soothe a crying baby

soothe a crying baby

Q: I am a new mom and my newborn cries- A LOT. The doctor says there is no medical reason my new daughter cries so much. She just does! I feel like an awful parent. What can I do to comfort my baby?

A: You are not an awful parent. In fact, it sounds like your daughter’s crying actually has nothing to do with your parenting. Knowing that may help you be more kind to yourself, but having a constantly crying baby can take a toll on a new parent. Here are some suggestions, which may help to comfort your child (and you!).

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Swaddle: New babies tend to find comfort in being wrapped up snugly. For 9 months they have lived in a super confining space. Wrapping a baby snugly in a light blanket actually simulates the confined space feeling and for many babies that translates to comfort.

Pacify: Babies have a strong sucking instinct. Providing an outlet for that instinct may comfort a crying baby. Nursing, pacifier, thumb- whatever it is that you decide is an appropriate outlet for pacifying through sucking. (Side note: people tend to feel very passionately about sucking pacifiers and thumbs and will express their opinions as criticism, which can be very hurtful to a new mom.)

Vary holding positions: We usually hold new babies cradled in our arms, facing us. This way we easily support their head while gazing at their sweet face. But varying the holding position may help comfort a crying baby. Varying the holding positions varies the pressure the baby feels which might bring relief (or even just distraction). Just be sure to properly support the baby’s head and neck.

Get moving: Babies are not used to being still. All those months living inside their mother was constant movement. Movement can calm a baby and provide a change of scenery for a wrought new mom. Strap your baby on and go for a walk– even if it just a walk in your home. Movement is good for both of you.

Hum: Placing your baby on your chest and humming may sooth a crying baby. The closeness is important, but babies may also find comfort in the vibrations felt when you hum. (Deep, audible breathing can also have the same effect.) In fact, some babies find comfort when a baby-wearing parent is vacuuming! It is the same concept: closeness and vibration.

Give yourself some time to get to know your new daughter. You’ll figure out what helps to calm her and she’ll figure it out too. Until that time, try the above suggestions, but also ask for help if you need a break.

Asking for help is excellent parenting!

Carlos and Carmen

Carlos and Carmen

Children need to read books about characters who are different from themselves. But they also need the opportunity to read books to which they can relate, on a personal level, to the characters. Connection is important. It helps to fuel learning! Unfortunately for a huge population, it appears that their personal connection options are less than limited.

Until now.

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Last month the Carlos and Carmen series (by Kirsten McDonald) entered the children’s book world with the hopes of fueling learning for all children, including Latino children.

McDonald said, “I wrote the Carlos and Carmenseries to show a Latino family living an average, middle class American life. Too often, people focus on the ways that they are different from some other group of people — different income level, different skin color, different heritage. The fact is, that we are all more alike than we are different. “

“In addition, for far too long, children’s and YA (young adult) books have include Latino characters who are mostly migrant farm workers or gang members, which is just not an accurate picture of who these Americans are. I’d like for readers of my Carlos and Carmen books to see themselves in these characters, and I’d like them to find themselves wishing that they were part of the Garcia’s family.”

Four books in the easy chapter book series have been published, with four more due out in early fall 2016 and then four more in early 2017. While the Carlos and Carmen series cannot solve all the inequitable issues in learning, it is a wonderful start.

And the author just happens to be my sister!

orange cranberry muffins

orange cranberry muffins

It is cold season.

It is vitamin C season.

During this time of year I like to provide as many vitamin C opportunities as possible. Orange Cranberry Muffins are one of our favorites. These muffins are high in vitamin C and they are oh so delicious. My family likes them on the tart side, but the torbinado on top makes a nice balance. Bake a batch to ward off the cold virus. Or bake a batch just because they are so yummy! (Or bake a batch because the last time you made them, they disappeared before you got one!)

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Cranberry Orange Muffins

Zest from 2 oranges (don’t skip this!)
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda (I like to sift this- to avoid surprise soda lumps!)
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¾ cup of non sweetened orange juice (I use the juice and pulp from the zested oranges)
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 ounces)
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Mix all of the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir, just until mixed. Fold in cranberries. (The batter is very thick!) Spoon into greased or lined muffin tin. Sprinkle turbinado on top of each muffin. Bake in 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes (until middle is set).

