Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, teaching, Uncategorized

Calm Down Box

I have mentioned explosive behaviors once or twice in past posts, and have written about anger in toddlers before, but I wanted to offer a solution to these breakdowns.

As I mentioned in a past post about discipline, time outs did not work for us for our daughter. However, the concept behind a time out (stepping away from your actions and taking a moment to consider them) can be done in a better way. We have a calm down box.

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Before starting it make sure to explain that it isn’t necessarily a punishment, it’s just to help get back to neutral. We are working on walking away from anger stimulants (ie someone being mean at school) so my daughter can learn to calm herself as oppose to punching the other kid in the throat (yeah…). I know the anti-punishment movement can seem hippy dippy to some parents, and I’m not saying certain behaviors don’t require discipline (ie punching the other kid in the throat). The calm down box is simply a way to teach your child how to soothe themselves enough to come back to center before moving on to the next thing.

This has been one of the biggest life savers as far as parenting goes for us. Now that my daughter is 3 and is starting to be able to verbally explain her feelings and emotions better, she realizes that the calm down box is helping her. I have a basic plastic storage box and I rotate the items inside, except for a few standard pieces. Below are some options of things to put in your own calm down box.

Ooooh, the bubbles…

These are still mesmerizing to me even as an adult. We use one as out calm down timer basically. The sound of a ticking timer can be a little less than calming, so instead we have one of these that I flip over. I tell her she has to play with her calm down box until all the bubbles have fallen. Usually after a few moments of watching them she’s so engrossed in something else she forgets that it’s there. These have also helped with not being able to go to sleep at night occasionally.

 

Stress balls are not just for the office. Kids can benefit from them too. The brighter and the more squishy I think the better.

 

 

Water snakes are a great sensory toy, as long as they don’t break. I guess it depends on just how mad your kid is at the time…

 

 

I may be the only person the world who still uses CDs more frequently than iPods or MP3 players. For my daughter, the process of finding a CD or Audio Book is kind of part of the calming process. She picks what she wants, puts it in the player, and listens. It’s simple and effective.

 

 

Sometimes the CD player isn’t enough and headphones are required to really help her escape. I think that’s easy to relate to.

 

 

 

 

Music is needed sometimes, but I think audio books are also great to help kids learn how to calm themselves down. They have to focus on what book they want and then really listen to the words that are being spoken.

 

 

Touch and feel books are usually for babies and toddlers under two, with some exceptions. However, if your child is playing alone or learning how to soothe themselves a touch and feel book can be very helpful. The act of “reading” along with the physical processes can be soothing.

 

 

Same token, books like Journey are great because without words the child isn’t intimidated to “read” alone. They just look at the pictures and make up their own story.

 

 

 

 

There are many sites out there with recipes and instructions on how to make your own calm down bottles. They can be a great addition to any calm down box.

 

 

 

 

Some other items that help with restlessness and not being able to sit still can also be useful in a calm down box. If you have tried other things that have worked mention them below!

Posted in Education, Family, Library, literature, parenting, reading, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

13 Picture Books to Read before 2016 Ends

As much as I love the classics- Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, etc etc; I feel that there are some great new children’s easy readers (picture books), which have come out in the past few years that get overlooked when parents ask for reading recommendations. Everyone who follows this blog knows how I feel about Early Literacy Education, so even if you are newly pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or just had a baby; bookmark this list to review.

I’m going to already assume you have the essentials and give you some updated book recs for babies, toddlers, and preschool aged children.

This book made my daughter actually lol. That’s hard to do with a book. I love Oliver Jeffers style (The Day the Crayons Quit) and I think kids do too. It’s a colorful, relatable, style that is still detailed enough to really paint vivid images. In this book, a little boy loses his kite in a tree. So logically, the only thing to do to get it down is to throw his shoe at it. Then his shoe gets stuck. So he throws the other shoe. The whole thing just spirals as he throws whatever he can find at the tree.

 

 

Great bedtime story. The transitions from the daytime to the nighttime are really cool. I enjoyed the illustrations of this book more than I did the actual story.

