Toddlers, The Internet, The Television And The Park ~ Chris

While we restricted television for out toddler to just a few minutes each day before bed and during diaper changes, we did offer him more control over the Internet.  That is, we’d allow him to watch selected videos when he chose to.  Thankfully, he didn’t want to watch them in any excess and when he sat for too long we’d pull him away with his toys.  The Internet is a great escape, but it won’t do much for a toddler as far as building his muscular coordination or teach him a heck of a lot about life in general.  I think most children get board because they aren’t accustomed to the true pace that life throws at all of us.  It’s actually pretty slow once you pry the electronics away for your hands.

If you’ve never tried this, go out to the woods or the park and just sit there.  See just how long you can be at rest without a book or magazine, cell phone, or other electronic before you decide to walk around.  This is the pace of life our bodies were designed for.  Even though in recent times we’ve come to crave constant stimulation we’re more adapted to a slower pace.  It does speak to the need to get outdoors more often even if it means getting outside the walls of your house and to the park.  Have you considered taking your guy camping, fishing, hiking?  Think about it before your child thinks that there’s nothing else to the world beside the television and video games!

In the meantime, enjoy on of my son’s favourites – Bob the Builder!  He’d play this on cycle by tapping the space bar!  YES WE CAN!  Was it Obama or Bob who came up with this first!

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Sign Approximations ~ Courtney

What are sign approx-imations?  Well, just like your baby is not going to have perfect articulation when she begins to speak, her signs will not be perfect either.  Some signs are easier to create than others.  That is, they don’t require a lot of fine motor control.  However, your baby will likely not do any signs exactly like you do when she is first starting out.

A lot of parents choose to begin with the sign for MORE.  It’s fairly easy to create this sign and it’s handy to know when your baby wants more food, more playing, and more tickles!  With our son, MORE was initially just his hands coming together.  As his fine motor skills developed, it became more refined.  Some babies approximate the sign by touching one hand with the index finger of their other hand.  It’s not important that your baby do any sign perfectly, just that she and you understand what she is signing.

Many of Holden’s signs looked alike at one point.  Although an outside observer might wonder which was which, he meant something different each time he signed and his dad and I knew what he meant.  That’s all that matters!

Although your baby will approximate many signs, your job as a signing parent is simply to model the correct sign whenever you say the word and your baby will follow suit when she is ready and able!

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When Baby Turns Toddler ~ Chris

There’ll be a time when you’ll suddenly realize that your baby has turned toddler.  By then, you’ll have hopefully set up a proper framework to accept him into a much changed world, both for him, and for you.  Because your baby is constantly changing, he’ll eventually become smarter and stronger.  This can pose significant challenges to an unprepared parent.

If you don’t have a routine in place by now, this should be your number one priority.  You should also consider what other rules are important to you.  Will you let your toddler jump on the couch, throw balls in the house, run down the hall, write on the walls, refuse their vegetables and still get dessert, hit others to get what he wants, snack throughout the day, watch television, put off potty training, take part in various decisions like going outside to the park or playing in the backyard?  That’s a big list and it’s just a part of what you and your spouse will have to come to terms with.  If you’re not on the same page then your toddler will divide and conquer.  When one parent says “no”, your toddler will go to the other and soon realize that he can manipulate his world to his benefit.

Best to make important decisions from an early point when your baby is still experimenting with his world to see what works.  And what I mean by “what works” is your baby is trying to figure out what he can do to get the results he wants.  If hitting gets him the stuff he wants, he’ll hit more.  If hitting makes his world fall apart, he’ll stop.  We, as a family, never tolerated hitting in our house.  Like most babies, our son experimented with it several times.  We made this bad habit into a very big deal even though we knew he was just trying to see what he could get away with.  So while a slap might not hurt all that much coming from a 16 month-old, that’s not the point.  Instead of laughing it off (bad move), you should pretend it really did hurt and treat it accordingly.  You should make your toddler aware of his misdeed swiftly.  Get on your toddlers level and tell them sternly by holding their hands that hitting is not permitted.

I remember Holden taking a swipe at my wife, he would regret this because I quickly grabbed him, move him to the side and sternly instructed him not to do it again.  He got the point.

You don’t want to seem like a push-over when something important needs addressing.  But also don’t feel like everything is a bid deal either.  There must be some give and take – in other words, choose your battles wisely, and also the battles you do choose, win – at all costs.  This is probably the single most important rule for parenting.  Win all your battles.  This makes future battles easier to wage and win.  Trust your judgment, follow through, and always remain consistent – especially between parents.  Never let your child divide and conquer, never allow for negotiation on serious issues, and never let a serious offense slip.  Finally, be flexible with your child and allow him to be creative, to play and have fun and be a child.  He’s going to make mistakes and sometimes things happen by accident.  You want your child to be in control of his world.  If he hits, he’s made a decision and has chosen the consequences.  If on the other hand, he bumps into you by accident or falls into you, then this does not deserve punishment.  If you punish on an accident, your child will feel powerless to control his world.  This, in turn, makes his world seem random and will significantly affect his self-esteem.

