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Infant - Month #38

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Moving Toys and Eating Dinner

By Mary Perrin, edHelperBaby

  Encouraging Your Child's Development
           When there is a problem, who are you going to call?  Your child probably calls for you.  Your child has developed an understanding that you will help support and assist him when he gets into sticky situations.  He relies on your experience and your second set of hands to provide assistance.  People gain the ability to multi-task out of necessity.  Parents are expert multi-taskers.  They can hold a child on one hip, stand over another child at the table and help him with his homework, have dinner on the stove, and somehow still manage to answer the phone when it rings.  Your child's ability to juggle different things will come through experience and the need to get from point A to point B effectively and efficiently.  If you carefully watch how your child engages with objects during playtime, you will witness how he folds up and utilizes his shirt to act as a pouch for carrying cars or other toys.  He may also use a dump truck to store and relocate things from one place to the other.  Children are natural problem solvers, and at times, bouts of frustration will emerge and cries for help will radiate through your home.  During these times, intently focus on his struggles. Don't be so quick to do it for him; instead, find a way to stretch his thinking so that he can successfully learn how to maneuver his objects and feel delight in his success.  If you teach him how by mentally and physically engaging him, he will be more likely to remember and repeat the task independently, but if you rescue him each time, you will not be giving him the opportunity to become a motivated and prosperous problem solver.


  Something Different Activity
           Educational Objective:  You can advance this concept by engaging him in situations where he must determine the best way to get the job done.  The following activity is one way to help your child develop the problem solving skills necessary to think through and overcome an unforeseen playtime hurdle.

       A Bowl Balancing Act:  Park yourself on the kitchen floor with plastic bowls and lids at arm's reach.  Pull out three different sizes of bowls and place them in front of your child.  Ask him to come up with a way to arrange the bowls so that he can pick them up and carry them across the kitchen and back without one falling off.  After succeeding, can he rearrange them a different way and perform the same task?  Add another bowl or  maybe even a lid.  He will learn through trial and error.  Offer him support when he gets truly stuck, and think out loud as you offer him assistance.  Your verbal cues will help give him a problem solving vocabulary.  Look to see if he is able to nest the bowls together, fit a lid to a bowl, stack the bowls, and develop an understanding of trial and error.

       Thinking Logically with Lids and a Bag:  This activity is meant to follow the previous activity.  The previous activity set his mind to think in a certain way by stacking or nesting the bowls to carry them.  Now you are going to attempt to switch his mindset to think more logically.  Place six to ten small lids in front of him.  As before, ask him to figure out to how carry them without dropping them.  Once he is able to demonstrate mastery, hand him a small paper lunch bag.  Without opening the bag or giving away the obvious, ask him to now include the bag with his lids.  Does he set the closed bag under the lids or place the closed bag on top of the lids?  Since his brain has been set to stack and carry, that is probably how he is using the bag.  If so, encourage him to set the lids down, hold the bag, and explore its characteristics.  You hope that he ultimately deducts that the bag can be opened and the lids easily slid into it and carried with less effort.  To extend his thinking further and switch his mindset back to stacking, hand him a few more lids, but this time give him lids that are too big to be placed inside the bag.  Does he rip the bag in an attempt to get them inside?  Does he remember back to the first activity which was to stack objects on top of one another?  How does he handle any frustration?


  From a Parent's Perspective
           Okay, I was cracking up through the majority of the activity.  I attempted to let her know that I was by no means laughing at her so that she would not become shy through the process.  Keeping it light-hearted with smiles and giggles gave her the okay to laugh instead of cry when she dropped a bowl or two.  (We talk a lot at our house about "laughing to keep us from crying."  The overall concept is a little deep for a three-year-old to comprehend, but with consistency hopefully one day the idea of "laughing to keep you from crying" will sink in, and she will be able to utilize the meaning of the phrase to its full potential.)  My daughter loves to have others do things for her.  She likes the comfort of knowing that she can call and have all her woes cared for within seconds.  Now that she is three and beginning to understand that the world does not function the way she believes it should, there are times when she is able to get herself worked up over very little.  For the most part, her fits are not usually over her inability to complete a task successfully on her own but usually over the fact that she has been encouraged to show persistence and to first work through the issue on her own.  I mention all this background information because it transcends into her playtime demeanor.  For example, if she wants to move her baby dolls and all their accessories from her bedroom down two flights of steps to the basement, she usually asks me to move them for her.  If I will require that she takes full responsibility, she will begin to get very whiney and often cry.  This activity gave her confidence in herself, provided her with vital problem solving skills, worked on balance, and helped her develop solutions that can be applied to carrying other items.  Throughout the activity we discussed and practiced ways for getting things from point A to point B.  This activity sparked the smallest solution that turned out to ease her anxiety over having to do things on her own.  She laughed when she figured out she could put the lids inside the bag.  She said, "That's easier."  At that point, we decided together that we would place a small basket with handles in her room, one in the main living room, and one in the basement that would be specifically for moving her toys.  I began to understand her frustration and feel guilty for making her completely responsible for transporting her toys since I had not given her any support by specifically showing her how.  Lesson learned!  After all, I use baskets to carry laundry upstairs, and if I had to carry one sock at a time, I would probably whine and cry, too!


