31 Days of Play: March

Friday, February 24, 2012 1 comment
nick and his green lemonade for not-st.-patricks day - _MG_1726

Yay March! The official start of spring. St. Patrick's Day. There is lots of fun to be had this month! Here are 31 ideas for fun and connection.

The idea is to pick one activity from the list each day, in any order you choose. Have a wonderful March!

1. Make these quick and easy chocolate pretzel bites with the kids. What a cute snack for St. Patrick's Day!

2. Glow balloons! You can do this for bath time fun or for a sweet night light surprise.  For the bath, put a glow stick inside a balloon and fill with water. You make several of them, throw in the bath, and turn out the lights. You can also blow up balloons with glow sticks inside and hang from the ceiling for a fun and special bed time.


3.  Let them help you plan and cook dinner.

4.  Make a St. Patrick's Day craft.  Here are several to choose from.

5.  Play glow in the dark ring toss. Get glow sticks and glow bracelets from the dollar store. Make the glow sticks into rings using the connectors from the glow bracelets. (The bracelets themselves aren't big enough.) Stick one glow stick into something to make it stand upright. We poked a whole in a CD container. Turn out the lights and play!

6.  Have a green-themed day for St. Patrick's Day. Put some green food coloring in the bath water for a colorful bath. (Just a little won't stain the tub or your kid!) Make green lemonade, or make your child's milk green. Wear green. Bake cookies and decorate with green icing.

7.  Grab some index cards or construction paper (whatever you have on hand). If you're using paper, cut 31 square pieces. For index cards, gather 31 cards. Write 1 thing on each card that you love about your child. Each day, play a game so that your child has to find the card for that day.

8.  Have a picnic at the park.

9.  Plan a special date with each of your children separately. Do whatever you two would like to do on that date; see a movie, visit a play land, go out for ice cream. One-on-one time is valuable for each of you.

10. Make a spring craft. Here are several to choose from.

11. Pick a clear night, and gaze at the stars and the moon.

12.  Start a garden! Seedlings grow quickly, and they stay interested when they see something happening. Sunflowers are easy - get a packet of parrot seed, sprinkle around, cover, and water. Watch them grow!

13.  Make a bird feeder. All you need is a empty toilet paper tube, peanut butter, and bird seed. Poke a hole in the tube for hanging. Spread with peanut butter and roll in bird seed. Hang it and watch for the birds to come.

14. Make slime! The easiest recipe is cornflour/cornstarch. Put some in a bowl and add water a little a time. To jazz it up, add some food coloring.

15. Fly a kite!

16.  Flashlight treasure hunt - Hide small toys or objects, turn off all the lights, and go hunting with the flashlight.

17.  Unplug from the electronics for a whole day and focus completely on play and connection.

18.  Go on a bug hunt in the yard. See if you can capture the little creepy crawlies in a jar and observe for a bit.

19.  Start the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier and read a couple extra books.

20.  Backyard scavenger hunt! Click here!

21.  Leave a heart shaped note in your child's lunch box or on the pillow.

22.  Make these clever and fun balloon bean bags.

23.  Have a pillow case race! Get the largest pillow cases you can find, stand inside the pillow case, and GO!

24.  Play red light, green light. Make a green sign and write GO on it. Make a red sign and write STOP. Not only is this fun, but it may prove valuable by teaching your toddler to heed the STOP command, which could keep him from danger.

25. Make homemade ice cream. Yum!

26.  Print a St. Patrick's Day coloring page.

27.  Play Simon says or musical chairs.

28.  Make a lava lamp.  
Glass jar
Water with food coloring added
Vegetable oil
Shaker filled with salt

Directions: Fill a glass jar with about 3 inches of water and add food coloring until the shade matches the tapestries in your pad. Add 1/3 cup of vegetable oil and wait until the layers settle. Watching carefully, shake salt into the jar while you count to five. The oil and salt should form a glob and sink to the bottom of the jar. As the salt dissolves in the water, the oil should float back to the top. Keep adding more salt to watch the action repeat.

