Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Preparing for potty training

The next major task to tackle with my 2 1/2 year old is potty training. We have a trip to the US planned for next week but once we are back and settled after that, we'll be giving it a go.

In preparation, I've been reading some books to get some suggestions of how best to go about it. I read one that is very strict and focused on getting your child trained within a week and another, which in contrast is laid-back and for people in less of a hurry.  The third one struck somewhere in-between. It's certainly been interesting to see the points they agree and disagree on and I thought I would share some of those points with you.

Points the books all agree on:

  • Your child should be showing some signs of being 'ready'. These do vary a bit from book to book but the general idea is the same.

  • The parent needs to be ready too; ready to devote some time to the task, to their child, to be prepared for accidents and such like.

  • Potty training is not recommended close to a new baby's arrival, moving house, a holiday or starting nursery.

  • Your child should be involved in the preparation. Let them choose their potty, underwear etc to get them involved and interested.

  • The parent should not show any disapproval nor reprimand the child for any accidents. A relaxed and positive attitude is encouraged.

  • Accidents happen and are inevitable so be prepared (plenty of clean underwear for the child, buckets and mops at the ready...).

  • Don't force your child to do anything (wear underwear, sit on the potty/toilet etc), instead try gentle encouragement to get them on board.

  • Give LOTS or praise when they first do something in the potty.

  • Allow your child to feel in control of the potty training rather than the adult making all the decisions and choices for them.

  • Be consistent! Your use of language, your responses to accidents or challenges, your level of encouragement and positivity all need to stay constant.

Points the books disagree on:

  • Where the potty should be (bathroom or another room in the house)

  • Asking the child if they want to go, as oppose to asking them to tell you.

  • Whether to remove nappies for naps and bedtime, as well as awake time.

  • Having the child sit on the potty just in case they do something, rather than only when they ask or show you they need to go.

  • Reward systems (using stickers, treats etc).

  • Dealing with regression (putting them back into nappies or not)

The plan is not to follow one of the methods I read about specifically but to apply some of the suggestions that I feel would work for myself and my son. I personally like the approach of encouraging my son to tell me when he needs to go, rather than taking him every 20 minutes to sit there whilst we read books and hang out in the bathroom, which doesn't seem very natural to me and I think we'd both get bored fast! It's been a helpful exercise to get me thinking about different approaches and considering what I have to expect during the potty training period.

One of the books mentioned that some children get upset at seeing their 'number 2' in the toilet / potty because they've probably never seen it before.  A parent wipes it away and wraps it all in a nappy to be discarded so they don't get to see what it looks like. This particular book suggested you ask your child if they'd like to see their nappy sometimes to get them used to what it looks like. I thought that was a good point so I did ask my son and showed it to him. The next couple of times we did a nappy change, he told me he didn't want to look at it but now he's reverted and he wants to see inside each and every nappy!

Have you been through the potty training process with your child? What worked best for you and do you have any tips to share?


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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Pregnant and prudent?

I read with interest the article, A Womb in Paris on Persephone Magazine this week. It compares some of the different attitudes towards what a pregnant woman is allowed to eat and drink and what they choose to consume, in France versus the US. The author's Parisian pregnant friend continues to enjoy some soft French cheeses, a glass of wine here and there and coffee, whilst the United States government’s list at foodsafety.gov recommended all those things and more should be avoided by someone who is pregnant.

A couple of pregnant friends were talking the other day about this same topic. One is due with her second baby and was commenting on how she has been less cautious with food and drink this time round, having a daily diet Coke for example, whereas with her first pregnancy she was very careful to avoid certain foods and drinks. The other lady is pregnant with her first baby and somehow hadn't even heard that she should have cut down on things like coffee and wine and has been consuming those things with the same regularity as before she was pregnant.

In my own case, I can say that I'm being a bit less strict with what I eat and drink this time round too. With my first pregnancy I cut out coffee completely but would have one cup of caffeinated tea a day. This time, if I want a cup of coffee I have one, whilst still sticking to no more than one caffeinated drink per day. Of course chocolate contains caffeine too and I'm not always as careful with how much of that I eat..... I am not drinking any alcohol and I am avoiding unpasteurised cheeses but generally I'm probably not eating overall as healthily as I did with my first pregnancy, where I would make a fruit salad for dessert over a cheesecake when we had people to dinner. (I've just made a cheesecake for dinner with a friend this evening!).

As the French lady featured in the article says, with a lot of the things to avoid, it's because of a pregnant woman's increased risk more than a direct danger from eating or drinking something. She also says that she can trust her own judgement and I think I feel the same. I try to balance out my diet with lots of healthy foods as well as my little indulgencies and I have my own personal limits that I don't exceed.

We're all responsible for our own bodies and need to do what we feel is right. Whilst I'm not as relaxed in my food and drink choices as the Parisian in the article, I do think there's a balance and no need to be too extreme, as with anything. Sensible choices, moderation and being aware of what we eat and drink can help strike a healthy balance.

What do you think about the article and how strict or careful were you in your pregnancies in terms of what you ate and drank?


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Monday, 20 June 2011

A Good Week

Today sees the start of A Good Week, a global celebration of good that runs until 26 June. The idea behind the initiative is to encourage an environment where people can Feel Good, Do Good and Live Good.
"We want you to use the week to think about – and do – what makes you and others feel Good. And if you’re already doing Good in your life then even better, just get involved and tell us about it. Use the week as an opportunity to shout about what you or your organisation is doing".

