parenting

  • Newborn Checklist Simplified

    Being a new mom is one of the most overwhelming things you’ll ever experience. But preparing yourself for the journey doesn’t have to be. Babies NEED very few things and the best advice I can give you is to find someone whose parenting style you admire, and ask them what they found helpful and what they could have done without. You can always pop on Amazon or send someone to Bed Bath and Beyond for a “nice to have” so don’t stress about having all of it because more stuff doesn’t make things easier–more stuff makes things more overwhelming.

    Here is my list of MUST HAVES as well as a few NICE TO HAVES (and even a few things you absolutely don’t need.)

    New born Must Haves

    Feeding

    For breastfeeding: This is one thing you NEED to prepare for to set yourself up for success. Breastfeeding is natural but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s hard at first, especially if you don’t have support. So getting your thoughts around what it’s going to take, having all the essentials, and knowing how to get help is crucial to success. Make sure you check out your local La Leche League and often hospitals will have a lactation consultant on staff. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

    The Haakaa: this amazing little silicone breastmilk collector will be your best friend. Seriously. You literally just suction it to one side and while you nurse on the other side it collects the milk that is let down during the process. It’s incredibly helpful to have on hand for when your milk comes in (which isn’t until day 3 or 4 post partum). You can get super engorged and it can painful AF (like I didn’t take any meds after delivery but HAD to take something when my milk came in). The goal is to get milk out to lessen the pain BUT you don’t want to pump because that will just tell your body to make more milk. In comes the Haakaa–it doesn’t actively pump milk out so it will allow for your boob to drain just enough milk to make you comfortable without making engorgment worse.

    Manual breast pump: Yes, you should have an electric pump (I love the Spectra2 over the Medela for many reasons–see if your insurance covers a pump and go from there). But you also NEED a manual pump. It’s so much easier to sit and pump a few ounces of milk if needed vs hooking up to an electric pump. It’s also helpful for engorgement if you need to relieve the pressure and the Haakaa isn’t getting enough out and you’re still uncomfortable. Manual pumps are often a lot more effective than electric pumps–but nothing is more effective than a baby (so don’t freak out about how much you pump and think you’re not making enough milk!)

    A nursing pillow: A ton of people recommend that Boppy. I’m going to tell you the boppy is NOTHING compare to a pillow called My Brest Friend. The boppy is great for tummy time and for generally having a pillow to rest on while you (or someone else) holds baby BUT it is not the best for actually breastfeeding. My Brest Friend clips around your waist and can actually support baby while you walk around (you’ll appreciate this feature, I promise). It is more structured so it helps position your arms and therefore baby much better than the boppy, and it has a little holder in the front for nipple cream, nursing pads or whatever else you think you need to keep close while nursing.

    Nipple Cream: Have lots of this on hand–it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I like this one by Earth Mama and this one by Motherlove. I prefer not to use lanolin. Also, have your doctor call in a prescription for APNO (all purpose nipple ointment) because this is something that’s better to have just in case. Your OBGYN or midwife should know what this is and where to call it in for you.

    For some great breast feeding tips check out this article.

    For bottle feeding: I would highly recommend you use glass or stainless steel bottles. Even BPA free plastic is not ideal, especially if you are using it for warm liquid. I like the Pura Kiki stainless steel bottles and the Dr. Browns glass ones.

    You do NOT need a bottle warmer…

    Cleaning and drying bottles (and beyond): Having a dedicated place for bottles and eventually cups is a nice to have, and a bottle brush is a must. I love this one by OXO–it has lasted us through three kids and is still going strong and used every day for holding cups, reusable straws and pouches.

    Burp cloths: I mean regardless you’ll probably get baby spit up pretty much everywhere but on the actual burp cloth, that said, it’s good to have a few for good measure. These are the only ones we have and I love them. They are super absorbent, big and drape nicely over your shoulder.

