It's hard to believe that April is 1/2 over! I have been hopping around like a bunny these past few weeks getting a few exciting things in order, so I thought I would share them with you.
I belong to a group of Mompreneurs (Mom's who are also entrepreneurs) who collaborate on many projects/ideas. One blogger put out a call for an expert opinion on a few questions related to child development. The funny thing is, both questions were topics I was going to broach for this newsletter! I jumped on the opportunity as my thoughts were already percolating as to what I wanted to say. The woman who interviewed me wanted to know what I thought about giving children an allowance and letting them fail. Although the questions were't intended to be intertwined, my response was. If you get a chance, please take a look at the two articles and let me know what you do with your kiddo's?
The other activity that has kept me hopping this month was a big charity collaboration with Life and the City Realtors for The Red Door Shelter (picture above). We committed to raising enough funds to outfit 60 Easter Baskets for the kids and families in need at this local women's and homeless shelter. With the help of some amazing Mom business owners we put together a super fun fundraising event. It was the first real spring day this year (April 2nd) and we had over 100 people (including the Easter Bunny) come through the doors at Mathnasium in the Beach. Christy Watt a local Mortgage broker provided the face painter and Food Blogger Wife of a Grocer made the most spectacular treats. We had music, crafts, guess the number of eggs and pictures with the fluffy guy himself. It was a hit and we raised over $850 for our mission.
On April 12th we delivered all the Easter Basket "fix-in's" to the shelter so they could assemble the baskets appropriately. It was such an amazing group effort and we were very fortunate to be able to share it with our sons. I am not sure how much they took in, but I am certain these kind of experiences will have a lasting impact on the next generation of men. Thank-you to Miranda from Life and the City who is a true mastermind! I really enjoyed working on this project with you!
Spring is in the air...Well, not technically but I feel like March is the light at the end of the tunnel. I can see glimmers of spring, robin's chipping in my back yard, the sun setting AFTER dinner time and a general feeling that the time to hibernate is coming to a close. I always feel like this is a good time of the year to clean house. I am talking about going through all the toys, clothes and gear and getting rid of what we no longer need! Do you get this itch too? If you do, I urge you to include an evaluation of your toy collection (don't worry I will teach you how to do this!)
If you have been following along with me on social media you will know I like toys that are open ended, gender neutral, non-commercialized and relationship focused. Of course not all of our toys follow these ideals but this is what I strive for. The other thing I strive for in my toy collection is a variety of toys in each domain of play.
Play is actually quite complex and as you know the "work" of childhood. If we want our children to develop all aspects of their personality it is best to give them a variety of high quality tools to do so. Each category of play is important for optimal development and necessary for boys and girls. Try not to think about a certain type of play as being "boy toys" or "girl activities"and let your child decide what they like for themselves.
The infographic below highlights 10 different types of play. Do you have toys in your home that will help your child develop in ALL these areas? Do you need help determining what toys will help your child explore make believe play for example? Let me know how I can help.
Give your toy collection a spring check-up and help expose your children to a variety of play opportunities!
Winter in Canada is LOOOOONG and my family finds that breaking up the dreary sunless months with a short vacation makes all the difference to our mental health! Plus it is a special, magical time for everyone in the family to get back to what is important...each other! No schedules, no hockey practice, no work emails, just time to reconnect and be together. Here are 7 tips I have amassed over the years of traveling with small children to make your vacation family-focused where everyone comes out a winner!
Bring Activities- Bring both electronic and non-electronic activities. Of course non-electric is "better for development" but sometimes we just need our kids to be entertained! For some idea's of non-electronic activities that are compact, fun and relationship focused - check out the Family Talk series by Discovery Toys (questions to stimulate discussion), Math keys- to practice those math skills while away. Tricky Fingers- such a fun game to play solo or against a parent/grandparent.
2. Pack LOTS of Snacks. More is better in this situation! Bring lots of munchies for the travel component and other times when food is not readily available. My kids always eat less on vacation (they like the taste of home cooking better!) so I know with my stash of healthy snacks I can get some good nutrition into them at some point. Not sure about you, but my kids meltdown much easier when they are hungry. Just another reason to pack extra snacks. My favourite brand to pack is "Made Good". They have these banana chocolate chip granola balls that are to die for. Plus they have veggies in them so win win!
