Category Archives: Families

Summer Break: Activities to Keep your School-ager Engaged

by Jamie Le Sesne Spears, M.Ed, Family Engagement Specialist 

By now, your children are counting down the days to summer break! They are likely excited for a change and to spend time with family.  For parents and caregivers, it can be stressful filling long summer days with engaging activities. 

Brainstorm with your child

As you plan your summer schedule and activities, ask your school-ager what they want to play, do, and explore. They may have some lofty ideas, but engaging and supporting them in the planning will give them a voice and, in turn, enhance their excitement.  

Explore and make a plan

Before you dive into the summer, explore others’ recommendations and jot down what you think works best for your family and your child. Read on for some of our ideas and other great resources!

Get curious with science experiments

Science experiments are perfect for engaging critical thinking and mathematical skills during the summer. Explore Free Science Printable Experiment Instructions to find the perfect experiment for your child.   

Play games that sharpen math skills

Introduce your child to the classics! Pull out games like Uno, Yahtzee, Monopoly, and Phase 10 to practice math skills. Encourage your child to create their own board game using dice or cards.  

Encourage reading

Explore a variety of books and reading materials this summer. Check out these unique booklists: 

Be creative outdoors

Art activities provide children with creative ways to critically think and explore. Try one of these Outdoor Art Ideas for Kids to get outside and create!

Rely on Child Care Answers for resources

Child Care Answers has you covered when it comes to your school-agers! Check out these resources for your summer break needs:

Vaccines and Quarantines: COVID-19 from a Pregnant Mom’s Point of View

by Jamie Le Sesne Spears, Family Engagement Specialist

My journey to motherhood has been a long and winding road. Like most, it started with hopes of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby. However, our story took a different path. Over the past five years, I have experienced infertility, failed fertility attempts, at-risk pregnancy, and infant-loss. Simply put, it has been more difficult than I ever imagined.  

My Pandemic Pregnancy

When we became pregnant with our rainbow baby in the fall of 2020, I was naturally hopeful and anxious. Yet, this time my pregnancy had an extra layer of fear due to COVID-19. I suddenly had to face the pandemic with a different perspective; I no longer was protecting myself but also my growing baby.  

Parenthood is a constant state of making decisions that are best for you and your children. This is no different for pregnant moms. 

After finding out I was pregnant, every decision I made about leaving the house and wearing a mask was influenced by my pregnancy and the current status of the pandemic. Some decisions were made for me. For instance, my husband was not allowed to attend my appointments. I know many women who delivered with their masks on and family far away. Every pregnancy story is different, and yours will be different than mine. Nonetheless, we all faced mandates and tough decisions this year regarding our pregnancies and deliveries.   

Pregnancy and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Hope came in the form of a vaccine early this year, but the decisions I had to make seemed heavier. With the science still in pre-trial stages for pregnant women, it brought more uncertainty for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. It was and continues to be overwhelming when resources are circulating from a variety of institutions, not to mention the varying opinions found in social media. 

To help answer questions, Child Care Answers reached out to Patrick Glew, MPH, from the Indiana Immunization Coalition. With his knowledge and support, we created a one-page resource for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. Despite the evolving research and trials, there are some facts that can help inform your vaccination decision.  Please check out our resources below to learn what we know and how to stay informed.  

COVID-19 Resources for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Moms

Inspiring your preschoolers to be readers and artists

by Jamie Le Sesne Spears, Family Engagement Specialist

Even before your little one can read, their journey to becoming a reader begins with you! Story time is more than just fun for children; reading aloud is an essential part of supporting literacy and developing language skills.

Encouraging your preschooler to participate in story time

The need for reading aloud starts as early as infancy and continues well into your child’s school-age years. As your child grows older, this is a great opportunity to encourage additional participation during your read-alouds. Preschoolers can begin to:

  • Hold the book.
  • Turn pages.
  • Read alongside you.
  • Retell parts of the story.
  • Point out letters.
  • Ask and answer questions.

 

Step up your read-alouds with art

Moving down the path to reading, you can provide art experiences that engage with the books you read together. These experiences create a fun, engaging way to interact with the text. Your child can creatively retell parts of the story, make personal connections, and express their own thoughts. When you add adult questions alongside the art, you enhance their development even more. Your child can practice answering questions about a story, respond to the characters, as well as predict what may happen next. 

