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Have Your Best Summer EVER!

Happy Summer!!

I love summer!

Of course, the weather is warm and the days are long, but can I tell you…I love summer because of the free time.

During the school year, adult-directed activities dictate our kids’ agendas. We teach, supervise, correct and redirect, organize and schedule. We take care of them, feed the crew, make sure everyone gets out the door on time, drive to extra-curricular activities, and make sure homework gets done. We do all of this the best we can, and of course, it never seems to be enough. (more…)

Is My Baby’s Head Normal?

Today, many more babies have flat spots on their heads than 20 years ago. In fact, it is now common to see babies out in public wearing orthotic helmets and to hear stories about their courses of physical therapy. Diagnosis of positional plagiocephaly/brachycephaly and often-concurrent torticollis, two mostly preventable conditions, is on the rise. What can we as parents, caregivers, and medical practitioners do to reduce the risk of these diagnoses?

Play: 6 to 8 Months

Babies 6 to 8 months continue to move, play, and grow at an amazing rate!  At times, it seems as though they are learning something new every day!   Many of the same principles that we discussed in the post about play with your 4 to 6 month old continue to apply.  Here are 5 new tips to consider:

SAFETY:  A moving baby who puts everything into his mouth needs to be watched all the time because he can quickly swallow small objects or creep into unsafe places. Babies are not able to understand about danger. Lock away unsafe objects or put them high out of reach.  Many experts advise to use the TP Rule: if an object can fit through the hole in a toilet paper tube, then it is too small for a child 3 and under to play with.  If there are older siblings in the home, please teach this to them as well so they can be an active participant in determining what toys can be out when baby is playing.  PLEASE ENSURE THE SAFETY OF YOUR BABY by childproofing!  Get down on the floor, crawl around, and see what your little explorer could find!

Social: Time for play dates!  Start early – this is as much for you as it is for your baby!  People are much more interesting than things and babies love to see other little people that look like they do!  You and baby will also create lasting friendships.

Stranger/Separation Anxieties: Expanding baby’s social circle is important but be aware of his sensitivity when around strangers and when separating from mom (stranger anxiety and separation anxiety).  If you do have to leave, make sure you still say good bye and explain that you will be back.

Simple: Babies don’t need fancy toys!  They can be happy playing with a set of measuring cups, exploring plastic bowls or a spoon, etc.  The main point to remember is offering varying sizes, shapes, colors and textures.  Remember, baby is not impressed by labels or price tags!

Sun, Sand, Snow:  It’s time to get outdoors!   Baby is now old enough to be outside with baby safe sunscreen so spend time enjoying it.   Watch the trees moving in the wind and try to find birds, flowers, doggies, and other people.   Talk about you are finding as you explore the environment!  Baby loves to hear the sound of your voice and the more you speak in a happy, sing-song voice, the more your baby will listen, engage, and learn.  Try and make some of the sounds that you hear.   This is also a great time for more walks in the stroller or in the carrier.  Don’t forget other fun activities like crawling on the grass, putting feet in the sand, playing with bubbles, to name a few.

Take time to truly marvel this amazing stage of development . . . it will be gone before you know it!

Exploring outdoors 8.5 months Feet in Sand 8.5 moths Bubbles 8 months Beach Carrier Senses Crawling on Grass 9 months

 

Play: 4 to 6 Months

Play starts getting more fun since your baby is more alert and begins to become an explorer and investigator versus a passive play mate.  At this age, baby starts to move too and, from here on out, won’t stop!

A 4 to 6 month old baby is quite a charmer!  He loves to smile, make silly noises at you (or anyone for that matter), to babble, and starts using his voice to get a reaction!  This is also the time when physical development gets “rolling” at an amazing rate.  Baby begins to prop sit (with arms or support), push up more on arms in tummy time and begins to roll purposefully.  Reaching becomes more and more accurate since eye hand coordination has improved.  Baby will reach for anything (ask any older sibling) and likely put most any object into his mouth to explore it.  Moving an object from one hand to the next will soon follow.   Around this time, most babies begin to sleep better so parents get to come back from the land of Sleep Deprivation (even if it’s short-lived).  With so many big changes, how can you maximize your play with this amazing little one? Below are a few ideas organized by thinking of baby’s senses!

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Touch:  Baby will love to experience different textures on his hands, face, and body.  Try introducing toys, blankets, stuffed animals with different textures.  Try putting on simple white gloves and washing your baby at bath time.  It provides a different sensation and helps you hold on to a slippery baby!  Continue with naked baby time and body exploration.  Try playing games like “where are your toes?” and then touch his toes (either with your hands or his) and say “Toes!”

