“I Want to Unplug My Child”

Electronic devices and toys are everywhere. How parents feel about them covers a huge range of thinking. Many people fall somewhere in the middle – they want their children to have the necessary technology skills for today’s world but they don’t want them dependent on electronic devices as their sole source of entertainment.

We are often asked to suggest the best non-electronic toys for children. The list presented here repr12742563_932794706769750_8566784783915459189_nesents some of our personal favorites to encourage creative play for a variety of ages. As always, good judgment needs to be used for very young children who may not be ready to play safely with some of the items listed.
• Books. And by this we mean the old fashioned ones printed on paper. There’s a place for e-books, but not on this list…….
• Puzzles. Puzzles can cover ages from toddlers to adults. Start with simple puzzles and help your child work their way up to more challenging ones. If you have the luxury of keeping a puzzle table set up, it’s a perfect family activity. Working on a puzzle together allows for some great conversation time with your kids where they have your full attention. Consider starting a “puzzle exchange” with other families to keep your supply fresh without a lot of expense. Another idea is to donate puzzles you are ready to part with to senior centers. Senior adults are often encouraged to do puzzles as a simple way to maintain physical and mental dexterity.
• Wooden blocks. Don’t skimp and buy a small set. While they can be pricey, they’re an investment in hours of play and will last for years. Blocks can teach a lot about cooperative play, overcoming design challenges, basic engineering skills, and simple physics principles.
• On a similar note….Legos and Duplo type building toys. In addition to the skills already mentioned for blocks, these types of building toys help improve fine motor skills.
• Balls. So many sizes and so many possibilities. If you’re aiming for indoor play with balls, looks for spongy materials or very soft inflatables. If you have a safe outdoor space, the sky is the limit. Literally.
• Anything with wheels. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, vans – anything that can be pushed or rolled will do.
• Clay or play-doh. These materials allow for a lot of creativity and provide an excellent release for little fingers that need to keep moving.
• Sets of toy animals or other small figures. These can be played with alone or incorporated into block play.
• Crayons, paint, markers, and various papers and other art supplies. Open-ended art allows children to explore different materials. Not everything created has to be a keep-sake. The act of exploring the materials is valuable too.
• Musical instruments. Simple musical instruments that are child sized can generate parades, concerts, and solo performances.
• Dress-up clothes. Keep your eye out at thrift shops for Halloween costumes, dance recital outfits or other child sized hats, clothing and accessories. Children of all ages love a chance to be someone else.
• Basic board games. Classic board games have stood the test of time. Many families regularly hold a family game night as a way to bring everyone together for good old-fashioned fun.
• Homemade toys. Hint- check Pinterest for some great ideas on how to craft some unique toys from inexpensive materials. If your child is old enough, they can create the toys themselves. Read through the directions with them and be sure you are ready to assist with any step that requires adult help, such as cutting something with a sharp knife.


Summer is a perfect time to make a commitment to some of these “throwback” toys that don’t require electricity or batteries. Spend a little time WITH your children introducing some of these and before you know it, they’ll be hooked. Enthusiasm is contagious……. Have fun!

Getting Siblings Ready for the New Baby

 A new baby will be arriving at your home and excitement fills the air. Babies are sweet, adorable little creatures and EVERYONE loves them. But wait a minute….. a baby arrived at your home a few years ago and now that little bundle is walking and talking and feeling like the princess of the palace. How is this going to go over with the princess? Is there trouble ahead in the palace?

12249938_895402393842315_7252638488508153234_nA new baby IS a wonderful event but if your family includes other children, particularly preschoolers, there are some things to think about to help everyone adjust to this significant change. Over the years, we’ve seen many families welcome new arrivals and we’ve collected some of their wisdom to share.

Involve siblings in preparation for the new baby –
If you’re setting up a room or part of a room for the new baby, ask for your child/children’s input. Simple things like helping pick out a paint color, theme for the nursery, or a cozy toy or blanket can help siblings feel important.

