Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wild to Wacky

by Samantha Sawyer

Wild to Wacky (Sandwich...that is)
Are you a parent who is trying to hold it together until the kids are back in school?
Two more weeks, two more weeks, just two more weeks…
If you find yourself using a mantra similar to this on a daily basis then this article is for you!

Temper tantrums, clinginess and power struggles may be due to something other than summer’s end.  Your child could be stuck in the “high alert” body chemistry mode called fight or flight from something as simple as childhood activities like running and rolling around.  Did you just ask him to play nicely and now, 10 minutes later, he’s showing the same problem behavior as before?  When your child is in fight or flight mode learning and logical rules literally cannot sink in.  Luckily, we have a fun and easy solution that will shift your child’s brain chemicals so that his body gets signals of calm integration rather than yucky, anxious disintegration.

Enter - Sensory Games!  Playing a sensory game will release your child from fight or flight mode, improve behaviors and his ability to self-entertain rather than bouncing off the walls screaming for your constant attention.  But, wait, sensory games?  There’s no time to learn new games right now when we’re crazy busy preparing for the school year!

On the contrary…the beauty of a sensory game is that you simply incorporate one into what you are already doing on a daily basis – spending time with your child during play.  With common household items like couch cushions and pillows you can initiate one of our favorite sensory games from the comfort of your own home.  Follow the four simple steps listed here: http://brighteningconnections.com/?p=917

Become an expert at simple sensory games and shift your mantra from “something has GOT to change” to “oh yeah, I GOT this!    


Want individualized parent coaching to rapidly shift your child’s challenging behaviors?  Schedule your initial consultation with Samantha@brighteningconnections.com by 9/21/12 to get the reduced rate of $47 ($73 savings!) – must mention Nannies Heartland.
Samantha Sawyer, M.A. CCC-SLP is licensed in the state of MN and received her certification of clinical competence through the American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA), the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for Speech Language Pathologists. She is licensed through the MN Department of Health and MN Department of Education. To maintain credentialing she pursues continuing education in her field and explores related areas of Sensory Integration, Floortime, emotional regulation of the brain and nervous system, Child Development and counseling, nutrition and energy medicine.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making the State Fair Child Friendly

Today is the start of the Great Minnesota Get Together - the State Fair. It brings back memories of all the years that either I took the children in my care to the fair or I joined the family to go as a group. We found that being well prepared made for a day of fun rather than a day of frustration. Here are a few tips and some links to the fair website.

Safety First
  • Sunscreen, shade and plenty of water: We lathered up before we left the house and then multiple times throughout the day. Everyone had their own hat and we'd take some breaks in the shady areas. When they were very small we had a big wagon with a sun shade. We brought our own water with us, which I believe you can still do. Keeping hydrated is important. There are places to rest and freshen up - I recommend taking advantage of those throughout the day.
  • Bring along a small first aid kit. You never know when you'll need an anticeptic wipe or small bandaid. There are first aid areas throughout the fair but if you just need a quick little something it can be eaiser to take care of it yourself.
  • In a backpack I had extra clothing just in case we needed something, the first aid kit, sunscreen, water, hand sanitizer, camera and a sketchbook with colored pencils. It was an easy thing to carry or place in the wagon. The sketchbook was really a nice addition so the children could draw if they wished. I'd even include rain ponchos if the weather was uncertain.
  • Appropriate clothing is important. There is a lot of walking involved in any fair experience so shoes that really support you and the children are a good idea. Often the days are warm and sunny, so choosing clothing that breaths well and is comfortable but also protects from the sun is best. I would even dress us in similar colors just so I had a good visual on everyone.
Pace Yourself
  • The fairgrounds are large and spread out. Not all exhibits and areas are interesting to children or child friendly. Make a plan before you go. Because the animals were very exciting to us, we would start our fair experience at the barn area and then make our way to the DNR building and up to the children's rides area. *I know there are some concerns about the swine barn this year. You may want to talk about this before heading out.*
  • Take a break several times throughout the day. We would find one of the shaded areas and just have some relaxing, people watching time. Younger ones might nap and the older one would sit drawing.
  • We'd take advantage of the many side shows - music, puppet show, magic, dance - to sit down and take five minutes to rest. Then we were off again.
  • Keep to the children's regular schedule as much as possible - meal times, snacks, rest time.
  • There is a lot of special fair food to try but it can get to be too much. We preferred to do a little sampling of the fun food on a stick, sharing a few nibbles of some special foods while also choosing those healthier options that are available.
Fair 2011 State Fair Information

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"What's all this fighting about?"

