Caterpillars

The girls and I have been enjoying a special project these past few weeks – Caterpillars! It’s one of my favorite activities to do with kids, and I’ve been counting down the months until I could do it with the girls. Had Spring actually shown up in March when it should have, we probably could have done it earlier. But oh well, we did it now!

I ordered through Insect Lore who was running a special where we got two cups of caterpillars, the habitat, and a few other things, for an awesome price. The caterpillars are contained in a little cup and you don’t have to do anything with them (except look) until they make their chrysalises.

At first I was a little disappointed because the caterpillars were a tiny bit bigger than the last time I got them (for my old preschool class) but it ended up not being that big of a deal and they still stayed as caterpillars for a while.


E taking a close look at her caterpillars

After around 2 weeks more or less as caterpillars, they crawl to the top and make their chrysalises (yes, they are chrysalises. The Very Hungry Caterpillar book is wrong. Caterpillars who turn into moths make cocoons. Caterpillars who turn into butterflies make chrysalises. I really wish they would fix it!)


The caterpillars beginning to make their chrysalises

Once they have made their chrysalises you need to move them to their habitat. Open the lid of the cup and carefully take out the paper that they’re attached to. Use a safety pin (or a paperclip) to attach them to the side, about half way up the habitat (wait until ALL the caterpillars are completely finished making them. You have at least 7 days until they come out as butterflies). If one falls, gently put it in the bottom of the habitat. It should be okay. [Check out my Instagram for a short video of a caterpillar in a chrysalis showing off it’s natural defense mechanism]


Butterfly watch 2014

Within 7 to 14 days, the butterflies will begin to emerge. It’s really a fascinating thing to watch! Unfortunately the girls were napping when the butterflies came out, so they weren’t able to watch it, but I did record a great video to show them that I’ll add at the end of this post!


Freshly out, still needing to spread it’s wings

Once they’re out, they need some time to spread their wings and let them dry. You may notice some red stuff coming from them and on their habitat. It’s not blood, it’s actually meconium. Yup, it’s poop.


Spreading it’s wings to dry them

You can either keep them for a few days (be sure to feed them) or let them go on a sunny or overcast (but not rainy day) after their wings have had time to dry (at least two hours after coming out of their chrysalises).

Honestly, I was pretty nervous they would die if we didn’t let them go soon after they came out. 5 came out one day, and then the other 5 the next. We let the first 5 go the same day they came out and the next 5 stayed overnight (due to rain) and then we freed them the day after.

The girls had a blast and were able to hold them for a few minutes before they flew away. They LOVED it!


Setting them free!

Through this activity, the girls learned a ton! We talked about the life cycle of a caterpillar, they learned a new word – metamorphosis, we talked about how caterpillars don’t grow like we do, so they shed their exoskeleton (the girls even wanted to hold it, so once we moved the chrysalises to the habitat, I let them hold some), etc. They were always very excited to watch the caterpillars and asked questions about what they were doing. I think this will definitely be a repeated special project!

Here’s the video of the butterfly coming out of its chrysalis! [Keep your eye on the chrysalis on the right. It’s a little hard to notice what’s happening at first. It will help to make the video bigger if you can!]


Aly

What We’ve Been Up To

It’s been a frigid winter here in the East, with temperatures dropping into single digits and bonus below 0 wind chills But that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying a lot of activities. Here’s a small sampling of a few of our days!


Playing with snow. Watercolor painting. Mixing paint colors to paint butterflies.


Matching play food to pictures of real food. Making coffee filter snowflakes.


My Gym. Painting Christmas cards. Working on letter recognition (upper and lower case).


Aly

Biting

The dreaded biting. It tends to be something that seems so horrifying and so primitive. But it’s actually relatively common and normal. In all the years I was in daycare, I saw my fair share of biters. Some worse than others, some doing it once and being done with it, and some doing it for weeks or months before finally stopping.

Let’s first talk about why toddlers bite. There can be several reasons. These are the main ones.
Attention. The child sees that if they bite they get more attention.

