also, so be mindful of that. Also, 6 weeks is another growth spurt time. The last waketime I added was after her 1:00 PM feeding. One reason for this is that for the first four weeks, I napped at this time since Brayden was napping. Another is that it was her hardest time of day to stay awake.
You should now be done! If not, continue adding waketimes as needed. Again, your baby might need to start slowly, but can add them quickly as she gets older. She might need to take things more slowly. Take things at her pace. Each baby is different. Don't feel stressed out to add all waketimes all at once. It will all come with time.

Critical Phase of Learning: Toddlerwise

"Curiosity plus mobility puts a child in the center of a critical phase of learning, where knowledge and habits produce life-long consequences" (On Becoming Toddlerwise, page 22).

This quote is referring to the moment when your toddler learns to walk. This usually occurs at the same point when your child's curiosity is peaked. Your child wants to know everything about everything, and she also has the ability to reach many of those things she has never had the opportunity to reach before. It has never been an option. Now it is, and she wants to know about it. Your toddler has limitless energy, and you wish she could transfer some to you so you two could be on a more even playing field.

I love the show Curious George. George embodies this curious little toddler well. As I watch that show, I see my children. The curiosity of a toddler can be frustrating at moments, but it also enlivens me. I again see the world through new eyes. I notice things I haven't looked at in years. Your toddler is curious about everything. Absolutely everything. Nothing goes unnoticed. Everything is interesting. This makes sense; your child is seeing many of these things for the first time. The items she has seen over and over are now available to her whenever she wants them because she can get herself there.

What do you do with that curiosity? This is a critical difference among many parenting philosophies. There is a popular philosophy out there right now that says to let children explore freely. Put no limit on the child and see how she learns and what she learns. This is a romantic notion and I can see why it is popular. In a world where we are snatching away childhood from our children by enrolling them in every dance, sport, music, and art class available, letting them freely explore is a way to alleviate our conscience from turning them into little stressed-out adults too soon. However, this philosophy has many inherent problems.

One is that while a child desires to be good and do good at her core, she really doesn't have any idea what "good" is. She needs to be taught and guided. Some things that are "good" are global. Physically harming another person is globally unkind. Other things that are "good" are cultural and therefore not necessarily inherent for the child. This is true in the case of many social manners. Most cultures vary on something like personal space. Some stand very close to each other child talking and show much physical affection to each other. Others stand quite far away and never touch each other in public. And yet other things that are "good" vary from family to family. Language that is perfectly acceptable to your neighbors might be quite offensive to you.

Children need direction. As a parent, you can take that curiosity and use it for your child's benefit to teach her the direction to go in. Toddlerwise says not to deny or suppress your toddler's curiosity, but rather manage it (page 25).

Another inherent problem with the desire to let a child explore in order to learn is that curiosity only gets the child so far. Once the novelty of the item wears off, so does the curiosity and the child's learning. There are so many things that are of novelty to your child that it is easy for her to find something else to capture her interest.

A third inherent problem I see is that you are basically encouraging your child to "reinvent the wheel" so to speak. These explorations have been done in the past and given us much great knowledge to build on. Why let our child try to teach herself these basics we could easily teach her? We can guide her learning process and teach her these foundational items, then add to them and expand her wealth of knowledge. She can move on to bigger and better things than the wheel.

The book points out a phrase that is often said by parents, and I have also heard it many, many times: "...I don't want to disappoint my child or stifle his exploration" and I would add "stifle his creativity." As the book points out, you can't parent your child without disappointing and curbing exploration. It is part of being a parent and part of being a child. You can encourage exploration and creativity in environments that create real, productive learning. This also doesn't mean you never ever let your child explore. You just allow it under the right conditions at the right time.

This is a critical phase of learning for your child because so many habits are happening now. Your toddler is very malleable right now. If you think it is a challenge to teach the 15 month old to not touch something, wait for the three year old. Many parents think this will be easier once the child is older. It is, if you taught her young. If you decided to wait until she was older, when it would be "easier," you will find it to be much more difficult. I don't call call the 15 month old "tantrum" a mini-fit for no reason. It is because it is not a tantrum when you compare it to what the older child can do. Please believe me when I tell you now is the time to start. Now is the time your toddler is learning what is okay and what isn't. Teaching her from the start is easier than re-training her down the road.

