Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The 45 Minute Intruder

I have read many online message boards and have spoken to many new parents who all have a very similar complaint, "Why won't my baby nap for more than 45 minutes??"

Remember, the body's natural sleep cycle is 45 minutes. Every 45 minutes, we "wake up" and transition into a deeper sleep state. This obviously isn't noticeable to you and I most of the time, or that would make for pretty horrible nighttime sleep! But to a baby who is just learning to sleep outside the womb, once they wake up at this 45 minute mark, they may or may not have the skills to fall back to sleep.

If you have established a flexible Babywise-like routine and baby has been napping well (at least 1-1.5 hours minimum), there are a couple of reasons baby may wake at the 45 minute mark. These reasons can include:

1) Growth spurts. Once your baby is on a flexible routine and napping well, you will definitely notice when a growth spurt comes along. The "biggest," most problematic ones seem to occur around 7-8 weeks and then again at 4 months. What happens is baby "wakes" at their 45 minute transition, realize they are starving to death, so they'll start to cry!

Solution: Feed baby! Babywise states that you always feed a hungry baby, even if it has not been 3 hours (or whatever you determine your feeding routine to be). Ensure baby takes a full-feeding. If he doesn't, there may be other reasons baby is waking. When baby wakes at 45 minutes, I would always try feeding first. If they don't take a full feeding, I know I need to troubleshoot elsewhere.

2) Fussy Period: Some babies go through a "fussy period." With Brooke we called it "cranky time." This usually crops up around 6 weeks and lasts a month or less. During this period, there could be several issues, but most of the time babies are just going through growing pains or nursing issues. It's not necessarily "colic" like everyone likes to label it. During the fussy period, baby will go through a rough sleep period.

Solution: Hang in there. Hold and comfort baby. Try using a swing or bouncy seat to help calm baby. Check your milk supply if you're nursing. Also, keep a log of foods you're eating to see if something may not be agreeing with baby. For instance, dairy, spicy foods, etc.

3) Noise: Some babies are light sleepers and sensitive to noise. Around 45 minutes is when we "wake" and go through a very light sleep state. We are most vulnerable to noise at this point. So baby is sleeping away and then goes through the 45 minute transition. At the same time, big sister decides this is the perfect moment to scream at the dog in the next room.....for a light sleeper, this will be a ruined nap. When I was first sleep training Will, who is a very light sleeper, I remember always telling Brooke to be super quiet around the 45 minute mark!!

If you haven't established a routine for baby, and baby has never slept for over an hour at a time, here is the problem:

4) Inadequate Sleep Skills: For the vast majority of moms (especially those whose babies are not on a flexible routine), this is the main reason for the 45 minute intruder. If babies are not taught early to soothe themselves back to sleep, the 45 minute intruder will most likely be with you for a very long time. Let me tell you, that you might love staring into your precious baby's eyes and seeing her coo 24 hours a day when they are about 8 weeks old, but when they're entering Terrible 2's, believe me, you are going to want more than a 45 minute nap out of them!! :) We've already talked about the importance of sleep for children. 45 minutes of napping per day is no where near adequate for a child until they are at least 4!

Solution: Sleep training--if your baby isn't a "natural sleeper," you need to ensure he becomes one. This can be done in a variety of ways including the 4-S Routine and of course the notorious CIO (Cry It Out). Cry It Out really sounds a lot worse than it really is! More to come on that :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Now Eat This!

I have my first picky eater on my hands. Actually, "picky" is not the word. My little one, Will--won't eat a thing. This is the complete opposite of his big sister who has always been a good, 99th percentile-for-weight-eater! From birth, she would basically eat whatever I put in front of her. I didn't really have to get "creative" with her food. With Will, I need to start getting creative to ensure he stays his plump little self. The recipe below is one of my first successes with him. Also, some notes as I endure this "self-imposed fasting" by my little one:

1) The vast majority of kids go through phases of hearty eating and virtual non-eating. Although these phases may seem to last years, they really tend to last a few months or so.

2) I offer healthy foods at every meal, even if I am sure he won't touch it. It is important for them to see that something other than cheese and Goldfish (in Will's case!) exists in the world. Will usually won't touch anything I offer, so I bag it up and offer it again at the next meal. One time out of 100, he will try something new. For instance, yesterday he tried a big hunk of apple after refusing it 20 times previously.

