Making Quality Time with Toddlers in the Holidays.

child christmas“Look at me, Look at me

Look at me NOW

It is fun to have fun,  

But you have to know how!”  (Dr Seuss, the Cat in the Hat.)


Knowing how to entertain toddlers can be one of life’s challenges.  Their little characters are still growing and their span of concentration is very short.   You need to be prepared and have a few little tricks up your sleeve to know how to keep them happily occupied.   Dr Seuss always had some outlandish ideas for entertainment and just reading his books to your toddler will keep them occupied and engaged in the dialogue and the crazy pictures.  The cat always had something to pull out of the box and create fun and games. He called it – fun in a box.

“I call this game fun-in-a-box.

Said the cat

In this box are two things

I will show you now

You will like these two things,

Said the cat with a bow.

It’s a good idea as parents of toddlers to have a box of ‘tricks’ that are activities you can draw upon to entertain your toddler in the holidays.  Being prepared is the key.  Get a box of ideas together and then if you need some extra help you can invite a play date to join in the activities.  This is controllable and may even give you some quiet time as your toddler happily plays with an activity or another friend.  As charming as thing one and two are in the Cat in the Hat story their box of tricks would play havoc with your home!

A suggestion box of games and realistic activities makes holiday entertainment manageable…

So what do you put in your box?

It is mainly an ideas box so perhaps a good place to start is with the ideas written up on a list for you to follow and get the best out of each activity.  

Here are some activities using different facilities in your home.  Toddlers love repetition, so see which ones were favourites and repeat them.

Be prepared to use:

Kitchen utensils, storybooks, DIY musical instruments, recycled paper and fantasy play.

  • Kitchen utensils – What’s on the menu?

Play dough and biscuit decorating are firm favourites.

Play dough needs a good recipe that keeps so you have play dough on standby at any time.  Add in your cookie cutters, rolling pins and a board or plastic place mat and you are set to go for great play dough fun.  Kiddies cookie cutters and play dough sets are readily available and if you keep them in a container together you have play dough to use anytime.

What does play dough encourage?

Play dough is a great stimulator for little finger muscles and fine motor activities understanding about rolling, pushing, kneading, scrunching and pinching.  Great opportunities for some fantasy role play with tea time ‘treats.’

Simple play dough recipe –

1 cup of flour, ½ cup of salt, 2Tbsp cream of Tartar and a Tbsp. of oil.  Add 1 cup water and food colouring of your choice. Mix all together and cook on medium heat until it forms dough.  When it has cooled sufficiently knead and store in a sealed container to reuse.

Biscuit decorating. If you are energetic and love the kitchen you can bake your own simple plain biscuits and cut out different shapes to be iced.  If you want to get straight to the decor part then there are many brands of plain un-iced biscuits that will do the trick for decorating.  A simple glace icing is easy to mix and add some food colouring.  If you want the icing to be stiffer and dry hard then add a bit of egg white to the icing mix.  Use your kitchen spatchela and teaspoons as spreaders and then a sieve to sprinkle icing on top.  You can make funny faces with jelly sweets and liquorice or just go crazy with all kinds of candy decorations.

What does biscuit decorating encourage?

Fine motor skills, spreading pinching and putting in place with eye hand co-ordination and creativity and lots of finger-licking too!

  • Story books – keep some favourites in your box.

Story books offer a wealth of activities as you read the story, discuss the pictures, remember little rhymes if there are any and even act out a story if you feel inclined.  Some story books are such firm favourites the book has been memorised and if you try to deviate from the story you soon get put in your place.

What do stories encourage?

Language development, listening skills and concentration.  Stories open a magical world of fantasy and also give children the opportunity to explore places they have never seen and learn about the world around them.  There are wonderful pop-up books and flap books on the market that capture toddler’s imaginations.  Keep that special pop-up book in your fun box and it will always be a winner.

  • DIY musical instruments – bring in the band!

Make your own maracas.

You need some kitchen paper cups, some dried butter beans, and some tape and a dowel stick if you want a handle.  You can also use a plastic jar with some dried beans.

Marker pens, stickers and stars as well as wool or ribbon to add decorations if you have time before the ‘shaken’ begins.

Decorate the paper cups and then put in the beans.

(Best used with toddlers who  graduated from the ‘everything in the mouth stage’)

If you are having a dowel stick handle then push that through on cup at the bottom.  Tape the two cups together and you have your maraca.  Use a tin or plastic jar as an alternative.  Then get ready to shake things up.  Put on some favourite marching or dance music and away you go!

What do maracas encourage?

Noisy fun!!  Marching and moving to a beat that helps with the idea of counting and rhythm.  Use the sound and movement to help remember simple rhymes.  

  • Recycled paper – A chain reaction.

Making paper chains with paper strips cut from old magazines.  This is a great way to put up some inexpensive decorations and if you keep paper strips and glue ready and waiting in your fun box you can watch the chains grow and then have the fun of hanging them up.  Make strips wide enough for little fingers to work with and link up the chain as everyone joins in.  Paper lanterns are also a fun addition to the chain and effective as mock lanterns along the chain.

What do the paper chains do?

Learning how to glue the end and wrap the chain round to make a circle is very good eye hand co-ordination for a toddler.  Give help if necessary and show how the rings link together.  Talk about recycling and saving paper even if it is a bigger adult topic.  Paper tearing could be the initial part of the activity as you tear the pages out of the magazine.

  • Fantasy play – clowning around.

