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Your baby’s first bite of food: so exciting moment for you as a parent! However, it can also be scary.  I remember being intimidated about when to start baby foods, what to start with first, what foods should I avoid and so on.  The difficult part was that everyone seemed to have a different opinion or answer to each of the questions above.  As with all development, there is a range of appropriate answers with regard to feeding.  The good news is there is also a great deal of flexibility during this process as well.  I would recommend you learn what is safe, read your baby’s cues, and follow a feeding path that is comfortable for your family.  This three post series outlines some “food for thought” about the introduction of baby food.  This first part will talk about timing the transition to baby food.

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When is the time right to take the first bite?

 As mentioned above, timing of transitioning to baby food is a personal, family, and cultural decision.  However, an important consideration is transitioning to food developmentally appropriate for your baby at that time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting the transition no earlier than six months of age.  Talk with your pediatrician before making this transition to get his or her opinion.  However, age should not be the only consideration. 

Your child should have sufficient head control in order to allow him to sit upright in order to encourage effective swallowing.  Have you ever noticed that many of the store bought baby foods will more likely use motor development milestones when recommending who should eat their products?  This links back to the fact that certain motor milestones like head control are needed to safely support feeding skills. 

Is your baby showing interest in food, either through increased appetite or desire to explore foods you are eating?  An important part of successful transition to baby food is reading your baby’s cues.  Your baby will let you know when he or she is ready to try baby foods.  However, your baby also may provide distinct cues that he is not yet ready.  If your baby actively resists or gets upset with feeding, you may want to wait a few days before trying again.

Be ready for a mess!  Remember that your baby is learning and may not manage the food well at first.  Your baby will get messy, and that is ok.  Some babies actually may feel more comfortable allowing food into their mouths after having the opportunity to feel it on their hands. 

The next post in this series will be a more practical how-to which discusses how to actually start the process and what types of foods to start with. 

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Final thoughts:

Remember to consider what works best for you and your child!  The transition to baby food is not a one-size-fits-all process.  If your child is having difficulty transitioning to baby food or you have concerns about his or her development, we can help!  Remember, Babies Can’t Wait!  Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB:   http://www.racsb.state.va.us/

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Deck the Halls or Wreck the Halls?

Preparing your toddler for the holiday season

Christmas-presentSleigh bells ring, lights sparkle, and Santa may be right around the corner. The holiday season is here! Each of us has a vision of how they would like holiday festivities to proceed for their family. However, many babies and toddlers may not cooperate. From screaming and crying when introduced to Santa or refusing to eat any of the holiday foods, toddlers may not react to festive experiences as we would expect or wish.

Here are three quick tips to help you and your toddler navigate potential holiday landmines.

Remember routines. Holiday traditions can be comforting to adults, but remember that we have had plenty of practice establishing routines and developing coping strategies for when the day-to-day changes. However, your child is probably most comfortable in his or her regular routine which can differ significantly during the holidays. Even small changes in routines can lead to big changes in toddler reactions.

-Try to keep schedule and routine as consistent as possible.

-If routine has to be altered or your family visits places out of the ordinary, try to have some familiar items, activities, or comfort items for your child. New routines are unpredictable and sometimes scary for young children.

Prepare for new experiences. Babies and toddlers may not know what to expect of new holiday experiences. Santa could be a scary, scary man. Out-of-town family members may seem like strangers. Think about what experiences may be new for your toddler and help him prepare for them.

-Talk or read books about holiday experiences.

-Prepare and let your child explore holiday foods before the party. Keep some "old-faithful" options on standby.

-Show your child pictures of family members or make a "Who will we see?" mini-picture album for your child to explore. This way your toddler has multiple opportunities to see these faces and hear the names before they meet the actual people.

-Talk about what is going to happen next. Give your toddler some time to prepare for transitions between activities.

Watch your child's signals. You know your child better than anyone. Keep an eye out for signals that your child is overwhelmed, scared, shy, or tired. Plan a quiet spot that you can go with your child, if he or she starts to get upset or overwhelmed. You may have to be a little flexible with your expectations as your child may need some time to adjust and take in all the excitement.

Final thoughts:
Remember to consider what works best for you and your child! No one type of tradition or strategy will be a good fit for every family. If your child is having difficulty coping with new experiences or you have concerns about his or her development, we can help! Remember, Babies Can't Wait! Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB: http://www.racsb.state.va.us/

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Praise Please!

Parenting is not easy!  It is more like a roller coaster ride where you cannot always see the track or the drops ahead.  For your baby or toddler, learning and exploring this new world can seem just as overwhelming.  Bottom line, we all need encouragement on our journey.  Praise and encouragement are important for your child’s development.  Praise raises self-esteem, supports positive interactions, reinforces appropriate behaviors, and just makes kids feel warm and fuzzy inside.  However, an important consideration is how and why you are praising your child. 

Are you using praise effectively?

