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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