Giving vs. Getting: Toddlers and finding balance during the holidays

by Maxine
Posted January 4 2012 01:03pm
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The centre of many holiday celebrations is giving and receiving gifts, especially for children. Children fantasize about it, and most hope to receive lots of big, expensive gifts. Parents, for their part, worry that the mid-winter holidays will spoil their children or make them greedy. Most parents will probably have to provide a healthy reality check, providing some guidance for what are more reasonable dreams.

But what about your child's natural desire to receive lots of gifts? Does this promote greed? As long as your family also highlights the true meaning of the holidays, such as giving to others and celebrating cherished rituals together, you do not need to worry too much about your child's materialistic desires.

Here are some ways you can use Comfort, Play & Teach: A Positive Approach to Parenting to set the tone for raising kind and caring children, regardless of how many gifts they ask for or receive.


Heart Comfort

Nurturing close relationships within families and among friends is the core of healthy social and emotional development for young children. Parents can set the tone for the holidays by emphasizing their true meaning – that of giving to others. The very young child, who has been at the receiving end of love, comfort, and attention to his needs from the earliest days, will replicate giving to others naturally and spontaneously. An infant as young as nine months will lovingly offer a parent his pre-chewed food in the spirit of sharing. A toddler as young as eighteen months will either hug or offer up a cherished stuffed toy to comfort another person who is crying. A child's capacity for empathy and concern is developed through the consistent and sensitive responsiveness shown them throughout the early years. When you focus on the "giving" part of the holidays, this teaches children to care for others and to reach out to people who are less fortunate.

  • Take a little time to help your children make their own "gifts". It doesn't have to be fancy. They can make drawings or colour pictures and put them in envelopes to give Grandma, Daddy and other people they care about.
  • Many fire halls and charities collect toys for children whose parents can't afford to buy them. Encourage your preschooler to choose a toy for purchase and let her give it to the charity.
  • When grocery shopping for your family, take time with your child to fill a special bag for the Food Bank, and drop it off together. Toddlers are great at stuffing bags.


Star Play

It is through the power of play that a child explores and makes discoveries about things and people in his world. Consider how your family's own traditions can be emphasized during the holidays. When children are little, it is a prime time to start family traditions that will last a lifetime. This helps children feel grounded and connected to the people who care for them.

Here are some ways that family values can be celebrated through play:

  • Preschoolers are very capable assistants in the kitchen during the preparation of the special foods that are part of the holidays. Young children enjoy the baking experience and are learning many important science concepts and motor skills in the process.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy the activity of decorating a tree. This is an opportunity for them to help make decisions about what ornament goes where and for you to engage them in a conversation about the ornaments. But remember, toddlers enjoy taking things off as much as they like putting them on.
  • If your family participates in special ceremonies such as lighting candles on the Menorah, let your preschooler count out the candles each night and help put them in place.
  • Sing seasonal songs, read seasonal stories and play traditional games as a family.
  • Turn on the outdoor holiday lights with your little one each night.

Nothing is too insignificant to delight a young child. And many times it is the little things that they will remember the most.


Triangle Teach

Young children need to learn how to communicate, interact with others, solve problems and express thoughts and feelings. The holiday season presents a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about themselves in the context of family and the community around them. Take this time to model for children how to think about others and to reach out to people who are less fortunate:

  • Be sure to talk about everything you are doing. Infants and toddlers may not understand every word, but your tone will communicate volumes. Preschoolers' capacity for language is growing exponentially and they love to listen to stories about people and traditions.
  • Talk about the importance of sharing and how it makes people feel when they receive a gift.
  • Take photos of family rituals and make a special holiday album. Use it as a vehicle to discuss with your child what was happening in the photos and what emotions were experienced. Discuss the importance of celebrating cherished rituals together.
  • Take picture books out of the library that explore themes of poverty. Engage your preschooler in a discussion about what things would make it better for that child or family. Follow through with any reasonable suggestions to demonstrate to your child, that even at a young age, actions can help to make a difference in someone's life.

Spending time with your children in these ways will help to outweigh the material aspects of the holidays, and your actions will build fond memories and positive values that will stay with them for a lifetime.

If you found this article helpful, please download the tip sheet (PDF). 

How do you help your toddler understand the true meaning of the holidays? Do you find it difficult to dissuade them from being greedy? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

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Why hasn’t my child begun to speak yet?

by Maxine
Posted January 4 2012 09:09pm
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When it comes to a child's language development, it's safe to expect that by 24-months, or 30-months at the latest, the average child will be saying 50 different words and/or two-word combinations, such as "throw ball," or "red ball."

Although most children can say simple words in their first year and small sentences by age two, some children begin talking at a later age. We don't really know why some children begin to talk faster than others, but it does happen.

For some children, language can continue to develop without many words. These children may need to have more time to recognize the patterns of language and how to say what they are thinking.

For others, particularly children who have older brothers or sisters, a pattern may develop where they let the older children speak for them - reducing the need to speak for themselves. But this doesn't mean the late talker is less intelligent. When your child does start to speak, it may even be at a more advanced level than you'd expect.

