Thursday, December 24, 2015

11 fun way to teach your toddlers (and keep them busy) :

Once your tot is talking away, it's easier to figure out what they know and what they have learned in the year and a half or more that you have been having one sided conversations. This is also the time when they begin to imitate us and tuck away information to surprise us with later.

I've been having all sorts of fun, now that my son is (finally) jabbering away, and when I can understand him it always amazes me.

Since I know how hard it is to constantly come up with new ways to entertain, and to entertain educationally while resisting the urge to prop your baby in front of the iPad, here is a list of some of the different ways our kids can and do enjoying being taught. Hopefully this will be particularly useful during the holidays!

11 Fun ways to teach your tots: 

1. With stickers:
Stickers are a great way for them to learn body parts and even to see what they know by making them stick little things in different places around the room, on themselves or even on you! Buy inexpensive, and plain ones unless you are planning to use them to decorate something because your tot is going to want to go through the whole packet in seconds.
Learning body parts with stickers

2. With puzzles and blocks:
Puzzles are a great way to teach fine motor skills, they learn to turn move and maneuver objects which comes in handy when they want to open and close things and even feed themselves. This includes, blocks and shape sorters that can also help them learn about colors, and hone their gross motor skills.

3. With crayons:
My little one loves it when I draw objects for him and ask him to guess what they are, he also often demands that I draw things he likes - some like a car and mickey mouse are attainable, others like relatives and objects of his imagination... oh well, Do your best with this one!
Like puzzles, crayons are a great way to teach colors, concepts and shapes.

4. With songs:
We have a song for pretty much everything, and can also adapted songs to teach most things. Did you know that the wheels on the bus in my house has cars that go vroom, tigers that go roar, snakes that hiss, and aeroplanes that go zoooom, riding on it?

5. With magnets:
Magnets can teach them more than just how to join things together and about attraction and repulsion (for the older kids), cute animal magnets, or magnetic fishing boards (Melissa and Doug has some super ones), are great ways to keep them busy entertained and learning for longer than their usual 3 minute attention span can usually handle.

6. With textures:
Some kids (like mine), are really fussy when exposed to different textures but it opens them up to new experiences when they are able to accept different textures in food, on their feet and in their hands.
Textures to experiment with: jell-o, flour, playdoh, blubber, sticky foam, sand, water, slime, cotton, non-toxic glue, fingerpaints and silly putty.

7. Show and tell:
A trip to the grocery store can teach my son more than anything I show him on tv or blabber on about. It's great to take them out and have them identify things and even pick their own fruits and vegetables - it definitely helps if they are securely seated in the shopping cart. So don't shy away from strapping your baby on and taking them with you when you run errands - provided you can fit in the extra time it's going to take.

8. Age old: Books
Rhymes and books like "Baby Bear, baby bear what do you see?," or "Hungry Caterpillar" are great at holding your children's attention (as are all the Boynton books), but there are many where the pictures will grab their attention more than the story (anything with more than 10 words on a page will have you losing your already distracted toddler). That doesn't mean you need to stay away from it - just make the pictures fun, tell them what they are looking at, make noises and build your own little story around it that will stay with your child for a while and build their imagination ( as well as your own).

Barnes and Nobles recommendations for children aged 0-3
9. Photographs:
Not the digital kind which will make your child scream for your iphone and find his or her way onto youtube, but actual hard copy photographs and albums are great for teaching your children about all the people who are or should be important in their lives. Also, a great way to test and hone their memory.

10. By doing:
There's nothing your child enjoys more than.. YOU! And that means they are watching everything you say or do. Once they are talking and imitating you will realize just how much they have grasped. So let them watch you brush your teeth, make your hair, read the newspaper (and hardcopy books!), and do all the things you want them to learn to do.

11. Through experience!
There's no greater teacher than experience, this includes holidays, picnics, trips to the pool, the beach, the outdoors - basically, all the things that require a larger effort from us as parents, but are actually worth it because whether your child is too young to remember or old enough to build lasting memories, they are learning from everything they see, touch and are told stories about by their dedicated parents.

Learning about Bears at the Central Park Zoo, New York

Happy Holidays, readers - wherever you are, hope you have a great 2016. (From what I gather, it can't be much worse than 2015 for most).
I'll be back in the new year.
More to come!

P.S. For those who are not following along on instagram yet, please do @mommydiaries. 

All content on this blog belongs to the author and cannot be reproduced or replicated without permission.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

10 life lessons learned from toddlerhood:

In the world where we are teaching our children the basics of eating, steady walking and turning sounds into words, we often get too caught up to notice all the things that our children are able to teach us.

While our babies and tots cannot show us how to walk or talk, they remind us in many different ways that the things that are truly important in life are not how many milestones have been hit, or how many dresses our daughters have.

Below are 10 life lessons I have learned from my toddler. For life lessons that you can pick up from your infant or 15 life lessons you learn in the first year or parenting, click here. 
The joys of toddlerhood

10 Life Lessons learned from Toddlerhood: 

1. To really live in the moment
There's no regret, there's no stress, and often there's a touch of ADHD, but it's all centered around what is going on around them at the present and taking in all the sites, sounds, views and stimulation around them.
Always present..

2. It doesn't matter what you look like, they love you anyway.
Bad hair day, bad skin day, face pack on or pajamas.. You're little one (like your pet but unlike your significant other), will still want to cuddle and kiss you, play with you and be around you.

3. You can have fun, eat, or poop, anywhere.
Literally. Anywhere. As annoying as can be to a parent, we also have to take a second to acknowledge the gift that our filterless bundles come with - they can break out into a dance, sprint repeatedly up and down stairs or want to smooch you repeatedly on the lips, no matter where you are standing.

