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Archive for November, 2009

If you are a stay-at-home mom and you have a toddler, you might feel like you are running out of things to keep your toddler happy, stimulated, and active. I know that I started to feel this way. My son is now 13 months old. Around 12 months he dropped his second nap and we are down to only one nap a day. This leaves a huge chuck of time in the morning and afternoon to fill and keep my son active and stimulated.

I had not been so good at following the advise outlined in the books Baby Wise II and Pre-Toddlerwise. I started to implement the books’ recommendations to fill the day and things have been running a lot smoother ever since then. His behavior has also improve a ton since I have more structure to his day now. If you click on each of the items listed below form the daily schedule, it will give your a description of what that activity is, how to implement it, and the benefits of including this activity into your day. (I will slowly add links to each activity as I wrote posts about them.) Here is a run down of our daily schedule:

6:30-7:00 am wake-up and play in crib

8:00am get out of bed, diaper change, and clothed for the day

8:10 breakfast

8:30 potty (my son usually will use the potty after he eats)

8:45-9:30 Independent play time (in his play yard)

9:30-10:00 Free Play

10:00-10:15 Snack

10:15- 10:45 Stroller Walk

10:45-11:00 Structured Play/ Learning Activity

11:00- 12:00 Unstructured Time (I use this to get errands done if I need to)

12:00-12:30 Lunch

12:30 Potty (my son usually will use the potty after he eats)

12:35-12:45 Quite time before nap- usually rock in rocking chair, reading books, and sing

12:45-3:30 Nap, usually asleep by 1:00pm

3:30-3:45 Snack

3:45- 4:00 Blanket Time

4:00-4:15 Story Time

4:15-4:45  Independent Play Time (in play yard)

4:45-5:00 Table Time (in highchair)

5:00-6:00 Free Play (Daddy usually comes home during this time and plays with my son)

6:00-6:30/6:45 Dinner

6:30/6:45-7:00 Family Play Time

7:00-7:30 Bath

7:30-7:45 Quiet Time & Getting Ready for Bed

7:45 Last milk for the day

8:00 Bedtime

*** On Mondays and Fridays we are usually gone in the mornings from about 9:30-11:30/12. One those days I move the structured learning activity to the afternoon during Free Play.***

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It seems that taking care of Cooper got pretty difficult from about 9-12 months. This is really mostly my fault. I lacked structure to our day. Other than I knew what time he was suppose to eat and sleep, the rest of the day was a free-for-all. I had all his toys in random boxes and bins on the floor in his playroom. He could basically grab any toy he wanted to play with at any point. The result from my lack of structure in his day and his toys laying around at his disposal- a clingy child who did not know how to self-play or entertain himself for long. He also lacked discipline because I was not trying to create boundaries and guidelines to his day.

When Cooper was a baby, I had done Babywise with him to train him to sleep through the night. He slept through the night, 7-8 hours stretch, from about 9 weeks old. He slowly increase his sleep. By the time he was 5 months old he was sleeping 10 hours at night and by 6 months old he was sleeping 12 hours at night. He had regular nap times and things ran smoothly. Thank you Babywise! Babywise is a book meant for parents of infants 0-5 months old. Then the next book in the series is Babywise II. I bought the book and read it, but decided that I really did not need to implement all the things that the book suggested. One of the recommendations was that you put your 5-15 months old in a pack n play daily for a short period of time with a few toys. This structured time was suppose to teach a child how to play on his own and to develop mental focus since there are not a lot of toys. However, I decided not to follow this recommendation, because Cooper hated to be in his play pen or pack n play. Man did I pay the price for this later!

So anyways, I found myself with a cranky, clingy, can’t play by himself, undisciplined child and it was about to be the end of me. I decided that perhaps I should revisit Babywise II (5-15 month olds) and buy the next couple of books in the series, Pre-Toddlerwise (12-18 months), and Toddlerwise (14 months through 3 years-old). I also stumbled into a group on http://www.babycenter.com for mom’s who are currently implementing the babywise and other wise programs with their children. Between the books and the group I joined on babycenter.com, I have learned so much about how to structure Cooper’s day and disciplining him. Cooper is doing such a better job playing independently, he minds Chris and I much better now, he does not cling to me as much, and he seems to be in a better mood and happier!