Toddlers love acting about and so a few dress up clothes especially funny hats are a winner item in your fun box.  Wigs, old handbags and funny shoes are also great dress up items.  Add in some face paint or some silly masks and you have a whole clown show in the making.

What does fantasy play do?

Fantasy play and dressing up allows children to let go of their inhibitions and freely laugh at themselves.  Acting out can get rid of frustrations and feelings of being restricted. Fantasy and make-believe are important parts of creativity and self-expression.

Now you have it – a box of fun and creative activity ideas. You won’t need to perform a mountain of tricks, you won’t like the Cat in The Hat have to…

“…hold up the toy ship,

And the little toy man

And look with my tail

I can hold a red fan,

As I hop on the ball,

But that is not all,

Oh no,

That is not all…

That is what the cat said –

Then he fell on his head!”

BUT…with your box of fun tricks, it will be said,

Have a great time without standing on your head!

Getting Prepared to Start School

School days are the best days of your life they say.

Dates are set well in advance for the beginnings and end of the school calendar.  This year is nearly done and you have saved the school date for next year. How can you best prepare little ones for their important first year at school

These practical and simple tips could just make the transition to ‘big school’ a date to remember. Here are twenty top tips to help with starting big school.  It’s physical, emotional, intellectual and confidence building you are in need of so see how many of these tips are ‘do-able’ and start investing some time into your child’s education.  The idea is to try a few at a time or select the ones you feel are appropriate.  When the confidence chart goes up add in a few more of these recommended tips.

Top twenty tips to try to get ready for big school: back to school photo2

  1. Play-dates, arrange to have friends over to play.  Children need to keep up with social interaction.  It is very important to remember school is a very sociable environment.  If you know the children who will be in your child’s class then invite them over to play and keep friendships and socialising active.
  2. Choose the school route and run it a couple of times if it is something new.  Talk about familiar things along the way.  This will be reassuring in the first few weeks of the new year at school.
  3. Get excited about new uniforms and clothes, try the new items on.  Practise dressing in them and being independent with getting dressed.
  4. Encourage responsibility by making a snack in the kitchen, pre-packing a school lunch and then have a pre-school picnic morning in the holidays.  Invite friends and then you are combining a play date and an act of independence.
  5. Make an events calendar and fill it with exciting things to do as a countdown to starting school. Treats and social events as a lead-up to the big day will make the real date seem part of a whole lot of fun to do things..
  6. Make sure your child can recognise their name.  Bring out the school labels for clothing and play a hide and seek game before they go on the clothes.  Show your child where the labels are sewn so it is easy to find the label and identify the item if it gets lost at school.
  7. Teach your child your contact number and your home address.  Mix up number cards and see if your child can pull out the necessary numbers and put them in order.
  8. Make sure your child uses the toilet independently and knows how to ask to use the bathroom in preparation for the school routine.
  9. Games, games, games, you can play as many board games, memory games and counting games as possible.  Games create the positive kind of interaction children enjoy and they set the foundation for so much more at school.  Most of all games encourage taking turns and being a good winner or looser so they have great value in character building.
  10. Books are the best tool for so much learning through their stories and vocabulary.  Books offer the opportunity to discuss and evaluate situations.  Books bring vocabulary to the front of learning and stimulate conversation as well.  
  11. Pictures and drawing them.  There is enormous value in drawing and talking about pictures.  Self- expression is encouraged through drawing.  It is a less threatening medium of communication and especially suited to young children who can scribble and draw as they learn to show what they mean verbally in a picture.
  12. Find opportunities to encourage pre-academic fine motor skills.  Your pre-school teacher will help with the right advice but keeping up with fine motor skills through colouring and cutting is an advantage. Ask what is expected of the child prior to entry into the first big school grade and help with practical opportunities to cut and colour.
  13. Have fun activities round the house and garden to encourage knowledge of numbers, colours, and shapes.  Treasure hunts and scavenger hunts are great fun for this age.
  14. Practise the early morning getting dressed routine.  Get ready to stand at the car or catch the bus. Try this out in the holidays with a timer and try to break records to make it fun.
  15. Discuss different things that can happen at school and how to re-act to them.  Make up some funny stories or find school jokes to help with the process of enjoying school.  
  16. Try some role play or ‘What if scenarios.’  What if a big boy pushes you in the playground?  What if you loose your lunch?    What if you fall and hurt yourself at school?
  17. Practise taking turns and answering questions just like being at school.  Have friends over for a quiz and make sure hands go up for the answer.
  18. Be positive about everything and encourage positive comments about school.  If your school days were not the best days of your life try not to pass on a negative message.
  19. Draw up an independence ‘YES I CAN’ chart.  Make a list of the skills that can be done, talk about them and reaffirm ‘Yes YOU can.
  20. Have a hello and goodbye routine so that the final goodbye is not traumatic but a positive experience for everyone.  If you have tried out these top tips the process should be an easy one.  No doubt there will be struggles but preparation is going to make a difference.

Trying out these tips should give your child a chance to face big school with a smile.

Being prepared is the key to a safe transition to big school.