 

Good reads to encourage art and literacy

You can enhance many books through art, but I have found that children’s books about art support both literacy and creative development. These children’s books about art both engage children and provide an easy transition into an art experience:

 

Scribble Stones by Diane Alber

A little gray stone discovers its purpose to bring joy and creativity to the world!

Art Experience

  • Go on a walk and gather a few stones (rocks).
  • Take them inside and let your child wash and dry their stone.
  • Provide markers, paint, or sharpies
  • Encourage your child to add “scribble” and “splatter” to their stone.
  • Try adding stickers to add texture and patterns to their art.

Question to Ask

How can we use our Scribble Stone to give joy to someone else?

 

The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas

The color monster’s feelings are all mixed up! He learns to put his feelings in the right place by matching each feeling with a color.

Art Experience

  • Pull out different colors of construction paper, scissors, and markers/crayons.
  • Draw or cut your own color monster.
  • Give your color monster a feeling.
  • Try making your color monster 3D by sculpting it with playdough!

Question to Ask

What color do you feel when … ? (i.e. I tell you “no” or you are playing outside)

 

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

This book teaches children that everyone makes mistakes and those mistakes can be created into something beautiful…and it’s a favorite of our Family & Community Engagement Manager, Tom Taylor!

Art Experience

  • Provide scrap paper, scissors, hole-punch, ruler, or markers/crayons.
  • Encourage your child to take a mistake or create a mistake by cutting or tearing paper.
  • Encourage them to transform that mistake into something new!

Question to Ask

What are some ways from the story that you can make an oops beautiful?

 

If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy & Greg Newbold

Everyone knows what a snowman looks like, but through beautiful illustrations, this story shows children that artists see snowman a little bit differently!

Art Experience

  • Take out your watercolors, paint, or markers.
  • Provide a space that you do not mind getting a little messy.
  • Encourage your child to create their own snowperson.
  • Try recalling an artist and creating a snowperson in a similar style.

Questions to Ask

What was your favorite snowman from the story? What about it do you like?

 

Additional Art+Literacy Resources

10 Inspiring Children’s Books for Budding Little Artists

Reading Skills: What to Expect at Different Ages

KidLitCrafts Blog

Choosing the Best Toys for Your Child

by Lauren George, Family Support Specialist

Children are explorers and inventors who learn by doing. Play gives children an opportunity to develop and practice new skills at their own pace by following their unique interests. With hundreds and hundreds of options in the store, and thousands online, choosing toys should be easy, right?  The toys and non-toys your child engages with can shape his/her development in important ways while also keeping them entertained and exploring for hours.  If you are anything like me, the real question is knowing which toys will spark my child’s interest, support their imagination, and won’t be broken in a week!  Below are some ideas for choosing toys that will grow with your child, challenge them, and nurture their overall development – their thinking, physical, language, and social-emotional skills.

Open-ended toys that can be used in a variety of ways

Choose toys with no “right” or “wrong” way of playing that spark your child’s imagination and help her develop problem-solving and logical thinking skills:

  • Blocks
  • Cars & trucks
  • Animals
  • Building materials 

Toys that will grow with your child

Plan ahead for your child’s development by looking for toys that can be fun at different developmental stages and by children of different ages.  I often choose first birthday gifts this way, thinking about what a toddler would need rather than buying something for “now.”  These could include things like the open-ended materials listed above or:

  • Outdoor toys
  • Train sets
  • Oversized trucks
  • Larger investment pieces like a doll house or play kitchen

Toys that encourage exploration and problem-solving

STEM is a buzz word you might have heard before; it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  Toys that promote STEM encourage exploration, problem-solving, and trial and error.  Choose toys that give kids a chance to figure something out on their own—or with a little coaching. Look for toys that build their logic skills and help them become persistent problem-solvers. These toys help children develop spatial-relations skills (understanding how things fit together), hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills, which is all about using the small muscles in the hands and fingers. These skills are all essential for school success! Look for:

  • Puzzles
  • Shape sorters
  • Magnetic builders
  • Interlocking blocks
  • Art materials

Toys that spark your child’s imagination

Toddlers are beginning to develop pretend-play skills, and by age three your child’s imagination has taken off.  For my son, he LOVED lawn tools.  Choose items that will spark their imagination and let them take on “real world” roles. Pretend play builds language and literacy skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to sequence (put events in a logical order). Look for things like:

  • Pretend mower and power tools
  • Kitchen set
  • Baby dolls (Yes, even for boys)
  • Costumes
  • Real items like old phones, keyboards, pots, and pans

Toys that encourage your child to be active

Children are developing A LOT in the first five years of life, doing all kinds of physical tricks as they become stronger and more confident with their bodies. Look for toys that help your child practice current physical skills and develop new ones. These toys can also help your child develop early writing and reading skills.

