Beyond helping children gain basic literacy skills, reading can be a huge piece of building warm and loving family bonds. From babies to preschoolers, reading is an important piece of family connections and establishing routines. One of the most important book traditions that we can establish with our children is bedtime book time. Taking time every single night to read a book helps your child settle their busy brain and relax into a blissful sleepy time.
We conducted a very informal survey to find out which books have made a lasting impression on Hoosier families and got some great ideas:
- Good Night Moon – Written by Margaret Wise Brown and Illustrated by Clement Hurd
This wonderful book about a mother rabbit putting her baby down to sleep was hands down the winner in our informal poll. Everyone loves how the words flow and lilt as everything in the room is told “good night.” Good Night Moon is a timeless treasure!
- Llama Llama Red Pajama – Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
A cute story from the Llama Llama series came is also beloved. Mother Llama puts her baby down to bed but Baby llama still needs her – a dance familiar to anyone who has managed the long haul of toddler bedtimes. The rhyming words and soothing repetition make this one a got-to bedtime book.
- Guess How Much I Love You – Written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram Rabbits are popular characters for sleepy children’s’ books – maybe because they are so cute and cozy – and this very sweet book provides a lovely touchpoint at the end of a day. A parent rabbit and fluffy baby telling each other, over and over and over, how much they love one another in increasingly meaningful ways. Many moms and dads like to repeat the sweet messages to their own little ones as they read.
- Good Night Owl – Written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
When a strange noise disturbs Owl’s rest, he has to investigate! This newer, beautifully illustrated book is as popular at baby showers as it is at bedtimes. The 2016 book recently won a Geisel Honor Books Award from the American Library Association, making it both family and librarian-approved.
- Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train – Both written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Have a little one obsessed with vehicles of all kinds? These books, written in poetic and colorful language, offer the perfect way to wind down for kids who love anything on wheels. Indeed, as these books make clear, sometimes we need to make sure large machinery is properly put to bed as we help our little ones head to dream land.
- The Going to Bed Book – Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton
This book is short and sweet, perfect for babies and young toddlers – and it introduces the math concept of opposites like big and small. The sing-song story follows silly animals as they go through their bedtime routine. From brushing teeth to being rocked to sleep, the calming, rhyming story is perfect for bedtime.
- It’s Time to Sleep, My Love – Written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman
From the illustrator of the popular On the Night You Were Born, you can expect the same beautiful illustrations and heartfelt message. This is another lovely selection if your little one love cuddly time or you want to increase your bond, giving your family a great opportunity to relax and share how much you love one another.
- Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey – Written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
This lovely bedtime book comes in both board book and standard story book printings — and either way, it offers beautiful illustrations of boys, girls and fanciful creatures who carry these diminutive dreamers to fantasy locations. Light on text, but heavy on dreamscapes, each page offers a chance to talk and notice the illustrations together.
We hope you and your little ones enjoy these books and that everyone in your home can get good night’s sleep! (We know how difficult that can be in these early years, but we also hear that it gets easier. We can dream, right?)
We’d love to hear your suggestions too – please feel free to share your family’s favorites in the comments below.
Cover image by Flickr user Lars Plougmann, Creative Commons license.
Babies begin their lives without much coordination and with little muscle management skills. But it doesn’t take long until they get moving — and you have to chase them. One of their big leaps from a sedentary lifestyle to little movers is crawling.
Most babies begin working on crawling between six and ten months. And, just like their personalities, they all have their own style. Little ones may rock back and forth on all fours for a while or they may take off like tiny racers. Some start in reverse and some use a crab walk. No matter their crawl style, there are several things you can do to help them reach this mini milestone.
Tummy Time Is Key
Be sure to give your baby the chance to lay and play on their bellies from birth. Spending time on their tummy lets each baby develop neck, shoulder, arm, back and stomach muscles. And those muscles help them crawl.
Let Your Baby Move Freely
Wide open spaces help your baby learn crawl is to provide lots of opportunities to move their little body. Time spent in open, safe spaces (baby proofing is essential) allows your child to experiment with arm and leg control. On the other hand, you want to use baby seats, carriers and walkers less often.
Tiny Nudges to Tiny Feet
If your baby seems to be ready to crawl, but just has a little trouble getting started, place your hands behind their feet. The chance to “push off” of your support can sometimes help little ones get the traction they need to move.
Little Moves Take Litte
A secret to getting a nearly-there crawler to try to crawl is putting a favorite toy just-out-of-reach. Put that treasured stuffed animal or ball nearby and cheer on your little one to move right on over. “Hey sweetie, do you want to the ball? Come on over!” Remember, though, if your baby has trouble, keeping things calm and positive will make the experience better for both of you!