The toddler who has been living the principles of Babywise and Babywise II will find the principles of Toddlerwise to flow naturally. I encourage you to read Toddlerwise once your child turns one and continue to practice the principles. Again, it is more work in the younger toddler years, but makes life much easier in the older toddler years. It is all well-worth your effort.

Baby Stuff I Love: Outdoor Toys

When I wrote the post on toys I love, I neglected to mention any outdoor toys.

  • Toy Lawn Mower: Ours is not fancy, but very well loved. Brayden uses it each time Daddy mows the lawn. They have some pretty nice and fancy ones out there. One bad thing about our very inexpensive one (less than $5) is that it is hard for a younger child to push around. By younger I mean any child under two. They way it folds up is the problem. A younger child unable to adjust the way they push usually ends up pushing the lawn mower right over into folded position. So if you are getting one and hoping your little "toddler" can walk around the yard with it, test it first. Also keep in mind most yards are not perfectly smooth and those bumps often cause the problems. I think a sturdier lawn mower would be better for the young child.Little Tikes Mulching Mower
  • Toy Yard Tools: Our kids have toy spade shovels, rakes, hoes, etc. They all come in handy. Our kids really like to "help" with whatever we are working on. By having these kid-sized tools, they can. It doesn't always make the job easier, but they have fun and learn how to work. Once Brayden was about three years old, he really was a real help around the house. This fall when we raked leaves, he worked harder than I did at raking those leaves. Children's Toy Gardening Tools: Kid Sized Metal Classic Shovel Spade 27.5" Blue, made in Sweden by NYBY
  • Little Snow Shovel: If you live where there is snow, a little snow shovel is a fun toy for your child. Last year, Brayden used his spade shovel and ended up breaking it. This year we went to Home Depot and bought each child a small snow shovel that is height adjustable. They really do help and it is great exercise during those winter months. Life-Link 3DX Extendable Shovel
  • Sled: We have this great sled for young kids. It has a seat on the sled and has a seat belt. The way the seat is, if snow comes up onto the sled, it doesn't get on the child. We searched far and wide for this sled; they are not sold at every store. We checked every store in our area before we ended up at Kmart and found it there. This is a sled to just pull the child around in--not for pushing him down a hill. While it can be tiring for mom and dad, the kids love it. Just remember--good exercise :) I couldn't find what we have, but here is a cute one: Bitty Twins "Toboggan for Two"
  • Tricycle/Bike/etc.: Look around to find a good bicycle type of item for your child's age and size. There are also little toys they can ride on that require no peddling at all. They use their feet. This is good for younger children.Radio Flyer Classic Red Dual Deck Tricycle
    Radio Flyer Big Flyer
    Boys’ Tonka Mighty Tough Bike- 12"
    Fisher-Price Rock, Roll 'N Ride Trike
  • Bicycle Trailer: This is to hook to the parents bicycle. It is fully enclosed and has seat belts. Many can also double as a double stroller. Our kids love to ride in this. InStep Quick N EZ Bike Trailer (Gold/Gray/Black)
  • Sand Toys: Buckets, shovels, animal shapes you stuff with sand, etc. Complete Sand & Water Beach Play Set: Includes Toys, Watering Can, Bucket, Shovel and more!
  • Tonka Trucks: Brayden's favorite toys for the sand are his large Tonka trucks, like a dump truck, front loader, etc. Tonka Classics Dump Truck Tonka Classics Crane