They’re in pain. A lot of times, it just feels good to them to bite down on something as their teeth come in. Unfortunately, that something could be another child’s arm.

Frustration/Defensive. A lot of toddlers don’t have a large vocabulary. So when another child comes along and takes their toy, they aren’t able to say “hey! I’m playing with that!” Instead they chomp down and that usually makes the other child drop the toy and run off crying. Or perhaps another child comes over and pushes them. The biter bites, and the other child stops and cries. You know what? The biter got exactly what they wanted – the toy back and no pushing. This can be one of the hardest ones to stop because to the biter, biting gets “positive” reinforcement from the other child!

Half the battle is figuring out why they’re doing it. The other half is figuring out how to stop it.

If your child is biting for attention, it’s very important to make sure you are showing the child who got bit attention first, as well as giving them more attention. Pick them up, love on them, kiss their boo boo. All before talking to the biter. When the biter is playing appropriately, be sure to give them lots of attention (not bringing up biting while doing so).

If your child is biting because they’re in pain, give them appropriate things that they can chew or bite on (a teether , frozen washcloth, frozen pacifier). They even make teethers specifically to alleviate molar pain. Be sure to tell them they need to bite on this if their teeth hurt. Don’t assume they just know. “If your teeth hurt, bite on this teether. It will make you feel better.” If need be, give them Orajel or Teething Tablets.

If your child is biting out of frustration or being defensive, work on words with them. Not just immediately following the bite, but throughout the day as well. Talk to them more often than not. Build their vocabulary as a whole, not just pertaining to biting. The more words they have, the better. When they bite, be sure to remind them to use words instead and give them clear examples – “We don’t bite. We say “It’s my turn right now.” Also encourage them to get an adults help instead of solving their problem themselves. Would you rather be “interrupted” a billion times a day or deal with biting frequently throughout the day? It’s also important to shadow them for a few days as much as you can. It’s much better to prevent biting from happening than it is to try to fix it after it happens. If you see your child getting frustrated, you can intervene and help them solve the problem before it escalates to biting. “I see that Billy is trying to take your truck. Let’s tell him that you are playing with it right now. Say ‘Billy, it’s my turn right now.’ Let’s also make sure he knows we’ll give it to him when we’re done. Say ‘I’ll give it to you when I’m done.'” You could even model appropriate reactions for them. Grab another adult and role play. Have the other adult take something you have. Use words to get it back. The more examples of appropriate reactions they see, the better.

One thing not to do is bite back. This is controversial, with some people saying it’s the magic solution for solving biting problems. I just don’t get it. To me it’s hypocritical. Children learn by example. If you’re trying to teach a child that biting is not okay to do, and you bite them, what is that showing them?

Typically, biting stops by 3 or so years old. It’s always good to keep your pediatrician in the loop on issues like these, but especially if they continue beyond 3 years old.

If your child does start biting, just try to remember that it is normal, and many children go through this stage. Stay positive!


Aly

Wishes are Granted!

Apparently, my wish from my last post was granted. After a rough weekend for the girls’ parents where M started climbing out of her crib, her crib had to be converted to a bed. At the same time, I bumped up their nap from around 2pm to 1:15. All of a sudden she was taking awesome naps, and after a few days or so, E started to as well. E’s crib is now converted to a bed as well. They sleep in their beds at night, but they’re still separated for nap, with M in her bed and E in a pack and play on the lower level with me. At least until they get back into the habit of sleeping through both the night and at nap for at least a solid week or so. Then I’ll make the transition of both napping in their beds.

I have a feeling E will be the more difficult one for this. She is a very determined child. She knows exactly what she wants and will do her best to get it. She tends to take longer to go to sleep for nap (has since she was an infant, fought it till she just couldn’t anymore), so it should be interesting with both of them in beds that they can easily get in and out of! Here’s to hoping it’s an easy transition when it does happen!