4. Learning while playing is so much fun than learning any other way.
I won't lie, I have tried teaching him things and encouraging him to learn colors and stuff (who hasn't?), but what I learned in the process is that my hair is blue, as are my nails, and eyes and puppies. The best way they do learn, is when we stop forcing it and play with them instead. With the right toys and encouragement, they learn to stack blocks, they learn about shapes, numbers, pieces and  they know that the red circle will fit in the red spot on the puzzle. They also learn through songs - head, shoulders, knees and toes may be the first body parts they learn, but the rest will soon follow if you proceed with patience and time.
Seriously, make the most of this. 

5. Time waits for no one.
I know this doesn't come as news, but we live it in action when we see our babies changing in front of our eyes, everyday. Sometimes we don't notice the changes immediately but then will find that new clothes and shoes are tight, or will hear the big new word they picked up and can't stop saying.. It's tempting to wish away the sleepless nights and diapers, but really, learn to embrace it and make the most of it because before you know it, they will be in school and you will want all that time to come right back (okay, fine, at least some of it to come back).
Blink of an eye, it feels like..

6. Love and affection sees exist beyond race, place, cast or color.
Kids are born not knowing how to discriminate. This makes my son and I sound spoiled but since we live in India it's simply reality that we do encounter people from many different social economic walks of life.  I've seen my son run up to the house staff and hug them, and I've seen him wave to the security and chauffeurs and greet everyone excitedly. And no, I have no intention of stopping him or teaching him any class boundaries, nor any of race or religion. Because frankly, I wish they didn't exist and since they do, I know the world will teach him this in time.  As a parent though, I believe it's my responsibility to teach him to be good, kind and humane, which is what I will stress before the world has a chance to come in to his world and alter his perception.

7. Happiness lies in the smaller things in life.
Like agreeing to wear the shoes your son picked out, even though they don't match because you know he is going to be beaming about it for a while, or in being silly together and playing drums on the cardboard boxes that actually seem to entertain them more then the toy. But most definitely in those unsolicited kisses that make your heart feel like it's about to burst!
Heart melting..

8.  Let go of the angst.
Toddlers can go from happy to screaming in seconds. But they can also go from lying down on the floor and crying to hugging, cuddling and ready to play in the same amount of time.  It takes me a lot longer to shake off the tantrum and the screaming (his, not mine..) but it's important to shake it off and let go because they have forgotten about it and moved on. Plus,  loving them through the ups and downs is going to help build up their security and self-esteem in the long run.

9. Put away the embarrassment.
My son is actually really shy, and yet he has times when he will burst out into chatter or even song (gibberish song at this point with a few words in between I can decipher), just about anywhere. Yes, there is a decorum that has to be maintained and I may end up institutionalized if I do that at my age, but there's still a lot to be learned from the confidence that our little children have that in so many ways can wither as we get older. So it's okay if your shoes don't match perfectly but they make your child happy - you can still wear it and walk with pride.

10. Make the most out of the mess.
Yes, kids make a mess. It drives me nuts when puzzle pieces are thrown all over the room, and yet somehow I've learned that my baby learns more when I let him run with things (not scissors or markers but puzzle pieces are on the safe list), or put his hand in paint. Use the mess as a teaching moment and let them explore the colors, textures and differences between things like dough, flour, jell-O and paint. You can always enlist their help to clean up when their attention has run out (usually about 60 seconds later).
Enlist help with the clean up!

Hope this one has given you some steps forward, ideas and moments of reflection.

For those who are not following me on instagram yet, please do! Follow @mommydiaries,

More to come!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

15 things you should know about flying with your baby or toddler:

This post has been three months in the making for me. Since flying was such a disaster for me and my baby, I didn't know where to start with  appropriately expressing what I went through. However, there are some things I have picked up from the experience and to do's are below. 

For those who want to know more about my experience - I had a one stop flight from India to the US recently, (and back unfortunately). Our second leg was 14 hours and my son did not sleep. AT ALL (we got 2 hours in on the way there and none on the way back!). He did not even want to be seated and my husband and I were running up and down the aisle, rocking him in the bar, sitting on the bar, trying to make him watch tv, taking turns to eat... So, I learned some to dos and alot more of what not to do. Fortunately for you though, most kids do sleep, and 14 hours sleepless is unheard of, so my high energy and overly curious boy is a quite unique. 

Below are some of the things I learned and have put to practice after this flying disaster.

15 things you should know about flying with your little one:

1. If you are planning to give your baby medicines to help them sleep on a long flight, please try these at home first. In the event that your little one has a reaction, you do not want to be a mile high.

2. Break all the rules: If your child has never watched television, now is a good time to get them to start. However, you can limit it to on board entertainment only. (Note: my son at 13 months was not interested in this at all, but at 18 months he can sit and watch songs for hours). If there are specific things your toddler likes, ipad puzzles, videos etc - keep them handy for the flight. (Make sure you do not give it to them for a few days before traveling so that they are excited to see it).
IF they have never watched TV, this may be the time to start.
3. If you are traveling a long distance, and can break up your journey, do so. It should be an overnight stop if possible. However, if you cannot get a long break in the journey then fly direct! One flight is better than two, with a stop to disturb your child's sleep.

4. If you do have a layover of less than 6 hours, try to let your child roam free and tire themselves out as much as possible.
Letting him loose at Dubai airport

5. Embrace Red eyes: For long flights, if you can ensure that a portion of it is during your child's normal sleep hours, you may be able to get some rest. For short flights, try and schedule it around nap times.