3) Once you find something they really like, don't go out to Costco and buy the 4,000 pack of whatever the food is. They go through phases. Today it might be cheese, tomorrow Goldfish, the next day sugar snap peas. You never know. Not to mention if you ate only one thing for 200 days straight, you might get a little tired of it.

4) Once you find something they like don't offer it at every meal, every day. They might reach burn out quickly and you'll be back to square one. With the "smoothie" below, I am offering it to Will every other day so he doens't get bored of it.

The recipe below incorporates tofu, which is one of the healthiest things you can eat. It's packed with protein, calcium and even some iron. The protein is key if you have a self-imposed, non-meat eater like Will!!

Strawberry-Banana "Smoothie"

1-basket of fresh strawberries (frozen, thawed works too)**
1-ripe banana
1/2 cup silken tofu (NOT the kind for stir fries!!)
About 3/4 cup of milk (to desired thickness)
Pinch of sugar (optional)

**You can use any berry or combination of berries

Blend together in a blender and voila! Something they'll eat/drink :) Even though it's a drink, I feel pretty good about giving this to Will because it's fresh fruit, protein, milk and not too much sugar. Definitely more nutritional value than Goldfish crackers!!

He approves! :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rock Creatures

Brooke loved this activity. It's easy and it gets the kids out of the house for a little bit!

Materials Needed
- Various rocks of different shapes/sizes
- Washable paint in various colors
- Paint brushes
- Glue
- Random craft items to decorate rocks (googly eyes, feathers, yarn, stickers, buttons, glitter, etc)
- Sharpie markers for drawing faces, etc (optional)

Age Range Recommendation
18+ Months (although younger ones can definitely help out!)

- Go outside and collect rocks of various shapes and sizes.
- Set up an area covered with newspaper or a towel with paint the crafting supplies listed above.
- Paint rocks different colors; allow to dry.
- Decorate painted rocks with craft items. You can make animals, faces or even just stick stickers all over them!

The both loved collecting rocks!

Busy Painting

Brookey's "Rock Lady"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blanket Time Update

Blanket time (BT) is still going well for Will. He is now up to 15 minutes and I have decided that is a good amount of time for him to play independently. It's an amount of time that's long enough so it's not too "easy" for him [because I still want to teach obedience] but also not too long where it's just plain mean! We do blanket time each weekday morning after breakfast. He has his tummy full and his big sis in generally not up yet, so the house is calm and quiet.

The wonderful thing about blanket time is that I have found it's effects spilling over to other situations. By now, Will knows he can't leave the blanket during BT. However, he will continue to test me almost every time, as most toddlers like to do! All I have to do is tell him in a slightly firm voice that he needs to stay on the blanket. He sits back down. I notice this obedience has helped in situations when we are outside, for instance. If I tell him to stop walking, he will [most of the time!!] look back at me and stop walking. Or if I tell him not to touch something, he will acknowledge what I said and stop touching [usually!].

But by far, the best situation BT has helped is when we did swimming lessons these past few weeks. We always arrived at lessons 10-15 minutes before class started. Brooke immediately went into the little kiddie pool and play around before class. Buddy didn't care for the kiddie pool so we had about 10-15 minutes to kill--time that preferably that didn't entail me chasing him all over the swimming complex hoping he wouldn't dive into one of the pools. The answer: A "modified" BT! I put down his towel and said (just like I do at BT), "Stay on the blanket, please!" When I did that, I never once had to chase him around the pool. He just sat there happily playing with my phone or eating his snacks. He completely understood that his "barrier" was the towel, just as the blanket is at home.

I have been very excited to see that BT has been paying off in other areas. This is not to say that I have a perfect, obedient angel! What a joke!! He's 16 months old--get real. But I do see that when I devote time and energy into doing BT daily, that I reap the rewards in other areas.

Here he is doing "Towel Time" at swimming lessons, waiting for his sister:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Splatter & Shake Paintings

This activity was slightly messy (especially when a certain 15 month old got a hold of a paint container and opened it), but very fun. Both Preschooler and Pretoddler enjoyed it.

Materials Needed
- Empty coffee canister(s) or any cylinder-shaped container
- Different colors of (washable) paint (i.e. poster paint)
- Paper
- Various small items to make the splatters. We used different beads and rice. You could also use dried beans, marbles, rocks, paper clips, coins.

