I am hoping to shift a troubling trend by sticking with toys as a means to distract, connect and play with young children rather than using phones, tablets, TVs, or video games.
Parents are giving their babies, toddlers, and young children things with screens to get a moment of rest, play with them, or distract them through the rough patches. You know, those moments where you need to get a diaper off a squirming child before they smear poop all over your friend's rug, or when you are trying to shove a raging toddler into a car seat while your grocery cart starts driving itself down the parking lot.
I need to tell you about a friend who offered her toddler the car keys in the above scenario—frazzled while trying to get the child buckled in and groceries stopped, the mom closed the car door, reaching for the grocery cart. The moment her hand reached the cart, she heard the dreaded "thunk" of the lock becoming engaged in the car. Frantic, the mom ran to the car door to discover she had left the keys in her toddler's hand, and the child had locked the doors! After some time of failing miserably at trying to get the child to press the buttons by waving and shouting through the window, some strangers offered to help find a solution to the problem. As the car was heating up, they realized they had to get in immediately and got a hammer from the store to break the window.
In terms of screens, we KNOW that they cause attention problems and can wreak havoc on creativity and reading ability down the road, so although they might give us a reprieve, and the kids love them, we need to introduce screens as late as possible. It is MUCH easier to delay introducing screens than try to take one away once you realize the child is demanding it too much.
So I was happy when Fisher-Price approached me to write this sponsored post about their Fisher-Price Favourites toys as I was able to write with absolute sincerity about a company I have used for so many years. I turn to Fisher-Price as I remember my Fisher-Price toys from when I was a kid, which are still being played with some forty years later.
Instead of a phone or your keys, I have found a toy that works beautifully to get through any child melt-down moment: the Laugh & Learn Click n' Learn Remote for ages six to thirty-six months. It has buttons, lights, sounds, and most importantly the ability to turn down the volume.
As I am part granola/organic mommy, I initially tried to stay away from things with batteries, but I quickly learned that there are times for a smart trade-off between sanity and a few batteries, which can be disposed of properly. Also, a toy like this is a much better solution than giving a baby your phone. Have it handy with you in your diaper bag or nearby the changing station. The remote is great as you probably know three-year-olds like to holler "let ME push the button!!" My son reluctantly passed this toy along to our friends with nine-month-old twins.
The second kind of toy I recommend which kids will play with as young as one (or younger with supervision), and as old as seven is the Little People Wheelies Stand 'n Play (the box has the ages as 1.5-5). My three-year-old, five-year-old, and seven-year-old neighbour were all huddled around it yesterday having car races. Toddlers and young children can use this toy as is, or as I have seen with my kids, create races, stories, and add characters for imaginative play. Parents can use this stand-up toy to play along or sit down near the child to catch a much needed moment of rest.
Again, the granola in me is happy this toy is really sturdy and will survive years in our family, and many more years when it gets passed along to another family. I also bought a similar stand-up kind of toy called the Fisher-Price Little People Zoo a few years ago to leave at Grandpa's house.
Please resist the temptation to use screens like your phone or tablet to get a reprieve from your young children. Toys like the ones I mentioned from Fisher-Price are win-win in terms of opportunity to get through rough patches and provide the kids with fun that continues through the years.
I am going to take my parenting "expert" hat off and put my mom of a three-year-old hat on. I've been feeling under the weather, and although I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal, started to write these to make myself laugh. I hope you have some chuckles too. And, yes, these did actually happen.
What can you add to this list? Feel free to post your Murphy-isms in the comments or on my facebook page.
-Murphy's Law for Parents of Three-Year-Olds-
You will cut the wrong end of the freezie.
The day you are late for an important appointment is the day you will unbuckle the car seat, as you always do, and your three-year-old will shriek like he is being stabbed and refuse to get out.
The timer will beep to take your very expensive tenderloin steak off the BBQ at the same time your three-year-old yells frantically from the bathroom that he is done pooping and needs your help.
The amount of time your three-year-old spends on his bike without training wheels is inversely related to how much time it took you to find the tools and get the training wheels off.