 

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Sight:  Baby is ready to check out all of the new colors he can now see.  He now distinguishes between new and familiar faces which may mean a bit more clinginess to his primary caregiver.  Make sure you point out things and talk about the environment surrounding him, encouraging exploration by holding him up on your shoulder.   Mirror Play in a variety of positions (tummy, supported sitting) to let him see himself is always fun.  Try “Baby, Do What I do!”  Make various facial expressions (open mouth wide, puff cheeks out, stick out tongue) and see if he tries to imitate you.  Peek-a-boo is a great game to play with you, siblings, toys, etc.  Baby will need help initially but, pretty soon, he will have this tricky game all figured out!

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Sound:  Rattles, maracas, and very simple cause and effect toys (with your help initially) will be quite fun for baby.  Shake a rattle behind your baby’s head and let him or her turn and grab it.  Baby still loves YOU the best so use your voice!  Make silly sounds and mimic his sounds . . . the sillier the better!  One of the cutest things I get to see these days are baby and his older brother “talking”! Make sounds for your baby.  Clap your hands (help him clap his too because this will happen very soon) and help baby bang two objects together.  Play music too.  What about “zerberts”?  Isn’t blowing on your baby’s chubby baby tummy the best?  In our house, that crazy sound always gets a laugh!  Remember, many sounds in the environment will be new and novel like a dog barking, bell ringing, music, etc.  so be respectful!

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Movement:   Dance with baby.  Hold your baby in different ways (tucked in front, tummy, side) than your standard and dance away, sing, smile – in front of a mirror is even better!  Or, make it a movement activity for the entire family!  Always check on baby every 30 to 60 seconds by “freezing” or “waiting.”  This gives your little one a break to let him process the new information and reset himself in a way.  Give baby plenty of time on the floor each day.  I know this can be difficult but this floor time is one of the most essential parts of development.  It is the perfect surface and the perfect time for baby to spend time on his tummy, back, supported sitting, rocking on hands and knees all to build strength and skill to progress toward rolling, crawling, and walking.   As this stage progresses, try and have baby equal time on all four sides of the body.

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Other Helpful Hints: To help your baby focus, put out only one or two toys at a time.  Be respectful of all that baby is learning and balance stimulation with plenty of quiet time.  And, of course, be respectful of baby’s cues that he needs space or a break.  Can you imagine having to learn so many things in such a short time?  So many things are new as they move, PLAY, and grow!

Enjoy the magic and the wonder!

Play: Newborn 0 to 2 months

Once established that your newborn baby (0-2months) is in an active-alert, ready to learn, ready to play state, what on earth are you supposed to do with her!?!?! In a one word answer, LOVE her! Touch her, hold and hug her, cuddle with her, sing to her, whisper sweet nothings, give LOTS of kisses all over. But…let’s also be realistic. Newborn babies are not awake that often, and when they are they are usually eating, pooping, burping, spitting up, being changed and/or bathed, changed again, and changed again. Is there time for all this LOVE? YES! Because the love happens during all the awake duties. Don’t think about it being extra, think of it as being a part of each task. Love is a journey, not a destination!
So, slow down, don’t rush through all the tasks, take time to observe and interact with your baby during all of it. Changing at our house routinely takes 15-30 minutes because of all the play on the table. Before you know it, playtime is over and it’s nap time again! And, please, though we all know that moms and dads are super-heros, try to take a nap when your baby sleeps. These first several weeks are often about survival, especially when up many times during the night. We also know if this isn’t possible…but give yourself permission and try :-). Always good to shoot for the stars, and have someone ELSE clean the house, do laundry and make dinner too :-).

Extra ideas to play with your newborn:
– Sing nursery rhyme songs or recite rhyming poems (from memory, refresh, or learn new ones).
– Talk about what you are doing at that moment in time, or tell a story about what happened during day or the plans for rest of day. Get VERY detailed. It will take a long time!
– Observe your baby’s facial expressions and copy them. Especially the mouth/lips/tongue. You will be amazed at what your baby can “say” to you through her mouth and you will start to learn so much about her.
– Read books and show pictures, black and white work best, but you can throw in some red too. Start with simple pictures and slowly get more detailed.
– Move slowly as you work around baby so she has a chance to see and track you from side to side with her eyes.
– Tummy time!! Near and dear to our hearts at Move Play Grow. Try chest to chest with you propped up closer to vertical than horizontal at this age. OR get down on floor and lay next to your baby about 10 inches away so she can see you best.
– Wear your baby and go for a walk to get out.
– Be quiet and still. Being awake, babies are taking in even the most mundane things that we take for granted. No need to over stimulate by shaking rattles and toys in their faces, moving and bouncing all the time. Allow some “down” time too.
– Mix it up.

Most importantly, get to know your baby: observe, learn, internalize, journal (write stuff down…you think you will remember everything, but you won’t), and love her. There is NO ONE else in the world like your baby and definitely NOTHING like the unique relationship you have with her. Cherish it!

Buy This…Not That: Books

Books are a wonderful gift! This post will focus on babies up to 12 months but my 3 year old still enjoys many of these – at a different level.