3. Bring a "security" object. For some children being away from home can be somewhat distressing. My kids were always just happy to be wherever I was, so never had to worry about this. But if you think your may have some difficulty make sure you bring a security object or "lovey from home. A particular blanket or favourite stuffy that smells like home can provide an enormous amount of security for weary little ones. Just make sure it isn't too cumbersome for you to lug around!
4. Take care of yourself! If you have ever flown you know the drill about the oxygen masks...put one on yourself first before helping your child put on theirs! Well it really is good advice for your entire travel experience. When we travel it is easy to let caffeine, sugar and alcohol consumption to get a little out of hand. All good, but make sure you have back up care for your kids or try to be conscious of your consumption. These three can quickly ruin a good vacation.
5. Take tonnes of pictures Document your vacation! Take tonnes of pictures. Be that annoying tourist. When you get home take some time to put them into a book or online album. Share them with your kids often. This is not only a fun activity for your kids, but it helps build memory. If you go over and over the same pictures with them you will help them keep those synapses and experiences alive.
6. DPA. Daily Physical Activity. They do it in school so they should be used to the routine and the notion that they need to run, stretch and balance everyday. This is probably a given when you have young children, but remember to do it ESPECIALLY on those long travel days! When sitting for a long amount of time, make sure you schedule some DPA! Kids are good at making up ways to move their bodies. Ask them if you are stuck for ideas.
7. Live in the Moment. It's really a good goal for all the time, but especially make it a top priority while on vacation. Leave your phones, lap tops and iPads at home. Try to disconnect from the work world (they won't die without you!) and reconnect with the most important people in your life! Try to say YES more often. Now is the time to agree to ice-cream before lunch and late bedtimes. Don't worry that this will turn into a bad habit. Vacation is special and different and kids get that! Enjoy your surroundings and the people in them. Once you have mastered this, try to bring a little back to your "real life" chaos!
Enjoy! I would love to hear your tips for travel with kids! Drop me a line below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
October brings a certain nip in the air, amazing colours on the trees, apple picking and pumpkin spice. Coffee, tea, muffins, cupcakes, donuts and Lattes here there and everywhere we love ourselves some pumpkin spice. Why not extend this lovely tradition to our children? While we build memories with our kids this fall, lets include them in the pumpkin spice all the things!
I have adapted our favourite play dough recipe to evoke all the memories of fall so you can start creating some of your own.
PUMPKIN SPICE PLAY DOUGH
2 c. flour
2 c. salt
4 Tbsp cream of tartar (buy this at the Bulk Barn - it is MUCH cheaper)
1 Tbsp of Pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove)
Mix the above ingredients in a pot - no heat yet!
In a separate bowl mix:
4 Tbsp cooking oil
2 c. water
Orange Colouring (gel is best) - dissolve in water
Add the coloured water/oil mixture to the dry ingredients in the pot. Stir and mix until well blended. Put onto low/medium heat and continue to stir until mixture turns into a dough. Remove from heat and let cool. Work the dough with your hands and put in a Ziploc bag or an airtight container. Do not bake
If you are looking for some other ways to play with play dough, I would encourage you to consider adding Measure up cups to your toy collection. I really love this toy because it remains relevant for early toddlers all the way to school age kiddos.
Extend their learning by making imprints of the animals on the bottom of the cups in the play dough . The animals get larger as the numbers on the cups increase. Have your toddler arrange the animals from biggest to smallest.
Happy FALL everyone!
First off, if you know me or have taken any of my classes you will know I am a HUGE supporter of Dr. Harvey Karp (the Happiest baby on the Block). I love the 5 S's and his theories on colic and the 4th trimester. What this Pediatrician is doing here is a slight variation of Dr. Harvey Karp's techniques. Three things I have noticed are in common:
1. First, baby's limbs are brought back to midline. This is a very powerful technique for calming babies (older children and adults too..think about how powerful a hug can be when your arms are squished hard into your chest). Harvey Karps technique (the first S-swaddle) does this too, with the added benefit of you not having to maintain it,so baby can calmly go off to sleep and you have your hands free.