    Sleeping

    My first piece of advice is to do some reading about infant sleep PRIOR to having baby. You will have way more time now then you do once baby arrives AND it will give you time to process and prepare to help set your little one up for healthy sleep habits from day one. There is a science to sleep and knowing a little about that can help you in the long run. A good book to have on hand for baby’s first year is The Science of Mom by Alice Green CallahanBassinet, Crib, or Playard: I am obsessed with the Halo Bassinet. It swivels to basically rest on your bed, you can gently rock baby to sleep by literally jiggling the bassinet with one finger, it has a built in little light which makes feeding and changing in the middle of the night super easy–it’s awesome. If you would rather a multi function playard I would stay away from the pack and play–I hate them. They are heavy, bulky and a pain to open. I would get either the 4Moms version (if you want to use for very small infants because it has a bassinet space) or the Guava family Lotus which is made from all non-toxic materials. We kept our babies in our room for a little while and then moved them to a crib (Pottery Barn is my go to for all things kids furniture).

    Swaddle: Babies have spent the past nine months squished up in a warm dark space with limited mobility. Then they come into the world and it’s overwhelming AF. They crave closeness and the security of pressure. Hence the swaddle. You should have two types of swaddles. Some babies like arms in and some like arms up. Some people say their baby hated being swaddled but it’s often because they just wanted to have their arms up. The Woombie is hands down the best swaddle for arms in. Don’t even bother with anything else. No velcro, no wrapping. Just put baby in and zip that straight jacket up. It unzips from the bottom to make night time changes easier (yes you should keep them swaddled while you change and feed–this will make it easier for them to fall back to sleep afterwards). If you find that baby is really trying to get their hands by their face, then they may prefer hands up. We will only use the Love to Dream–it allows baby to have “access” to their face but still stops their moro reflex (a big reason why babies have a hard time sleeping if not swaddled)

    Playing

    Babies don’t really need toys. The best thing you can do is to carry your baby in a wrap or carrier to allow them to feel day to day motion and see things around you. Keep in mind that little babies are very quick to become overstimulated which can lead to sleep issues. Narrate everything you’re doing during the day. Lay them on a flat surface for them to begin exploring their body and own movements. We love the DockaTot for lounging, our Ruggish play rug for a soft place to put baby down.

    In general I try to stay away from stuff that contains babies–but it is nice to have one spot to put them aside from the floor. We got rid of every single “bouncy seat” except for the Baby Bjorn mesh bouncer and toy bar. I like this because it’s soft enough to not cause a flat spot and is super easy to move around–I would often shower with this in the bathroom and could move it one handed with ease.

    You do not need exosaucers, bumbos, walkers, sit me ups or ANY type of thing that puts babies in an unnatural position (a position they can’t get into themselves). Being in these types of gadgets hinders development, costs extra money and take up tons of space. The best thing for your baby to develop properly is to be worn and to be on the floor. Learning to sit, crawl, walk…it ALL starts from the floor.

    Play gym: I love wooden toys for many reasons and this Haba one is beautiful, or this one from Plan Toys, I also love this one by Skip Hop.

    Teething toys:

    Grasping toys:

    Rattles:

    Traveling

    Infant car seat and Stroller: We love our Uppababy Cruz stroller and have used the Mesa car seat and the Nuna Pipa infant seat. I prefer the Pipa car seat but it requires an adaptor for the stroller–both of which can be purchased at Nordstrom. We also found having the infant insert for the stroller was helpful so we could lay the seat all the way back and use the insert vs having to buy the bassinet attachment. Ideally you don’t want baby in the car seat more than they need to be, so being able to use the stroller in multiple ways was great.

    Carrier: The more you can avoid having baby in a “container” like the car seat, stroller, bouncy seat, the better for their development. So having a carrier is crucial to being able to hold them but still be hands free. I have a Tula, an Ergo 360, a Sakura Bloom ring sling, a K’tan and a Lillebaby. So I’m pretty well versed in carriers. If you are new to carrying babies, I would recommend the K’tan for the early months, because it’s a wrap without actually having to wrap. Then I would suggest the Lillebaby as a soft shell carrier for when baby is a few months and big enough for the carrier. I would NOT recommend the Baby Bjorn–it does not position baby in the best way, the wider base of the Tula, Ergo and Lillebaby are preferred and I found the Lillebaby to be the most comfortable for myself and for my husband.