29. Make a fun marble game with a shoe box, scissors, marker, and marbles.


30.  Bake and decorate cookies, brownies, or cupcakes.

31.  Have a family game night.  Here are some free printable game boards.

Solutions for Siblings

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 4 comments

You imagine they will be best friends, playing together, walking hand-in-hand, but then reality strikes, and you find yourself being the referee. Here are some ideas to restore the peace in your home.

Minimizing Rivalry
Occasional spats will naturally occur, but there are things parents can do (and not do) to minimize sibling rivalry.

1.  Don't compare your kids. I know this seems like an obvious one, but it's pretty easy to catch yourself comparing them even when you don't mean to. Comparisons can have 2 outcomes. One is resentment toward the "better" sibling, and the other is a feeling of inadequacy or low self-concept. Even when you're giving one the "favorable" comparison, for example, telling one she is so much more responsible than her sibling, this sets up a competitive atmosphere. Instead of comparing, describe what you see, what you like, what you don't like, or what needs to be done, but leave the other siblings out of it. Instead of "Why can't you do your homework without a fuss like your brother?" describe what needs to be done. "You have homework that needs completed before TV time."

2.  Don't treat them equally; treat them uniquely. In the book Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish, they say "even though they seem to want everything the same, they don't really." When questioned, she describes this scenario:  Imagine a young wife who suddenly turned to her husband and asked, "Who do you love more? Your mother or me?" Had he answered, "I love you both the same," he would have been in big trouble. But instead he said, "My mother is my mother. You're the fascinating, sexy woman I want to spend the rest of my life with."
To be loved equally is somehow to be loved less.  To be loved uniquely - for one's own special self- is to be loved as much as we need to be loved.
3.  Beware of labeling. "He's the musician in the family." "She's the artist." Again, from Siblings Without Rivalry, "No child should be allowed to corner the market on any area of human endeavor.  We want to make it clear to each of our children that the joys of scholarship, dance, drama, poetry, sport are for everyone and not reserved for those who have special aptitude."

Setting Limits
I don't expect my kids to always get along, or to even always like each other, but I do expect them to not resort to violence, taunting, or name-calling. I expect them to remain respectful through their disagreements.  This is a boundary that I have made clear to them. Each child should feel safe and comfortable in their own home. Allowing one child to be constantly bullied or taunted by the other one isn't fair to that child. Set appropriate boundaries that respect each individual in the home and that create an atmosphere of acceptance and love, not rivalry and conflict.

Enforcing Limits
What happens when your boundary is crossed and one sibling shoves another or calls the other a disrespectful name? This depends largely on the age and maturity of your children. For younger children, under 4 or 5, a time-in is appropriate for the one who shoved or name-called. Take the child onto your lap or sit near them, restate your limit, help them to return to a state of calm, and discuss alternatives to the pushing or name-calling.  If 2 or more children are involved, and you don't know who started it, you can call for a separation. When mine were a little younger and things got heated between the 2 of them, I'd call for a "cool off" and they knew that meant they were to separate from each other until they were cooled off.  They could do whatever they liked as long as they weren't near each other. If they didn't cooperate, I helped to physically separate them and get them involved in separate activities. When things were calmed down, we'd discuss the incident.

Problem-solving is the best option for older kids. I've started incorporating this now with my 5 and 3 year olds. The 5 year old does most of the "problem solving" but it's good practice for the younger one to go through the steps. Now, when a spat breaks out, I ask them "Can you two solve this, or do you need my help?" More often than not, they agree they can solve it themselves, so I step out of it and let them.  For example, they both wanted to same Nerf sword and were having an argument. I asked them if they could solve their problem or if they needed my help. My 5 year old said he'd take care of it. I left the room for a couple of minutes, and when I came back, he declared that they had decided to take turns with the sword. Had they not come to this solution on their own, I would have assisted them by offering solutions, such as taking turns or one picking another toy to play with.

If they had both continued to fight over the sword and refused to come to a solution, I would have likely just taken the sword for myself as a last resort. I don't personally view that as a punishment but as an enforcement of my limit. I simply don't allow fights to continue without working toward a solution.