The day's activities are underway. Things are going well so far, breakfast is over, your tidying the kitchen, the children (3 and 5 years old) have gotten out the Duplos and you've told them you'll join them in the playroom in just a minute to have some fun. You've planned a play date for later in the morning and a craft for after rest time. All is quiet in the other room so you take a moment to throw a load in the washer. Then you hear it - - - a distant rumbling, the first indications of a sibling skirmish. You drop what you're doing and head to the playroom. You arrive to raised voices, tears and an obvious dividing line of toys between "mine" and "yours" with one toy clutched tightly in the 5 year olds hands while he admonishes his sister. You sigh, here we go again.

Sound familiar? Toddlers or teens, sibling rivalry battles can erupt with little or no warning. Knowing that rivalry is "normal" doesn't help us feel less frustrated. However, understanding the reasons behind rivalry can be helpful in choosing appropriate strategies to deal with or even prevent a battle from turning into a war.

There are three basic reasons siblings feel competitive with each other - 1) need for attention or approval, 2) jealousy, 3) an impression of playing favorites. I'll also add to the list the lack of skills to resolve personal conflicts.

Every child desires to have attention or approval from the adults in their lives. We've all heard "look Mommy," "see what I can do Daddy," or "look what I made Nanny." We want to give them our attention and let them know how wonderful we think they are. If often seems they want our attention just as the phone rings or we are in the middle of making a meal. Striking a balance between attending to the children's needs and having them understand that there are times that they will need to be patient is a challenge. Keep calm, get down on their level to ask them to be patient, be specific about how long it will be and follow through. Most children respond very well to this, especially if you make an effort to praise them for waiting and being patient.

Introduction to the skills needed to resolve personal conflicts of all types is an ongoing teaching opportunity. To start building good communication skills practice labeling feelings, differentiate between frustration, anger, disappointment, hurt, etc. When issues arise, get down to the children's level, have each child verbalize their feelings, ask who they are angry with and how they would like to be treated, praise them for talking about the problem. Look for options that will allow each child some resolution - more one-on-one time with parent or nanny, creative ways to share, find other activities or have the child "take 10" giving them a short break from interacting with a sibling. In the conversation period you may found out that they aren't really angry with their brother or sister, but with mom, dad or nanny. The main goal is to get the child to communicate as much as possible about what is going on with them and then let them know how much you appreciate them talking to you about their feelings.

"Take 10" can be a choice the child can learn to use without direction from you. Rather than a time-out for negative behavior, "take 10" allows the child to step away from a negative situation on their own or with an adults help. They can choose to play elsewhere, find a quiet spot, come to an adult for a chat, etc. "Take 10" is simply taking a break, no regulation time limit is set. If a child is ready to return after a few minutes - great, or if they need or want more time they can take it. I still remember when I heard the middle child let his little sister know that he needed a break from play before he got frustrated with her. He told me she was making him "crazy" and he was going to read a book - 15 minutes later they were back playing together. The break was good for everyone.

Being part of a family is like being part of a team - when everyone works together then everyone can win. Praise for cooperation, patience and understanding builds . . . greater cooperation, patience and understanding. Some children respond will to sticker charts and earned rewards. Stickers are given for appropriate behavior, good communication, seeking adult help when needed, staying calm, etc. Setting a goal of X number of stickers to earn a small reward can be very motivating. This method can be a very nice option for younger children or non-verbal children providing visual reinforcement. How quickly a reward is earned should also be considered. While older children can handle getting to the goal in a week or month, the younger child may need to see something happen within the day or even within a few hours.