6. Carry your own food. Yes, flights offer you food for children and packets for infants but you are better off taking things you know your child will love, so that you are not stranded with a hungry child on top of it all. Packaged food is the most convenient, and quick snacks like porridge and oats.

7. Ask for juice and milk on board (unless you are nursing/ giving formula). Feel free to carry it if you like, however, on a long flight milk can go bad. Also remember that when you open the bottle, if it has a straw - it's going to shoot right out on your face. Thanks to the air pressure!

8. If you can afford, have to buy (for children over 2) or are given a second seat, make the most of it. In the event that they do sleep, it is helpful to be able to put them down and get some rest yourself. However, if they are in an aisle seat, you may find your self paranoid that they will get up and run, so try and put them by the window or in a middle seat.

9. If your child is into toys, save some new toys for the flight, and give it to them as a distraction. Do avoid things that sing, or roll away...

10. If your child wants to run up and down the aisles to expend energy, you should consider letting them.. supervised  ofcourse and only when the seat belt sign is off. It is easier to follow a walking child up and down, than to try and strap a crying child into a seat.

11. Diaper changes on board are really a painful experience. Finding place to keep your diaper bag is even more challenging than figuring out where to stand. If you are not flying alone - ask your companion to come with you and hand you things from outside the stall. It is much easier than trying to move them around while holding the screaming wiggling baby or tot.

12. Distractions are key, so keep them handy, whether it is food, an ipad or your boob/milk!
Hanging out at the bar

13. The goal should be to get your child to sleep, but very few will sleep the entire journey if its a long flight during the day, so do keep that in mind and fill your handbags accordingly.

14. Packing for a trip with a child is one of the most time consuming parts of the journey, feel free to refer to the quick handbag list here - diapers, wipes, change of clothes, toys, books, cream, ipad or other entertainment, headphones, food, and liquids! You may find that many of the things you thought were essential when packing your suitcase may not be necessary, so try to pack as light as you can go, unless you are going somewhere that has no baby stores whatsover.

15. Babies jetlag, badly! They may want to play at night and sleep in the day if they have had a complete time shift so try to get them exposed to sunlight as much as possible during the day to help reset their body clocks. Tons more on baby jetlag can be found here.

You may find that after the flight and the jetlag, the rest of the trip even with your active toddler, is just a breeze.. Enjoy it as much as you can and be flexible with their routine you will have plenty of time to reset it all when you get back home.

Also - for those who are on instagram, follow me to get quick tips, tricks and tributes @mommydiaries.
Follow me on Instagram!

More to come!

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mommy knows is now on instagram!

Hi Moms, Dads and Grandparents,

For those of you on instagram, you can follow along with me. I will continue to provide you with posts on the blog ofcourse - but there will also be tips tricks and tributes on the instagram page which is  or insta: @mommydiaries.

More to come!

All content on this blog belongs to the author and cannot be replicated or reproduced without permission.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

30 more things that every parent should know about their TODDLER:

I have realized that I no longer say I have a child, I find stating the fact that I have a toddler a lot more accurate and gratifying. It really is because toddlers deserve a category of their own, much like teenagers, and toddlerhood is often called the first adolescence.

However, through this journey of sleeplessness, joy and mania, I have found a few pearls of wisdom that help me navigate toddler behavior. Below are some more tips and tricks on toddlerhood.

For Those who missed the first part to this post, click here to read 31 things every parent should know about their toddler.

30 More Things that Every Parent Should Know About their TODDLER:

Toddler Behavior :

(For more on toddler behavior, click here to see my previous post)

1. If you believe that imitation is the best form of flattery, you're in luck. Toddlers imitate, a lot. Not only is it a sign of affection but it's a sign that we have to watch everything we do because sooner or later your little one is going to do it too!

2. One of the reasons kids delay talking is when they have everything handed to them on a platter and do not feel the need to talk. Why bother when we understand their gestures so well? If you believe your baby falls in this category, the next time they point to something, try telling them that you do not understand what they want. Eventually, you can name the object and give it to them. However, do tell them that you do not understand to encourage them to use the vocabulary they are amassing!

3. You will wake up one day to your baby chattering non-stop, and asking questions about everything. Eventually taking you to the point where you will reminisce about the days of gestures and sounds and no speech. So try and be in the moment, no matter how old your little one is. It's just a matter of time.

4. Not only do toddler's love to control what they do, wear or eat - they also like to control it for you. While I put on my sunblock and make my hair in the mornings, my son opens my shoe closet and picks out my shoes. And yes, I have stepped out wearing orange shoes to work and his school, because if these little things make him happy (and more compliant), then it's okay to roll with it. (Though I have drawn the line at wearing mismatched shoes!)
Sometimes the box is as fun as the toy
5. Toddler baths are a whole different ball game from baby baths. Say bye, bye to the baby tub once your toddler is no longer sitting down and get prepared to get at least little wet at bath time. Your baby will be more comfortable  and safe with you standing in the tub or in the shower (note: running water is still not safe so if you use a shower area like I do, try and use a mug and bucket, along with no-slip mats and keep one hand on your baby at all times.)

6. Hairwashing is torture. For you though, more than them. Because of the screams and the head shaking, the struggle to keep the soap out of their eyes and even running away inside the shower. Whether or not the shampoo says no more tears the process is more likely to bring tears. So save it for the end of bath time, and then proceed as quickly as possible. Don't bother with the caps and visors because your child will probably not want to keep those on either. Also, once in two/ three days is adequate unless your baby is rolling around in mud.

7. I recently had a successful hair washing session: a rare gem! We put on the music (shower speakers) and danced inside the shower, and then I used my baby's hands in his scalp to teach him to rub his hair. The more you involve your little one the less likely they are to resist.