2. The second commonality is the 45 degree angle. The second S (side lying) accomplishes the same outcome. Why it works is because newborns have a strong Moro reflex (feel like they are falling when on their backs). This angle turns that reflex off.
3.The third similarity is the 4th S-swinging. This is the most misunderstood S of the bunch. Basically you want baby to be bouncing,swinging, moving where the body is mimicing a bowl of jello. This is super soothing as it mimics the fluidity of movement in the womb. Babies often find the still ness of a crib maddening. Babies love to sleep in a carrier, car seat or in the stroller. Dont let anyone tell you that the quality of your babies sleep is demished when not in a crib.
So in a nut shell this is a wonderful technique for soothing newborns! I do think there are a few added bonuses to the 5 S's but every baby is different.and some may prefer this technique. The only thing I DID NOT LIKE was at the end when the doctor said the baby was "good" because she/he easily calmed. I am tired of the idea that babies are good or bad. We hear this all the time with sleep. Good sleepers don't make "good babies" or have "better parents". Your baby is good regardless if they sleep, eat, poop or sooth quickly. They just are.
Happy baby calming everyone!
September is here and it is time to both rejoice in back to school routines and get recommitted to those January goals! A second chance at your intentions for the new year with the freshness that is September. I know some of my goals went by the wayside early February so NOW is my chance to get them into gear before the winter. One of my goals for my family is to get more organized. I have come up with two ways to achieve this goal and want to share them with you.
1. If you talk to money people and health people they will tell you that meal planning is key to their receptive focus. Meal planning saves cash by avoiding those hangry moments when you cant figure out dinner and just order take-out. Dollars to cents, you will save money every time you eat at home. In addition, you will more likely use the food in your fridge before it goes bad because each item has a purpose. Another win for your purse! Similarly, meal planning is better for your health as you are able to control what goes into your body by adding and subtracting ingredients yourself. You can plan out you and your families health better by taking a week by week approach. Balance the red meats, fruits, vegetables, fats and treats by scheduling them into your week. Have I convinced you yet to get better at organizing your families' meals? Great! I made us (you and me) a weekly planner that you can print out and get started on right away (PDF below). Do yourself a favour and print out 5. That will take you to thanksgiving (seriously) and evaluate then if you are eating better, wasting less food, saving money and feeling good about getting organized! I promise to get back to you on ours!
2. The second thing I have been doing to get more organized is batch buying gifts. When I place an online order, I usually try to think ahead to the birthday's, special celebrations and possible invites we have coming up in the month. I have a designated drawer that I put these extra non-determined gifts in and have found they have saved my sanity on more than one occasion. Another mom I know does this and calls it insurance. LOL. Anyways I wanted to create a service to make gift giving easier for all you Toronto based parents (I have plans to expand this service-send me an email if you live elsewhere and are interested). I have curated a list of "go to" gifts that you can access anytime and have delivered to your door. There is one item per age 0-8 and the beauty is they work for more than one age range and both genders. I have calculated all shipping and tax, so the price listed is the price you pay. I am going to suggest you print one out for reference for home and one for work. Breath easy when your husband tells you, you were invited to his boss' daughter's third birthday on the weekend and you don't have time to go out to purchase a gift. Give me a call/text/email shop the "go to" gifts (always in stock) and I will deliver that item to your door. Easy Peasy! What to wear to said party- that is something I can't help you with! The rest of the details are on the one page print-out. Check it out and never scramble for a unique, educational and fun gift again!
Lets get organized this September and Rock the back to school routine! If you missed the post I wrote about helping your new Kindy transition to Full Day Kindergarten it isn't too late to start preparing him/her! Check out my 10 tips here http://www.carolynndarrell.com/blog/kindy-prep-look-whos-starting-school-in-september .As always I LOVE to hear from you, please get in touch! My favourite things to chat about are child development, play, toys and starting your own business!
As the beautiful summer nights are slowly getting noticeably longer, we start to turn our minds to “back to school”. Time is going so fast you protest! It feels like yesterday you held your beautiful baby in your arms and wondered who they were going to be. How are you even old enough to have a child starting school? The time is here my friends and now is when you want to start preparing your “baby” for a successful transition to school.