These muffins may not keep you from getting a cold, but they sure are a tasty effort!

uncomfortable with a book

uncomfortable with a book

Q: My high school student daughter has been assigned a book to read that I am concerned about. I don’t think it is appropriate material for her to read. The subject matter makes me feel uncomfortable. What options do you think I might have?

A: Judging books as appropriate or inappropriate has been a challenge since the dawn of publishing. Think: Huck Finn, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird (and one of these is one of my favorites). Today many contemporary novels deal with heavy and even graphic subjects. But sadly so do our children, sometimes everyday. If you feel strongly about a book your daughter has been assigned there are some steps you may consider.

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Read the book: It is imperative that you read the book, not just the back cover or part of the first chapter- the whole book. This is a case where the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover” is literal. What you thought you might- possibly-perhaps-maybe find offensive, may in fact be a minor component to a great and moving piece of literature.

Communicate (in person): If after reading the book you still feel that it is inappropriate for your daughter, then set up a conference with the assigning teacher and maybe the media specialist (librarian) at your daughter’s school. In a polite and open manner listen to these professionals explain why they find value in the book. How are they going to help their students process the book? Why they feel the selection is important might be for an incredible reason about which you are unaware. Likewise they should listen to your concerns. By communicating in this manner you may find that the selected book is in fact an ideal selection, based on information shared.

Rethink Assignment (last resort): If after meeting with your child’s teacher you still feel the assigned book is inappropriate, you may politely ask for an alternative assignment for your daughter. Think carefully about this request. Is this really in your daughter’s best interest? Maybe your daughter would be better served to read the book and discuss all components with you (now that you have read the book).

Literature has been forcing humanity to examine the world (and our selves) in sometimes challenging manners. It is a good thing. We are better for it. Support your daughter as she explores challenging material. This may turn into an invaluable parenting opportunity. Seize it!

math practice with cards

math practice with cards

There are endless card games to help build math skills and most simple games can adapt to increasing skill level. As promised this post explains four teacher-designed card games that support multiple levels of math development:

A couple of notes before starting:
*Aces should equal 1 and face cards should be removed. (Or every time a player uncovers a face card they must jump three times- or some such movement activity.)
*Using a number line helps young children problem solve. Don’t have a traditional number line- use a ruler!
*Be creative. If the game isn’t working for the child, adapt the game to maximize benefits- just be consistent.

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The games:

What comes next?
The child is the player and the parent is the dealer. Deal four cards to player (more than that is too many to manage). Player turns cards face up. Dealer turns over top card from the rest of the deck, “What comes next?” The player may then place one of their cards on top of the dealer’s card, if it correctly is the next number in sequence. The played card is replaced by the dealer, so that four cards remain in use. The player may continue playing correct cards until no more may be played. If none of the player’s cards can be played, then the dealer turns over another top card, “What comes next?” Continue until there are no cards left to play. Note: Aces can be kind of tricky. Be ready to make accommodations if they pop up in the player’s four cards.

Greater Than, Less Than
Divide the deck into black cards and red cards (this makes it even). Decide if you are going to play “Greater Than” or “Less Than”. Each player turns over the their top card. If playing “Greater Than” then the player who turned over the higher card gets to take both cards and place them in their next round pile. If they are equal then turn over another card. Continue until all cards have been redistributed into the next round piles. Shuffle cards in next round piles and begin again. Continue until one player is out of cards. Note: it is difficult for young children to shift between looking for greater value to lesser value. Make sure you complete at least one full game before switching.

Turn and Add
Divide the deck into red cards and black cards. Each player turns over the top two cards in their pile and adds them together. Whichever player’s sum is the greatest gets to take all of the cards and place them in their next round pile. If the sums are equal, then turn over one more card and add that to the sum. Continue until all cards have been distributed into next round piles. Shuffle cards in next round piles and begin again. Continue until one player is out of cards. Note: adapt this game for early adding- just play with Ace-5!

Calculator vs Head
Divide the deck in to red cards and black cards. One player uses her head while the other player uses a calculator. The “head” player turns over the top two cards. Both players must multiply the cards together- one using their head and the other using the calculator. Whoever gets the correct answer first gets to collect the cards and place in their point pile. When all the cards in the deck have been played, the player with the most cards in their point pile gets a point. Switch head and calculator players and try again. Best out of 3! Note: Children just learning the multiplication facts will want to use the calculator, but eventually they will learn that it is actually faster to remember the facts!

Grab a deck of cards and get busy playing and learning.

Learning through play!

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