Monday, July 31, 2006

Day 161 - Beat the Heat

Today's Tip - Cool down the car and cover the car seat on hot, sunny days

I don't know about the rest of you guys, but we're mired in the heat wave rolling across the US right now. It feels like 110 outside...and its not a dry heat either. It's a wet heat. And my car is slightly hotter than the surface of the sun when I get into it after work.

Not a good situation when you need to put baby in the car for a trip. Here are some ideas for beating the heat and the sun when baby's in the car.

Cool it down first
Turn on the A/C in your car about four or five minutes before you get in the car. It'll make it a lot less blistering, and it'll help cool down any metal or plastic surfaces that your baby might touch in the car.

Cover the car seat
The seat belt and the buckles are going to be hot enough to burn if their in direct sunlight, or even if your car has been baking in the sun. When you take baby out of the car, throw a receiving blanket over the car seat. This will keep the belt and buckles from having direct contact from the sunlight, and will make them safer to the touch.

Cover the window
I talked about this briefly before, but keeping your baby's eyes and skin shaded during the drive is the most important. One bad burn can increase the chance of skin cancer, and direct sunlight can damage your baby's eyes. You can buy shades at the store, or you can improvise a more effective shade by taking for suction cup hooks, and poking holes for the hooks in the corners of a receiving blanket. Stretch it out over a side window or try hanging it over the car seat. Just make sure you don't block your view of the road, and make sure the blanket will actually block the sun by thinking about what direction the sun will shine in the most.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Day 160 - Switching the schedule

Today's First Time Parenting Tip - Move schedule times by 10 minute increments for success

The time might come when you have to move your baby's bedtime or feeding time for whatever reason. Either you're going back to work, have a change in your daily routine, or you realize that putting him to bed at 7:00 is just to early for you.

Rather than trying to force the issue cold turkey and cause yourself and your kid a bunch of stress, try moving the schedule times in 10 minute increments. For instance, if you want him up later and going to bed later, move all his feedings and routines up 10 minutes. Repeat until you're on the schedule you want. It's pretty simple. You can also spread out feedings or move naps using the same tactic.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Day 159 - How to give eyedrops or eye medicine

Today's First Time Parenting Tip - Get help from a friend or hold your baby's head between your knees (gently) to give eye medicine.

Unless you're extremely lucky and have a well natured baby that lets you do all the poking proddding and preening you need to without a fuss, you probably struggle with doing anything to your baby's face - like wiping or giving eye drops. If you have to do it by yourself, it can be quite a daunting task...between holding their head still, holding the eye dropper, holding their eyes open and solving a calculus equation all while juggling fire is next to impossible.

If you're with another person, its nice to have the extra set of hands hold the body still while you focus on getting the drops in their eye. Gently slide your finger on the skin just above their eyelid to open it up if they're squinting shut.

If you're by yourself, you're going to have to get on the ground. Put their head in between your knees, with their arms underneath your legs. Make sure all of your weight is on the floor, and not on them. Gently place your legs on either side of their head. You don't have to squeeze at all, but they also shouldn't be able to move their head from side to side. This leaves your hands free to open their eyes and squeeze in the drops.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Day 158 - Clear Eyes

Today's First Time Parenting Tip - Use a clean, damp, wet washcloth to clean your baby's eyes from gunk.

Babies often get crust in the corners of their eyes, and it can get pretty bad if they've got a clogged tear duct like our son does. And sometimes, the gunk is dried on there, so a kleenex or cloth diaper isn't going to get it off. Plus you'll probably irritate the skin around his eye. As if the crust wasn't enough!

A good way to clear out dry and wet crust from your baby's eyes is to take a clean washcloth and run it under warm water. Use cloth from the middle of the washcloth (not the corners) and gently hold it over the crusty area. Let it soak a little, and then wipe away from the eye gently with the washcloth. Use a different section of the cloth for the other eye, so you don't transfer any infections.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Day 157 - Conjunctivitis

Today's First Time Parenting Tip - Keep an eye on your babies eyes if they start to get "gunky"

My son has had a clogged tear duct since he was his eye has always had a little goop in it that we constantly had to clear out, use eye drops and do a little duct massage to help it along. Recently though, there's been quite a bit. He wakes up with his eye glued shut, or there's tons of crust all around his eye. My wife took him into the pediatrician and lo! he has conjunctivitis due to the clogged tear duct. Hooray! To fix it, the doctor prescribed some ointment for his eyes. That should be an adventure and a half to put in. Some other symptoms of conjunctivitis are:

  • Eye redness
  • Swollen, red eyelids
  • More tearing than usual
  • Feeling as if something is in the eye
  • An itching or burning feeling
  • Mild sensitivity to light
  • Drainage from the eye

Most cases of pinkeye are caused by:
  • Infections caused by viruses or bacteria
  • Dry eyes from lack of tears or exposure to wind and sun
  • Chemicals, fumes, or smoke (chemical conjunctivitis)
  • Allergies

Viral conjunctivitis is spreadable, and the only real fix for it is prevention. Things like washing hands and making sure objects aren't shared between lots of kids are orders of the day. The bacterial version is treated by antibiotic, and is less contagious.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Day 156 - Leave me alone!