 

 

 

 

I’m a sucker for rhyming. I like to read rhyming books out loud. This is a very cute little story about a mouse, who obviously wants to sit in his chair, but there’s a bear in it. Pretty simple premise but definitely a fun read. Also good for kids who may be having a little trouble with sharing.

 

 

I honestly did not know how my daughter was going to feel about this book. In the same vein as Journey, The Only Child has no words; just pages of pencil drawn images to tell the story. Being they are all black and white I thought maybe she would get bored of it. I was wrong. She loved this book and I enjoyed it too. It was a great way for us to talk about what we thought was happening. Since there are a lot of fantasy elements to the plot we ended up going on some pretty long winded tangents.

 

Like every kid, my daughter has a small fear of the dark. Nothing major but when I saw this book I thought maybe it would help her out. At first she was a little apprehensive of the book. Then after we read it two or three times she started to realize “the dark” was nice. It hasn’t cured her fear but she did ask for this book more than some of the others I had brought home.

 

 

 

This book I actually bought, purely for myself. I don’t cry at movies, but books will get to me. This one definitely did. If you are a new mom I highly recommend this book. And some Kleenex.

 

 

 

This book promotes reading so I liked it (shocker). More than that though, it was a very funny story that I actually enjoyed. The illustrations are simple, cartoon style, but they work well with the story.

 

 

 

 

If you don’t have the Press Here book, get it now. My daughter goes crazy for that book. This one is the same idea. It’s almost magical I think for little kids when they read these kinds of books. “Did they really just make all the dots fall to one side?” Definitely gets kids using their imaginations.

 

 

 

I loved this book. My daughter got a little bored at parts because it is long winded. Basically a little girl goes home from school with a book her teacher gave her but as she walks, words from the book start to fall out. A fox behind her catches them and she creates the stories. Very clever and unique children’s book.

 

 

 

 

If toddlers and preschoolers had to take sociology I would make them all read this book. It’s a cute book that shows you all the different houses people can live in. The art is interesting so I think that kept my daughter’s attention more than anything.

 

 

 

 

This was not at all what I was expecting when I first opened it. Bruce is an old curmudgeon and doesn’t like to be bothered. So of course, due to a series of events, he ends up with baby geese to take care of. The writing is actually really funny and the illustrations are great too.

 

 

I added Finding Winnie onto this list because I enjoyed the book. With that being said, my daughter did not. I tried to get her to let me read it again and she was not having it. It does have a lot of wordage and war history so I think she just lost interest. However, being an huge Winnie the Pooh fan as a child I enjoyed the back story.

 

 

This is my top pick by far. Everyone should have this book in their collection. It’s art and story are amazing. Every picture in the book is made up of words from classic tales like Peter and Wendy and Treasure Island. My daughter liked it because it’s fantasy and she enjoyed the illustrations but I don’t know if she got all the messages in it.

Posted in Family, toddlers, Uncategorized

15 Things I Wish I Knew the First Time

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For first time parents it’s easy to get lost in hours upon hours of reading parenting advice, funny columns on how you’ll never sleep again (cause that’s funny), first-hand accounts on how you will have poop on you at some point in your parenting career (at least once a month if you’re lucky). But there are some things I wish I was told before having my first child.

