Making Tooth Brushing Fun (AKA Getting Them To Brush For Themselves)

We’re lucky in that our little guy never really had an aversion to having his teeth brushed. I can’t say that he enjoyed it, but once it was established that we brushed teeth after meals he would consistently endure the process. That said, he would NOT take the initiative and work the brush on his own. It was definitely a task for Mom or Dad to initiate and perform.

How did we get past this? We bought him an electric toothbrush.

Actually, we bought ourselves electric toothbrushes first so he could see that it was the way we brushed our teeth and established it as something adults do, whereas the non-electric brushing was something for kids. Next we bought him his own and just set it down in front of him. He’d already seen how ours worked, so he was interested to see if this new brush would work the same way. Note as well that the brush we chose prominently featured characters from the movie Cars.

Surprise, surprise, by that evening he was turning it on and off and actually doing a pretty good job of brushing his teeth. At this point he takes the first stab after each meal and either Mom or Dad will bat clean-up and make sure that all areas are scrubbed. Best of all, if WE forget to get his toothbrush he’s sure to remind us!

We ended up getting him an Oral B Stages toothbrush for those interested.

Good luck all :)

Potty Training And The Argument For Not Starting Early

Our son is continuing to work on his toilet training, having just passed the three year mark. I have to admit that it’s been a source of some frustration for me since a) I know he knows when he needs to use the toilet and is able to do so should he choose, b) he often doesn’t choose to when there’s something more interesting going on and of course c) many of the other children at his daycare are already toilet trained or well on their way to being so (shame on me for allowing this last item to influence me).

Today I stumbled across an article that suggests that the approach most parents seem to be taken these days is misguieded.
The article is here: A Doctor Responds: Don’t Potty Train Your Baby

I’ve pulled out some of the more interesting statements to whet your appetite.

The Oniciucs may be thrilled and proud that their daughter knows how to hold her pee and poop, but from my perspective, they should be concerned. For proper bladder development, young children need to pee and poop without inhibition.

And:

In toilet-trained children, chronic holding is the root cause of virtually all toileting problems, including daytime pee and poop accidents, bedwetting, urinary frequency and urinary tract infections.

Oh, and let’s not forget:

In truth, mastering the toilet has nothing to do with brainpower. Parents who wait until later to train their children aren’t treating babies as “stupid” and neither are they lazy; they’re wisely allowing their child’s bladder to develop in a healthy manner.

Enjoy!

Holding Your Child Back A Year From Kindergarten. AKA “Redshirting”

Today was the first time I’d heard this concept referred to as redshirting and frankly it made me chuckle in the context of kids and kindergarten. It was NOT the first time I’d heard the concept discussed as it’s surfaced many times over the past year, particularly in discussions with some of our friends in the southern US.

What is redshirting? Redshirting in the context of kids and kindergarten is the practice of holding your child back from kindergarten for a year (usually) because they are born later in their calendar year. The reasons I’ve heard are so that a) your child isn’t that much younger, and potentially further behind developmentally (I would think this would be more a reflection of the child’s personal developmental stage rather than something that should be decided purely based on age), b) your child isn’t significantly smaller than some of the older children (some folks mentioning sports / physical activity abilities as well as their ability to generally hold their own on the playground).

I’m against the practice as a general, age-based decision. Purely based on age, I’m against it. Based on developmental stage and your child’s personal needs I’m all for it. The increase in consideration of redshirting strikes me as a symptom of some issues at the parental-level that might be better addressed or focused on. Why are we concerned about sports ability of a child in kindergarten… shouldn’t we just be letting them explore their world with friends and leave the competition for a later date?

Anyway, the following article includes some additional thoughts and links that anyone reading this might find interesting. Enjoy.
Redshirting: to enter kindergarten or not… that is the question

Keeping Breakfast Interesting – Toddler Version. Banana Pancakes From Scratch.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this previously or not, but our typical breakfast consists of some variant of a smoothie with the most common including the following ingredients:

2 bananas
1 huge scoop of peanut butter
1 – 1.5 cups of quick oats
~200mL of yogurt. If using peanut butter, then vanilla, else fruit flavored
milk or more recently coconut almond milk
BLEND!!