What Kids Need from their Parents

Despite the pressure from advertising, social circles, and even our own children, it is not the latest play station or gadget that your child really wants from you. Here are a few other ideas to try before you reach into your wallet:

Happy family resting at beach in summer

  • Children want more than anything to be seen by their parents. To be truly seen, acknowledged and validated. This means that you listen carefully to what they are saying, you take part in their day-to-day activities with interest and you acknowledge their feelings about the issues they are dealing with. When children are heard and validated they feel loved and accepted.
  • Don’t feel afraid to show your child how much you love them by being affectionate. Every child needs cuddles and closeness from their parents.
  • Be present with your children. When you are spending time with them, try to give them your undivided attention. Your children don’t want only half of you around. Put down your phone and turn off the T.V. – children don’t want to have to compete with technology for your attention. Be present in your engagement with them. Make sure you give each of your children equal undivided time as this will also help reduce sibling rivalry and competition.
  • Set clear and concise boundaries. Help your children to know exactly what is expected of their behaviour in various situations. Boundaries help children feel secure. Even if your child may not want to behave in a certain way, revealing such expectations in advance allows your child some sense of predictability.
  • Ensure that those boundaries are consistently enforced. Parents who chop and change their minds about the rules and the consequences for breaking them leave children feeling unsure and insecure. Be consistent in the way in which you handle transgressions. Reveal potential consequences in advance so both you and your child have a sense of control (they can choose whether to behave as expected or encounter the consequence).

Kids need a relationship with their parents more so than material rewards. Here are some more ideas about how to establish and build a strong bond with your kids:

What kids need from their parents2

  • Children want their parents to remain their heros. Model good manners and values for your child. They look up to you and will more than likely mimic your behaviour. Be a good example to them
  • Children want healthy parents. It is important for you to look after yourself and treat your body with respect. Children need their parents to be strong and healthy so make sure you are eating well, exercising and getting rest. This is modeling good self care habits for your child.
  • Make sure that you are realistic in your expectations of your children. It is important that you set children up to succeed. Sharing tasks and chores is essential in managing a healthy family, but make sure that you have given your children tasks they can handle and that the behaviour you expect from them is age appropriate.
  • Give lots of praise and positive reinforcement of your child’s efforts as well as their achievements. Children want their parents to feel proud of them. Show your child you are proud of their efforts and try not to focus only on their achievements.
  • Delight in your child. Have fun together, and let your child know how much you enjoy being with them, and love them for who they are (not what they can do).

There are lots of ways we can meet the needs of our children without relying on material rewards. You are one of the most important people in your child’s life and they will seek you out as a primary source of support, comfort and companionship for many years to come. Whilst it is fine to give our children material treats that we can afford every now and then, the connection these things provide between you and your child is short-lived. Make sure you are putting most of your energy into establishing, reinforcing and enjoying your relationship with your child instead.

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Lets Play – Ideas for Play with my Toddler

Ideas for Play with my Toddler1Whether you are a stay-at-home parent, or a working parent, there comes a point at which you would like to spend some quality time with your little one and have run out of ideas with regards to what to do with them. It is often difficult for parents to get down to the toddler’s level and follow their lead in terms of play. So here are a few ideas for how to play with your toddler the next time you have some quality time together.

Do some jobs together. Toddlers love to mimic those around them. They learn from watching others and doing what they are doing – most especially they love being like their parents. Give your little one a broom, or a mini-tool and get busy together. Spend some time sweeping the patio, or “fixing” the wooden blocks together. You will be surprised at how involved they become in these activities.

Get moving. As you would have noticed, toddlers don’t stop moving. They love running, swinging, sliding, rolling, jumping and anything in between. Put together an obstacle course with pillows, sturdy coffee tables, chairs and toys to climb over and under together. Show your little one how to do it and try get as involved as you can. Another way of encouraging movement is to sing action songs together – Hokey Pokey, Ring Around The Rosies, London Bridge, If you’re happy and you know it… etc.

Go outside. Exploration is one of their most favourite past times so take your little one on an exploration in the garden or the park. Make a list of all the items you need to find and collect – a stone, a green leaf, an orange leaf, a yellow flower, an ant – the list is endless. While you are at it, and if you have some energy left, play a game of catch with a ball, or try blowing some bubbles and getting your toddler to catch them. You can add a variation on this by getting them to stamp on a bubble, clap on a bubble and even try to kiss a bubble.

Want more ideas on how to play with your toddler?

weekend-playtimeGet creative. Get out the arts and crafts, play doh, or pencils and paper. Collect toilet rolls, old cereal boxes and ice cream sticks. Gather up some paint and glue and create something together. Or you can cook or sew something together. Make it a joint effort and ask your toddler for guidance. You will find they love telling you what to do and seeing how you manage.

Pretend!! Children’s imaginations are amazing. Have some fun pretending to be different animals – making sounds and movements of the animal. You can also talk about where the animal lives, what it eats, what colours and sizes animals may be, etc. Other pretend play ideas include princesses, pirates, being on a boat or in a plane, police, explorers, going into space or deep under the ocean, or even everyday things like shopping, play cafe, schools, doctors or going to the carwash. Use dress-ups and props if you want, or just imagine those too!

Learning. Toddlers are learning new things every day and their curiosity is boundless. You can start to teach colours, shapes, sizes, numbers and letters with sorting games. Add alittle excitement with searching games such as hide n seek, or hiding an object and getting your toddler to find it. Guessing games can also be a fun way to help your child explore their sensory world – using a blindfold (most kids have trouble keeping their eyes closed) ask them to smell a variety of objects, or feel them in a bag, or set up a few objects that make sounds and help your toddler guess what is making the sound and find where the object is.