8. My toddler gets two baths a day. Because he loves the water and because he sleeps better when he has bathed at night (and I sleep better when I get to bathe him in the morning). It is not the most practical thing though so feel free to suit yourself and do it when is most convenient to you and your baby.

9. Yes - bath books, toys, balls, stickers, alphabets, they all help!
Storytime with dad

10. Toddler climbing - home made obstacle courses may help your baby get some of his urges out and also tire him or her a little..However, vigilance is key, as they will still want to climb up on the couch, chair, closet, and ofcourse - on you!

11. Are you down to one nap yet? Unfortunately, that will happen. But you can move your baby's bedtime a little earlier or expect them to sleep in a tad bit longer in the morning, when it does. This usually happens around 16 to 18 months, but if your tot has always hated to sleep like mine, you may be fortunate enough to receive this gift (repeat: shocking gift) sooner.

12. Potty training is supposedly easier and quicker for girls than boys. While most literature tells you to wait until your daughter is close to two (and even later for your sons), there are things you can do to start preparing even around 1. When your baby goes to the bathroom (in their diaper), use the word poo and make a hand action (preferably one that is not obscene). Do this consistently and you can eventually ask them to do it when they poop. Or ask them if they have done (hand action), and you will reach a point where they mirror the action or respond to you.

13. Closer to 18 months, your child is likely to be more responsive about whether they have to go to the bathroom or not, and may even show you the hand action. Do not force them to sit naked and wait but if they indicate they need to go to the bathroom (usually done first for poop than pee), put them on a baby pot and sit with them and wait, talk, encourage... and cheer! when the deed is done.
This is the only age when you can go to the toystore, play, and not have to buy anything.. (cause they still cant ask)

14. If your child has not gotten toilet trained by the time they are closer to 2, then you can start keeping them bottomless (for boys, girls need protection as they are prone to urinary infections), after they wake up and after meals, and periodically place them on the pot to see if they need to go. (Note, baby pots are better than the toilet seat inserts as the squatting position helps get things moving....)

15. Yes, one year olds refuse food. Even their old staples. Try not to be too quick to offer a yummier alternative, unless you are prepared to keep a back-up option at every meal. Instead, involve them in the process. Tell them what they are going to be eating, show them how it's going to be made, and show them how much you love eating it too.
Instrument time.. 

16. If they are still refusing their meal and you have to offer an alternative. Let them off the high chair for a few minutes and then back on with the new meal (so that the new meal is not positive reinforcement for the dismissed one).

17. If they still do not eat, which does happen.. do not panic, your child will not go hungry for long, it is okay if they miss a meal or two. However, if you are really worried, fruit smoothies can help keep them fuller for longer.

18. Did you expect your tot to put themselves to sleep? A lucky few moms will see their kids do this, however, most of us may still have to engage in some kind of ritual after the sleep routine. However, try not to walk your kids to sleep as they are likely to be heavy now, if it's a cuddle, or a book, or some music, or they need you to sit with them, and you do not mind it, then do it and don't stress about it. However, kids do tend to wake up and wonder where their bed time accompaniment went (and if it's you that can be a problem). So make sure that whatever you do, you put them down in bed when they are sleepy but not passed out. So that they do not get a shock when they wake up in a crib and mommy or daddy is nowhere to be seen.

19. Somethings your child will learn (and want) to do all on their own around this age - feed themselves with cutlery, undress themselves, brush their own teeth (it's okay to let them but at least before bed make sure you go in and brush them yourself a second time), bathe themselves (let them hold the mug and rub their own hands and body, you can always help), and choose their own books and toys.. Let them! It will be easier to control the things you have to (like bedtime).
Proceed with caution: a heavy mess my occur

20. Appropriate toddler toys (that will help develop major and fine motor skills) - stacking things (cups/ boxes/ rings etc), blocks, baby lego and things they can join and undo (duplo etc), puzzles, pouring cups, cars/ wind up toys, balls (yes, for girls too), dolls (yes, for boys too! to encourage their nurturing tendencies), stickers, slate/chalk, crayons/paint and paper, puppets, shape sorters, clay, musical instruments and household items. (note: while using our cellphones may be another kind of skill, it does not make the list!)

21. Music and books are always appropriate, but limit screen time as much as you can, even if it is something you think is educational, they learn more with their hands and from books and from YOU than they ever could from a screen.

22. It is definitely not easy to keep coming up with new things for your child to do everyday. Fortunately, kids love repetition. The same songs, the same books, and even toys and activities. So as much as it may bore you, don't worry about it boring them.

23. It is not easy to keep saying no, and eventually your child will keep saying no to you if they hear that too much. So try offering alternatives when you do not like what your little one is up to.
Household items galore..

Just for you, Exhausted moms: 

24. They say the first two years are the hardest, and for those planning a second one in the next year or two, like me.. well, the next two will probably be harder, but try and relish the simple pleasures. Your baby is showing you in many ways how much he or she loves and needs you, (even if it is only in the tantrums they reserve for you and noone else.)

25. There is nothing more priceless than an unsolicited toddler kiss. 

26.  Try not to feel too guilty about closing the door (on your supervised tot ofcuorse) if you can and getting in a nap or 15 minutes of reading time or just staring at the ceiling if that is what you need to do. It's important to keep your calm. 

27. We worry, it's just what we do. However, our kids feed off our stress so try and be positive and ask for help when you need it. 
Clay time: I came home with pink pants.

28. Your biggest support is other moms (sorry, no matter how great your husband is he has not been through what you have) so try to find friends with kids in a similar age bracket, you will be amazed at how wonderful it is to have that kind of support. 