While this continues to be consumed with enthusiasm, there is also a new found appreciation for pancakes and waffles. For a short while we fell into the bad habit of having waffles once or twice a week, and using frozen store-bought waffles to meet the need. Not healthy.

So, we’ve started to make large batches of pancakes from scratch. We store them in the fridge and toast them in the morning as needed. This has been a huge hit and provides a nice alternative to smoothies especially as the weather is getting cooler. I’m including the typical ingredients below for a single batch. Usually I’ll make a double batch of pancakes since we’re storing them anyway.

1.5 cups of flour
0.5 tsp of baking powder
0.25 tsp of baking soda
WHISK!

In another bowl:
1.5 cups of milk
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of sugar
WHISK!

Melt about a tablespoon of butter and add to the milk mixture after about 5 minutes
Add an egg to the milk mixture.
WHISK!

Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir with a fork. Lumps are fine.

Mash a very ripe banana with a fork. Stir it into the batter.

That’s it. Now it’s time to cook the pancakes and enjoy.

Babies, Vitamins and Mixed Messages in the Media

I’m one of those people who, every morning consumes a small cup worth of vitamins. My current alottment is comprised of:

  • Multivitamin
  • Vitamin D (I live in the Pacific Northwest and have dark skin)
  • Fish oil (with DHA etc)
  • Flaxseed oil (someone told me once that it helps lubricate your eyes)
  • Glucosamine with Chondroitin (I had knee surgery a few years ago and have experienced several shoulder dislocations. As a result I’m happy to try anything that might help)
  • Branch chain amino acids (I like to pretend I go to the gym regularly)
  • Some green pill since I don’t eat enough greens

Crazy right?

Anyway, we recently heard that the DHA/fish oil supplementation is good practice for kids so I just picked up some capsules of the stuff which of course our son tried, but now refuses to eat. I can’t say that I blame him. They’re tiny fish oil capsules (about the size of a typical vitamin D capsule) and flavoured with the usual artificial strawberry flavoring. Once ‘popped’ the strawberry flavored fish oil syrup flows out and you’re left with the very sticky capsule skin… I tried one. I would refused to eat it as well if I was a toddler that didn’t understand that it was supposed to be beneficial. Next time I think we’ll go with the Gummy version. You can find a number of different Nordic Naturals Children’s DHAoptions here.

Additionally we give him a multivitamin gummy that we cut into 6 pieces each morning. This he takes to with gusto. Not surprising given that its an almost perfect mimic of a gummy bear so there’s absolutely no argument about taking them. The specific childen’s multi that we buy are Yummi Bears Multi-Vitamin & Mineral Gummy Bears

Now, the question. Consumer Reports recently did a spot on vitamins and supplements making the argument that many of them are unnecessary and in fact some of them can do some harm. They laid out the risk as well that both vitamins and supplements lack the quality control process and standards that true medications are bound by, so you take at your own risk. That makes me nervous.

It seems like every other week the common wisdom around vitamins, supplements and other promising foods shifts one way or the other. This week fish oil is dangerous so we all throw it out, the next week there’s a study that it can help with cancer treatment or something else we’re all concerned about. Frankly I don’t know if I should even bother trying to keep u.

For those of you out there, what are your experiences and thoughts?

Making Sure Your Child Eats a Broad Range of Healthy Foods

Following up on my earlier post about teaching children where food comes from, I thought I’d put up a quick post on how to get your kids to eat healthy.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday who also has children at home, in fact they have 3 ranging from a few months to about 5 years old. It seems that we’ve been very lucky with our toddler given his willingness to eat pretty much everything we put in front of him regardless how bland, spicy, wet, dry, brown or green the meal might be. My friend was telling me that not only are his kids picky, but they have structured their meals around certain foods that the children are willing to eat and its come to the point that there is concern that nutritional requirements may not be being met.

Now, I’m not going to kid myself. I expect that our situation is due perhaps in part to the fact that we’ve exposed our toddler to a wide variety of foods and food types since he was big enough to eat solid foods, but that its likley more a case of good luck than anything else. It would not surprise me one bit if in the near future he just decided that he was no longer open to trying anything but a handful of food items, so I figured I’d better get prepared.