Want more ideas on how to play with your toddler?

weekend-playtimeGet creative. Get out the arts and crafts, play doh, or pencils and paper. Collect toilet rolls, old cereal boxes and ice cream sticks. Gather up some paint and glue and create something together. Or you can cook or sew something together. Make it a joint effort and ask your toddler for guidance. You will find they love telling you what to do and seeing how you manage.

Pretend!! Children’s imaginations are amazing. Have some fun pretending to be different animals – making sounds and movements of the animal. You can also talk about where the animal lives, what it eats, what colours and sizes animals may be, etc. Other pretend play ideas include princesses, pirates, being on a boat or in a plane, police, explorers, going into space or deep under the ocean, or even everyday things like shopping, play cafe, schools, doctors or going to the carwash. Use dress-ups and props if you want, or just imagine those too!

Learning. Toddlers are learning new things every day and their curiosity is boundless. You can start to teach colours, shapes, sizes, numbers and letters with sorting games. Add alittle excitement with searching games such as hide n seek, or hiding an object and getting your toddler to find it. Guessing games can also be a fun way to help your child explore their sensory world – using a blindfold (most kids have trouble keeping their eyes closed) ask them to smell a variety of objects, or feel them in a bag, or set up a few objects that make sounds and help your toddler guess what is making the sound and find where the object is.

When all else fails, simply follow your little one around and see what she asks you to do. When they notice that you are all theirs, they will be quick to take the lead and show you how to play.


Raising Happy Children

Raising happy children is what we all, as parents and carers, want for our littlies. When we talk about “happiness” it is in reference to general emotional well-being rather than a perpetual state of joy.

So just how do we raise happy, emotionally well-rounded children?

Here are some ideas that will point you in the right direction:

Raising Happy Children 1

  • Delight in your child. There is no-one else exactly the same as your child – he or she is unique and special. In our daily lives, it can be easy to overlook the importance of recognising and communicating this important fact with our children. However, it is vital that your child knows they are loved for who they are rather than what they do. So take every opportunity you get to let them know, both through your actions and your words, just how loved and cherished they are.
  • Respect your child. Allow them their opinions and interests and try not to impose your worldview on them. Children learn about family values and opinions in their daily life with you, but they ultimately have a choice as to whether they follow those same values in life or choose another path. Respect their feelings and their dreams.
  • Children need safe carers. Whether you and your partner are in a stable relationship together or separated, it is important that your children have access to, and feel safe with both parents, and that parents never talk badly of one another to their children.
  • Be aware of how you talk to, and about your child. Children are listening when we think they aren’t and, even if they may be too young to understand what we are really saying, they are hearing and interpreting some version of it. We don’t want that to be negative so refrain from critical talk about your children in their company and try to talk to them in the same way you would to any person you highly respect.

When we talk about raising happy children we are referring to the strengthening of our children’s emotional well-being in general. There are a number of ways adults in a child’s life can help them establish and maintain healthy emotional perspectives, behaviours and relationships.

Raising Happy Children 2

  • Encourage your child to dream and fantasize. Foster their creativity and provide opportunities for them to explore their talents, whatever those may be.
  • Study with your child. Show an interest in their studies and homework activities. In many cases they will need your help and it is a great way to invest in your child and build their self esteem.
  • Get active together. Physical activity is good for everyone, and encouraging children to get active helps with multiple areas of their development as well as their emotional well being. Doing activities together can also help strengthen the relationship you have with your child and their sense of connection with you.
  • Use descriptive praise. By this we mean praise that is specific to the desired behaviour they completed and describes exactly what you’d like them to repeat again in the future, and how it made you feel. For example, rather than “Good boy”, try “Thankyou for putting your dirty clothes in the clothes basket without being asked – that has really helped me out”.
  • Focus on effort rather than achievement. Children build self esteem through positive reinforcement of their efforts rather than their achievements alone. Of course we want to acknowledge achievements, but try not to make that the main focus. Acknowledge and encourage the attempt too.

We all want our children to grow up happy and healthy. Happiness in this respect refers to overall emotional wellbeing. There are many different ways you can help foster this with your child, and you will find some ideas gel more for one child than another. That’s fine – try things out, experiment, learn together and experience your own “happiness” when you and your child feel emotionally connected with each other.


Calm Parenting

Calm parenting5

No matter which way you try to spin it, life with children is challenging. Unfortunately children don’t come with a manual and there are no specific rule books to follow when it comes to parenting. Most of us just fly by the seat of our pants, taking each day as it comes and using trial and error in our methods of parenting. We often find ourselves flustered, overwhelmed and in doubt about, not only our parenting style, but ourselves in general. Our lives are so busy that our relationships and interactions with our children become “automatic” and we often miss opportunities to connect with them, model appropriate responses, and learn together.

“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, its our job to share our calm, not to join their chaos” L.R. Knost

An extremely useful skill to have in parenting is the ability to manage your own emotions. If we can help ourselves to calm down in situations, we are more likely to respond in proactive ways, and our children will learn how to regulate their emotions also from modelling our responses. Yes, there will be times when your children’s behaviours will lead you to the brink of your patience, push just the right button to trigger anger and frustration, or reduce you to tears. Having such emotions, although uncomfortable, is normal and shows you are human. However, you can decide how to express these emotions through your responses, and have the power to steer a situation in a more positive direction for all involved. Once parents experience situations consistently where they respond calmly and patiently instead of yelling or becoming upset themselves, they feel a sense of empowerment and control of situations that allow them to move forward and resolve conflicts thoughtfully, rather than responding emotionally to make them more intense and chaotic.