29. As exhausted as I get everyday between working and being home for my baby as much as I can, and then trying to fit in the gym.. it's important to keep activities reserved that are just for the two of you. Even if it's bedtime. You may hate that you're the only one who your baby wants to fall asleep with, but on some level it's also gratifying to have your little one cuddled up in your arms and knowing that they love having you there. 

30. Take a minute and pat yourself on the back (or reward yourself with a glass - ok fine,a bottle - of wine..), you deserve it. 

Anything for those smiles..

I will be back soon with a post on traveling with your toddler.
More to come!

All content on this blog belongs to the author and cannot be replicated or reproduced without permission. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

31 Things Every Parent Should Know about their TODDLER:

TODDLERS!!!!!  Require capitals letters and exclamation marks to express all the emotions they bring up in you - or at least in me. On a daily basis it ranges from sleeplessness, joy and unbridled happiness to frustration, stress and even fear. Hopefully however, you - like me- get to circle back to peace when those eyes finally do close for a few hours - if not for the night.

There's an endless list of things that we should know, do or say when it comes to out toddlers. While it is not my style to tell you what to do or say to your toddler, here are some ideas for those looking for toddler activities, along with some tips, tricks and things you should know about your little tot.

(For those looking for tips and tricks for younger kids, please read through the new mom series - 51 things every new mom should know, Another 56 things every new mom should know, yet another 50 things that every new mom should know, still 52 more things that every new mom should know and lastly, 29 things about your newborn baby that every new and expecting mom should know).

This is what a fake tantrum looks like. 

31 Things Every Parent should Know about their TODDLER:

Toddler Activities:

1. For those who have the time to accommodate mother-toddler classes, put aside any worries you have about your child's age, infections etc and just go for it. You will not regret any time you spend with your child!

2. Mother and child classes includes music classes, baby school, baby gym and the like. Even if you do not think your child is learning anything - they are learning to take in different activities in the world around them and are conquering fears by watching other children interact. (We started Kidville's Rocking Railroad at 3 months of age in New York and are now in a mother toddler program in Mumbai, India. Unfortunately, I will be kicked out soon when my son starts playschool, but will continue music classes and work up to storytelling and toddler Gymnastics).

3. That being said, do  keep an eye on what goes into his or her mouth and the cleanliness of your surroundings. Also, stay home when your little one has infections or injections (that can compromise their immunity) - it's okay to skip a few days as little kids have erratic schedules and do fall sick.

4. While your child's schedule will adjust to a regular activity that was originally interfering with nap time or the like. So even if you have a 10 am class and that used to be his nap time, his body will eventually adjust to sleeping after class and being alert during.

5. Does your toddler enjoy being naked? Don't stress or over think it, give them a few minutes of freedom, it will help you when it's time to toilet train. Just keep a watchful eye though (on your feet), to avoid stepping in any pee or poo that may have been done on the floor.

6. When designing activities, or wondering what your child is gazing away at - get down to their level, literally. Lie down with them on the floor or follow them while crawling - it will help you understand your baby and their perspective better.

7. Toddlers, like most adults, crave control. Use playtime to let them exercise this control - let them pick what toys to play with, or what household items to play with. If they want to bang on a box with a spoon it really is alright (just make sure it's a small spoon, and not a knife or fork!)

8. Have you tried toddler art yet? For less of a major mess, stick to stickers, and chalk. Crayons are fun too (egg shaped ones are easier for your baby to hold). However, don't be afraid to get dirty with non-toxic paints and let your baby put their hands in it and explore - it's how they learn unfortunately. (Do however, cover your valuables). By 16 to 18 months, their motor skills are developed enough to let them enjoy these activities, but remember that their attention span may not be as developed.

9. Pets are the best companion for kids, however, they made need some (or alot of) protection from your toddler. Even if your pup has never bitten a soul and couldn't even think of it (like mine), your toddler has more than likely bitten a few, hit, kicked (unintentionally ofcourse) and pulled some hair. So, while it may have been safe to leave the two alone in a room together when you had a baby, you now have an unpredictable little boy or girl who may close their fists (and yank hair in the process) while gently and lovingly petting your fur baby. So do keep a close eye on this so that neither person gets scared or scarred (literally, emotionally, or mentally) in the process, and a healthy relationship between the two does not become a distant goal.

10. Don't be afraid to take your child out to a restaurant - even if it is just the two of you (that is actually better so that you can give your little one the attention he or she deserves). This is a great way to start building their attention span and also to help cultivate healthy eating habits (like sitting on a table, and in one place for their meal).  Be prepared though to eat your own meal quickly!

11. Read, read and read some more! Your child does not have to sit through the whole book, but you should teach him or her how to flip the pages, look at pictures and then listen (for a few seconds at a time at the least) to you tell them something about the picture/ page - which may be completely irrelevant to the book but is an association they can build. If they do sit through the book - you can feel free to read the story, or better yet - sing it! (this will help them actually sit through the book).

Toddler health:

12. Kids get fever, sometimes often and sometimes without any other symptoms. Talk to your doctor ofcourse if it persists but try not to panic. A fever is defined by a temperature over 100.4 degrees F, and actually helps kill bacteria in the body as bacteria thrives at 98 degrees but does not at a 100.

13. Does your little boy play with his own boy parts? (Dear Mommies of little girls, sorry about the image that is now in your head). It actually is called "toddler masturbation" (yes, I just shared that because I wanted to spread the mortification), but is perfectly normal and falls in the "natural curiosity" column, along with nose picking, biting and hair pulling.