I’ve managed to source some interesting options that ‘hide’ healthy foods in more tasty options. For example, the Whole Foods near us sells chicken sausage that includes a great deal of kale. Provided your child doesn’t recoil at the idea of eating a green sausage this might be a good option. Another approach we’ve used is to put vegetable-based juice in the breakfast shakes we all drink in the morning. This is not V-8, but rather those green / spirulina drinks you see these days, like:

Happy Planet Extreme Green (their site)
Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness (their site)
Arthur’s Green Energy (their site)
Odwalla Superfood (their site)

A couple of shakes we alternate between for breakfast include (we make enough for three of us):

Peanut Butter & Banana:
2 bananas
Huge scoop (~5 tablespoons) of unsalted peanut butter (no additional ingredients)
~ 250-300mL of vanilla yogurt (we avoid low fat)
~ 1 cup of dry quick oats
A couple cups of 2% milk
Water as needed.
Pulse blend until desired consistency is reached & oats are broken up.

Mango & Banana:
2 bananas
Flesh of one average sized mango (2 if you use the smaller Philippine mangos).
~ 250-300mL of vanilla yogurt (we avoid low fat)
~ 1 cup of dry quick oats
A couple cups of 2% milk
Water as needed.
Pulse blend until desired consistency is reached & oats are broken up.

Banana & Greens:
2 bananas
~ 1 cup of Green drink of your choice (see above)
~ 250-300mL of vanilla yogurt (we avoid low fat)
~ 1 cup of dry quick oats
A couple cups of 2% milk
Pulse blend until desired consistency is reached & oats are broken up.

I’ve polled a few folks including the friend mentioned above and they’ve provided a couple of options for making food that kids will eat (note that I said ‘make’ as I like the idea of knowing exactly where the ingredients are coming from and what is going into the food we feed our kids). One book we’re been recommended more than once is Deceptively Deliciouswhich is apparently authored by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife. My copy hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ll plan to update this post once we’ve tried some of their recipes.

Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food

Dogs, Dogs, Dogs!! How Do I Keep My Toddler Safe Around Dogs?

We live in an area populated by university students, young couples and an incredible number of dogs. I have to admit that the owners are very consistent in their use of leashes and it is a VERY rare thing to see a dog off leash. For this I’m thankful. Owners are slightly less consistent in their cleanup and this seems to be getting worse. A year ago you’d almost never see dog doo on a lawn, but yesterday I counted 5 deposits during a 4 block walk. Not good.

While the above is somewhat concerning to me I think we can quickly teach our little guy to avoid dog doo and to leave it alone whenever he encounters it. If, in the event he doesn’t listen or forgets, the implications of this are relatively minor.

What really concerns me is how to teach a baby / toddler / child to behave around the dogs themselves. My inlaws have a medium sized dog that isn’t super familar with children. While she’s generally pretty good with kids, there comes a point when the growling starts and I’m concerned that a snap will soon follow. Of course, or little boy finds the front end of the dog to be the most interesting and starts off at a slow jog directly at those teeth when he sees her. We’ve tried to reinforce with him that a) you shouldn’t run at a dog, but rather approach her only with mom or dad, b) you should only touch a dog gently once mom or dad have said its ok and c) if mom or dad aren’t there, or haven’t said its ok, you should just leave an animal alone.

Any hints? If not I think I’ll be buying some books pretty quickly. Most of the books I’ve found so far focus on introducing kids to a family dog, or introducing a new dog to the existing children. What I’m looking for would address not just those items (I’m sure they’re good for all interactions) but also cover teaching children how to behave around dogs whether they’re familiar or not.

For example:
Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind
Raising Puppies & Kids Together: A Guide for Parents
Kids and Dogs: A Professional’s Guide to Helping Families
Family Friendly Dog Training: A Six Week Program for You and Your Dog
Happy Kids, Happy Dogs
The Puppy Primer

Teaching Our Children Where Their Food Comes From.

