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!

Celebrate Your Baby’s First Birthday

If you’re like most new moms, you want your baby’s first birthday celebration to be magical. Sure, your new baby won’t remember the day, but luckily the pictures and videos you take will capture the moment forever. To make the party unique, incorporate birthday traditions from around the world into your festivities. These ideas will be fun for everyone involved -- including the birthday boy or girl.

Start the day with gifts. 
In some countries, parents place presents around their child’s bed at night. The birthday child gets to open the gifts as soon as he wakes up. Opening presents in the morning (even if you’re the one unwrapping the presents for your new baby) is a fun way to kick off the birthday celebrations.

Fly a flag.
In Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, parents hang the country’s flag outside their homes to recognize the birthday child’s big day. You can find birthday flags at most craft stores. Let it wave outside your home along with a few balloons to direct neighbors and friends to the birthday festivities.

Pop a piñata.
This Mexican-inspired birthday activity is a favorite of children everywhere. For this activity, blindfolded kids use a stick to whack away at a papier-mâché object until it bursts open, spilling candy and toys for kids to collect. If your child is too young for the game (and the candy), decorate the party with piñatas instead. They’ll add a fun pop of color to the celebration.

Slurp up some noodles.
In Asian communities, extra-long noodles are served at the birthday meal to symbolize the family’s hopes for the child’s long life. Noodles are the perfect finger food for your new baby, so serve some up in addition to your usual fare.

Make your child king or queen for the day.
The birthday child in Holland is honored with a specially decorated chair at the dining room table. Family members adorn the chair with flowers, streamers, and balloons, turning it into a special birthday throne. Do the same with a high chair on your baby’s first birthday -- it will look wonderful in photographs!

You can start your own family birthday traditions by incorporating some of these global baby games and activities. However you choose to celebrate, your baby’s first birthday will bring many smiles to you and your child and will be fun to look back on for years to come.

Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

Celebrate Your Baby's Firsts

When you’re a new mom, every day is a cause for celebration, but the days your child hits a new baby milestone call for extra jubilation (as well as bragging rights to friends and family!). From walking and talking to starting solids, here’s how to mark each of your little one’s accomplishments so you’ll remember it always.

First solid food
Starting solids (a baby milestone that many children hit at around four months) is a messy (and delicious!) adventure for your tot. To honor this big transition, post photos of her with her first foods -- whether it’s sticky bananas on her cheeks or orange squash in her hair -- to a photo sharing website. The colorful shots of your baby’s first meals won’t just be cute to look at; they will also provide a useful reminder of what food you fed your baby and when, as pediatricians recommend keeping track of this information to help identify allergies.

First tooth
Your child’s first baby teeth could poke through as early as 4 months or as late as 15 months. Whenever the initial pearly white does appear, document it with photos galore as well as a note in her baby book. But don’t stop there. Pack the family in the car and head to your nearest pharmacy to purchase your baby’s first infant training toothbrush. It may seem early to start brushing, but getting into the habit of cleaning her tiny tooth twice a day can help decrease the chance of cavities as your child gets older (ask your pediatrician about adding a bit of toothpaste when she’s about 2 years old).

First steps
The joy your new baby feels when she’s learning to walk is matched only by the pride you’ll experience as you watch her. While most tots begin to walk around their first birthday, the age range is as wide as 9 to 15 months. In addition to capturing your baby’s first wobbly walk on video, consider making a simple footprint frame to mark your baby’s walking milestone. Brush nontoxic, childproof paint onto your tot’s toes and then carefully stand her on a piece of sturdy paper. Date the page and have it professionally framed so you always remember her initial steps.

First word
Did she say “dada” or was she trying to say the dog’s name? Either way, you’ll probably hear her first word anywhere from 12 to 15 months, so keep the video camera rolling as much as possible and a journal and pen nearby to jot down what she says. If you can, keep a running tally of all the words she learns, both so you can report her ability at her well baby visits and as a keepsake in her baby book.