Today's Tip - Let your baby play on his own to encourage learning

Many parents love playing with their babies. And that's not a bad thing at all. But if there's no chance for a baby to play on his own, how is he going to learn to entertain himself? If you're doing everything for him, there's not a whole lot of learning going on.

Solitary play increases self-esteem, and helps prevent the "I'm bored" syndrome later on. And it's easy too. Just give your baby a child-proofed area to explore and let him go nuts. If he can't roll, put him on a mat with an overhead toy bar he can grab for. If he can flip and push himself up, give him some toys on a blanket so that he can practice crawling. If he can support some weight, an exer-saucer or a Johnny Jump Up are excellent bets.

At first these play times will be pretty short, but gradually you can work them up to a longer session where they're exercising their creativity and having lots of fun while learning.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Day 155 - Exercise Restraint

Today's First Time Parenting Tip - Gently divert your baby's "bad" behavior

My son has a new favorite playtoy. His mom's hair. He also enjoys slapping and grabbing onto faces. And when he shakes a maraca, sometimes he gets so into it that he smacks himself in the face, starting the waterworks. Should he be disciplined?

Absolutely not. At this age, babies are too young to understand right and wrong, and nothing they do is out of malice or hurtfulness. So when your son is yanking on your hair, it's not going to help him or you any if you lose your temper or tell him no.

If you baby is engaging in some dangerous behavior, simply divert him to something more productive. If he's trying to climb up the coffee table, give him some pillows to crawl around on instead. If he's pulling your hair and it hurts too much, give him a stuffed animal with fur or something fuzzy he can wrap his fingers around.

Besides keeping your hair, this has an added benefit of teaching them to express themselves and explore in different ways, which is all he was trying to do in the first place.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Day 154 - Naps...In the Crib vs. Somewhere Else

Today's First Time Parenting Poll: Should you put your baby down for a nap in his crib or somewhere else.

Today, we'll do things a little bit differently. My wife and I disagree on where to put the baby to sleep. I say put him down in the crib. He'll associate it with sleep, and he takes better naps.

She takes the opposing stance, making the case for putting him down in the same room as us. That way, he learns that his crib isn't just for hour cat naps, it's for bedtime. Plus we have easier access to him if he wakes up and needs something.

So I thought I'd ask other parents what they thought of this. Just make a comment and sound off.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Day 153 - Baby Shades

Today's Tip - Get tinted glass or baby shades to protect your baby in the car

On long car rides, it's important to protect your baby from the sun. Since you're probably headed in one direction for a long time the sun will shine on the same spot on your car for a long time as well. And if that's on your baby, you need to take steps to protect him.

Tinting the glass in your car is an expensive, but is your best bet. It'll cover all the angles of the sun and significantly reduce the brightness of the light streaming in. Make sure that the tinting you get will block UV rays as well. Otherwise it's kind of useless.

You can also buy car shades that'll hang in your windows and block the sun. Unfortunately, I've found these obstruct my view of traffic, and they don't really cover that much of an area on the window.

And there are shades that either come on the car seat or will attach to it. These offer the most coverage, and they won't block your view of the road. Plus they're nowhere near as expensive as the tinting. But there are still some angles that won't be covered by the shade.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Day 152 - Organic Baby Food vs. Regular Baby Food

Today's tip - Regular baby food is just as good as organic baby food

Lately organic baby food seems to be all the rage, but at nearly twice the price, is it worth it?

The answer seems to be no, according to this and several other articles. Turns out that unless your baby has allergies or an aversion to the taste of regular baby food, they're receiving the same safe nutrition as organic.

Most baby food farms aren't sprayed with the same harmful chemicals as the produce you eat, so harmful pesticides and herbicides aren't an issue. And the nutrients in the regular baby foods are controlled and optimized...something that doesn't happen in nature. I'll leave it up to you to assess whether or not that's better. Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with either.

And I tried some organic food - it seemed to taste and have a little bit better texture than the regular stuff. So if you want to give your baby a tasty feast, organic would be a good way to go. But if you're wondering if the extra scratch is worth it for organic baby's not.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Day 151 - Can You Do This?

