Every morsel of early childhood research says that tremendous brain development occurs before age five and that young children learn best through play.
As a SAHM, I am constantly looking for ways to promote healthy play for my two toddlers. They get SO excited when they find a new “invitation to play” set out for them. Allow me to clarify, nothing has to be glamorous, Instagram post-ready! Maybe its a basket of arctic animal themed books I dug out from the basement and some penguin and polar bear figurines from their zoo set. Perhaps I spread out craft materials from my art box (popsicle sticks, googley eyes, yarn, markers) and encourage them to create! But every so often I am looking for something new and exciting! When I find something that works for my family (3.5 years old and 19 months) I would love to share it with you and YOURS!
Pop in regularly or follow us on Instagram to see what we’ve tried out at home and at Play2Learn classes!
One of our business goals truly is to inspire and educate families in ways to foster healthy social, emotional, physical and intellectual growth. Raising little people is no easy task; let’s all learn from one another!
Editable Holiday Activity Countdown for your family!
When I look back on holidays during my childhood years, I don’t recall a single present. I remember the BUILD UP to the holiday…decorating the tree as a family, baking with Mom, drives around the neighborhood looking at lights, making handmade presents, etc! Children remember QUALITY TIME and the way their hearts feel so FULL in the company of loved ones.
Today my kiddos woke up to our stocking garland hung! Inside each stocking is a little note with a special activity for the day. I choose which activity will fit for that day based on the weather, what materials I have on hand, how much time we will have that day, etc. This year I typed up all of our ideas (a friend shared some of these with me and I revised them for my family) and thought maybe we could share! If you don’t have an advent calendar or countdown boxes for these activity cards to slip into, you could cut the activities and make them into a countdown chain instead. Each day tear off a link and read the activity together. You could also label brown paper lunch sacks with the numbers 1-24 and put a slip of paper in each brown paper sack. Honestly, they could reach into a Santa hat and “draw” the activity of the day! Keep it simple for yourself!
Looking for EASY IDEAS FOR PURPOSEFUL PLAY this month?
All of these activities can be simplified or made more challenging depending on the age of your tot. Most activities can be done outside or inside your home. Show us your tot loving an activity by tagging us on Facebook or Instagram (@play2learntot)! Click DOWNLOAD below to view PDF!
Allow Others to Join Your Village During the Postpartum Months
Perinatal Family Support Program at Crouse Health
You Are Not Alone Family Support Group
This group is open to any parent with a new baby, whether it’s your first, second or last. Moms, significant others and babies are welcome, regardless of where your baby was delivered.
The family support group offers peer support and Integrative Health methods to moms and families living with Perinatal Anxiety & Depression (PMADs). PMADs occur during pregnancy and well into the postpartum period.
This group is ideal for moms or pregnant women who are struggling with depression, anxiety, or maternal role transition. It is also ideal for moms or pregnant women with a history of anxiety and depression, and want to be proactive or preventative with current or future pregnancies.
The group meets at the following times/locations:
Every Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the Community Library of Dewitt and Jamesville, 5110 Jamesville Road. For parents with active toddlers, we do not have onsite childcare available, but the room is child-friendly.
Every other Tuesday from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Marley Education Center, 765 Irving Avenue.Parking is free and is directly under the building. Babies in arms, car seats/strollers are welcome. At this time they are unable to accommodate active toddlers at this location.
Connect with Jen Deshaies, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. While she has years of experience as a birth and postpartum doula, she primarily supports families in meeting their breastfeeding goals. www.syracuselactation.com
Parent/Child Baby Sensorimotor Classes at Play2Learn
Unedited, emotional excerpts from a P2L mother’s journal, describing her experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
For Maternal Mental Health Day, she shares her most vulnerable moments in an effort to create awareness, to reach out to those in need, and to provide resources within our community for finding peace again.
I understand why mothers kill their babies. That’s a deep dark secret that many women I’ve spoken with, who have shared my same struggle, can understand as well as me, but most won’t admit to it due to fear of judgment, shame, and even being ostracized. These women who have murdered aren’t monsters. They are women suffering from postpartum psychosis, which is a very real and ever present danger. That frightening thought, a mother taking the life of her own child and/or her own, had once seemed completely unimaginable to me, but now I can understand it. I know because I was once like one of those mothers.
Before I go on further, I feel it important to explain that I love my child more than anything in the world. Just take a look at my Facebook page. I shove my love for my delicious and adorable son down my follower’s throats unapologetically. What I didn’t make mention of; however, is how badly I suffered from severe postpartum depression (PPD) and struggled even worse with postpartum anxiety (PPA). That’s not so adorable. Breastfeeding was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life, which added tremendously to my PPD/PPA. Society paints a picture of how beautiful and natural breastfeeding is, so when new mothers struggle, it makes them feel guilty and unworthy. I was up every three hours around the clock for months on end living off mere minutes of broken sleep. That’s what breastfeeding can really look like. It’s not so adorable. Going from being a full-time working woman whose life revolved around her career to a mostly stay at home mother, was a HUGE life altering adjustment. It was as big an adjustment for me as it was when I lost a parent and moved to another country, maybe even more. Had I known how difficult and life changing a baby would be, I may not have had one, truthfully. Would I go back now if I could and change my decision to have a baby? Absolutely, positively, without a doubt, no. I can’t imagine life without my son now. I honestly can’t. I love him more than I knew was humanly possible. He is the reason I breathe. He brings me a level of joy that I have never experienced before, but transitioning into motherhood was not as natural nor as easy as I had assumed it would be.