  Parenting 411 on Eating
           Food battles?  "I don't want it.  I don't like it.  It looks yucky.  I want chicken nuggets!"  Does this sound familiar?  Kids are masters at sharing their opinions when it comes to food.  By three years old, your child has a pretty good idea about which foods she likes.  She most likely has a mental catalog of which foods are pleasant and which foods are displeasing, and she will not hesitate to communicate to you which ones she will eat and which ones can freely be fed to the dog.  It can be a huge challenge to get your child to try new foods, especially when she insists on the same things over and over.  Kids pick at their food, they play with their food, and at one time or another they will probably even throw their food.  The following tips and tricks will help you find ways to eliminate mealtime battles and encourage your child to try new foods while maintaining a well-balanced diet.
  • Quality beats quantity.  Be sure your child has a well-balanced meal consisting of a fruit, veggie, protein, and a complex carbohydrate.  A plateful of mac-n-cheese is delicious but offers your child very little when it comes to meeting all the nutrition needs her little body requires.  By limiting the amount of macaroni and cheese and placing other nutritional items on her plate, you will encourage her to try other types of food which she may decide she loves, especially when she is really hungry and the mac-n-cheese has been devoured.
  • Consider how you feel about sliding healthy foods she refuses to eat into foods she loves.  Try pureeing and blending cauliflower with her mashed potatoes, or add finely chopped chicken to her jambalaya-style rice.  Then each time thereafter make the pieces of chicken a little larger so that eventually she will realize that she finds the taste of chicken pleasing.
  • Be creative and turn your recipe names around to make them more appealing.  Rice with chicken instead of chicken and rice, jellied toast instead of toast and jelly, bacon and eggs instead of eggs and bacon, etc.  (When my son was three, he would eat steak but refuse chicken.  We told him that chicken was like "white steak" and from that point on he would eat it without hesitation.  Now he likes chicken and will eat it without hesitation.)
  • Don't make a meal for your child and a second meal for yourself each evening.  Make one meal.  Give her an inch and she will expect a meal arranged around her likes each evening.  She will learn good nutrition through your verbal and nonverbal actions.  Provide her with chicken nuggets, fish sticks, grilled cheese, or another favorite each time she sits down to eat, and she will grow up with the notion that those foods are healthy dietary choices.
  • Include her in the cooking process.  For example, you attend a community potluck dinner and you take a dish to share.  When you fill your plate, you are more likely to take a scoop from the dish you brought over someone else's, right?  Kids are, too.  Give your child proper guidance and establish a safe task for your child to perform in the kitchen to help prepare one of the side dishes.  Then see how well she takes to the side she prepares once you commence eating.  After all, this can be her opportunity to "play" with her food.
  • Set aside one meal a week that is your child's choice.  Hand your child a set of cookbooks (ones with colorful pictures) and have her place sticky notes on the foods she thinks she would like to make.  Make a grocery list and involve her in the buying and food prep process.  Use this opportunity to discuss food groups and how they make up the necessary parts of a well-balanced meal.
  • If you offer your child snacks at some point during the day, refer to snacks as "healthy snacks."  Throwing "healthy" in front of the word will encourage your child's thinking as it pertains to making healthy nutritional choices.  Eventually, you may begin to hear something along the lines of, "Mom, is this (food name) a healthy snack?"
  • Don't force your child to eat everything on her plate.  Making your child eat every last pea or blueberry when she obviously truly doesn't care for them will only discourage her from ever trying them again.  Ask her to take one "no-thank-you" bite.  One no-thank-you bite will encourage her to try new foods, reconsider foods as her taste buds change, and establish an expectation from you.  Having a preset expectation will help eliminate those unwanted mealtime battles.
  • Communicate and laugh with each other at the dinner table.  Your child will grow up with an appreciation of gathering around the table as you establish a safe place to share the day's events and life experiences.  Your child is likely to sit around the table with her own children one day if you establish its importance now when she's young.