  1. Use expensive diapers at night and cheap ones during the day.
  2. Breastfeeding hurts. Like, real bad at first. It does get better though, so if you really want to do it just get past those first three weeks.
  3. If you feel like something is wrong with your baby, just go to the doctor. Save your data and stop googling things. Most likely it’s just a tooth coming in or an upset stomach but if you’re worried about a sick kid there’s no way to think about anything else.
  4. Don’t buy any clothing over $5 in the 0-3 month range. Or the 3-6 month for that matter.
  5. You’re going to either drop your kid, accidentally hit their head against the wall, bite their finger when you’re trying to play, drop your phone on them while trying to take a selfie; you’re going to do something and they are going to cry and it’s going to be your fault.
  6. Some cups are better for breakfast and dinner, others are great for the car, others are good for school, and the rest are for nap and bedtime. There are levels and times for certain cups; get to know them.
  7. Enjoy driving alone now. While you can. Enjoy listening to rap really loud or heavy metal without having to worry about the language. Or just enjoy driving in the silence. Ahhh, I do miss that.
  8. You can test if you’re doing things right by smiles and laughs. Forget milestones.
  9. Don’t fold your baby’s clothes. Just…just stop. They’re so small and you go through them so fast.
  10. “Baba” turns into “dada” turns into “mama” turns into “no I don’t want to and you can’t make me” really fast. Like whoa.
  11. People say funny things about parenting and you will laugh but sometimes you won’t really understand why because it’s actually sad. Like how you have absolutely no life with kids hahahahahahaha omg that’s hilarious.
  12. Things matter and words hurt.
  13. Playing pretend is super serious and you better do it right.
  14. The first few smiles you get from your beautiful new baby are just poop smiles.
  15. There’s nothing more terrifying than being home with kids and realizing all of a sudden that it’s quiet.

parenting facts 1

 

Posted in Family, health, Mental Health, toddlers

Difficult Behaviors & Discipline- Toddler edition

Image result for difficult toddler

Some toddlers are just a little more difficult than others. Spirited, strong willed, imaginative, energetic; all those nice flowery phrases that people without difficult toddlers like to throw at you, can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out. Or theirs. Don’t do that, it hurts. And you’ll look a sight with patches of hair missing. I was already writing this post when my article about anger was published last week. Seems to me we have a pattern…

I will say I have seen some definite improvements in my own daughter (finally!) after trying multiple things I’ve seen online, in books, and even discussed with a doctor. Some parents now argue discipline is actually detrimental to children and shouldn’t be done at all. I think that’s a wee bit on the ridiculous side. Rules are a part of life and kids must learn to adhere to them, end of story. But there’s so many resources out there now, not to mention the countless pieces of unsolicited information you get from your own parents, in-laws, friends, siblings, your weird neighbor with an affinity for flowered hats. Here are some things that worked for me, some things that didn’t, and why.

Yay! These Worked:

 

Remaining calm- Make sure to check yourself first. Make sure you are as calm as you can Image result for check yourself before you wreck yourselfbe while angry. Use a firm voice, at your child’s level, whenever possible. This can be a real struggle during a tantrum storm and a bout of defiance. When you want to scream, when your teeth start to clench, walk away. Go in your room and breath a few times.

Show them how to calm down. Calming yourself is not something you are born knowing how to do. Show them how to take deep breaths. How to relax their shoulders. How to express their thoughts into words once they have caught their breath.

If you have a partner who is helping you with your kids, have a tap out term. We just say “tap out” but whatever works to get the point across that you are getting to that point of no return.

Language- Use “what” instead of “why”. I have learned a lot of the time the “why” isn’t understood by your child. The “what” is much easier to grasp. So for instance, if you are trying to get your child to put on their shoes so you can leave, and they decide instead to throw them across the room, it’s honestly more effective to say “what are you supposed to be doing right now?” than “why did you do just do that?”Image result for kid shrugging shoulders

Also, using the same language is very important. For awhile my husband and I didn’t have the same terms for things. I would say “that’s not how we act like a good girl” and he would say “that’s not following the rules”. To us, we know these mean the same thing. To her it can be a little confusing.

Picking battles- Understand the difference between annoying and aggravating behavior versus unacceptable behavior. Constantly swinging their feet in a seat can be annoying but is it wrong? Interrupting you when you are trying to speak can be extremely annoying but still, is that them intentionally misbehaving? Painting on various surfaces of your home may make you want to cry a little but really, again, not being bad. Just being a kid. If they throw their drink cup at your head while you are driving, that is unacceptable. If they try to see how high they can throw their little sister, that is unacceptable. You see the difference. Pick your battles.Image result for mischievous child makeup

Limit all distractions when something important needs to be said- Again with my daughter possibly having ADHD this is very important in our house but I think is pretty universal if you are not seeing results from your disciplining. ALL kids are easily distracted to a certain degree. Make sure there is quiet, make sure you have eye contact, and if possible get on their level for your message to be made perfectly clear. Keep instructions short and sweet.

