Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Fun, Frugal Gifts for Children

Kitchen Stewardship is a blog I usually read for healthy, back-to-basics, frugal recipes, but wanted to share this great post on a few gift ideas that children will love. The addition of a turkey baster in a Bath Time Kit left me wondering, "now why didn't I think of that?"

Simple, Frugal Gifts for Kids
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Halloween Town Winner - Sarah!

Congratulations Sarah -- we held a low-tech drawing with my husband being the neutral party picking a name (yours!)from a bowl.

I will e-mail you for your address to send the family four-pack of tickets -- hope you have fun!
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Giveaway! Halloween Town Boston Family Four-Pack of Tickets

I was very excited to be contacted about giving away four tickets to this fun, family event with activities for toddlers through tweens. (Advance price tickets are $14 for children and $17 for adults -- even more at the door).

What do you have to do for a chance to win these tickets besides be a resident of the New England area? Just leave me a comment on this post with your e-mail address, and I'll randomly choose a winner on Saturday, October 17th. Ticket dates are valid Saturday, October 24th or Sunday, October 25th from 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM.

More info below:

This year's Boston Medical Center’s Halloween Town is October 24 – 25 at the Seaport World Trade Center. Our special guest is Dan Zanes. While Dan Zanes takes the main stage, the rest of the Seaport World Trade Center will be transformed into a 70,000 square-foot haunted town for toddlers to 12 year olds. Interactive games and kid friendly activities include:

· Interact with a “real” ghost

· Meet & Greets with favorite characters from movies, books and cartoons

· LazerTag

· Children can also listen to their favorite tales in the MonsterPiece

· iParty Birthday Lab

· Pepsi Monster Midway

· Haunted Mine

· Farmers Market

· The Swamp

All zones are “scare rated” providing fun for all ages. Halloween Town is also packed with great entertainment including jugglers, dancers, and fabulous musicians. With over 15,000 guests last year and more than 120,000 pieces of candy given away it is sure to become this year’s highlight for all ages from toddlers to ‘tweens.

To learn more about the event you can check out their website:

Dan Zanes
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Learning to Use Scissors

I've always been a fan of Montessori teaching methods and one blog that I like is:

My Montessori Journey

This particular tip is about scissor skills (or learning to use scissors). Some parents are nervous about letting their young children use scissors, but there is a way to introduce scissors that can make it a simple and enjoyable activity. It is also an important fine motor activity that can strengthen the muscles needed for writing. When I was a home visitor we typically began scissor skills at 35 months, but it depends on your own child's interest and ability. Check it out:

Cutting Work
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Do We Really Want to Tame Temper Tantrums?

Articles abound with magical solutions to avoid temper tantrums. Yes, they are uncomfortable for all involved, but some tantrums are a necessary part of a young child's life.

Temper tantrums arise when children begin to have their own desires and feelings and are able to act upon them. Frustration and anger are very new and powerful emotions; ones that we all have to learn to deal with in our lives.

Imagine walking into the kitchen to get a bowl of ice cream that you are craving. Your husband steps between you and the refrigerator and says, “No, you cannot eat ice cream now.” You reach for the door anyway and he moves your hand away and firmly repeats the no. I don’t know about you, but my blood would begin to boil.

Toddlers face this type of issue throughout the day. They set their sights on something and set out to do it. Mom and Dad assert their own opinions and get in the way of the toddler's pleasure. It's the first time they are feeling these powerful emotions and all hell breaks loose. They are surprised at the depth of their feelings and often so are we.

Sure, it is possible to avoid constant temper tantrums and that is to know your toddler's hot buttons. What sets him off? Being tired and hungry are two of the universal reasons why toddlers have a lower tolerance for someone foiling their plans. Knowing how to read his signals and making sure he is well rested and fueled up throughout the day will keep him emotionally stable, but there are those inevitable times when you will have to say no and he will have to learn to deal with it.

Let him scream, cry, and throw himself on the floor. He will get over it soon enough on his own. A child cannot be reasoned with while in a full-blown emotional outburst, so don't waste your words at this time. His brain actually releases the "flight or fight" chemicals of norepinephrine and adrenaline, making it nearly impossible for him to hear or pay attention to you. Stay somewhere within sight range, although you can turn your back to avoid giving him more attention than he needs.

Probably the most-dreaded of all tantrums is the public tantrum, especially in stores where people, who pretend that they have never seen a child act in such a way, shoot you disapproving looks or tsk-tsks. Ignore them. Be firm in your resolution of the problem by removing your child from the store if you are able. Being in the middle of the checkout line ringing up your order makes it more difficult, but you already know that you cannot stop a tantrum with reasoning or getting angry yourself, so finish your task and then then leave the store.

What your child learns from these episodes is that the result is always the same -- we leave the store. Mom does not give me what I want just because I scream and fuss. After that first public episode, you can institute the pre-shopping pep talk about where you are going, what you are going to do, and what you expect -- no fussing, crying, screaming, tantrums, or whatever terminology your child understands. With little M, now 16-months-old, I often include a visual with my pep talk that includes waving my hands in the air and pretending to scream, so he gets the idea. Luckily for me he has a good sense of humor and seems to enjoy my little pantomimes. His outbursts are much less severe and shorter in duration than they were two months ago. He's definitely learning by experience, which is the goal.

Do not give in to a tantrum, as this will increase tantrums over time rather than decrease them. If you feel you've made this mistake in the past, it is never too late to start fresh and to be consistent going forward. Once he has calmed himself down, you can acknowledge this by saying something along the lines of, “I'm glad you are feeling better. Are we ready to play (or whatever the case may be) now?”