Today's First Time Parenting Tip - Track your baby's milestones to make sure they're developing correctly

Its important to make sure that your infant doesn't have any developmental problems, but if he or she seems slow in one area, don't worry about it too much unless they're way behind or your pediatrician seems concerned. Everyone loves to compare their accomplishments to others, but the fact is some babies are fast in verbal development, but slow in the physical department, or vice versa. If you're worried about it, ask your pediatrician. At the end of the fifth month, your infant should be able to:

  • Hold their head steady when upright
  • Raise their chest when on their stomach, supported by their arms
  • Roll over (one way)
  • Pay attention to a raisin or other small object
  • Squeal in delight
  • Reach for an object
  • Smile spontaneously
  • Grasp a rattle held to the backs of their fingers

Probably will be able to:

  • Bear some weight on their legs
  • Keep head level with body when pulled to sitting
  • Say ah-goo or other vowel-consonant combination
  • Make a wet razzing sound

They might also be able to sit without support, turn in the direction of a voice, pull up to a standing position from sitting down, stand holding onto someone or something, feed himself, object if you take a toy away, work to get a toy out of reach, pass a cube or other object from one hand to the other, look for dropped object, rake a raisin and pick it up in their fist, babble, combining vowels and consonants like ga-ga-ga.

Taken from What to Expect the First Year

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 150 - First Aid

Today's Tip - Take a first aid class designed to teach you about infant to 8 years old

It's something you hope you never have to deal with. But if you ever are in an emergency with your child, you're either going to fall into one of two groups. Glad you spent the sixty bucks to save your kids' life, or regretting not spending the two hours and sixty bucks.

There should be plent of classes in your area, through the red cross, YMCA, or even a local hospital. You'll learn everything from how to help a choking infant, to burn first aid, to poison treatment, you name it. Classes can run anywhere from forty to eighty bucks, but its worth it.

And you can use that knowledge to teach your child basic first aid in case their friends get into trouble or if they themselves get hurt. And most kids do get hurt at some point in their lives, it's inevitable.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Day 149 - Eat Your Vegetables

Today's Tips - Start with vegetables before fruits to encourage your baby to try them

There's a reason kids never want to eat fruits instead of vegetables. The simple sugars in fruits are easier on their palates. So if you introduce fruits before vegetables, they're more likely to get a taste for that fruity goodness and just spit the green beans and squash right back at you. Try the vegetables first, and get them hooked on the "green" and "orange" foods. Green beans, squash, sweet potatoes and peas are all good single ingredient vegetables.

It usually takes up to 10 tries of introducing a new food to babies, so stick with it. My son made a fish face when we gave him his first green beans tonight (I don't like them either). But after a few bites he was opening and swallowing like a parrot. It's important to teach them to have a wide, varied palate now, and that way it'll carry into their adult eating habits. I was never made to eat veggies as a kid, and I don't really like them now that I'm older.

And if you're still just getting started introducing solids, check out my post on introducing solid foods.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Day 148 - Changes in bowels

Today's Tip - Expect changes in your baby's bowel movements after you introduce solid foods

I foolishly thought I could go the entire 365 days and only talk about poop once. How naive and cute of me. Here I am, only five months in, and I already broke down. Beware, parents. Don't let bowel movements become the only thing you talk and think about.

With that said, on with the poop talk. You probably thought, especially if your baby is breastfed, that the mustardy, fairly neutral smelling poos before solid foods were manageable. It all changes once you throw solid foods into the mix. It's pasty. It stinks. It's everywhere. It's different colors. Bottom line...

It's gross.

But it's to be expected, so don't be too alarmed when it looks like your baby has oatmeal in his diaper. Especially in breast fed babies, the change is dramatic, but normal.

But if your baby stops have bowel movements, are they're hard, or he has a lot less wet diapers (like my son did today), call the pediatrician. They'll ask how many they've had over the past 24 hours, if there's any fever, vomiting, sneezing, coughing or change in appetite. Chances are, they'll just ask you to pay attention to his diapers for a bit and notify them of any strangeness, but better safe than sorry.

Hopefully I can make it another 5 months without talking about poop.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Day 147 - Move Along

Today's Tip - Use your hands or a rolled up towel behind your baby's feet to help them learn to crawl

Babies need a little extra help when they are just learning something new. Mine is starting to try and crawl. Instead of moving forward, he kind of spins in circles. He just doesn't have the push up AND kick with feet together thing down just yet. And he kind of kicks the air rather than pushes against the ground.