Calm Parenting1How to practice calm parenting:

Calm parenting does take practice and involves a few steps, but you will find it is worth the effort as a parent’s mood often sets the tone for the rest of the family.

  • STOP – Recognise and acknowledge your emotions. You will feel angry, sad, scared, confused, frustrated, exasperated, and disappointed and many more uncomfortable feelings as a parent. You will also feel thrilled, proud, amazed, loved, excited, surprised, content and many other comfortable emotions. All of these emotions are normal. Our emotions are guided by what our mind tells us about a situation…our perspective, opinion, interpretation and understanding of the world around us. Emotions help us respond to situations. Making a conscious effort to identify and recognise the emotions you experience helps you to make informed decisions about how you will behave rather than just being on “auto pilot” or wearing your “[emotion]-coloured glasses” and regretting your reactions later.
    • Name emotions either silently in your head or out loud, e.g. “I feel upset” and try out different feeling words to help recognise what you are feeling and when.
    • Let yourself feel these emotions. We are not suggesting you bottle up emotions or deny them.

“Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go” Mooji

    • Let your emotions guide, not decide your responses. It is very difficult to manage a situation calmly and effectively when you are experiencing strong emotions. If you are unsure about whether your reaction to a situation is going to end well, take some time to calm down first. Then you are in a better position to deal with things.
  • SEPARATE – Remove yourself from the situation. Most of us can’t just flick a magic switch and go from angry to calm in a few seconds (although strangely enough many people seem able to do the opposite). In practising calm parenting, which might take a long period before it becomes automatic, we need to give ourselves some space from a situation in order to quieten the emotional “alarm bells” going off, and allow our logical, problem solving part of the brain to resume command.
  • Calm parenting6
    • Have a brief statement that you can use, even between clenched teeth, to inform others that you will be leaving to calm down. For example, “I need a moment to myself”,or “I need to walk away for a few minutes”. It is best to come up with this statement before you find yourself in an emotionally-charged situation so you don’t end up saying something you’ll later regret.
    • Walk away from the situation. Go to your room, outside, into the garage, lock yourself in the bathroom, somewhere where you can be by yourself for a few minutes to safely vent your strong emotions (cue: burst into tears or silent scream with fists clenched) and calm yourself down.
    • Use distraction. Doing something totally unrelated to the trigger situation can help calm our emotions.
    • Once calmer, think about how to best manage the situation. When we are calmer we can usually come up with options about managing a situation that are not apparent when we are emotionally charged up.
    • Return to the situation. This is really important!!! Walking away from a problem and never facing it does not address the problem. Once you feel calm enough to deal with the issue, go back and do so. At this stage you would be in a position to express your view and also listen to those of others.

Mother comforting her crying little girl - parenthood concept

  • SHARE – Talk about your thoughts and feelings. Adults often say to younger children, “use your words” to let others know what they want or are feeling, yet many adults don’t think they can do the same when it comes to their own thoughts and feelings. Remember, one of the most powerful ways for a child to learn is from observation of others. That means, your kid is watching how you deal with thoughts, feelings and behaviours to inform how they will deal with theirs.

    • Tell your child how you feel and what triggered that emotion. For example, “I felt so angry when I found the kitchen in a mess”.
    • Listen to others’ point of view. Children are used to being talked at rather than listened to, so asking for their take on the situation will not only help them express their emotions, opinions and intentions, but will assist them to feel more connected with you and more likely to want to cooperate with a solution.
    • Talk about possible solutions to a problem. Share your ideas and invite others to provide their ideas. Once you have reached a solution, implement it together.

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice” Peggy O’Mara

    • Try to keep it respectful. Take ownership of your own thoughts and emotions, and respect that they will not necessarily be the same as others’. Keep blame to a minimum and recognise that “It is what it is” and you have choice about how to deal with that.
    • Be aware that having such discussions can re-ignite strong emotions. If anyone needs to walk away again, let it happen. If anyone needs comforting, go with it. If anyone is too uncomfortable to face the situation in detail, keep it brief or provide other options to deal with the situation such as writing things down and handing it to you as a note.
  • SELF CARE – Don’t forget to look after yourself! Being a parent is the toughest role in the world. You are responsible for other (mini) human beings and want those littlies to grow up as happy, well adjusted, fully functioning individuals. To do that though, it is best that we aim for those goals ourselves too. It is entirely normal to have times when you feel you could take on the world whilst changing a nappy, running a board meeting, cheering at the athletics carnival, and catering for a party of 500. However, it is also entirely normal to have times when you don’t even think you can get out of your pjs let alone referee the almighty row between your son and daughter in the living room. For most days, we want to find a happy medium and to do that, we need to look after ourselves, not just our families.

“Taking good care of You, means the people in your life will receive the best of you rather than what’s left of you.” Carl Bryan

Calm Parenting3Self care doesn’t have to be highly involved or long-winded. If you get the chance to go out with a friend, take a long leisurely walk, or landscape the garden, great! But if not, aim for a few seconds or minutes – take a deep breath, enjoy your cup of coffee, focus on what is going on outside the window and watch the clouds float by or the wind rustling the leaves….

In many ways parenting can expose our deepest selves and often our old, unresolved wounds are opened by our children and their behaviour. It may be helpful to spend some time identifying your personal triggers and, if need be, working through them with a professional. Our emotional responses to situations are usually one of the first clues about how well we are looking after ourselves. Calm parenting is about acknowledging when we have strong emotional responses to situations but not allowing those emotions to govern how we react to situations.