Tantrums can be scary for toddlers and it helps them to know that everything goes back to normal after the storm has passed. Getting upset yourself will only increase your child's level of panic or anxiety. If you feel you must say something, you can say (above the roar), “when you are ready/feeling better/done being upset, we can play/go to grandma's/fill in the blank."

Trying to avoid temper tantrums by always giving a child what he wants will only delay the inevitable. At one point he will erupt in anger and frustration. Would you rather him learn to deal with strong emotions at two years old or see him grapple with this issue when he is 10 or 16? Let him learn that it is okay to have powerful feelings and that life goes on once he has experienced dealing with disappointment and frustration.

Nanny's Note: I chose this photo because it looks so much like Little M (at about 13 months old) that it is hard to believe it is not him! I may be biased, but I think he's a cutie!
Photo Credit:
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Walking the Red Carpet - Blog Awards

(or at least it feels that way!)

With my father's passing and funeral masses in both Florida and here in New England, the last month and a half have been a blur.

In the midst of it all, some wonderful bloggers sent a bunch of blog awards my way. While they all deserve more awards of their own, I know how much time goes into choosing bloggers to pass these awards to, so I will give them a break (this time) by awarding only to other bloggers. Please check out these talented women who are always quick with a kind word to brighten my day:

Thank you to Xenia at Thanks, Mail Carrier for:

Now for passing some love back into the blogosphere. Here are the rules of this award:

This award is bestowed on to blogs that are exceedingly charming.
These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends.
They are not interested in self-aggrandizement.
Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated.
Please give more attention to these writers.
Deliver this award to six bloggers who must choose six more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.
I will pass this award to some of my bloggy friends that I find exceedingly charming...

A Fresh Beginning

Theta Mom

Vegan Epicurean

Cin's Outnumbered and Loving It

It's Gravy Baby

Julie Chats

Thank you to Cindy at 5 Silly Frogs for:

This award comes with some instructions- I am supposed to list 7 things I love and then award it to 7 more bloggers! So here are my loves in no real order:

1. My Family- Of course

2. Libraries

3. Books

4. Working with young children

5. The Internet

6. Spicy Food

7. Fall in New England

Now it is my turn to return the thanks and award this award to these wonderful bloggers. Check them out:

Bloggin 2 Noggin

Old Bag Vintage

Lori Calabrese Writes

Great Fun 4 Kids

Me and My Insanity


The Lost and Found Vintage Blog

Thank you to Sophia's Mom at Wanna Be Work at Home Mommy for:

The rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award" are:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

15 Great Blogs:

Where a Woman Shakes Her Tablecloth

Common Sense Homesteading

All That and a Box of Rocks

Design Dazzle

Yes, Divas Can Cook

A Military Wife's Mayhem

Tic Tac Dough

30 Days

Cheap Healthy Good

Make it From Scratch

My Montessori Journey

No Time for Flashcards

Preschool Playbook

Claire's Toddler Tales

Modern Day Ricky and Lucy

Thank you to Jackie at Three Little Ones for:

Okay, so the rules of the award:

This award is bestowed on to blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. deliver this award to six bloggers who must choose six more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award. I will pass this award to some of my bloggy friends that I find exceedingly charming…


The Mahogany Way

My Sweet Home Inspirations

Blah, Blah, Blog

Native American Momma

Thank you to T. at My Personal Cafe for:

The rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award" are:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

15 MORE Great Blogs:

Simply Sugar and Gluten Free

The Artful Parent

A Year of Slow Cooking


Raising Normal Kids

Randal's Wife, Charmaine's Life

Web Savy Mom

Life at 30

Confessions of a First Time Mom

20-Something Momma

Just Something I Made

Leanne's House

Random Lustings of a Creative Mind

Homemade Mamas

Simply Forties

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Baby Item You Can't Live Without

Sorry I've been away again - a month ago my father passed away and I went to Florida for the wake and funeral. Now I've been planning another memorial mass and get together here in New England for families and friends to take place this weekend.

As a quick post, I'm trying the new Simply Linked widget and asking a question I've wanted to know from other Moms:

What's the One Baby Item You Didn't Know You Needed Until You Tried It?

For me, it was a pack of garment extenders that add inches to your onesies or other snap-type clothing. Babies always seem to grow longer before they grow wider and these really helped extend the life of my daughter's clothing. (Having trouble loading a picture with blogger today, hopefully will have one up soon):

Add your post about the Baby Item You Can't Live Without:

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Learning Colors

I love everything about Cindy's blog, 5 Silly Frogs, from her creative ideas to her book lists.

Check out this activity to reinforce color recognition, which works just as well with toddlers:

Fun with Green
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Curious Toddlers - Homemade Activities

From the time they open their eyes in the morning until that last yawn of the day, toddlers are on a mission to explore. This leads to their reputation for “getting into things”.

Four ideas to keep them busy:

1. Twist On, Twist Off

Build a collection of different types of containers with screw-on tops like the ones below:

Not pictured, but perfect for little hands are empty plastic spice containers.

With lids secured loosely, let your child explore it a bit and then show her how to use her hand to twist it off. Start with two different types and gradually add more over time. Then add toys or balls to the closed containers to add interest (ping pong balls pictured work well in spice jars, but are still considered a choking hazard for young children. Please do not leave child unattended or only use balls at least 2” in diameter).

Keep your bottle collection in a small zippered duffle-type bag or men’s toiletry bag, and you’ve given your child another fine motor task to master.

2. Hinged Containers

Toddlers love to open and close hinged containers and fill and dump with small toys.