To help him along, I hold my hand behind his feet or I hold a rolled up towel tight behind his feet so that he has something to scoot against. It'll help him learn to put the movements he needs to crawl together, and he has lots of fun sliding across the ground.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Day 146 - Mirror Mirror

Today's Tip - Put your baby in front of a mirror for hours and hours of fun

My son just got to the stage where he's amused by the sight of his own reflection in the mirror. We just hold him up there and he smiles and smiles and just yesterday he really started laughing for the first time ever. It was very cute. And now every once and awhile when he's on his play mat and I happen to be looking in another direction, I'll hear him laugh. I look back and, sure enough, he's caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror on the playmat.

Babies won't understand that its them in the mirror until much later on, in the 18 month neighborhood, but they find the new playmate in the mirror that always smiles back at them and imitates their movements great fun. Try it out with your baby and see what kind of reaction you get.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Day 145 - Bath time

Today's Tip - You don't have to bathe your infant every day

If they aren't moving around, getting into dirt and rolling in the mud, you probably don't have to bathe your baby every day. Actually, too much soap can dry out their skin. We bathe ours every other day...he could probably go longer, but he just loves splashing around in his bath so much. As long as you keep their hands, face and rear end clean with soap and water, the rest of them can go a few days. That's assuming they don't get food spilled on them or sweat up a storm, too.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Day 144 - Hairy Beast

Today's Tip - Look for your baby's head to look more proportionate after he grows hair

My son was as bald as Patrick Stewart up until a week or so ago. Then it seemed over night his bald melon turned into a fuzzy peach. And we also noticed his face seemed skinnier, and he looked more proportionate. So if you've got a bald baby with a gi-normous head, don't fret. Once the hair starts coming in it'll look better. And you could be waiting awhile. My wife didn't get hair until she was two or three, and it took me a year or so for it to grow in too.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Day 143 - False Strabismus

Today's Tip - A flat or wide bridge of your baby's nose can make them look cross eyed when they aren't.

Most babies should be able to keep their eyes straight after three months of age. But if they still look crossed and your baby has a wide or flat bridge of their nose, they could be fine. The extra skin in between the eyes makes it look like the irises and pupils are closer together, but its only an optical illusion. It's still something you should ask about at your next well visit.

If it is strabismus, you'll probably get referred to an opthamologist. Eyepatches, glasses, eye drops or maybe surgery could be in your future.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Day 142 - How to Eliminate a Night Time Feeding

Today's Tip - Pay attention to your baby and his preferences to unlock the secret of a full night's sleep

I can deal with only getting about 6 or 7 hours of sleep regularly. But when the baby came along, I was getting that amount of sleep in 2 - 3 hour bursts. After four months, I was ready for my son to sleep hard and sleep long at night. Whether or not you want to try and wean your baby off night feedings is a decision you want to make with your pediatrician. For instance, you might not want to cut out a feeding for an underweight baby at three months. Since my son is an absolute hoss and is almost twenty pounds already, we're giving it a go.

Set him up for success
While you might need the TV to go to sleep at night, chances are it would do the exact opposite for your infant. Make sure the nursery is a quite room, preferrably away from the street so the neighborhood kids don't wake him up with their screaming. Make it as dim as possible, and keep the room at a comfortable 72 degrees.

Make a bedtime routine for you and your baby. It can include things like a feeding, a lullaby, story, some relaxing music, baby massage, a bath, etc. Pick your own and stick to them every night. This will tell your baby its time to rest for the night.

Is he tired or are you?
Some parents try to put their baby to bed when it's their bedtime, or just because they're tired. Make the bedtime routine about your baby's schedule. Most babies, after being up all day, are ready for bed in between 8 and 10 pm. Set aside time in your schedule for the routine, and it doesn't hurt to sleep when the baby does. Or, if you need the time to do other things, plan your free time after he goes to bed. Don't plan your baby's bedtime based on what you need to do that night.

Be Soothing
Remember, if you're stressed out, the baby is probably stressed out. To help him sleep through the night, try to be as patient as possible. Some babies take to it better than others. Some wake easily and it takes them awhile to sleep through the night. If he does wake up, be as soothing as possible. Keep the lights low, don't make any loud sounds. Act like you would during your baby's bedtime routine, no matter how much he wants to play.

Crying it Out
There's plenty of debate on this. If your baby cries every time you set him down to go to bed, try letting him go for a few minutes. Come back, pat him and reassure him, but don't pick him up. Then leave again. Repeat as needed. This might not work for all babies...some just work themselves into a rage. My son has no problem crying for a half hour or so if he's not happy, and he's not falling asleep after it. If you know he's fed and diapered and not hurt, you might want to try the crying it out strategy to see if it works.