When I grew up my grandparents, aunts and uncles lived on a dairy farm not far (5 hour drive) from where we grew up. As a result we would spend stretches of our summer holidays, and Christmas at ‘The Farm’ visiting with family and assuming some measure of chores. There was never any question of where fruits and vegetables came from, how and when to harvest them or how to prepare them. Similarly we would help to prepare chickens after they were killed, we knew that pork came from the pigs, and milk and beef from the cows in the barn.

An exchange I had with a friend recently reminded me that not everyone had this exposure as a child. My friend asked me where peanut trees grew. Weird.

That was when I decided that despite living in a reasonably large city, and in an apartment we had to make sure our little one knew where his food came from, how to grow his own and how much better fresh is vs shipped.

To kick this off we’ve done the following this year (remember, our son isn’t quite 2 yet):
1. Regularly visit a local hobby farm. While butchering the animals isn’t part of the program, he gets to see and interact directly with a large number of animals, many species of which might find their way to a table one day. We explain to him that you eat cow, pig, goat etc and when we do eat meat, we link it back to the animal so he can build the association.
2. Plant vegetables on our balcony. We’ve got a few different types of vegetables on our balconies, though this year’s weather is not cooperating nearly as well as last. We’ve got carrots as an example of a root vegetable that grows in the ground, lettuce so we can harvest and bring it to the table often. We’ve got tomatillos, peppers and gooseberries as examples of fruits and vegetables that grow above ground. Finally we’re trying cantaloupe (yes, I know its a long shot). While the plants are off to a slow and late start I’m hopefull that this will work.
3. We’re planning trips to local vegetable farms, either pick-your-own or farms associated with farmers markets so he can see the scale and variety available.

I’m sure it will be a while before he really appreciates what he’s seeing… but maybe that’s the point. I would consider it a win if he grows up unsurprised when he sees plants growing across acres of field, or is surprised by a question from a friend who clearly lacks awareness of where their food comes from.

Swimming lessons for infants and babies

This one’s thrown me for a bit of a loop. Our son LOVES bathtime and looks forward to it every night. For the longest time he would scream as soon as we took him out, wanting desperately to return to his tub and water toys. This seemed to carry over to a trip we took when he was about 8 months old. The weather cooperated and we were able to go swimming in the complex’s swimming pool pretty much every day. Our son’s reaction was similar to his daily baths. He loved the pool. He was happy to splash about for as long as we’d let him, kicking his legs and attempting to mimic his mother as she blew bubbles and motored him around in the warm water.

Fast forward to his first birthday. We’ve registered our son in weekly swimming classes geared specifically for infants his age. Either my wife or I join him in the pool throughout the session and play the primary role in moving him about in the water, following the instructor’s guidance. Here’s the thing, despite being surrounded by other children his age who seem to enjoy their baby swimming lessons, and despite the pool water being quite warm, he appears not at all pleased to be there. Week after week his face shows concern while in the pool and in cases where he’s temporarily given over to the instructor before being returns (via the water) to one of us he lets loose completely.

I’m hoping this is just a temporary thing and that he’ll warm up to both the instructors and the public pool because at this point he gets upset enough that it disrupts the session for the other families involved.

Any suggestions are eagerly welcomed.

Tummy time terrors. Or, tummy time, it’s all good until it’s not.

Tummy time sounds innocent enough. Your baby has until this point been sleeping on his or her back, and spending much of their waking time there as well, however friends, family and books are suggesting that you should introduce the little one to tummy time. Nothing wrong with introductions right? We’ll just turn him slowly on his side and then over onto his stomach, right? We’ll do it for a few minutes then back and see how it goes and over time we’ll increase the duration, right?

Wrong.

We’ve been trying tummy time with the Kidlet for many weeks now and the only time we’ve had any kind of success is when he’s so @#%@$% tired that he falls asleep before he figures out how pissed off he is to be on his tummy. Outside of those rare occasions he loses his mind immediately when turned over regardless how gently the roll is performed. I was hoping that by this time he’d come around. His neck is getting stronger (though his head is still enormous) and I would have thought he’d see some progress at this point. Lord knows he’s strong. He punched me in the face this morning and based on the impact I no longer buy into the thought that he can’t support himself with his arms. At this point I’m calling laziness with a side of cranky.

I will not be defeated. Tummy time will continue if for no other reason than my belief that he’s faking it.