Friday, February 27, 2015

So You Want to Start Your Own Playgroup?

Photo Credit

Play is a key part of developing a child's social, mental, physical and emotional development. Said Jean Piaget, a notable theorist in the Child Development field, "Play is the work of children." 

Unbeknownst to so many that stacking colored blocks beside their friend or pretending to be mermaids as they splash with the hose was such an important moment in their education. Play provides endless opportunities for children to test the world around them, including the people in it. When children are able to play with other children their age the play is even more productive as they reach slightly past those things that they have yet to master and practice them. Allowing children to play regularly with their same-age peers will further all aspects of their development in real ways.

Playgroups provide exactly this kind of play. But not every community or neighborhood offers them. So what is a parent to do? Start their own! The steps are simple and the results are profound!

Photo Credit
1. Set the Parameters.  First determine the when, where and how. Decide whether playgroup will be held once a week, every other week, once a month, etc. Also determine what time of day your group will be, this could be before naps, in the afternoon, or when ever works for your group. Lastly choose a location for your group. This can be at your home, trading off homes, at a park or local meeting area. 

2. Pick the Players. The success of your play group is largely defined by who comes to play. Ideal play groups are made up of 4-6 children in the same age range and a balanced mix of boys and girls. Play group is also for more than just the children, so invite children with whom their parents you mesh with through similar lifestyles and parenting ideals.

3. Establish the Ground Rules. As a group determine the ground rules on toys, snacks, clean-up and communication. Decide what toys will be provided, i.e. blocks, games or dramatic play items that children can play with as a group or individual play items. Make a decision for whether snacks will be included, and if so who will provide them. One way that works well is a sort of BYOB rule where B stands for bananas of course. Clean-up rules can be sticky, especially if the group is held in one members home. Decide if you will confine the group to one room in the house, the backyard or if the whole house is free-reign. Lastly decide how your group will share information. Some ways that work well are group text messages, email or a Facebook page.

4. Test the Waters. The last step comes after the first few playgroups and that is to test the waters as you go. Determine if your time of day is conducive to all the children, the length of your playgroup can be shortened or lengthened, and how often you hold playgroup. Discuss with the other parents these topics and come to a decision as a group. As the one who's spearheaded the group however you are the final decision maker and communicator.

Though the set up of your playgroup requires a little time and thought, once you have your playgroup established there's only fun and games ahead. 

Steps from What to Expect.

Welcome Baby also has some Playgroup Lesson Plans that you can use with your kids. There are generic lesson ideas, special Holiday lesson plans, and all plans are for ages 1-5.
No matter what you choose to do, have fun!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is My Child Too Young for Screen Time?

We all know that media is all around us, and technology is just getting more and more advanced. Many moms wonder if they should let their children watch TV, play video games, use an I-pad etc. They ask themselves "What are the risks? Are there any benefits?"

AAP recommends no screen time for infants under age two. 
  • Infants at this age learn best by interacting with people and exploring different objects that are new to them. 
  • Give them toys that they can play with
  • Talk to them and read to them

Photo Credit
For children older than two, thAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that there are great benefits to media when it is teaching good lessons and when parents can watch it with their children. For example Sesame Street, and Super Why teach children about letters, numbers, how to get along with others, and why it's important to have self-control. 

The Mayo Clinic explains that there are also some potential risks if parents aren't aware of what or how much their children are viewing media. Watching too much media is linked to:
  • Aggression - if it is violent media
  • Poor sleep or having trouble falling asleep
  • Obesity possibly because of junk food advertisements
  • Impaired academic performance
Photo Credit

AAP also gives some great tips for using media in your home:
  • Watch with your kids and talk with them about what they are seeing
  • Explain questionable content to your children
  • Calm concerns by explaining that TV is not real 
  • Teach your kids about advertising
  • Answer any questions they might have
  • Pick shows that are developmentally/age appropriate
  • Use many other mediums to learn from: like reading books, going on outings as a family, playing with toys and board games etc.