Lay Down Awake
Always put your son down to sleep awake. When they wake up in the middle of the night, they won't need a bottle or a cuddle to fall asleep - they'll know that they can fall asleep on their own, in their crib. So if he nods off during the last feeding or in your arms on the way up to bed, try to wake him up just a little as you set him down.

It also could be...
It might not be that your baby doesn't know how to sleep through the night. There could be something else going on. He could be teething, hungry, had too many naps during the day, had too little naps during the day, too warm or cold, have colic or an ear infection. You know your child best, and if something seems amiss, don't just chalk it up as normal. Do a double check of other possible causes.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Day 141 - Using your hands

Today's Tip - Let your baby use his hands to explore feeding time with solid foods and a bottle

Now that your son is probably grabbing for everything in sight, he's going to want to go after anything you bring near him, and that includes bottles and solid foods. While your initial reaction might be to keep things clean and easy by not letting him, you should be letting him go for it. Sure, you'll have to deal with a little mess. Some cereal in the hair or some spilled milk, but its nothing to cry over. (Sorry for the cliche'd analogy...I have no excuse).

If your baby is having trouble eating, it might not be because of the food, it might be because he doesn't like having a spoon shoved in his mouth. My son eats pretty well, but some days he just doesn't want to have a spoon in his mouth. He'll sit in his high chair, happy as can be, and then every time I try to give him some food he gets all bunched up and fussy.

Plus, letting them experiment with putting food items in their mouth will help them get the hang of feeding themselves. I don't really want to be spoon feeding my son when he's'll be bad enough when he's living in my basement playing video games all summer while eating all our groceries. Some things never change I guess.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Day 140 - Too excited to sleep

Today's Tip - Be prepared for a little more crying when your baby learns to move

So we thought we were set. My son was only waking up once a night at 4:30, and then again at 7:30. Not too shabby. Boy, were we wrong.

The past few nights he's been getting up when he doesn't need 10 and midnight. Doesn't want to eat or get changed. He just needs comfort. Trouble is, this is counter-productive to teaching them to sleep through the night.

He's learning to roll over and crawl now, so he works himself over to the edge of the crib and wakes himself up when he bumps his head or body against the edge. My wife is in the midst of making a bumper pad, so hopefully that helps.

In the meantime, we're letting him cry himself back to sleep so he doesn't learn to rely on us to get things perfect if he happens to wake up in the middle of the night. That means a little more crying.

It's funny. We can barely hear him when we turn the monitor off, and we know he's fine, but my wife and I can't function while it's going on. We could be doing other things, but we end up sitting in the living room, stressed and hoping he falls asleep. It's normal to feel this way, but in some situations you've got to toughen up to help your baby get the sleep he needs, and to help yourself.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Day 139 - Raising a Smarter Baby Part 5 - Baby Toys

Part 5 of the Raising a Smarter Baby series

Today's Tip - Toys can be used as teaching tools, not just for fun or babysitting

Like I said in my first post in this series, you don't need to spend a lot on toys or pay attention to any pressure you might feel that you're not buying the "right" toys if you don't go for the most expensive brand. And, unless you love clutter, you probably don't want your house to turn into a plastic jungle.

Safety First
The most important attribute for any toy you pick is safety. And this changes as your baby gets older. The lego set that you would never give to a four month old might be just the thing your four-year-old needs to fulfill his desire to be the next Frank Llyod Wright. Any toy with sharp edges or that shoot projectiles are definitely a no-go for young children. And, depending on your philosphy, you might want to stay away from toys that promote violence, like wrestling toys.

Exercise Your Brain
When it comes to toys, there are definitely two categories. Ones that are interpretive, and some that are not. A TV isn't very interpretive, and doesn't let your child think. Toys like building blocks, sand toys, dolls etc. are open ended and let your child act out many different scenarios and really excerise their creativity.