14. Toddler headbanging, is also a completely normal activity. However, it is more likely to occur when your child has pent up energy at bedtime (this tends to occur more often on crib rails), so do help them find less damaging and stressful (for mom) ways to release their energy.

15. Toddlers can get really cranky (for days on end), and even violent when they are expecting teeth.. particularly those molars. Keep in mind that they take a long time to fully descend (both edges and the center), and unlike the front 8 teeth these can cost you more than just a few nights of sleep. Try to give your child relief by giving them hard things to chew on (like carrot sticks).

16. The more teeth your baby has the less of the teething journey you have left, but while you are celebrating keep in mind that these pearlies have to be brushed and scrubbed to remain pearly. At least twice a day.

17. It is no longer healthy or safe (for you), to put your cleaned fingers in and massage those gums no matter how much your baby liked it before, you will get hurt.

18. Kids bump their heads. Sometimes often. While you do not need to rush to the doctor for each one, do put ice and watch out for signs of stress - bleeding, red or unfocused eyes, uncontrollable crying that does not cease even after the child is distracted, lethargy, difficulty walking and vomiting. These could be signs of a concussion that needs immediate medical attention.

19. My son (like me) is always bruised. He walks into things or trips, and has even come home from the park before with scratches and scrapes. Unfortunately, this is a part of childhood but offer TLC, cleaning supplies, Neosporin (or another pain-free antibacterial cream) and bandaids.

20. It is important to have a toddler first aid kit at home that includes medication for - cuts and scrapes, nausea, diarrhea, fever, colds and coughs, tummy aches, bug bites allergies and teething! (specific drug names can be obtained from your pediatricians).

21. It is common for some children to still be drinking fluids from bottles, however, do try to transition them as soon as you can to bottles with straws. It helps if they see their parents drinking from (adult versions) of bottles with straws. Since straws send liquids straight to the back of the throat, it is better for those baby teeth than bottles with nipples or spouts.

22. While most of us now know that juices are full of sugar and can be dehydrating for us, they have actually been proven to be healthy for our little ones - in small amounts that is. 4 ounces of juice a day (home made if possible as that has lower added sugars), has proven to be healthy for our tots, while 6 or more can cause childhood obesity. So it is a fine line (literally) - so feel free to juice them up but do so wisely.

Toddler Behavior:

23. The best (and most rewarding) part of toddlerhood is that your baby can now show you how he or she feels about you. They may not say it and they may not even be cuddly or kiss you often (though may of them do) - but they are likely to try to stop you from leaving home, or to look for you when you are not around and then stick to you when you are.

24. Did I just say Clinginess is a good thing? It definitely makes me feel special but can be difficult to deal with when you have some place else you need to be. While it is easier to slip out, this is going to make your baby more insecure. So, make sure to say bye, tell them you love them and assure them you will be back. (You can even give them a transitional object and assure them that the toy/ blanket will keep them company until you are back). Only then, should you have your caregiver distract your child while you slip out!

25. The golden rule for correcting toddler behavior: Ignore. No, ignorance is not bliss, it is actually quite a nightmare trying to ignore a screaming child when all you have to do is let them fall asleep in your arms once more, or pick up that toy from below the couch or let them beat you indefinitely until you are bruised. However, if you do not want a behavior to be repeated do not reinforce it - in other words, do not react positively, negatively or in anyway at all. Pretend it didn't happen and move on.

26. Do, however, reinforce good behaviors! Give your tot complements even if it is for small-seeming things like eating a cookie themselves, being able to open or close a door, playing well, putting their things away. They will then learn that these are the things that make my parent happy or that get me a few extra hugs, kisses or claps.

27. The word Toddler is practically synonymous with Tantrums, and yes, ignoring them will eventually someday make them go away but so will understanding why they happen and trying to prevent them before they do. If you know that your toddler throws a fit for your cellphone when he sees it, don't take it out in front of him in a place where you do not want him to throw a tantrum for it. It's not the easiest, but it does bring you some temporary quiet.

28. Use diversion tactics - if you have to use your tantrum causing phone, first play a song or sing something that he loves and distract him, or show him his favorite book and start discussing it with him.

29. Most tantrums if not all, and most toddler problems as well stem from the fact that toddlers want control.  They want to be able to make their own decisions and they want to be able to control some of the things that happen to them - like what they eat, wear, read, and when they sleep (if they sleep at all). So offer them choices, (both of which are acceptable to you) ask them what they wish to snack on, which shoe they want to wear, or which book they want to read, and maybe they won't hate the idea of reading, eating or getting dressed as much.

30. Surprisingly, even toddlers who do not speak as yet - can be reasoned with. They have a vocabulary of things they understand and if you converse with them regularly you will find that they will understand you, and you will be able to reason with them. (My new bedtime tactic is to tell my son that if he wants mommy to put him to sleep he has to sleep in her arms while she sits and not with her walking endlessly around the room and bumping into things in the dark - and yes, it's working!)

31. If your toddler, like mine, is not talking even though you know that his peers are. Do not panic - kids develop at their own rate and do find many other ways to communicate. I know that my brat understands everything I tell him and responds in many ways even though he does not talk back (which I will miss fondly in those teenage years, and terrible twos). Gestures, pointing, and funny noises are the backbone of toddler communication in the early stages - so relish it and enjoy your temporary power (silence is not too effective a forms of baby arguments).

I hope these tips are helpful to all, and I promise to be back (soon this time), with more on toddler behavior food and even some handy travel tips.
More to come!

P.S. Once again, proof reading is the ball I am choosing to drop so please ignore any typos!