Crawling is just one of many, many milestones your child will achieve. Like all major and minor achievements, each child grows and learns at a different pace. Remember that a baby’s size, interests, natural inclinations and environment can all impact what skill comes when. If you have concerns, contact your pediatrician or check in with the CDC’s guidance on developmental milestones.
Cover image by Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones, Creative Commons license.
I’m one of the few staff at Child Care Answers [Central Indiana’s child care resource and referral agency] who doesn’t have early childhood education experience. So why am I writing this piece about relationships with early childhood staff and teachers? What I do have is this – experience in being a parent who is inexperienced. I needed every bit of help I could get. I learned some things the hard way. Hopefully, sharing some of my stories can help families who are also in the same boat.
When my first son Miles was born, I didn’t have a clue about what was supposed to happen in a child care setting. Sure, I knew the basics. Caregivers shouldn’t lay babies down to sleep in cribs with blankets or pillows. I should not find a teacher in a room alone with 20 two-year olds. I shouldn’t walk away to hear adults screaming at the children (although my own kid screaming “Moooooooooooommmmmmmeeeeeeeeeee!!!” was going to happen sometimes).
Thankfully, none of the above happened the first day I dropped him off when he was three-months old. Nevertheless, I was uneasy to hand him over to Ms. Sandra (name changed to protect the innocent). In my previous visits, she had been quiet, making as little small talk as possible. Although she had a grandmotherly vibe, she didn’t give off the goo-goo ga-ga baby talk that Miles had seen from his relatives and gray-haired church ladies. How was his day going to go without the over-the-top songs and silliness he was used to? I was nervous about my about my day away from him, my first day back to work, and about my first day pumping as a nursing mom.
Learn more about exploring quality care — which includes how programs support and welcome families — with our guide to finding early childhood program quality.
I was, however, fortunate to be able to go in to nurse Miles twice a week. The first time I came in, Ms. Sandra was just finishing up feeding another baby. Instead of the hustle and bustle of the morning drop-off, I caught a glimpse of her in a lovely quiet one-on-one moment, with just a hint of goo-goo and ga-ga. She looked up and offered me the rocker. At first, I froze, wanting to whisk Miles away to keep him to myself in a private room. I accepted, though, and I’m so glad I did.
That was the beginning of a long series of talks with Ms. Sandra – me at the rocker with Miles, her tending to the other babies, and us chatting about our days. I discovered she had quite the understated sense of humor with an amazing twinkle in her eye when she joked. I got to see firsthand as she changed a diaper on a wiggly worm like a champ or soothed a colicky baby after drop-off. She got to hear (whether or not she wanted to) about Miles’ crazy gas last night or his hilarious new trick. Eventually, the time came for me to wean Miles and for him to move to another room. Even so, I continued to visit at the same time to play and connect with him and his new teacher.
TIPS FOR CONNECTING WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER
How can you make the best of the time that you have to learn what in going on in your child’s classroom? Keep the following in mind.
- Connect with the teacher in her “natural habitat.” If a teacher is covering for another teacher in a different classroom or is at a shift change, she won’t be giving you her best self. Set her up for that opportunity!
- Try different options until you find what fits. Not everyone will have my same fortune to be able to visit twice per week during the day. Look at your own schedule and see what would work best to find time to regularly connect with your child’s teacher. If you can’t connect face-to-face, make sure that each of you have a way to ask questions and get answers. That could mean paper, text, app, phone, or some other way to communicate.
- Keep the teacher’s needs in mind too. Remember that your teacher is caring for other children and cannot focus her attention solely on you and your child. If you notice you are being a distraction to her or the other children, wrap up your visit or conversation.
- Don’t forget to make your child the priority. As your child ages, what works one month may not work the next. For example, when my youngest son was going through separation anxiety, I couldn’t come in the middle of the day anymore. So, I built in extra time and stayed a little longer when I picked him up.
- Be flexible! This is the most important! There are a lot of people and parts to this equation, but remember that you’re doing this for the best interest of your child. If you’re making things difficult for the teacher, child, or yourself, then find a better way to do it!
Welcome to October! As the weather changes, be sure to take extra steps to help prevent illnesses like the flu. Wash your hands and the hands of your children often and make sure to scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds. Be sure hands are washed after blowing noses and sneezing. You may want to wash pacifiers and toys more often in the coming months as well. Another step is to have your children vaccinated with the Influenza vaccination. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine every season. Call your pediatrician today to learn more.
If your child comes down with a fever of 101 or higher please be sure to see your pediatrician and make other arrangements for child care. Many child care programs have a sick policy. You may want to follow up with your child care and refresh your memory of this policy. Some policies include but are not limited to the following:
- A fever above 101 degrees taken orally (102 degrees taken rectally or 100 degrees taken axillary – armpit)
- Diarrhea, vomiting, or rash of unknown origin
- Cold or other illness causing breathing difficulties or other symptoms that prevent the child from participating comfortably in activities
- Positive reaction to tuberculin skin test
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
If your child has any of the following symptoms, you will need to wait 24 hours after the symptoms have subsided–without the aid of medication–before returning him or her to child care.