Aly

Sleep Regression

A few weeks before the girls turned two, we hit the sleep regression stage. It’s no fun. For anyone. Not only do they need that break, but I’ll admit sometimes I need it too. Not that I don’t absolutely love them and enjoy my time with them, but sometimes I want to take a sip of my drink without hearing “what’s that?” or go into the bathroom without little fingers poking under the door and the (locked) door handle being yanked on because one (or both) want to join me. I usually use their nap time to eat my lunch, finish any little tasks I need to, and give myself some time to decompress.

The girls need it too. Sleep is everyone’s time to rebuild muscle, restore energy, relax muscles, etc. On average, 2 year olds should be getting around 12 hours of sleep a day, total. That includes a 1 1/2 to 2 hour nap. Could it be their 2 year old molars that are working their way through their gums? Sure. But these girls LOVE to chat with each other. It is absolutely hilarious to listen to their conversations when they’re up in their cribs and supposed to be sleeping. If they do nap, they tend to fall asleep around 30-45 minutes before it’s time to wake them up. Sometimes the girls are perfectly happy without a nap, and other times they’re crabby.

Our routine hasn’t changed – lunch, short play time, diaper change for E, potty trip for M, and then I read them a few books before we head up to their bedroom.

I think after the girls get back from out of town I may move up their nap time to an earlier time (they go into their cribs around 2 as of right now) and maybe change up our routine a little bit to see if that helps. Sleep begets sleep, and overly tired kids are immensely harder to get to sleep than just “standard tired” kids. The key is to keep trying, since 2 year olds typically aren’t ready to give up their nap just yet.

I’m convinced, one magical day, I’ll put them in their cribs and they’ll lay down and go right to sleep. Probably wishful thinking, but hey, it could happen.


Aly

Two!

“My” babies aren’t babies anymore! They’re officially two! I can’t believe it. It’s crazy to look back at all the pictures and videos I have from their first year and even this past year, and then see them running and talking now. I love to just sit back sometimes and watch their little conversations. They’ve begun to play cooperatively sometimes, discussing what needs to happen and then working together and sharing things to make it happen.

Speaking of discussing, these girls continue to amaze me every day with their language abilities. They talk in complete sentences more often than not now. I’m talking 6 or 7 word sentences. It’s funny, sometimes they’ll ask for something without using a well-structured sentence “You wanna see elephant!” (We’re still working on using I instead of you, but they’re getting there). If it’s something they can’t have, and I tell them so, they’ll come out with “Can I see the elephant, please?” It’s hard to tell them no sometimes when they ask so politely!

E is still big into books. She’ll sit in front of the bookshelf and just pull one book out at time, turning the pages and “reading” each one. She’ll recite what she knows from memory for each page. She’s almost always 100% correct with what she’s saying too. She’ll do it with book after book after book. Every once in awhile she’ll bring one over for me to read to her but sometimes I get “Do it yourself!” (She means “Do it myself”) if I ask if I can read to her. She’s miss independent, but she’s also sensitive. M will fall down and get right back up, whereas E needs some love and kissed boo boos even if she didn’t actually hurt anything. I don’t mind at all. I’ll happily give out hugs and kisses as long as I can get them!

M is still super physical. That girl loves going to My Gym. Every time we pull up all I hear are shrieks of excitement from her. She loves when she gets to be with one of the teachers and be the example of the skill they learn each class at circle time. She’s also big into music and singing. Both girls can identify almost any children’s song if you hum it. M sings often throughout the day. She can really carry a tune! She’s constantly asking me to sing different songs to her, even if it’s one I just made up. Let me tell you, some of those are a little difficult to remember when I make up a song one day and then randomly 2 weeks later she asks me to sing it!

I can’t wait to see what this next year brings us and how the girls change and grow!