Check Grandma’s house for older tin versions of Bandaid containers (last year Walmart had special anniversary versions for sale,) or maybe you have some novelty types like those below. Bandaid brand also has a new plastic tough-type container.

Baby wipe containers that open and shut in a hinged fashion are also fun. For fine motor finger skills, try adding wash cloths for your child to pull out and stuff back in.

Note: Look for signs that your child is ready for these types of activities. If he is engaged and excited, it's the right level. If he finds any of it frustrating or loses interest, try again in another week. As you know, week to week children grow and develop by leaps and bounds.

3. Indoor “Sand” Box

You’ll Need:

-Plastic Measuring Cups and Spoons

-Plastic Funnel (optional)

-Large plastic storage container (at least 18”L x 12”W x 5”H)

-Your choice of filler
(this will depend on your child’s age and whether he/she still puts things in his mouth):

---Dried Rice

(safe if ingested but do not use outdoors as rice is not safe when eaten by birds)

---Dried Beans

(best for older toddlers/preschoolers as creative little ones might try to stuff one where it doesn’t belong – nose or ears)

---Dried Pasta (small shapes)

---Bird Seed

(this is a terrific green option as once it has outlived it’s play life, it can be used to feed the birds. If used outside, bird seed will not harm any wildlife if it falls to the ground – just remember that you might get a few plant sprouts wherever it drops on the soil).

4. Traditional Toys

If you haven’t introduced these yet, it’s a perfect time for:

-Wooden Puzzles with Pegged Handles

-Simple Shape Sorters (start with only circles and squares to lessen frustration)

-Stacking Cups

-Blocks of Any Type

(create your own stackables using empty cereal/formula canisters or boxes)

Easy Homemade Blocks

Photo Credit: Adrian Lee, Canada
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Travel Toys for Toddlers

Have you heard of Delicious Baby blog? It's a popular travel blog written by Debbie, mom of three, who has so many great tips for traveling with children of all ages. Her informative city guides alone are worth a look!

Check out this post on Travel Toys for Toddlers (also great for everyday fun)!

Nanny's Note on Find It Games:

You can make your own version of these by filling an empty water bottle with rice or salt and adding small items of interest -- buttons, sequins, tiny toys, small dice, etc. (use white glue to secure the cap and add a layer of duct/packing tape to seal). Shake it up and everywhere you turn, you'll find something new.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Away from Computer

Just a quick post to say that I will not be spending much time at the computer in the next week or two as my father passed away this week, and I am in Florida spending time with my family.

Thanks for all the great comments you've left on my recent posts. I look forward to catching up soon on my blog reading and writing.

Take care -- Dee
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Friday, August 7, 2009

One-Year-Olds – Time for Art!

Once he is past the stage of putting everything in his mouth (some time after his first birthday or soon after his first steps) he’s ready to experiment with art and textures, while learning a whole new range of vocabulary!

Art is a cause and effect experience, so you’ve probably heard it’s the process that is more important than the finished product.

Painting with Water

What, no paint? Using water has the same effect as paint without the mess. This makes it a perfect first art activity. Your child practices using the brush, dipping it into the water, and making strokes on colored construction paper. The water darkens the paper allowing him the same experience as painting with actual paints.

When you feel your baby has mastered the concept (within a few days or even weeks), go ahead and introduce colored paint. Use tempera or other liquid paint rather than the solid paint trays, which are best suited for preschoolers. Mix the paint with a bit of water and dish soap for easier cleanup.

Chubby handled brushes are best since toddlers use large muscle arm movements when painting or drawing at first. If you can’t find a chubby brush, you can try one from the hardware section like the one I found at Walmart:

Finger Painting

Sure, there are finger paints and papers, but there are other fun options for use right on a high chair tray:

Whipped Cream or Cool Whip*

I prefer this option to shaving cream for very young children, as shaving cream can sting sensitive skin and eyes as little ones tend to rub their faces. However, shaving cream is perfect for older preschoolers.

For the first experience, keep it simple and plain white. The next time you try it, mix in some yellow food coloring to add some interest. Use bolder colors only if you don’t mind possible staining of hands, clothes and tray. Another option: flavored extracts with scents like lemon, orange, or maple.


Add a drop of food coloring when mixing instant vanilla pudding

*Note: Some people have issues with using food of any kind for early childhood projects because food is a luxury for some. While I understand that view, babies play with their food every day as they learn about new foods and how to eat, and to me this is a similar learning experience.

Sticky Stuff

Masking Tape or Painter’s Tape

Pull off a strip and wad it into a ball – then stick it to the back of your child’s hand while introducing the word STICKY! He’ll figure out how to pull it off or might try to shake it a bit.

Next, stick the wad of tape on the wall or on some other object for him to pull off. This can be a great motivator for cruisers or crawlers to make their way to the location to try to pull it off.

When your child is ready for more of a challenge, stick strips on the wall for him to pull off and play with. For older children, post-it notes are fun to peel off, stick and re-stick. Post-its come in all shapes and colors, or you could add your own letters, numbers, or smiley faces for a new twist.

Shiny and Crinkly

Introduce a piece of aluminum foil and the word SHINY! Shake it a bit to listen to it rustle. Let your baby explore it a bit. After a minute or two, you could show him how to CRUNCH it and talk about how it is CRINKLY. Once it has been compacted, gently pull it out to a larger size while baby watches. Now it has creases and crinkles and reflects light in different ways. Let him crunch it again and repeat the process a couple of times until the foil starts to rip.