    Diapering

    Diapers: If you choose to use disposable diapers please consider using diapers that are made from more sustainable materials and are more biodegradable than traditional disposable diapers. Each diaper you use takes 500 plus years to biodegrade–you’ll use hundreds, possibly thousands of diapers while diapering your kid(s). And if you’re even remotely interested in cloth diapering (it’s not your grandma’s cloth) read this and feel free to reach out with any questions.

     

    You do NOT need a diaper pail or those little baggies to tie up each individual diaper. Please save the plastic, your planet will thank you.

    Wipes: You need these. Lots of these. People love the Water Wipes but I felt they just pushed poop around–maybe it’s just me. I actually love the wipes from Costco because they are thicker (we mostly use these for on the go) and we make our own for around the house.

    Bum cream: We never had any real diaper rash with any of my kids (one benefit of using cloth) but I pretty regularly use the Natural Boudreaux’s Butt Paste to keep them nice and moisturized.

    Bath and Body:

    Medicine Cabinet:

    For a list of other medicine cabinet must haves you can read this article.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

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    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    How to effectively teach a child to entertain themselves

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    Episode 4: Responsive Parenting + Play to Address Child Behavior

    On this episode of Play Learn Thrive, Alanna speaks with Sheena Hill, psychotherapist and sleep coach. During their discussion, they touch on how to engage in responsive parenting over behavioral modification, and how to better connect with your young children when they’re struggling with right choices. Main Takeaways: Any time your children are under stress,…

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  • Top 10 Natural Medicine Cabinet Must Haves

    Fall is here and that means sickness season is back in full swing. As much as we try to keep our kids healthy during cold and flu season it’s inevitable that they will get sick at some point. Below are my top 10 must haves for your medicine cabinet.

    Top 10 Natural Cold and Flu Must Haves

    Elderberry syrup: This is something we try to give the kids daily–as often as we can remember. You can read all about it here. It’s an amazing immune boost, very simple to make (if you choose) and PROVEN to help the body fight cold and flu. If you want to buy it I would recommend this one.

    Dye and alcohol free pain medication: Dye and alcohol are two things kids just don’t need. So when you feel like they need medication choose something that doesn’t contain unnecessary ingredients. For acetaminophen I like Little Remedies and for ibuprofen I get the berry Motrin. Acetaminophen last 4-6 hours and ibuprofen last 6-8 hours. Make sure you only use ibuprofen (the active ingredient in Motrin) for children over 6 months of age. Also, always consult with your pediatrician before giving any medication to your little one.

    Chest rubMaty’s chest rub is my go to because it’s made with all natural ingredients vs the standard Vick’s. We use this on the chest and throat, and also the feet (and then cover with socks).

    Snot sucker: You can either get the popular Nose Frieda (I can’t handle that–too much of a gag reflex) or my favorite the OCCObaby I like the OCCOBaby because it’s battery operated so I don’t have to actually suck out snot and it does seem to get way more gunk out than the Nose Frieda.

    Saline nasal spray: I recommend getting the value pack! This stuff isn’t just for congestion. It’s amazing for coughs too. It helps move everything along. Our pediatrician recommended doing it 5-6 times per day during a virus that presented with a nasty cough. I thought it was excessive but it worked! We usually spray this stuff, wait a few seconds and then do our snot sucker.

    Stomach remedies: Ginger tea, probiotics and Activated charcoal!! All these are medicine cabinet necessities. Stomach viruses are my biggest fear. And it’s almost inevitable that someone (and likely all of you) will come down with a stomach virus during sick season. They are SO ridiculously contagious and just literally the devil.  Ginger tea helps calm the stomach and is great to give kids if they are having trouble keeping fluids down (add some honey, try it iced if they are wanting something cold–sometimes cold drinks are best when the stomach is upset). Probiotics help bump up the good bacteria in your gut to help fight the bad stomach viruses/bacteria making you sick. I do like Mary Ruth’s spray but it is pretty expensive so if you are looking for a less expensive option try this one. Activated charcoal may absorb the bacteria or virus that is causing stomach issues .