Develop This!
There are also toys you can get that'll help develop their skills. Here are just a few:

  • Balls, climbing structures, blocks and anything that requires them to use their whole body builds motor skills
  • Magnetic toys, playdough, sand toys, building blocks all help build an understanding of how the world works

  • Numbered blocks and toys that come in a set help with counting skills

  • Shakers, drums, tambourines, guitars and and musical instrument promotes a budding musical talent

  • Interactive books, blocks with letters and toys that have things labeled with names are all great for literacy

  • Telephones, puppets and dolls will all help your baby's social development by helping them create their own scenarios where characters give and take

Use What Your Momma Gave You
Most of the time, the best playthings are the things you've got around the house. Boxes, pillows, spoons, pots, pans...everything is a toy to your child. And part of child's playtime should be time spent creating, using crayons and markers, or making arts and crafts. Your child can make his own toys...mix markers and a box and you've got a spaceship. Mix a box, some pillows and newspaper folded into a hat and you've got a swarthy pirate ready to sail the high seas. The only thing limiting them is their imagination, encourage them to use it.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Day 138 - Raising a Smarter Baby Part 4 - Social Skills

Part 4 of the Raising a Smarter Baby series

Today's Tip - Learning to be social doesn't just mean playing well with others

Babies are almost pre-programmed to be social. Studies show they prefer human faces and voices over inanimate objects. The first thing that made my son smile wasn't a toy that made noise or lit up. It was my wife and I sticking our tongues out at him so that he could stick his right back at us. Thanks for the sass, kid.

Group Play
Rather than just setting your baby down on a play mat or throwing him in his car seat with a few rattles, it's critical for his social development for you to be right down there with him. Play by himself is good too, but before he learns to play on his own, he learns to play with you. Things like tickling, running conversation, peek-a-boo, making faces at each other and playing with the toys you have for him together are great ways to bond and teach him about interacting with other people.

What's Your Mood
Babies know early on that there are differences between happy, sad, mad, etc. They might not know what they mean until later on, but you'll find that your baby smiles when you smile, cries when you cry, gets stressed when you're stressed. It's impossible, not to mention inhuman to be happy all the time around your baby, but if you make an extra effort to put on a happy face around them, chances are they'll grow up to be happier as well.

Talk to strangers
Before the age of eight months or so, babies love to play with anyone. You might feel bad that he smiles from ear to ear at the meter reader, something he usually only does for you, but his reaction is a natural baby fascination with faces. When we pass our son around at family parties, he's in heaven, smiling and getting excited at each new face he sees. But don't fear, babies can tell the difference between their mom and a stranger from birth, and he'll always have a special place in his heart for you.

Don't talk to strangers
Once your baby is old enough to be shy as doesn't want to be passed around, you can make it easier on him so he continues to feel comfortable in social situations like day care or family parties. He's beginning to discover he's an independent person...which can be scary. So naturally he's going to turn to you, his biggest source of comfort. To help him through this transition, let him crawl or walk away from you rather than be taken. Leave him with some familiar objects like a blanket or pacifier or toy, and encourage strangers to get down to his level rather than towering over him.

Another key to teaching your baby about interaction is to respond to his attempts at communication. Get him what he needs when he cries. Chat back at him when he's spouting jibberish. If he reaches for something, and it's safe, let him explore it with you.

Part 5 Tomorrow - Baby Toys

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Day 137 - Raising a Smarter Baby Part 3 - Vocal Skills

Part 3 of the Raising a Smarter Baby series

Today's Tip - Talk to and with your baby to encourage vocal chord development

Even if your baby seems shy and quiet, developing his vocal chords is extremely important early on. From the beginning, the only way they can communicate with you is by crying (guess what...they're using their vocal chords already). Encouraging them to communicate and responding to what they are trying to tell you is important to making them feel secure.

Eye Contact and Response
As early as two months, your baby will start to coo and respond to the sound of your voice. If you make eye contact and imitate the sounds they make back at them, it opens up the very first lines of social communication between you and your baby. You're baby will understand that you are listening to them if you look in their eyes, and making sounds back and forth to each other will become a fun game.

Vowels and Consonants
Baby's usually move from vowel sounds to vowel consonant sounds like ahh-goo. In addition to imitating their sounds, talk and sing as much as possible with your baby. They'll hear all sorts of different sounds and will try more and more to imitate you and communicate with you.

Using language to get a response
Around five months or so, your baby might begin to understand that the sounds he makes can be used to get what he wants - your attention. He may babble or making constant sounds until you pay attention to him. Then, he'll laugh or smile and start cooing and making vowel-consonant sounds. Which of course, you should make back during these 'chatty' times. He'll also let you know when he just wants to rest or has no interest in talking too, by looking away or crying out. Our son loves to talk to us in the car, mostly when he's letting us know he's hungry. He makes a "oooh-ooh-ooh" sound over and over until we stop and give him some milk.

Give him a chance to say his piece
As your baby's language skills progress, its important that you pay attention to the way you talk to him. Don't just talk "at" him. Ask questions, talk as if you were having a conversation. Give him natural breaks in the conversation to respond, and talk back when he does. Say his name a lot, and say the name of objects as you hold them up in front of him. Make reading an interactive activity. Ask him questions, point out pictures and let him grab at the pages or talk to you.

