Toddler Play Tip for Multiple Kids: Musical Chairs

Locations: Outdoor and indoor

Promotes: Social skills

Whether you find yourself hosting a toddler playdate or just surrounded by a group of kids at a birthday party, you’re probably wondering how to entertain them. First, it’s helpful to know where your child stands in terms of social skills. Between 18 and 36 months, your tot may start to learn what it means to play and interact with others. You might find that she simply plays alongside other children instead of with them, which is entirely normal. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t introduce activities for toddlers that involve more than one child. This variation on musical chairs will get everyone moving and laughing.

How to play
Place multiple pillows on the floor, making sure you have more pillows than the number of kids playing the game. Put some music on and play DJ by stopping and starting the tunes on a regular basis. Instruct the tots to sit on a pillow every time the music stops.

Tips and advice
Encourage creative toddler development by asking the toddlers to perform different moves while they follow your lead. Show them how you would dance like a chicken or walk like an elephant. They’ll have a blast mimicking your animal gestures and may even come up with some of their own. This game is more about having fun than following the rules, so don’t worry if some of the toddlers continue to boogie even when the music pauses.

Learning and growing
Creativity and self-expression are important components of your toddler’s development, and creative toddler activities like dancing will help encourage your child’s flourishing imagination.

What you’ll need
Multiple pillows and a source of music, such as a CD player or an MP3 player hooked up to speakers.

Entertaining a group of  young children is less stressful and more enjoyable when you include music and dance, imagination and creativity. They won’t be the only ones having a ball -- you will too!

Photo by Paloma A. on Unsplash

Tips for Eating Out With Your Baby

Tempted to cancel all your dinner plans until your child turns 10? Turns out that going to a restaurant with your new baby in tow is doable and even enjoyable. All you need is a little prep work and some mommy must-haves for eating out with your baby.

Pre-dining research
Before taking your baby out for a meal, check on which restaurants cater to families and are baby-friendly. You probably wouldn’t want to dine with your little one at a restaurant that’s really formal. Look for a place nearby that is casual and lively (but not too loud) and used to having babies as their clientele.

High chair hygiene
Many restaurants keep high chairs on hand, which seems great until you stumble upon one that’s coated in grime. To avoid spending the entire meal worried about the germs your new baby could pick up, bring along plenty of baby wipes. They’re ideal for mopping baby food or spaghetti off your child’s face and hands as well as for cleaning off dirty tables and high chairs.

Extra food
Your baby won't be ordering from the menu just yet, so you'll need to bring food or feed your little one beforehand to avoid hunger meltdowns. Fed ahead of time, a younger baby might even sleep right through your meal! If you have an older tot, keep snacks like crackers on hand to pacify him while he waits for the food to arrive.

Small toys
Pack some small baby toys so you have something to entertain your baby with once sifting through sugar packets gets old. A baby book, soft animal, or squeeze toys are perfect for banging on the table without making too much noise. Your tot -- as well as your fellow patrons -- will thank you for your packing foresight.

Bibs and baby-proof dinnerware
Your child is a messy eater by design, so you’ll want to bring a bib when eating out with your baby. Wipe-off or disposable bibs make for an easy cleanup. If the bib is reusable, consider storing it in a plastic baggie after meals. It’s also smart to carry a baby spoon and bowl in case your little guy gets the urge to toss his (very breakable) restaurant china off the table.

Eating out with your baby can be enjoyable when you’re prepared. But even all the forethought in the world can’t prevent some meltdowns. So be ready to duck outside for a while or ask for your check early if your new baby decides he’d rather be eating at home. After all, once your child is slightly older, you’ll have plenty of time for relaxing family meals at a restaurant.

Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

Solutions for Picky Eaters

Is your child starting to express (very strong) likes and dislikes when it comes to making food choices? These preferences, though quite common at this age, may start to make mealtime a little trickier. Here’s how to cope with your picky eater.

Involve him.
Start by taking your picky eater to the store and letting him choose his favorite vegetables and fruits. At home, bring your preschooler into the kitchen and ask him to help you scoop out watermelon, combine fruits in a big bowl, or arrange veggies into various shapes on his plate. If your child plays a part in preparing his meal, he may be more inclined to taste what’s on his plate.

Avoid bribes.
If you tempt your picky eater with sweets for finishing his vegetables, he may come to expect a reward every time. Or he may become even more resistant to eating whatever he's being bribed to consume. Instead, concentrate on providing healthful foods at every meal (your job) and let your child manage how much and what he eats (his job).