I never wanted to hurt my baby. Postpartum mental disorders come in many forms- depression, anxiety, rage, and psychosis to name a few, and fortunately I didn’t suffer from the latter two. Even though I had only just met my son, I loved him very much and only wanted the very best for him. I felt I was not that. He deserved a more equipped mom who wasn’t utterly broken and my husband deserved a better prepared wife who could keep it together. I felt I was neither. I needed out. It was all too much. I felt everything so deeply and it was consuming every part of me. I wondered if I could leave my newborn at a church or maybe in a hospital. There are so many much more deserving people who deserve a baby and can’t have one. So here, take mine. He’s perfect. I’m not.
I was not suicidal, but I had come to the conclusion that if I were to die, then that would be ok. I thought, if my baby died, that would be ok. I knew I needed help. This was not just the “baby blues.” This was not just “hormones.” This was a shit storm of darkness. I called my doctor and was told that the first available appointment was in 6 months. I left a message to have the nurse call me so I could explain the severity of my situation. I explained my need to die to her to which I was told that “mental health is not an emergency.” As I hung up, my knees buckled and I fell to the floor sobbing. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t stop shaking.
I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. I need to impress upon the gravity of that last sentence. I was physically unable to think normally – at all. I truly wasn’t me. People very close to me could tell. If you are fortunate to have never suffered from true postpartum mental issues then this statement will make you think that I’m a monster and you’ll most likely judge the hell out of me. I know this because I used to judge.
In my darkest of moments, in the deepest depths of my despair, I completely understood why mothers have killed their babies and/or themselves. I could understand the feeling of unworthiness and the level of despair so great that you feel both your baby and you would be better off dead. I wasn’t me. I. was. not. me. I was gone. Truly. I desperately needed the pain to go away and there only seemed like one way out. Logic played no role at all. If you’re judging me, it’s because you’re thinking logically. PPD/PPA took away my ability to think rationally. To better illustrate how I was operating mentally, I’ll give you one of many similar scenarios that played out.
I accidentally killed a stink bug a couple of months after having my son and I called my husband at work hysterically. He thought something was wrong with the baby and almost left work in a panic. As he was trying to make out my incoherent screams, he heard music in the background and questioned what was going on. I explained to him that I was in the middle of a makeshift funeral, complete with music and candles, for the stink bug whom I felt I had carelessly murdered. The guilt was so overwhelming that I felt I wouldn’t ever be able to forgive myself for killing another mother’s baby. I was so concerned over the pain that I must have caused that stink bug’s mother. I killed her baby. I was suddenly aware that everyone in every species is someone’s baby. I was only feeling, never thinking.
A lot of people have heard of postpartum depression, but many don’t know what it’s actually like or that it’s more than just depression. Many can’t appreciate what it feels like or what it looks like. This is what it looked like for me, but no one will ever fully know or understand my struggle, the demons I battled daily, or the work I put in to overcome it. PPD/PPA looks different for everyone. You never know what is hiding behind someone’s smile.
Although I would never wish PPD/PPA or any postpartum mental illness on anyone, I’m oddly thankful that I struggled with it. I’m thankful to have made it through that unique kind of suffering because it’s given me a newfound appreciation for life and it’s made me a better person. I’m much softer now, much more forgiving, and much less judgmental. I also care less about the things that don’t truly matter and focus more on what does. I’ve realized more than ever that as much as I may think I might, I honestly don’t have any idea what others are going through so I must only offer love, support, and respect, especially when confronted with hate, as those with hate in their hearts are the people that need love the most. Everyone is someone’s baby no matter their age and I try to treat others now more than ever, as I’d want my baby treated.
When my PPD/PPA started to subside, remembering that I had these thoughts made me feel an even more intense guilt that no other person or situation could possible make me feel. I look at those woman’s faces in jail that actually killed their children and I know the pain they must feel. I ache for them. No amount of jail time or judgment from anyone else could ever make them feel any worse than they already do. When their hormones re-balance and they fully realize the magnitude of their actions, I’m sure they’ll be in a personal hell unlike any other. I’d imagine there is no punishment greater than living with that guilt. I know because I’ve felt a kind of guilt akin to theirs. I imagine many mothers have.
Biologically speaking, a woman’s brain chemistry changes after giving birth and her hormones become wildly imbalanced in the months after she delivers, which can cause postpartum mental illnesses. Can you imagine how badly one must be hurting, how far gone you must be, if death seems like the only way out?