  • Bubbles: The kids love to chase bubbles around. Super Miracle Bubbles
  • Big bouncy balls: Get a ball based on your child's size. Even before she was one, Kaitlyn loved to hold a ball outside. It was big for her, but smaller than a basketball. This year Brayden had a blast with the really big balls that are larger than I can get my arms around. For the younger kids, I have liked those bouncy balls you see in the big, tall bins in stores. They are light in weight. We once bought a rubber bouncy ball for them to play with (like you would play kick ball or four-square with) and it was just too heavy and could hurt if they got hit with it. Pink 18" Playground Inflatable Ball - Two (2) Pack
  • T-ball set: We have a Little Tykes t-ball set. Little Tikes TotSports T-Ball Set
  • Mini basketball hoop: This provides lots of entertainment. The one we have is also Little Tykes and height adjustable. You can also put water or sand in the bottom to keep it more stable. Little Tikes EasyScore Basketball Set
  • Baby Swing: If you have a swing set, I recommend the baby swing for the younger baby. Ours is Little Tykes. This was especially helpful when Kaitlyn was a young baby. She was old enough to sit up supported. She could sit in it and I could push Brayden. As they get older, you can increase how high you push them. Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug & Secure Swing
  • Jeep: the favorite outdoor toy we have is the Power Wheels Jeep they ride in. These can be very expensive toys. We were lucky to find a perfectly good one at a garage sale for $10. Fisher-Price Power Wheels Jeep Rubicon
  • Sidewalk Chalk: This is a fun art activity for outside. 20 ct. Sidewalk Chalk Bucket

Please share your favorite outdoor toys!

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Sleeping Tip: Vary Sleeping Locations

If your home is large enough or set up in such a way that allows it, I suggest you vary sleeping locations for your child, especially if you know or suspect your child is not a flexible person. With the Babywise schedule, our children sleep regularly and usually sleep in the same place: their crib. That is wonderful and it trains them to be excellent sleepers. However, children who are not flexible can end up having a hard time sleeping in other locations, like when you travel.

For the flexible child, if you are going to travel soon, you can practice sleeping in different locations for 2-3 weeks before the trip and things will be fine. But for others, it is too much of a change for them.

While Brayden has never been one to do well when thrown off of his schedule, he has always been very flexible about changes such as sleeping locations. When we visited family, he slept just as well. When we moved him from the pack and play to a crib at 6 months, he slept better than usual. When we moved to a new house, no problem. When we moved him from his crib to a toddler bed and into a new bedroom, he never batted an eye.

I have a friend who does Babywise whose oldest son is not very flexible with sleeping locations. When they travel, he often won't nap at all and nights can be difficult at times. His life has always been very stable with sleeping in the same bed in the same room from birth.

Part of it is personality, and part of it is experience. When Brayden was a baby, I tried moving his bed all over the place trying to find the right spot (we were essentially in a studio apartment). We visited family often. He was just used to sleeping in different places so it didn't phase him.

When Kaitlyn was born, I worried she could become like my friend's son. She had her own bedroom and we were living very stable, predictable lives. We lived closer to family so we traveled less. We had also made the determination to not disrupt her sleeping habits for her first 8 weeks. Kaitlyn is different from Brayden in many ways. She is very flexible when it comes to her actual schedule being off, but I suspected she could easily become attached to things like a sleeping location.

In order to avoid her becoming this way, I varied her sleeping locations. I had a bassinet in my room for her to sleep in for a few naps a day. She also had her crib in her room to sleep in for a few naps and nighttime. As she got older, the number of naps in each place diminished, but I maintained her sleeping in both places.

She is a small girl and fit in her bassinet until she was 7 months old. At that point, I started to set up the pack and play in my room for one nap a day. Now, at 19 months old, she still takes one of her two naps in the pack and play in my room each day. Once she moves to one nap a day, she will take it in her room most days. I might do a nap in the pack and play every so often if I see the need, but I suspect that by now she has learned to be flexible. She sleeps just as well when we travel as she does at home.

If every day is unpractical for you, try once a week or so. Varying sleep locations can really help your child to be more flexible when traveling.

Poll Results: What was the average length of naps for baby ages 10-12 weeks? (approximate)


45 minutes or less: 32 (22%)
1 hour: 18 (12%)
1 hour 15 min: 13 (9%)
1.5 hours: 27 (19%)
1 hour 45 min: 19 (13%)
2 hours: 26 (18%)
More than 2 hours: 10 (7%)

Total of 145 votes (I added a vote)

In Action: Benefits of Babywise II

The other night we went to dinner as a family. The restaurant was rather busy. It seems restaurants try to sit children in booths (at least that has been my experience), but there were no booths available for us. They put us at a table.

The immediate problem I saw was that this table was in the middle of a large room. There were booths all around the room with some tables in the middle. We were on display for everyone in the room to see. My children are typically quite good, but you just never know what is going to happen. Children can be unpredictable. Even children who are generally good have their bad moments. I was admittedly a bit nervous. I scanned the room and saw an elderly couple sitting in a booth rather close to us. I had the thought that I hoped the children would not be disruptive to them.