The moment you finally sit down at the end of the day, and finally decide on a movie to watch, your three-year-old will slink into the living room saying, "I can't sleep."
You will cut the grilled cheese sandwich the wrong way. And put the ketchup in the wrong spot.
The morning of the scheduled weekend away by YOURSELF that you have been waiting for all year, you will discover you have a fever—that your three-year-old had days before.
The milk will get spilled, so you might as well just leave the paper towel holder on the table.
The words, "I want to do it!" go with "Uh-oh."
The moment you high-five yourself for getting your three-year-old out the door dressed, bladder emptied, tummy filled, teeth cleaned ON TIME is the moment you realize you didn't eat breakfast.
You will walk out of the house with your shirt on inside-out. A few times.
If you take the wagon, he will want to walk. If you don't take the wagon, he will refuse to walk.
The day your three-year-old discovers where the scissors are kept is the day you leave your well-thought out to-do list on the kitchen table.
The night you forget to put the mattress cover on the bed is the night your three-year-old will pee so fiercely, you'd swear an adult did it.
When you finally feel confident to wear more expensive pieces of clothing around the kids, your three-year-old will manage to get himself some yogurt and want a big hug for his accomplishment.
Your three-year-old's favourite pair of shorts—that he must wear everyday—will be white. Well, at first, anyway.
The first time you try leaving your child inside to go out and do some backyard weeding, he will A. go out the front door, B. poop on the front lawn, and C. be discovered by your husband who just happens to come home early that day.
Photo -- iStockphoto.com
Back in March I was interviewed by Toronto Star reported Alyshah Hasham about a recent study that found Canadian parents were spending "more time reading, telling stories, singing songs, drawing, and teaching new words and letters to their pre-kindergarten-age daughters than their sons."
The writers of the study wondered if this was a cause for boys lagging behind in academics in the early years of school.
Having two young boys myself, I know how hard it can be to get boys to sit and be interested in reading. Regardless if you have a young boy or girl, here are some suggestions to make reading fun:
Make sure the "ya-yas" are all out of the kids. Children have a hard time focusing when they haven't had a chance to burn some energy off. This is one of the reasons I value walking or biking to school instead of being dropped off. Let the kids run and play before sitting them down to read, draw or write.
Print the lyrics of their favourite songs. Cut and paste the lyrics over to a Word file so you can enlarge the font-size. Depending on the age of the child, you can practice letter sounds or read the actual lyrics while playing the music. Practice singing the song without looking at the words too and try things like, "Ack! I don't remember the next line—can you read it out to me?
Ask your children to read the road signs for you. Again, if the children are younger, ask them to find the letters you need. Older children can read the whole sign. My boys absolutely love doing this! This also teaches them the foundations for navigation.
Read with your children as long as they will sit. If they can only stay still for a short time, schedule many of these short reading times throughout the day. Please don't get frustrated when they start to squirm—it is important to set up a positive association for reading time.
Most young children LOVE to help with baking and cooking. Ask your child to read out the recipe steps for you or read what ingredients are needed, and set off looking for those. Now that my youngest isn't ransacking cupboards anymore, I have put all the baking ingredients where they can be reached.
Use reading games. I discovered a game called "uKloo" that uses reading, running around, and hiding objects together—an obvious hit for kids. My boys beg to play this game with us. We even used it one day to hide my son's birthday present; he read through the clues and discovered his present at the end of the trail. www.ukloo.com
Find magazines geared for young children that explore their interests. Our child's school is involved in the magazine fundraising program so we used that as an opportunity to try out lots of different publications. (Chickadee/ National Geographic Kids/ Chirp/ OWL/ Zootles)
Buy books as a souvenir on trips. When we are in a different city, we buy a book about that city/area to remember our trip and learn new, fun things. Books last longer than stuffies or t-shirts!
Make sure your children see you relaxing and enjoying reading. I love "mommy rest-time" where I tell the boys it is time where they play something they don't need help with (they are 3 and 5 years old) and I plop down on the sofa near them to read.
I continually post more free parenting help on my Facebook page—come join the conversation.