By not having honest and open conversations about pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and the physical and emotional changes as a first year mom, it does a massive disservice to both parents and children. Society paints an unrealistic expectation of what motherhood will be like and that’s incredibly dangerous. In fact, it sometimes kills.
Motherhood is hard. It can be extremely hard at times. At 19 months postpartum, I’m happier and more fulfilled now than I’ve ever been. I had to fight my way out of a deep dark abyss to get here and, at times, I was unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
It was 3am. I was hunched over my newborn baby’s bassinet unable to stand as I had severely injured my back while laboring a couple of weeks prior. I was physically unable to stand straight for many weeks post delivery. Without warning and without control, blood tinged urine ran down my legs and puddled at my swollen feet. I no longer had any bladder control as my bladder had been pushed aside by my growing fetus for so many months and it took quite a long time to regain normal tone and function again. Tears poured down my face as my whole body violently shook. Anxiety, my lifelong unwelcomed companion, heightened to a level I could no longer control, and the worst panic attack I had ever had threatened my consciousness. I stared down at my newborn baby as he peacefully slept wondering what I had done. I was scared of him. I was frightened of what he meant.
When PPD/PPA truly set in, at the height of it, I felt everything and I felt it to an extreme. Something that would normally make me happy made me off the wall ecstatic and something that would normally make me a little sad left me devastated. The high highs and low lows were exhausting to an already sleep deprived new mom. I knew my son was affected by it, and thus began the rollercoaster known as never ending mom guilt.
Many days I felt nothing except dread, crippling dread. A black cloud followed me around all day everyday and I felt numb. My anxiety was always so high that my body was being extremely taxed from constantly being in flight or fight. I lived in constant fear. Fear of the unknown. My new life now was uncharted territory.
Car rides were absolutely terrifying. My baby couldn’t tolerate them for the first few months, so he would cry a horrific cry unlike any other I’ve ever heard. I would panic and pull into the closest parking lot and climb into the backseat with him and cry with him in my arms. I was unable to drive any further. A twenty minute car ride would take hours. His cry, no matter where we were, would send me into fight or flight immediately. I needed to stop the crying as quickly as possible. The longer it persisted the more agitated I became. It didn’t help when it stopped; however, because I lived in constant fear of it starting again. His cry physically pained me and I panicked when it started.
Motherhood is advertised as joyous, easy, and innately natural. It’s supposed to be the best time of a woman’s life. The bad is downplayed and the good is over promised. What was wrong with me? Why was this supposedly easy role so hard for me? How could I be failing at the one thing that’s most fundamentally natural for a woman to do, the reason I was put on Earth? And what did my baby ever do to deserve such a mess like me? And who have I become? No one called me Sam anyone. I was mom. How’s baby, mom? How’s breastfeeding going, mom? How is baby eating and sleeping, mom? Mom? My mom isn’t here, I’m Sam! Oh, wait. I’M mom. And I guess that’s my identity now. No one cares to even know my name anymore. I’m just somebody’s mom.
Nobody talks about the grieving process new mothers go through, the loss of your former identity. Now I pride myself on being “just a mom,” in fact, it’s my crowning achievement to date. That being said, one of the hardest aspects I wrestled with the first year postpartum was the loss of my identity. The person I was for the last 20 years was inexplicably and forever changed seemingly overnight. And I never saw it coming. Who was I now? I stared at myself in the mirror everyday not knowing. I didn’t feel connected to the woman staring back at me. How could a 6 lb human, so dependent on others for every single want or need, change everything in my life so dramatically and so permanently overnight?
I’ve worked in veterinary medicine for 20+ years and I prided myself on finding a way to keep my emotions in check. I wasn’t emotionless. I had compassion and empathy, but I was able to learn how to separate myself from the gut wrenching situations I had to deal with as a means to preserve myself. In a field filled with convenience euthanasia, unfathomable suffering due to neglect and abuse, and illnesses that can’t be treated due to financial constraints, you discover very quickly how dangerous the ubiquitous threat called compassions fatigue is and how tangibly it looms over you. You learn coping mechanisms to survive or face being eaten alive, hence the ever growing rate of suicide within the field. As a new mom, however, I was unable not to feel every emotion. I had no coping mechanisms. I wasn’t able to detach or keep my emotions in check. I felt every single emotion possible and I felt them quite profoundly, every single moment of every single day.