  • Books
  • Magnetic alphabet letters
  • Play dough
  • Magnadoodles
  • Art supplies like markers, crayons, and fingerpaints
  • Real-life” props like take-out menus, catalogs, or magazines

These toys fun for your child to look at and play with; and they also build familiarity with letters, text, and print.  Avoid things like flash cards or early reader books—choosing materials your child can explore and use with their hands! 

Toys based on your child’s age

Looking for more ideas for your child, based on his age? Check out these options!

Parlakian, Rebecca. 2020. Zero to Three. “Tips for Choosing Toys for Toddlers.” Accessed December 8, 2020.

The ABCs of Toddler Nutrition

Guest post by Alzein Pediatrics

You’ve celebrated your baby’s first birthday with candles, balloons, and cupcakes and suddenly, you have a toddler. Suddenly too, while the candles were still sending tendrils of smoke into the air, your toddler seems to have become a picky eater. 

Your baby who was once eager to try everything is now eating only green peas and chicken – and absolutely nothing else. Their appetite also seems to have dropped sharply since eating that birthday cupcake.

With this abrupt shift, you may be newly concerned about nutrition. Is your child getting enough to eat – and are they getting enough vitamins and minerals for their growth and development? 

Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn Illinois says, “It’s normal for toddlers to start rejecting new foods – and for parents to worry about how much food their child is actually eating. At this point, it’s helpful to take a big step back and look at the big picture.”

Dr. Alzein recommends starting with the basics, the ABC’s of toddler nutrition. “First, we start with vitamins and minerals,” he says. “Then we’ll think about quantity.”

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps promote normal growth and development. Vitamin A is important to your child’s body for bone and tissue repair. It’s also critical for healthy skin, healthy eyes, and a robust immune system. 

Your child can get Vitamin A by drinking two cups of milk, and eating cheese. Eggs are also a good source, along with yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, yams, and squash.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is an entire family of nutrients, including B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6( pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), Folate, and B12 (cobalamin). The B Vitamins help your child maintain and grow a healthy metabolism and aids in energy production. 

Your child needs B Vitamins for a hearty circulatory system and nervous system. Serve your child proteins for Vitamin B, including lean red meats, chicken, fish, milk, cheese, nuts, beans, legumes, and whole grains.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is packed into all sorts of fruity goodness like oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, strawberries, and kiwis. Red bell peppers, also a sweet treat, are one of the best sources of Vitamin C. It’s also plentiful in tomatoes and broccoli. 

Vitamin C acts as a biochemical redox system that helps to “recharge” enzymes. It helps the heart by acting as a vasodilator in atherogenesis and is an antioxidant. It also helps your child build strong muscles, robust connective tissues, and healthy skin.

Calcium

Calcium is important for strong bones throughout your child’s life – from infancy to old age. Dairy products provide large amounts of calcium, so serve your child full-fat milk, cheeses, and yogurts. You can also provide calcium in tofu and calcium-fortified orange juice.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D – well, you know that one! Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and teeth, and it helps your child’s body absorb calcium. Besides milk, serve your child fatty fishes like salmon, sardines, and mackerel. 

Did you know your child’s body can also produce Vitamin D on its own? Just make sure your child is getting five to fifteen minutes of sunlight exposure to their face, arms, and hands each day.

Iron

Iron is crucial for brain development, building muscles, and producing healthy red blood cells. Lean red meat – beef, pork, lamb, and others – is a strong source of iron. You can also serve your child turkey, spinach, beans, and prunes for a boost of iron. 

TIP – Vitamin C helps your child’s body absorb iron from plant sources and drinking milk blocks the absorption. When your child is enjoying spinach, serve up some orange segments too. Serve your child milk between meals and serve water or orange juice with meals.

Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in your toddler’s nutrition as it helps heal all the bumps, scrapes, and bruises that happen as they become more mobile. Your child can get zinc in lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes, milk and cheese, and eggs.