    Sore throat relief: Propolis Throat spray for dry cough and sore throats or good old honey–especially if you have Manuka honey–are my go to things for sore throats. I also make my kids a “medicine water” that is 2-3 ounces of hot water, a pinch of cinnamon and a big squeeze of honey. They love it and it helps soothe their sore throats.

    Ear infection relief: Ear infections are often caused by viruses and thus will not respond to antibiotics (antibiotics are strictly for treating bacterial infections). The standard of care USED to be to automatically prescribe antibiotics for ear infections but it not anymore because we are over medicating and developing resistance. Often times ear infections go away “after antibiotics” because they would have gone away anyways on their own. Remember it takes a few days for antibiotics to work, and it takes a few days for the body to natural fight off viruses….That said, Garlic drops for ear pain and infection will go a long way to speed up the process. We also use a warm compress on the ear and take the kids to the chiropractor (no they don’t adjust their necks….).

    Epsom salt: Baths are so relaxing for kids (and adults!). I love to give the kids baths to help them relax, if they are having a hard time going to the bathroom, if they are sick or cranky. Really warm water is an amazing–and underrated–healing treatment. Epsom salt helps rid the body of toxins and relaxes muscles. I love Dr. Teals for myself and they have a kids version that is made with lavender essential oil to help soothe and promote sleep.

    Magnesium: Getting good sleep is one of the BEST ways to allow your body to fight illness. Most of us are lacking magnesium so we give a magnesium gummy and if they are having trouble sleeping or feeling sick we also use magnesium lotion.

    Other medicine cabinet favorites (that aren’t necessarily cold and flu related)

    “Antibiotic” cream made from Manuka honey–great for cuts, scrapes, burns, and splinters.

    PATCH Bamboo bandaids— bandaids made from a natural material that are compostable and biodegradable. I love that they have multiple versions based on the type of boo boo you’re dealing with.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

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    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

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    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

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    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

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    Episode 4: Responsive Parenting + Play to Address Child Behavior

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  • Nature inspired art created by Matthew Gallo


    Written By Matthew Gallo

    I have been painting, drawing, sketching, doodling, scratching, and scribbling since before I can remember.  Some of the earliest pieces I created as a young artist were heavily inspired by nature and history–my dad likes to brag that I was three and drawing dogs with detailed fur.  Still to this day, two of my favorite places are The Bronx Zoo and The Museum of Natural History in NYC.

    As I grew older my artistic inspirations shifted to subjects like sci-fi and fantasy (5/4 is a holiday in my heart), ancient history, folklore, and anthropology.  I quickly fell in love with the field of illustration. The fact that a single image can tell a complex story mesmerized me. So as a youthful teenager I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life…

    …So I went to college and received a degree in illustration and design.  Unfortunately, not only did I graduate with a degree in a field that is ridiculously competitive with no income stability, I graduated in 2006, more or less on the eve of one of the greatest financial collapses of our time.  When companies and employers are forced to tighten their belts, by several notches in this case, art is typically the first thing to get axed from the budget.

    Things were tough going. I was commissioned for odd jobs here and there, but nothing steady. In other words, art and illustration was a pretty good side gig for a while, but wasn’t enough. I was an adult now, doing adult things like getting married and growing a family (one wife, three kids, two dogs and counting at this point), and I decided that a career shift was in order.

    So I did what needed to be done, sold my soul and started working in the finance and insurance industry.  Even though I’m a creative, I actually have a great mind for numbers and statistics. However, no matter what I do for a living nothing will soothe the itch that a natural artist feels when thoughts and ideas need to be put on paper.  After what seemed like a very long time, I started painting again…this time for my children.