Although it is better if your child can speak for himself, it's okay to let older children speak for your child, as long as he tries to communicate in some way, like using gestures. No one should shame or criticize your child for not being able to talk - it's something he can't help.

If you find that your child makes no attempt to speak by 18 months, doesn't use many gestures to communicate, or seems to have trouble understanding what is said, discuss this with your child's physician, or call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.

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Help! My toddler is refusing to sleep!

by Maxine
Posted December 17 2010 11:44am
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There are many things that can cause your child to stay awake at bedtime or to wake in the night and stay awake. Some examples are teething, illness, digestive problems, allergies, a move to a new home, or change in child care provider and even anxiety. You may not know it, but your child could be feeling genuinely anxious about being separated from you at bedtime.

The best way to make sure that both you and your child are getting the rest you need is to establish a regular bedtime routine. It should be at the same time every night, with no rough or active play just before bed. A nice bath and bedtime story is a great way to calm your child before going to sleep.

Be gentle but firm about your child staying in bed after being put down. Encourage your child to learn to stay calm by singing and talking quietly to herself, or cuddling with a pillow or stuffed animal. Leave the room with your child awake, so he can learn how to fall asleep on his own. It's also important that while your toddler is falling asleep, she is not distracted by excessive noise in the home, such as loud television programs, or the sound of older brothers and sisters playing.

It's normal for your child to call out to you in the night, but you don't have to go running right away. Try calling back to him first, just to let him know you've heard the cries and are near by. If your child continues to fuss, go into the room and use your voice and presence to calm him. Instead of picking him up, pat or massage him gently.

And remember, almost every child goes through several phases of testing you to see how late they can stay up. Stay gently firm and consistent. Getting angry doesn't help ease your child into sleep.


How did you deal with a toddler who refused to sleep? Offer your tips to other parents by leaving a comment below or ask an expert your question on this topic.


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Ten Things to Remember When Your Child is a Toddler

by Maxine
Posted July 30 2010 07:00pm
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1. Now is the time to start setting limits that go beyond safety.

Decide on a few rules that really matter. For instance, “be gentle” and “no hurting others” are good rules for a toddler. Try not to have too many limits or rules about little things that are not important. If you do, everyone will end up getting angry. Let your child know what the rules are and stick to them. Be firm and be consistent. Remind her of the limits before going out or doing something new. And make sure your child’s caregivers know the rules, too.

2. Toddlers respond better to limits when they feel loved. Try talking to your toddler in a positive way.

Say, “Please close the door quietly,” instead of “Don’t slam the door.” Pay attention to his good behaviour and tell him that you are proud of him. This can build your child’s self-esteem and he won’t want to battle with you all the time.

3. It takes time for toddlers to learn to make friends and get along with others.

Their social skills will improve as they learn to talk and control their movements more. Playing with your child will help her get ready to be with others. Talk with her in a happy, playful way. You can even act out ways of dealing with new situations that your toddler will face.

4. When you need to leave your toddler with a new caregiver, start by introducing them for short periods of time when you are there, too.

Try to let your child get used to the caregiver before you leave them full-time. For the first few days, stay with your child and the caregiver for a little while. This will help your child adjust and help you learn more about daycare. Stay for a little less time each day. This will make the first couple of weeks easier for you and your child.

5. Bring your toddler’s favourite toy and a snack when you go out.

Talk about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. Tell him how you expect him to behave (“Stay with Mommy”). Also be careful about the time of day you go – children need their snacks and naps. If you think the outing will be too much for your child, leave him at home or with a caregiver, if you can.

6. Toddlers need routines.

They learn to expect what will happen next. This gives them a feeling of control. Bedtime routines are important and can make life happier for everyone. Set a regular bedtime hour. Make a routine that includes calming things like a bath or reading a book. To help your child learn the routine, tell her ahead of time what the next step will be.

7. Toddlers will get into mischief.

Faster than you can imagine! They are busy exploring the world around them. It is not difficult for them to break things or hurt themselves. Make sure your toddler has safe surroundings and is never alone for long.

8. All toddlers break the rules at times.

How you respond depends on the situation and your child’s age. Think about how your child is feeling. When he misbehaves, it’s often because he is upset. He isn’t trying to make you mad – he just doesn’t know how to tell you what’s bothering him. Try to figure it out. Was he bored without you? Was he excitedly trying new things? Understanding your child’s feelings may help you guide him better.

9. Your toddler needs to know that you will be there when she needs you.

A secure child will more eagerly explore the world around her. If you notice that your child is having difficulty, stop what you’re doing and go to help her. If she is finding it hard to be part of the group, try giving her a toy related to the group’s play to help her join in.

10. Being a parent can be tough.

Parents need to give each other support. Some parents form groups to talk and help each other out. Ask your local health unit, library or community centre to help you find one of these groups. It's important you know you're not alone. Research confirms that all parents both need and want help!

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