Rivalry between siblings is normal, it's up to us to guide children toward building stronger sibling connections. Developing positive strategies now can mean strong relationships in the future.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Toddler Play - Encouraging Social Development

Encouraging social development starts early. Those toddler years are a great place to start and here are a few pointers in making it a great experience for everyone.

Play Dates
Toddlers and young preschoolers benefit from short play dates with friends or neighbors of the same or similar ages. An hour or 90 minutes is great for the youngest children and can increase over time. You want everyone to end the play date feeling good and wanting more, not frustrated or over tired. Having a light, healthy snack to share is nice along with one planned activity. The rest of the time can be free play. If you are hosting the play date be sure to talk about it prior to the child's guest arriving. Consider limiting the number of toys to be shared and be sure there is enough for everyone. Remember this is practice in social behavior - plan for success.

Mixed Age Interaction
While play with children of the same or similar ages is beneficial, so are opportunities to interact in a mixed age groups. Older children become leaders and helpers for the younger ones. Younger children can learn a lot from older children. Keep groups small so there is plenty of physical space - toddlers need room - and there is enough for everyone to do. Older children can take on the role of planning activities and helping little ones. This is a real character builder for everyone. Again, don't make these dates too long.

Taking Turns
The art of taking turns requires plenty of practice. It can start with the child taking turns with the nanny or parent during play time. Then move onto practice during play dates and mixed group time. Expectations need to be set and gentle reminders given frequently. Sharing one toy can be very hard for some children, but having similar toys that can be exchanged and played with cooperatively makes for happier play time. Taking turns really is a practice based skill - this can go well one day and not so well another, keep at it and make it fun.

Emotional Identification

Toddlers and young preschoolers are a bundle of emotions. Labeling emotions can help children identify what they are feeling and communicate with others. As the adults, it's up to us to label the feelings and explain that everyone has these same feelings. Talking about ways to deal with feelings is also part of the package. While not every toddler can verbalize, they do understand what you are saying and are taking in large quantities of information. They are filing away everything so that they can use this information later. Be patient, consistent and clear.

Imaginative Play
The use of dramatic or imaginative play is a wonderful way for young children to explore all kinds of knowledge parts they are trying to label. Imaginative play acts out what they are learning, observing and feeling. It allows the child to have control over the process of understanding in a way that is unique. Allowing for time each day for this type of play - both indoors and outside - encourages greater understanding of the world around them. Adult should wait to be asked to participate. Sometimes the child wants adult interaction and other times they prefer to play on their own allowing you the time to observe them in their work place - at play.

Time for Self

All children need time to play on their own. Even siblings need some time for themselves. This is the time they don't need to share or try to get along, they can just be. As always an adult being available to them in close proximity is important for them, but we don't need to hover or direct this personal play time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Breakfast & Lunch Ideas for Back to School

Breakfast and lunch ideas for the back to school crowd. For more information and other ideas you can visit www.familyfun.go.com. Enjoy!


Bake a make-ahead breakfast

25 Tips for a Better School YearDon't have time for a sit-down meal in the morning? Bake and freeze a batch of our scrumptious make-ahead muffins. Besides banana and chocolate chips, our recipe uses whole wheat flour and has a larger yield than many (18 muffins). When the morning routine has slowed to a crawl, kids can quickly microwave a muffin to go.

Spiff up sandwiches

25 Tips for a Better School YearlMake your next PB&J a cut above the rest by using Puzzle Bites Crustless Sandwich Cutter (Mom Invented, $4), a slicer that trims away crusts and turns your child's sandwich into an edible puzzle

Pack breakfast for lunch

25 Tips for a Better School YearlWhen Ann Smith of Monroeton, Pennsylvania, runs out of time or ideas, she throws together a quick bagged breakfast for her son David's lunch. The package is simple: a plastic spoon, a lidded storage bowl filled with healthy cereal, and a banana or resealable sandwich bag filled with berries or dried fruit. "My son buys milk to pour over his meal, and voilĂ ! He's got a three-food-group lunch," says Ann. David claims to be the envy of the lunch table.

Dip into something different

25 Tips for a Better School YearSwitch your child's usual sandwich for a delicious lunch alternative like Apricot Yogurt Dip or Very Veggie Dip. 25 Tips for a Better School Year

Friday, August 3, 2012

Top 10 Organizing Tips for Nannies

The post comes via the Twin Cities Professional Nannies newsletter - August edition.

