Saturday, August 20, 2005

Toys for your baby and child

Shopping for your new baby is so fun! The itsy bitsy clothes, the cutest little shoes, and oh my, the gadgets and toys! So much out there, how do you choose? How do you know what you'll really need, and what your baby will like? With many years of experience, finding toys that kids love is second nature to me. I love toy stores (one of my favorites in Seattle is Top Ten Toys where young and old can play and play and play!

Here's a list of my very favorite toys:

Infant/Newborn to 3 Months:
1) You
2) You
3) You
That said, You are the best toy your baby can have up to 3 months. They don't have the ability to do much grasping and grabbing of toys yet, most toys are too stimulating and only manage to overwhelm baby, and the real world is plenty stimulating for them! Toys are just not needed this young.

3-6 Months:
1) Tiny rings that are easy to grab, that don't have lots of rings together - just one is perfect.
2) Silk cloths in colors - wonderful toys that will last through childhood!
3) The floor. Yes, I know it's expensive! :). Babies need lots of tummy time (40 minutes a day) and floor time is wonderful for them too. Place a blankie on the floor and let them lay around, playing with your face, getting massage, their rings and silkie cloths... Perfect. Remember, when baby turns her head away, she needs a break. Don't try and get her attention then, or it'll likely send her to overwhelmed land!

6-9 Months:
1) More rings, and more complicated grabby toys. I love the "Smiley" face by Sassy toys. Easy to grab, babies love the face on one side, and theirs on the other!
2) Soft baby dolls and stuffed animals might be fun now.
3) A mirror you can prop on the floor (there's lots of baby safe ones out there). Your face and theirs are fascinating!

9-12 months:
1) Musical sounds are very fun and exciting now. I love easy to use music boxes with pleasant rather than bright sounds. Bells are super fun!
2) Balls are great for learning to crawl, and crawling after. I like the ones that are soft and maleable, so they can be grabbed by little hands.
3) Outings! The zoo, park, water play... It's discovery time and going outdoors is a great way to discover!

Remember that play is only fun if you're both enjoying yourselves. Try to find toys you both find fascinating, fun and pleasant to have around. That loudly beeping play cell phone might grab baby's attention, but if you want to smash it after a few days, it's not much good to anyone! Also, as you see from my "minimalist" list above, having fun toys need not be expensive, or fill your home. Babies up to 1 year are very happy just hanging out at home, going for walks, playing with the same toys over and over. It may be you that's bored with the same old toys, try to keep that in mind.

Keep toys that baby tires of or stops playing with, and set it aside for a few months. Then, get it out and leave it for baby to discover. He'll remember the toy, and will spend a few days playing with it masterfully, and enjoying his expertise. What a wonderfully gratifying thing! Mastering toys is something they work very hard at, and it's fun for them to get to revisit that mastery and feel proud of themselves.

Get creative with toys, too! Toys are found in many places, especially in the home. I knew one baby that just loved washcloths. Sucking on them wet, playing with them dry... She always had one handy. Who knows why it was such a great toy for her, and who are we to ask! As long as it's safe and choke-proof, it's a great toy if baby says so!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

You time, like Oprah said

Getting time for yourself is very difficult when you're a parent. This I know! However, it is vitally important that you give to yourself if you want to give of yourself to others. Imagine a glass, to make the simplest analogy. When the glass is full to brimming, you're energetic, feeling good and happy and generous. The glass gets emptier not as you give, but as you have needs for yourself that aren't met. Maybe you lose sleep, don't get enough food, don't exercise, don't get enough social time, miss out on contact with a confidant, miss spending time with your partner, don't get enough alone time... whatever "fills up your glass".

As your glass empties, you feel tired, get headaches, are snappy and impatient with things that if your glass were full, you'd be fine with. I understand that when you become a parent your priorities shift drastically. Sleeping in is a thing of the past, lazy saturdays with your partner just don't exist anymore. Your time is consumed by caring for your kids.

Consider though, that in order for you to best care for your children, you need to care for yourself too! To be the best parent you can be, you must must must take care of yourself.

My girlfriend Mariah was a stay at home mom to her two wonderful children, who were two and three years old. She was having a very hard time, feeling lonely, isolated, and unsupported by her husband. I asked her about what she did for herself. "Nothing" she replied. We talked for a while about her circumstances, with very low family income she was unable to hire help, and had few friends that lived close enough to pitch in. When she'd try to do anything while the kids seemed occupied, they'd seem to suddenly know her attention wasn't on them, and they'd seek her out.

"Time to read, just for 5 minutes. Time to clip my toenails. Time to shower". These things she wanted seemed more like necessities than luxuries to me! Poor gal. Hearing her sadness and desperation, I encouraged her to get the kids on the same nap schedule, which was making it so she always had one child awake at a time during the day. Then, while they were napping, she was more easily able to do chores, and relax a bit as well. While they were awake, she taught them that mommy sometimes needs a "time out" and would make sure they were fine and happy with toys or a video, then take a 5 minute breather, catching a second (or tenth) wind. She also started having bedtime be a half hour earlier, which the kids thrived on, and gave her a little more rest time as well.

Three tiny changes changed her life. She became the mom she really wanted to be. Energetic, patient, fun and loving. Her glass is full.

So whether you have the means to hire someone, have a friend you can swap childcare with, or get creative to find time for you, you just have to do it. Your family will be blessed because you did.