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The Big Juice Dilemma – What Should A Parent Do? ~ Chris

In case you haven’t heard, there’s been a recent, albeit, subtle war on fruit juice.  With the population ever increasingly becoming overweight, even children, the government and health officials have raised the alarm on sugary drinks.  The case has been made that all sugars are created equal, so a soft drink falls into the same category as a fruit drink.

While real fruit juice can have nutritional value, it pails in comparison to the amount of sugar it contains.  Worst is if the drink has been stripped of its fiber (pulp).  This isn’t to say, though, that fruit juice with pulp is okay.  In fact, except for the nutrients it has, it’s basically just sugar and water.  So the argument is that kids should avoid fruit juices until much later in life.  I have personally stopped drinking sugary drinks, and not because I’m suffering from any adverse health effects, but rather through sheer concern about doing what’s right for my body.

When it comes to my son, I prefer to offer him fruits rather than drinks.  Fruits can also carry excessive amounts of sugar so, as parents, we need to be careful here too, but fruits can’t be stripped of their fiber so the sugar goes into a child’s blood stream at a slower rate.  So while fruits can be loaded with vitamins, I personally think fruits are still a treat and should also be given in moderation.  The science supports this.  So while fruits are better than junk foods like chocolate and snack bars, they are only so at the level in which they contain vitamins the body needs.  So for the record, fruits are bread to contain excessive sugars.

I know I’m talking around the issue a bit, but it’s complicated.  This is why we often seemingly hear conflicting research studies from the scientific community.  The fruits we eat today are extremely plentiful by historical standards – and also year round.  They’ve been bread to be super big and super sweet.  We simply aren’t adapted to eating such huge sugar loads throughout the day.

An American diet for example, is loaded with sugars.  For starters, we might eat toast and cereal for breakfast.  Straight away we’ve eaten two carbohydrates – complex sugars (still sugars to the body, albeit better than a white sugar, but not by much).  At lunch we eat a sandwich (more carbs) with a fruit and fruit drink, then at dinner we might eat pasta with garlic bread.  This puts our body into sugar, sugar, sugar.  Yes we might mix in some other food items like vegetables and protein, but these are usually out of the right ratio to make good health.

I’ve settled on a 60% veggie, 20% protein and 20% carbohydrate ratio.  I try to do this at each and every meal.  Even though I don’t always get there, it’s still a good target to hit.  If I’m still hungry I try not to reach for a sugar fix, instead I make myself another complete meal with the same ratio.  This keeps things in balance.  Naturally, I’m not super-human, so I still suffer a need for a straight sugar-fix once in a while.  If possible, I’ll try for a protein snack option such as humus or even beans.  These can quickly put your hunger to rest.  If you can, try to start your toddler off in this same way and maybe he won’t have to suffer from sugar highs and lows that the rest of the American population suffers from.  I’m not as opposed to high fat content as previous diets have proposed, just for the reason that I think our bodies have evolved to tolerate high fats – especially from animals.

While I’m no diet expert, I do try my best to work and re-work foods to help my family live healthily.  Giving up excessive carbohydrates like breads, cereals, cookies and other desserts is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.  After a while your body comes to crave the highs/low cycle that comes with sugar.  What I wanted to try to do is avoid this with my son by balancing his diet early on.  While it’s still just an experiment, it does follow current nutritional guidelines for a healthy diet.  Although there’s a slim chance that you’ll follow this diet yourself, it does provide you with something to think about at your next meal!

Oh and for the record, my son had a choice of water or milk from his 1st birthday.  He was breastfeed until then and ate solid foods from 6 months.  We prepared about half of his solid foods from scratch – really it’s not hard to mash stuff up!

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Getting Advice From Old People On Parenting – They All Forget! ~ Chris

I remember some of the advice my mom and other older folks gave to us when our son was just born.  They’d say things like “You slept through the night right away”, “You had no problems with teething”, and “You took to solid foods with no fuss.”  Well all that’s quite unlikely.  If I can give advice to any new parent, it would be to ignore “advice” from well meaning older folks.  If you haven’t had a baby in the last 3 years, your recollection of parents it obsolete – sorry, but you’ve forgotten!  It’s just that simple.

If you really want to learn about parenting, then ask someone who’s just had a baby.  Even a parent who’s 3-6 months ahead of you, these are your best resources to parenting techniques.  While your parents might have raised you well, that doesn’t mean they remember 20-30 some-odd years ago with any precision.  Besides fading memories, your parents probably blocked out a lot of the more difficult time periods like the first week with a newborn, teething and even potty training.  Our minds are all designed to quickly forget pain – with the extreme pain of childbirth, how else would women have more than one child!

Second to asking friends, try the internet.  It’s teeming with stories, forums and articles.  Just browse around until you find someone with a similar problem, look at a few different sources and start experimenting until you find out what works for you.  As per advice from in-laws and your own parents, feel free to ignore it completely.  I remember having to tell my mom that her turn was over long ago and that it was mine now – to screw it up, or otherwise.  Yeah it was a bit harsh, but you can rest assured that she did the same thing to her parents and so forth back generations.  For Grandma, it’s a right of passage.  In the end, you’re going to have to find your own way through parenting.  If you catch a good piece of advice from someone else, so much the better, but if I can suggest anything with certainty, definitely favour your cohort when it comes to the early years!

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