Take additional steps like drinking plenty of water, getting as much sleep as possible and eating a healthy diet along with the vaccination to prevent the flu. You also may want to wash down table tops, door handles, and other surfaces more often to stop the spread of germs.
Click here to view tips for proper hand washing in child care centers. All child care centers follow this policy. View tips for sanitizing toddler and baby toys here.
Cover image by Flickr user Brandon Otto, Creative Commons license.
Every parent’s worst fear is leaving their child with an unsafe child care provider. Just looking around the care provider’s room can give you insight into how safe your infant is and the quality of care they will be receiving. A few things to observe and evaluate are your child’s caregivers, the quality of the room, toys and supplies in it, and the importance your child’s center places on parent communication and family engagement.
CAREGIVERS: WHERE ARE THEY AND WHAT ARE THEY DOING?
Excellent infant caregivers will be constantly engaged with the infants both physically and verbally. Infant caregivers should spend the majority of their day sitting or lying on the floor with the infants, talking about the infant’s actions “You have the measuring cup in your mouth. It is metal. How does it feel/taste?” and talking about what is happening around them “Aiden is reaching for your hand.”
You should hear the caregivers announce what is coming next, “I’m going to wash my hands and get your bottle warmed up” or “You’re bottle is ready, and I’m going to pick you up so we can wash your hands”. You might also hear a caregiver respond to an infant’s cry with reassurance when involved in a caregiving moment with another infant, “I can hear you crying, you are safe. I am feeding Sam right now and will feed you next.” The caregivers should be aware of each infant and available to meet each infant’s needs by placing themselves near the infants and engaging with the infants.
SUPPLIES: ARE THEY GOOD QUALITY AND AGE APPROPRIATE?
Here’s a short list of items that compliment an infants’ explorations:
- Shatterproof mirrors
- Items to grasp such as rattles
- Items to chew on such as teethers
- Measuring cups
- Items to fill buckets that cannot fit in baby’s mouth
- Sturdy furniture to pull up on and cruise around
- Books that represent the routines in their world
- A variety of colors
These items are open ended and allow for infants to begin problem solving. None of the items should be broken or hazardous to infants.
FAMILY: IS IT WELL-REPRESENTED?
Each infant’s family should be represented in the room through photos, favorite books, songs, and culture. Photos might be found on cribs, in photo books, on the floor, on walls or shelves-anywhere that the infant might be able to see the photo. We also hope that when possible, family members will stop by the room or stay for a few minutes at drop off or pick up to show the infant that the infant room is a safe place for exploration.
Although there is an endless list of things a parent should look for, this is a good start to feeling comfortable with your infant’s care provider. If any of these things are missing in your infant’s room, talk to a teacher in the room to express your concerns. If you need help finding high-quality infant care need you, Child Care Answers can help. Their Child Care Referral Specialists can be reached at 1-800-272-2937.
Cover image by Flickr user Anthony Doudt, Creative Commons license.
Going back to work or school can be challenging for nursing mothers. Mothers are not sure how many ounces of milk to send in each day, getting baby to take a bottle can be difficult, and finding a provider that understands breastfeeding can be a challenge. Here are some tips to make it go more smoothly.
BREASTFED BABIES DRINK BASED ON CALORIES, NOT VOLUME.
It will be rare that a breastfed baby ever takes an 8 ounce bottle. Typically, divide 24-30 ounces by the number of feeding in a day. So if baby nurses 10 times a day, then each bottle will be roughly 2.4-3 ounces. It is best to send less milk than more milk. You don’t want all that hard work to go down the drain!
TRY TO PUMP EVERY 2-3 HOURS
Finding time to pump at work can also be challenging. I always pumped when I knew my baby would be eating, so every 2-3 hours. The more you take out, the more milk you make!
IT IS BEST TO INTRODUCE A BOTTLE AT HOME BEFORE BABY’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.
Try having someone other than mom introduce a bottle first (around 4 weeks old). Try daily with a few ounces each day. Don’t stress out…some babies will take it just fine and others will take it eventually.
FIND A CAREGIVER THAT SUPPORTS MOTHER-INFANT RELATIONSHIPS
As you interview prospective child care providers, you want a provider that is open to you coming in and nursing whenever you get a chance, supports feeding on demand and not on a schedule, and won’t push you to send in more milk than you know your baby needs. Trust yourself as the expert on your baby, especially when it comes to breastfeeding!
Additional information, including a milk calculator, can be found on www.kellymom.com.
