Get Talking: Baby’s First Words

When my daughter, was a baby, her vocabulary was (naturally) limited to “goos” and “gaas.” Even though she didn’t yet understand most of what I said, she was already digesting the sounds and words she’d need to become the little chatterbox that she is today.

It turns out that it’s important to talk regularly to new babies. Not only will they pick up on words, but the conversation will teach them socialization cues such as looking into a person’s eyes when chatting and learning to listen when others are talking. Start with these easy tips to encourage first words and raise a talker!

Group fun: Whenever possible, we got together with Grandma, aunts, and cousins and kept the conversation flowing, so that our daughter could become accustomed to hearing various voices. When new babies are familiar with people, it will put them more at ease, which may make it easier for them to learn. However, don’t let that stop you from letting less familiar people talk to your child, too. The more talking, the better!

Out and about: Bringing your new baby along on errands may seem to be more trouble than it’s worth, but it’s actually a great learning experience. Babbling with the bank teller, cooing in the grocery store, and gazing at other babies in the park will help to improve social skills. My baby loved riding in her stroller for a daily outing to the diner, drug store, or just around the block a few times before her nap.

The dating game: My daughter’s baby and toddler play dates were a great way to encourage her first words and talking skills. Plus, the interaction was important for her baby development as she learned different forms of play, as well as how to share. I kept the play dates short (about an hour while she was under 24 months-old), and picked a time when she was in a good mood -- usually in the morning or after a nap. Model the kind and gentle behavior you’re trying to teach as you label toys (“Do you want to give Sarah the train?”) and narrate what’s going on.

Take a class: A music group, mommy and me yoga, or baby swim lessons can be a great way to interact with other babies and adults while learning to socialize and form words in order to boost your baby’s development. I took our baby to a music class each week where she bopped to the beat and rolled around on the floor with a new best friend. She loved it!

Every child starts talking at their own pace, but if you have any concerns that your new baby seems to be falling behind, speak to your pediatrician about what you can do to help speed up her conversational skills. And remember: Keep on talking to your new baby, even if it seems silly (like explaining to her how you are folding the laundry)! Every little bit truly counts. 

Toddler Care When You’re Expecting

Being pregnant with a toddler running around can be challenging, to say the least. You may not always have the energy to keep up with your little one, and getting ready for a new baby can rob you of precious together time. But it is possible to spend quality time with your older child, tackle your new baby to-do list, and even take some time for yourself during these months. Check out these tips for making pregnancy with a toddler in tow as smooth as possible.

Take advantage of naptime. Your new best friend: the afternoon nap. Life with a toddler while pregnant leaves little downtime, so use his naptime to catch some shut eye yourself. Pre-nap, wind down together with a calming activity such as reading a book or listening to music, which will help prepare him for sleep. He will love the extra cuddle time with you and you’ll appreciate the peace and quiet. Afterwards, head to bed for much needed rest.

Bring in a babysitter. Consider hiring a mother’s helper for a couple of afternoons a week. Your child will enjoy the additional attention during this time when so much focus is on the new baby, and you can use the afternoon to catch up on your rest or take some time for yourself outside of the house. Schools and churches are great places to get referrals for local mother’s helpers. If you’re not comfortable leaving your child alone at first, you can always stay at home in a separate room.

Involve your toddler in baby preparations. Toddlers will delight in helping you get ready for your new addition, and you’ll simultaneously be able to check tasks off your new baby to-do list while spending time with your older child. It’s a great time to bond and talk about what to expect after your new baby arrives. Your tot can help fold baby clothes, place clean diapers in baskets, or arrange baby books on a shelf.

Prioritize your time. Accept that you may not be able to do everything on your to-do list when you’re pregnant, with a toddler in tow. Let a few things slide in order to fit in special bonding time. Mopping the floors or updating your blog can wait. Spending that extra time with your child before the new baby comes will help your toddler feel secure during the transition.

Remember to give yourself a break if things don’t go exactly as planned. This is a big change for your household! And while it can be more challenging because you have less time for yourself, in the end it will be well worth it as you watch your first child become a big brother or sister to your new baby.

Parenting Advice: Helping Your Tots Get Along

Sibling rivalry is as old as time. And while it’s normal and expected between kids who are close in age, living with the constant bickering can be tiresome. Preventing fights and disagreements between siblings isn’t always possible, but creating a loving family dynamic is. The following parenting tips will help you achieve sibling peace (and quiet!) among your tots.

Why it happens
Individual temperaments may play a role (for example, the brash older brother loves to poke his demure younger sister, and it escalates from there). Kids also pick up on the ways their parents handle friction, so if you and your spouse tend to stomp around when the garbage doesn’t get taken out on time, expect the same from your children. But the biggest reason for sibling rivalry may be the competition kids wage in order to gain Mom and Dad’s attention -- and the moments of jealousy that tend to follow.