Adequate Calories

Worried about how much your toddler is eating? Dr. Alzein says, “Your toddler needs about 1,200 calories each day. That’s perhaps a breakfast of one egg and small toast with avocado and a few snacks such as an orange or cucumber slices with hummus dip throughout the day. Also, a small turkey, corn, and tomato wrap for lunch and about 4 ounces of salmon and with a few asparagus spears for dinner. 

While it might not seem like much to you, it’s plenty for your child. Our nutritionist stresses that kids are born with the ability to eat only as much as they need to grow. Parents serve food, but your child should choose how much to eat.”

Toddlers are more likely to “graze”, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to maintain energy and blood sugar levels. When your toddler enjoys frequent snacks but pushes back against meals, offer snacks that are nutrient-dense such as whole-grain crackers with yogurt. Avoid highly processed foods like chips and sodas.

Mealtime Success

At mealtimes:

  • Provide meals and snacks at regularly scheduled times.
  • Use a child-size spoon and fork with dull prongs.
  • Seat your child at a comfortable height in a secure chair.
  • Avoid battles. If your toddler refuses a food, accept that and try again in a few days.
  • Keep portions small.
  • Don’t use dessert as a reward, and serve healthy options like a bite of dark chocolate.
  • Cut food into bite-size pieces.
  • Use ground meat instead of steak or chops.
  • Make plates colorful with lots of red, green, and orange vegetables.
  • Serve fresh or frozen fruits, whole or cut up depending upon your child’s age.

Other Helpful Hints

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice to less than 4 ounces per day for children 1 to 3 years old.
  • Celebrate Meatless Mondays with meals centered around beans, seeds, nuts, peas, and fish.
  • Opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, and oatmeal.
  • Make it fun! Involve your toddler in choosing and preparing foods to help expand their palate and teach them healthy eating right from the start.

Your Healthy Toddler

“The toddler years are a time of transition, full of exploring and discovery – and that includes mealtimes,” says Dr. Alzein. “However, if your child is losing weight, not wetting diapers throughout the day, crying without producing tears, or seems listless and tired, along with an overall refusal to eat or drink, contact your pediatrician’s office.” 

“Your toddler may have health issues that prevent them from enjoying food, such as gastrointestinal challenges, swallowing issues, constipation, food allergies, or sensitivities. Keep a food diary for several days before your appointment, writing down every bite and swallow your toddler takes, to show your pediatrician.”

Dr. Alzein notes that the very best thing you can do to help your child become a life-long healthy eater is to offer your toddler a variety of foods from each food group with different tastes, textures, and colors – and then let them decide how much to eat.

Child Care Answers Resources on Nutrition

As your child grows or you add little ones to your family, don’t forget to review Child Care Answers parenting resources. Not only are there more tips on infant and child feeding, but also all about toddlers, including resources on biting, temper tantrums, school transitions, and more!

Help for “Quarantine Fatigue”

by Kristin Cofield, Family Engagement Specialist

After two months of social distance and stay-at-home orders, many people may experience physical and emotional drain.  As our awareness about COVID-19 heightened, we went into crisis mode.  There was a lot of anxiety, panic, fear, and a need to make quick decisions for the best interest of our families and those we love.  It is difficult and unhealthy to maintain a state of crisis.  Eventually, reality sets in, and our mind will adapt to our current environment or situation. 

Even for those of us who may have welcomed the break in extended family obligations and an over-scheduled calendar, we still miss and crave the human connections we enjoyed. We are social creatures designed to interact with others. 

Now, a whole new type of uncertainty is creeping in as we reopen and return to some previous activities.  You may feel overwhelmed and stressed by the many unanswered questions and the unpredictability of our state. You are most likely feeling the effects of quarantine fatigue if you have felt this way:

  • Irritable or feeling on edge
  • Stressed, anxious, or having racing thoughts
  • Eating more or eating less
  • Unable to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Unmotivated or less productive

May is Mental Health Month, which is a great reminder about how essential it is to monitor and take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  Everyone reacts differently in a crisis.  Living through a pandemic is stressful and may cause your feelings to change over time.  If distress impacts your daily life for several weeks, consider seeking support.  If you or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed or showing signs of distress, consider talking to someone about your concerns and feelings.  Looking for a place to start? Here’s just a sampling of licensed counselors able to support you:

Parents Need Love Too: A Guide to Self-Care

by Kristin Cofield, Family Engagement Specialist

Being a parent has never been easy, but we all know in this age of social distancing and COVID-19, it’s only gotten harder. Many of us are experiencing the current events personally. You may have loved ones suffering from the coronavirus. You may have lost a job or financial stability. You are likely juggling many priorities at once, with children at home doing distance learning or while working remotely.

