Toddler Games

To get you started on ways to interact and play with you toddler, a Tot School book was put together to assist new moms from the most successful blogging moms and professionals around. It has real strategies and realistically priced solutions to help you teach your toddlers in your own home, even if you have never done so before.

Here is a excerpt from “Tot School: Every Parent Can Teach”, related to toddler attention.

Let’s Start with the Basics:  Attention Skills
Starting at the beginning…how can we start our kids out from birth on the road to happy kidss? How can we help our little ones be happy big ones?

Taking stock of our own attentional habits is a good place to start. Creating environments where our babies can thrive make a difference in our kids’ attentional development. If we can’t attend long enough to know what our babies need, then we better slow down and focus. We are the only ones who can help our babies, and they are DEPENDING on you to do it!

Below area the basics to watch for in caring for your baby. They will help them grow up happy and loved. One day, all the love and care will come back to you ten fold.

baby milestones and attention

Nutrition
Babies can benefit from many things we as parents do. From birth, we know that supporting brain health is often most simply done by providing good nutrition. It is very important to understand that the stomach links directly to the brain. The stomach makes up the enteric nervous system, and it is crucial in making neurotransmitters that are important for attention and mood, much like the brain. Additionally, the gut is the first place where a child’s immune system is turned on. Traveling through the birthing canal helps the baby ingest beneficial bacteria from the mother to turn on immunity. Immunity secures the future gut health over the long term, and overall health as well.
A balance is also necessary. In talking about children, sugar is one of the main culprits that rocks the once-nutritious apple cart. Years ago, sugar was a special treat, a few times a week if a kid was lucky. In the 70’s and 80’s, when the US government allowed food manufactures to legally market directly to kids, we saw a tremendous increase in food placement ads directed at kids. Most of the foods were sugar-rich and nutrient-low. Now sugar and processed food are staples for most daily meals for kids. As parents, we have two challenges; first to locate both healthy and convenient options in grocery stores, and then to communicate to our kids that just because a superhero is on the bag, the food is not necessarily filled with good things.

.attention skills and baby milestones

Attentional Skills
At the baby age, we can attend to our babies needs, without the burden of explaining superhero food labeling; however, we also have the breast food/best food dilemma. Breastfeeding is great in that it helps the gut turn on the immune system by providing antibodies from the mother directly into the babies’ digestive systems. GREAT! But moms often work outside the home, and in the USA, women have very little maternity leave. If a employer doesn’t allow for pumping breaks, or a mom can’t afford to buy a $200 breast pump (really?) what is a mom to do? Some moms are able to figure out a way to breastfeed, but others move on to formula. Formula is great for nutrients…AND refined sugar. Lots of it. Refined sugar is banned in all formula in some countries in Europe…but it is in almost all formula in the US. Makes me wonder what is the most nutritious formula. I was lucky to find a formula with an alternate sugar source when we needed to supplement with formula, but we paid several dollars more per container.

Sensory
Sensory soothing also assists babies and toddlers in self-regulation, an important component to attention. They have a better chance to self-calm and soothe themselves when their general environment is characterized by safety and support. This basic idea, of trusting their environment, helps them to lay down brain architecture that supports development. Chronic stress, on the other hand, does the opposite, with milestones not being met as a result. Research presented by The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University supports the correlation between toxic stress and developmental delay. So creating homes with positive family relationships that are supportive for the baby are the first steps in laying down brain connections that support attention. Simply put, the less stress in a home, the more attention skills develop.”

If you like what you read so far we encourage you to check out the book for yourself. Click here to get your own copy of Tot School: Every Parent Can Teach Their Toddler: Learning Through Play Everyday!

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toddler sensory play

Sensory Play for Toddlers! Where Memories and Fun are Created!

In toddlers’ development, sensory play and gross motor play go hand in hand. When these two forms of play are allowed to grow into an organic activity, where the kids determine how the play is going to go, “Free Play” is born.
Free Play is where kids get to use their own creativity! It’s where they grow their own confidence in initiating, planning and completing tasks. The results, whether successful or not, lead to learning. Free Play results in learning that is not prescribed. It therefore can lead parents to learn a lot about their own child’s interests and personality. A toddler can turn into a newborn again, a pepper can be a red monster with black bean eyes, and a box of dirt can be a small garden for a little farmer.
In warm climates gross motor play can easily be done outdoors. In cooler climates, indoors might be better. Regardless, setting  the scene for success is the first step. Safety first. Then think of materials that might warrant good gross motor and sensory play. Outdoors, it’s pretty simple, especially if you live near the park or the woods. Kids can find materials and assign their own meanings to them. A stick could be a kings’ scepter, a leaf could be a plate, or a string could be a snake.
Kids do well with free play when the expectation for “Free Play” is set,and setting the expectation is quite simple. I usually use the words “Go Play, Have fun!” However, to help our little ones really get the idea of free play, I suggest getting toddlers into a routine of playing this way. On the flipside, if toddlers are provided from sunrise to sundown with entertainment-based play, Free Play can be difficult.