Aly

Fine Motor Skills

What are fine motor skills? Simply put, it’s the coordination involving the small muscles in your body – mainly in your fingers. These skills are the foundation of important things like general hand and finger dexterity and handwriting. Having good fine motor skills is extremely important in the early years, particularly in school. Since children will be doing many hands on activities, they need to be able to control their fingers and have good eye hand coordination. They also need to be able to write words, manipulate materials, and write numbers. These are also skills that will allow them to master other skills like the ones required for dressing themselves such as zippering, buttoning, tying shoes, and so on.

There are many ways you can create opportunities for children to strengthen these small muscles and improve their fine motor skills. Here are a few –

  • Play with play dough. All that pulling, and shaping, and kneading of the dough helps strengthen their fingers.
  • Color with crayons or pencils. You need to allow your child to develop their grip and move those little muscles.
  • At a young age – usually between 7 and 11 months old (but only when they are ready for solid food) allow your child to self-feed small pieces of cut up soft food. This allows your child to develop their precise pincer grasp (a part of fine motor skills), which is the coordination between the pointer finger and thumb to manipulate objects, pick up things, and use crayons and pencils correctly.
  • Let them practice opening and closing clothespins onto different objects – pom poms, the edges of boxes, etc.
  • Give them tongs or dull tweezers to pick up small objects such as pom poms.
  • Have them insert q tips into a container with a lid that has holes cut into the top.

{Clearly, use your own discretion with these activities. Keep a very close eye on your child to be sure no small non-food items are put in their mouth.}


Aly

New Blog Design

New blog design by The Posh Box.  Testing the new signature.


Aly

Potty Training 101 – A How To

[Note – This is how we are potty training M. It will probably be different with E, and may be a little different with your child as well, because again, each child is different and what works with some children won’t work with others.]
 

Once M was showing major signs of being ready, I asked her if she wanted to sit on the “big potty” (no potty seat, just me holding her on it) to see if she had any interest. She did, so I held her. The first or second time she sat on it, she peed. After that, she continued to ask if she could sit on the potty. So whenever she would ask, we would go in the bathroom and I’d hold her and she’d try to go.

We then brought in a potty chair and a potty seat (although I recommend doing this before your child is really using the potty), and for awhile she was only interested in the potty chair. We also were still in diapers full time, and we would just take off a diaper, use the potty, and then put on another diaper. I would purposefully time it so we would sit on the potty right after breakfast, lunch, and after nap. Prime times that she would need to go. Remember, you want to set them up for success, not failure. She did really well with this for about a week, going each time she sat on it. She was even asking to go in between the times I was putting her on.

After a week or so, I eventually decided to just take off her diaper and see what happened. I just let her go bare bottom (we were in the house since I dedicated a full week to staying inside and potty training, so it wasn’t a big deal).  There were a few inevitable accidents, but she quickly got the hang of it.

After a few days of being bare bottomed and me taking her to the potty every 15 – 20 minutes (sometimes with success, other times with just an attempt but no success), she started to tell me when she needed to go instead of me having to ask. Gradually we increased the time span to 45 minutes to an hour. If she hadn’t told me she needed to go within the last 45 minutes to an hour, I’d suggest we go potty.

The tough part for M was transitioning into underwear. I assume that she thought of these like a diaper – where she could pee and it would get absorbed. She wasn’t really that bothered by wet underwear. This was honestly a struggle for patience for me. It was frustrating because M would go 2 days without an accident and then the moment I put undies on her, she would pee in them. She also didn’t want to pull them down to go potty. She wanted to sit on the potty wearing them instead, no matter how much we talked about it. I don’t know if it was me telling her and showing her for a few days that the “Potty Time Princess” (see this post about the book the princess is in) pulled down her undies to go, but one day it just clicked. After going 3 or so more days straight bare bottomed (without trying undies at all), I dared to try undies again. And magically, just like that, M didn’t pee in them and was willing to pull them down to go potty. This was a big step because it meant we could leave the house.