Be specific- It is easy to fall back on the old, faithful “Good Job.”  The more specific you are about what you are praising, the more meaningful it will be for your child.  For example, “You are doing a great job picking up your toys” or “I am proud of you for going potty”.

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Praise for achievement and effort- Sometimes, your child will meet a milestone or complete a task.  At other times, your child may need a little extra praise while he is working towards a new task.  Make sure to include both types of praise.  Remember, to be specific about why he is getting the praise. 

Be honest- Make sure your praise is honest.  Praise should be genuine because children have a way of figuring out when it is not.  Make sure your non-verbal cues are consistent with what you are saying. 

Quality over quantity-You do not have to praise your child all day, every day.  Too much praise can be as challenging as too little.  Parents should find a balance that works for their family.  Generally, if you see your child putting in extra effort, provide praise.  If she is doing something that is a typical, mastered part of her daily routine, praise may not be necessary. 

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Final thoughts:

Remember to consider what works best for you and your child!  No one type of praise will be a good fit for every family.  Your praise and encouragement style should fit your needs and comfort level!  If you have concerns or questions about your child’s development, we can help!  Remember, Babies Can’t Wait!  Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB:   http://www.racsb.state.va.us/

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Let's Play!

              Play is the work of children.  This is how they learn and discover the world around them.  One of the most important things a parent can do for their child is to play with them.  But, let’s get real.  When was the last time you played like a child?  I remember in college when I took a part-time job working with a two year old boy with Autism.  I would do therapy 45 minutes out of every hour with the last 15 minutes reserved for play.  These were the longest minutes of the hour.  I had not “played” like a child in so long that I had forgotten how to play.  Fortunately, it’s kind of like riding a bicycle, you never really forget (even if you start out a little rusty).  So where should you start?  Start by just sitting with your child and watching what he or she does.  When you are ready, join your child and imitate what they do.  They will let you know what they have an interest in.  Follow their lead!  When you feel more comfortable, start adding in your own variations in play.

                In a few minutes, your child may move on to something else.  Don’t give up!  Join their play again.  Don’t be afraid to be silly.  In fact, the sillier the better!  Your child will not judge you for being silly, they will love you for it.  Sing songs, pretend to be animals, and take turns.  Remember, your child is learning to play, too!  Make sure to talk with your child about what you are doing.  This will help support language development.  Lastly, don’t forget to have fun!

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Upcoming events for Children with Special needs and their families:

September 11th-“Bounce Night” at KD Kidz World from 6-8 pm.  This free event is for children with special needs and their families.  Come join the Parent Education –Infant Development program for pizza and fun.  This event is sponsored by the Anne Felder Fund through the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region. 

September 26th-“Special Night for Special Needs” at the Children’s Museum of Richmond’s Fredericksburg location from 5:30 to 7 pm.  Admission is free  for children with special needs and their families. 

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Final thoughts:

Remember to consider what works best for you and your child!  No one type play activity will be a good fit your every family.  Your play and interactions should fit your needs and comfort level!  If your child is having difficulty participating in play activities or you have concerns about his or her development, we can help!  Remember, Babies Can’t Wait!  Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB:   http://www.racsb.state.va.us/

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The Calm after the Storm…

So you and your child have weathered the storm of a public tantrum, but how do you both get back to port?  How you respond to tantrums after the “heat of the moment” can also prevent future tantrums.  Remember that tantrums can be both emotionally and physically draining for parents and children.  Allow some time for everyone to recover.  Post-tantrum strategies can be broken into two categories, “teachable moments” and “getting back to good”. 

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“Teachable moments” help the child learn from the experience so he can respond differently in the future.  Do not give in or let the tantrum serve its original purpose.  For example, if your child was throwing a tantrum for a candy bar, do not reward him for calming down by giving him the candy.  This teaches him to tantrum more in the future because when he calms he will get what he wants. Instead, talk to your child about other appropriate alternatives to access wants and needs. 

“Getting back to good” strategies help to maintain a positive relationship through the storms.  Talk about feelings and ways to appropriately express them.  Reassure your child that you love him or unconditionally.  The behavior may be inappropriate, but that does not change the fact that you love him or her.

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Final thoughts:

Remember to consider what works best for you and your child!  These are just a few of many options!  No one strategy will be a good fit your every family.  Your strategies should fit your needs and comfort level!  While tantrums are a part of development, consider the frequency and intensity of tantrum behaviors.  If your child is having difficulty participating in daily routines due to tantrums or you have concerns about his or her development, we can help!  Remember, Babies Can’t Wait!  Contact the Parent Education –Infant Development Program of the RACSB:   http://www.racsb.state.va.us/

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About Brandie

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Join my blog to find early childhood developmental tips, tidbits, strategies, and activities to support children and families.   As a mother of multiple sons (18, 14, 8, 6, and 3), I know that life can be hectic, so all strategies and activities can fit in the context of daily routines and places families typically go.

I am enthusiastic about supporting families who have concerns about their child’s development and helping connect them to desired resources.

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