Establish a few "screen-free" zones in the house:
  • Turn off the TV during dinner
  • Make sure there are no televisions or computers in children's bedrooms

For more information and ideas check out our Pinterest page.

What do you do to help your kids use media in a smart way?

Friday, February 20, 2015

I'm Going To Be a Mom?!

I found out I was going to have a baby a few months ago and I was so excited! But then the reality sunk in and I realized what that meant...I am going to be a mom! Even though we had been planning to start our family, I didn't feel ready...

My mom is a great mom, an amazing mom! She had six children and she always seemed to know what she was doing and she loved us all so much. She made us breakfast, lunch, and dinner, cleaned the house, made sure we didn't kill ourselves, got us ready for school and church, came to every game or recital, and was always there to listen to me when I needed her. Even though we're all grown, she still does all of those things for us; she's like a Supermom.

So I kept wondering, "how in the world am I supposed to do all of that!?" I don't know about any of you, but I have been putting quite the expectation over my head. First of all, I am only having one baby, not six all at once. Second, for the first few months all I have to do is make sure he or she is fed and changed and cuddled. Third, I know my husband will be a great dad and a great support to me. He has been so cute, and I know that we will be in this together. Lastly, I don't have to get anyone ready for anything unless I want to. I've realized that I need to let myself learn and stop thinking I have to be a perfect mom right off the bat...because I'll never be a perfect mom. But moms who love their kids can never go wrong.

"You never understand life until it grows inside of you"
 - Sandra C. Kassis

I found a lot of comfort and confidence from talking to my sisters and friends who have had children. It's so nice to find people who can relate to how you are feeling as you start your new journey to becoming a mother. I also found some good advice on from the moms on the question and answer board.

How did you feel about being a new mom? How have you found comfort or confidence?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

10 Ways to Boost Your Child's Self-Esteem

The winter our family first moved back to Utah from our years in Texas we had no winter gear of any kind.  I had to find winter coats and boots and gloves for all four girls.  There was no way I would even consider letting them out of the house without having the right kind of protection.  As my girls grew I thought a lot about how I could protect them in every way.  The physical stuff was fairly easy compared to protecting them from all the emotional ups and downs they faced in their lives. The first time my preschooler came home crying because a child made fun of her drawing I wanted to find that kid and rip up his drawing.  I didn’t, but I felt like it.  I realized that I could not stop all rude comments or mean kids or disappointments in my children’s lives but I could take steps to protect them by helping each one of them build a healthy self-esteem. 

Photo Credit
A family therapist, Jane Nelsen, co-author of the Positive Discipline series says that “self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging, believing that we’re capable, and knowing our contributions are valued and worthwhile.” A sense of belonging comes to a child when they are raised in a loving family. Sarah Henry wrote an article in 2013, where she listed 10 things that parents can do to help develop and boost their child’s self-esteem.

1.     Give unconditional love: Let your child know you love her no matter what by giving lots of hugs, kisses and cuddles. Also, tell her you love her.  When you do have to correct behavior make sure she knows that it is her behavior- not her- that is unacceptable.

2.      Pay attention: Make eye contact and take time to give your child your undivided attention.  If you are in a time crunch suggest a later time that you could give your undivided attention.  The child will start to feel better about themselves because you are sending the message that you think she is important.

3.      Teach limits:  Set some reasonable rules. Be clear and consistent. Your child will feel secure if she knows what is expected.

4.      Support healthy risks:  Let your child explore something new.  She could try out a new food, a new book, a new toy, or a new friend.  She might experience failure but without risk she cannot succeed. Try not to rescue or intervene if she gets frustrated. If you jump in every time she gets upset with trying something new she will get the message that she is not capable.  You have to balance you need to protect her with the need she has to take on something new.

5.      Let mistakes happen:  Failures are ways to help build your child’s confidence by helping her see what she could do differently the next time.  Admit when you make a mistake.  Your child will understand that it is okay to make mistakes because we all make them and we can all learn from them.