When your mind is racing with thoughts of what can – or should – happen next, understand you are not alone.  We all are in this together.  We all feel the uncertainty, stress, and anxiety regarding what is to come.   During this challenging time, it is essential to prioritize your mental health. 

Self-care is not selfish.  Mental wellness is paramount to how you perceive and cope with stress.  After several weeks of social distance and quarantine, you may feel like you are riding a never-ending emotional roller coaster.  Being intentional about your mental health is in your best interest and benefits your entire family.  The following tips suggest ways to implement self-care into your daily routine. 

Make time for yourself.

It is okay to take a break to recharge and reset.  A shower, bath, or walk in your neighborhood allows time to release stressful energy.  Start with 15 to 30 minutes.  Hey, some time is better than no time!  Consider adding, “Be By Myself” time to your daily schedule.  You can encourage children to participate by reading, writing, resting, or engaging in activities that do not require your help. 

Make healthy choices.

It is easy to slip into unhealthy habits.  Maybe it feels good at the moment to binge-watch Netflix or Disney Plus while eating cookies-n-cream ice-cream and Doritos! To prevent long term health consequences, Dr. Jill Emanuele, a clinical psychologist from the Child Mind Institute, recommends eating properly, getting enough sleep, and including physical activity in your daily routine.  Now, this is not the time to pressure yourself to achieve Beach Body results! However, be mindful of how you are treating your body. 

You can involve your little ones in these routines as well. Spend family time cooking a healthy meal. Have a dance party in your living room. If you don’t have one already, create a soothing bedtime routine.

Be realistic.

Set realistic expectations and give yourself grace if you do not meet them.  COVID-19 turned the world upside down in a short amount of time.  You and your family are learning how to adjust and conquer these abrupt changes the best way you can. Whether you are single, married with children, a teenager, or a senior, it is difficult to comprehend the dramatic changes facing the world today.  Clinical psychologist, Dr. David Anderson states: “Perfectionism and coronavirus don’t mix.  Practice forgiveness, self-compassion, and cut yourself some slack.” 

Set boundaries.

Of course, you want to be well informed regarding COVID-19 updates.  To reduce stress, consider limiting your news intake, including social media.  Set boundaries or emotionally distance yourself from extended family and friends who are prone to send messages provoked with anxiety and fear.  Setting boundaries is not about hurting other people but about acknowledging your needs and being kind to yourself.

Reconnect with things you enjoy.

Work, school, family responsibilities, and extra-curricular activities may have left you with little time to engage in personal hobbies and interests.  Consider this enforced time as divine intervention to reconnect to the things you like to do but have been too busy to begin.  What about that project you planned to start last spring?  Or the new skill you want to learn but pushed aside due to a lack of time and commitment?  Let’s not forget the importance of building stronger family relationships during this time.  Remember, children are experiencing anxiety and stress as well.  They depend on you to be their safe place right now.  The project may be self-care for you but can develop into cherished memories with your family. 

To cope with stress in a healthy manner, make an effort to implement the five tips described above into your daily routine. These coping strategies are effective ways to promote mental wellness and reduce stress.  Remember, self-care is not a luxury or a needless practice!  Your body and mind need your time and attention more than ever.  Being kind to yourself does not mean you have abandoned the people who love and need you.  When you put your oxygen mask on first by practicing self-care, you have a greater emotional ability to care for others.   

Join us for our weekly Parent Mental Wellness online series!

Licensed marriage and family health therapist Abram Sinn joins us for these informal but important weekly discussions via Zoom. We invite parents (married or single), grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents, or anyone integral in raising children to ask questions, comment, or just listen in. Click each link below to register.

What are you doing to practice self-care? Tell us in the comments below!

References

Jacobson, R., & Child Mind Institute. (n.d.). Self-Care in the Time of Coronavirus. Retrieved April 3, 2020,.

Rylander, A. (2016). Soul 7: Poetry 4 the Soul The Red Diaries. California.