How do you anticipate that first day of school going? By now you probably have a good idea if your child is going to burst through those doors or hold back for a second, third or fourth kiss. Maybe you are anticipating a full-on melt-down because that is how the last two years of pre-school have gone every-single-drop-off. Believe me, I get it, this is exactly where I was with my eldest!
Anticipating an absolute nuclear war with my new Kindy I employed every trick in the “Child Life book” to prepare him for this new experience. I thought I would share my strategy in hopes that it helps some of you. Even if you are expecting smooth sailing it is always better to prepare your child for this new time than to spring it on them. If you are expecting the worst like I was, you may want to take notes.
Top 10 Tips to prepare for child for Kindergarten
1. Go to the Library and ask for books about starting school. The librarian should be able to help you out with this task. I don’t have a specific one, cause there are too many to note! You may even be able to find a favourite character (i.e. Franklin) and read about their experience with school. The more relatable to the child the better! At first, keep it just about the story, as September gets closer start reminding them that they are going to do what Franklin is doing too. Ask them questions along the way. How do you think Franklin feels when he says goodbye to his mommy? When will Franklin see his Daddy again?
2. Make your own book! If you have pictures of your Kindy’s new school make a photo book for them. It really doesn’t have to be super creative. I took construction paper and marker and stapled the corners shut. My Kindy loved it because it was about him. I took lots of pictures of him at the school so he could get used to the idea that he would go there. I took pictures of the playground and the doors he was going into and out of at the end of the day. We took pictures of him on his scooter at the school and lots of silly things. This will really help your Kindy “see” themselves in their new environment.
3. Practice the “good-bye”. Make it a set routine so they know when it is time to separate. Make it a special routine that you only do for school. For example, my son and I linked baby fingers at the end of our good-bye which meant “I Love you”. He liked that it was our special code and nobody else knew what it meant. If you haven’t read "the kissing hand”, grab that book while you are at the library too. Hopefully it gives you some ideas on a creative good-bye gesture you can do with your Kindy.
4. Regardless of what school you go to, there is usually a good outdoor space where the Kindy’s play. Try to get there a couple times a week before school starts so that your child can become familiar with the space. Knowing how the space works, or gaining some skills on the play structure can do amazing things for their sense of mastery (aka confidence) in that area. They will look forward to showing their new friends how they use that space.
5. Talk about school in a positive light. If you didn’t particularly enjoy school try to keep those stories to yourself. Your child is listening to everything you say and do and will try to read your take on school. When you drive by the school or walk by it, talk about it being their “big kid school” Children love feeling “big” and establishing that feeling of pride will go along way on the first day.
6. Pick a security object for your child to bring on those first few days. Be aware though that toys aren’t usually allowed at school, so prepare your child to have to keep it in their bag. If they already have a strong attachment to a stuffy, packing it in their backpack can give them confidence just knowing that it is with them. You can also try a new security object that your child can use to remember that you love them and are proud of them for going to big kid school. For example, maybe you give them a new bracelet that they can rub their thumb over if they feel like they are missing you. You can do something even more simple like drawing a heart on their hand or some other symbol that will remind them of you.
7. PLAY, PLAY, PLAY! Children learn best through play. They need time to practice difficult things through play and explore their feelings. When you are playing this August, causally bring up the situation and talk about different ways the little girl or boy could deal with separating from their mommy for school. If you are playing with a “feelings doll” (ask me if you don’t know what this is) you can ask your Kindy how the doll will feel saying good-bye to Mommy or how he will feel at the end of the day?
8. Get in the habit now of recapping your day with your Kindy and setting them up for success the next day. I like to do this at night time. When things are winding down we sometimes do a “roses and thorns” activity. Everyone participates and says what was their favourite (rose) and least favourite (thorn) part of the day. You will learn lots by just asking your children this simple question. I also like to do what my kids call a “talk about”. I tell them the steps of the next day in lots of detail. I don’t know why they like it so much, but they do. I think it helps them know what to expect and anticipate some control over their day. It sounds like this “ First we will wake up and go downstairs for breakfast……pack our bags….put our shoes on…..walk to school…say good-bye when your teacher rings the bell…”. It seems silly, but give it a try!