Top 10 Organizing Tips for Nannies
Organizing the home for your charges.
By Lorie Marrero, Creator of the Clutter Diet®
© June 2008 Stephanie Felzenberg, Be the Best Nanny, www.BestNannyNewsletter.com

Organizing is part of every nanny’s job. To organize the home successfully always keep the family you work for, and the children you care for, in mind.

1. Communicate first about organizing anything for your employer.
Some people are very particular about how they want things done, and even if you think an area is messy, they may know exactly where things are and like it that way. After you’ve discussed this issue and understood how they like things, you can feel free to pursue these kinds of projects independently.
2. If your role gets you involved in organizing any paperwork for the family, be very careful about throwing anything away.
There can be legal and financial reasons to keep certain papers, even if they are very old or don’t look important. If you are not sure, create a box or pile of “probable trash” to have them review it before throwing it out. You also need to shred anything you are throwing away that could be damaging to your employer’s identity, finances, or reputation.

3. Organize from a “kids’ eye view.”
What are their favorite toys? You want to put those at a level that is easy for them to reach so they won’t have to climb for them or get frustrated.

4. Consider safety always, especially if you have multiple charges of varying ages.
You will want to organize spaces considering the choking and poison hazards of the younger children, yet make it easy for older children to reach things they need as well.

5. If you help the family with their laundry, ask your employer if you can use the “dot system” to help you identify clothing.
It’s often difficult to sort and put away laundry for siblings of the same gender. Use a permanent laundry marker to make a single dot on the tags of the oldest child’s clothing, then the next oldest child gets two dots on their tags. The younger child from there gets three dots, and so on. When clothes get handed down, you just add another dot to know which clothes belong to whom.

6. Discuss with your employer a system of managing hand-me downs and out-of-season clothing.
Kids grow fast, and you need to know where to put the clothes that are outgrown or out
of season when you identify them. Does your employer want to save them for other
children? Give them away for donation? Or possibly give them to a friend? We recommend storing hand-me-downs in clear containers by gender and a range of size (like 0-6 months, or sizes 4-6).

7. Consider clear containers versus baskets or opaque containers.
Sometimes storing things inside clear containers is perfect so you can see items inside the boxes before opening them. Other times, it’s advantageous to hide the items you are storing. If you’re not sure, ask your employer his or her opinion, since some people like everything to match and to camouflage their storage. Other people are “out of sight, out of mind!”

8. Use a label maker to establish homes for items you have organized.
Particularly when many people are sharing a space, this makes the organizing work official and keeps the space organized longer.

9. Label with pictures and words together to help with reading skills.
You can label toys containers with both a picture of the toy and a written label, so this associates the words with the toys and helps with learning to read. If your employer’s household is bilingual or just trying to learn another language, you can also label items in both languages to help everyone learn more.

10. Many children are overwhelmed by too many choices.
More messes get made because kids dump out everything to find what they want. Many of your charges may be blessed with an abundance of toys and belongings, but this blessing may actually be a curse and may cause confusion. Ask your employer if it’s okay to start rotating some toys in and out on a regular basis and store ½ to 2/3 of them away to simplify choices and cleanup.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Annual Nanny and Child Picnic

Hosted by Nannies from the Heartland and Twin Cities Professional Nannies

When:    Tuesday, August 7

Where:  Veteran’s Memorial Park, Richfield   6335 Portland Ave.

Time:     10:30 AM to 1:00 PM

RSVP:   763-550-0219 by Friday, August 3

(Let us know number and ages of children coming so we can plan for them.)

Events:  Check-in at the main picnic shelter about 10:30 AM

              Play at playground from 10:30 to 11:15 AM

              11:15 AM children’s games & prizes (main shelter area)  

    Lunch together

Bring: Picnic lunch for you and the children

Provided: Bottled water will be provided to all

Options:  Enjoy Mini-Golf* opens at 11 AM

               City Pool*: Wading pool opens at 11
                                Main pool opens at noon
                *per person fees apply for golf and swimming