Teaching letters and numbers to toddlers

Start as early as possible is the best advice I could give to parents who want to teach letters and numbers. When my son was starting to identify things when prompted (i.e. “Where is the ball” and he would point it out) is when I started letters. He absorbed them as rapidly as he was absorbing all the other new objects at the time. By two years old, he mastered all his letters and the numbers 1-10. He could also count on his fingers and had grasped a loose concept of number value (1 apple, 2 apples, 3 apples, etc.). This was all learned through play.


Teaching letters and numbers doesn’t have to be formal or complicated. With most little guys, I think the less formal the better. The lessons that begin with “Ok, we are going to sit down with flashcards and learn numbers and letters” are potentially the worst lessons with little ones. Don’t take my word for it. Just give it a try. It doesn’t work because you are asking them to do something and they know from experience they will most certainly not want to do anything you are asking them to do.

Don’t underestimate the power of informal learning. Don’t make it a big deal. Mention a letter or number while playing or coloring. Have the rest of the family and relatives join in on the game. Introduce through coloring books, sit down and draw with them while they are at their high chair eating dinner.

Use plenty of praise. Great job. And when they get it wrong? “No, not quit. Try again.” Always encourage them to keep trying. Give them hints. Even if you have to eventually point or tell them, don’t give up or let them give up. You can tell them they are incorrect but in a way that makes them feel it is ok to make a mistake. 

Light competition does work. Why? Because it’s fun to win! No one really wants things handed to them. They want to earn it. 

Be patient and keep it light. As a teacher, the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) rule is you can’t force learning. You can lead, and guide, and coach, but ultimately you need them to be open and cooperative. You know your own child. Your best bet is to find a game they like and find a way to weave learning into it. For example, if your child likes peek-a-boo, play peek-a-boo with letters or numbers. Hide a letter or number under the table at dinner and have it appear. Simple, learning is happening and the

Don’t over think it or try too hard. As soon as children know you are trying to get them to do something. Game over. They don’t want to do it. Keep the stress your pre-school is placing on you away from you child. And don’t you stress either. They will get it, if not now, in their own time.

Here are three fun suggestions to get you started: 

Identification

“Where is the letter A?” Point to a magnetic A on your refrigerator. 

This identification game works best with younger children, but depending on how it’s presented and who your child is, it could work for older children. You can also point out letters in books, on TV, Signs on the street, anywhere. Letters and numbers are everywhere. Simple casual learning consistently and you will be amazed at how quickly your little sponge absorbs the knowledge.

Scavenger hunt

Take flash cards – or make them yourself with markers and index cards – and hang them at random points in the house. Tell them we have to find the letters or numbers. You can play this game a number of ways. The main idea is making sure they are having fun and are engaged. You could even make it a race against the clock to add excitement.

Hide and Seek
Same idea but go looking for letters and numbers that are hidden. Could be played with a single letter or number, or multiple if playing for mastery.

Feeding the Picky Eater: What I learned and how I am reduce stress of mealtime with a two year old

My little one hit a picky eating phase a few weeks ago and I was going nuts trying to figure out how to stealth a green vegetable and meat into the bread, pancakes, cheese, fruit, or the unhealthy snacks that he only seemed to want to eat!! On top of all of this, molars started to come in, making mealtime something I dreaded for a few weeks.

In my search for solutions and information, the two main things I learned were find different ways to present food, and don’t stress about it – it’s another phase and perfectly normal toddler development.

7. One diet change to how I deal with Pregnancy Nausea

Here are the best I found. Some given to me by other moms, some from my own trial and error, and others from my own reading:

Find a different way to present food

I cut circle chicken nuggets twice to make four pieces. When I rearranged the circle I found they looked like butterflies when I put a line of ketchup down the center. He loved them! When he got sick of them, all I did was hand him one recently and he wanted it whole.

I’ve since made caterpillars out of noodles, cut shapes out of sweet potatoes, and made smilies out of whatever I put on the plate. Some worked some didn’t. It depended on the day, our, and his mood.