Read books to your child about becoming a big brother or sister –
Many great books exist to help your child understand what will happen when the new baby comes.  Hearing about how other children felt, especially if it’s a character they are familiar with, will help them begin to feel more comfortable about change. Some suggested titles are:

Charlie and the New Baby  by Ree Drummond

The New Baby by Mercer Mayer

I’m a New Big Brother  – A Pirate Pete Book by Amanda Li

The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby  – By Stan and Jan Berenstain

I Used to be the Baby –by Robin Ballard

If you have siblings, share with your child what happened when they arrived-
Show your child pictures and tell them family stories about those aunts and uncles and what it was like for you when they were born. Children love stories about your childhood, especially if there’s a silly or funny part.

Get out your child’s own baby pictures-
Talk about the excitement of their arrival and how happy you are that you can all experience something similar with this new baby. Remind them of how they have grown since then and all of the things they can do now that they had to learn. Create a book together about all of their favorite things so they can share it with the baby when the baby is a little older.

Give them jobs and sibling pride–
Children want to know how they will continue to fit into the family “puzzle.” Make a list of some age appropriate responsibilities they will have to help with the baby. The younger the child, the simpler the tasks – letting you know the baby is crying, bringing a blanket or toy for the baby when needed, pushing the button to turn on music for the baby, etc. Having a special shirt or hat that says “I’m the Big Brother” (or sister) helps some children feel valued and important.

Consider getting a doll for your child-
Not all children respond to dolls but you may want to get a doll or stuffed animal for your child to “care for” as practice for the baby arriving. Learning to rock their “baby” or give it a bottle is a great way for children to start to role-play some of the things they will see you do when the baby arrives.

Set aside some time for “the original model” –
In the middle of all of the change, remember to keep as many things normal as you can for the first born child or children. Consistency is comfortable for young children and having many of their familiar routines still there will help alleviate their anxiety. Set aside some time just for them to help them understand they are still loved as much as ever.

Remember that adding a new family member is a big adjustment for everyone. Give your child time to adjust and remember that there will be ups and downs in the process of welcoming your new addition. Lastly, take care of yourselves as new parents and sleep when you can. Well rested parents can better handle the tantrums and challenges that can be a part of this exciting stage in your family’s life.

Travelling With Preschoolers- Hooray or No Way?

Travelling With Preschoolers- Hooray or No Way?12088092_880120338703854_3148000437435673681_n

It’s not for the faint of heart. If your future includes a trip with your preschool age child you’ve probably already had some mixed feelings about the prospect. Just thinking about all of the “stuff” that your preschooler requires to get through the day is enough to cause many of us to hesitate. Some parents deliberately put off pleasure trips – family vacations – until children are a little older. Other families embrace travelling with little ones and jump right in. What you choose is a personal decision, but regardless, there will likely be times when travel with a little one is unavoidable.

Before you start a trip with your little one/ones, take a look at a few tips to keep the journey smoother for all:

  • Be realistic. Try to split up the travel time whenever you can into shorter blocks with breaks in between.
  • Choose child-friendly destinations. Your child will likely be more cooperative on a trip to a zoo or children’s museum than on a tour of Civil War battlegrounds.
  • Pack a family fun bag. Include simple toys without small parts, books on tape, and simple travel games.
  • Bring snacks. A hungry child (or adult) can be an unpleasant travelling companion.
  • Dress everyone comfortably. Think lightweight layers to accommodate changes in weather, food spills or bathroom accidents. Plan footwear that matches what you will be doing. If there will be a lot of walking, save the flip flops for another time.
  • Don’t spill the beans too soon about an upcoming trip. If you have a four year old and you’ve told them you’re taking a trip to Disney “soon”, you’ll be asked about it over and over. And over. And over.
  • Don’t forget a familiar blanket/bear/other comfort item. New environments and routines can be overwhelming and that familiar object may be a lifesaver.
  • Book your lodgings in advance. Arriving at a destination to find there are no vacancies can spell disaster when everyone is already tired.