Other Experiences:

brown paper bags (ROUGH and CRINKLY)

waxed paper (SMOOTH and CRINKLY)

cotton balls (SOFT and FLUFFY)

fine grit sandpaper (ROUGH and SCRATCHY)

waxed bag from inside Cheerio’s box (both ends opened) (CRINKLY and LOUD)

Traditional Art Tools:

Chubby Crayons

Young children are fascinated with picking at the paper on crayons, so it helps to take it off first.

After a few initial coloring experiences, break a few crayons in half. Using shorter crayons makes children adopt a hold that is similar to one they will use when learning to write properly. At first they will grip the longer crayons with their whole hand – like a monkey grip.


Although markers offer an additional writing experience, many parents dislike the fact that they aren’t usually as washable as advertised. It doesn’t take much to get them all over hands, clothes, and the high chair tray.

A good first option is to try highlighters on white paper. These lighter shades of green, orange, pink, and blue will offer a similar experience but tend to be easier to clean up with baby wipes. Look for non-toxic types as some are not labeled.

Sidewalk Chalk

Chubby size perfect for small hands and can be used on darker colored construction paper.

Colored Pencils

Offers the same writing experience as pens and pencils without marking the skin easily.

Little M and I have had lots of fun with these projects and hope you enjoy them too! A fun note: Sticky was one of his first words! He would laugh every time he heard me say it.

Nanny's Book Note: Always check your local library first for a test drive. It's a great way to find out which books are truly worth adding to your child's cherished collection.

Photo Credit: Craig Jewell; Brisbane, Australia
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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ages and Stages – Don’t Compare

Have you ever sat in a group of parents and children and noticed major differences between children where milestones like crawling, walking or talking are concerned?

While it is true that most children pass through predictable stages of development, there is no specific age that they will occur.

Although much is written about typical behavior at certain ages or stages (myself included), a span of three to five months around the target age is entirely typical.

For this reason, it’s important not to compare children or their abilities to other children.

Communication, gross motor (large muscle groups), fine motor (hands and fingers), personal-social, and problem-solving are five major areas of child development. In my years of working with children, I’ve come to recognize that each child has their own individual areas of strength or interest. Early talkers may not be early walkers and vice versa, but they will eventually conquer each domain on their own time table.

As a home visitor/parent educator, parents and I used the Ages and Stages Questionnaire provided by our agency to periodically assess children’s development. Not only did the parents get reassured that their child was progressing on target for his or her age, but the questions themselves provided clues as to what types of activities they could or should be doing.

The University of Oregon’s Early Intervention Program is currently studying the development of infants and young children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years. As part of this study, they are allowing any parent to fill-out (anonymously) an Ages and Stages Questionnaire online for their child. They do ask for basic demographics information for their study, but no names or locations.

The questionnaire itself takes only a few minutes and once completed, you will receive the confidential results immediately through your e-mail address. You can also print out the completed questionnaire and additional activities for your child’s stage. There is no cost for this service.

Take the Ages & Stages Questionnaire at:

Nanny's Note: As always, please discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.

Photo Credit: Anissa Thompson; Carson, CA
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Trimming Toddlers' Toenails

Regina over at Claire's Toddler Tales had this great idea for trimming toddlers' toenails!

Click on the link to read the full story, and stop by and say hi!

Magic Cabin
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Friday, July 24, 2009

This Made My Day! A Blog Award

Winners Grab Your Award Above!

Thanks so much to Juanita at Blah, Blah Blog for making my day by sending me a lovely blog award. Juanita is a busy mom of four who writes about her life, current events, and always posts lovely poems on Sundays -- some written by her and some by others, so stop by to say hi!

The rules to receiving the "One Lovely Blog Award" are the following:

1. Post the award on your blog along with recognition to the person who gave it to you with a link to their blog. 2. Award 15 other well deserving blogs that you have discovered. 3. Don't forget to contact the winners you chose for the award!

Since beginning my blog I've become a blog addict and found many bloggers with such varied lives and interests -- it was nearly impossible to pick a list of 15 lovely blogs, but hopefully you'll find someone new and interesting to read:

My Personal Museum

Execumamas, I hear ya!

My Loose Threads

Kenzie Poo

The Poor College Student's Guide to Raising a Baby

Beginning Fresh

Spearmint Baby

A Frugal Friend

Baby Good Buys

My Frugal Adventures

My Best Decade - the 50's!


Peanut's Page

The Mahogany Way

Lose With Lisa
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mid-Week Mom Tip - The Tidy Up Song

Using Music to Make Chores Fun

One of my favorite blogs is Great Fun 4 Kids by Simone. It is full of creative and memorable ideas for fun family activities.

Her other blog, The Baby Exchange, is a swap site for all things baby in New Zealand. There's nothing quite like it here in the U.S., but maybe some enterprising mom will get to work on it!

Here's her post on using music to make clean-up time fun (this idea can also be used for other routine chores that children fuss about -- brushing teeth, washing hands/face, etc.)

Tidy Up Song at Great Fun 4 Kids

Photo Credit: Simone at Great Fun 4 Kids
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Which Toys are Best? 9 - 11 Months

Part III

On the Move!

Many gross motor milestones are reached during this stage. For many, crawling is the first step, and crawling comes in all types of varieties: dragging himself across the floor with his forearms, just learning how to pivot around in circles, rocking back and forth on hands and knees, and the always entertaining half sit, half crawl. Don't worry too much if your baby comes up with his own style, but as always discuss any concerns with your pediatrician.

