Giving vs. Getting: Finding balance during the holidays

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 11:21pm
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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 preschooler 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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Preparing your preschooler for childcare

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 05:52pm
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Starting childcare can be an adjustment for the entire family. Routines will be new for everyone and some family members will adjust easier than others.

Whether it's a family home care setting or centre-based care, here are some tips to help make the transition easier for everyone.

  1. Start talking about the new routine well in advance of the first day.
    For instance, if mom will be doing the drop off, she could start talking about the ride to childcare. Talk to your child about the new routine that will take place once in care. Familiarize yourself and your child with the names of the teachers as well as the other children.
  2. Arrange advance visits.
    Advance visits, for children of all ages, allow your child to become familiar with the caregiver, the routine, and the other children. Visits can begin several weeks before the first day.
  3. Ease your child in and out.
    At the start, a parent or other family member should visit with the child for 30 minutes to two hours. Over the next few weeks, arrange to leave your child for a period of time without you. This will help the caregiver and child get to know each other. It will also show your child that you will come back. During the first full week, you may want to pick up your child a little earlier on the first day, gradually increasing the length of stay as the week progresses.
  4. Make introductions to the new children.
    Getting to know the other children and the other parents will be important for you and your child. During visits, be sure to introduce your child to children in his or her group. Similarly, don't hesitate to introduce yourself to some of the other parents.
  5. Take touches of comfort.
    Allow your child to take something that will give her comfort—a special toy, blanket, even a picture of you.
  6. Make a comfort call.
    Talk to your caregiver to agree on a time you can call during the day. It's important to plan this together to ensure your call won't take the caregiver's attention away from the children at a busy time.
  7. Touch base with your caregiver every day.
    Exchange information about your child's day or the evening at home. For instance, if your child had a restless night it is important your caregiver know so she can respond to any unusual behaviours or needs that may arise as a result. Similarly, as you head into the evening, you should know if your child was fussy at childcare.
  8. Talk with your child.
    Each day, talk with your child about special things that happened at childcare.
  9. Have an older sibling visit.
    If there's an older sibling in the same childcare setting, ask that she be given the opportunity to visit her younger brother during the day during the adjustment period.
  10. Be specific about pick-ups.
    Reassure your child that you will be back. Make sure he knows who will pick him up at the end of the day and when. Even if he is not old enough to really tell time, one of the ways children learn to tell time is when pick-up routines become established.

We know it can be hard to leave your child in childcare for the first time. Preparing yourself and your preschooler will smooth the transition and contribute to making it a positive experience for everyone.

Video Alert!
You can also watch our video “How to ease your child's transition to school and childcare” to learn more.

How did you prepare your preschooler for childcare? Was it difficult for you? For your child? Share you experience by leaving a comment below!

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Handling arguments with your preschooler

by Maxine
Posted December 20 2010 12:28pm
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When you and your preschooler argue it can be hard to keep your cool, but there are ways to handle these squabbles that will help resolve the situation and hopefully cut down the number of arguments you face. 

An argument is hard on everyone involved. Tempers flare and it's not always easy to stop and listen to what the other person is trying to say.

It's important to remember that there are at least two sides to every argument. And that there are complicated feelings at work on both sides. While you may be feeling that your child isn't recognizing your authority, your child may be feeling she isn't being heard, and that her views and feelings aren't important to you. Both of you are sure to be feeling frustrated and hurt.

It is good practice to repeat what you heard your child saying.  For young children, they may have some trouble saying what they really mean and it is helpful to make sure you are getting their message.  For example:  “What I hear you saying is that you want to finish the show before you clean you room.”  If your child agrees that is what they are saying you can then give your position. 

When someone feels you are listening to them it is usually easier for them to listen to you.

Validate the child’s feelings.  “I see that you are angry,” or “I hear that you are feeling upset,” are great statement to make that let your child know you not only hear what they are saying but what they are feeling.

Identify if feelings are getting in the way of solutions.  When feelings are high it can stop anyone from listening, but especially a child, who sometimes stops listening and responding to you.  You cannot reason with a child who is in the middle of a temper tantrum or starts to stomp their feet.  Let the child know that you know they are angry, or upset, or frustrated, but they need to calm down before you can talk with them.  Give them some space and time and do not get into any discussion or arguing while they are in their “temper.” This is a great life skill to teach a child while they are young and one that many adults have not learned well. 

