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6 Potty Training Tips for Success

March 22, 2016

By Noralba Martinez

6 potty-training tips for success | In over 15 years as an early childhood intervention specialist, this mom has helped potty train hundreds of toddlers. Here are her 6 key tips. | A child's feet point to a potty training toilet.

When it comes to potty training, every child is different. I’ve supported the potty training of hundreds of toddlers through my career as an early childhood intervention counselor, and the strongest advice I can give you is that consistency is the key to success.

Here are six tips that will help you through this journey.

Is your child ready?
Your toddler needs to be ready before you can begin potty training. How do you know if your child is ready?

  • Your child knows when he or she is going to the bathroom, even if it’s in a diaper.
  • Your child is able to pull up his or her pants or underwear.
  • Your child doesn’t go to the bathroom during naps and can stay dry for at least two hours.
  • Your child communicates a desire to use the toilet.

Model the behavior
Once you know your child is ready for potty training, take him or her with you to the restroom. Show your toddler that going potty in the toilet is a natural and normal thing everyone does.

Explain in simple terms what you are doing. Be patient and calm, as it may be difficult for your child to understand at first.

Make it easy and remove obstacles 
Keep the bathroom door open at all times so your child can access the room whenever he or she feels the urge to go. Put the potty chair in an area your toddler can see and get to quickly. If you’re using a child seat on your toilet, put a stool next to the toilet.

Set a schedule
Take your toddler to the potty chair or toilet every 30 minutes. He or she can sit for five minutes. If your toddler doesn’t go, it’s okay. You’re setting a schedule to encourage him or her to have the opportunity to empty regularly.

If you need help remembering to have your child go every 30 minutes, you can use a timer or a potty watch. Just be sure to stay consistent so your toddler can expect the opportunity to go.

Reward and praise your child
Motivate your child and increase his or her success at potty training by praising all efforts and rewarding accomplishments. Stickers are a great way to reward your toddler when he or she goes in the potty. Some parents have a special basket of dollar-store toys the child can choose from after a successful potty. Verbal praise also goes a long way to influence your toddler.

Bye-bye potty chair
Just like you have to say good-bye to your toddler’s high chair, playpen, and many other baby items, you will also say goodbye to the potty chair. After your toddler has demonstrated independence and self-care responsibility, transition to the toilet full-time.

Potty training can seem like a daunting task, but if you’re patient and stay positive and consistent, you and your toddler will get there. It won’t happen overnight, but with your help he or she can do it.

Do you have potty training tips to share with fellow parents? Please tell us in the comments below!

This article was originally published on April 10, 2014 and has been updated to reflect additional information.


4 Ways to Stay Close to Far-Away Family

January 21, 2016

By Ana Vela

4 Ways to Stay Close to Far-Away Family | A girl writes a letter to her family in another state.

Being very close with my family, I never imagined raising a child without them nearby. And yet, that’s where life has taken me—1,200 miles away. Seeing how close my parents are to my brother’s children (who live near them), I was nervous at the thought of my daughter missing out on that bond by living so far away.

Because of that, I made a point to make sure family continued to be central in our home. Here are some methods I developed for our daughter Mariana to maintain a close relationship with my family, regardless of the distance.

Schedule phone and video calls.
I schedule calls and FaceTime with my family every other week. Mariana loves to “talk” on the phone and loves seeing her cousins on video. To help my family feel like they are not missing out on Mariana growing up, I make a list of any new things Mariana is doing to share with them during that call. And my nieces share their schoolwork and drawings with us.

If you don’t have FaceTime, you can use Skype or Google Hangouts to have a video call with your family.

Send mail.
My 18-month-old can’t write yet, but that doesn’t mean she can’t send mail. Together we send cards, drawings, stickers, and photos to her cousins just so they know she’s thinking of them. What kid doesn’t like to get mail? And it gives us something to talk about on a follow-up call.

Plan for visits.
With our family budget, both sides plan to travel and visit the other one time a year, usually around birthdays or holidays. Making these plans give us all something to look forward to and talk about, and my nieces love counting down the days until they see their little cousin.

Capture and talk about memories.
We love taking photos when we’re with each other! Weeks and even months after our visit, we’ll take time to look at the photos again. My husband and I use the photos to tell our daughter stories, while pointing to and naming each family member. That way she continues to recognize them and stay connected.