Motivators: Things that Roll

Usually it takes having a desirable object or toy just out of reach to give baby the motivation to get moving. Small vehicles and balls work well, because as he approaches it and hits it with his hand, it rolls even further out of reach. Try to resist the urge to give your child the toy at the first sign of frustration. If he is persistent, he will keep trying to get the ball and sooner or later may have dragged himself across the room without even realizing it.

Homemade Rolling Toy

You’ll need:

-Empty old-fashioned oatmeal containers/round salt containers(cardboard type) or formula/cereal canisters

-Small block or toy to add to the container for noise (or dry rice grains for the salt container)

-Optional: stickers, magazine cut-outs of interesting baby faces or animals to decorate the container; clear contact paper to cover

Playtime: Roll the container to your baby to catch his attention. After awhile, put it slightly out of reach so he’ll be tempted to try to get it.

Babies still love cause and effect at this stage, so having the toys or rice inside will add the dimension of sound effects.

I can stand! Now what do I do?

Learning to stand can occur before, during, after, or instead of crawling. Some babies skip crawling all together once they’ve learned the excitement of standing up and seeing things at a different level.

This can be a scary time for baby as well. Getting up was easy, but once they are up, how do they get down? Sometimes they find out the hard way that they hit the floor with their bottoms pretty quickly. This usually startles them, but once you let them know that it’s okay to fall and teach them to get right back up again, they’ll get over their fear of falling.

Bending Practice:

One way to help babies learn to bend their knees and ease them down from a standing positon: put a favorite small toy on the floor by their side, so they will be encouraged to figure out how to reach the toy.

Unless they get severely frustrated, let them try to figure it out and make a few unsuccessful attempts. You can also put a pillow down with the toy on top to make the first few tries more successful.

Fill and Dump:

Babies love to drop small identical items (such as blocks) into containers one by one and dump them out again.

Homemade Fill and Dump Toy

You’ll Need:

-Metal ends from frozen juice concentrates – cleaned – there are usually no sharp edges on these

-Empty Formula can, stainless steel bowl, plastic container, empty wipe container, or small shoebox

Playtime: Fill, dump, repeat!

Homemade Fill and Dump: Challenger Version*

For older babies, cut a suitably wide slot in the top of a formula container or shoebox lid. You can also use the available slot on some types of wipe containers.

Playtime: Show baby how to drop the metal lids into the slot.

Make sure the slot is in a horizontal position while the can is upright in front of baby. This will match the motions he will most likely use to put the item into the slot. He will not yet have the dexterity to twist his hand in awkward positions.

Once he has mastered this position over a length of days or weeks, change the position of the slot to vertical and allow him to problem-solve this new puzzle.

*If this level of play seems to frustrate your child or he lacks interest, it may be too soon. Try again in a few weeks, as 12 - 14 months is usually about right for beginning this game.

Challenger Version Example:

Other Fill and Dump Activities:

Kitchen Cabinets

This age group loves nothing more than opening and closing a low-level cabinet and exploring its contents. They will pull everything out, examine it, attempt to put it back and then repeat.

Things to Put in Baby’s Cabinet:

-small pots with covers, plastic storage containers with or without covers

-small light boxes of food such as pudding, jello, and instant rice
(things that make noises when shaken are a bonus)

-small cans like tuna and tomato paste to stack and roll

Laundry Basket

let them pull out all the clothes and help them put them back in

Low Bureau Drawer

let them pull out each nicely folded item and attempt to stuff them back in again
(a close second to kitchen cabinet fun)

Other Popular Activities:

-Flap books

-Animal Sounds

-Peekaboo and Patty Cake

-Finger Plays*

*For video clip demonstrations of popular finger play songs, check out the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) website's infant/toddler page here:


Bonus: Listen and learn about nursery rhymes, lullabies, and age-appropriate stories. There’s also a preschool section for older siblings.

Nanny's Book Note: Always check your local library first for a test drive. It's a great way to find out which books are truly worth adding to your child's cherished collection.

Next Week: One Year

Photo Credit: Sam Pullara
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Which Toys are Best? 5 - 8 Months

Part II

Look what I can do!

By 5 months, she’s discovered her hands and is amazed at what they can do. She is still working on efficiently using hands and eyes together in a coordinated way by setting her sights on an object and attempting to bring it to her mouth. Rattles, teethers, plastic keys, and small hand-held toys will continue to have appeal. Crinkly sounds and textured items will also add interest.

Forget about toys with push buttons and electronic sound effects. Commercials keep telling us that these toys will keep children fascinated for hours, but it’s not the case. Babies explore with all their senses – sight, sound, touch, and taste. They pick up items, view them from every angle, shake them around and gnaw on them. Heavy electronic toys don’t fit the criteria.

Homemade Activity: Bowl of Balls

You'll Need:

-Stainless steel kitchen bowl

-a set of these can be found at Walmart for about $7 and can be used for other activities in the coming months – then they can be used permanently in your kitchen.

-Plastic or wooden balls about 2” in diameter or larger

-these types of balls often come with other toys you might have received as a gift or from an older sibling. Large wooden lacing beads work well too.

Playtime: The bowl fits snugly between your child’s legs while they are in a supported sitting position. The metal bowl provides two types of stimuli: visual interest as all the colors of the balls are reflected in bowl and a satisfying clattering sound as they are dropped into the bowl or swirled around.

This activity gives baby great practice reaching her hands in and grasping at the balls and eventually bringing one to her mouth.

Homemade Activity: Sensory Blocks

You’ll need:

-Empty Gerber baby food containers from fruits/veggies (the rectangular plastic type)

-Objects that are safe in materials and size* (colorful spools of thread, small wooden disc from a stacking toy, a figurine from Fisher Price or Playskool playsets).