See for more tips on recognising emotions.

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Quality Time with Dad

Father reading a story to his little sons - family time togetherIn general, mums get to spend alot of time with their children. This is mostly to do with the fact that, in the early days, infants are highly dependent on their mother especially if she is exclusively breastfeeding, and the pattern tends to continue as children get older. Dads, on the other hand, often aren’t afforded as much time with the children.

Children benefit from quality input from both parents and as such, it is really important that dads get to have some quality time with their kids as well as mums. Studies show that some dads spend as little as 3 minutes a day with their children This would seem less than ideal, however if those 3 minutes are spent engaging positively and being present with the child the experience can still be extremely beneficial for the child (and parent). Research on attachment and relationships between parents and children tells us that short bursts of even 1-2 minutes with children, at various times of the day can be extremely helpful to a child’s development and relationship with their primary caregivers. The other thing parents need to remember, is that putting extra time and effort into your relationship with your child, by spending more quality time with them, helps to reduce the frequency and intensity of challenging behaviours that you have to manage! Whereas, parent-child relationships that spend alot of time focusing on correcting behaviours and compliance (eg “ill play with you when you behave”) tend to find relationships start to deteriorate rather than develop. Remember – CONNECTION is always way more important than CORRECTION, and connection reduces the need for correction.

Kids love spending time with their dads. So if you are strapped for time, lets take a look at a few ideas that can help dads improve the quality of time they spend with their children and even how to plan for more short bursts of time with their children. Any improvements or changes really help.

How do dads (and mums) have quality time with their child?

BATH --- Father and son fishing --- Image by © Colin Hawkins/cultura/CorbisQuality time is about being available. It’s about being present in a moment whether it be half an hour or four hours. The time is not what is important. It is how you spend that time, and where your attention is focused during that time that is important. It’s important for parents to stay present and not use their smartphone or engage in other distracting tasks when trying to have quality time with their children – just having your full attention focused on your child (Without even saying a word or doing anything) is shown to be helpful to any child’s emotional development.

So here are a few ideas you may like to try with your child.

  • Schedule time together: We all know that life is very busy, and in many families, dads are the first to return to commitments outside the home (e.g. paid employment). So creating quality time with your kids is really about making sure they have a space in your schedule. It may go against your ideal of family life to schedule time with your child. After all, we’d all like to think that we can and do make time to spend with our loved ones. However, the reality is that these good intentions can fall to the way-side when other demands become more pressing. Try putting an “appointment” into your calendar for a regular time to spend with your child (e.g. 10 minutes). Add reminders to your phone calendar – most of us are well-trained to check what the pinging phone is reminding us to do! Make sure this time is suitable for both you and your child and not competing with other daily demands.

Calm parenting2Quality time is about being available. It’s about being present in a moment whether it be half an hour or four hours. The time is not what is important. It is how you spend that time that is important. The research shows that regular short bursts of even a few minutes a day, a couple of times a day, can be really helpful in developing stronger relationships with children and it also serves to make them feel more safe and secure. Let’s look at a few more ideas you may like to try with your child.

  • Be interested: Be actively aware of your child’s daily activities, the sports games they are attending, the big projects they have for school. If you can’t actually be present for these events, ask your child how you can be involved in other ways, such as helping them prepare, or ensuring you ask your child about how the event went (with detailed descriptions), or asking someone else to attend and take photos or videos that you can look at together with your child.
  • Let the child lead the activities: When spending time with your children, try to let them lead the activity. They may choose to play a videogame, scrapbook, cook, read a book together, go to the park, or maybe play a particular type of sport. Encouraging your child to lead the activities provides him or her with the opportunity to share particular interests, demonstrate their competence to you, teach you something, and feel in control and invested in their relationship with you. It also helps the parent to have a break from being the “boss” and encourages adults to go with the flow of the activity rather than pre-empting how the activity should pan out.

Quality time is about being available. It’s about being present in a moment whether it be a few minutes or for multiple hours. The time is not what is important. It is how you spend that time that is important. An important thing for all parents to remember when spending quality time with their children is “A child might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they’ll always remember the way you made them feel”.

Let’s look at a few more ideas you may like to try with your child.

  • Quality time with Dad 4Share an interest: Invite your child to participate in an activity or interest of yours. When we have a passion for something we do, we love to share it. Try inviting your child to join you in an activity you can do together or an interest you have. Make sure your child can actively participate in the activity with you rather than just being a by-stander. You and your child may discover a common interest, or if your child would prefer not to participate in your activity again, go back to showing an interest in their activities and passions.
  • Special date times: If it’s at all possible, plan a special date with your child where it is just that child and parent spending time together. Some families are able to do this weekly, others monthly, and others less regularly. This is different from spending one-on-one time together on a regular (daily if possible) basis as described above. A date time together usually involves doing something outside the daily routine and requires more effort and planning.

Sometimes we feel really strapped for time and struggle to have set parent-child time together. If this is the case, try using your daily routine to catch some time together.