As it turned out, the children were really good and well behaved. When we were almost done eating, the elderly couple walked over to our table. The woman told me that I had the most beautiful children and that they were "so well mannered." I thanked her. This was such a compliment for me. In my experience, most elderly people have a higher standard for good behavior than those in my generation. I appreciated her taking the time to tell me the things she was thinking. This is something we as a society don't do often enough, and I am certainly guilty of it. I often think nice things but don't say them. It was one of those moments you get as as parent that reward you and tell you all of your hard work day in and day out is worth it.

That night as we sat in the middle of the room for all to scrutinize the behavior of my children, I was very happy for all the things we had taught them. I was glad Brayden knew and accepted that he needed to sit in his chair and that running around was not acceptable. I was glad Kaitlyn knows she needs to stay in her highchair if I tell her to even after she is done eating. I was glad I could take crayons away from her because she was trying to chew on them without her throwing a fit. I was glad we were able to go out and have a nice evening together as a family and leave the restaurant happy rather than embarrassed. I was so happy I had chosen to follow the principles of Babywise.

Related Posts:

Reader Comments:

  • Maureen said...
    Congrats! Isn't it so great when that happens? We go out to eat quite a bit (more than we should) so my kids know what is expected of them and almost always behave pretty well. We went out to eat the other day and were seated very close to a couple who was out without their kids. I didn't want to ruin their experience (they probably paid a sitter), so I made sure my kids behaved especially well. The woman even enjoyed the conversations my 4yo struck with her. Aside from the three pieces of silverware that ended up on the floor (accidentally), it was a good experience.
    November 13, 2008 11:19 AM
    Plowmanators said...
    Thanks Maureen--it is always nice to see your hard work pay off :)
    November 19, 2008 3:00 PM
  • Christie said...
    I agree! Babywise has benefits in all areas, even in restaurants. We went to the Olive Garden the other day and our 16 month old girl was excellent, she ate her pasta (even though a little messy!) and told me "uh-oh!" when she dropped a piece of bread on the floor. She loves Chick Fil A as well. There are a few restaurants she does not do as well in, but for the most part, an enjoyable experience!
    November 13, 2008 12:48 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    Thanks for sharing Christie!
    November 19, 2008 3:00 PM

Potty Training and Accidents

I recently heard an analogy on potty training from Dr. Sears that really made a lot of sense to me. I don't know a lot about him, but I know that he says plenty of things I don't agree with; however, I thought this was a great analogy.

He said that potty training is just another skill for your child to learn and expect that there will be accidents. Think if any skill your child has learned up to this point. Remember when he learned to eat from a spoon? Remember how messy he was? Remember how hard it was for him to get his food into his mouth?

Remember when he learned to walk? Do you remember how often he fell down? Keep in mind that potty training is another skill on your child's checklist. Just as you wouldn't punish your child for falling while learning to walk or accidentally spilling food while learning to eat from a spoon, you shouldn't punish your child for having accidents while potty training. Not only should you not punish, but you should expect and accept that the accidents are going to happen. Just as you would expect a child to fall while learning to walk (an accident) you should expect accidents while potty training.

As I think of this analogy, I realize how large of a factor age will be in the number of accidents that occur. For example, the younger the child starts to walk, the more often he falls, while the older the child, the fewer falls. Kaitlyn didn't fully decide to walk until she was 16 months old. By the time she did it, she rarely fell. Within weeks, she was running.

I can compare this to Brayden's potty training. He was pretty old (3) when he was finally potty trained. When we did it at 3, we had one day of accidents. We then had the occasional accident here and there, but it was rare.

We will start potty training with Kaitlyn (19 months) soon. She is very ready; however, I expect that the overall process will take longer and that we will have more accidents over the course of training than we did with Brayden because she is so much younger than he was. She physically does not have the same physical control over her body. Mentally, she simply doesn't understand as much as she will when she is three years old.

So when you tackle the potty training journey with your child, expect and accept accidents. They are part of the learning process. Don't get discouraged by them. Take each accident as a learning opportunity for your child.