Getting a response out of him
By the time your baby is nine months old he might be saying simple words like mama and dada. Play lots of games where you can interact, especially singing games. He just might be able to respond to small, simple sentences that also have some type of physical action associated with them, like "grab the ball."

Actual Words
By a year old, your baby can probably say other simple words, like "hi" or "dog." Now, more than ever, its important to identify everything around him. He'll start picking up words like wildfire. Keep using his name as much as you can and always listen and respond to your baby when he tries to talk to you. Let him finish his sentences, don't rush in to help him out. Make reading a daily activity.

Part 4 Tomorrow - Developing Social Skills

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Day 136 - Raising a Smarter Baby Part 2 - Motor Skills

Part 2 of the Raising a Smarter Baby series

Today's Tip - Teach your baby to use his body to learn

Your baby can't really explore and interact with his world until he learns how to move and control his body. And though the order he learns things in might seem random, it couldn't be further from the truth. Babies develop "big" movements first, like controlling their head, and then move to the "little" movements, which can be anything from picking up a spoon to sign language.

Head Control
One of the first things your baby will learn to do is to hold his head up on his own. Most will figure this out by the time they're three months old. To help him along, give your baby some time on his stomach every day, and encourage him to lift his head. Put an object that grabs his attention in front of him, and get down on the floor too. Once he's can hold it up on his own, try gently picking him up from his back without supporting his head.

Reaching Out and Grabbing Something
Once they develop this skill, it'll semm all they want to do is grab whatever you've got in your hands and put it in their mouth. By five months, she should be able to reach for something she sees, and by eight or nine months, pick up small objects like cheerios. To help develop this skill, dangle objects in front of his face for him to grab at, surround him with toys to go for, and place safe objects like rattles and stuffed animals meant for infants in his hands.

Rolling Over
When a baby gets this skill, there's no turning back. It seems like once they learn to roll over once, they've got it down pat after a few weeks of allllmost getting it. By four or five months, they should be able to go one way, and by seven or eight months, they should be able to roll both directions and from both stomach and back. To develop this skill, give them a safe spot to practice and encourage them to roll over by holding something next to them or helping them along. Make it a fun game as to push them in the right direction.

Sit Up
Before you teach your baby to sit up straight, you've got to teach them to sit up. By four months, they should be able to do it propped up, and before they're a year old they should have sitting up down pat. Try holding them in your lap or put them against some pillows to give them the sensation of sitting up. Always supervise!

Finally, your baby can move! he's going to be able to get into everything...before you know it you won't be able to keep up. Look out for crawling between eight and thirteen months. Encourage them to play on their stomach more and more as they discover all the seperate movements they need to crawl, and then as they put them together and finally learn to move. Once they start moving, crawl after them and let them chase you as a fun game. Give them a safe obstacle course they can crawl around and explore.

Standing and Walking
One of the last things your baby will do. It's a trying time, filled with falls and scary moments. But it's rewarding to see them walk with confidence on their own. Hold your baby standing up so they can see what it feels like. Hold them near a table and let them grab on to the edge for support. And then watch them pick their feet up and start to take their first steps. Be sure to have the video camera out, and always always always supervise.

Part 3 Tomorrow - Developing Vocal Skills

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Day 135 - Raising a Smarter Baby Part 1

Part 1 of the Raising a Smarter Baby series

Today's Tip - Luckily, the things that'll help your baby develop are also the things that are the easiest

Between the Baby Einstein toys and the educational videos, it's pretty easy to feel like you aren't doing enough to give your baby every single advantage. But there are plenty of things you can do without having to spend all that money.

Talk, talk, talk to your baby
There's nothing that can capture the attention of an infant like the sound of mom and dad's voice. Our son locks on to us whenever we talk. It's great for bonding, and it encourages him to vocalize as well. Feel like there's nothing to talk about with someone who can't reciprocate? That's actually the beauty of it. You can talk about how you agonized over the choice between wheat and white bread and your baby will think you're the coolest thing since, well, sliced bread. It's also good to mimic their sounds and get them excited about trying out their own vocal chords.

Give them all sorts of sensations
Babies have no idea what is out in the world. And the only way to learn is through experience, right? Make their lives a feast for the senses as they get older. Play all kinds of music. Sing to them in your own voice, no matter how bad it is. Our son loves hearing us sing, and we're more like Willem Hung than Barry White. Let them touch cold things, warm things, smooth things, rough things, fuzzy things and smooth things. Hold anything that's colorful up in front of them to take in. Eat all sorts of different smelling and tasting foods yourself. They'll get all the smells and if you're breastfeeding, your milk will taste slightly different.