Rivalry on Trips
My very simple but effective solution for fighting in the car is that, as soon as an argument begins, I immediately pull the car over. I don't say a word and will usually start a game on my phone (you can bring along a book if you're a reader). I've explained the drill to them beforehand. "I can't drive safely if you're fighting, so when you fight, I will pull over." After a few seconds, the fighting stops and one will say "You can go now, Mom." Very rarely will I ever have to pull over twice.

If an argument breaks out in the grocery or department store, I will restate my limit and give a warning. If it continues, I will leave the store, if I am able to do so, or if not, I will take them to a more secluded area and work on problem-solving or have a time-in in the shoe section. I have taken them out to the car and sat quietly until they tell me they are ready to go back in and try again.

Peaceful parenting is about having peaceful homes and peaceful relationships. Conflicts will always arise, and that is perfectly normal, but by setting boundaries around respect and teaching problem-solving skills, we can teach our kids how to find solutions, repair relationships, and come back to peace.

Positive Parenting In Action: Exploration/Danger

Sunday, February 5, 2012 6 comments

I'm excited to kick off this Positive Parenting in Action series, where I will attempt to address the most common behavior questions we get on PPTB and show just what Positive Parenting looks like in action in regard to these behaviors.

In this series, I will present several scenarios that could occur, look at the possible reasons behind the behavior (this is important!), and then give an example of how the parent can handle the scenario positively.

I think the reason we get a lot of "what not to do" articles and few "what to do" articles is because there are so many variables in "what to do," including your child's temperament, where you are in your journey, and then, of course, there are endless possible scenarios. My hope is simply that, by reading these examples of positive parenting in action and seeing how we look for the reason behind the behavior first, it will help you handle these situations a little easier when they pop up with your little one.

I'm going to start with one of the first things that come up as our infants become toddlers: Exploring their world and dangers.

Before we get into scenarios, I'd like to make a few points:

1. Toddlers are biologically programmed to PLAY and to EXPLORE. Both are crucial in toddlerhood. Don't squelch your little one's curiosity, but instead provide a safe place for her to explore and begin teaching her what is off-limits through language, play, and empathetic limit-setting.

2. Don't mistake independence for defiance. Some toddlers are more strong-willed and independent than others. My first son was very mellow and content under my wing, while my second wanted independence early. He doesn't want to hold my hand in parking lots (we'll address that one!) because he says "I can walk by myself!"

3. Develop a habit of seeing through your toddler's eyes. From your perspective, you're using your stern voice and redirecting him when he goes for the outlet. From his perspective, he's learning cause and effect. "Every time I go near this thing, mommy changes her voice, jumps up, and scoops me away! How fun!" So, his smile as he heads toward the outlet again isn't defiance, it's a game. "You silly boy! You like for me to chase you! Outlets are dangerous, OUCH! You'd better run that way, I'm going to get you!!" Giggles!

3. Here's a tip. Save your "danger voice" for the biggies. The average toddler hears the word "no" an astonishing 400 times a day, according to experts. If you use a big voice or yell out often, or use "no" a lot, this will soon lose effect. Your child may not be able to tell the difference between "NO! Stove hot!" and "NO! No cookie!" All she hears is "NO!" and if she hears it often, it doesn't signal danger. Consider using "no" infrequently (Check out How to Say No Without Saying No), and use different words for actual danger, such as "DANGER!" or "STOP!" which are more likely to catch your child's attention.

Your 18 month old is a little explorer. She really likes to climb too! She can even climb up in the chair, then up on the kitchen table.

Behind the behavior: Remember her strong drive to play and discover. If she's wanting to climb (or run, or throw, or jump), she is just wanting to play.

:ACTION: The first time your child attempts to climb on the table, you intervene, saying "Climbing is fun! Let's find a safe place for you to climb. This table is not safe." Let her climb over some couch cushions, if she wants. Climbing itself is not a misbehavior. She may conquer Mount Everest one day! The goal is to keep her safe and teach her what is appropriate. The next time she heads for the table, immediately and gently take her from the table, repeating the above. If she gets upset, acknowledge her upset. "I see you're mad. You want to climb, but that isn't safe. Let's go play over here."

What is you've repeated the above steps 14 times and she continues to head for the table?