What to do
Try to stay out of your kids’ fights at the start, as some children are able to resolve their differences on their own with minimal noise. If you do need to step in, separate the warring parties and let them calm down. Remind your tots that it takes two to fight, and there’s not just one sibling in the wrong. If they’re old enough, get them both to talk about the issue. For example, ask each child why he is mad and then have them both come up with ideas to solve the problem.

How to minimize it
Reduce tension between siblings by setting a good example with your spouse. Demonstrating how to cooperate and compromise may help to lessen sibling rivalry. It’s also important to spend some time with each child individually when you can, and make sure your kids have a bit of time and space to be alone, too. On the other hand, planning family events (biking, camping, or special dinners) is a lovely way for everyone to relax and bond together. Tots who share quality time like this may be less likely to fight.

It can be upsetting -- as well as headache-provoking -- to hear your tots argue over who gets the bigger slice of cake or whose turn it is to feed the dog. But take heart: One day, they’ll grow up, learn to get along, and just might become best friends for life.

Cooking Fun with Your Little One

Toddlers love to be mommy’s helpers in the kitchen. And while that extra set of hands might slow things down (and, yes, likely up the mess factor), introducing your child to cooking can be a fun way to bond and makes for a great rainy day activity for your toddler. And (bonus!) being involved with meal preparation may even help encourage your tot to establish healthy eating habits. Here’s how to make the most of your time with your junior chef.

Make it simple.
Keep your toddler’s development in mind when picking a dish, and avoid complicated or time-consuming recipes. Choose something with only a few ingredients and simple steps, like a fruit-and-yogurt parfait. Because toddlers like to stick their fingers in their mouths, avoid anything that could expose them to dangerous uncooked ingredients like cookie dough made with raw eggs.

Shop together.
Grocery shopping with a toddler in tow may make for a longer outing, but it can be fun to find the ingredients needed to make a dish together. Boost your toddler’s development by making it a learning experience. As you pull items from the shelves, talk about how they add to the dish’s flavor (“These blueberries will help make our muffins sweet!”), ask him whether he wants a red, yellow, or green pepper in your salad, or give him an introductory spelling lesson by pointing to letters on packaging (“Sugar starts with the letter ‘s’”).

Find simple tasks.
Kitchen activities for toddlers can include rinsing fruit, pouring in sugar or other ingredients, stirring, mashing, and patting. A fun toddler game is to drop blueberries onto cooked pancakes to create smiley faces or the first initial of his name.

Supervise everything.
Safety lessons and supervision in the kitchen are key. Let your child know what is okay for him to touch and what is always off limits, such as the whirring beaters of a mixer, handling sharp utensils, and touching anything on the stove.

Praise your child’s cooking prowess as you sample your dishes together, and try your best to ignore the flour on the floor or that cup of spilled milk. The important thing is that you’re boosting your child’s confidence by encouraging him to master new skills and even sample new foods. Bon appétit!

Photo by Karly Gomez on Unsplash

Preschooler Development: The First Sleepover

Sleepovers promise oodles of fun: popcorn and movies, whispers in the dark, and pancakes for breakfast. As there’s no official age recommendation when it comes to this big adventure, the best advice is to look for certain child development cues in your tot when considering the first sleepover. Here are the top four first sleepover tips any parent should follow.

Be extra sure
If your child has difficulty separating, such as crying before school or refusing to play at a friend’s house unless you are there, hold off on the first sleepover. Similarly, if she tends to wake up during the night or is prone to bed wetting or nightmares, wait until these issues are resolved before letting her sleep away from home.

No peas (or anything green)
Part of sleeping at a friend’s house is eating at least two meals (dinner and breakfast) with a different family. Some parents may make only tried-and-true kids’ favorites, but other folks may serve something unfamiliar. If your child is unwilling to try new foods, skip the first sleepover for now. Once she’s less picky with her eating, she’ll feel more comfortable spending a night away.

Practice, practice
Before venturing to a friend’s house, do a trial run somewhere very familiar, such as Grandma’s house. Or you could host a few sleepovers in your own home so your tot becomes familiar with them. “Sleepunders” are also a popular way to introduce the sleepover concept: Your child spends the early evening at her friend’s house, has dinner, plays, and watches a movie -- but then heads home. This way, she’ll get to experience all of the fun parts but still sleep in her own bed with Mom and Dad close by.

If at first you don’t succeed…
Be reassuring when your child attempts her first sleepover. Let her know she can call you any time she needs to talk and that you’ll come and pick her up if she really can’t stay the whole night. You certainly won’t be the first mom to collect a child in the middle of the night!

Learning how to spend time away from home helps kids gain confidence. You’ll probably know when your child can successfully try her first sleepover, but if she isn’t ready when her friends are, try not to worry. Eventually she’ll want to stay over with friends all the time, and you’ll miss her!