See this label for all things potty training: potty training

Dropping Naps: A Quick Reference

When to drop naps for babies and preschoolers

This is my latest post for

Timing and signs of readiness for dropping naps is always a question for parents, even those who have done it before. It can be hard to remember all of the details. Here is a synopsis of various naps, timing of when to drop them, signs that your child is ready to drop them, and methods for doing so.

Dropping the Fourth Nap
First, we need to define nap times for newborns. I consider any sleep that happens after 7 PM to be bedtime. So a newborn who eats around 7ish, then goes to sleep (this could be considered a nap by some), and wakes again to eat around 10ish, in my definition would have gone to bed after the 7ish feeding. My reason for this is that baby never drops that sleep between 7 and 10. Baby drops the feeding around 10 at some point.

The fourth nap is the nap that occurs between 4ish and 7ish PM.

AGE: I have found the average age for this nap to be dropped is 4 months old. Some are ready earlier (but really no earlier than 3 months) and some are ready later (but few later than 5 months).

SIGNS OF READINESS: For most babies, the sign for this nap to be dropped is that baby really doesn’t sleep well for it anymore. Note the word anymore. This is a typical fussy time of day for babies when many don’t sleep well in general. Don’t assume your 4 week old doesn’t need this nap because he isn’t sleeping well. By four months of age, baby is most likely playing around during “naptime” instead of sleeping. Some babies might sleep for this nap but then have a hard time going down after the 7ish feeding. Others might have sudden disrupted sleep at night.

Another sign would be that your child is ready for a 4 hour schedule. A 4 hour schedule will naturally drop the fourth nap.

METHODS FOR DROPPING: One easy method is to move to the 4 hour schedule if your baby is ready. Many babies will naturally drop this fourth nap as they move to the 4 hour schedule. As you extend your schedule, you drop feedings. As you drop feedings, you drop number of naps. Other babies are ready to drop this nap before they are ready to move to a 4 hour schedule. This was true for both of my children.
If your child is ready to drop the nap but not ready for a 4 hour schedule, you just skip the nap. Take note that the last two feedings might then move closer together because a baby can go longer between feedings if he is asleep than he can when he is awake. He also might need a bit earlier of a bedtime (30 minutes or so), at least for a few days while he adjusts. Some babies will be fussy for a few days as they adjust to the new sleeping arrangement.

One note, if you think your child is ready to drop this nap and is still taking a 1.5-2 hour nap at this time, try shortening the nap at first. Perhaps down to 60 minutes, 45 minutes, or 30 minutes.

Dropping the Third NapThe next nap you drop is the evening nap. By the time baby is ready to drop it, it is usually a short 45 minute nap. Your baby will be on a 4 hour schedule by this point, so the nap will again be somewhere between 4 and 7 PM.

AGE: According to On Becoming Babywise I and II, this happens relatively young (around 6-8 months).
This can vary from child to child. The youngest it should be will is 6 months. The average seems to be 8 months. My son didn’t drop his until he was about 10 months old. I was reading Babywise and realized he was not supposed to need it, so we dropped it. My daughter didn’t fully drop it until she was 11 months old.

SIGNS OF READINESS: It can be hard to tell just when your baby is ready to drop this nap because it is already short. One sign is if your baby doesn’t seem tired enough for bed after napping in the evening. Other signs can be the same as the fourth nap: baby doesn’t sleep for that nap at all, baby doesn’t go to bed well after taking that nap, or baby doesn’t sleep well at night.

METHODS FOR DROPPING: This is a nap you skip. Some babies might be able to go “cold turkey,” or dropping all at once. If you choose this method, expect some fussiness as your baby adjusts. Be ready to be an entertainer. You could get a new toy or book or something to pull out only at that time of day to keep the baby happier. You could also leave the house to keep him distracted. When my oldest dropped this nap, I remember he was cranky during the stretch for several days, maybe even a week, but his body soon adjusted. before her morning nap and still waking her up from the nap at the same time. I shortened the morning nap. I also added about 10-15 minutes to her waketime between her two naps. These actions fixed things and she was back to sleeping for both naps: 1.5 hours in the morning and 2-2.5 in the afternoon. For some children, this morning nap might need to be shortened more than that. As I said, Kaitlyn is a sleeper. She is still taking a long morning nap though it is shorter than it was.