Behind the behavior: She's persistent. Persistence can be a valuable trait! In this case, perhaps she's not going to the table because she wants to climb but she's going to get you to come get her. If you've given her another appropriate climbing outlet but she persistently goes to the table, this may be a request for attention.

:ACTION: Take 10 minutes (or more!), dance around the living room, play hide and seek, read her a book, it doesn't matter what you do as long as your attention is fully focused on her. Fill her cup, and she won't need to head for the table again (for a while).

Or put up a baby gate. :)

Your 2-1/2 year old son doesn't like to hold hands when walking through parking lots or large crowds. Every time you try to hold his hands, he pulls it away and tries to run, or he fusses at you and claims "I can do it myself!"

Behind the behavior: Independence.

NOTE: Safety is non-negotiable. I wouldn't say to him, "Well okay, but please stay close" and risk him darting in front of a car or losing him in a crowd. Remember, Positive Parenting is NOT Permissive Parenting.

:ACTION: Before getting out of the car, explain to your toddler what is going to happen. If you can offer him a choice, do so. "Would you like to ride in the stroller or hold my hand?" If the stroller/cart is not an option, explain in simple terms that you must keep him safe, and to do that, he needs to hold your hand. As you take his hand, try to engage him in something that takes his mind off the hand-holding. "Let's look for red cars" or "Let's skip to the door." If he cries or protests, empathize with his upset. Get down on his level. "I know you want to walk by yourself, but my job is to keep you safe. I don't want you to get lost! Now let's look for red cars! There's one! Do you see another?" If he still struggles to free himself, carry him. You may have to endure a few unpleasant ventures. Acknowledge his need and empathize with his upset, but stick to your limit. He'll soon learn it's a non-negotiable.

Your 3 year old enjoys cooking with you in the kitchen. He sees you put something in the oven and goes over to open it up and take a look himself.

Behind the behavior: Curiosity. "What did mom just put in? What does this thing do, anyway?"

:ACTION: "DANGER!" He stops and looks at you. You smile at him and back him up from the oven. Open it while you holding him at a safe distance. "See the casserole? The oven is very hot and will bake it so we can eat it! Feel the heat coming from the oven? It can burn you and give you a big ouchie, so don't touch it. Are you ready to help me make dessert?"

This was a pretty easy topic as far as reasons behind the behavior go. These will get more complex as we get into the series!

Toddlers will explore everything. It's their nature to do so. I know one mom who didn't baby proof her home at all, but instead supervised her son and started talking to him about the dangers of things such as outlets and household cleaners from a very young age. If you can do this, wonderful! I'm more of a nervous Nelly. I had the outlet covers in, chemicals and sharp objects up out of reach, choking hazards put away, and a gate at the stairs! The goal in any case is to let your child explore and learn while keeping her safe and teaching her where the boundaries are. You teach her this, again, through language, play, and empathetic limit-setting. Read The Secrets of Setting Limits with Children by Dr. Laura Markham.

How many times have you heard the argument that spanking is needed to keep a child from dangerous situations, like running into the street? I'm not going to address spanking in this post, but it is the parent's job to keep the child away from danger, not the child's job to know what is dangerous. There is a road in front of my house, and my front yard is not fenced in. My children never, ever go in the front yard unsupervised. I have talked to them about the dangers of the road, but I would never leave them out there unattended. I can't fathom any situation in which a young child should have the opportunity to run into the street! Keep handles of pots turned away so the child can't get to it. Don't leave your kid alone in the bath. Its not too hard to keep our kids away from real danger when they're toddlers and preschoolers as long as we are mindful.

Refrain from smacking hands to keep them from touching things. Young children have tender hands and it stings much more than you might think.
"Infliction of pain or discomfort, however minor, is not a desirable method of communicating with children." - American Medical Association
You're not going to be there to smack his hand away when he's 16 and someone is offering him a joint. Build a deeply connected, trusting relationship with him now so that he will listen to your warnings of danger when he's older.

As our children get older, the dangers become bigger, and it becomes harder to protect them. I'm going from toddlers up in my series, so I hope to address this in older kids a later date, but for now, here are some tips on keeping your older children safe.

Next in the series: Positive Parenting In Action: Tantrums.
Stay tuned!