  • Use routine activities for time together: If you find you are still unable to make a regular time to be with your child outside the normal daily routine, sneak in some quality time during routine activities. Again it’s not about the amount of time you spend but it’s what you do with that time. So try to make a point of sitting around a table and eating your food together (with the tv off!!). This gives you the perfect opportunity to have a real conversation with your child, and be sure to listen and really engage with one another. Alternatively you could take some time to read them a story before bed and grab some cuddles while you are at it.
  • Make the best use of the time together: Any time you can spend interacting positively with your child or children is worth while. Much of our time is spent doing what needs to be done and this can lead to many frazzled moments between family members. Research suggests that the ratio of negative vs positive interactions with our children needs to be roughly 1:5 (based on John Gottmans magic ratio). That means that, for every one negative thing you say, suggest or imply, its important to counteract with 5-6 positive things. Sadly, most of us fall well short of this on a daily basis. So, give yourself a challenge and actively try to catch your child doing things that are helpful, positive, “right” or appropriate. Then, let them know about it!!!

Quality time with Dad 5We have focused on quality time with dads in this 5 part article, but much of what we have discussed is relevant for mums and any other caregiver with whom children spend their time. It is all too common for parents to get caught up in their adult commitments outside the family, especially many dads who find their role in the family may be primarily about providing practical resources. Emotional resources are also essential to consolidate your relationship with your children, and spending a little time wisely, can go a long way.


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The Art of Patient Parenting

patient parenting 1You wake up in the morning and resolve to have a better day. You are going to be patient with your child and you are both going to have an unruffled day…. Within minutes, however, he has insisted on carrying his cup of milk to the bedroom by himself and spilt it all over the floor from the kitchen to the room. He has started crying because you will not let him have a chocolate for breakfast and he wants to wear his swimming costume (or football jersey) to playgroup (or school) this morning. He refuses to eat his breakfast and is still not dressed by the time you need to leave the house. All hell has broken loose and you are now shouting like a banshee. Familiar story?

Parenting requires a saintly amount of patience if you are to get through it unscathed and relatively stress free. While the goal is always a patient and calm day, the outcome rarely is, but the first step in patient parenting is to give yourself a break too. Take a deep breath and stop being so hard on yourself. A lot of the time our lack of patience with our little ones has more to do with our own personal stress load than it has to do with their behaviour. Stressing out about your parenting style is likely to result in more stress and less patience on your part.

We all have days when we wish we had the magic parenting wand with which we could point in the general direction of our darling child (children) and they would happily eat their breakfast, get dressed without fuss and be willing and ready to leave the house when we are. Unfortunately, this magic wand has remained frustratingly elusive, so we have to come up with Plan B.

Patient parenting part 2So, can anyone actually do “patient parenting”?

The simple answer is yes. Here are a few tips to help you practice.

  • Am I ok?: The first step of patient parenting is to be aware of your own emotional and mental wellbeing. As parents, we rarely have time to check-in with ourselves and see if we are ok, but if you are not ok for any reason, your ability to parent in a calm and patient way is greatly reduced.
  • Self care: This follows from the above point. Make the effort to look after yourself. Take a few minutes (or seconds) each day to zone out of the daily grind and do something you enjoy. This can be anything from daydreaming on the bus, reading a book, sitting on the toilet by yourself!!, checking your facebook, taking a deep breath and slowly releasing it, doing a few quick stretches, finishing your cup of tea, to taking a gym class, painting, going for a run, cooking, gardening….Looking after you as an individual will help in your role as a parent.
  • Stop, think, then respond (rather than react): If you catch yourself getting frustrated about things then stop, take a deep breath, consider your options and start again. This is often difficult to do, yet we try to teach our children the art of taking a breath and slowing down when their emotions get too much, why don’t we try practice what we preach?
  • Admit mistakes and apologise: Its ok for our kids to see us making mistakes and for us to apologise to them and explain how we should have responded. Children learn more from how we act and what we model for them, than what we say to them about the right way to act. The important thing is that we try to do differently next time and, apologise to others as required. When our children see us doing this, they are more likely to show this behaviour themselves.
  • Patient parenting part3View life from a child’s perspective: When things are really spiraling out of control it is easy to get caught in the midst of it and believe our child is wilfully defiant. Try to empathise with your child and understand that little people are naturally irrational, emotional and intense. They are not maliciously trying to ruin your day and often have very real feelings about the issues you are dealing with. It can be helpful to remember that children do not have the same agenda as we do. For example, you may be stressing that you need to get to work on time, but getting to work on time is totally irrelevant to your child. Empathising and seeing things from their perspective may give you a little more patience to deal with the situation.
  • Notice and celebrate the good times: It is all too easy to get caught up in recalling only the stressful, “parent-of-the-year”, my-child-is-possessed moments. Yes, parenting is challenging at times, but there are usually plenty of things to be grateful for as well. Enjoy the mornings that run smoothly, thank your child for having a shower when you asked her to, spend time doing fun things together, and make sure that every night when your children are asleep, you take a moment to look at their peaceful faces, listen to their gentle breath, and fall in love with them all over again in preparation for the next day……
  • Be mindful off the life you have: There are many billion people in other less fortunate parts of the world that would swap their life and problems with yours in an instant. And there are many couples out there desperately trying to even conceive a child. It’s human nature to take the good things we have for granted and as givens, and to long for things to be better and full of more positive emotions – though it takes conscious effort and regular practice to be grateful for what we have and the people we have in our lives.

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The Stay at Home Parent

The stay at home mum

Before having children couples may plan to have one partner stay at home, dedicating their time to raising their children. Many people actually go on to do exactly that, some even leaving high pressured jobs to take on the task of full time parenting. However, it is also common for parents to find that the “job” is not as romantic as it seemed and the task of being a stay at home parent is not as fulfilling as one had imagined.