Playtime: You've created a handheld toy with visual interest to grasp, shake, and make sounds.

Homemade Sensory Block Example:

Cause and Effect

By about 7 months, baby is an old pro at grasping items and moving them from hand to hand and hand to mouth. She’s ready to make some music.

Playtime: Using the same metal bowl, offer your baby a stainless steel measuring spoon (or lightweight teaspoon, but watch the long handle as it will probably end up in her mouth). A quick demonstration by mom or dad on how to bang, bang, bang on the rim of the bowl should get your little musician banging away. For a different tone, you can turn the bowl over and tap on the bottom.

If you don't have a metal bowl, you can substitute an empty formula canister or Gerber cereal canister. Turn it upside down and bang away on the metal bottom. For the smaller size canisters, you can add a small block (or the plastic scoop it comes with)to the inside and cover it up for a noisy shake toy that baby can grab with both hands.

Object Permanence - Things Still Exist Even Though I Can’t See Them

Sometime around the 8-month period, stranger anxiety and separation anxiety can begin as baby notices when you are gone from the room. This is an important developmental milestone as your baby discovers that you and she are not one person; you are individuals and exist separately from each other.

Homemade Activity: Now You See It, Now You Don’t!

You'll Need:

-Two plastic food storage containers or small bowls (one clear, one opaque)

-Baby’s favorite rattle or toy

Playtime: Cover the toy with the clear container so it is visible. Tap the container to draw baby’s attention to the toy. See if she will try to lift the container to get the toy. (As with all activities, if your child does not seem interested, it may be too early – try again next week or the week after that).

After a few successful attempts at retrieving the toy, let her watch as you hide the toy under the opaque container. Does she try to uncover it or does she look away and become involved in something else?

If she tries to get the toy it means she has an understanding that things still exist even when you can’t see them. She has officially entered the object permanence stage and knows that when mommy or daddy aren’t in the room, they still exist.

Pincer Grasp Activities

Picking up items with thumb and forefinger is another important developmental milestone. Towards the end of this month period you can begin to offer a Cheerio or two on the highchair tray to encourage the pincer grasp. Babies usually start out with a raking motion using all fingers and it can be a hit or miss proposition.

Playtime: Once your baby shows an interest in picking up small items with her fingers, you can challenge her further by using an egg carton with one or two cheerios or puffs in each segment. This increases the likelihood that she will try to use her fingers rather than her whole hand. (As with all activities, the goal is to challenge but not frustrate. Your child will let you know if she is ready for this game. If not, try again next week)

Exersaucers/Stationary Activity Centers

These short-term toys are useful for approximately ages 4 to 7 months depending on your baby’s size. They can be expensive for the amount of time used, so check with friends or the consignment shop first. While not necessary for baby's development, many parents enjoy having this option to add variety to the activities of the day.

Stationary activity centers allow your baby to sit in a somewhat supported position before they can fully do it on their own. After awhile they learn to pivot around to check out the different attached toys and activities. At the younger end of the range when back muscles are still developing, a few times a day for short periods of 15 minutes or less is sufficient.

Flat Feet or Tippy Toes?

There’s much debate about flat footed versus tippy toes when sitting in a saucer. Early childhood educators were once taught that flat footed was best as it allowed baby to stand up and strengthen legs. Having only toes touch was thought to put unnatural weight on the toes and encouraged improper toe walking.

Manufacturers now recommend that baby only have toes touching the base because some children continue to use saucers beyond the appropriate age and being flatfooted allows them to physically tip the saucer over or climb out.

When a child's legs and bodies are really starting to move, it’s time to put the saucer away and allow floor play to encourage crawling. It’s always helpful to ask your pediatrician for his view.


For over 15 years the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that walkers not be used. The AAP campaigned to have the manufacture and sale of these items banned. Unfortunately, they are still in use today.

While it may seem that they help children learn to walk, this isn’t true. When using a walker, babies use their tummies to push forward and if their feet are not flat on the ground, they learn to toe walk. These muscle groups are not used when learning to walk naturally.

Safety is a major concern because babies can move quickly and end up in dangerous locations that they otherwise wouldn't have access to. You can read more at:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Nanny's Book Note: Always check your local library first for a test drive. It's a great way to find out which books are truly worth adding to your child's cherished collection.

Next Week: 9 - 11 Months

*All small toys should pass the safe materials and size test. Use a paper towel tube to check the toys'size safety. If it passes through the tube, it is small enough to be a choking hazard and should not be used for children under three years of age.

Photo Credit: todobebe
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Swap Mamas

Lately I've been hooked on frugal blogs and wanted to pass on info about Swap Mamas, a concept similar to Craigslist. It's for families looking to swap children's clothes, shoes, toys, etc.

Thanks to Homemaker Barbi for the tip listed in her article How to Save Money by Getting Almost Everything for Free.
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Which Toys are Best? Birth to 4 Months

Part I

Sometimes the best toys are not toys at all – ask any Mom whose tot plays with the box and wrapping paper at his first birthday party.

The truth is there are very few actual toys that a child needs to have during the first year. Rather than trying to guess which toys will catch your baby’s attention, it is helpful to concentrate on different developmental stages and what types of skills a toy will help your child practice. Each stage is like an open window of opportunity with specific needs.

Birth to 4 Months – All About Vision

I Like to Gaze

Since vision is fuzzy at birth and slowly increases each month, your baby will mostly enjoy looking at contrasting items. Black and white is popular, but any dark color on a lighter background is equally fascinating. Face shapes are appealing to babies, so simple outlines of round faces with eyes, nose and smile are preferred. Things that move or sway (ceiling fans, mobiles) are also a big hit.