Encourage your baby to find out things for his own. Give him tummy time, time sitting up, time on his own two feet. Let him roll around. Put him in a "jumparoo". Exploration is great because they get time to figure things out at their own pace, and it teaches them to be creative as well. And of course, structured play with you is good stuff too.

This can be anything from making eye contact, to talking back and forth, to sticking your tongue out at them. It's more fun to do something with somebody else, so play peek-a-boo, read a book, cuddle and be affectionate.

Give it a Rest
Just like its important to guide your infant when he's playing and active, it's just as important to just relax together for a bit. Lie on the ground together, look at clouds, listen to some soft music, and generally just take it easy after a good playing session. You won't overstimulate your kid and this time is just as good for bonding.

Part 2 Tomorrow - Developing Motor Skills

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Day 134 - Fourth of July Safety

Today's Tip - You can never be too careful with fireworks

You'd think most people would know that infants and fireworks don't mix...but apparently my neighbor didn't get the memo. I saw her standing five feet away from a roman candle with an infant in her this post goes out to you, for the sake of your baby's eyebrows.

  • Keep your baby well away from the fireworks. Don't worry, they should be able to see the bright explosion and hear the loud screaming noise from across the yard

  • Don't let babies or small children hold sparklers, smoke bombs or other fireworks

  • Never light a firework while holding an infant

  • For your own safety, make sure fuses are long enough and that the firework is pointed away from you

  • Never set off "professional-grade" fireworks. There's a reason people have to get licensed to shoot them off

  • If you want to save fireworks for next year, keep them in a place where children can't accidentally get ahold of them

Like I said, a lot of these things seem like common sense...but I never cease to be amazed by people. Have a safe and happy fourth!

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Day 133 - Grabber

Today's Tip - Let your infant explore things with his hands

Lately my son has learned that he can grab for lots of stuff. Hair, loose skin, noses, food, pretty much anything that catches his eye. And its important to let him. Touch and getting a sense that he can interact with things in the world is an important skill that'll help them develop at this age.

Introduce them to as many different feelings and sensations as possible. Let him hug a big fuzzy teddy bear. Get their hands into their food and let them mash around with it. Hold your cold can of pop (the bottom, metal at the top is sharp) up to their palms. You control what they touch and feel right now, so make sure everything is safe, and be sure they can't fit anything in their mouth. Because that's exactly where its going to go.

And you shouldn't be disciplining babies at this age, so don't get mad at them if they go for something they shouldn't. Take it away and make sure they can't get it again. Getting mad won't help them learn and it'll just stress you and them out.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Day 132 - What to look for in a car seat

Today’s Tip – Check the height and weight limits on your car seat

Most states have strict laws when it comes to kids and car seats – and they should, its definitely a safety issue. You don’t want to be splattered all over the news like Britney Spears for giving junior an early driving lesson.

There are a lot of car seats out there that are very flexible, meaning they’re a rear-facing infant seat, forward-facing toddler seat and a booster seat all in one. More than likely, you can use it for the whole time your child needs to be in a car seat. Pretty convenient.

Others cover certain weight ranges and heights, so you’ll need to buy more than one as your child gets bigger. Sometimes sooner than later. For instance, my son is a giant and is already 18 pounds and 27 inches long, so he already outgrew the one we bought him. Most people don’t have a football player for a baby, so most will be fine up until around a year old.

Something else to think about when you’re buying a car seat is portability. You’ll probably be carrying him around in it, so you want something that carries comfortably. And sometimes you can just buy the bottom “boot” separately, so you don’t need to buy two car seats if you have two cars. The big, 3-in-1 seats usually don’t come with this, so you’ll have to buy two or deal with reinstalling the seat every time you want to switch cars.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Day 131 - Weaning an infant off the breast

Today’s Tip – If you’re trying to wean an infant onto a bottle, enlist Dad’s help

If you’re a breastfeeding mom headed back to work or if breastfeeding is just taking a lot out of you (it’s ok to formula feed…contrary to what some breastfeeding purists might say) and you need to get your baby off your chest and onto a bottle, look to Dad to help with that transition.

Your baby associates your smell, sound and sight as a source of food right now. So if the mom tries to give a bottle, the baby might be having none of it – he wants the good stuff. But if Dad does it, the baby might be more likely to take to the bottle. Once he’s comfortable eating from a bottle, try swapping between mom and dad to see what happens.

Be patient with your baby as he learns the new eating procedure. If someone all of a sudden told you to eat your hamburger through a straw rather than off a plate, you probably wouldn’t be too happy either.

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