Need Ideas for Intentional Play at Home?

Thanks for stopping by Tips for Tots!

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!



Holiday Gift Guide

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! 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

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!

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!

Five Ways to Build Empathy in Tiny Humans

42215144_307384776526405_9036432498669649920_oBy: Alyssa Blask Campbell, Founder of Seed & Sew

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. (

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 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 or on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Play. We have tons of free resources for you at (, too! If you’re ready to build your toolbox and raise emotionally intelligent humans, we have a seat at the table for you!


Colic? Chronic Ear Infections? Allergies? Can Chiropractic Care Help Your Young Family?

chiroDr. 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.

For an extensive collection of research studies and chiropractic case studies showing the efficacy of chiropractic care for children and pregnant women, please visit

If you have any questions about whether it may be appropriate for your child to see a chiropractor, please don’t hesitate to call- we’re happy to answer your questions.

Ready for Solid Foods? Your Questions have been answered!


An Introduction to Solid Foods 

By: Rachel Verdoliva, Registered Dietician

“When should I start solid foods?”

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 spoon and 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 pureed meats, 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!
  • Introduce finger foods (crackers, bread, cereal, cooked pasta)
  • No added honey – this food that may cause food borne illness in your baby
  • Yogurt melts and infant puffs are non-essential foods. They are relatively new on the market and should not replace whole foods as they provide little nutritional benefit and no variety in texture.
  • Skip the salt, juice, water, whole milk, cookies or goodies (they just aren’t needed at this age)
  • Avoid hard foods or round foods that your child may choke on


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, .





Bottle Feeding the Breastfed Baby: When and How?


As a self-employed International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a very common question my clients ask is when they should introduce a bottle.

In the US, the majority of nursing parents are returning to work soon after baby is born. Understandably, early on these families are thinking about how their baby will take a bottle during that transition. For those breastfeeding parents who are not returning to work, often at some point they will be away from their babies as well. For nursing parents that never are separated from their babies, they can continue to breastfeed without ever using a bottle.

In most circumstances, I now often encourage families to practice with bottles around 3-4 weeks. This is a much earlier recommendation than I used to suggest. As I started to work with older babies who were struggling to take a bottle, I saw good results with starting earlier and regularly offering small bottles even if there was minimal separation early in baby’s life.

In a study from Kearney & Cronenwett (1991), they found that babies at 1 month generally took a bottle easily (around 70%), and only 4% refused. But by 2 months, 12% refused bottles and at 3-6 months 13% refused.  As you can see, many babies are just fine starting a bottle at older ages. But I have seen good results with babies starting younger, once nursing is established and consistently taking small amounts in bottles in order to hopefully avoid a higher chance of bottle refusal. Usually this means around 1/2 ounce or so about two times a week. Often this allows the nursing parent to not miss an entire feeding when practicing with the bottle, and pumping/self-expressing about 1 ounce a week is not typically too disruptive.

Waiting until 3-4 weeks allows for supply to be established, though some babies do need to take a bottle much earlier. Regardless of the time frame or reason, there are 3 important things to keep in mind while bottle feeding:

-Paced Bottle Feeding is essential for all babies who get a bottle — including an occasional bottle, exclusive bottles, and bottles with breastmilk or formula.

Kellymom has lots of information on Paced Bottle Feeding:

-The flow rate and shape of the nipple is important.

The book, Balancing Bottle and Breast is a great resource:

-If your baby will not take bottle, sometimes offering in a different way can help.

La Leche League has great tips on bottle refusal:

If your baby struggles with a bottle (for example: leaking, choking, not sucking well) or will not take a bottle, contact an IBCLC near you for support. IBCLCs are feeding specialists and often have experience with many parts of feeding besides nursing. I assist with bottle feeding babies of all ages in the Central New York area. For more information or support with bottle feeding your baby, visit my website at or follow me on Facebook at .

Jen has been a birth and postpartum doula (DTI) since 2013 and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2014. After years of both doula and lactation work, she is exclusively transitioning full time into private practice in-home breastfeeding consults.
Jen brings years of experience and depth of knowledge on breastfeeding topics from prenatal preparation to extended nursing. She has seen a wide range of breastfeeding issues and is prepared to help you meet your goals. Contact her today to find out more about her in-home consults and classes.
Jen Deshaies (315) 263-7558 Email

July PlaySpiration

As a mom of two little ones (23 mos. and 3.5 yo), my husband and I are always looking for new ideas for purposeful play.  Specifically ideas that are beneficial and fun but involve LITTLE to NO PREP! We decided to put together a July calendar for your family! All of these ideas can be differentiated for the age of your tot, can be made simpler or more challenging. Please feel free to share the link to our calendar with your loved ones. Please also consider sending us a picture of your tiny human loving an activity! Maybe you tried something different and we would love to hear about it! Tag us on Facebook or Instagram (@play2learntot)! Email if you have any questions! Happy Summer!

july calendar

Foldin’ Laundry? Give Your Tot a Reading Boat!