Thoughts on discipline:

Before I reread Babywise II and picked up Pre-Toddler Wise. My main form of discipline was telling him “no.” If that did not work, I usually would look him in the eyes and gentle squeeze his hand to get his attention (not to the point of pain). The gentle hand squeeze did come from babywise. If that form of correction did not work, we did time out in his mini-pack n play for 30 sec to a minute. That would usually do the trick. I will say, even with all of those strategies in place, my discipline was still not working effectively. The problem was with saying, “no” over and over again. After reading through Pre-Toddlerwise and Toddlerwise, they speak about first time obedience. I am not going to get into that topic to much, but I will say that if Cooper does not respond after the first no, and I give him time to comply, then he get a brief time out. This quick and easy discipline strategy has saved me and Chris from saying, no over and over. He will 70% of the time obey us with the first no. He knows that certain things are off limits in our house too, such as the tv buttons, the stairs, and outlet plugs. He is usually good about not touching them! This is saving me a lot of piece of mind so I don’t feel like I am running around disciplining him all day long.

Thoughts on Structure:

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the only part of my schedule that I had down was the time Cooper ate and slept, the rest was free and open to whatever happened. The lack of structure created many discipline problems because he was allowed to roam around the house too much, and touch too many things. Pre-toddler and Toddlerwise would call this- allowing your child too many freedoms. I also had way too many toys out which was over simulating and he was not able to concentrate and just play with one toy. After reading the three -wise books, I made some adjustments. The first was, get all the toys off the floor and into bins. I only allow Cooper to play with a select few toys at a time. I also rotate the toys he is allowed to play with so he does not easily get board with his toys. The next thing I did was structure his day better. To fill in the times between eating and sleeping, I created the following activities: independent playtime, outdoor playtime/ walks, blanket time, table time (which is done in his highchair), TV time, story time, structured play/ learning time, family play time, free play time, bath time, and time to run errands. I have been following this schedule for about a month now, maybe a little longer, and it is great! Keeps Cooper from getting board, keeps me from going nuts trying to entertain him all day long, and has taught Cooper how to self-play and respect boundaries.

The two actives I cannot live without:

Independent play time and blanket time have been a wonderful addition to our schedule and have helped Cooper learn to self-play, develop better mental focus, and respect boundaries and my authority. Cooper plays in his playard every morning for an hour, I select the toys he plays with and rotate them so he is not bored every day. For the first week he cried a lot during independent play time. The crying slowly decrease and I am happy to report that this is the first week where I can put him in the playard and he happily starts to play with his toys! I think he even looks forward to this time. Blanket time I have only been doing for two weeks, but I think it is great! Cooper is told stay on a blanket that is no bigger than 3×4 and I give him very few toys. He started with 10 minutes of play and now we are up to 20 minutes of play on the blanket. It only took 2 days of me picking him up and telling him to stay on the blanket for him to stay put. He cried for about a week, but now no more tears and just play! I went to a restaurant last week and sat him on the ground while I was paying the check. I told him to stay put and Cooper did not move for 5 minutes. It was a very crowded restaurant with lots of temptations to allure Cooper, but he was able to resist them and obey me. I owe this to blanket time.

Final Thoughts:

I am glad I decided to crack down on discipline and structure his day! With twins on the way, I wanted to make sure that Cooper was a happy, compliant child. I did not want to chase Cooper around or having him cling to me throughout the day while I was busy with the twins at various points. I am able to get more done around the house such as laundry, cleaning, and kitchen stuff now because I do not have Cooper constantly clinging to my pant legs and wining or me running after him telling him “no” all the time! So thank you to the -wise series. You have saved my sanity and helped Cooper to be a happier child!

Books:
Babywise
(0-5 months)
Babywise II (5-15 months)
Pre-Toddlerwise (12-18 months)
Toddlerwise (14 months – 3 years)

Related Posts that may be of interest:
Structuring Your Toddler’s Day

Blanket Time
Independent Play Time
Free Play Time

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What is Blanket Time?

Blanket time is an allotted amount of time in the day when you instruct your child to remain on a small blanket (3×3 or 4×4) and play with a select few toys that you have chosen for him/ her to play with. Blanket time can be started as early as you want with your infant and continued into toddlerhood.

What is the purpose of Blanket Time?

“Blanket time provides an opportunity to teach a child to play in a limited area without a physical parameter.” (pre-toddlerwise p.142) It also teaches “sitting skills or what we call parameter skills (the ability to stay put within a boundary).” (Toddlerwise p. 45) This skill comes in handy when you need your child to obey you and stay put. For instance if you are in the kitchen and you need to open the oven, you would want you child to stay away from the oven. You could tell you child to sit and remain still until you allow him or her to get up. Or perhaps you are out in public and you need your child to stay in one spot for a short period of time, that is when this skill really comes in handy. Ultimately, blanket time teaches your child at a young age to obey you. Blanket time also helps with mental focus by only allowing them a few toys that they must play with while on the blanket.