Also, if your emotions are overwhelming you, let the child know that you need to calm down before you go on.  This is great modeling.  Once you are in control of yourself you can sit down with your child to go through their side and to give yours.  

Don’t go on forever. Once all has been said it is time for a solution or decision.  If it is something small you may consider having the child make the decision.  If it is something more important or a consequence is required then you need to make the decision.  Once made, the message to your child is that the arguing is over.  There is no appeal court.  If your child continues to argue the best response is silence or to ignore them.  Follow up on whatever the decision is and give them time to calm down and respond.

Acknowledge their behaviour, Comment when your child behaves in the way you want them to act; For example; “Thank you for saying what you think so clearly,” or “Thank you for calming down so we can deal with the problem.” Or “Thank you for doing what you need to do and not arguing anymore.”


Do you and your preschooler argue? How do you handle it? What advice would you give for other parents? Leave a comment below and share your experience.


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Making toilet learning easier for your preschooler

by Maxine
Posted December 22 2010 06:23pm
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Here are a number of things you can do to make toilet learning easier for both you and your preschooler:

Help your child become familiar with what learning to use the toilet is all about. Before and during the learning process, read stories about using the toilet such as Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel. Explain to your child in simple terms how food and drink become "poo" and "pee," and what the potty and toilet are used for. Remember, to a little child, a toilet is a big hole that makes a lot of noise. It's common for some children to think they might fall in and disappear, or that a monster might come out of the toilet after them.

Choose a low-stress time to begin your child's use of the toilet. Toilet learning works best when both you and your child are relaxed. Avoid times when he is dealing with change, like the arrival of a new baby in the family, a move to a new home, parents’ separation or starting daycare.

Help your child get started by saying that it's time to start using the toilet like Mom or Dad. Allow her to watch other young children or family members on the toilet, to help her get the idea. Let her have her dolls or stuffed animal pretend to use the potty. 

Use a potty chair. It allows children's feet to touch the floor, helping them to feel more secure. It also allows them to get on and off without having help. Include your child in picking out a potty chair. Let your child just sit on the potty to get used to it, wait at least 1-2 weeks before starting any toilet learning  Reading a short story to your child while they sit on the potty may help them to relax as we.. 

Stay nearby while your child is on the toilet or potty, and don't make him stay any longer than he wishes to. 

Dress your child in loose clothes that he can easily pull up or down.  Use training pants or "pull-ups" or cotton underwear once he has been successful for 1-2 weeks.

Help make "going to the washroom" part of your child's routine, by giving reminders like, "Let's take a potty break." Encourage her to use the toilet or potty right after meals, and just before and just after sleep. And when she says she has to go, act fast!

Teach bathroom hygiene. Show your child how to wipe properly after peeing or pooing-girls should wipe from the front to the back. Both boys and girls will need help with this particularly after a bowel movement. Show your child how to wash his hands after using the potty or toilet.

During the process, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Be patient. It may take a child 3-6 months before the diapers are gone for good during the day. Some children learn to control their bladders first others learn to control their bowels first.  Bladder control through the night takes longer than day control.  It can take several months or even years for your child to stay dry during the night.
  • Expect accidents to happen.  Be calm do not overreact or blame, shame or punish your child.  Have a change of clothes easily available. Accidents are common until about five years of age -- ask any kindergarten teacher! And even when your child is staying dry during the day, naps and nighttime will still pose a challenge -- this kind of control will take longer. 
  • Also, a child who has learned to use the toilet may start wetting her pants or the bed due to stress or change. This is common and doesn't usually last long, in terms of daytime dryness, but nighttime bedwetting may take longer to reinstate. 
  • Try not to use words like dirty, stinky, smelly - this may make some children self conscious about using the potty or the toilet.
  • It's very important to compliment your child's attempts, even if he misses. 
  • If your child resists toilet learning, back off and try again later; he may not be ready yet. To not force him this will only make it more frustrating for both of you. 

Finally, remember that every child is different, so don't worry if your child takes longer to be fully toilet trained.

Talk to your doctor:

  • if your child was using the toilet for several months and has now regressed; 
  • she is withholding stool; 
  • she is experiencing pain or 
  • there is blood in the urine or stool; there is a rash;  
  • is over 4 years old and not able to control his bowels or bladder 
  • or you have other concerns about your child’s toilet learning

How did you handle toilet learning with your preschooler? What advice would you give to other parents? Leave a comment below and share your story with other parents.


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