Do you love to be snug,curled up, cozy? So does your LO!
Utilize the Laundry Basket!


1) Self Regulation: In the classroom, my students loved having their own personal space to curl up in a “Reading Boat” aka laundry basket!  At home we toss in a soft blanket or throw pillow too! Setting up a quiet, cozy corner not only promotes a love for independent reading, but also teaches young children how to self soothe, calm down, focus, or “take a break,” in an effort to regulate their emotions.  Certainly a pop up tent (like the one we have at P2L) can serve just as well!
2) Motor Benefits: Encourage your LO to push or pull the basket! Maybe a younger sibling, maybe a load of books from their bookshelf; pushing and pulling is great motor work!

3) Pretend Play: In the 3rd photo, the children were pretending to be Santa and practicing two hands working together to hold the reins/ ring the bells as the little reindeer pushed the sleigh! Sleigh, race car, boat…

4. Sensory Play: Add ball pit balls and let your little one dig and burrow through the balls in the basket! Toss, catch, sort by color!
Looking for other ideas for pursposeful play at home? Follow us

Get Busy Bunnies…Easter is Almost Here!

Basket Ideas for your Toddler

So if you are like me, you start thinking about all the sweet things you want to fill their baskets with two months in advance and then you BLINK and Easter is about two weeks away and you still have an empty basket!!!

Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite things for birthday or holiday gift ideas!

  1. Do A Dot Art! Markers 6-Pack Rainbow– washable, great for hand eye coordination, fine motor, creativity
  2. The Learning Journey My First Match It, Things I Eat(we have and love the food version) Great for fine motor, critical thinking and language
  3. Fat Brain Toys Kids Spinagain Toy– this toy promotes a lot of teamwork and sharing in our household, colorful, cause and effect
  4. Giant Foam Building Blocks, Building Toy for Girls and Boys, Ideal Blocks/Construction Toys for Toddlers, 50pc, Waterproof,Safe, Non-Toxic.– easy to clean, throw in the tub, build in your family room, must have!
  5. Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set, 4 Pk– we often use these at Tot Time in our sensory bins
  6. Melissa & Doug Water Wow! -the fat water pen is easy to grasp for little ones, great for car, plane, church, restaurant
  7. Squigz Starter Set, 24 Pc: Our Mini Movers have been LOVING these! Stick to the floor, wall, mirrors, fine motor fun!
  8. Kidicut Safety Scissors– I love the visual of keeping the bunny’s tail up in the air as he hops along and your tot chops the paper
  9. Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Sticks 3pk– go on purple so the tot can see where he/she applied glue, fit well in their hands
  10. Easter Bunny (Baby Touch and Feel)– is one of our favorites! Great for tactile exploration!
  11. Play-Doh Numbers, Letters, N’ Fun, Playdoh scissors, Playdoh press- build fine motor skills while engaging in sensory play.





*I provided affiliate links through Amazon, If you purchase items using the links provided you will not only be purchasing gifts for your loved ones, but also adding to our Family Fun Fund. TIA!


It was “in the cards” all along…

The week I graduated from my master’s program, I was invited to a dinner party at which a psychic was going to be doing readings.  Totally not my thing. At all. In fact I had anxiety just thinking about my potential reading.  I had to go, it was at a professor’s home, an odd sort of graduation send off party.  Listening to her read my tarot cards was definitely a unique experience. She quickly dismissed the guy I had been dating for years and mentioned that she didn’t see me teaching, instead she saw a briefcase in my hand. Huh, okay. So…dump the long time boyfriend?! And here I was applying to about fifty teaching positions all over Central New York.  Great. Of course I carried on with my plans and goals at the time.  Ultimately I landed a great teaching job back home and eventually found my way to my hubby.

Fast forward eleven years.

Play2Learn was a dream.  An idea.  A busy mom of two toddlers looking for a way to give her children weekly opportunities to socialize, play, learn, speak, create, sing, explore… with me! I was looking to bring an enriching family experience to my community.  I had a desire to make an impact beyond my household, after being a stay at home mom for three years.  Business names were brainstormed, logos designed, social media platforms created…a drive downtown for a “D.B.A.” and Play2Learn was born.

While I would say I’m not sure I’m the briefcase kinda gal, (let’s be real, it’s more like an extra large diaper bag that will fit my laptop and clipboard,) those tarot cards were on to something.  Or maybe I just listened closely to my heart and took a leap of faith.

I’m done. I am done saying out loud, “I am not an entrepreneur; I am a teacher.” I have said those words in one way or another COUNTLESS times since embarking on the journey of Play2Learn.  Of course it is somewhat true, I am a certified teacher with my BSED and MSED in teaching and I have never taken a marketing or business class in my life. Never. But these last few weeks, I’ve gained some real clarity.  Recruit help, listen to podcasts late at night, think big, and just learn.  Big learning curve, but JUST do it.  So I’m gonna own it. Kelly, you’re an entrepreneur now, baby.

Maybe it’s time to get a chic leather messenger bag…