Photo Credit
  6.      Celebrate the positive:  Be specific when praising your child.  If you were to say, “Thank you for being patient and taking your turn,” instead of the generic, “Good job” you will help give her sense of accomplishment and self-worth by letting her know exactly what she did right.

7.      Listen well:  To help your child know that her thoughts and feelings matter you must stop and listen to what she is saying.  You may have to help identify her emotions by saying, “I understand that you are sad when mommy has to leave.”  In this way you validate her feelings.  When you express your own emotions she will gain confidence about expressing her own.

8.      Resist comparisons:  Making comparisons, whether good or bad will affect your child.  Positive comparison will make it hard to live up to and negative comparisons can make her feel bad about herself.  Focus on what makes your child unique and tell her you appreciate that about her.  When you do that she will value that about herself too.

9.      Offer empathy:  If your child is upset because she cannot draw as good as Suzie can let her know you understand her frustration and then talk about one of her strengths.  Help her to see that we all have strengths and weaknesses and that she does not have to be perfect to feel good about herself.

10.  Provide encouragement:  When you encourage you acknowledge progress, it’s not just rewarding achievement.  You send the message that you are proud of them.  But when you praise she can feel like she is only “good enough” when she does something perfect. Give praise judiciously and offer encouragement liberally.

Building self-esteem takes time and effort but doing so will help your child have protection and resilience for what life has to throw her way.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Moms need Moms

Putting Children First

Our youngest hogging my spot (totally worth it)
As parents, our first priority is our children. Naturally. We consider their needs before our own, as we should. Many of us research everything from how to feed our children to how to get them into the best college. How many of us devote any time to researching our own needs? Are we equally invested in our own healthy development?

I am not suggesting that we do not continue to put our children first. I am not suggesting that we contribute to the growing self-centered culture of self-actualization and self-fulfillment at the expense of all else. I am suggesting that caring for ourselves-investing some of our effort into keeping ourselves healthy-is ultimately an invaluable way to put our children first. Healthy mommies can take better care of their children. If you have ever struggled with postpartum depression, or seen another mom struggle, perhaps you have learned the truth of this concept.

Postpartum Depression

While postpartum depression is often triggered by significant life and hormonal changes, in my experience, there are two major contributors to degree and susceptibility;

Isolation & Sleep Deprivation

Photo Credit
For me, far better than the different therapies and medications (which were sometimes very helpful, sometimes less so) were concentrated efforts to get more sleep and to remain connected to other women. 
Talking with other moms is my best medicine. 
Knowing I am not alone, hashing through parenting concerns with others who are in the trenches too (rather than relying solely on "experts" who know nothing of my particular circumstance) have been my saving grace six-times over. Other moms are the only way I end up believing that despite my struggles, I am doing a really good job. And that knowledge is often enough to break the depression fog. It is not easy. It requires some effort and help, but when I say break the fog I mean move from that hopeless, helpless place, to the place where I can begin searching for solutions.

When it comes to postpartum depression, healthy mothering begins with recognizing risks and knowing what to look for. From there it is important to identify what your potential triggers may be and then foster an environment that helps you manage those risks.

Reach Out and Recharge

So if you can relate to me and your danger zones are isolation and sleep deprivation, take a nap. Forget the chores and go to bed early. Plan a girls night or a ladies lunch. If you can't get out, bring them to you. Share some hot chocolate or hummus with another mom who won't judge your laundry mountain or you raccoon eyes from that time you actually put on makeup last Tuesday. If all else fails, pick up the phone. Have a chat. Because moms need other moms. Depression or not, we all need to know we are not alone. It will do wonders for helping you recharge and get back to putting your child first.

To learn more about symptoms of postpartum depression click here

To explore some options for help, click here, here, or talk to your doctor or another mother.

Please share with us what helps you stay healthy, focused, or balanced in your mothering. And keep an eye out for a future post about what you can do to support other moms.