Stop idol threats- Coming up with punishments off the top of your head when your child is pushing you over the edge is never a good idea. I think at one point I threatened to give all of my daughters toys to charity including her favorite bunny. I know I would never do that, and she knows I would never do that. Kids are smarter than you think. I would also threaten that she wouldn’t be allowed to go to her grandmother’s in the past. She knew she was going, she did every week. I knew she was going, she did every week. Now, we have a system of repercussions. Snacks go first, than tv, than a toy, than early bedtime. In that order.

Face chart- This seemed so silly to me when I first saw them. And I wasn’t excited about having that picture hanging in my house. However, after trying the sticker chart (see below in the did not work section) I figured why not. For my daughter, visually seeing herself getting into trouble I think really helps. She wants to stay in the yellow (on our chart that’s the good face). When her clothespin moves down she genuinely gets upset about it. Which is a good thing!

 

Boo- These Did Not Work:

Sticker Chart- Since we are on the subject, the sticker chart was not a success for us. I’ve seen different opinions on these and I have to say it did seem like it was helping originally but the excitement of it wore off, fast. The first couple of weeks of seeing the stickers get put up made my daughter pretty happy. But the big old X on the bad days didn’t really have much of an affect on her. She pretty much just stopped caring about it after a few weeks.

Time Outs- This is not to be confused with “calm down time”, which we have plenty of in our house. Calm down time is time for my daughter to go in her room and play with her calm down box. Time out made her go from a 7 to a 20. Having to sit somewhere for over a minute when she didn’t want to was almost torture. Again, ADHD has a lot to do with that and that may not be the case for your child, but we can’t do time outs. Before ending them just the phrase would send her into hysterics. I even tried holding her in time out once or twice but just couldn’t see how it was that beneficial. So now we just start removing luxuries one by one (see above) and that has worked much better.

 Spanking– and the debate continues. I want to be very clear that I have spanked my child. Image result for spankingIn some instances I think it’s called for. In most however, I think it’s really overused. My problem with spanking is parents tend to do it when they are already angry, hot tempered, and out of ideas of what to do at that exact moment. Again, my daughter may have underlying issues but when she did get spanked she took that as a good reason to hit
others. The few times she did get spanked, she got in trouble at daycare the next day for hitting. I don’t think it was a coincidence. So, we removed spanking from our discipline routine. Honestly, we still get the “we had some violence” issues talks from school but not as many. I do not allow it anymore purely for not being able to explain to her when she asked why mommy can hit her but she can’t hit when she’s upset.

When changing something always give it an appropriate amount of time to see whether or not it’s going to be effective. This is something I struggle with since I want to change things all the time and try everything I read but you do really need to allow for adjustment.

Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, toddlers, Uncategorized

Little Bits of Anger

Newly published article at Hip Mama magazine:

 

Pouting toddler with wet hair in the bathroom

“Little Bits of Anger”

I think a lot of parents will be able to relate to this experience. I decided to write about it a long time after it happened. I feel like if I would have tried to write it immediately after our highlighted argument the perspective would have been much different. I hope maybe our experience can help you with yours.

 

Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, parenting, toddlers

Sports and ADHD

Starting next year I will be starting another blog/ezine about supporting parents, spouses, friends, etc of those with mental disorders of all types.

I have been doing a lot of research on the topic of ADHD (if you can’t tell by some of the other posts) and to help kids (and parents) better cope with the disorder. It’s actually pretty fascinating how the mind works and how ADD and ADHD affect it. I will have some other information on it when Bird and Fish Magazine comes out January 2017.