  • Sandwiches A LITTLE mayo, cheese, and toasted bread and I can put anything on it. Chicken turkey and burgers are always a win for me. I also make a chicken salad – chicken, mayo, thinly chopped apple- that is usually devoured.
  • Dipping sauces My toddler got bored with this and actually ended up just eating the sauces. But if your toddler isn’t try ketchup, ranch dressing, applesauce, etc…
  • The silver platter  It doesn’t have to be expensive to be shiny and new. The Easter plate with sections and a cute bunny and eggs on the front we are still using weeks after. He likes looking for the bunny and eggs under his food 🙂 
  • Ice cube tray platter I actually haven’t used an actual ice cube tray, but I did provide a plate with small portions of a number of different foods – a little bit of everything. He can decide what he wants and has fun doing so. It’s his choice what he eats, how much he eats, and there is no pressure. These ideas are discussed in Child of Mine, which I discuss below…
  • Put it in a pouch Blending and putting in a reusable pouch has been my best option. He will eat spinach and carrots blended with applesauce. Score. All of the ones I made I used organic applesauce – because that is all he will eat. Here are the winning combinations that worked for me. I will cook the carrots or use cooked frozen vegetables. Here are the ones I use that work for me Nature’s Little Squeeze. I haven’t tried any other brands these work fine. Quick prewash with a bottle scrubber to get out food and then put in the dishwasher – they clean pretty nicely.
    • Apple sauce
    • Apple juice
    • Spinach
    • Carrots
    • Mixed frozen vegetables
    • Turkey burger
    • Chicken
    • Yogurt
    • Ice cream (who said dessert and dinner need to be separate?)
  • Add a straw there came a point when he got tired of his pouch. My husband added a straw and pouches were cool again – toddler instantly went from no way to give me more.

Don’t make a big deal about it

This is where I went wrong. It became an issue when I made it an issue – and then they pick up on it. The more I wanted little one to eat a specific food, the more he resisted. If he doesn’t want to eat it, don’t make him. Even if he only eats bread. Eventually he’ll get sick of bread and want other things. Stay positive even when you are frustrated to keep mealtime a positive time for them.

Once you think you have figured them out… think again

Chicken nuggets. Ok. Its not the best. I bought the more healthy, preservative free brand. They will do. He can eat those. And then we go to my parents, I pull them out and he refuses to eat. You know what happened when we got in the card, and my dad handed me the bag I forgot? Give me give me. He ate them cold and without any fancy cuts or sauce. Hmmm… enough said.

Moral of the story: Keep trying everything and don’t let them trick you! They change their minds every second 🙂

Read Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense

The second I have just taken out the book from the library. Here are a few things I have learned through my initial skim the toddler section:

  • Toddlers don’t eat as much as you think I was surprised at this but it makes sense. They are not growing as rapidly and won’t need as much food.
  • They are getting more nutrition than you think If your child has milk, cheese, whole wheat bread, and an egg- can be covered in one breakfast for most of us, they are getting plenty of the vital nutrition they need. Don’t force it if they aren’t hungry. They may not be hungry. Don’t force them. They need to learn how to identify when they need and don’t need food. It’s my responsibility to provide food, and the child’s responsibility to eat it now.
  • Make food tasty – don’t over do the healthy and stay away from fat free – they need fats! They made a good point I recall: If you came from a dinner of fat free, where would you be heading right after? The nearest fast food joint because you would not be satisfied! Toddlers need the right amount of fats and starches for healthy brain development. And if you never give them dessert or sugars, it becomes something they aren’t allowed to have and this might backfire when they indulge too much when they do access it – which they will.
  • It’s ok if they spit out their food They need to acquire a taste for foods just like we do. When they put into their mouth and spit out they are still getting use to the food. One day they won’t spit out and will enjoy it. Keep variety and keep trying.
  • Look at nutrition over course of week, not necessarily daily Did they have a vegetable yesterday? Then it’s ok if it didn’t happen today. Try again tomorrow.
  • Consistency with meal and snack times This is something I need to work on and I have seen. The only consistent meals we have is breakfast. Lunch is hit or miss depending on what we are doing and dinner will be thrown off if I offer a snack at the wrong time. They recommend serving meals and snacks at certain times and in a matter of fact manner. Of course if your child is hungry, give them the snack or meal when they need it, but try to maintain a rhythm of predictability with mealtimes.

Above all… remember… this is just another phase. As long as you are persistent and keep trying, your picky eater will eventually learn to like to eat the foods everyone else is eating. Don’t beat yourself up or cause unnecessary stress and make it a big deal- like I totally did 🙂 Do your best for your baby and ride out these little hiccups that drive you crazy. They do pass!

4 Very Informative Websites for Healthy Baby Growth and Development

 

As I prepare for another baby train to hit, I am finding myself forgetting much more than I thought I did. Here are my favorite “new mommy” resource links that I still refer to for questions or advice. There is so much information out there and it helps to find a few core sites you trust to rely on. They were the most helpful and I hope they will help you too!

VI Websites for new moms.jpg

Baby growth and development| Babycenter | WebMD

The Babycenter was the first site I found and kept going back to. I love the baby development videos – what a little miracle every time! I referenced this website often for really everything starting with my pregnancy through the newborn stage through the toddler years – and especially during growth spurts and teething stages.

WebMD I have always used for general medical advice. Pregnancy and newborn health and wellness are well covered topics here.

Baby sleeping and feeding schedules | Cloudmom | Baby Sleep Site

I am not a scheduling every moment of my life person per se. I don’t believe in forcing a baby to take a nap when he is not tired just because it’s 2:00 and that’s what I want my baby to do.