I’m happy to see that Mariana enjoys being with my family and that she recognizes them when we connect through these other methods. So far it doesn’t feel like the distance has lessened the bond.

What methods do your family use to stay connected? Share in the comments below.


Want to Make Your Own Baby Food? Read These 7 Tips First

January 12, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Want to Make Your Own Baby Food? Read These 7 Tips First | Making baby food is pretty easy; after all, most of it consists of steamed and puréed vegetables or mashed-up fruits. Before you give it a try, read through these seven considerations to ensure you take proper precautions. | A baby looks at her food before eating it.

Before having a baby, many parents idealize what life will be like with the baby. From all-natural births to cloth diapers and organic creams, expectant parents fill their registries with products that suggest that we can do it all ourselves.

Then the baby comes and we realize that we’ll do anything to make raising our child easier and less painful. But one of those idealized visions can remain a reality: making your own baby food.

Not only is making baby food more economical than store-bought food, you can also control the nutrients and eliminate added chemicals and preservatives in your baby’s diet. And it gets the baby used to eating the same foods as the adults, which will make your transition to solid foods easier.

Making baby food is pretty simple; after all, most of it consists of steamed and puréed vegetables or mashed-up fruits. Before you give it a try, read through these seven considerations to ensure you take proper precautions.

1. Wait until your baby is 3-6 months old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until your baby is six months old to introduce finger and puréed food. If you follow proper sanitary guidelines, they say you can introduce baby food along with breast milk or formula as early as three months old.

Check with your pediatrician before changing your baby’s diet at any point, and talk to him or her about potential food allergies in advance.

2. Get the right equipment.
For the basics, you’ll just need a steamer and a food processor (or blender). If you want to splurge, there are plenty of all-in-one products that can aid in the whole process from peeling to steaming to blending.

This article breaks down the types of equipment you can use to make baby food.

3. Wash. Wash. Wash.
Wash everything that will come into contact with the food. Wash your hands and the surfaces you’re using to chop, dice, mash, etc. Wash the equipment and the food, even if you’re going to peel it. Keep everything clean to prevent the spread of bacteria to your baby.

4. Limit nitrates in the food.
Nitrates are found in plants, soil, and well water. If your baby is exposed to too many nitrates, he or she could develop a type of anemia known as “blue baby syndrome.”

To limit the amount of nitrates your baby ingests from homemade baby food, do the following:

  1. Consume or freeze baby food immediately. Nitrates develop in food the longer it sits, so if you’re not going to cook fruits or vegetables right away, use frozen versions. If you’re not going to use all of the prepared baby food within a few days, freeze extra portions the day you make it. You can defrost it later in the week or anytime in the next three months.
  2. If you have well water, test it for nitrates. If the levels are more than 10mg per liter, use purified or bottled water for all baby food (including formula).

5. Never sweeten baby food.
Babies don’t need extra sweetener. They get all they need from naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables. It is especially dangerous to add honey to baby food, as it can cause botulism in babies under a year old.

6. Avoid any unpasteurized dairy products.
Raw or unpasteurized milk can contain dangerous bacteria that can cause illness, so just as you avoided it during pregnancy, you should avoid it when making baby food.

7. Have fun!
While it’s important to be diligent and cautious when making your own baby food, have fun experimenting with different flavors and textures to see what your baby likes. This website has great recommendations for starter fruits and vegetables, like peas, mangoes, squash, and more.

Do you make your own baby food? Share your favorite recipes in the comments below!

Tags :  early childhoodbabyphysicalhealthbudget

5 Must-Do Holiday Family Activities

December 3, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Must-Do Holiday Family Activities | Try these free or low-cost holiday activities with your family this season to start a new tradition and inspire wonder and holiday magic. | A photo of the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo, courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo. 

Children make the holidays magical. They open our adult eyes to wonder, hope, faith, and a jolly good spirit while reminding us to take a few moments to really appreciate everything we have.

Spark your family’s joy and wonderment with these holiday activities, which are some of my favorites. Then share yours in the comments below so we can all try something new this year!

Many towns offer a traditional German holiday market, inspired by the one in Nuremberg, Germany that started in 1545. These markets often feature local artisans, shops, and traditional German food, while some, like the one in Chicago, even have vendors visiting from Germany.