Set a good example.
To encourage your picky eater to eat and enjoy a variety of healthful foods, make sure you are modeling that behavior with your own eating habits. Let him see how much you like having fruit and wheat toast for breakfast and eating a salad for lunch. Get his attention by saying how yummy you think certain dishes are, and be sure to get excited when he wants to help with meal preparation.

Rethink recipes.
If your picky eater is turned off by the sight of omelets or salads, try giving some of his favorite foods a healthy makeover. Including undercover fruits and vegetables is an easy and healthy way to transform any meal. For example, pureed sweet potato can go undetected in a dish of pasta with cheese.

No matter how determined your child is to remain a picky eater, remember to be patient and encouraging. Eventually, this stage will pass and mealtimes will be a lot more fun.

Photo by Matt Walsh on Unsplash

Tips for Baby’s First Words

Few baby milestones are as thrilling as your child’s first words. They sound just plain adorable, for one thing. The fact that your little one can talk to you, and that you can better understand his wants and needs, is a huge accomplishment for both of you.  

While every child will learn to speak at his own pace, your baby might babble his first “mama” or “dada” around 6 to 8 months, and by age 1 he may have added a few other words to his list. While your child probably won’t be able to have a full conversation until his second year, it’s not too early to start encouraging language development. These tips will help get your baby talking.

Baby talking rule number 1: Get chatty.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the first year of life, children are drawn to their parents’ voices and faces. So simply talking to your baby teaches him new vocabulary and encourages first words. Talk aloud to your little one, even when it seems silly (e.g., “Mommy’s folding the blue socks right now!”). Provide constant narration too when you are out and about in a new environment to introduce him to new words (e.g., “Look at those pretty flowers in the park!”).

Baby talking rule number 2: Talk back.

Aim to respond to whatever your new baby is looking at. Follow your child’s interests and let him be your guide when deciding what to talk about. For example, if your child is staring at a dog and babbling, make this the topic of conversation and repeat the word “dog” over and over while pointing at the pup.

Baby talking rule number 3: Focus on routines and repetition.

Daily activities such as bath time, mealtime, and changing time are ideal opportunities to have the same conversations with your baby each day. During these times, he will begin to pick up on key words and phrases and associate them with the activity.

Baby talking rule number 4: Model speech for your baby.

To help your baby build language skills, speak in slow, short sentences about whatever your child is focusing on and wait for him to try to repeat the word back if he’s ready. Help him recognize objects and words through play ("Here's your ball. Let's hide the ball").

Your baby will be on a roll with his words before you know it! Just remember that some children start talking a little earlier, and others take their time to utter their first words.

Photo by Alyssa Stevenson on Unsplash

Boost Your Child’s Development

Your new baby is a marvel. Bent on exploring his world, he's pretty much unstoppable. And while it may not look like he needs any help mastering new skills, a little boost from his parents can’t hurt, right?

Baby milestone: Scooting around the house

At about 8 months, your baby is probably in constant motion. He may be rocking back and forth, and sitting up, and could also be close to crawling -- some pretty important motor development milestones. He will learn to focus on where he wants to go, and concentrate on scooting, sliding, or crawling to get there. This means coordinating his legs and arms, and digging his little hands into the floor to push or pull himself forward.

What you can do: Place a favorite toy in front of you or call his name over and over again to entice your little one to move toward you. This will encourage your tot to develop his coordination skills. Once your baby’s crawling, set up a small obstacle course with pillows or blocks. This will help teach him how to move from side to side, further enhancing his motor development.

Baby milestone: Getting curious

All that moving around will have your baby curious about the new things he is seeing and touching. This playing will eventually allow him to understand specific names and functions.

What you can do: Allow your child to explore his surroundings in a safe way. For example, boost your child’s development by gathering household objects that your baby will be intrigued by, such as a soft spatula or plastic containers that fit inside of each other. Remember, your little one will be putting almost everything in his mouth, so ensure any makeshift toys are not choking hazards.

Baby milestone: Becoming a bookworm

While your little one might not say his first words for a while, it’s never too early to introduce him to books. Reading to your baby helps build language comprehension and vocabulary and sets the stage for literacy. It also boosts listening and memory skills, so start when he is a newborn and don’t put those books down!

What you can do: Placing your baby in your lap and allowing him to interact with the book is a great start for children this age. Show him how to open the book, and let him bat and point at the pages. Don’t expect your baby to be able to sit still for long, but know that these simple interactions are helping to encourage a lifetime of reading.

Your child’s development is mesmerizing, to say the least. Consider keeping a journal to record all of his achievements. It will be fun to look back at the book together when he’s older!