    My children inspire me every day.  I am so thankful to have children that want to be outside exploring and adventuring regardless of the temperature or the weather.  They are fascinated by the natural world that surrounds them. This has re-energized me and sparked the young artist from my youth to create nursery and playroom art that is a natural extension of our parenting philosophy.

    I hope that these images inspire curiosity and encourage your little ones to develop a deep love and appreciation of our natural surroundings.

    You can check out all Matt’s artwork by visiting our shop here!

    Matt

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

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    Episode 4: Responsive Parenting + Play to Address Child Behavior

    On this episode of Play Learn Thrive, Alanna speaks with Sheena Hill, psychotherapist and sleep coach. During their discussion, they touch on how to engage in responsive parenting over behavioral modification, and how to better connect with your young children when they’re struggling with right choices. Main Takeaways: Any time your children are under stress,…

    Read More

  • Terrible twos, threenager, and f* you fours

    Terrible Twos, Threenager and….

    We have all heard the phrases “terrible twos,” “threenager,” and my favorite “the f* you fours.”

    I always tell my friends with younger kids (or friends thinking about having kids) that you get a baby first because you need to have some time to develop that love before they turn into beasts.

    I’m not going to lie, the toddler and pre-school years are rough. 

    I have found myself on the verge of tears many evenings just watching the clock slowly tick tock it’s way closer to bedtime (but then started to panic a little inside because I knew bedtime was going to be a — show).

    Toddler Behavior

    So while I’ve been there (and I’m sure will be there again). My advice is this; We need to reframe our perception of these years.

    Hear me out.

    You know that idea the power of positive thinking? Well it works the opposite way, too. If you think things are going to suck, they probably will.

    And here’s the thing. THEY WILL SUCK but they will suck a little less if you have the right attitude.

    Part of the reason it feels like it’s so hard is because our expectations are, in a way, too high.

    I often bang my head against the nearest wall after asking my 2.5 year old to listen to a direction, but then I remember she has been on this earth for 2.5 years.

    She isn’t SUPPOSED to listen at this age. She is SUPPOSED to be testing me. 

    Testing boundaries.

    That doesn’t mean I let her get away with not listening, it just means I accept that she is still working on it, try to find the humor in her shenanigans and calmly “help” her do whatever it is I’m asking her to do. ,

    Setting Boundaries

    Setting boundaries for your kids is probably one of the absolute most important things you can do as a parent.

    Not only does setting a healthy boundary help children feel more safe and secure, having solid boundaries allow you to have a more enjoyable parenting experience #winning

    So many struggles with this age group happen because parents are not confident in the boundary they set. They feel responsible for making their child upset or they don’t even set the boundary because they don’t want to have to deal with the inevitably unhappy reaction from their little one.

    I get it, it sucks sitting through those big emotions. 

    It can be embarrassing and overwhelming AF, especially if we are out of the house or have friends or family over. But if we just accept that little kids have big emotions, confidently set clear and firm boundaries and remind ourselves that it isn’t our jobs to make our kids happy everyone will be happier in the long run.

    Understanding the “why” behind kids testing boundaries

    Bottom line. This is what they are “built” to do. They are literally searching for that boundary.

    “What happens if I do this?”
    “What happens if I do that?”

    Where does that line exist and what happens if I cross it. Is my parent going to consistently enforce that boundary?

    Kids thrive on predictably. If you are wishy washy on where that line is, they will continue to look for that line. This will look and feel to you like they are “acting out” or “testing you.”

    Think about it like a box. They want to have very clearly defined walls. Those walls keep them from feeling overwhelmed and unsure.

    We need to keep in mind that it is completely developmentally normal for them to be testing us. It won’t make them stop, but that adjustment in mindset will help us get through it with a lot more grace.

    Strategies for dealing with negative behavior

    Young kids are going to behave poorly at some point or another. That’s just the nature of the beast. But there are definitely some ways we can respond that will help them (and us!) through.