I’m not sure if I was more excited or terrified. I know the day is going to come where we leave the house and she pees in her car seat or in the middle of a store, but that first trip I must have asked her 90 times in 20 minutes if she was still dry and if she needed to go potty. Now, we make sure she goes potty right before we leave the house, I tell her she needs to keep her car seat dry as I put her in, I ask if she needs to go potty when we get to the store and once again before we leave, remind her she needs to keep her car seat dry as I put her back in, and then we go right to the potty when we get back to the girls’ house. Knock on wood, we haven’t had an accident outside of the house yet. I’m well prepared though, and carry a full stock of undies, pants, and a shirt just in case.

When M has an accident I take her out of the peed on clothes, tell her it’s okay, accidents happen, but we need to remember to use the potty. Then we go into the potty and she tries. If she’s able to go, then great. If not, no big deal. I tell her we’ll try again next time. Then we move on. M had a day where she would have an accident and thought it was funny. She did this a few times in one day. In order to prevent her from having more “accidents” on purpose, I told her that it was not funny and we needed to make sure we were on the potty. I didn’t use a mean voice or a harsh tone. Just simply stated a fact. We haven’t had any issues with this since then.

Potty training is a process, and M is still learning and gaining more control of her bladder. We’re still at the point where if she says she needs to go, we stop what we’re doing, jump up and go right to the potty. Above all else, remember to remain positive. Even when accidents happen, remember that your child more than likely isn’t doing it maliciously or out of spite. They’re still learning. This is a big deal. They’re changing something in a big way that they’ve been doing for their entire life.  Don’t scold or demean your child for having an accident. Just simply remind them to use the potty next time and move on.


Aly

Potty Training 101 – What You’ll Need

In today’s post, I’ll talk about what you’ll need to potty train your child.

The absolute most important thing you need is a child who is ready. How do you know they’re ready? I’ve written a whole post about that here.

You’ll also need a potty chair. This can be one from the most basic to something complete with lights and sounds. I also recommend a potty seat for an actual toilet, like this one.

Source

 

You’ll also need a step stool so that your child can reach the “big potty” and the sink to wash their hands when they’re done.

You never know which potty (a potty chair or the actual toilet) your child is going to prefer and you also want them to be able to use a “big potty” so that if you’re out at a store and the little one starts tugging at your pants leg saying they need to go, you don’t need to run out to your car and use a not so convenient potty you have in your trunk.

Speaking of being out….yes, I am a germaphobe in public and hate public restrooms, but there is nothing worse than squatting down on a public restroom floor and holding your child on gross, bacteria and germ infested, public toilet. Well, nothing worse except your child gripping that toilet seat for balance. I just cringe when I think of those tiny little fingers wrapping around and going under the edge of a toilet seat that’s been barely cleaned by a worker who’s least favorite part of their job is “cleaning” the bathroom. This would be why I recommend having both potty seat covers and a folding potty seat. I had no luck finding either in stores around me (which I think is ridiculous, but I tried 3 different stores and still came up empty handed), so I ordered the folding potty seat and potty seat covers online. [Although next time, I’ll probably order these covers since they’re bigger and cover more of the toilet.]

Something else you’ll need is underwear. Lots and lots of underwear. You can take your child to choose a few packs (but don’t be upset if your little princess comes home with Spiderman underwear!) or go to the store and choose a few packs with their favorite colors or characters. I recommend starting with at least 14 pairs, or two packs. This way even in the event of a day full of accidents, you’re not running out.

And last but not least (as far as physical items go), you’ll need easy pants (or shorts) that are easy to pull up and down. Ditch the complicated buttons and snaps for a few weeks and just stick to elastic waists. You don’t want your child having a hard time unbuttoning or unsnapping and then having an accident because of that. Once they’re in more control of their bladder, then you can start to reintroduce snaps and buttons.Not a physical item, but you also need some time where you won’t be running around doing a bunch of things. A week or two at home (or at home and daycare) will do wonders. You’ll need to be close to a potty for a good chunk of time, and it should be a potty where your child is comfortable. Don’t try to potty train in the middle of a routine change. Don’t do it while moving, switching child care providers, having a big change in schedule, etc. Any transition like this will make potty training harder in a lot of cases.


Aly