Many said it was the baby blues and that they would simply pass. I wasn’t blue. I was black. No one heard me. It’s amazing the shift that takes place once you give birth. People check in with you every day throughout your pregnancy, especially towards the end as the excitement heightens and up to a few days, maybe weeks, after the baby is born and then- radio silence. No one seems to care anymore. Sure, many ask about your baby at times. But few, if any, ask about you, the mom. And if they do, it’s just out of nicety. They don’t really want to hear anything negative or anything real. If you work up the courage to bear a little part of the truth, you’re made to feel ridiculous and even selfish for daring to ask for help when you’re not living for you anymore, you’re living to serve your baby. If one seasoned, albeit well meaning mom, usually around my own mother’s age, asked me how happy I was or told me how this will be the best time of my life, I was going to scream. Why wasn’t I feeling this joy that I was supposed to be feeling that everyone else did? It made me feel completely inept. I believe that the human mind must forget intense pain and suffering as time goes on as a means to protect oneself. I believe you forget how tough new motherhood can be, much like you forget how painful childbirth is as time goes on. We do such a disservice to new parents and babies by not talking about this more without stigma to better prepare and offering help.
Motherhood, especially to those who do it fulltime exclusively, can be isolating. Within the first couple of weeks, the visitors stopped coming over and my husband had to go back to work. I had to figure out how to survive on my own. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and I had nobody to physically show me or help. New mothers are bombarded with contradictory advice on how to raise their newborn and every single person has an opinion and judgment. There’s no way to escape mom shaming. There are a least two ways to do the same thing so you’re always going to do be doing something wrong to someone. I had a new job that started at 7:06pm on August 8, 2017 and I had neither prior experience nor training for it. I had no choice but to dive in feet first and learn as I went. I felt I was sinking in quicksand. The prospect of a new day was too overwhelming. I had to find my village.
My dog was the only link to my old self and she undoubtedly saved me. She reminded me of who I used to be before I was a mom. She was the only constant in my life, through all that life had thrown at me over the last decade- marriage, multiple moves, new jobs, illness, loss, and now, motherhood. She was my sole baby for her entire life and without her consent or prior knowledge, she had no choice but to take a back seat to this new extremely needy creature I had brought home out of the blue. All of my energy had to go to this new baby that she had no say in and I felt immense guilt about the effects that this had on her. She was my everything her entire life and now she was forced to share my attention. Her grace under fire amazed me. After all the times I wasn’t able to offer her my lap, something that had never ever happened before, and all the meals that weren’t served on time since the baby came, she never once acted hurt. She saw me struggle and in turn offered me support and love. So how did my dog, Lola, save me? I believed in my heart that I was truly unfit to care for this tiny human that I had created. I felt my husband deserved a better partner to parent with. I truly felt the people around me would be less burdened without me around. But as I looked down with tear filled eyes to my ever constant cheerleader in life, I believed, even in the firm grasp of PPD/PPA, that I couldn’t trust anyone else in this world to care for my dog the way I would and after all I had done to her since having a baby, I couldn’t leave her health and happiness in someone’s hands. I couldn’t do that to her. I owed her too much. Many have joked throughout the years about my close bond with my dog and how it will kill me someday when she passes, but ultimately, that bond saved me. The only reason I didn’t actively pursue a way out was that 5 lb doe eyed Chihuahua who, without fail, day in and day out, sensed when I started to panic and jumped on my chest and stared into my eyes to reassure me that she was there and that we’d get through this together. She reminded me of the person I was before I became a mom and she reminded me of the strength and determination I was capable of. She gave me hope that maybe, by the grace of God and with her by my side, I’d get through this.
I remember the day I was able to breathe deep again. I remember when the dark cloud started to fade. I was at a local children’s gym and my son had just mastered a skill he had been working on for quite some time. The second he achieved his goal he beamed. He was so proud of himself. As soon as he successfully did it, he immediately looked over for my approval. When I lit up, he came running over to me exclaiming “Mama! Mama!” as if to say, “Did you see? Did you see?” I tried so hard to keep it together, but I broke down in tears. One of the other mothers saw how emotional I became and excitedly asked me if that was the first time he had called me mama. No, it wasn’t. He had been calling me mama for quite some time and it fast became my most favorite sound that I have ever heard. I cried because in that moment time stopped and I flashed back to a very dark time when this scene didn’t seem possible. I immediately felt such enormous gratitude that I got through it because like the sadness, this joy was just as overwhelming, and both took my breath away. As I wrapped my arms around him, I smelled his little head and heard him whisper “mama” in my ear, and I realized how incredibly lucky I was. My life had purpose again, dare I say, maybe even more purpose. Had I not lived through such darkness I may not have been able to appreciate this joy as much. In that moment at the gym, I remembered staring down at him months before as he slept so peacefully in his bassinet wondering who he would call mama someday and if he would ever know who I was. Tears rolled down my eyes as it hit me in that moment that it was me he was calling mama. It was me! He was calling ME mama!
I don’t take anything with my son for granted. I have profound gratitude for him. I have learned more about myself and the world around me from him in the last 19 months then I ever have before. He’s changed me for the better irrecoverably. I often stop and stare at him just being his amazing incredible self and pure happiness wells up inside of me as I reflect on how thankful for the darkness I am because it made the light shine even brighter.
If you or a loved one is experiencing PPD/PPA, please be sure to refer to our blog post HERE listing local resources for maternal health. Feel free to reach out to someone at Play2Learn and we can connect you with other mothers who have fought this battle. We all need a “village;” allow others to join yours and help during this time.