Bring the kids for the food, music, culture, and the opportunity to speak a little German. Teach them how to say good day (guten tag), goodbye (auf wiederschen), and thank you (danke).

Zoo Lights
Get several families together, bundle up, and visit your local zoo for Zoo Lights this season. While the animals might be sleeping, many zoos turn on their holiday lights at dusk, which will warm your hearts and give your kids something to dream about that night.

Holiday Windows
Every December, my family would drive to the Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) on State Street in Chicago to take in the holiday windows and music in the brisk winter air. With a different theme every year, I was always excited to see what magic would be dancing around in the windows.

Check with your local Chamber of Commerce to see if your town decorates holiday windows or head to the nearest city for adorned windows, music, and other special events for kids.

Holiday Giving to Kids and Charities
When I was in elementary school, every year my family would take an angel from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. We would go shopping together for that child’s Christmas gifts. Not only was it fun to shop for someone my age, but it also taught me that the holidays aren’t just about Santa and receiving gifts. They are about giving to those who need help.

Once I was in high school, my student council hosted toy drives. After we organized all of the toys, we would deliver them to the families’ homes. Witnessing the pure joy in the children’s faces was the greatest gift we could ever receive. Ask your middle school or high school student to help organize a toy drive at his or her school this year.

Even if your family can’t afford to sponsor an angel or donate to Toys for Tots, save a little extra change for the Red Kettle program. Before you enter or leave the store, give your child that change to put in the red kettles and explain how that money helps other children. You’re teaching the spirit of giving, which is one of the most important parts of the holiday season.

Snuggle Time
One of the best activities you can do with your family over the holidays is also free! Cuddle up on a cold morning or evening in bed or on the couch. Make some hot chocolate, light a fire, and watch a holiday movie or play a game together. After all, what are the holidays without family and love?

What are your family’s must-do activities and traditions over the holidays? Share your ideas in the comments below.


5 Ways to a Healthy Immune System This Holiday

December 1, 2015

By Jessica Vician

5 Ways to a Healthy Immune System This Holiday | December is a busy time for families. With the school parties, vacations, and family visits, it’s especially important to make an extra effort to keep the family healthy. Make sure you're doing most of these things to keep your child’s immune system healthy for the holidays.

December is a busy time for families. With the school parties, vacations, and family visits, it’s especially important to make an extra effort to keep the family healthy.

You might be thinking, “I can’t add anything else to my plate this month!” Don’t worry: you’re probably doing most of these things already to keep your child’s immune system healthy for the holidays. Check the list and add whatever you’re missing.

Teach Them to Avoid Germs 
Remind your kids that it’s especially important to wash their hands and avoid germs during the holidays. Every time they come inside, before eating, and after playtime, ask them to wash and dry their hands.

Discourage your kids from sharing drinks, food, or utensils with anyone during the holidays, too. Even with the best intentions, we all have different germs and can get each other sick.

Settle the Stomach
If your child has a party to attend or you know grandma makes lots of cookies for holiday dessert, ensure the day’s first meal healthy and packed with nutrients. Make a spinach, egg, and cheese sandwich on a whole-wheat English muffin, and include yogurt rich in probiotics.

For lunch, include those nutritious greens, grains, and protein and add a probiotic drink like GoodBelly to make sure your child’s stomach is ready for the heavier food.

Plan Physical Activities
The day after a big party, plan a fun physical activity with your child like sledding, ice skating, or going to an indoor trampoline park. The fun exercise will keep your child in peak physical condition and sweat out all those cookies!

Make Time for Resting
The holidays are a very stimulating time physically, socially, and emotionally. Make sure your child gets a little extra rest this month so he or she has enough time to recover. Even an extra half an hour of sleep goes a long way.

And for those days that you plan heavy exercise, remember that you’ll also need to plan a nap or early bedtime.

Remember The Multivitamins
Even with healthy eating, physical activity, and rest, your kids can still pick up a virus over the holidays. Encourage them to take their daily multivitamin and get plenty of vitamin C and zinc to ward off those viruses.

As always, before starting a new health regimen, check with your child’s pediatrician. These tips should help you and your children avoid getting sick over the holidays, but if your child has any special conditions, talk to the doctor first.

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