Age Range Recommendations
- 12 months +

- Put the paper on the inside of the coffee can (you might have to cut it a little to fit)
- Put a small amount of paint in the can. One or two colors works best.
- Drop in a few of the small objects and close the lid.
- Shake, shake, shake the can!! (Will liked this part best!)
- Take off the lid and check out your design! You may want to add more paint or more objects. Masterpiece!!

The above "painting" is Will's. Below is Brooke's. It doesn't really matter the age, all the paintings turn out cute!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Down and Dirty

I've learned quite a few things in the past 4 years working with kids as a teacher and as a mom. Most likely, we all learn things from kids every single day. There's nothing like a 3 year old to put life into perspective for us. As adults, we laugh about 15 times a day. Preschoolers laugh on average three hundred times a day! Life is just one big bowl of cherries to them. I can stick my tongue out at Brooke and she will laugh her head off. Just say the word "fart" and you'll have a 4 year old rolling with laughter. That is because life is just FUN for them. They have no stresses, no worries except when they'll go to the park or the pool again or if they're having hot dogs for dinner.

When dealing with our kids, we really need to put our stresses, worries, insecurities aside and get down on their level--which is pure happiness. I have learned the more I am a "kid" with my kids--and this goes for my students at school and my own kids--the more fun I have AND the more fun they have. Of course, there are times when parenting is serious business and you need to act like the adult. We as Educated, Common Sense parents know when those moments are. But sometimes we forget when those moments aren't.

For instance, at the park, sitting there and watching Brooke and Will play around is amusing and interesting. It's also slightly boring. If I sit there and watch, I am usually ready to go in about 10 minutes. But the other day, I got "down and dirty" with them. I took off my shoes, got into the sand and water, got a little messy and it was soooo much more fun than sitting there observing. Now this was a little outside my comfort zone, I have to say. But wow--what a difference it made in my trip to the park! It was just so much more fun.

I've noticed this in teaching, as well. I try to get directly involved with fun projects with the kids instead of watching and directing. Whether you're a teacher or a mom, it just makes your job so much more fun when you're on their level. I understand this may be outside some people's comfort zones. I can definitely hear some moms saying "That's just not my thing." Frankly, I didn't really think it was my thing, either...until I did it. Think about which would have the potential to make you laugh more? Watching....? ...or doing?

So let them paint your face. Take off your shoes and sit in the sandbox with them. Let them smear you with pudding. The years they'll want to do this with you are precious--and they'll be gone before we know it.

My favorite ways to get "down" with my kids

1. In the sandbox. I roll up my pants, take off my shoes and participate in their fun.

2. At the pool. It's nice tanning and a watching Brooke swim with her floaties. But it's much more FUN to get in and have a splashing contest!

3. Rolling around on the floor with Will and tickling him until he screams with laughter.

4. Playing "make up artist" with Brooke. I let her do my makeup. Of course it always turns out fabulous! :-)

5. Cooking. This is my all time favorite. I have really tried to let the control-freakish side of me go and let the mess just happen. They'll never learn how to break an egg if we never let them practice! Believe me, talk about waaaay outside my comfort zone!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Baby Style

All babies have a certain temperament. Some call it nature. Some call in genetics or personality. I like to call it style. When you hear people say, "every baby is different," they aren't kidding. Figuring out who that unique individual you are holding in your arms can take...oh, a lifetime!

But for the sake of figuring out your baby when they are still a baby, they will generally fall into one or two major categories that Tracy Hogg lists in The Baby Whisperer.

Knowing your baby's style is key in developing a bond with your baby and figuring out the best way to handle certain situations, including sleep training. I will outline those situations in an upcoming post. For now, read the descriptions below. What "style" is your little one? When deciding, you are looking for the dominant behavior of your baby. Most babies have a combination of all of these at some point, but keep in mind what your baby is like most of the time. You might find your baby is a cross between two styles.

Baby Styles

1. Angel: Easily adapts to situations. Rarely cries, easy-going and even-tempered. Meltdowns are rare. Good sleeper--might just need a hug and kiss and falls asleep on her own. Smiles a lot. Hard to read "sleepy cues"--often doesn't show signs of being tired.

What Parents Say About Angel Babies: This is too good to be true. When does it end?