COVID-19: Your resource for resources

Updated July 22, 2020

You may feel like the world we’re living in has gone wild- it’s definitely not the same Central Indiana we were living in during February. It can be overwhelming to digest all of the ever-changing news about COVID-19, whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a child care administrator, a business owner, or a supporter of early care and education.

We may not have all the answers, but we know a lot of smart people and caring organizations who do.  As you’re navigating these new changes, we recommend consulting some of these resources.

FOR EVERYONE

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Get the latest recommendations for prevention and resources if you think you are sick.

Anthem Community Resource Link: Type in your zip code and get hundreds of resources, based on your needs. Categories include food, housing, health, work, legal, money, and more!

Child Care Aware of America: The latest Coronavirus news and resources for Child Care Professionals, Families and Policymakers.

FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

Your Child – Tips for Parents: We’re continually updating our resources for parents, including Transitioning Back to School in the “New Normal”, eLearning Success Tips, and at-home activity ideas.

WFYI At-Home: Guides and links for helping your little one continue their educational journey from home.

Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY): Making Connections During Social Distancing: This page offers resources such as how to keep your kids busy and informed, food and employment assistance resources, and mental health resources.

Family Promise of Hendricks County: Contact Family Promise if you are a Hendricks County resident and need emergency assistance with items such as utilities, food, phones, or internet.

Good Samaritan Network: Hamilton County’s collaborative/network of non-profits.

FOR CHILD CARE PROVIDERS AND TEACHERS

Help for Local “Front Line” Child Care Professionals: Check out our recent blog post, specifically for child care programs currently in operation.

Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning (OECOSL): The state of Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration has all hands on deck to ensure you have the resources you need for your child care program and to support your familes and children.

FOR BUSINESSES

IndyChamber: Rapid Response Hub – Resources and FAQs for small business owners, including child care programs.

Indiana Small Business Development Center – Resources for funding, counseling, and advising on your small business or child care.

LIKE, FOLLOW, AND SHARE

If you haven’t already, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or Instagram. We’ll have all the latest news and resources right there in your newsfeed!

All aboard for potty training

As our resident infant/toddler expert, our Family Support Specialist Lauren George talks the talk (but most, importantly, walks the walk). When she’s not busy corralling her active first-grader, she’s living the dream of toilet training her two-year old.

WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO TOILET TRAIN?

There is not one “right” way or one “right” age to learn how to use the toilet. Finding a toilet training method that works for your family is the key. No matter how you do it, remember: this is a learning process that takes time, possibly with many hiccups and accidents along the way. Most children will transition to underwear between the ages of two and four, with nighttime dryness coming anywhere from two to seven years old.

HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN MY CHILD IS READY?

You should let your child decide when he/she is ready but also be aware of readiness signs; this helps you know when to encourage your child and build interest in using the toilet. There are often signs that let you know your child is ready to take the leap and transition to underwear.

Signs of Readiness

  • Follows simple directions
  • Stays dry for an hour or two at a stretch
  • Occasionally wakes up dry
  • Regular and predictable bowel movements
  • Walks easily, possibly runs
  • Can do basic dressing/undressing (pulling pants down, holding skirt up, attempt to pull pants back up)
  • Understands and is able to use your family’s words for bathroom functions and associated body parts
  • Seems uncomfortable with soiled or wet diapers; may remove or pull at diaper when wet
  • Communicates when wet/soiled (“I pooping now”)
  • Signals by hiding or grunting during BM
  • Shows interest in using the toilet or watching toileting
  • Has asked to wear or shows interest in underwear

WE’RE READY TO GET GOING. WHAT SHOULD I KEEP I MIND?

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you in your child’s potty journey.

Play up the pottying positives. Highlight the benefits of using the toilet and say things like “Wearing underwear is fun!”. Don’t knock diapers or call your child’s old habits babyish though — that could lead to resistance. Let your child practice flushing, watch you use the restroom, read books about toileting and watch the Daniel Tiger Potty episode. (The song is pretty catchy…you can thank me later!)

Watch closely.  At this point, you might be better at detecting his body’s signals than he is. Look for tell-tale signs (like fidgeting or straining), and gently ask when you suspect he has to go. Even if you’re too late and he’s already done the deed, have him sit on the potty anyway to reinforce the connection.