Make the Crock Pot Your New Best Friend!
By Laura Delgado, Ph.D., edHelperBaby

         The desire to serve a sit-down family dinner is one that I would suspect most mothers (and many fathers!) hold dear.  Things that were okay before children arrived on the scene (grabbing something on the way home from work and eating in front of the TV, for example) just do not seem to mesh with our idea of true family life.  Unfortunately, life all too often seems to get in the way of the idealistic picture of the family dinner.

    Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom (or dad - I know plenty of dads who cook a great dinner!), there are so many things that war for your attention at dinner time that it may seem almost impossible to put a healthy meal on the table, much less corral the whole family at the same time to eat it! I cannot offer much advice in terms of getting everyone together at the same time to eat dinner, but I can offer one alternative that lets you make dinner at a time of day when there is generally less activity, leaving very little for you to do at dinner time, apart from tossing a salad and serving it up. Get re-acquainted with your crock pot!

     The crock pot may have become popular in the 1970s, but this appliance definitely does not belong only in your mother's kitchen! Not only has its appearance been updated (stylish stainless steel, anyone?), but there are literally limitless recipes available for you to crock.  Simply assemble your ingredients in your crock pot in the morning, turn it on, and dinner will be ready 4-12 hours later (the time depends on what is cooking, naturally).  A couple of basic rules to keep in mind when crocking foods:
  • Chicken crocks wonderfully, with the exception of chicken breasts; due to their low fat content, they tend to dry out
  • Browning roasts and ground meat prior to crocking them will greatly improve their final appearance, although they will fully cook in the crock pot if you do not do so
  • Many of your regular recipes can be transformed to be crock pot friendly, but you need to decrease the liquid content by about 75%
  • Resist the urge to peek! Every lift of the lid steals about 20 minutes of cooking time from your crock pot!

       I would add one caution to the preceding list: crocking dinner requires immense willpower if you plan to be home all day while dinner is cooking! Within the first hour of turning on the crock pot, you will begin to smell your roast, or your pork, or your chicken, and that smell will only continue to intensify throughout the day.  You may find yourself hungrier than usual.  If, on the other hand, you will be out of the house all day, imagine your delight upon walking in the door to the smell of dinner already prepared.  Could there be any greater joy for a tired and hungry parent or preschooler?

       The following websites have some great recipes to get you started on your journey to an easier family dinner:
  • http://familycrockpotrecipes.com/
  • http://www.tastycrockpotrecipes.net/
  • http://www.crock-pot-recipes.info/
  • http://www.a-crock-cook.com/


My Crock Pot - My BFF
By Laura Delgado, Ph.D., About my child Therese, Nicholas, Mary-Catherine, Michael

           I have long been aware of the joys of the crock pot.  Throughout grad school and the long dream that was the babyhood of my "four in forty months", the crock pot was often the only way that my family had dinner at all! I was semi-awake in the morning at least, but by mid-afternoon, I was often almost completely out of it! Fortunately, dinner was already taken care of.  Now that my children are a little older (7, 5, 3, and 3), I have different reasons for crocking.  Since we homes chool, we are home in the morning, but by afternoon, the rounds of dance class, T-ball, and playgroups begin.  It is very difficult to be home at just the right time to prepare dinner and get it in the oven most days.  By crocking, I prepare dinner when it is convenient for me, thereby ensuring that it is waiting for us when we are ready for it.  It is very helpful to know that dinner is ready when the temptation is strong to swing by and pick up fast food after an hour and a half dance class! If I had not crocked dinner already, I am sure we would do that more often! As an added bonus, I have found that when my children have smelled dinner cooking all day, they are far more anxious to eat it at night! They just cannot wait to taste what has been making their mouths water for so many hours... that is a benefit that money cannot buy!


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