2. Textbook: Reaches every milestone like clockwork. The Book says smiling by 6 weeks--check! Sleeping through the night at 12 weeks-check! Sits alone at 7 months--check! Babies like these are very predictable making it easy for parents to read their cues. A textbook baby might have some cranky spells, but they are generally easy to calm and reassure. Can get irritable when his schedule changes, but adjusts fairly quickly. Generally easy going.

What Parents Say About Textbook Babies: Low maintenance baby. Give him what he wants, he's happy. Life is good.

3.Touchy: Sometimes cries for no reason. Often sensitive to light, noise, temperature. Light sleepers. Temperamental; you will sometimes see that "fight or flight" reaction kick in when they are experiencing something new, unknown or undesired. Prefers mellow, quiet situations--doesn't like chaos. Cautious. Touchy babies need very patient and understanding parents who will recognize their "Baby Style" and try to work through it.

What Parents Say About Touchy Babies: I'm exhausted. The slightest things set her off. Cry baby.

4. Spirited: As a baby, spirited children are usually the most demanding. One wail or scream and Mom knows he means business! These babies actually love stimulation, don't mind noise and chaos. Baby just seems energetic. People will describe baby saying, "Wow! He's so alert and active!" Always on the move, loves touching and feeling things, even as a very young baby. Spirited babies tend not to be great sleepers. They like action! Spirited babies take lots and lots of work to sleep train. These babies generally need less sleep than other babies.

What Parents Say About Spirited Babies: He's a handful. He needs everything NOW. He freaks when I don't feed him fast enough. Relentless crying sometimes! Meltdowns! I sometimes feel like I don't have the energy to deal with him!

5. Grumpy: Irritable baby. Doesn't really sleep well, never seems really content. Hates being swaddled. Cries and cries when doing something undesired (i.e swaddling, diaper changing). These babies do very well on a routine...but are very pissed when they're off it!

What Parents Say About Grumpy Babies: Dang--he's mad!!! It's his way or the highway! Look at him turn red! Why doesn't he smile more?! Look out--here comes another meltdown!

Now keep in mind, every baby at some point has been angel, textbook, spirited, touchy or grumpy baby. Some babies will show some traits I listed in all of the categories. However, you have to look at the overall baby. What is she most like, most of the time?

...so...what's your Baby Style?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Homemade Face Painting

Brookey has gotten her face painted a dozen or so times at birthday parties, fairs, carnivals, etc. She ALWAYS loves it, so why not do it at home?! It costs virtually nothing, since most of the materials you probably have on hand. Have fun painting your little one! And let them have a chance to paint YOU, too...don't worry, the "paint" is washable with soap and water!!

Homemade Face Paint Recipe

Bowl or small container(s)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 face cream/cold cream/heavy lotion (white--i used Aveeno Baby Lotion)
1/2 teaspoon water
Food coloring
Small paintbrushes

Mix cornstarch and cream together until smooth. Add water and stir. Add food coloring one drop at a time until you get the desired color. Apply with small paintbrushes and wash off with soap and water. You can store the "paint" in small containers or jars. Baby food jars or those Gerber baby food containers work well. I have to tell you that I got a: "You're the best mom ever!" with this activity. Let that be your motivation! ENJOY!

Friday, July 2, 2010

More Newborn Sleep Help: The Sleep Window and Rituals

The Baby Whisperer outlines several variables on why a baby may not be sleeping "well." One of them is "lack of an inadequate sleep ritual." Some tip-offs may include:

1) Baby doesn't settle down to sleep easily.

2) Baby falls asleep but then is suddenly awake, ten minutes to a half hour later.

In order for baby to have a peaceful sleep you need to help her get there. You do this two ways. First, you need to recognize and figure out your baby's "sleep window." You also have to have a good sleep routine in place.

The Sleep Window
You need to learn when baby is ready to go to sleep. Ask yourself, "Do I know what my baby looks like when she's tired?" If you miss a baby's sleep window, it's MUCH harder to get them to sleep. When Will was under 5 months he had a VERY delicate sleep window. If I missed it by more than 15 minutes, it was extremely hard to get him settled down for a nap because at this point, he was overtired.