Samantha Ostrowski spent the last 20 years surrounded by feces, urine, bodily fluids, scratches, hisses, bites, cries, cuddles, hugs, kisses, head butts, and stinky bums. And while she still works in a veterinary hospital once a week, she relishes in her job promotion as a full time mom to her 20 month old son, Charlie, a job in which she is surrounded by the same exact things.
Her hobbies include reading Little Blue Truck one million times a day, cheering enthusiastically about proper fork usage, being taught the difference in a backhoe versus a digger by a one year old, seeking out construction sites she once avoided and being on a first name basis with the workmen, saying things like “please stop opening the door with your face,” explaining to strangers that her child didn’t just call them fat (he did), rebutting such arguments as “wearing socks makes me tired,” surviving tantrums caused by water being too wet, and figuring out what “deetee” means and why it’s being shouted.
In addition to her toddler, she adores her husband, Joe, and is proudly owned by 2 cats, Louie and Ralphie, as well as the first love of her life, the apple of her eye, her chihuahua, Lola.
Each of us is born with the natural inclination to explore and master our environment. This innate drive comes from the most primitive parts of our brain and begins to develop when we are still in our mother’s womb. Because of this, sensory play is integral to the development of gross and fine motor skills, cognitive skills, and social skills.
As infants, this motivation is the foundation of movement and development. Babies naturally track objects across the room with their eyes, turn their heads toward their mother’s voice and become enamored with objects that make noise. Within a few months they start rolling and reaching and eventually crawling – and getting into absolutely EVERYTHING!
As your child develops through infancy, toddler hood and early childhood – it is vital that they are provided with sensory play opportunities.
Toddlers exploring shaving cream paint at P2L Art Studio!
But what exactly is sensory play?
Simply put, sensory play is play that involves a child using some or all of their senses (taste, touch, smell, sound, sight). This type of play uses a variety of media including colors, textures, tastes, environments (outside vs inside, home vs school) and movement.
There are infinite ways to engage your child in sensory play. Activities such as banging with pots and pans, or finding objects in a container full of rice, or seeing if an object floats or sinks in a water table are all wonderful examples of sensory play.
Let’s talk about how sensory play benefits your child’s development:
1. Cognitive Development
You child has a natural penance for learning and retaining knowledge and an internal drive to do so. Think about the incredible amount of development that occurs within the first 12 months of life – your child goes from being completely dependent on you for everything, to eventually walking and talking on their own.
That’s some RAPID brain development, and it is AMAZING!
As a child engages in play that stimulates their senses, their brain is getting a ton of information. You naturally provided your child with important sensory information without even realizing it. When you rocked and swaddled your child, sang to them, gave them a bath, or put them in a swing you stimulated several of your child’s senses and furthered their development. Well done, mama!
As your child grew, they began seeking sensory input on their own. They banged items together to elicit noise or seemed fascinated by the ceiling fan. They began bouncing up and down to music and squealing with glee when their favorite song came on ( Hello Baby Shark).
All the while, their brains were making connections. By banging toys together they discovered cause and effect relationships. By watching the fan spin ’round and ’round they began to understand movement. Each sensory play experience continues to be an opportunity to learn.
2. Sensory Play as a Medium for Learning
Sensory play is at it’s core, fun. By incorporating multi sensory play into a lesson it will facilitate a deeper understanding of what is being taught, as the child is naturally engaged in the activity.
One of the most wonderful aspects of sensory play is that you can infuse themes into whatever your child is doing. For example, if you are teaching your child about nature collecting items from outside, such as twigs, pine cones, leaves and rocks and creating a sensory bin would be a great and fun way to introduce this topic.
Your child can describe how each item feels and smells. You can ask them how the objects are the same and different. You can work on their visual motor skills by asking for a certain item, such as a yellow leaf, and having them find it.
Think of all the wonderful things you could include in a sensory bin with a theme! I know I’m a mama who likes a good theme! Other themes could be: the zoo, farm animals, under the sea, space – the possibilities go to infinity and beyond!
3. Fine Motor Development
Fine motor skills develop when your child uses the tiny muscles in their hands and fingers to manipulate, grasp, release, squeeze, pinch etc.
Sensory play is a fantastic way to strengthen all those little muscles to prepare your child for handwriting, cutting, and using utensils. You can use play dough, make your own slime, putty, shaving cream….the list goes on and on, my friend. If you really want to challenge your child, and they are old enough to not place small items in their mouth, you can hide beads inside of the play dough and have them find them and pull them out.
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4. Decrease Food Aversions
This one is for all those mamas out there with picky eaters. You are my people. My daughter is extremely picky and the list of foods that she will eat consists of approximately 12 items. She recently began Feeding Therapy and the consistent theme during every session is sensory play – the messier the better. Keep the wipes and paper towels within reach.