All content on this blog belongs to the author and cannot be replicated or reproduced without permission. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What to feed your little one (with menus):

As moms, we often discuss what our child eats, and how to get them to eat, but the what tends to be a struggle everyday, unless you are feeding your little one packaged food. (Which was so much easier when I lived in the states and last month when I traveled, but it tends to be expensive when you add up multiple meals a day.)

I also find that when my son doesn't like something I have opened, I have to throw the entire packet (for example, he won't eat anything with tomatoes in it so if the broth even smells like tomato he will spit it out. Unfortunately, Ella's kitchen doesn't have much of a market to advertise "smells like..,"). For a 15 month old, one packet is not sufficient quantity, unless it's a toddler size packet but of course my brat still prefers the 7 and 10 month recipes (and any take out I order for myself). He does prefer packaged food and take out food to home cooked (much like his mother), but it is easier (and more affordable) to cater to his tastes when his food is freshly made.  So, in India, fortunately with help, I find it a little easier to have his meals cooked, though what to cook remains the most irking question of the day.
There's nothing better than a meal out with waffles and cream 

So below, as promised in my last post on how to feed your little ones, here are some menus by age on what to feed your little ones:
(Don't ask me for recipes as I will send you google links - after the last two microwave fires I set, I do not cook anything that is meant to be edible).
No means no! 

Sample Menus for your babes and tots by age:

Newborn to 4 to 6 months: 

Breastmilk or formula only. There's no need to add cereal into a bottle unless you're doctor told you to do so (though they would tell you to feed by spoon and not in a bottle as this is a choking hazard).

For tips and tricks on how and what to feed your new nibbler and when to introduce solids, click here.

Learning to eat - 4 to 7 months:

I thoroughly enjoyed watching my son learn to eat. But keep in mind that this age is to teach your baby how to eat, and more will come out than go in. 
Meals are once or twice a day, depending on how much your child likes food (after 6 months, twice a day is more necessary). Quantity can vary from 2 tablespoons upward. 

First foods: each food should be introduced for 3 days at a time to ensure that your child does not have any allergies. However, after you know that your child doesn't have an allergy to say, sweet potato, you can then mix than in with a new food (just ensure that you mix in the new food for 2-3 days in a row). If your child does have a reaction it will be easy to find the offending food.
Learning to eat, and drink..
Great foods for this age (all mashed): carrots, sweet potato, avocado, are great starts. You can eventually mix in all fruits and vegetables. 
In the next category, are some combinations that were a hit with my son. 

Note: At this age, I mixed in oats with breakfast, multigrain with lunch and brown rice with dinner. All cereal was baby food packaged, however, you can always crush your own grain at home if you prefer. 
Also, fruits and vegetables can be substituted with what is seasonally available.

It is critically important to introduce new foods at this age and as much as possible when your child is young. Kids are notorious for becoming fussy about new foods when they are marginally older.

Mastery with food - 8 to 12 months

(As I was still nursing, we had an early morning feed, one afternoon feed and a just before bed feed. The schedule is applicable for formula too.)
A sample menu is below, at 8 months, there were 3 meals with a small snack, and food was lumpy, no longer completely mashed. 
Some options are: 

1. Peach banana oats
2. Apple banana oats
3. Pear papaya oats
4. Custard apple
5. Watermelon banana
6. Plum pear
7. Kiwi apple
8. Prune apple
9. Grape pear
10. Boiled eggs

1. Kiwi Zucchini
2. Sweet potato beet
3. Avocado apple/banana
4. Spinach apple
5. Green beans peas and potato
6. Pumpkin white beans
7. Zucchini potato green beans
8. Baked beet and potato
9. Broccoli cauliflower
10. Cheesy broccoli
11. Pineapple cucumber avocado
12. Spinach beets potato
13. Spinach or peas with cottage cheese
14. Lentils with brown rice
15. Beans with cheese and rice
16. Spinach and cottage cheese lasagna

1. Yoghurt with cherry/mango/pear/blueberry/grape/apple or cucumber 
2. Jelly 
3. Custard 
4. Cheeses 
5. Cottage cheese with fruits
6. Baked potato with cheese/ broccoli/ beans

1. Chicken sweet corn/ carrot/ sweet potato
2. Lamb with carrot pumking and brown rice
3. Ragi (wheat porridge)
4. Fish with spinach and potato
5. Lentils carrots celery tofu
6. Chicken potato lentils
7. Cous cous chicken stock and grape
8. Cheesy chicken with chives and potato
9. Cream of spinach lentils
10. Mashed beef stew
11. Chicken fenugreek and cheese
Vegetarian options: cottage cheese with spinach/ peas, and lentils with different combinations of vegetables.

Food lover - 12 months and up: 

I have stuck to the recipe list above but made the consistencies thicker, switched to real cereal from baby cereal, and adding some healthy cookies, toddler snacks and things that my son enjoys. Including, desserts.

We did add a morning snack (which is primarily fruit salads), and instead he has different kinds of eggs or oatmeal pancakes (with oranges, bananas or as is), for breakfast.

It is actually better to offer these on occasions under your control, than to restrict them completely because restricting it will actually make your child more curious to try these foods and may even cause him or her to hide and eat it later. So offering them under your control and in moderate proportions can help build healthier habits later.

At 12 months, you can also add salt to baby food but in small proportions. It is not really needed, but more for flavor.
Cake smash fail... 

Once you feel your child is ready, and the age differs here, you can offer him or her things you are eating to try, and gradually work your way up to table foods.