It is harder than it looks

Many parents believe that their role as stay home parents is paramount to healthy family life and wish to continue doing so until their children are a certain age. Despite feeling unfulfilled and, perhaps lonely at time, they continue to service their family this way. Especially for those that have left their previous careers, the task may feel a lot more difficult than anticipated and a role that doesn’t allow much time off.

  • Look after yourself too : It is important not to lose sight of yourself while you are busy seeing to the needs of your family. Many stay at home parents feel they lack any sort of accomplishments and begin to feel bored with themselves. You perform a very important role, but it should not be to the detriment of self. Make sure that you find time to embark on hobbies or interests that challenge and stimulate you in order to curb the feeling that you have accomplished nothing.
  • Acknowledge your special role: Remind yourself regularly of the amazing milestones your children reach due to your participation in their lives and view your full time parenting job as an accomplishment. Remember, being a full-time stay-at-home parent is the ONLY job in the world where you have to live in (and clean!) your workplace and are responsible for unpredictable, demanding, and wonderful living beings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • stay-at-home-parent-300x199Not just a “mum” or “dad”: Loneliness is one of the most common complaints of stay at home parents. Make sure you get out and socialise. Remind yourself that you are more than merely a “mum” or “dad” – you are also a friend, a daughter/son and, possibly, a partner to someone. This means going out with friends and socialising in child-free zones. It also means MAKING time to dressing up and going on dates with your partner by making the most of any family supports you have, or child care you can access, so you have some child-free time.
  • What are my other options? If stay at home parenting isn’t working for you and your family, it may be helpful to consider other options. This may mean you return to a previous job, start a new career, study or volunteer. Be aware of your own emotional and mental health – It may be a good time to work through your thoughts and beliefs around what constitutes “parenthood”, and embark on a journey that may fulfill you more. When you are happy and mentally well, your family will also benefit.

Being a stay-at-home parent is a highly romanticised but greatly undervalued role within our society. Everyone has their own opinions about whether mums or dads should stay at home or return to work or other responsibilities after having a child, and everyone’s situation is different. Being a stay-at-home parent often fluctuates between being extremely rewarding and precious on some occasions or days, and challenging and boring others.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, and the ideas we have listed above aren’t helpful or you need some more individualised support in your situation, please give one of our psychologists a call – as many parents face unique and more intense challenges that require professional support and guidance. As no child or family situation is quite the same.

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Toilet Training – a marathon, not a sprint

toilet-training-toddlers changes psychology brisbaneYour child has shown signs that he is ready, you’ve got everything ready to go, and you have started the process of toilet training with your toddler. Now what? How long will this take?

Toilet training can take days or months. Some children progress relatively smoothly, while others lose interest and seem to go backwards. Have patience, every child without significant psychological or medical issues eventually achieves toilet training. Rushing our children through this process will only hamper our efforts as no-one likes to go to the toilet when stressed out!!


Here are a few tips to help keep the toileting process as smooth as possible:

  • Dress your child in easy to remove clothing.
  • Periodically remind your child about checking if they need the toilet. Kids can get very involved in their activities and play and not notice the signs their body is giving them.
  • Be prepared to do quick dashes to toilets. Kids often let us know they need to go “NOW”. Make yourself aware of where public toilets are when out and about. Be prepared to leave the shopping cart where it is and go.
  • Have changes of clothes on hand – at home, daycare, grandmas, playgroup, in the car…Remember to replace them for next time.
  • Watch your child’s diet – keep up fibre and water to avoid constipation and other discomforts.
  • Have little board books in the toilet room or put colourful posters on the walls  so your child has something to do when waiting on the toilet. Make sure the books stay in the toilet room so they are a novelty to look at (and you don’t have to go looking for them each time). These distractions can be particularly helpful for children who are afraid to sit on the toilet.

Here are a few more important tips and ideas to be mindful of when helping your child to toilet train:

Toilet training my toddler2

  • Only sit your child on the toilet or potty for a few minutes at a time. If they have not done anything by then, take them off. Longer only seems like a punishment.
  • Use lots of praise and encouragement for toileting efforts. Material rewards, such as stickers or a small toy, can be useful for some children also.
  • Help you child when they are finished on the toilet or potty by wiping their bottom. Wiping back to front, especially for little girls, will teach your child the most hygienic method. Little boys can be shown how to gently shake their penis after weeing to remove excess drops.
  • Help your child to wash his hands after going to the toilet or potty. Doing this from the start assists your child to remember it as part of their toileting routine.
  • Be aware that night-time toilet training takes longer than day-time achievement. Many children are 3-4 years old before they are dry at night, and it is not uncommon for children to continue to have wet nights up to seven years old. Keep nappies or night pants available and reassure your child that you will help them if they wake at night and need the toilet.

Children achieve toilet training at their own pace. You can help them in this process by being positive, recognising their efforts, and having patience – please remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint. If you set your expectations to be that your child will take many months to toilet train, with slow steps forward and some steps back at times, you will be more realistic and patient with the process. Whereas if you expect the process to be completed in a couple of weeks, you and your child will become stressed and frustrated with the process and it may well stop progress altogether. If you have concerns about your child’s toileting, or other developmental or psychological issues, please make contact with use and you can speak with one of your psychologists.

To Know more, you can visit : Child Psychologist Brisbane