    • Get down on their level. Standing over little kids is intimidating AF. You are big. They are small. They are going to automatically feel things more and act out more if they feel a need to compensate, or like they are being challenged (which they might more easily feel if they have a big adult standing over them).
    • Help them identify their feelings. Acknowledge that they feel sad, tired, angry, frustrated, mad, insert whatever crazy emotion is coming out. Tell them it’s ok to feel whatever they are feeling.
    • Let them feel those big feelings. So many times I see advice to distract kids from what they are feeling. I’m wholeheartedly against that. On a fundamental level we want kids to PAY ATTENTION to their feelings not be distracted from them. How can they learn to manage their emotions if they are constantly being “distracted” from what they are feeling?
    • If they need to release something like anger let them. If they are trying to hit you say something like “I can’t let you hit me but you can hit this pillow”–we are not encouraging violence, we are encouraging healthy ways of letting our frustration. The more control they get over their emotions, the less they will need to physically release those emotions.
    • Stop letting their feelings be your feelings. Don’t let them get under your skin. The more they see you being pulled into their emotions, the more they will feel those emotions. You have to be confident in your role as parent–every little emotion your child feels does not have to invade your own emotions.
    • Get quiet. This works for my high school students, and it works for my kids. If you yell, kids tune out. If you whisper they want to quiet down to hear what you’re saying. It’s a natural reaction that can help be better listeners. The louder they get, the quieter you should get.
    • Stay in control. The more out of control your child is, the more in control you have to be. This goes back to not letting them suck you into their nonsense.
    • Teach them skills to calm their body. We teach breathing–and ask the kids to take a couple deep breaths. My two older ones have VERY big feelings. They have learned to calm their bodies (and can do this fairly consistently), and they have also learned to ask for help calming down. They will be  hyperventilating and yelling “help me calm down!!” It’s both stressful and adorable at the same time.
    • Use a TIME IN not time out. Putting kids in time out doesn’t work. Even if it works in the short term, it doesn’t in the long term. Time outs teach kids that they are alone in their feelings, they bring on feelings of shame (not good for little ones who are just beginning to develop their sense of self), and invite power struggles. The better approach is a “time in”–you can still bring them to a safe space but you should help teach them to calm themselves, remind them that you love them, and then come up with some strategies or compromises that work for dealing with the underlying issue.

    The difference between a “meltdown” and a “tantrum”

    This was an eye opening concept for me as a parent. These two experiences can look the same but they are very different.

    Meltdowns

    A meltdown is typically going to happen when kids are overtired, hungry, thirsty, sick, overstimulated. 

    Maybe a toy isn’t working the way they want it to, or someone took a toy they wanted to play with, or they are experiencing too many feelings at once.

    Often it is helpful to remove the child from the situation and find a calm, quiet place. Help them calm down, suggest to them that they might be hungry, thirsty or tired so they can begin to recognize those feelings.

    I use phrases like “see, you didn’t eat your snack, and you are hungry. When you are hungry it is hard to be control your body.”

    Helping them make that connection between a physical need and their emotional state is going to help them in the long run (even though it may not help them in the immediate situation).

    Tantrums

    A tantrum is a response to not getting one’s way. 

    You tell them they can’t have another cookie and they throw themselves on the floor. They don’t want to leave the playground so they start screaming, kicking, sobbing like the world is going to end.

    The best way to deal with a tantrum to be consistent and not give in to whatever it is that is causing that tantrum. If you give in and give them that extra cookie, they realize “oh hey, I can act this way and get what I want.”

    Acknowledge their feelings, tell them you understand that they want whatever it is and then just let them have their feelings (and it might be ALL THE FEELS). 

    When they are calm enough, help them understand what they need to do to get whatever it is they want. You want that extra cookie, but we are all done with cookies today. We can talk about you having another cookie tomorrow!

    And move on. Don’t dwell. Don’t engage in discussion.

    My kids favorite strategy is to tell me they have a plan! I calmly listen to their plan, thank them for it, and reiterate what I have already decided.