But for now! School is starting soon, and that means classes and sports will also be starting. You may be wondering what’s the best sport or activity to put your child in, especially if you have noticed some hyperactivity. (note: I don’t think every kid who is hyperactive as ADHD and I do think it’s extremely overly diagnosed. But some of this information is good for any child who needs a little extra help burning off some energy).

It has been proven that children who participate in schools and extracurricular activities do better in school. I would be wary of doing TOO many activities as you don’t want to burn your child out, but getting them involved and interested in at least one thing early on can lead them into a lifelong appreciation for the activity.

What do sports teach? Teamwork, listening skills, discipline, social skills, focus, and above all, in my opinion, a sense of accomplishment. Children with ADHD and ADD tend to suffer from low self-esteem, especially as they get into elementary and middle school.

What do activities like music and art teach? Discipline, structure, a way to calm down, and again, a sense of accomplishment.

This article will focus on sports. The biggest question I keep seeing is “should I put my child in an individual sport, or a team sport?” It may seem daunting picturing your hyperactive child trying to work as a team and you may want to do an individual sport. Or, you may see this as an opportunity for them to challenge themselves and work as a team. Below are options for both.

 

Martial Arts:

young children doing karateBenefits: teaches self-control, discipline, individualism, accomplishment, respect

You do not have the issue of struggling to work as team but they will need to understand how to share their time. Each student usually gets a chance to try a new skill or lesson on their own. This may be hard for a child with ADHD or ADD but something they can overcome. They will also have to learn new skills by step-by-step instruction.

 

Swimming:

Benefits: can be very physically demanding which is good for ADHD children, gets one on one with coaches, still has team to work with even though rated individually

Make sure to research swim lessons or teams in your area. In some places this may be an expensive route but there have been many success stories. Obviously, Michael Phelps being one of the most popular.

Gymnastics:

Benefits: physically demanding, physical awareness, improves focus, great for children with sensory issues as well

The only downside I see to gymnastics is most children with ADHD and ADD suffer from impulsivity and reckless behaviors. When learning difficult maneuvers it may something to consider and to monitor closely to lessen any injuries. Of course, most coaches and instructors know this and are trained to handle these behaviors.

 

Horse back riding:

Benefits: out in nature, learning patience and calmness, learns to respond and appreciate the animal

This may be one of the most expensive activities that you can find for children but again there have been many success stories. I would wary of horseback riding for those children with more severe ADHD as horses are animals. I love horses and horseback riding personally but I have been thrown off of one as well and it is scary, not to mention dangerous. If your child doesn’t have a sense of how to control their impulsivity, at least a little, I would recommend working on that before trying horseback riding.

Soccer:

Benefits: team camaraderie, constant movement, little downtime between activities, sense of accomplishment

As with any team activity the biggest issue is learning to deal with losing and learning to work with others. That can be a turn off for some parents or a driving factor for others. I think just being open with your child beforehand that they may not win, but that’s it okay, will help with this so they are prepared for that. Soccer also has a very young starting age (some places as young as 2) and goes through most high schools so it’s something your child can grow with.


Baseball:

Benefits: teamwork, patience, sportsmanship, discipline

My biggest problem with baseball is that there tends to be a lot of downtime. If your child is playing outfield there may be lulls in time where they are not running or doing something active. This tends to let the mind wander and leads to boredom, which then leads to them not paying attention. Again, for especially hyperactive children baseball may not be the best fit.

Basketball:

Benefits: concentration, teamwork, constant movement, sense of accomplishment

There are many mixed reviews about basketball and ADHD. For one thing, it’s a good sport because it is so high energy. On the other, it’s tough for some children because you must have serious focus and keep the ball in sight at all times. Many ADHD students struggle with this and can get frustrated during the game. My advice is, if you want to go this route, is to explain it as a trial. Tell your child there are many other things they can try to do if basketball doesn’t seem to be fun for them. If they are struggling with paying attention to it too much then they won’t enjoy the game and that defeats the whole purpose.