Though I never thought I would EVER need to worry about this – I am a big fan of baby led sleeping schedules.

Cloudmom changed my perspective (and so did my sleep deprivation and desperately needing answers, even the answer was “yep, you are going to be cluster feeding at all hours for the next few days.”  I used the information here as a guideline, and paid attention to the personal needs of my baby. I was able to observe indicators of sleepiness and hunger before hand and developed a baby led schedule appropriate for each stage of development. My baby was generally sleeping through the night by age 1.5 (with a couple of hiccups of course), and I don’t think this would have happened if I hadn’t researched this topic.

A second website I often referred to accidentally time and time again was Baby Sleep Site. Many times when I or my husband googled a question this website would come up and I always found the articles informative and helpful. These are more detailed articles on specific topics. I didn’t sign up for any plan, just made use of the free resources.

Even if you don’t plan on creating a baby sleeping and feeding schedule, it is important to know how many hours and how much food your baby should be getting. Also, every time I think something is wrong with little one, I look up the behavior and will find that its another milestone, growth spurt, or phase 🙂 

And one more just for fun…

Baby Naming | Nameberry

You can find names just through a quick search on the internet, but Nameberry is a clean, user friendly site. I like the clean look, organization, the variety upon variety of lists, and especially the “if you like this name..” feature. Nameberry I have found to be the most convenient for initial baby name searches – I sometimes research a name further for different variations of it’s meaning, history, or nicknames out of curiosity.

 

Book review: Boys Should be Boys

I have read (listened actually) to Boys should be Boys once and I am listening to it again. I found this book refreshing, inspiring, and a wonderful viewpoint of how to raise a son in today’s world. As parents of sons in our ever changing, fast paced world, full of competing interests, we have to find ways to remain the main, steadfast voice of reason and stability in our child’s mind and heart as they are growing and maturing into young men. All parents want their children to be happy, healthy, positive contributors to society. I highly recommend this book as one starting point to enter this conversation.

Boys should be boys review.jpg

Overview

Meg Meeker’s book provides the practical wisdom advice based on her years of experience as a pediatrician and mother. She combines a number of disciplines and resources – statistics, medicine, psychology, and practical wisdom within her work.

It’s refreshing to hear a non-politically correct description of our boys, the society and culture in which they are growing up, and how to best help them navigate these waters, and bring them into adulthood with strength, solid values, and a moral compass they will need to lead happy and healthy lives. Her book is an observation with the insight of both medical doctor and mother.

Practical and not political

What I enjoyed most was how she is able to apply medical and science field as well as moral and spirituality. She does not limit herself to only scientific research or ethics, nor does she exclude either in the discussion. Meeker takes a balanced, practical perspective balancing the research and statistics with the facts of life we observe – politically correct or not. It’s a much more holistic approach which provides a picture of landscape, a context to place our sons in that is, in my option, right on point.

This book is  practical and, at times , seemingly common sense. The reason for reading this book and why I enjoyed it was one of the main foundations of her thoughts. The white elephant no one is talking about. Ready? Here it is:

Boys and girls ARE DIFFERENT

They are not the same. The fallacy in our world’s argument for complete equality of the sexes is treating boys like they are to be raised the same as girls – with emotion, sensitivity, and gender neutral games. It’s not about not providing the same opportunities, love, and support to each. It’s very much the way in which you go about it, and recognizing that boys need exploration, adventure, competition, experience with the outdoors, and rough house. It is a part of who they are as developing men.  They need the same things girls do- love, affection, security, support- but they receive and express these things in different ways. Furthermore, these things they need are found less in less in our son’s present day culture and society. We as parents need to be aware of these differences and provide an environment for or sons to flourish into the men they are becoming.

I highly recommend this book to all mothers of boys of all ages. I also recommend another one of her books, Strong Mothers, Strong Sons which I go into detail about here.

 

 

Pregnancy craving buster: sweet and simple spinach, fruit, and almond salad

I have a sweet tooth and a toddler. Both have cramp my good intentions to eat healthy this pregnancy.  My first trimester was pretty rough with the nausea, now I’m in the I want to eat everything I see phase. Here is my favorite lunch lately. Quick, easy, HEALTHY, and most importantly – satisfying!

Spinach almond salad.jpg

  • Spinach
  • Strawberries or mandarin oranges
  • Blueberries or cranberries
  • Almonds
  • Chicken or cut up turkey burger
  • Cheese
  • A little dressing (Walking a fine line here… not too much!!)
  • Glass of milk, water, or some lemon tea

Modifications: Have your turkey burger on a some whole grain bread on the sides for your carb intake and you are good to go!

Dessert? ONE small piece of chocolate or one small cup of ice cream. If you are REALLY disciplined some vanilla yogurt with some graham crackers is delicious and not as sinful 🙂

Happy lunching 🙂

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