9. Keep after school time SIMPLE! Especially for the first few months of school. Moving from home to Full Day Kindergarten can be a lot for your kid! Even if your child was in daycare previously, FKD can be overwhelming. School has a different set of expectations and the stimulation can be overwhelming for some. The swimming lessons and Karate can wait. Keep after school time unstructured, simple, and easy. I even suggest letting your kids watch some TV. Seriously! Especially in the beginning they may just need to zone out and have zero expectations on them. This will all change as they get used to their new schedule, but taking it easy in the beginning will benefit everyone.
10. The last tip is not really a tip but rather a reminder to be your child’s best advocate. You know your child best! Let your child’s teacher know ahead of time if you expect trouble separating. Ask them how they handle these difficulties. Find out how long your child cries or protests once you have gone. Most kids put on the fireworks for about 5 minutes or so. Then they are able to assimilate into the classroom activities. If you think a full day of school is too much for your child, talk to the teacher and decide together what may be best for your child. Read your child, check in with them and give them the preparation they need to have a smooth transition to school!
Want to know how to get your kids to have a love of the outdoors? Show them what that looks like by enjoying it yourself! Small children look up to their parents like rock stars. Have you noticed they want to be just like you? They are probably even saying things the way you say them! Here is a list of 10 things you can do with your kids to bond, grow and get outside together this summer!
1. Plant, grow and eat your own vegetables. Kids have such a natural interest in how stuff grows. Your picky eater may just try that cucumber he grew in the garden! If you haven't already gotten on this it isn't too late! Go to home depot and get plants that area already flowering. Seriously, you will look like Martha Stewart.
2. Get out those hose, water ballons and the sprinklers- Make sure you get in there yourself. Kids have so much fun seeing you be silly. And seriously what an awesome way to cool down on a hot day!
3. Go out for breakfast in your PJ's. You're up at 6 anyways, why not make a fun adventure of going out for breakfast in your Jammies, your kids will remember it forever!
4. Read to your kids about nature, then go out and find it! If you find a weird spider, capture it on your phone and look it up later. Show your children how to use a computer to search for credible information.
5. Take off their shoes! Explore all those different textures with your toes (sand, dirt, mud, grass, burnt grass!, water etc). There is no better way to learn than through experience.
6. Marvel at the sunset or the sunrise. Plan a date where you will either stay up late or get up early to watch the sun set or rise. Document your findings!
7. Wake them up at midnight to see the full moon and eat a fresh batch of corn. Seriously, this was something we did at summer camp and I absolutely adored. It has stuck in my memory for over 30 years cause it was so unusual and fun!
8. Make a fairy/gnome garden- Last summer we bought bird houses from the dollar store and painted them crazy colours to start a ferry garden. We added stone pathways between the houses and found lots of fun little additions as the summer went on.
9. Make a nature craft- You don't have to be crafty to do this! Kids are naturally crafty and will show YOU how to make something out of their findings. Provide glue and paper and see what they create with what you found! If you are really stuck, paint a rock for a "rock buddy" See? Easy!
10. Let your kids roam! Let them use free time and discover open ended play! This isn't about being neglectful or lazy. Give your kids the tools and TIME they need to decompress from their hectic school days and recharge their batteries. Often when left to their own devices, the most imaginative, creative, fun play happens!
Have a safe, fun, hot, wet, gluey, magical, messy, lazy, summer everyone!
#summer #outdoors #kids #activities
Have you seen this picture popping up around Facebook these past few weeks? I know I have and it makes me really hopeful that we (society) are finally catching on to what really matters!
So the next question you may be asking is how do we help our children with such an enormous task? Besides loving the heck out of them, I have put together a list of 5 ways you can help raise your child's emotional intelligence.
1.Talk to your child about their feelings. The good, the bad and the ugly. Label their feelings and yours so they understand what emotions look like.
2. If you take any of my classes, you know that I always say the best way to get our children to X is to model that behavior ourselves. It is no different in this domain. Show your children what healthy emotions look like AND healthy coping strategies. Commentate like a sports announcer so they can understand what you are feeling and doing.