In order for a child to try new foods or to even tolerate different foods, they must first be able to touch the food. Incorporating play into mealtimes takes the pressure off of the child to have to eat. By allowing them to play with their food and be creative, they are familiarizing themselves with different textures, colors, and types of food. We have painted with food, built with food (pretzel sticks are great for making log cabins) and fed puppets.
By making mealtimes fun, I have noticed a big difference, not only in my daughter, but all of us as a family unit. There is less stress associated with meal times and she is more willing to come to the table when she knows that there is the possibility of fun. I am confident we will continue to add foods to her list, as feeding therapy is a marathon not a sprint and sensory play is an avenue to decreasing her texture aversion.
5. Social Skill Development
Tots making “apple pie” in our oatmeal bin during Mini Movers class!
Because all children are naturally drawn to sensory play experiences, it is a great opportunity to work on social skills. As children gather around a water table or play in a sensory bin together, they are sharing, taking turns, resolving conflict, and problem solving. They are creating pretend scenarios and asking questions. The best part is, this is all occurring naturally.
There are so many ways to incorporate sensory play opportunities into your child’s day. What are your favorite sensory play activities?
Tanya Peterson is an experienced Pediatric Occupational Therapist with a background in neuro rehabilitation. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Health Studies from Utica College in 2008 and continued on to receive her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2010. She currently teaches a Developmental Pediatrics course in an OTA program at Bryant & Stratton College. She is also the owner of Transformational Occupational Therapy and content developer for www.transformativeOT.com
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us have begun our holiday shopping. The team at P2L created a list of our favorite things…tried and true! Many of our gift ideas are items that will grow WITH your child and will be enjoyed for years to come! To make your shopping even easier, read the descriptions below to learn more/shop our (Amazon) affiliate links. Thank you for shopping our affiliate links, it helps to support our business.
1. I SWEAR my girls learned to identify letters from playing with these foam letters in the tub and in sensory bins:
2. Have you ever gotten one of these subscription boxes? Every child loves to get mail, but just wait until they open the box to find art projects, books and more! Kiwico.com or Ivykids
3. We are big fans of this Melissa and Doug instrument set… (we OFTEN parade around the house!) We also love our personalized lullaby CD by https://mymusiccd.com
4. Really CUTE personalized stories that are treasured at our house! They are doing a Black Friday sale with 30% off! I see me
5. My grandparents recorded a story for my girls and it is very special to us!
6. Do you have a dress up area in your home? I cannot believe how many times a day my girls get into ours! They LOVE dressing up as community workers, princesses, getting into character while cooking in their kitchen set, or just dressing fancy for lunch 🙂
7. So a craft box is a MUST HAVE to make dinner prep easier or for a rainy/snowy day! Let your little one CREATE with age appropriate materials such as…
8. We’ve made these for friends…upload your own pics to Shutterfly and create a memory game! Shutterfly.com
9. Research shows there are COUNTLESS reasons why sensory play is important! A long, deep storage bin is sufficient or a sensory table is wonderful! Potential sensory bin materials include:
10. I love how easy to clean these building blocks are…they can go right in the tub! Over the years we’ve added to our Magnatile collection and now my kiddos can really go wild with their building!
11. This is the climbing set we love at home and P2L…wipe down easily with cleaning products! Very durable! Wouldn’t survive winter without our trampoline and this horse is LOVED by SO MANY during classes!
12. Creating a personalized puzzle is my GO TO First Birthday gift! It takes longer to select and print the photos than to actually make it! SO EASY! I typically use this puzzle.
13. Please consider gifting a P2L gift card this season! It can be used toward our monthly art studio, open gym, and toward tuition for weekly classes. The gift cards can be purchased right here on our website.
Happy Shopping! We wish you all the merriest of holidays with your little ones!
Social/emotional learning has become pretty buzzwordy, and I’m so glad to see a focus away from content and into skill sets for our tiny humans. However, most of the time when we are talking about social/emotional development, we are focused on just the social part. We want to raise kind, empathetic, respectful kiddos, but the thing is, we cannot work on the social aspects, without first tackling emotional intelligence. What is emotional intelligence anyway? It is made up of three different components: self-awareness, empathy, and social awareness.
A colleague and I created the Collaborative Emotion Processing (CEP) Method that we researched and are writing a book on now. We dive into what’s happening in the brain and how to build every area of emotional intelligence, but for now, let’s tackle empathy. Imagine a world without bullying, assault, or school shootings. How do we put an end to those things? What does that world look like? I think our key is empathy. We do not have to agree with someone’s opinion, but the ability to understand and share someone’s feelings, man, I believe that can change the world. So let’s foster that development together with five ways to build empathy in our tiny humans.
1) Tell your child one thing you love about their character “I love that you help your sister buckle in her high chair for dinner.” We often focus on kids meeting goals or give them compliments on appearance, but highlighting positive character traits can encourage them to value them, as well. Look for times when they are being kind, helpful, respectful, supportive, etc and highlight those. “I saw your share that toy when you were finished with it. I bet that helped her feel happy when she got a turn, too.”