How long should blanket time last?

Start with 3-5 minutes once a day. Once your child demonstrates he can stay on the blanket and play without fussing or crawling or walking off, you can slowly increase the time up to 30 minutes a day. Use a timer to set a designated time. The loud noise of the time going off will signal to your child that blanket time is over.

What if he crawls or walks off the blanket?

The first couple of times he does blanket time, you will want to remain close to him. When he does move off the blanket, quickly return him to the blanket and give clear instructions to stay put and play with his toys. I typically say to Cooper, “Cooper, it is blanket time, we stay on the blanket.” I then direct him toward a toy on the blanket.

How many toys should I place on the blanket?

Just a few toys is enough. Remember your blanket is not that large. I have been placing 2-3 small board books, one lights/sounds toys, 2 toy cars, and one other small manipulative toy.  Keep these toys special and do not allow your child to play with them frequently during the day. The novelty of the toys will help them to remain on the blanket. You might want to have 3-4 small bins of toys that you rotate especially for blanket time so that your child does not tier of the toys.

Make them help you clean up!

When the timer goes off and blanket time is over, make sure to praise their efforts for staying on the blanket. Then ask them to help you clean up. I usually say, “It is clean up time.” Young children will obviously not clean everything up on their own, but you can assist them and teach them how to clean up. My son is 13 months old and I expect him to help put away just a few toys into the bin when we are done. For instance, he has some toy food. He will usually help put away 3-4 pieces of the toys food. As they get older, you might have high expectations for how they clean up. Make sure you give your child clean directions as to what you want cleaned up. For instance, if there are cars on the blanket, you could tell you child, “Mark, put your cars in the bin.”

Where should blanket time be done?

Vary the locations of blanket time in your home. One day do it in the kitchen. Another day try your bedroom. The idea is for you child to be able to transfer this sitting still skill to many different situations and locations. If it is a nice day, try doing it outside. You could even try taking your child to the library with the blanket and a few toys and doing blanket time there.

Travel with a blanket and special toys!

You never know when you might need your child to sit in one area for a short duration of time. You might go to a soccer game for one of your older children, and want your younger child to not wonder. Try keeping a bag with a blanket and some special toys. Then in case you should ever need to do an impromptu blanket time, you would have all the materials!

My personal experience with my son

My son is 13 months old. I have only been doing blanket time with him for a week (we started late). But in a weeks time, he is able to stay on his blanket without fussing for about 10 minutes. I have not had to correct him for crawling off the blanket in a few days too. I see how is mental focus is increasing as he is able to play with one specific toy for a longer period of time. He is also learning to mind and obey me rather well. This past weekend, I was out to lunch in a crowded restaurant. I went up front to pay and sat my son on the ground and told him to stay put, he did not move for 5 minutes. He looked around at all the people, but never once moved. I really think that blanket time has helped him to remain still and obey my commands!

Toy Recommendations for Blanket Time
10-12 Months Old

Resource: Pre-toddlerwise p. 141- 143

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What is Independent Play Time (IPT)?

Independent play time is a time when your child plays alone, without you or other siblings around. You choose the time of the day this type of  play will occur and also the toys that your child will play with. Independent play time should happen at the same time every day. Typically Independent play time takes place in a pack ‘n play or play yard for younger babies/ toddler, and older toddlers will have room time in their rooms, which is called roomtime. My son is currently 13 months old and he has his independent play time in a play yard, which is larger than a pack ‘n play. The one I own is North State Superyard XT Portable Playard & Gate.

How long should IPT Last?

If you are just starting out, I would suggest starting with 10 minutes. See how your child does. Once your child is able to play alone for 10 minutes without fussing, add an additional 5 minutes. Keep adding 5 minute increments until you reach your desired length. Use a timer that will send off a loud sound at the end of the IPT. This helps your child understand that IPT is over. In the book Babywise II, they recommend the following Independent Play Time Lengths:

  • Baby that cannot sit up unassisted: 10-20 minutes twice a day
  • Baby that can sit unassisted: 35-30 minutes twice a day
  • Baby that can crawl: 30-45 minutes at least once a day
  • 15-20 month olds: Up to 60 minutes at least once a day

How many toys should I allow my child to play with?