Hope this post is helpful to all.
More to come (soon, I promise)

P.s. Sorry about the delay in my post. I was traveling with my little tot, which was a fun, delightful but exhausting experience. More on this to come.. soon! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

10 tips on How to feed your little one, no matter what their age:

It has always amazed me how much of my attention span is devoted to fulfilling my palette and satisfying my taste buds. In part because I'm a picky eater, but even more so because I love food. Particularly junk food, sweet food, fried food, dessert, meat, and anything that is not green, yellow or red, or resembles a vegetable (unless ofcourse it's fried, then please, by all means, bring it on!).
Post baby, pre diet (I'm talking about myself ofcourse)

My tendency to love all things fattening has not worked out well in my favor, as I currently struggle to zip up and drop the post baby pounds. So I decided from the moment my baby was born that he is going to learn to eat healthy. And not just eat it, but to enjoy healthy foods. Some may say he's thin and doesn't look all that chunky, or like a child who eats 5 times a day, but to me, as long as he eats somewhat of his meals, at the right times, I'm happy (and I'm also happy that he is not that "healthy" looking because it will only make his life easier when he is older.)

As moms, we often discuss what our child eats, but not how they eat. Below are some tips that are food rules I try to stick to with my son, and the logic behind them. Yes every child is different, but their nutritional needs are the same, and so are their tendencies to push their boundaries in order to learn what is okay and what isn't. So these tips should help get you into gear of how to feed. More on what to feed to come!

And yes, these can be introduced as soon as they start eating, or at whatever age they are now, and maintained while they grow.

(For tips on introducing solids, or more food rules click here.)

Food rules, but so does Mom:

1. No toys or TV while feeding! While it is easier to feed a distracted child, in the long run, this has been shown to be an unhealthy eating habit (for example, I along with other people with this habit would eat anything placed in front of me without a sense of quantity while watching TV). Ofcourse, this leads to alot of singing and talking while feeding, but there is still a decision being made on the part of the child to open their mouth and eat.

2. No means no means no. Spitting out all that is offered also means no. I know this is a tough one for many to follow as it is really upsetting when baby doesn't eat. However, we have to teach them to trust their instincts and so if they are not hungry, it's okay. Don't force or shove food in because this will make meal time tougher in the long run. Let them off the hook for the meal and try again later.

3. If what is offered is not enjoyed, do not replace it with something else. We add cheese, bread, something my child likes to make it yummier. However, if he still won't eat then he misses that meal. Temporarily that is. I will offer a smoothie or another snack, just not immediately. (The logic being that I am not reinforcing his refusal to eat his lunch!)

4. Cater to their tastes. This doesn't mean you only offer cookies and ice cream, but we also shouldn't restrict kids to what we think is our idea of healthy. Children need fats - it feeds and grows their brain! So offer it in healthy ways at specific times. Add cheese to the veggies to make it yummy, or offer up a little sweet potato or yam.

5. If kids can't eat the fun stuff, who can? We all want our children to be healthy, live long, develop good eating habits. However, restricting things will only teach them to do it behind your back, or lie to you, once they are old enough to know how (and they will get their sooner rather than later.) So instead, embrace it and control it. I allow my son dessert (yes even at 14 months), when we go out for lunch, or at birthday parties. If we haven't had an occasion, I will let him eat something yummy at home. After his nap or meal ofcourse.
A little chocolate egg did no damage on easter (however, the rest of the basket is not filled with jelly beans)

6. If you don't make it a big deal, it won't be. So don't try to negotiate - be firm. That means that he or she can have their cookie at snack time, not instead of a meal. But it also means that if they didn't like their lunch, it's alright. They can have something else (similar not sugary) a little later and when the designated snack time comes, they can have what they asked for. Also, don't stress about the vegetables - offer them up and show by example how they should be eaten. (Note: this negotiation will work for older kids, but even our young tots will learn from our cues to know when to expect their snacks and when they have to eat their vegetables).

7. Family meal time isn't the most convenient but it is the most important. Even if that means you have to snack with your child earlier and eat again later. This isn't always possible. My husband works late, but instead I make sure to eat lunch with my son, and we go out as a family often to eat. Kids learn the most by imitation, so why not show them how they are to eat?  This will eventually become a bonding and sharing ritual for your family, as your child gets older.

8. Where to eat is as important as what you feed. Because this helps set up food habits that will eventually govern food choices. Not all kids will willingly sit on the high chair, but be firm with this one at least for lunch, dinner and your family meals as it is important for your child to absorb all the benefits that come from eating as a family but also from eating in one place.
Toys on the table, yes. Toys during mealtime? Big no.

9. Set firm meal times, and adjust them according to your child's needs. This doesn't mean that if your child is hungry a little before lunch you cannot eat lunch earlier if it is ready. However, it does mean that we will not have a big snack just before lunch that obliterates the need for lunch.

10. Children get fussier not easier, and even more so about trying new foods to introduce the foods you want when they are young. Even if you don't cook (like me), shop around for different meats, fruits and vegetables, and try different variations or combinations so that a range of tastes are introduced and ingrained by the time your baby is a fussy tot.

Riaan's Current food schedule (at 14 months):
Note - timing for breakfast is adjusted based on when he wakes up.
6am - wake up and be greated with 7 oz. of milk
7.30 am - Heavy Breakfast
10/11 am - Fruity snack before naptime
1.30 pm - Lunchtime
4pm - Post nap fruit or vegetable Juice (4 oz.)
5pm - Snack
7.30 pm - dinner
8.30 pm - Bedtime milk (5 oz.)
The times here are variable but so are the ages the meals were introduced. We started with one meal at 5 months of age, added another around 6 months. We added dinner around 8 months, and then the snacks were added a month apart around 11 months of age, when I weaned my son.

I hope this is helpful to all. I will follow-up soon with what to feed.

More to come!

All content on this blog belongs to the author and cannot be reproduced or replicated without permission.