2) The 4:1 ratio. We are aiming for 4 positive comments to every 1 negative for our tiny humans. This can be hard because we are often used to speaking up when we want to change or fix something, but this habit can go a looooong way! We behave according to who we think we are. If we are told that we are kind, creative, helpful, respectful, loving, fun, or caring that’s who we grow to be. If we hear that we are rude, dumb, slow, incapable, or annoying that’s who we grow to be. Our aim is 4 positive things to every 1 negative that a child hears. Our words matter and it can be so hard to be intentional when we are caught in the whirlwind of life. Slow down. Pause for three minutes before dinner to play and praise your littles for the amazing humans they are; if you won’t, who will?
3) Pause to say I love you; it’s impossible to spoil them our babies with love. You can never say those three words too much, I promise. Let me tell you a story. A 6-year-old boy who had bounced from one foster family to another, totaling four in his short time on this earth, found himself in a 1st-grade classroom at circle time with an infant as the focus of the morning meeting. After a while, he asked if he could hold her, with hesitation on her heart the teacher passed her precious baby to this little boy. The infant started to cry and the boy naturally swayed her back and forth in his arms as she calmed. He looked up to the teacher and asked, “If no one has ever loved you, do you think you can be a good Daddy when you grow up?” We assume these kiddos know they’re loved because of what we provide, but please never ever stop saying it to them.
4) Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. We were playing on the beach when he came up to smash the sand castle she worked so hard to build. As I saw his leg wind up, I stopped it from crashing down on her creation. “I won’t let you smash her castle. She worked really hard to make that.” He looked at me, surprised and wordless. Then he tried again. I repeated my response and followed it up with, “Put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel if you worked so hard to build something and she crashed it down?” “Sad,” he replied. “Stomping on sand castles is really fun. Would you like to build one together that you could crash?” “YEAH!” he exclaimed as he ran to grab a bucket. We can encourage kids to put themselves in someone else’s shoes starting in toddlerhood, yes even as young as one year old! “I wonder how that would feel?” “Yeah, I hear that child crying, too. I wonder what they’re feeling.” Model it as an adult. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and say it out loud. “I saw her walking with that big stroller so I held the door for her. If I was her, I’d want someone to help me, too.” When you get caught off in traffic instead of all the curse words you’re thinking try, “I wonder what that person is in such a hurry to get to. I hope everything is okay.” These littles will listen to what you do model infinitely more than what you tell them to do. Lead by example.
5) Read books about emotional development and highlight emotions in all books. You can pause on a page and say, “That person looks sad. I wonder how we could help them feel happy if we were there.” “I might feel embarrassed if I was in her shoes. How do you think I could feel calm again if it were me?” Talk about what it might be like to be in that person’s shoes. Discuss how you could support that person if you were there. Train their brains to think empathetically. I created an emotional development book list if you need a place to start. You can snag it here. (https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1s9e6)
Ready to get started? Pick one of the five to start with and integrate into your everyday life. You do not have to walk away and try to implement all five of these at once; that won’t be sustainable. Find one that is an area of growth for you and tackle that one first! Head on over to @seed.and.sew on Instagram or join our Facebook community Seed & Sew: Voices of Your Village where parents, caregivers, and teachers get to collaborate with experts in the field of early childhood so we can work together to raise emotionally intelligent humans. Tune into the Voices of Your Village podcast for in-depth conversations on all things tiny human at http://www.voicesofyourvillage.com or on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Play. We have tons of free resources for you at (www.seedandsew.org/resources), too! If you’re ready to build your toolbox and raise emotionally intelligent humans, we have a seat at the table for you!
Dr. Claire Peterson has taken over 200 hours of continuing education to earn an advanced degree in Chiropractic Pediatrics through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. She is one of only two chiropractors in Syracuse to obtain this certification. She practices at Meridian Chiropractic & Wellness in Liverpool, NY. (THANK YOU Dr. Claire for sharing helpful information with our Play2Learn community!)
What is chiropractic care?
Although Chiropractic celebrated its 123rd birthday last month, for most people it still remains unclear what chiropractic actually is. Chiropractic is a natural approach to healing where the focus is on restoring and optimizing the body’s innate ability to function and heal itself. The central nervous system is the master system of the body and it lives in the spine. Subtle misalignments in the spine (what we call “chiropractic subluxations”) cause stress and irritation to the central nervous system. Chiropractors use adjustments to make sure that all the joints of the spine are moving properly, clearing out irritation, so the body can adapt, heal and function optimally.
Chiropractic care for kids?
Spinal misalignments can occur as early as the birth process. Even under optimal circumstances, birth is a physically demanding event. Other sources of spinal stress in infants include repetitive motions and postures like diaper changing, feeding, and carrying positions. For toddlers, the process of learning to walk and explore is usually accompanied by many bumps and falls, which can easily cause restrictions in movement in the spine. Tumbles off swings and bikes, head bumps on the playing field, heavy school bags, sitting all day in the classroom and cell phones (see more on this below) are all common in active, growing children but can absolutely cause stress to a growing spine and nervous system.