Stationary infants will rely on you to change their view throughout the day. You can provide interesting patterns through a crib bumper or draping a colorful baby blanket/comforter/play pad over the couch and positioning your baby nearby in an infant seat or bouncy.

Another trick is hanging simple black and white geometric images or faces on the wall near your changing table at eye level. You can find simple patterns and drawings on the internet and print them out in black and white.

It’s also never too early for books. Baby will really enjoy contrasting, colorful illustrations and hearing his favorite sound – your voice – as you read nursery rhymes to him. For this same reason, singing lullabies and listening to all types of music together is enjoyed at every stage.

Baby Pilates (Tummy Time)

Lots of babies dislike being on their tummies and for good reason – it is hard work. Not all of us like to exercise, but we make ourselves do it because of the health benefits.

Lifting his head and chest (and later arms) off the floor strenghthens the upper body muscles needed for crawling. Isn’t it true that not all babies crawl? Yes, some little overachievers pull themselves up one day and just start cruising, but research has shown that these same muscles are called upon in the early school years when learning how to write. So, there’s a good reason why everyone makes a big deal about the importance of tummy time.

If my baby is able to hold his head up early on while sitting, isn’t this the same thing as tummy time? No; lifting up while being on your tummy uses many more muscles than just holding your head up while sitting. As they grow, infants also begin to lift their legs off the ground in a flying fish position. This is when they start gaining the momentum to actually pivot or inch along the floor.

To make tummy time pass more enjoyably (5-minute sessions a few times a day at first), offer a propped up board book or anything with an interesting pattern to hold their attention. Laying babies on your chest while you are in a reclining position gives them incentive to lift their head up to gaze at your face.

Eyes and Hands Together

Towards the end of this period, babies will use their vision and motor skills together to reach out and touch objects they see. Any number of play gym type items that have dangling objects overhead are perfect. Some come with attached overhead clip links that allow you to add and delete toys to keep things interesting(picture below just for illustration purpose). Since these items can be pretty pricey and are only used for a few short months, you might want to request one on your baby registry or pick one up in a consignment shop. Better yet, maybe a generous friend will pass hers on to you!

A homemade version (one only suitable for infants who cannot pull things to them yet) can be accomplished by stringing a few of baby’s rattles on heavy yarn and hanging it across the baby’s crib for short supervised periods (not a permanent fixture). You can also place two dining room chairs on either side and string toys across while baby is on his back on the floor. What to hang? Rattles, plastic keys, or anything that jingles or makes a little noise. Since most of these toys will soon end up in his mouth in the months to come, nubby textures and safe items meant to be mouthed will be a good investment.

Once baby makes contact with an item and sees it sway or hears a rattling sound, he will soon be batting at more toys each day. All this reaching out and aiming for a toy will be strenuous for your baby, so don’t be surprised if anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes will be the limit at a time. Once baby is fussy, they’ve had enough, but will eagerly try again after a nap or tomorrow.

Nanny's Book Note: Always check your local library first for a test drive. It's a great way to find out which books are truly worth adding to your child's cherished collection.

Next Week: 5 to 8 Months

Photo Credits:

Tiny Love Gymini Monkey Island Playmat
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Friday, July 3, 2009

Blog Hop

Since joining mom blogging groups, I've spent many hours (okay - days) blog hopping on my own. So many creative and talented moms are out there! I found this group blog hop today and thought it was a fun idea.

This week's MckLinky theme is INTRODUCE YOUR BLOG. Write one paragraph that introduces your blog to the blog hop participants:

New England Nanny started as a way to connect with others who spend their days with babies and toddlers. My goal is to share early childhood tips and resources that I've learned over my years of working with parents and children while continuing to learn from other moms and caregivers.

MckLinky Blog Hop

Photo Credit: Mehmet Goren
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Turn, Your Turn

No need for lengthy explanations on the virtues of sharing. These few simple words will help your baby understand the concept of taking turns.

When I ran weekly parent-child playgroups, the single Little Tikes slide was a huge draw. A throng of impatient toddlers would push and claw their way to the little plastic stairs. All it took to calm the crowd was a basic repetitive announcement:

Sara’s turn

Charlie’s turn

Mia’s turn

If one little trailblazer still tried to push his way to the front of the line, all it took was a pair of adult hands on his shoulders providing gentle resistance and a repeat of the turn taker's name. Soon all the toddlers got into the excitement of waiting for their turn and would gleefully chant whose turn it was.

This technique can be used with your baby during everyday tasks. Grabbing for the toothbrush or wanting to do things by themselves can be tempered by announcing turns and keeping them brief. It’s amazing how quickly children learn the concept, and how little they fuss as they wait because they understand that after her turn, it will be “my” turn.

Once children begin to come together at playgroups and playgrounds and they ultimately struggle for control of a toy, parents can be caught off guard and feel a little unprepared for toddler aggression.

Armed with this simple phrase (my turn, your turn), you can be the parent who steps in to save the day!

Photo Credit: Janis Gonser
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Young Children Will Do What Is Expected of Them

Sounds simple enough, but many new parents don’t catch onto this little gem early enough. Have you ever noticed how even very young children behave differently when they are with Mom as opposed to Dad; and even different still when they are at Grandma’s house?

I myself didn’t learn this fully as a parent until I began working in childcare centers. Teachers often relied on a few simple rules that they repeated often:

  • we use inside voices

  • we wash our hands before we eat

  • we do not run indoors

  • we take a nap/rest after lunch

A little bell went off in my head. That’s all it takes? I set the rules and they follow?
It is the simple truth. Parents set the rules and children will follow.