3. Allow your child to express a wide range off emotions, even the scary ones. You don't always have to accept their behaviour, but you should always accept their feelings. Try not to stifle their feelings by telling them 'its no big deal' or 'it wasn't that bad' etc...
4. Consider having a "calm down zone" in your house where kids can go recharge. Things in your calm down zone could include books, lava lamps, plush toys etc. Make it a place where they feel safe and can practice their 'self-soothing' skills.
5. Use books and toys to play out "stressful" situations with your child. Help them problem solve in this safe space, so they know how to react when they are confronted with a stressor in real life. Books and other therapeutic tools can greatly enhance your child's understanding of their own feelings and can open up some pretty important dialogue that may not come up in regular conversation.
I want to introduce you to one such therapeutic tool that I recently discovered. It is the Express It Buddy from Discovery Toys. This toy is seriously one of the reasons I joined DT as an educational consultant. I know from experience working with children, that these toys are extremely difficult to come by but so incredibly valuable. Check out what the company says are the benefits of this toy. If you think this is something you must have for your home, in your practice or for the children you work with you can purchase it on my website www.discoverytoys.com/PlayLadyCarolynn It is on sale right now for $46 CDN until the end of February. If you want help selecting other products that can help you assist your child with their emotional development I would love to chat with you. Please email me at email@example.com
Express It! Buddy
Before you start and skip ahead to the pretty graphic, please note that although the categories for temperament are "Easy" "Shy" and " Spirited", one type of temperament is not more desirable than another. These are psychology terms and unfortunately having a category called "Easy" makes it seem like a) this is an "easy" child to raise and b) this is the type of temperament you want for your child. Well it doesn't work that way!
Temperament is inborn. It is part of your DNA. It is how you view the world and how you react to stress. This is something that is predetermined from birth. Funny enough, most parents don't think much about temperament until they have a second child and they are "toooootalllly different". Similar biology, similar environment, but a completely different child. This is largely due to the child's unique temperament.
So back to the "easy" temperament style. This type of world view just means the child is easy going. Are they easier to parent than a spirited or shy child? No! All types of temperament have strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, your own temperament comes into play when parenting your child. Your styles can fit together like two peas in a pod or two sticks of dynamite.
Now that we have cleared up the misleading categorization of temperament, we can move on to why it is important. Identifying your child's unique temperament style can help you solve tricky behaviours and situations before they occur. For example, starting daycare or school. How much and what types of preparation should you do? Some kids do better with a gradual progression and some do better with complete emersion. Which preparation strategy is better? Well, that completely depends on your child's individual temperament (this is why you shouldn't compare your child to another child in a similar situation including siblings).
Ok great! So now lets look at the chart and determine your child's temperament.
The 10 second temperament test (adapted from Dr. Harvy Karp's The Happiest Toddler on The Block)
Imagine you are in an uncrowded mall with your Tot. You unexpectedly drop your Tot's hand, turn the other way and walk a few paces. Does your child a) cry initially, but quickly recover and is happy to wait for you to return b) Cries out, screams for your attention, races after you and holds on to your leg as you walk away c) run the opposite direction. I may have over-exaggerated on these examples, but you get the idea. If you answered a) your child most likely has an "easy" temperament. If you answered b) your child most likely has a shy temperament and if you answered c) you may have a spirited child. Check the other descriptor words for each of the personality traits on the right hand side. Does your child have one dominant type of response? The majority of kids (50%) fall into the "easy" category. The next most common is shy and a handful of kids are spirited. Some kids fall between categories and that is ok too! This is just a quick look at the different categories, more in-depth assessments can be made and I can point you in the right direction if you are interested.
Temperament helps keep relationships spicy. How boring would it be if we all thought the same things, reacted the same way to stress and had the same strengths and weaknesses? In my family I have one "easy" child and one "shy" child. They have one "easy" parent and one "shy" parent (see the biology there?) This match up makes my family who we are (quirks and all). Knowing about each child's unique temperament helps my husband and I understand why our children are "toooootalllly different" and how to tailor our parenting to meet each child's individual needs.
I hope this post has helped you gain a glimmer of insight into your toddler's behaviour; maybe even your own (or partner's) too! Each child deserves to be parented differently. Yes I said differently! That is the only way to be fair.