    Often they agree to go along with it fairly easily and they say something like “oh ok! maybe we can do my plan tomorrow” and I’m all like yeahhhhhh maybe….. But for real. I do try to take their ideas into consideration and come up with compromises about things that aren’t safety or health related. It does help them feel like they have some control and it strengthens your bond.

    For further reading

    See below for some of my favorite discipline resources:

    No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame  by Janet Lansbury

    No Drama Discipline- The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nuture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel

    How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King

    Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

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  • Sibling rivalry: How to stop all the fighting

    Healthy sibling relationships

    People always ask if I’m crazy when I say I want more kids. I guess the short answer is, yes, yes I am. But seriously, I think one of the best gifts I can give my kids is their siblings. That’s not to say it is a cake walk–one of the hardest parts of having more than one kid is managing the relationship they have with each other. Some days it seems like they wake up with the goal of destroying one another. After a few rough weeks and after hearing a bunch of mamas talk about having some of the same issues, I decided to re-read one of my favorite parenting books called Siblings Without Rivalry (you can buy it here) but I will break down some of the most important take aways.

    Don’t Compare

    It’s so hard not to compare your kids to each other. But doing so pits them against one another. Instead just DESCRIBE what you see, what you like or don’t like, or what needs to be done. Keep it based on your observation of that particular child.

     Things can’t and shouldn’t be “equal”

    Instead of worrying about trying to make things equal, it’s more important to focus on what each kid NEEDS (nothing is EVER going to be equal, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fair). The last thing you want is kids feeling like one is the “favorite” and to avoid this you need to provide for each kid uniquely.

    Avoid placing kids in roles

    It’s important not to label kids with qualities whether good or bad. Pointing at one for being social and the other for being shy only brings a bigger divide.

    Does this picture look familiar? One kid puts their foot too close to the other, and all of a sudden it’s on.

    Okay but they still fight…

    Yes, unfortunately some fighting is inevitable but here are some strategies to help get them to work things out on their own.

    1. Describe what you see. “Oh wow, looks like you’re really angry that Charlotte is using your truck and you want to hit her with that block.” (this is where you take the block)
    2. They will likely start telling you what happened. Listen to each side with respect and without judgement.
    3. Show you understand how difficult the problem is (and remember that even though a problem may seem small to us it can seem HUGE to them…) Say something like: “Yeah it’s really hard when someone is using something that is special to us.”
    4. Express confidence that they will be able to work it out on their own. If they are toddlers, prompt them with something like “Hummm you guys can figure this out together. Maybe Charlotte will play with the truck and you can play with [insert some other popular toy] and then you guys can switch?”
    5. Leave. Kids will work things out MUCH better on their own. If they aren’t hurting each other let them work it out. If it sounds like it’s getting too rough I will usually call out something like “It sounds like people are angry. Do you need me to come in there or can you figure it out yourselves?” More often than not they want to figure it out themselves.

    And what about when they physically hurt each other….

    1. If they are about to hurt each other, then it’s important to physically separate them. Remind them that they need to cool off first before they figure out a plan forward.
    2.  If you weren’t fast enough (which we all know is most of the time because these little suckers are fast AF) and they have already kicked, bit, hit, slapped, stepped on etc…. Make sure to focus on the one who was hurt vs the one who did the hurting. Give a quick but firm (not angry) “We don’t [insert violent action used]” and that’s it.

    Building a positive relationships from the start

    Obviously if kids have good feelings towards each other it will be MUCH easier for them to settle disagreements because they will want to get back to the positive relationship vs harping on the bad.

    A couple tips for building those positive sibling vibes

    1. Let them overhear you talk about how great they are as a team. “Wow, today Henry was teaching Charlotte to draw a face and Charlotte was helping Henry mix all the paints. They were really creating some great art together!”
    2. Direct them to ask for help from each other vs you.
    3. Instead of having them compete against each other as in “who can get upstairs to brush teeth the fastest” (which pits one against the other) it’s better to have them work together against you or the clock. So say something like “Do you guys think you can get upstairs and brush teeth before the timer goes off? Or before I count to 30?” Something that gets them working AS A TEAM not against one another.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

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