Lots of loving new parents want to avoid causing their child any discomfort or sadness, yet there are certain things that a child just can’t do and parents are often the ones that stop them from doing it. A child can’t touch a hot stove. It’s not safe. A child doesn’t like being removed from an interesting object or being told no, but parents feel they are justified in making their child unhappy for that instant to protect them from harm. The same goes for touching electrical outlets or playing inside the toilet bowl. It is not safe.

When my own daughter was small and would cry in these types of situations, I had a little mantra I had to repeat to myself so I wouldn’t feel awful for making her upset. I would just say out loud for her (but mostly my) benefit, “It’s a mommy’s job to keep you safe.” Years later when she didn't want to do her chores at age 11, the mantra evolved into “It’s my job to help you grow to be a responsible, capable adult.” For some reason, I needed to affirm that those difficult moments were part of my important job as her parent.

A more current example comes from my work as a nanny. Little M has reached the stage where he likes to roll over and crawl away during diaper changes. Mom tries to follow him and haphazardly fasten his diaper from behind. Daddy thinks it works best when he keeps M distracted by jumping up and down and making silly faces. (Note: Daddy doesn’t change many diapers). I know this because both parents have given me their tips on keeping M happy at diaper time.

While I certainly understand the value of a little song or funny game now and then to occupy a little one, it is not always possible at every diaper change over a period of 2 years or more. Diapering is a basic fact of life for infants and caregivers. It is not always exciting, but it has to be done.

Little M is a terribly smart and observant boy. When I see him on Mondays, our first diaper change always goes well because I’m new and fresh to his eyes. By the second change, he’s ready to do the quick escape. I always gently put him back in his place and say, “ we can’t roll around when changing diapers,” and I shake my head from side to side. He stops and studies my face for a few seconds and realizes I’m being serious. Then he gives me a little crooked smile to let me know that he gets it – it’s my rule. Then, I usually hand him a toy or break into a chorus of Row Row Row Your Boat.

Children learn very quickly that the rules change from person to person, and M is no different. With Mommy, I can roll all I want and she’ll apologize for having to make me uncomfortable the whole time. With Daddy, if I roll away he’ll play games with me. With Nanny Dee I can’t roll away, but we still get to sing or play.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. Let’s just say that after years of working with infants and toddlers, I’ve seen very similar patterns and behaviors being reinforced unwittingly. As the old saying goes, if I knew then what I know now, I would be a much less frazzled parent. If just one new parent or parent- to-be hears a little bell going off in their head right now, I’ve earned some karma points.
Photo Credit: Sam Hatch (Baby Maximus 2)
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Parents as Teachers

I could be dating myself, but do you remember hearing about Welcome Wagon many, many years ago? When families located to new neighborhoods, a Welcome Wagon representative would visit their home and bring all kinds of information and special offers from local businesses and services in the area.

When I worked for a Parents as Teachers (PAT) program as a parent educator, I often described our program as being a Welcome Wagon for parents. Using the PAT Born to Learn curriculum, I would visit families with children ages birth to five each month and bring parenting information, along with a learning activity just right for their child's age.

PAT programs also sponsor playgroups, family activities and field trips. Parents loved our program and often found it hard to believe it was a free community service! New parents especially welcomed a friendly face offering information on their baby's development and being available to answer questions about early childhood issues.

PAT also conducts ongoing developmental screenings along with vision/hearing screenings to detect any issues early on. PAT parent educators are knowledgeable about local services and school districts, such as Early Intervention and the preschool/kindergarten screening process.

PAT programs are usually grant funded and provided by social service agencies or school districts. For this reason, program size and offerings can vary, and some program may have income level limits. However, most programs are open to all families in the community, and they are a wonderful resource for families with children under the age of five:

For more information and to find a program in your city or town, go to

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Nanny Needs a Playdate

Just like being a parent home with your child all day, being a nanny is very rewarding , but it can be a bit isolating at times. Unlike being a parent, I can't just pop little M into the car for an outing.

I've been with this current family for a year and started when little M was only 2-1/2 months old, so it's been a wonderful year of growth and many discoveries for both of us! Because he was so small and his parents' first child, they did not want their little guy (understandably) to be driven around town. Other than the fact that our 10-hour days together are a long stretch and nanny wouldn't mind a change of scenery now and then, I really had no reason to take him away from his cozy room and nearby play space.

Now that the weather has passed into spring and M is almost confident enough to take those first few steps without his Little Tikes push toy by his side, I'm about to bring up the topic of a weekly outing -- in the car! There are playgrounds, petting zoos, and libraries to see, and I can't wait!

This need to be out and about prompted me to see if there were any nanny playgroups in my area. I checked, but there seems to only be parent playgroups on this end of my small state of Rhode Island (Bristol and Newport County). I know that I'd have to find a group VERY close to M's home, as Rhode Islanders think any drive over 20 minutes is TOO long, and I'm sure his parents wouldn't be up for more than 10 miles away.

We used to have the RI Parents Paper, a local publication that I wrote a couple of articles for when my daughter was younger, which had local info on fun day trips and other parenting resources. While it is no longer in publication, my search led me to a great resource for parents in Rhode Island:

Unfortunately, I still didn't find too much information for my little neck of the woods. So, here I am blogging as a way to reach out to others who love spending their days with babies and toddlers, but could use a little interaction and maybe share some tips and resources along the way!

Photo Credit: Mario Gonzaga
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