By applying specific chiropractic adjustments to misaligned spinal segments, children under chiropractic care have experienced great improvements in symptoms associated with breastfeeding difficulties, colic, recurrent ear infections, allergies, asthma, bed wetting, headaches, diminished immune function, sleeping trouble, and more!
A 21st Century Source of Stress
Mobile devices and tablets have become hugely popular in the past few years with American adults averaging over 9 hours of screen time, and children averaging about 3 hours of screen media per day in 2017 (links below). These devices, while convenient and useful, are also a HUGE source of physical stress to our necks and upper backs. Being aware of how this affects the adult spine is important, but the effect it will have on our children is what is especially concerning to me. If you look around any time you’re out in public you will see kids and adults alike hanging their head low, looking down in their laps at their screens – maybe you’ll notice this is a habit you have as well. This forward head posture is extremely stressful to the neck and surrounding musculature, causing the neck to carry up to six times the weight it is meant to. We have not yet seen the full long-term implications (ie. a lifetime of screen use), but for starters we can surely bank on poor spinal alignment and posture, headaches, neck pain, numbness and tingling in the hands and diminished vital capacity. Our spine is still developing into our TWENTIES so imagine what 15-20 years of cell phone and tablet use is going to have on our children’s overall posture! (Shudder!) We are constantly talking about forward head posture in our daily conversations here at Meridian.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! The tricky part is that most of the time these misalignments are not accompanied by pain right away. Chiropractors are trained to identify these subluxations, correct them using adjustments, and help you identify stresses that may have caused them in the first place, so we can prevent problems in the future.
While it’s a seemingly simple question, parents can hear a wide variety of answers. Here is a short guide for introducing your baby to solid foods.
How do I know when my child is ready?
Around 6 months your child will develop the skills to be able to eat, swallow, and absorb pureed foods. This is based on research of how the gastrointestinal tract of infants develops and what’s best for their short term and long term health. Organizations who support this are: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the list goes on.
Health Benefits of Waiting to Start Foods Until Around 6 Months of Age
Your baby will be physiologically able to swallow and chew pureed foods without the fear of choking.
Your baby will be better protected from illness. The greatest immunity benefits come from exclusive breastfeeding. This is because exclusive breastfeeding promotes the development of “good” bacteria within the gut.
Your babies gut will have the time it needs to mature. Your baby is building its digestive system as it grows. Before 6 months your babies gut is “open” and allows for the passing of pathogens and macromolecules directly into the bloodstream. This is beneficial when its just breast milk, but can be harmful when other foods and bacteria are introduced. Introducing foods early can also cause spit up, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
Signs to look for around 6 months
Your baby can sit up well without support
Your baby has interest in foods
Your baby brings hands and toys to their mouth for exploration
Your baby no longer has a protrusion reflex
Protrusion Reflex: also known as the tongue-thrust reflex, your babies innate choking reflex, is when your baby pushes the tongue out as anything comes into the mouth or pushes on the tongue
How to start foods (6-8 months)
Small spoonand bowl (never put food in the bottle)
Start small, 1-2 tablespoons at a time (the stomachs is only the size of an egg)
Introduction of new foods every 1-2 days
It’s recommended to start a variety of foods from 6 months on to reduce the risk of allergies.
Acidic foods like, berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and some vegetables may cause a rash around the mouth or buttocks that goes away relatively quickly. This is a common irritation from the acidity.
Texture to start should be pureed
Gradual introduction to textures increases neck and swallowing strength from 6-8 months to reduce the risk of choking
Gradually transition over two months from pureed -> mashed -> lumpy -> soft finger foods
Foods to start are pureedmeats, beans, vegetables, fruits, baby cereals, whole milk yogurt (click the link to visit my favorite handouts and books from Nutrition Matters for more quality information)
If you are fully breastfeeding having cereal, meats, and beans are important because they are the only food sources your baby will have that include a quality source of iron.
Most people start with cereal as a first food but the order of first foods doesn’t necessarily matter. I do usually recommend vegetables before fruits because your baby’s taste buds will be primed and ready for anything sweet.
Feeding From 8-12 Months
Remember, breast milk and formula should still be the main source of nutrition until age 1 to support healthy brain and central nervous system development. Your baby should have 24-32 ounces a day or breastfeed every 4-5 hours.
Your baby may still have pureed foods but soft, chopped up table foods with established mealtimes should now become the main routine.
If you haven’t already, introduce the sippy cup and cup. I recommend 360 cups as they have a lip on the cup, which supports the strengthening of the cheek muscles needed to speak, and are better for your child’s teeth. They are also relatively spill proof, which is good for parents too!
Rachel Verdoliva works as a Registered Dietitian in Oswego County. She studied Biochemistry and Public Health at The College of Saint Rose and she received her Masters in Nutrition Science at Syracuse University. She currently works as a RD with young families and is the author of the blog, Nutrition2Kitchen.com .