Another method is a weaning process. In this approach, you only give the nap if baby needs it that day. Some days baby takes the nap, other days he doesn’t. This is the method I used with my daughter. We started around 8 months to take it as a weaning process. If we were out in the evening, she didn’t nap. If we were home, I waited to put her down only if she showed signs of needing it. If she was awake and started showing signs of needing the nap 30 minutes before her normal feeding time, I fed her early and put her to bed early. At first, every few days she didn’t nap. Soon, it was every other day. Later, she napped only every few days. As I said earlier, she didn’t fully drop this nap until she was 11 months old.

Dropping this nap might move bedtime up.

Dropping the Morning Nap
When you drop the morning nap, you move from two naps to one. Dropping the morning nap is not as sad as it may seem. You suddenly have a large chunk of time when baby doesn’t have to be home! You baby will also most likely take a longer afternoon nap once the morning nap is dropped, so you have a longer stretch in the afternoon to get things done. This also gives you more opportunity for quality learning opportunities and activities in the morning hours.

AGE: Among the different “–wise” books, the ages for dropping the morning nap range from 14-22 months, and all are possible. Some toddlers do drop the nap as early as 14 months. My son was 17 months. My daughter is now approaching 19 months and still holding on to her morning nap. I am hoping for her to drop it soon, and every so often I try, but she isn’t quite ready.

SIGNS OF READINESS: For some children, this can be one of the easier naps to tell he is ready to drop. For others, it can be a real guessing game.

Classic signs of readiness are when your toddler is ready to drop this nap, he will still sleep really well in the morning, but for the afternoon nap, he will hardly sleep at all. This is when he is ready to drop the morning nap. This is how my son was.

Another classic sign is your toddler might not sleep for the morning nap but sleeps for the afternoon nap.
For some toddlers, things can be trickier. There is a transition time when the toddler isn’t ready to drop the morning nap, but doesn’t need a full nap anymore. My daughter was this way. When Kaitlyn was about 14 months, she started to not sleep well for both naps. This was extremely odd to me. She has always been a really good napper. She loves to sleep. I started to wonder if perhaps she was ready to drop the morning nap. It surprised me because she didn’t drop her third nap until she was 11 months old—I didn’t think she would be ready to drop the morning nap so soon after dropping the evening nap.

She wasn’t ready. Kaitlyn missed her morning nap once a week for church. She would then come home, eat lunch, and go to sleep for about 4 hours–making up for her missed morning nap. She was very, very tired when we got home. Tired enough that she usually didn’t eat her lunch very well. Based on this, I figured she wasn’t really ready to drop her morning nap. Instead, I started lengthening her waketime.

Others might be going through teething or some other disruption, which causes parents to wonder if it is time to drop the nap. Some might be able to start a weaning process from this nap where some days they take the nap, others they don’t. More on this is explained below.

METHODS FOR DROPPING: Your toddler will take his nap after lunch. For us, naptime started at 1 PM. Some toddlers need naptime to start earlier than this, at least for a period of time. You can have lunch earlier if needed and nap start earlier. Once he is back to normal, you can have the nap move to your (and his) optimal time.

With my son, we dropping this nap cold turkey just as we had previous naps. This is one option.
You can also try a weaning process. I find this nap harder to do a weaning process for. If your toddler doesn’t take a morning nap, the afternoon nap times are very different from when your toddler does. It can be hard to plan your day. If you have an open enough schedule that you can work around this, weaning is a good first step for you. If not, you will have to wait until your toddler is more ready before dropping it. You can also consider simply being more flexible for a week or two and allowing the weaning process, planning to hopefully fully drop the nap after that.

If you think your child is ready to drop the morning nap, you can always give it a try. My guess is after two-three days in a row, you will have a good idea if he is really ready or not. I suggest having other things to do to keep your toddler preoccupied. Errands to run, people to visit, etc.

I tried dropping this nap with Kaitlyn a few weeks ago. Day one was fine. Day two, she started to fall asleep while eating lunch. I could see she wasn’t quite ready yet.

In my experience, toddlers are not as cranky after dropping this nap as they are for others. When we dropped this nap with my son, the afternoon nap went to 3.5 hours instead of 2 hours and bedtime moved up an hour.