12115884_880119215370633_4366755050232669276_nPaying attention to details before your trip ever starts can set the stage for an enjoyable experience for everyone in your family. Travelling with preschoolers presents some challenges, but it can lead to some amazing memories. Oh, and bring some wet wipes.

Eight Ways to Get Your Child to Try New Foods

“My child would eat a corn dog every night for supper.”Making Lemonaid (2)

“I never want to see a chicken nugget again.”

“If I have to make one more bologna sandwich, crust cut off, white bread only, no “yucky cheese”, and the “magical” amount of mayonnaise, I might lose it….”

Sound familiar? If your child is one of the many who limit their food choices to a very small number of items, you’ve probably said something similar. In recent years a lot has been written about Americans and our eating habits. Eating healthy, nutritious food seems like an obvious goal for parents to want for their children, but it can be more complicated Drinking Lemonaid (2)if your child will only eat a handful of things.

Like most parenting challenges, this one has no magical solution. The good news is there are some strategies that may help.

  1. Pay attention to portion size. If you are introducing something new, try putting just a very small sample of it on your child’s plate. If a child is cautious about new foods, a regular serving amount can look like a mountain. Always include something familiar to your child in the meal as well. Some children will be more willing to branch out if you pack a lunch in a container with many very small compartments – like a craft box for beads or thread. Put a few berries in one spot, some cubes of cheese in another, etc.  \
  2. Shop together and make it fun. Include your child in the shopping for family groceries. Talk about new foods you spot – the fruit aisle is a great place to begin. Plan to pick out something new to try as a family each time you shop. Bring an index card and a marker to the store and let your child cross off a designated number of sample products you found to try in the store that day. 
  3. Visit Farmers’ Markets. Locate a fun, child-sized reusable market bag and let your child find something new that they can carry in their bag and try out. Talk about all of the choices, shapes, and colors and ask questions of the vendors about their offerings.
  4. Grow You Own Food. Plant a simple garden with vegetables or herbs. Let your child experience the excitement of watching something grow that they can actually eat! No space for a garden plot? Try growing a small container garden. A Google search will give you plenty of ideas for gardening in a limited space.
  5. Cook together. Many children will be more willing to try a food that they have seen prepared from the beginning. Knowing exactly what went into a dish takes away some of the mystery and worry. Give your child their own apron or use an old button down shirt to create a Chef’s jacket with their name on it. An added plus – this is a great way to find some extra time to spend with your child on a busy work/school day.
  6. Play with your food. In a good way. Make food child-friendly by sometimes turning food into a work of art. For example -raw vegetables are more fun if they are arranged on a bagel spread with cream cheese and they are assembled to make a bear’s face. One critical word of advice: PINTEREST. If you’re not familiar with the Pinterest application, take a look. You’ll be hooked. It’s FULL of fun, child-friendly food creations. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be Picasso. Some are very easy.
  7. Plan Theme Nights. Create a festive meal atmosphere by planning dinner around a fun theme. Choose some themes like “Welcome Summer”, “Picnic in the Park”, or “A Night in Italy.” The menu doesn’t need to be elaborate – just putting a name on it and adding a few simple decorations turns it into a party and gives you an opportunity to introduce new foods.
  8. Create Family Choice Nights. Establish a routine where certain nights of the week are designated for family members to have turns choosing what to have for dinner. Your child will get a turn to choose their same old favorites, but other members of the family will also get their turns. Prepare one main dish chosen by the family member and add a few smaller sides that appeal to your more selective eaters also.


Most importantly, try not to get drawn into food battles with your child. You can encourage a child to eat but you can’t force it to happen. Try to keep a relaxed attitude and remember that children’s appetites can vary widely during different times in their life. Offer healthy food and allow a reasonable amount of time for a child to eat. After that, put the food away and go on with life. If your child has normal energy to function in their daily activities and they are growing appropriately as evidenced by their well child check -ups, you may do more harm than good by drawing too much attention to food issues. Relax. And eat your cream cheese bear bagel.