Cover image by Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture’s photostream, Creative Commons license.
BABY’S SIDE OF THE STORY
“Ooh! Look at that pretty stuff over there! I should check it out!” thinks Baby, making his way across the living room floor.
Mom is busy making dinner in the next room. ‘Silence is golden’ some say. In this case, silence can be dangerous! Little eyes spot things adults wouldn’t even give a second glance to.
Baby makes his way across the floor and glances up at the colorful glass vase full of flowers. “I just need to get higher,” he thinks. As Baby pulls himself up to the low table, he is startled by someone saying his name very loudly. He starts to whimper. “You scared me!” he says in his mind.
Mom walks over, picks him up, and comforts him. She didn’t mean to scare him, but she needed to alert him of the possible danger.
SAFETY TIPS FOR YOUR HOME
As parents, we want to keep our children from harm. Oftentimes, we don’t see or think about things that need to be “baby-proofed” in our homes. One way to see things the way a child would is to get on her level. It may seem silly, but crawl on the floor around the house, looking high and low for things that could be a hazard. Pay attention to:
- Electrical outlets – do they have safety covers?
- Glass and other breakable items – can they be placed somewhere out of reach or packed away?
- Cleaning supplies – are there any under the bathroom sink? In the bathroom closet? On the floor behind the toilet? In the hall closet? Under the kitchen sink? In the pantry?
- Tip hazards – are all cabinets, bookcases, stands or tables, secure and unable for baby to pull over on himself?
- Small stuff – anything we may drop – from cookie crumbs to earrings – Baby will find them! Keep the small stuff picked up or swept up.
- Sharp stuff – big sister doing a school project? Make sure scissors are put away as well as sharp pencils, pens, and even paper.
- Tablecloths – It may be time to take off the tablecloths and table runners. Anything that hangs can look fun to play with.
- Stove handles – Do you have a stove with handles on the bottom front? Make sure they have safety handles.
- The refrigerator – Need an easy way to keep it closed for little ones – and easy for us? Place two non-permanent hooks toward the top of the fridge, one on the side and one on the door. Place a rubber band or string around both hooks. Baby can’t open, but magically, you can!
OTHER HELPFUL SAFETY RESOURCES
There are so many things to think about when a little one is around. By taking these first few steps, you have made yourself aware of other possible hazards to take care of. Below are some website addresses to further explore safety in the home:
Cover image by Flickr user Lars Plougmann, Creative Commons license.
I know your schedule is jam-packed with work, child care drop-offs, sports, lessons, and play dates. But what about meals as a family? It’s easy to rush through them, but meal times are an important part of child development. Meal times are more than just feeding your child; they are a chance to learn socialization, healthy eating habits, independence, and table manners. As a monitor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, I often remind providers they are shaping children’s eating habits for the rest of their life, and parents can often benefit from similar advice.
SO WHAT DOES A POSITIVE MEAL TIME LOOK LIKE?
To begin with, serve meals family-style, and try to follow consistent times for each meal. Children need predictable patterns. Knowing when to expect breakfast, lunch, and snack helps set the stage for their day. A routine of washing their hands, setting the table, and knowing what to expect during the mealtime will make the meal run more smoothly. When children use child-sized utensils, cups, plates, and serving dishes, it sets them up for success when serving themselves. I know it can get messy for children to serve themselves, but think of this as a learning experience. Sometimes a mess is going to happen while learning. Just keep a positive attitude about it.
During the mealtime, sit with your children, and interact with them. Talk about the food you are eating. Help the children learn to serve themselves. Take the chance to introduce table manners. All of these actions help children learn how to socialize during the mealtime. You set the tone for the entire meal. If you are rushed and stressed about the meal, the children will feel the same way. Encourage healthy eating habits and manners by modeling them for your children.
HERE ARE SOME QUICK TIPS TO START MAKING MEALTIMES A MORE POSITIVE EXPERIENCE:
- Have your children help. Assign the children jobs, such as cleaning and setting the table. This allows them to feel more engaged about the mealtime, and it will be less work for you.
- Serve children appealing foods. Think about the texture, color, and temperature of the foods. Try to offer a variety of colors to make the meal more interesting. Serve familiar foods along with something new.
- Let children lead. Remember – you set the mealtime scene and offer healthy foods. Children should have the freedom to choose what they eat and how much. Don’t buy into the clean plate club. Children are very good at self-regulating how much food they need. However, you can encourage them to try new foods.
- Start small. Changing the way your serve your meals can be scary, but start small. Perhaps you begin by starting a routine before the meal, or just have the children serve themselves the fruit or vegetable. You do not have to change everything overnight. Set goals and slowly integrate a positive, family-style dining routine into your day.
Cover image by Flickr user Phalinn Ooi, Creative Commons license.