There are a couple of things you can do to figure out what the "window" is. First, look for "sleepy cues." Sleepy cues a young baby can give can be: yawn, fidget, fuss, squeak, turn their head away from you or a toy, burrow his head in your neck when you're carrying him or....nothing at all! Some babies just don't give good sleep cues. Particularly "textbook" or "angel" babies--they just always seem content. So if you have a baby that is not giving you the signs, you are going to have to figure it out on your own. Below I have outlined average, possible "optimal waketimes" for each age range. Note that your child may vary up or down 30 minutes or so. But this will give you a good idea of where you should start:

Optimal Waketimes (note: the time indicated includes a full feeding)

0-4 Weeks: 30-60 minutes

4-6 Weeks: 45-60 minutes

6-8 Weeks: 60 minutes

8-12 Weeks: 60-75 minutes

3-4 Months: 60-90 minutes

4-5 Months: 90-120 minutes

5-6 Months: 120 minutes

6-12 Months: 120-180 minutes

As I mentioned before, these times will vary from baby to baby. Especially as they get older (6+ months). This gives you a good starting point. Remember, when baby is having a hard time going to sleep or staying asleep, first try cutting back their waketime. I used 10-15 minute increments when finding Will's optimal waketime. It does take some trial and error, but it is so worth doing!

So now you know when baby is tired. That is half the battle. But you're not done yet!! Next, you need a solid sleep ritual or routine that you are going to use every time you put baby down for bed or for a nap. I love The Baby Whisperer's 4 S routine. I did this consistently with Will and even my husband says, "that stuff really works!" Here's what you do:

The 4-S Routine

1. Set the Stage: Whether its bedtime or naptime you need to prepare baby for sleep. You simply remove them from any stimulation. Go into their quiet room, draw the curtains, walk around a little. I used to carry Will around in his room for a minute or so and we would say "goodnight" to everything.

2. Swaddling: I can do a whole post of the importance of the swaddle but for now I will just tell you it's necessary. This is another way we help remove stimulation from baby and promote sleep. Don't bother with the Swaddle Me. I found that thing worthless!! You need a good, TIGHT swaddle. I used The Miracle Blanket with Will and it was awesome. It's lightweight and long--it's easy to get a good, tight swaddle. He wasn't able to bust out completely until about 5 months. Swaddling--it's important. Do it every time baby sleeps.

3. Sitting: I love this one!! After baby is swaddled, you sit quietly with him, upright (his face in your shoulder/neck). You don't move. You don't rock or jiggle him. You don't pace around. I know, that is what our instinct tells us--to pace, jiggle and rock! You should have seen my pacing and jiggling with Brooke! I was an expert! All of this stimulates baby--it doesn't calm him down. So just sit still. You do this for about five minutes. I have to say, 5 minutes of just sitting seems like an eternity. Especially if you have another child in the house! But try your best. I learned to love this sit time because it gave me a break! It's so awesome--after a few minutes, you can actually feel their little bodies relax. The Baby Whisperer book said that would happen, but I didn't believe it! But yep, almost every time, I could feel Will's body relax. As soon as I felt that, I knew it was time to put him down in his crib. He was still awake, but headed towards sleep.

After this, put him down (awake) in his crib. Tell him "night-night" and leave the room. Allow him to settle himself to sleep.

4. Shhh-Pat: So he's not asleep yet, huh? He screamed his head off when you put him down? Time to move on to the 4th S--Shh-Pat. Note--once your baby is accustomed to this sleep routine (it does take some time)--you won't have to do the 4th S very often! This step is critical if your baby is not going to sleep. It is a sleep training tool to use so you don't get into Accidental Parenting. It's also kinder and gentler than the Cry It Out (CIO) version of sleep training, for those people who don't believe it CIO. Shh-Pat should be used on babies up to 4 months. After 4 months, I personally recommend incremental CIO.

Here's how shh-pat works. You don't pick up your baby. You simply whisper "shh, shh, shh" into their ear while at the same time, patting their back. Did you know that babies under 3-4 months cannot hold more than 2 "thoughts" in their mind at once? This technique works because they are concentrating on the shh and the patting, so they can can't continue to cry. Eventually, baby will stop crying and concentrate on the shh'ing and the patting. Sometimes this happens right away, sometimes it takes 20+ minutes. If it doesn't work after 10 minutes or so, you can also pick baby up and do the same thing holding her. When you feel her relax, put her down.

I will tell you that 20 minutes of shh-patting, hunched over a crib feels like 20 hours. No joke. But believe me when I tell you: It works and it's worth it. Teaching your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep is one of the single most important things you can teach them at this age.