By 6 months, vision is developed enough for baby to recognize some images and to begin understanding that pictures represent objects. Baby starts to prefer certain pictures, pages, or even entire stories read over and over! While you read, your baby will respond by grabbing for the book and vocalizing. By 12 months, your child will start to help turn pages, pat or start to point to objects on a page, and repeat your sounds.

Buy This: for this age, look for board books that are sturdy, that can be propped, and small enough for baby to try and hold – and taste! Babies love books with photos of babies, bright colors, textures, flaps and familiar objects. Also look for simple content with language that is short and repetitious.

Some Favorite Books in Our Home: Baby Faces, Colors, Giggle Baby, Peek-a-Who. Some Favorite Authors: Karen Katz (Where is Baby’s Bellybutton?), Sandra Boyton, and Eric Carle. A small plastic photo book with familiar faces is another great idea!

What are your family’s favorite books/authors?

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Yesterday we covered “Buy This: What to look for in Books for Babies.” Today is “Not That: Things to Avoid in Books for Babies.”

Avoid books that are too wordy. You can always reword some parts, skip parts, etc. but remember you will be reading some of these books A LOT! The book on the left shows a great starter book – one color and one picture. The book on the right introduces many images, some of which baby may not even know (eggplant, beet).

Avoid books with fragile pop ups and paper pages. Choosing durable books in the early years will allow your child to explore the book, attempt to turn pages without the risk of tearing/ripping.

Avoid books that are too long. Attention span can be quite fleeting when babies start to move since that becomes quite a focus. Be okay with reading only a page or two!

Avoid the same type of book: Provide a variety, limit books that are too repetitive and look for those that rhyme! Babies seem to love those!

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Here are some great Do’s and Don’ts when reading with your baby. It is so important to remember that it isn’t always about the content but about the actual act of reading. Speed up, slow down, point at pictures, make different sounds, etc. Realize that you won’t always finish every book, that your baby may lose interest. Have books throughout your home, in your car, diaper bag, etc. as an easy tool for distraction. Take the time to snuggle your little one and read the book through the eyes and heart of your child!

And to complete our “books” topic, check out this link called “Love Books!” It is a collection of many different blog posts of book reviews and corresponding activities! How cool is that — especially for our older kiddos! Can’t wait to check some of them out!
Happy Reading!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Strategies to Help Keep it That Way!

We are nearly in the swing of all things Holiday and that means a more overwhelming “to do” list, schedule changes, and added stress for the adults.  It is also a time when many kiddos can become overstimulated, overscheduled, and overtired.  Here are some strategies that may help us all have a more “over”joyed holiday season with our kids:

Routine: DO try and stick with your routine to decrease stress levels of the family!   When possible, try keeping normal nap, bed, and eating times to avoid increased irritability.   If our babies and kiddos know that their routine “travels” too, they are less likely to be anxious or stressed by not knowing what is coming next.   Bringing a comfort item from home can also help with the differences.

Remind/Rehearse: For children preschool age and older, as the holidays approach, routines change at home but also significantly at school as well.  It is important to compensate by providing greater predictability and structure at home.   Some children may benefit from visual or verbal prompts to remind them of the different events throughout the day that stray from the “norm.” Consider making a holiday calendar.  Create a list or insert pictures of planned activities that are outside the regular routine.

Respect: DO show respect for your child’s age and stage.  At four months, I know that baby is more alert and becoming more attached to mama.  I want to be respectful of just how overwhelming new faces, sounds, smells, etc. may be to this new little life.   I also respect that my preschooler may still be a bit shy around family he has not seen in some time.  Talk to your child about good times with each relative. Then, as you introduce them, you can remind them of the pleasant story and your child may feel like they know them.  Pictures are also helpful!  If a child is sensitive to touch, perhaps offer for him to give a “high five” instead of a hug!

Realize: Do realize each child’s limits and build in some down/quiet time for the babies and younger kiddos!  Some quiet time with mom or dad, reading, talking or resting, often allows the child to reset.   When possible, try to schedule only one or two outings per day as this is often plenty for young kids.   Remember the malls and stores are now more crowded with people, “things,” decorations, etc.  This bombardment can overwhelm even the strongest of sensory systems!

Reward Yourself: Mamas are often the glue that keep the family together and running smoothly.  We can feel a tremendous emotional fatigue during the holidays -which means fewer emotional resources with which to manage our kids. If we are emotionally fatigued and anxious, we are not available to be there for our kids emotionally.  Try not to overload yourself with obligations or extra stressors . . . the holidays in themselves bring plenty of extra!  Sometimes with extra hands around you can get some extra “YOU” time.  Reward yourself mama, you deserve it!

Our childrens’ behavior is highly meaningful and they are communicating something with their actions.  It is our job to watch, listen and interpret the message.  I am hoping to be more aware of that this holiday season.

Now, on your marks, get set . . . “Holiday”!!  ~ Rachel

 

Disclaimer
The content on this website is based on Wendi’s personal and professional experience and general research. It is not meant for individual medical diagnosis or treatment. If you are concerned about your child, please consult with your primary physician and/or therapist.