Toddler Tenderness

Does your baby have an object he loves?

My son is obsessed with toothbrushes. I’ve had to move my husband’s and mine out of the drawer in the bathroom where I’ve kept them for years, because he goes and gets them – and then brushes everything with them.

He will take the tube of toothpaste and pretend to squeeze some out onto the toothbrush. Then he waves it around vaguely near his mouth, probably thinking he’s brushing his teeth. Then he’s off and running with the toothbrush firmly clenched in his chubby little hand.

He now has about 3 toothbrushes stashed around the house and car. He carries one with him into my older son’s preschool during drop-off and pick-up. (The teacher said he could be obsessed with worse things, right?)

I’ve heard of babies having strange loveys: a water bottle (oh that crinkly sound!). A shoe. But I’d never seen it for myself. My first baby never became attached to anything in particular.

But as is often the case, my second baby is SO different from the first.

The foam baseball bat was the first lovey to go everywhere with him. Then when that went missing, it became a bubble wand.

We tried getting him attached to a proper lovey. He had a little plush frog that attached to his pacifier that he was supposed to form an emotional bond with. (It was supposed to help wean him off the pacifier. You just remove the paci and hope they’re happy with only the frog. My son just laughed as he tried to suck on the spot where the pacifier had been attached. And then cried for the real thing when he really wanted it.)

That frog has hopped off somewhere and my son could care less. So now we’re going with toothbrushes. At least he doesn’t want to sleep with it!

What about your kids? What do they have for loveys?

Toddler Tenderness

Is it poop or chocolate? A misunderstanding with my toddler

My toddler entered the kitchen and stopped in his tracks when he saw me. He said loudly: “Poop!”

Usually he tells me just after he has done a nasty in his diaper. But how can that be, I thought. I just changed you a minute ago.

Then I looked at the chunk of chocolate cake in my hand.

He thought I was eating the poop!

Thinking back to that very recent diaper change, yes, I could see how he might make that connection. The area where I normally change my baby was cluttered, so I’d laid him on the bathmat on the floor. Somehow the ball of poo had rolled out of the diaper onto the floor, to his amusement. (It was that not-yet-smushed-because-I-did-it-standing-up-and-didn’t-sit-in-it-yet kind of poop.)

After cleaning everything thoroughly, and lamenting a pile of other things that seemed to be going wrong that day, I had next ventured to the kitchen for some chocolate therapy. That’s where he found me a minute later.

“It’s CAKE,” I told him earnestly, grasping what he now understood one was to do with the poop after a diaper change.

“POOP,” he insisted, looking confused and skeptical.

It actually was the same color, though I certainly hadn’t been thinking of that when I was eating it…

“Cake, cake, cake!” I showed him the spot where the cake had been kept covered on the counter. Only now it was empty.

I was losing the battle. So I offered him a taste. He inched forward and took a tentative nibble. He said, “Good!”

I only hope now that I haven’t convinced him poop tastes like chocolate cake!

Toddler Tenderness

Handwriting – get your baby or toddler ready now

If you have a baby or toddler, you may feel like learning to write is a long way off. But did you know that some things you do now can help ease your little one into writing letters later on?

Some kids really struggle with writing the ABCs when they reach their school years. No wonder! It requires a massive coordinated effort from a young child: everything from holding the pencil correctly to remembering which way the d and b are supposed to go.

My sister has passed along some tips from an occupational therapist who works with kids struggling with handwriting. These tips focus on building the muscles and motor skills needed to let your child hold and move a pencil and maintain the posture needed for basic handwriting.

Upper body strength

  • Let your child play on playground equipment, climb ladders, swing on monkey bars, even push a swing.
  • Teach him or her the crab walk or wheelbarrow walk.
  • Do activities on a vertical service, like on an easel, chalkboard or even paper taped to the wall.
  • Throw and catch balls of different sizes.

Fine motor skills

  • Let him or her tear up paper for recycling.
  • Play with spray bottles, water droppers, or squirt guns.
  • Find toys that require fine motor skills. Choose ones that really hold his or her attention. For our son, it’s Automoblox cars. For yours, it might be Legos. Tweezer or tongs are great, as well as play dough (see how to make your own play dough here).

Visual-motor coordination

  • Practice shapes and letters with sidewalk chalk, shaving cream on the side of the bathtub, in sand or dirt, with finger paint as well as crayons on paper.
  • Teach concepts like top/bottom, right/left, in/under, etc. This will be helpful as you encourage formation of letters from top to bottom, left to right.
  • Work on making simple shapes like a line, circle, cross, x and a square. Then use those shapes to create a picture or scene.

My favorite tip

Encourage the proper tripod grip by giving your child a short piece of crayon to work with (after she is no longer putting things in her mouth, of course).

Who would have thought, right? There are so many products designed to make it easy for children to hold (triangular chalk, fat, round crayons), but those are not really appropriate for small children, nor for learning proper writing basics, according to occupational therapists.

Toddler Tenderness

Mom-talk on a play date

If you’re a mom with a baby turning into a toddler, you may be looking forward to setting up play dates. It sounds like a great excuse to dress up your kid, get out of the house, and spend time with another mom while your kids play together happily.

Looking forward to stimulating conversation? A heart-to-heart with a kindred soul?

Actually it goes more like this: You ask a question, miss the answer as you spend the rest of the time playing referee for the kids, then forget what it was you really wanted to know from your friend.

And then you remember when you’re on the way home in the car. So you text her later during naptime. Or send her a message through Facebook. That’s where moms really talk.

The play date conversation is more like this. Imagine you’re meeting your friend at a park.

YOU: So, how are you doing with the new job? Caleb, don’t put that in your mouth! Give me that!

OTHER MOM: Ugh, do you need a wipe? The job? I’m settling in. It’s harder than I thought…

YOU: (Interrupting) Where did he go? He was just here. Caleb! Caleb! Oh, there he is.

OTHER MOM: Oh, I wanted to ask you, is Caleb going to summer camp this year?

YOU: Yes, I’ve got him signed up. What about Jaden? Oh no, he’s trying to take that boy’s truck. I’ll be right back…

JADEN (OTHER MOM’S KID): Truck! Truck! I want my truck!

OTHER MOM: You didn’t bring it honey (followed by tears and screams).

YOU: What were we talking about?

OTHER MOM: Yikes it’s 11:30 already. We’ve got to run. It was nice seeing you!

At least it feels that’s the way it goes sometimes. How about your play dates? Any secrets to happy play and a great conversation? Or does it all smooth out at a certain age? Do tell!