Offer gentle reminders. In the first few weeks, you may need to remind your child to use the potty. Setting timers (“Hey Alexa, set a timer for 30 minutes”) may provide both of you the reminders needed to be successful. Start with sending your child every 30-90 minutes, and begin phasing back as she becomes successful. Trust when your child says she does not have to go, and offer to wait a few minutes instead.

Be patient. Even the most enthusiastic child can take several weeks to master potty training proficiency — often with as many steps backward as forward. If your expectations are unrealistic, you could diminish his self-confidence. Accidents happen – don’t scold, punish or shame.

Avoid a bathroom battle. Arguing over going to the potty actually prolongs the process. If you are met with total resistance, hold off for a few weeks and try again later. Be patient! As you wait for your child to come around, don’t bring up the subject or compare him to peers who are already in underwear.

OK, LAUREN, I FOLLOWED YOUR GREAT ADVICE AND AM STILL STRUGGLING. NOW WHAT?

You’ve come to the right place! Child Care Answers offers a number of FREE parenting resources to help out in just this sitution.

Attend a webinar

Join me for Ready, Set, Potty Time! on January 21, 1-2pm or February 27, 12-1pm. Register today! We will talk about this and so much more, like wiping (eek!), bedwetting, and handling power struggles. Come prepared with questions, too!

Meet with an expert

Want to meet one-on-one with a potty training expert and mom of two? Complete our Family Info Form to get connected.

Read up online

A number of fantastic resources are available online. I recommend ZERO TO THREE.

Potty Training is a big skill to learn. Be patient. Accidents are part of the learning process, but if your child is truly ready, accidents should be very minimal after just a few short weeks. Good luck!

Healthy Eating and Cooking with Children

by Molly Manley, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Coordinator

Looking for a way to learn and grow with your kids, while also promoting healthy eating? Get on your aprons, and get ready to whip up something delicious with your children or those in your care. Cooking with children can promote lifetime skills such as:

  • Basic Math – Cooking involves counting, addition, shapes, sizes, and measurements.
  • Science – Highlight growing food or changing forms, like liquids and solids.
  • Language – Conversations with children while cooking will increase their language development and ability to follow instructions. Creating simple recipe cards with instructions is also a useful tool. Obtain children’s books from the library that pertain to the type of foods they will be eating.
  • Art – Have children draw pictures of the foods they ate.  Ask them to create a picture by painting with yogurt, or glue cereal to a piece of paper.

GO ON A FOOD ADVENTURE

Cooking with children also encourages them to explore new foods and how food gets to our tables. Discuss where food comes from, plant a garden, or take a field trip to the grocery store or a farm. This will give them a better understanding of what they are eating.

It would also be a good idea to shop around for child size utensils, cups, bowls and pitchers. This will make it easier for the child to prepare and serve themselves. We are promoting self-help skills, and, if the child has a difficult time succeeding, it may prompt them to quit out of frustration.

TRY OUT A NEW AND FUN RECIPE

Below are three simple recipes to try with children.

Fruit and Yogurt Muffin

Ingredients:
1 Whole Grain English Muff
¼ cup of Yogurt- any flavor
¼ cup of fruit- bananas and berries work well

Directions:
Adult: Portion out yogurt and fruit for each child separately.
Adult: Toast English Muffin.
Child: Spread yogurt over English muffin using a spoon.
Child: Add fruit to top.

Pizza Rollups

Ingredients:
1 tube of crescent rolls
1 jar of pizza sauce
1 package of string cheese – cut into quarters (1 ounce each)
1 bag of pepperoni- cut into quarters, unless using minis

Directions:
Adult: Unroll crescent roll dough, separate into 8 triangles.
Child: Place 8 pepperoni pieces on each.
Child: Place a piece of cheese on the short side of the triangle.
Child: Roll up dough starting on the short side and pinch seams to seal.
Adult: Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Cook at 375 for 10-12 minutes

Serve with ¼ cup of warm pizza sauce
Makes a 8 roll ups.

Celery Snails

Ingredients:
1 bunch of celery –  washed and cut in halves
Apples –  cut into slices small enough to fit into celery
Peanut or Almond Butter

Directions:
Adult: Wash and cut celery and apples to appropriate size.
Child:  Spread peanut or almond butter on celery pieces.
Child: Insert apple into middle of celery.

Cover image by Flickr user Andrew Seaman, Creative Commons license.