 

One thing worth mentioning is (just like with school and having a great teacher) any sport can be as good or as bad as the coach you get. If you have a coach who is understanding and patient then your child is more likely to succeed at whatever it is they are doing.

 

Posted in Education, Family, parenting, toddlers

Imaginative Play

I don’t understand why LARPing isn’t a job. As an adult, it’s hard to get away with it sometimes, but that’s the beauty of having children! 

There are a lot of advantages from imaginative play for your kids. Part of early literacy education stresses the PLAY factor. Most parents don’t think of playing as a form of learning but it most definitely is.

“Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.”- Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
For one thing, imaginative play requires problem solving and creative thinking skills. Building things, designing a playhouse, making a blanket fort; all require your child to use their problem solving skills to make something that will actually work as a fort.

Children use role playing and dramatic play as a way to understand things they have seen. Usually, kids want to pretend to be people they have seen in real life (nurse, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, parent, etc) or people they have read about or seen on TV (knights, princesses, scientist, etc). They may also want to play by doing…what you do everyday. Cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, all the tasks you may think are completely mundane may actually be really fun for your child.


By pretending to be these people they are learning more about them. This teaches them flexibility and gives them an understanding of other people. They may also use this to understand things that scare them. For instance, many times you see a child playing doctor you will see them give a shot. This is because the idea of getting shots is scary to most children and they are working out the situation for themselves.

Imaginative play also helps your child to improve on their communication skills. They will be speaking about things and using words while playing that maybe they wouldn’t know otherwise. They also need to communicate their ideas and what they want to play to you or to other children.


For some parents, coming up with imaginative play ideas is easy. For others, it’s a struggle. Below are some ideas to get you started and help you bring imaginative play into your home.

 

COOKING/KITCHEN

If you don’t have fake food/kitchen tools, do yourself a favor and get some. A play kitchen can occupy a kid for hours. It’s a great learning tool too. They learn colors, vocabulary, numbers, how to sort, problem solving. There are so many cool ideas out there for creating a play kitchen too.

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You don’t have to just buy a brand new one from WalMart. My husband and I built a small lemonade stand style play kitchen for my daughter when she was one, and she still uses it.

(She was still in a big Winnie the Pooh phase so the stand says “Time for something sweet”- I know it’s adorable…okay moving on)

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DOCTOR/VET

I always thought that all kids hated going to the doctor. My daughter has since proved me wrong; however, a lot of kids do hate going but LOVE to play doctor. It’s something they Vet-Clinic-Dramatic-Play-Activity-1024x683know and something that is fun for them to pretend. Playing doctor or veterinarian can be as simple as giving a stuffed animal a check up. Or you can get dressed up and play out having the plague, the whole nine yards. This site has free printables for pretend play that I think are amazing and worth checking out.

 

 

KING/QUEEN/KNIGHT/PRINCESS

Some of the play castles I have seen online make me extremely sad my house isn’t bigger. However, even with lack of space, playing castle is pretty easy. You can find many items online on purchasing or making a play castle, most are relatively reasonable too. If you don’t want the whole castle, or don’t have the room, then just make some of the accessories.

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Some ways to play would be to save the princess (or fairy, or
king, or anything else). Have one person be the dragon and “take” the princess. The other must steal her back. Have sword fights (with paper or cardboard swords preferably.

 

 

 

SUPERHEROES 

Obviously, not just for boys anymore. Any kid likes to be a superhero. Again, this can be as easy as making a mask out of a paper plate. Creating a brand new superhero just for your child is a fun way to go about it. But if they really love a certain character than try to capture that.

Superheros may be an imaginative play game you want to take outside (you don’t have to, but flying can get iffy indoors).

 

SCHOOL
Playing school is one of my favorites because I’m a nerd. But your child may actually love to play it. Especially if they have an older sibling they see going to school. Playing school can mean your child is the teacher, and “reads” you a book. Basically they can make up a story to go with pictures in one of their books.

If you have a child chalkboard or dry erase board, then that’s a great way to play school. You can even have snack time and recess during your imaginative play time!


This is a great article with some more ideas.