Missed one of your little one’s baby milestones? Try not to fret! Even if your husband got to serve pureed peaches for the first time or your babysitter saw the first wobbly step, there will still be more chances. Your sweet new baby will take many more steps and spoonfuls -- and the words will keep on flowing (the next one just might be “mama”!).

Photo by ???????? Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Global Traditions for Welcoming Your Baby Home

Your new baby won’t remember the hoopla surrounding his birth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate in style. Whether you’re planning a big party or simply a gathering of immediate family, the day will mean a lot to both you and your partner. Read on to learn how new moms and dads around the world celebrate their newest additions.

U.S.: Traditional baby showers are still common, but "Sip and Sees" are on the upswing. Modern new moms looking to liven up a ladies-only afternoon are embracing these post-birth, coed cocktail parties where the focus is where it should be -- on oohing and cooing over the new baby.

Latin America: To protect a new baby from the evil eye, or mal de ojo, many Latinos give their baby a red or pink bracelet to wear, sometimes with a black charm in the shape of a fist. The charm is thought to bring good luck. If you choose to copy this tradition, don’t let your newborn wear the charm without supervision, as it could be a choking hazard.

France: The French often give a new baby a middle name that honors a grandparent. What's so unique about that? The names don't have to be baby-gender specific, so there are little Lucas Maries and Sophie Georges walking around Paris. In Germany, however, the name game is different. The German government has a list of approved names that new moms have to choose from. If your heart is set on, say, Apple or Rain, you’ll have to file for an exception, giving a good reason.

Poland: Polish moms really luck out: Instead of flowers or balloons being sent to the hospital, they receive lots of food, including delicacies like Polish doughnuts and kabanosy (smoked sausage).

Russia: Russian maternity wards don’t allow visitors -- not even Dad. Instead, a midwife presents the baby to relatives just outside the hospital room. Everyone else waits to meet the new baby at the Christening or next big holiday gathering. Down in
, however, guests come in droves to meet the baby, and the new mom often provides each well-wisher a goody bag.

Japan: New baby gifts given before the birth often have something to do with dogs, which are thought to be harbingers of easy deliveries. And after the umbilical cord falls off, it's saved in a wooden box called a heso.

No matter how you choose to celebrate your new baby, do keep a camera handy. The photographs will provide fun memories for you and a neat way for your child to look back on the fun way you welcomed him to the world. 

Play a Baby Game of Catch

Location: Indoors or outdoors

Promotes: Motor skills

Baby games don’t need to be a bore! You and your 10- to 12-month-old baby will have a blast with this age-appropriate spin on the time-honored tradition of catch. It's a great way to bond, and the motion of simply pushing a ball can boost his motor development as it promotes coordination and strengthens upper body muscles. Get started with these tips.

What you’ll need
Balls of different sizes, colors, and textures that your baby will be able to grab. Any soft or cloth-covered ball will do the trick.

How to play
Gather up some soft balls -- preferably of various shapes and sizes -- and roll one to your baby. Encourage him to roll or throw it back to you, helping him if he needs it. Be sure to talk about the objects and what you’re doing, telling your baby, “You just threw the green ball!” or “I am rolling the spotted ball to you.” Try to add some structure to this baby activity as your child gets older, asking him to roll or throw a specific ball.

Tricks and advice
At this age, your baby’s aim won’t be accurate. He's still working on his hand and finger motions, and will be swatting or slapping the ball at first. Expect that you’ll need to help him with these early motor development skills and that he’ll need lots of practice. The goal of the game is to help your baby gain control and coordination through the repeated actions of grasping, rolling, and throwing the ball.

Learning and growing
The repeated motion of this baby activity encourages your little one to use his body in new and different ways, giving him a sense of power and control. It’s an amazing sense of achievement when a baby realizes, “I made that ball roll!”

As your child grows, it will be fun to see how the game develops into him truly tossing -- and eventually catching -- the ball. And if he ever takes to the field or basketball court as an older kid, you’ll always remember where his ball skills began!