As your child gets older, the nap will shorten and/or bedtime will move back slightly.

Dropping the Afternoon Nap
The afternoon nap is the only nap of the day. Your child will move from the nap to rest time. I haven’t reached this milestone yet (though I believe we are approaching it with my son). I will summarize the information as listed in On Becoming Preschoolwise (page 100).

AGE: This is typically around four years of age, though age depends on the sleep needs of the individual child.

SIGNS OF READINESS: Your child will stay awake through his scheduled naptime.

METHODS FOR DROPPING: This nap should be “dropped” as a weaning process. You have your child lay quietly on his bed. You allow him to have a book or two to look at. You tell him if he feels tired, he should go to sleep.

If your child falls asleep but does so later than usual, wake him at the time naptime would normally be over, not X number of hours after falling asleep. He will likely be cranky from a short nap, so plan on him doing something to transition out of the nap (for example, watch a movie).

Over time, your child will nap some days and rest others. The transition period from naptime to rest time can take six months to one year. He will slowly decrease the number of naps he takes in a day.

If your child is cranky on days he didn’t take a nap, you can put him to bed thirty minutes early.

Notes for Dropping Naps
  • Children are often cranky/fussy for a few days or so while their bodies adjust to the nap that has been dropped. Don’t mistake normal crankiness for signs that he wasn’t ready.
  • Bedtime often needs to be moved up after dropping a nap, at least for a week or two while your child adjusts. For some naps, your child will move back to “normal” bedtime. For others, normal is now earlier.
  • Sometimes the other naps are longer after dropping a nap.
  • For babies and toddlers, dropping a nap doesn’t necessarily mean less sleep in the day. They simply rearrange the times they sleep.
  • Don’t be afraid to try dropping the nap if you think your child is ready. If you try to drop a nap and find your child wasn’t ready, you can always add the nap back in.

Blog Labels

I spent many, many, many hours over the weekend streamlining the blog labels. When I first started the blog, I didn't really know what labels were for. I recently came to realize people will search using labels. So, I went through each post and made sure all labels were succinct and consistent throughout the blog.

By doing this, it should be easier for you to find answers to your problems and questions. You can go to the Blog Labels section on the left side of the screen and look through the various labels to find a topic that interests you. You can then click on the link and it will show you all published posts with that label. Labels are updated immediately, so the list will always be up to date.

80-90% of the questions I get from people are answered by me pasting a link to a previously written post. I am hoping that by streamlining the labels, people will be able to find answers to their questions, leaving more time for the 10-20% of questions that haven't previously been answered by me in a post. Once I have a newborn this spring, I will have even less time available to answer questions, so I want to make it all as efficient as possible :)

You can also find posts by looking through the Blog Index: Link to Blog Index

Reader Comments/Thanks:
  • The Burkes said...
    Thank you for taking the time to do this! You're a HUGE blessing to soooooo many mommies!
    November 10, 2008 9:55 AM
    Plowmanators said...
    Burkes--you are welcome! Thanks for the thanks.
    November 10, 2008 3:17 PM
  • Krystal said...
    wow, that must have taken so long to do! Thanks so much!
    November 10, 2008 11:18 AM
    Plowmanators said...
    Krystal--it did. A long time. But I think it will be worth it :)
    November 10, 2008 3:17 PM
  • Holly Jean said...
    Val - congrats and best wishes for your third! Thank you so much for all you've done to share your experience and insight on using the techniques from babywise and the baby whisperer. We had our first in September. After a month of chaos (DS was in charge of every aspect of the schedule), I went looking for a new approach. I have several friends who have used babywise and swear by it. I wouldn't have known where to start without your blog. Thank you!The updated tagging really helps, that's exactly how I navigate the site. You are truly a godsend.
    November 10, 2008 2:30 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    Holly Jean--Thanks! I am glad to know it helps. It took me a while to figure out that is one way people do things, but I figured it out! Hopefully it will make everything more efficient for those who do things that way.
    November 10, 2008 3:18 PM
  • MarthaStuart said...
    That will be so helpful! I navigate through the lables all the time. Your advice has been VERY helpful to me. Thank you so much!
    November 15, 2008 10:48 AM
    Plowmanators said...
    marthastuart, I am glad it will help!
    November 19, 2008 2:53 PM