toddler sensory play
Free Play Sensory Activities
For example, let’s say a toddler first wakes in the morning to play with several push-button toys. These are the ones where a simple press of a button gets a song or crazy visual result. After breakfast, the toddler watches 2 videos, each 30 minutes long. Next the parent takes them to a story hour where they are entertained for 45 minutes. After lunch, they watch another video. They take a nap, to wake to a bit of iPad video game fun. Dinner is next, right before they roll into their evening routine, a routine with very little time for variation.
Now, routine is good. It’s the need for “down time” that needs to be, dare I say it, scheduled more frequently. As parents, we have so little “down time” ourselves! Well, I am of an age that I can still remember when I would have “down time” as a child. Even as an adult, I let myself have this luxury. I do nothing, absolutely nothing. But, as a child, I rarely did nothing. Instead I played. I played whatever in the world I wanted.
Today we refer to kids engaging in “down time” as “Free Play”. And it’s important. Let’s make sure we do more than let our toddlers use down time to watch TV or play video games. I suggest we turn off the buzz of the devices, and let the kids entertain themselves.

If you are still not convinced, let me point you in the direction of Peter Gray. He is a researcher who has been studying kids and how they learn and play for decade. In his new book, Free To Learn: Why Unleashing The Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, as well as in his recent TED talk, Gray makes a case for the much-needed increase in free play. Kids get little down time with days filled with too much structure and being over-scheduled.
Gray points out that it is in Free Play that kids really learn. They learn in ways that don’t let them forget. Free Play lets them learn in ways that make them feel happy and self-sufficient. It creates those wonderful kid memories we adults go to when we are stressed;the feelings of comfort and warmth and being loved for who you are, not what you do.
Kids need these experiences, and Gray’s research shows that kids that have more “Freedom to Learn” are happier, all the way into adulthood. Gray highlights that kids that have less free play have a greater incidence of issues such as anxiety and depression. If we as toddler parents think that more early learning classes, only structured play, and educational-based toys are the
way to go, all we need to do is balance things a little. Give 50% more “Free Play” and
your toddler will thrive! This is not to say that there is no room for clear limits, safety considerations, and appropriate routine. It is a mix of all these things, in a balanced way, that facilitates great toddler Free Play. So get to it. Instigate some fun! Then kick back and Relax.

Top 10 ways to create great “Free Play”.
1.    Less is More. If you as a parent do nothing but sit back and relax, you’ve got it.

2.    Set the scene so sensory items are toddler safe. Make sure that gross motor items are    baby/toddler proof. You can’t be too careful.

3.    Rotate materials every 1-2 months so they are always interesting. I use a 2 month rotation system that uses big bins for easy switching.

toddler sensory play

4. Start by setting any limits for the play space. If your toddler is not to leave the
yard, or go beyond a certain point, set up the limit as soon as you realize it is necessary. All safety issues should have a limit designated, so they can be creative while not having to be reminded of their limits. This builds listening abilities, but as always, never leave your toddler unattended.

5.    Google the words “Adventure Playground Europe Pictures” and you will see that there is really very little setup needed for gross motor play. Gross motor adventures are really fun when filled with stuff you might just be giving to goodwill! These outdoor adventure parks have old tires, old chairs, old grills, etc. The kids love them. Might not be real pretty, but remember they are temporary.

6.    Relax. It will feel strange. Ease into it.

7.    Let your kids lead.

8.    Play if they ask you to join in; don’t just direct. You might be asked to be a
firefighter, a cook or a dinosaur veterinarian. Have fun!

9.    Allow a sense of satisfaction to come over you. Your toddlers are developing lasting
memories which they will relate back to as adults in times of difficulty or stress.

10.    IF you see your kids being creative, tell them. IF you see them initiating new ides, tell them. Whatever they specific ally did that was good, let them know that you think they did it well. They will be more apt to take risks in ways that will help
them learn more the next time they get a chance for some “Free Play.”

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