Currently, I usually put in a variety of toys. Today I allowed my son to have 4 cars, 3 books, 2 light/ music toys, nesting cups, and old yogurt container with colorful balls inside. Don’t put too many toys in their pack ‘n play or in their room. You want them to learn how to focus on one toy at a time. Too many toys is overwhelming and there is also not enough space for them all.

Other things to include during IPT:

I usually play music in the background. My son usually cries the first 1-5 minutes of IPT. I have found that playing music in the background cut down his crying and helps him to play better. I also allow my son to have his nuby straw cup of milk with him in the morning and a cup of water in the afternoon. I do not allow food during this time, but the drink helps him to enjoy himself more. I also give him his security object- his blankie. If you child has a security object, I would allow him/ her to have it during this time.

Important thing to keep in mind:

  • Don’t interact with your child during this time. You want your child to play on his own.
  • Check on them every so often to make sure they are okay. If you can, try to do this discretely so your child does not see you. When my son sees me he usually gets upset because he thinks I am coming to get him out. My son is much happier if he plays alone without seeing me.
  • Vary the locations of IPT. I have done IPT so far in our game room, playroom, and office.
  • Don’t over use IPT. Keep it limited to the time allotted. Your child will get frustrated if he has to be in their too long.

Benefits to IPT (quoted from Babywise II p. 73):

  • Mental focusing skills: Playpen time helps a child develop the ability to concentrate on an object or activity at hand and not be distracted constantly.
  • Sustained attention span: You will observe how your child picks up a toy, manipulates it with his or her hand, examines it carefully, shakes it, and then revisits the process again.
  • Creativity: Creativity is the product of boundaries, not freedom. With absolute freedom, this is not need for creative thinking or problem-solving.
  • Self-Play adeptness: This is one of the positive signs that your baby is moving from dependence to independence.
  • Orderliness: The first step to developing orderliness is to help your child with cleanup times. Start by placing a few books in one corner, a bucket or small toys in another, or stacking other items in a neat pile. Simple statements such as “Let’s put the toys in the basket,” or “Help Mommy clean up,” aid in this process. The object is to leave the area neat, with the child participating in achieving this goal.

The personal benefits of IPT that I have experience and seen in my son:

  • It allows me time to shower in the morning and get ready without having my son cling to me or worrying that he is getting into trouble. It also allows me personal time to check email, do laundry, or just read a book.
  • My son is better at playing independently now. Before starting IPT, my son was the master of cling. I had a hard time getting much done because he was clinging to me constantly or he was fussy because I want in the same room as him.
  • I have noticed that my son is better at playing with a single toy for longer now. He seems more content with the toys I have out for him to play with. Before starting IPT, he would jump from toy to toy rather quickly. He still changes up toys rather frequently, but I would say he is improving.
  • If my son does not have his IPT one day, I notice a huge difference in his additude. He is much more likely to be clingy and fussy if he does not start his day with IPT.

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In the book Touchpoints, Dr. Brazelton wrote a minimal daily diet for toddlers. During toddlerhood, many toddlers will be very finicky when it comes to food. One day they may like apple and the next day refuse to eat it. I know this is true of my son. He was loving oatmeal and then one day out of the blue he just decided that he was not longer going to eat oatmeal. This is frustrating for moms and dads when they feel like they are running out of options to feed their toddler. Parents might also worry that they are not getting their child to eat enough nutritious food. This minimal daily diet is what toddlers should at least eat if they refuse everything else. This has been my saving grace on days when my son hardly eats anything and refuses almost everything.

The minimal daily diet for toddlers includes:

1. One pint of milk (sixteen ounces) or its equivalent in cheese, yogurt, or ice cream

2. Two ounces of iron-containing protein (meat or eggs), or cereals fortified with iron

3. One ounce of orange juice or fresh fruit

4. One multivitamin, which I use to cover for uneaten vegetables

This does not mean we should allow our children to be picky eaters! I first offer the food my son hates the most. I expect him to take at least one bite of it. I keep offering him the food he least likes until he stops eating it. Then, I move on to a food that he will eat without complaint (usually). I try to hide the food he likes, keeping it out of sight. If my son can see the food that he likes while I am offering him the food he does not like, he will stop eating the least desirable food. I also offer him the food he refused to eat at snack time or when he signs that he is hungry to me. He will usually eat the less desirable food if he is plenty hungry. Even still, I find that I have problems getting him to eat. On those days, I make sure we have met the minimal daily diet for toddlers.

Resource: Touchpoints p. 141

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