Their website has suggestions and a downloadable toolkit for how you can get involved but it's really down to you and what you judge as being something that makes you Feel / Do / Live Good. There are also a number of fun and inspiring events you can attend as a way of participating and enjoying A Good Week.

A small gesture is just as effective as something more complex. Look around you, the people you come into daily contact with, the places you spend your time and see if there's something you can do to generate a bit of good feeling. It's often mentioned that doing good for others makes you feel good in return so try it and see for yourself!

Let me know if there's something 'good' you do in particular this week or if you have some ideas of what you might do. Have A Good Week!



Friday, 10 June 2011

The trials of teething

My two and a half-year old has been putting everything in his mouth just lately. Everything! He hasn't done this since he was a little baby and I feel like I'm constantly telling him to take something out of his mouth. He's also been a bit funny with his food and on two evenings this week hasn't eaten his dinner (just a couple of mouthfuls). Anyone who knows my son, knows that's very unusual behaviour - he generally loves his food and has a voracious appetite.

A friend suggested he might be getting his two-year molars so yesterday I lay him on his back and had a good look at the back of his mouth. Sure enough, all four are visible and one has just broken through! Now it all makes sense about everything going in his mouth, his lack of appetite and also his messy nappies over the past couple of days.  Who knows what we have in store whilst the other molars break through but at least we are on to the last of the baby teeth.

With a new baby and a first baby especially, you hear about teething and you read about the symptoms but you're never quite sure if particular behaviour in your baby is teething related or not. My husband and I would often say, "it must be teething" but our son didn't get his first tooth until he was almost 1! When they can't tell you what's wrong or if something is hurting, it's hard to know exactly what's going on.

The way a child reacts to teething and the discomfort that comes with it varies of course from one child to another. Some always have disturbed nights as a result, some have inconsolable crying fits, some just dribble loads and get red cheeks, some completely stop eating for a few days, some become grizzly and clingy....

It can be a trying couple of days for parents and children when a tooth comes through but all you can do is be sensitive to their needs and do what you can to ease the pain. If they seem to want to chew on something, give them something you're happy for them to chew on. For a baby it might be a special teething toy or ring. For a toddler you can use foods like hard bread or cool cucumber or carrot sticks. With eating meals, you can provide foods that are easy to eat and also soothing to sore gums, like yoghurt or cool fruit purees.

How does your child react when a tooth is coming through? If you've already been through the entire teething process, do you have any words of advice to share?


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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Are you stuck in a snack rut?

Recently I have been attending a free healthy lifestyle programme for 2-5 year olds and their families, provided by the NHS. The sessions focus on nutrition and activities to keep your family fit. I'm only half-way through the 6-week course so there is more to come but so far I have found it interesting and helpful.

Three meals and two snacks is the recommended daily eating pattern for toddlers under 5, here in the UK. A morning and afternoon snack should help contribute to your child's balanced diet, helping them achieve their 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day. I often find myself  struggling for variety when I give my son his snacks. Fruit always seems an easy healthy option but if he's eating fruit at mealtimes, I don't want to overload on it. There's a wide selection of organic, sugar and salt-free toddler snacks available in the supermarkets but I don't like to rely on those all the time.

In the last session of the aforementioned healthy lifestyle programme I attended, we talked a bit about snacks and were given some suggestions of healthy snacks to give our children. For those of you like me who sometimes feel stuck in a snack rut, I thought I would share the ideas with you:

  • 1 slice of medium wholegrain toast with low fat cream cheese / marmite / ham

  • 1 mini pitta bread / crispbread and low fat hummus

  • 1 crumpet with low fat spread

  • 1/2 bagel and low fat cream cheese

  • small sandwich filled with cheddar cheese & cucumber / cheese spread & tomato / tuna & sweetcorn / ham & tomato

  • 2 crispbread / bread sticks and low fat cream cheese

  • vegetable sticks and dip, eg. low fat hummus, guacamole, salsa

  • plain unsweetened popcorn (25g)

  • rice cakes or Ryvita minis

  • handful of nuts / seeds (not for any nut allergy sufferers or young ones at risk of choking)

  • piece of fresh fruit (dried fruit is advised for mealtimes only to help protect your child's teeth)

  • cereal eg. 1 Weetahbix, 30g porridge

  • no added sugar custard / rice pudding

  • natural or healthy eating yoghurt

  • 1 plain biscuit

  • 1 slice fruit bread / malt loaf

  • wholemeal scone with low fat spread / sugar free jam

  • 1-2 oatcakes
What kinds of snacks do you give your toddler? Do you try to give them a wide variety or do you find they always want the same thing no matter what you suggest?
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Friday, 3 June 2011

Brief musings on half-term

This week was half-term in London and with summer sunshine, the parks have been extra full with people. Mums whose children are at nursery or school complain at how hard it is entertaining their children during this week while they are off. Mums like me whose children are not yet at nursery complain about how busy everywhere is and the fact that many of our usual playgroups, classes and activities shut down for the week!

In a city like London, there are tons of great events going on to entertain families during half-term. We're spoilt with places to go, from parks to museums, indoor soft play facilities to children's theatre. If you're less keen on attending crowded events, it's nice to venture out to some new places and explore different parts of the city together. We've been doing more of the latter, going to some different parks in other areas or just going out early in the mornings to our local park and enjoying the lovely sunshine before it gets too busy.

Rather than complain, we should enjoy half-term for the variety it brings to our daily routine. It helps us make an effort to do new things and have a change of scene. Perhaps it also makes us think more about how we spend time with our children and encourages us to watch their enjoyment of life a little more than usual.

If your child's been on half-term this week, what's it been like for you and how have you been spending your week?
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